A Voice of Lamentation
[original title: Nageki no koe ni]
The Cloths of Athena---
The divine armors that have existed since time immemorial, given unto the Saints of Athena.
88 of them exist nowadays, each under the guidance of the particular constellation it represents.
Each Cloth seeks out its one and only owner, a Saint that shares its destiny under the stars.
Seeking, always seeking even in its sleep, a Cloth floats in the void, dreaming... until the master it pines for finally awakens to his destiny.
The ultimate purpose of a Cloth is to serve Athena, and yet, its only wish is to protect the Saint to which it is bound. Nothing else matters---not its inevitable wear and tear in battle, not even its utter destruction.
To be with its owner, always. That is its one true wish.
But what would happen if a Cloth is taken away from its Saint-- the Master it has chosen, the one and only absolute presence that the Cloth was meant to protect?
...The Cloths of Athena, the divine armors that have existed since time immemorial, given unto the Saints of Athena.
What is it that they feel, what is their will?
That ringing, again. Or should I say keening?
Even here, on his lotus dais in the very center of the Virgo Temple, Shaka could not help but notice the sharp vibration that incessantly invaded his meditation.
As imperturbable as Shaka usually was, this sound was not to be ignored. After all, what Saint would not be affected by cries of a grieving Cloth?
Silently he left his seat and walked out to the terrace. He looked down towards the Leo Temple from where the sad wailing was emanating.
Oh, how deeply it grieves...!
Night after night, the Leo Cloth was crying out to its one and only rightful owner, pining for the Saint who was not allowed to return.
And the Leo Temple itself awaited its owner as well. Without its anointed guardian and the periodic reinforcement by his Cosmo, the force field around the Temple would eventually destabilize, eating away at the rest of theTwelve Temples like a cancer.
Yes, a Temple needs its guardian; this was the indisputable truth.
And yet, Leo Aiolia was barred from these grounds.
The reason was obvious: Aiolos the Traitor, who attempted to assassinate infant Athena and was subsequently slain, was the elder brother of Aiolia. It was the most hideous crime ever to occur in the long and glorious history of the Sanctuary, and as such, the name of Aiolos was never to be spoken of again. The only epithet he was given was "The Traitor", and Aiolia therefore was "the brother of That Traitor" in everybody's eyes.
At the time of the incident, nobody could believe that Aiolos would engage in such a heinous act. But one could not doubt the words of the witness to the crime: the Pope himself, the mighty regent who ruled in the name of Athena. In the end, even Aiolia himself had to accept that Aiolos was guilty. So did everybody else.
The crime of Aiolos continued to overshadow and shape his brother's life. As an immediate consequence, Aiolia's status as the Leo Gold Saint was rescinded. This meant that his Gold Cloth was taken away, and he was barred from the Twelve Temples. The only reason Aiolia was not thrown out of the Sanctuary all together was to prevent him from turning his anger against the Sanctuary. The loss of the status as a Gold Saint was only a formality; in truth, Aiolia was still the Leo Saint, chosen by the Leo Cloth itself. Should Aiolia will it, the Cloth would undoubtedly answer the call of its owner. A desperate Gold Saint who does not fear death makes a formidable opponent. Although the outcome would inevitably be his death, if Aiolia were to openly rebel, the Sanctuary would likely suffer destruction of an unimaginable magnitude.
Rather than risking such a disaster, the Pope was obviously intending to put the disgraced Saint to a more constructive use later. That could be the only explanation the powerful regent ignored the calls from others to completely do away with Aiolia.
So the Leo Saint will one day be officially reinstated. There was no doubt about that.
However, in the meantime, its Cloth kept calling to him, a call that Aiolia would not---could not---answer. It was clear that Aiolia meant to take full responsibility for his brother's crime; he did not raise any objection what so ever when his Cloth was taken away. Shaka could not decide if Aiolia was right in not resisting his punishment. All he knew was that the anguished keening of the Leo Cloth was enough to make anybody's heart tremble --- even his, Shaka, who was considered to have less emotion than anybody else.
