Disclaimer: I do not own Saint Seiya. This saddens me on a daily basis.
Author's Note: Really short A/N today, as I'm posting this on my way out the door - this weekend turned out to be hellishly busy towards the end of it, but I wanted to make sure I got this chapter posted. :) Thanks to everyone who reviewed last time, and as always special thanks to Teakwood for squeezing in some beta time, however quick and short it was. ^.^ Please enjoy!
End of Innocence
Chapter Six: Aries, Part Two
If there'd been any worry that Mu wouldn't be able to adjust to their communal living, any such concern vanished within the week. No one protested the single-room arrangement granted to the newest Saint, the allowance obviously due to his unique psychic talents. As Mu explained to them, he had lived alone with Shion in Jamir for many years now, and was still adjusting to being around more people. It was just as well – Shaka and Aiolia had adapted surprisingly well to their living arrangement, Aiolia proving to be far more mindful of Shaka's need for quiet during meditation than anyone had expected (though Shaka's ability to meditate through anything might have been a tribute to that), and as for Camus he'd grown accustomed to having Milo around now. To switch at this point would have been awkward, and so it was that Mu quietly claimed the bedroom beside Shaka and Aiolia's for his own.
Having his own room, however, didn't mean that the Tibetan Saint distanced himself from the rest of them. He took Aiolia's endless questions about his powers in stride, answering them as patiently as he could. He accepted and even encouraged Milo's boisterousness, which gave the rest of them a chance to recover from the enthusiastic explosion. He could hold an intelligent conversation with Camus and was even willing to debate on certain topics.
By his third day in the barracks, Mu had managed to fully assimilate himself into the regular routines of his new roommates. It didn't take long for him to pick out their training schedules – or to get a good impression of their personalities. One of the earliest lessons that Shion had impressed upon his young pupil was the importance of observation; the keener Mu honed such skills, the less likely he would be tempted to use his talents for unethical purposes.
So Mu decided to put those skills to the test, following his desire to know and understand his fellow Gold Saints better. Aiolia was the easiest – he was the most open of them, the most carefree and unguarded. The expectation that he would follow in his older brother's footsteps as a Gold Saint had been placed upon his shoulders at a young age, but Aiolia hadn't let himself succumb to the pressure that most would have felt from such a burden. All he was really interested in, it seemed, was doing his best to not disappoint or embarrass Aiolos. Oh – and making friends. Though on the surface he might have seemed exuberant to the point of being insensitive, after observing Aiolia around their other roommates (and being one himself), Mu had noticed that the other boy was actually very respectful of the needs of others, and went almost out of his way to make sure he didn't disturb them. This was most obviously seen in his interactions with Shaka – despite the fact that their room was shared, not once did Aiolia ever complain about giving Shaka privacy for his meditations, and he took great care not to disturb him during them.
Then there was Camus. The Aquarius Saint was quiet, intelligent and reserved; he preferred to think things through before committing himself to any opinion or task. He did not shy away from conversation, but it had to be one that he could actually engage in – he didn't talk just for the sake of talking. He was also dedicated; Mu saw this clearly when, within hours of his induction into the ranks of the Gold Saints Camus had Shion out in the training arena, showing him his Diamond Dust technique and receiving clearance from the Kyoko to resume his regular training schedule. It had been as if a heavy burden had been lifted from Camus' shoulders, and the result had actually garnered a small smile from the serious-minded youth. One might, at first meet, believe that Camus was as frigid as his ice-based techniques, but Mu suspected that inside him there was a warmth just waiting to be released – if, that is, the right key came along to turn the lock.
