"Miss Kido?" The voice was slightly worried.
I looked around, feeling as if someone had pulled me off the bed in the middle of sleep. A woman with glasses was staring at me. Slung on her arms were two evening dresses, one milk-white, the other fuchsia. Seeing the second dress a thought rang like an echo in my head: That color is catastrophic for my hair.
Of course. I was shopping, looking for a dress to wear to a banquet I had to attend tonight. When I got home, there was Gilland…Athena! Had I gone back to the twentieth century? What about Aislinn? I scooped up my purse from the chair next to me.
The saleslady hurried after me, taking care not to crumple the dresses. "Miss Kido?"
"Send those and the bill to my house," I said without looking back, and exited the boutique.
Freezing wind slapped my cheeks, stinging them and my mind into activity instead of numbness. I gazed around, a little disoriented. I was in Siberia. But how could I be here when the fight wasn’t over yet? Did Aislinn send us back? Yes, it appeared so. What a coward she was, then.
But I was too glad to be home to make a big fuss out of it. If we were destined to meet her again, we would.
I inhaled the wind, perfume to my soul. I remembered Desmo and the others, and wanted to smile. I’d like to hear what Magaski would say if I brought him here to my homeland, harsh and impersonal as the twenty-second century but closer to the heart. All of a sudden I discovered I was missing our fellow Saints already.
The rumble of waterfalls was the first thing my ears caught. I looked down and there it was, the place from which the Spirit of the Dragon was said to have been birthed. Without knowing how I had been transported back to Mount Rozan…in the twentieth century? Before I sensed Seiya’s call, I had been meditating near the waterfall. I rose to my feet and went to the hut.
Shunrei was patching a torn shirt, sitting cross-legged in a chair. She looked up as I entered. "Something wrong, Shiryu?"
"Nothing," I said. She nodded and continued her work.
We had acquired ourselves a latent enemy, I supposed. Eventually Aislinn would want to settle the account. Until the day came, however, I saw no reason to worry unduly. Our Cosmos was still with us, and that meant Athena’s Saints were still needed here and now.
His palette spilling from his hands, Shun tried to catch it, but too late. It had already crashed onto the floor, the paint splattering his bare feet. Shun exclaimed in dismay, automatically stepping back.
"Now why did I do that?" he asked, half to himself. Then his face froze as he swung to me. "Niisan! I wasn’t hallucinating, was I? We did go to the twenty-second century? Meeting Desmo and the others…" He went to the sink – the kitchen also functioned as his studio – and washed his feet.
I didn’t answer right away, just staring out the window. A kite was roaming across the sky, the tail flitting behind it. After Shun had finished washing, I said, "Do you think Aislinn will ever drop by? You know, to have a fair fight with us?" I snorted. "Nope, I don’t think she will. Damn it, how did we let her slip?"
Shun dried his hands with a dishrag. "It’s not your fault, Niisan. Don’t start blaming yourself."
"Blaming myself? I’m blaming her! This is the first time an enemy ran out on us." I scowled.
"Fate may throw her and us together again."
"I hope so," I said, still smarting. "I’d like to show her a battle is meant to be seen through to the end."
Images swam across my vision and colors merged into one another. I blinked hard, shaking my head to clear it. I found myself standing on the steps of a staircase, and saw that this was the Kido mansion. The huge grandfather clock at the far end of the room told me it was five minutes to eleven.
Aislinn had returned us to our own time. I was sure Shiryu and the others were also at the places they had been before Gilland showed up. But when was this? I ran up the stairs.
A maid was staggering out of Saori’s room, carrying a pile of laundry. I stopped her. "What’s the date today?" When she gave it to me, I was stunned. It was exactly the same day as that of Gilland’s appearance. And Gilland fell on the gate at – wait a minute – eleven o’clock? Was it at eleven? I raced out of the house, past the front lawn, and toward the gate.
The guards turned to me. "Can we help you, Master Seiya?"
"Has anybody come here – anybody unusual?"
They exchanged puzzled glances. "No," one of them finally said. "No one has come here all morning. Are you expecting someone?"
"No. No, thank you."
Once inside, I sank into a couch. I wondered if it all had been a dream – the twenty-second century, Desmo and his friends, Aislinn and Kronos. But the traces of bodily exertion that always followed a battle still lingered. I knew it had been real. The question was, was it over?
I didn’t think so. Aislinn survived: we didn’t kill or maim her badly, of that I could swear. She sent us back here before we could do her any more damage. Was she any threat to the future Saints, then? They still had a long road to travel before they could defeat her. One didn’t achieve the power we’d been bestowed upon overnight. I hoped Desmo and the others would one day be a match against her. But that was something I would never get to know.
That was a disturbing thought, and I didn’t like it. It was like leaving a job unfinished, and I hated loose strands. Well, if we were lucky, Aislinn might want to pay a visit to the twentieth century to terminate all Saints that ever were. And when she did, we’d be ready for her. I was somehow certain we hadn’t seen the last of her.
All we had to do was get ready for the big day.