The dome above them shattered and a piece of glass slid over to Saga. His visage was pale, and he was breathing heavily. The reflection didn't look like him. Saga was powerful and godlike, not a struggling ghost tenuously hanging onto a borrowed body. He couldn't stand to see himself. He turned to look up into the light.
"Athena, our Goddess, we leave her to you," Saga said to the Bronze Saints as his body disintegrated into golden sparks.
Kanon caught the whip with ease and revealed himself to the two Specters. He sneered at their delusional belief that they could defeat him.
"The man who tricked a god, Gemini Kanon," Rhadamanthys said. Kanon was still new to hearing himself referred to as the Gemini Saint, and he loved it.
"I was going to have this person lead me to Hades, but it seems I'll have to ask you instead." It was evident in their interaction that Rhadamanthys was the higher ranking of the two so Kanon had already begun to ignore Lune. Lune didn't relent though. Kanon shrugged. Have it your way. He sent a spark down the whip that killed Lune instantaneously. "Now then, will you take me to Hades willingly or do I need to force you?"
Rhadamanthys attacked, but Kanon dodged with ease. It seemed that his body remained light, his strength undiminished, unlike the Gold Saints who had fought at a tenth of their strength when facing the Wyvren Specter in Hades Castle. Rhadamanthys' Greatest Caution was indeed formidable, but his mind was weak. Kanon struck his nerves.
"How would you like it if you were unable to be released unless you killed Hades?" Kanon taunted.
But their battle was interrupted. Kanon took out his disappointment on the small fry.
Rhadamanthys had never trusted Orpheus. Once a Saint of Athena, always a Saint of Athena. Hadn't the Gold Saints who purposed to take Athena's head proven the case? They had sought her blood to help her reach her eighth sense and to bring her armor to life. The Three Judges had rarely been summoned to attend Orpheus' performance. Rhadamanthys didn't trust this and filled his ears with beeswax. He was right to follow his instincts. He intercepted Orpheus' assassination attempt, but two Bronze Saints rose out of the chest of flowers to hold him off. To all of their surprise, no one sat upon the throne. Hades had been an illusion.
As they continued to fight, a rumbling laughter began to fill the throne room. The darkness in it was unmistakable and chilled all who heard it. Minos, Aiacos, and Pandora awakened from their stupor.
"Hades!" Seiya cried out. "Show yourself!" It was a ridiculous request from one who didn't deserve the attentions of a god. Seiya couldn't even defeat Rhadamanthys.
The laughter deepened. Rhadamanthys suppressed a whimper. He was Hades subject. He had nothing to fear from the god. An immense cosmos filled the entire throne room.
"This is-!" Seiya's eyes were wide as he stared at the shadowy figure behind the curtain. Rhadamanthys was no less panicked. He recognized this cosmos; he had fought it just earlier.
"It can't be!" Shun echoed.
A tall figure with jet black hair and flaming red eyes slowly descended the stairs. He still wore the dark Gemini surplice from earlier, and it remained broken and cracked from the battles at Sanctuary. Rhadamanthys tensed as he approached. Was this their enemy, or was this their Dark Lord? Should he attack?
"Die, Pegasus!" In an amazing display of power that surpassed even Kanon's, Kuro-Saga called upon the power of the very planets and stars. "Galaxian Explosion!"
The blast threw Seiya across the room, and his body left an indentation in the wall. Before he'd even hit the floor, Shun was running to him.
Seiya raised his head with some effort. "Saga... Why...?"
"Idiot." Kuro-Saga snorted. He balled his fist, and it began to glow an eerie purple. "I am not the Gold Saint of Athena, Gemini Saga." He unleashed another blast of his cosmos. Though it was not the Galaxian Explosion, it was teeming with dark energy. "I am Hades, Ruler of the Underworld!" Another bone-chilling laughter echoed to the very corners of the throne room, and Rhadamanthys wondered if it could be heard outside, perhaps even in the other levels of hell.
"Seiya!" Shun jumped in front of Seiya to protect him from the final blow and was knocked unconscious.
"Throw these two in Cocytus," Kuro-Saga commanded. He glanced at Orpheus and picked up the broken lyre. "His music was pleasing to me in the past." He dropped the lyre beside its dead master. "Have him buried in the second level of hell, among the flowers."
Rhadamanthys paused, and his eyes narrowed. Since when did Hades, Lord of the Underworld, show mercy to anyone? This was not their lord. The saints were playing possum again. Saga had only pretended to defeat them. What else could explain his reluctance to finish the Bronze Saints off?