"You are different," was what virtually everybody said to him wherever he went. "You are such a strange child." It was a judgment that drew an invisible line between him and all the others. Not that Shaka cared, being as detached as he was. There were a few, though, who didn't tell him that he was strange---and that in turn piqued Shaka's curiosity. Among those were the Gold Saints, his equals and colleagues. In particular, there was that pair of brothers whose bright presence warmed everyone like the sun: they accepted Shaka wholly as he was.
It didn't matter how weird or unexpected Shaka's questions were, the older brother would just laugh good-naturedly and always respond with some answer. And the younger brother never hesitated to approach him, even after most of the others had started avoiding the young Virgo. "Shaka!" Aiolia would call out simply---a sound that Shaka began to cherish, who had never had or understood such a feeling before.
But then the catastrophe had struck--the incident that branded Aiolos as "the Traitor", and Aiolia "the Traitor's Brother". They were taken away from Shaka. The guardian of the neighboring Fifth Temple was banished soon after.
It was that very day that the Leo Gold Cloth had started crying for its owner.
There was nothing to be done. But every time he heard it, Shaka found himself sympathizing with the grief---an emotion that bemused the Virgo Saint.
So am I also grieving for the loss of the two brothers? Am I crying for them too?
...Were they that important a presence in my heart?
And tonight, too, the Leo Cloth was voicing its suffering, calling to Aiolia---a call that would go unanswered even though its Master was undoubtedly somewhere within the Sanctuary.
Does he suffer as well? It's not like he doesn't hear the lamentation of his Cloth...
It was very rare for Shaka to take interest in other people's well being, but Aiolia was one of the few exceptions. There were also a few others that showed concern for the young Leo's plight, most particularly Scorpio Milo and Aquarius Camus. Against orders given by the Pope, those two frequently snuck out of the Twelve Temples to go see the Leo Saint. They brought him food and also helped tend to his wounds. Aiolia was always hurt these days, being targeted mercilessly by those that wanted to punish "the Traitor's Brother." "Punishment" was just a justification these men used to take out whatever frustration they had on a defenseless target. Although he was still as powerful as any of the Gold Saints, Aiolia never fought back. It was as if he really was trying to atone for his brother's crime by not resisting the brutal beatings.
Yet he was still only a child. Defending his body with his Cosmo was not enough to keep him completely from harm. Daily, cuts and bruises on his body increased in number. He was weakening--and yet, he did not complain, his Cosmo as steady as ever. Whenever Camus and Milo came to visit him, the young Leo even told them to stay away from him. He feared that they would get punished for breaking an order of the Pope. Of course, it was not in Milo's nature to acquiesce so easily. "Why should I listen to you!" he had shot back, giving Camus the difficult task of mediating between his two friends.
This time, Camus and Milo were arguing in the center of the Leo Temple where the Leo Cloth was placed. They weren't wearing their own Cloths, which rather gave away what they were intending to do.
"...I'm not saying we shouldn't go. I'm also worried about Aiolia. But if we go too often and get punished, that's going to make Aiolia suffer even more!"
"So we should just leave him be? I didn't think you are so cold, Camus."
"That's not what I'm saying, Milo...!"
"If he's left alone.... He will die...!"
"He's not eating much, and not getting his wounds taken care of. And in that place so unworthy of him...You don't care, Camus, if...if 'Lia also dies..?"
The young Scorpio's shoulders started to tremble, and his throat convulsed in an attempt not to cry. Milo had always had an emotional side to him.
"That's not what I'm saying, Milo. Of course we will watch over him so he won't die! But if we get punished and are separated from Aiolia for good, who will help him then?"
"I don't know! But I'm going anyway!"
What a nuisance, thought Shaka with slight irritation as he approached the two quarrelling Gold Saints.