And, Mu mused thoughtfully as he emerged from the pantry with a wrapped parcel, that key just might already be here. It didn't take a genius to realize that Milo brought something out in Camus that no one else did. Whether it was simply sitting in the Aquarius Saint's presence quietly (a rare occasion, he could tell, even from only being there a few days now) or managing to engage him in conversation, the tension that seemed to permeate through Camus lessened considerably when Milo was around. And although Milo was friendly to everyone, there was something in the way that he approached Camus that was different. Mu couldn't quite put his finger on what it was, but he could feel it clearly. Neither boy seemed especially aware of it, and yet it was there nonetheless. There was a connection between them, and if Mu hadn't known for a fact that the two boys had never met before being inducted into the Gold Saints only a few months earlier, he would have been certain that they'd known each other a lifetime.
He unwrapped the parcel, placing a few pieces of balep bread on a plate that he then placed upon a tray, a slight frown of concern touching his face. He had a feeling he knew why Shion had requested that he come to Sanctuary now, instead of waiting until they knew when and to whom Athena would be born as he had originally planned. When he'd questioned him, his master had cryptically replied that there were others aside from Athena who needed him, and though it had puzzled Mu he hadn't argued the matter.
Mu suspected now that that reason had had to do with Milo. It was almost impossible to tell when Milo and Camus were together, which was often how it was when Mu saw the younger Saint, but on the few occasions he'd caught him alone it had become clear that something was eating away at the dark-haired boy. The day before, while on his way back to the barracks from training, he'd spied Milo sitting atop a half-wall, tossing an uneaten apple back and forth between his hands and staring off into space. Around the others he was all smiles, but that one view had told Mu a very important truth – inside Milo there was pain, and it was growing each day. He didn't know what was causing it, but if something wasn't done it would eat the young Scorpio alive.
He lifted the kettle of water and tea leaves off of the stovetop, carrying it carefully over to countertop and pouring it into a set of teacups that had been among the few possessions he had brought with him from the tower in Jamir. He set the kettle aside once the cups were full, and picked up the tray without spilling a drop, years of practice in serving tea to his master paying off.
He carried the tray out of the kitchen. Camus and Aiolia both had a training session with Saga which was likely to take them into early evening; Milo had left in his own training gear, but he'd gone off in an opposite direction from the others. And at a far, far slower pace as well. Shion would still be overseeing Mu's training personally within Sanctuary, but was giving his apprentice the week off to get settled. That left him to his own devices in the barracks, alone.
Well…not quite alone.
Tray in hand, he paused not outside of his own door, but the one next to it. It stood open, blocking no one out, and gave Mu a clear view of the two sides of the room that were equal only in size. On one side stood an unmade bed, the covers more on the floor than off of it, one pillow at the foot and the other out of sight from the doorway. Piece of clothing and armor lay scattered about, including one shirt that had somehow ended up looped over the drapery rod that spanned the single window. He wasn't entirely certain how Aiolia had managed that one.
The other half of the room was, in contrast, impeccably maintained. This bed was fully made, the pillows placed in their proper places, the bedding turned up and tucked in. Not a piece of clothing nor armor could be seen outside of the dresser – it looked almost as if no one lived in the room at all.
Except, that is, for the blonde boy perched in a lotus position in the middle of the floor, his hands brought together in front of him and his eyes closed.
He was clad in simple white robes, his hair unbound and hanging loose, and his back was to Mu, facing a Buddhist icon set atop the nightstand, which had been moved away from the bed so that it set apart in the corner. Shaka gave no indication that he was aware of Mu's presence, and for a moment Mu could only stand there and watch him. There was a peace and tranquility about Shaka unlike anything that Mu had ever felt before. He himself was used to meditation, and had done so with Shion on several occasions, but for Shaka… for Shaka, meditation didn't simply appear to be just a way to clear the mind and calm the spirit. For Shaka, it was a state of being.
The barest shift of muscle, a slight ripple of hair; these were the only clues Mu had that Shaka had adjusted his posture to turn slightly towards him. The blonde didn't say a word; that small movement was the only acknowledgement that he gave.