Kuro-Saga turned slowly, and his red eyes met Rhadamanthys'. Rhadamanthys shuddered. It was as if he could sense the eternal night seizing him. His breathing became labored, and he grasped at his neck, trying to free himself from an invisible hand. After a tense moment, the bloodlust faded from Saga's eyes and, with a flicker of his hand, Rhadamanthys was thrust to the ground.
"Do not think to question me again, Rhadamanthys." Kuro-Saga's eyes flashed.
Rhadamanthys knelt to demonstrate his loyalty. "Yes, my lord," he said.
Kuro-Saga locked gazes with the other two Judges in turn until they hung their heads in submission and fell to one knee as well. Pandora was clearly surprised at this turn of events. She had believed Andromeda Saint to be Hades' vessel. Rhadamanthys followed her gaze and noted the silver star pendant at Kuro-Saga's neck; a quick glance at Shun revealed that he was bereft of his.
"My brother...?" she ventured in a quiet and confused voice.
Kuro-Saga stripped off the broken Gemini surplice, causing all assembled and conscious to gasp at his immense manhood. Indeed, Hades was no man; he was a GOD. His chest was chiseled as if from marble, and his abdomen clearly revealed his 8-pack. His legs were no less muscular, and even his trim ankles seemed perfect. They gaped and ogled him without meaning to. Kuro-Saga didn't seem bothered by their worship.
"Dispose of this," he nodded at the surplice, "and bring me new attire." He stood motionless and unabashedly naked as he waited to be served.
"Yes, Lord Hades!" the Judges answered in unison.
"Looks like our next enemy has arrived," Kanon noted. The Bronzes were young so of course they gaped and hesitated. But Kanon had already pegged Rhadamanthys as his personal enemy, though not necessarily an archenemy because that would give him far too much importance. "Go rescue Seiya and Shun," he commanded them.
Rhadamanthys snickered. "How pathetic. You don't even know yet."
"Know what?" Kanon demanded.
"I don't have to answer that. Prepare yourself, Kanon." Rhadamanthys gathered his cosmos and attacked. "Greatest Caution!" Kanon caught it with one hand. "What? How?"
Now it was Kanon's turn to snicker and smirk. "By now, it should be a well-known secret: an attack doesn't work twice on a saint."
"Take this: Galaxian Explosion!" Kanon reveled in the way the Gemini armor enhanced his attacks. The Sea Dragon armor had never felt like an extension of himself in the same way the Gemini armor did. Rhadamanthys crashed to the ground.
"It looks like you need some help, Rhadamanthys." Two new Specters, Minos and Aiacos, appeared.
"So this is Lord Hades' younger brother," said Minos.
Kanon stiffened. "What did you say?"
"Oh? Rhadamanthys hasn't told you?" Minos laughed. "Yes, your older brother, previously Gemini Saga, is Lord Hades. All that's left of his former self is his body."
"Fuck you!" Kanon shouted and attacked Minos with a fury. It wasn't possible. Saga would never let himself be possessed by evil, especially not Hades. He had pretended to side with the Lord of the Underworld but only because of Shion's plan.
Aiacos attacked Kanon with his Galactic Illusion, and then Kanon became caught in Minos' Cosmic Marionetion. It felt good to be twisted and torn apart. It forced him to focus on the pain rather than his brother.
Before he could break free, be killed, or be rescued, a voice resonated through the Underworld from Giudecca to the first prison. "Let this Gemini be brought before me," commanded the Emperor of Darkness. The Three Judges stopped immediately, and Kanon, no longer held midair by Minos' strings, fell face down.
Kanon raised his head. He knew that voice. "Older brother... Saga..."
The ground below him swallowed his body and dropped him deeper into the bowels of hell depositing him before the very throne of Hades.
At first glance, Saga seemed even less intimidating than he was when masquerading as the Pope of Sanctuary. He was attired all in black with only an elaborate collar, shoulder guards, and belt to accentuate his appearance. The star pendant that had previously been worn by Shun hung around his neck. It was an odd contrast to the stark white robes, black mask, and red helmet and spiked shoulder guards that had become his customary garb as Athena's Pope. But there was a marked difference. The mask had always hidden his face, and now Kanon understood why it had been necessary despite the fact that no one knew the Pope's true appearance save Mu.
Saga's face was deathly pale, as if all the blood had drained into his fierce red eyes. His expression was calm, but the bloodlust and lust for power was unmistakable. His hair was again black, evil from the roots to their very tips, but it shone with an unholy light, glistening like dark shadows engulfing his brother's familiar face.
"Saga!" Kanon cried out. He didn't have a clear idea of what he would do, but he knew he had to get to Saga.