While it was true that there weren't too many people around the Twelve Temples, to discuss such a subject in such loud voices was definitely not a good idea. On top of that, they were arguing right in middle of the Leo Temple---not a good place to be staying for any length of time.
Good thing It's only me that overheard their conversation.
The two Saints, who knew that Shaka rarely left his own residence, looked surprised by young Virgo's sudden appearance from the side of the Fourth Temple.
"Wh-what are you doing here, Shaka?"
"That's my question. What are you fighting about in such a place?"
"Why do you care?"
"It peeves me."
"Then just leave!"
Milo said brusquely and turned his back.
"Where do you two intend to go?"
"None of your business."
"...You are going to visit Aiolia, am I right?"
Milo froze. Camus looked at Shaka, holding his breath.
"What, Shaka, you are gonna try to stop me too?"
"If Aiolia does not wish it, then should you not listen to him?"
"I don't care. I will do as I please!"
Milo got ready to leave. Shaka asked,
"Are you that worried about him?"
"Aren't YOU worried, too? If you knew how he was..."
"Is it necessary to worry about him?"
The two Saints were momentarily lost for words. Then Milo grabbed Shaka in fury.
"Stop it, Milo!"
"Don't stop me, Camus! What a thing to say! You were close to Aiolos and 'Lia, too!"
Close to Aiolos and Aiolia? Shaka didn't really understand what that meant, even though he knew that those two brothers were somehow "important" to him.
Not seeing any reaction from the young Virgo further infuriated Milo, and he shoved Shaka away.
"Can't talk to this guy. I'm going now!"
Ignoring Camus, Milo rushed out of the Leo Temple.
"Will you not go after him?"
Camus sighed. Was it against Milo's rash behavior, or against Shaka who had enraged Milo?
"Shaka, why did you say such a thing?"
When Shaka asked seriously, Camus shook his head and furrowed his brow. Another sigh escaped his lips.
" 'Is it necessary to worry about him'. It doesn't take Milo's short temper to get angry at such a callous comment."
"But why? There really is no need to worry about Aiolia."
"Shaka, what I'm trying to say..."
"He is our Leo Saint. He will not change, demoted or not."
Camus looked at him in total surprise. Shaka steadily received that stare with his closed eyes.
Whatever the Sanctuary may try to do to him, it will not break him.
"Who can bend that proud lion's will? Do you really think that his spirit will be broken so easily?"
"Shaka... then you believe in Aiolia?"
" 'Believe' is too dramatic a word. I just know."
With that, Shaka opened his eyes and looked straight at Camus. Meeting that direct stare, the normally self-possessed Camus was startled by what he saw: those clear blue eyes, brimming full of power and strong will, also revealed something else---feelings that were hidden deep within the Virgo Saint, a man thought to be detached from human emotions.
After looking down for a split second, Camus raised his face and quietly returned Shaka's gaze.
"...You 'just know', Shaka? Well, so do we..! But even so, Milo and I just cannot leave Aiolia the way he is."
"It may not be much, but at least I can go cool down his wounds."
"...Then go. Just make sure Milo does not get out of hand---if you want to keep visiting Aiolia in the future."
With that, Camus turned and dashed off to catch up with his impetuous friend.
The Leo Cloth keened again in pain, not having the freedom to go see its Master like Milo and Camus.
Shaka laid his hand on it gently. "Patience. This will have to do for now... Do you feel the residual Cosmo of Aiolia?"
The Cloth trembled slightly, its cry intensifying. The Virgo Cloth in which Shaka was clad added its own voice in synchrony. Camus and Milo did not know it, but Shaka had just paid Aiolia a visit and was on his way back. That was why he had been out of his own Temple.
For his part, Aiolia had also told Shaka to quit coming to him, but it was not a suggestion that the Virgo Saint was going to listen to. "You cannot even move around because of your wounds---so do not tell me what to do." Shaka had responded sternly as he performed Healing on the injured Leo Saint. As weakened as he was, Aiolia still had no trouble synchronizing his Cosmo with Shaka's for better Healing effect. What troubled him was something else.