Mu stepped into the room, carrying the tray over and placing it next to Shaka. Then he knelt onto the floor, quietly arranging the tray so that both the plate and one of the cups was within Shaka's reach should the other boy choose to accept the meal. It wasn't until after he had done so that he adjusted his posture again, assuming a similar stance to Shaka's and closing his eyes.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
There was only one person that Mu had ever been able to truly find peace near during meditation before, and that was his master. Before Shion had found him, his psychic powers had little to no control to them; he could neither stop himself from affecting those around him, nor could he keep their thoughts out of his own mind. The influx of other people's mental states, intended to be kept eternally apart and yet all colliding into the small space of his three-year-old mind, had nearly overwhelmed him. Unable to shield himself or those around him, Mu's mind had thrown itself into an instinctive survival response – to keep from being further damaged, it had shut itself down to the point of putting him into a near catatonic state.
He remembered little of that time. According to the doctors at the hospital he'd been held in, he'd been there for just shy of a full month. For Mu it had felt like much, much longer – cut off from the world around him, aware that it existed and yet unable to participate, he had felt himself slowly begin to sink into a dark abyss of despair. Wrapped up in the protective prison of his mind, it had felt as if an eternity were passing by.
And then…light. One day, the last day, all of the voices had stopped. It had felt as if a blanket of incredible warmth had descended upon his mind, blocking out the weakest minds and dampening the strongest. A moment later he opened his eyes, and found himself staring into the gentle violet eyes of the man who would become his master.
Within a week Mu had been discharged from the hospital, his guardianship turned over to Shion, and was whisked away to the remote land of Jamir. There Mu had begun the much needed training of his mind and, once Shion had deemed him healed enough psychically, the even more necessary training of his Cosmo. For most of that time he'd remained in isolation there with only his master as a companion, but periodically Shion would bring him out of Jamir and take him among people for one week, so that he both wouldn't remain cut off from the rest of the world and so that he could practice shielding himself from people up close. It had taken over a year before Mu had been able to stand it for more than a couple of hours at a time, and even now the only person that he had ever been able to relax fully around.
He couldn't help but hope that someday he'd find another. Someone that he could relate to in a way that he couldn't relate to his master. A peer. A companion. A friend.
Aiolia trudged into the common room, rubbing his shoulder with a wince. He was fairly certain that muscles he didn't even know he had were sore. Saga was relentless during training, and he'd pushed both himself and Camus to the edge of their abilities. It didn't matter that they were half his age – all Saga cared about was that they were Saints. He preferred training with his brother – it wasn't that Aiolos went any easier on him, it was just that it was easier for Aiolia to not grumble about it afterwards.
But Aiolos had been busy lately, and so they'd been stuck with Saga. When he and Camus had left the training arena together the Aquarius had immediately headed for the bathhouse, unable to completely hide the limp to his steps. A hot soak sounded good to Aiolia, too, but he'd decided to go back to the barracks and put something in his stomach first.
After hiking up the hill to the barracks, he was starting to really regret that decision.
He headed for his room, makings sure to stay quiet so that he didn't disturb Shaka. Not, he'd come to learn, that there was a whole lot that could disturb his roommate. Still. He was sharing a room with Shaka, he ought to at least be courteous. That was the first step in getting along with other people – at least, that's what Aiolos had always told him.
Unbuckling the shoulder straps of his chest plate, he reached the room and paused, blinking as he stared inside.
Shaka, oddly, wasn't alone. Next to him, sitting in a similar (and unnatural as far as Aioloa was concerned) position was Mu. Both of them had their backs to him, and neither of them gave any indication that they were aware he was there. They were both completely absorbed in their mediation.
Sitting between them was a tray containing an empty plate and two tea cups, one on either side – the one closest to Mu still full, while Shaka's was empty.
Aiolia watched them for a moment longer, than grinned and shrugged, undoing the rest of his armor as he moved to the dresser to get a change of clothes. Food could wait. He had a bath calling his name.