"Don't move," commanded some bitch with a pitchfork. Kanon smacked her down without much thought. Unlike the other Saints, Kanon didn't give a flying fuck if she was a woman. Anyone who stood between him and his brother would die.
Kanon punched Kuro-Saga. "Saga, wake up!"
A slow smile crossed Kuro-Saga's lips, and for the first time, Kanon experienced that same shock that stunned the Bronze Saints every time they discovered their powers to be ineffective. Kuro-Saga didn't budge, hadn't even been forced to turn his head from the impact of the punch.
"I see. So you are the man who deceived Poseidon." Kuro-Saga laughed coldly. "Very good. I'm pleased to see that my 'brother' is so talented."
"Hades, release my brother!" Kanon gathered all of his strength in his fist. "Release him or I'll kill you both."
"Then do so." Kuro-Saga's eyes glinted dangerously, and Kanon was unwillingly reminded of the day he was imprisoned in Sunion's Cape. "You already know that your brother is capable of killing you. Can you kill him?" he taunted.
When they had met in the Gemini temple, Kanon was certain that he could. He had sworn to defend the third temple of Sanctuary. When Saga attacked him from afar, Kanon resolved to fight his brother face-to-face. And when they had abandoned their last shred of honor as Saints and used the Athena Exclamation to kill Shaka, Kanon had believed his brother to be beyond redemption. But Saga exceeded all his expectations and proved to be even more evil than Kanon thought possible. Saga sought to destroy everything from the Gold Saints before him to the Goddess at the top of Sanctuary by setting Athena Exclamation against Athena Exclamation. It was unforgivable—or so he thought.
Kanon forgave his brother the very moment he saw him. Even as Saga fought to take those last steps and struggled to look up at the Goddess from where he'd collapsed, Kanon could sense his immense sorrow. He didn't know then about Athena's armor, but he did instantly know that loyalty and love for Athena were the motivations behind Saga's actions. Kanon could feel the good in his brother.
When Kanon presented the chest with the golden dagger, he averted his eyes from his brother's. If he did not, he knew that he would see Saga's love for him reflected in his deep green eyes and feel the fraternal bond that had never been broken. If he did not, he would burst into tears and beg that his life be given to his brother. Kanon knew then that it was not Athena's warm cosmos that had saved him from drowning when he had been in Sunion's Cape; the familiar cosmos had belonged to Saga. If Kanon had not awakened Saga's evil side, Saga would never have had to suffer as much as he did.
Kanon lowered his fist and dissipated his cosmos. No, of course he couldn't kill his brother. He bowed his head to hide his tears or at least so he wouldn't have to see Kuro-Saga's victorious expression.
"Why did you stop, Gemini?" Though he knew Hades was referring to him by his Gold Saint armor, Kanon couldn't help but to feel as if Kuro-Saga had called him his twin. "You put your brother's life before millions of people?" Kanon didn't have to look to feel the smug smile playing across Kuro-Saga's lips.
"Saga..." Kanon's voice was scarcely louder than a whisper. He fell to his hands and knees as the sobs wracked his body. "Saga, my twin, my brother..."
Kuro-Saga gently petted Kanon on the head.
"Pandora, leave us," Kuro-Saga said to the woman whom Kanon had already forgotten.
"Do you wish to return to your temple?" she asked.
"No." Kuro-Saga stroked Kanon's hair. "I will rest here for a while. Let no one enter. You may withdraw."
Kuro-Saga slid his hand under his younger brother's chin and tipped his head upward. "Kanon. Kanon," he called out softly. Kanon refused to look at him. Kuro-Saga sighed and slid off of Hades' throne. He took Kanon in his arms and embraced him tightly. "Kanon, my little brother, I'm sorry I made you cry." He warmed Kanon with his cosmos, healing him in body and mind.
Kanon sniffled and finally looked up. Kuro-Saga's hair was still black as night and eyes red as blood, but his gentle smile was genuine.
They felt a presence approach. Kuro-Saga quickly straightened and looked down imperiously at Kanon. "You belong to me now. Henceforth, you will serve as my second in place of Pandora."
"I'm sorry, but Kanon won't be able to serve you—-not after you're dead."
Kuro-Saga turned to his intruder. "Who's there?" The slender blond stepped out. His golden armor was shiny and pristine, as if it'd never been hit by an Athena Exclamation. "Virgo Shaka!"
"Hades, I've come for your life," Shaka announced.
"Shaka, where's Athena?" Kuro-Saga asked
"You're about to die. Therefore, it doesn't concern you." Of the Saints of Athena, Shaka was one of the fastest to charge his cosmos and attack. He lashed out. "Forgive me! Give me your life!"