"If.... If only I could Heal myself...!"
"It can be done."
"But the effect isn't nearly as good when one tries to Heal himself, Big Brother told me..."
Aiolia bit his lips, still tortured by the memory of his dead brother. Shaka watched him silence, letting him work through his inner pain.
"Still, it's not impossible Aiolia. I can Self-Heal with no problem."
"If you do not want me to come visit you, then at least learn to Heal yourself."
It was true that learning to Heal oneself was difficult. It was not something that could be taught, and the effectiveness of Self-Healing did vary from individual to individual. The only thing Shaka could do was to encourage Aiolia by his own example.
Of course, if you master that, then there would be one less reason for me to come see you...
After Healing him enough that Aiolia could at least move around somewhat, Shaka stood up.
"I shall come visit you again."
"I keep telling you, don't come see me anymore."
The protest fell on deaf ears.
"Um... how is my Cloth doing?"
Aiolia asked hesitantly. He realized the contradiction of demanding Shaka to quit showing up, and yet wanting to know how his Cloth was faring. But he had to know.
"...It's behaving itself, just like you commanded it to."
Aiolia was still the one and only Master of the Leo Cloth. The Cloth itself knew this better than anybody else. So on the day of banishment, when Aiolia had told the Cloth to wait for him---that he would someday come back for it---the Cloth had listened and obeyed. Otherwise, it would have flown to Aiolia long before this. Faithful to a fault, it continued to wait for Aiolia's return.
Shaka's palm still retained Aiolia's residual Cosmo from the synchronization during Healing. Even that little bit was enough to make the Leo Cloth tremble in joy.
Watching its reaction, Shaka wondered anew what would happen to a Cloth that had already chosen a Master, yet was left abandoned for a long time. Once awakened, a Cloth was known to heighten its own power by interacting with the Cosmo of its Master. If that interaction were to be denied, would the Cloth eventually "die"? Surely not...? But a Cloth is known to die of other causes. Shaka recalled what he had learned from a friend who had been training to be a Cloth-Healer. There was no way to discuss the issue with Mu, though: he had suddenly disappeared from the Sanctuary after Aiolos' betrayal.
Just in case. That was one of the reasons Shaka visited Aiolia---to make sure that the Leo Cloth was able to interact with its owner's Cosmo, with Shaka serving as an intermediary. At least, that is how Shaka justified his actions, and he had no intention of quitting anytime soon. The truth, however, may lie somewhere else. Did he frown upon Milo and Camus' frequent visits because he was afraid of losing his own freedom to visit Aiolia, were they to get caught and punished? Was he seeing Aiolia, not in order to save the Leo Cloth, but because he himself missed the Leo Saint? Now that Aiolos was no more, what is it exactly that Shaka sought from his younger brother?
...The last of its keening died out as Leo Cloth finally quieted.
Shaka came to himself and released his hand from it.
Even in its suffering, the Leo Cloth was as pristine and as resplendent in its beauty as ever.
"...More than anyone else, you are the one who truly believes in your Master, aren't you?"
Maybe I'm the one that's being consoled, not the other way around... or, it really goes both ways, doesn't it?
"One day he will come back---to this Temple, to us, and to you."
There was not a shred of doubt in Shaka's mind as he turned his back on the Leo Cloth and left for the Virgo Temple. Behind him, the golden lion gleamed softly in silence as it waited for its Master's return.
...It would be another 3 long years before Aiolia is reinstated as the Leo Gold Saint...
This story explores one of the many interesting ideas that Hikaru has regarding Athena's Cloths: they have a consciousness and a will of their own. Also, the author feels that the reason Aiolia turned out to be such a strong and kind character is that there were friends who secretly kept in touch with him. Maybe there was not much that they could do to help him in obvious ways, but their continued love and trust likely helped sustain Aiolia through the darkest days of his youth. Enjoy!
April 05, 2008 Cerulean
2008.09.16. Site Up