"No!" Kanon stood up to protect his brother.
"Shaka, wait!" The voice of the Goddess stopped all three of them in their tracks. "Do not touch him."
"Athena!" they cried out in unison.
"So you've finally come, Athena." There was a strange catch in Hades voice.
"Athena, get away from here," Shaka said. "It's too dangerous. I'm going to finish off Hades even if it costs me my life."
"No, you must not. It's Saga." As always, Athena was too kind-hearted.
Shaka closed his eyes to keep from attacking Hades against Athena's wishes. "That's no longer Saga. That's just Saga's empty body under Hades' complete control," Shaka explained. "Saga can already be considered dead. Saga himself would wish for Hades to be slain."
"I'll expel Hades from Saga's body," Athena declared.
"No, Athena, Shaka, it really is Saga," Kanon said. He wiped away the last of his tears.
"You're his brother," Shaka said evenly. "I know it might be hard for you to see your brother die, but it must be done."
Kanon shook his head. "He heard you coming so he reassumed his disguise as Hades."
Shaka looked to Athena, who also seemed uncertain about the situation. "I do not believe you," Shaka said flatly. He prepared to attack so that he could see their reactions. Kanon's jaw set, and he moved to protect Hades.
Hades, on the other hand, gently pushed Kanon aside. "It'll be okay, Kanon," he said. "Athena, Shaka, I am Saga, and I am not possessed by Hades." Shaka narrowed his eyes. Hades held up one finger. He ran it over his chest from left to right then from top to bottom. "Cross my heart and hope to die."
Shaka blinked in surprise. It was Saga. It had to be. No evil creature could make such a gesture and speak such a phrase without feeling some measure of pain, and only Saga would use a Christian phrase to tease the reincarnation of Buddha. This was the Saga who Shaka had grown up admiring and obeying. This was the man who had earned his deification through good deeds rather than birthright. Throwing all restraints to the winds, Shaka ran to the man who had killed him and hugged him while laughing and crying into the soft black robes.
"I see now," Athena said. "You chose to take Shun's place as Hades' vessel." Saga nodded.
"But how?" Kanon asked with unbridled admiration.
"I heard that Hades needed to inhabit the body of a pure human, and I knew I was of that caliber." Shaka nodded in agreement. Saga held up the star pendant. "As for this, I realized what it was when I saw Shun wearing it. Before I faded, I took it from Shun. With Hades' castle collapsing, Sanctuary falling, Gold Saints fading, and Pandora walking down the long winding stairs, the switch went unnoticed in the chaos. Thus, Hades' soul became tied to my body instead of Shun's."
"If you wore the necklace, how is it that Hades did not possess you?" Athena asked.
Saga turned the pendant over to show the engraving of Athena's name. He smiled. "It was by your grace and power, my Goddess. Before Shion chose Aioros, he trained both of us to be candidates for the papacy. Among the skills I learned was the creating of seals." Saga removed the pendant from around his neck and handed it to Athena so that she could examine it. "If Hades had awakened, I doubt that my paltry seal could have kept him in check. However, it was sufficient to seal a slumbering god."
"Oh, the cleverness of you," Kanon said.
Saga made a face. "I wasn't sure if it would work. In truth, I was just being reckless and daring."
"But it did work, and that's what counts," Shaka said.
"Hades will not awaken in this era," Athena said. She had muttered a spell while holding the pendant and now returned the trinket to Saga. "What will you do now?"
"I intend to masquerade as Hades and sign a peace treaty with you. I'll also 'allow' you to take Shion, the Gold Saints, and the Bronze Saints back with you to the world of the living." Saga swallowed hard. "Aioros, too. He died much too young and deserves a second chance at life."
"After hundreds of years of fighting, why would you call a truce now?" Shaka asked.
Kuro-Saga's eyes flashed, and Shaka fell back a step. "I need not explain myself to you." Saga covered his face for a moment, and his expression softened. "That will be my answer. As long as I can reach deep within myself and exhibit that level of evil and anger, no one will dare question me."
Kanon's delight drained. "How long will you stay in the Underworld?" he asked.
"As long as need be," Saga said. "Until the next Holy War if that's what it takes to keep the peace."
"Saga." Kanon grasped his brother's forearms. "We've only recently reunited. There's so much I want to say to you, so much to do with you."
"I'll be here," Saga promised. He put the star pendant around Kanon's neck. "We are the Gemini twins. We are bound together for all of eternity."
Kanon smiled through his tears and clasped his hands over Saga's. "I am yours ever. Forever."