"They are back, safe and sound," Junichi announced, switching the TV channels back and forth as the program he was watching gave way to commercials. "But now that the Dragon knows about me, I guess he’ll be on the lookout."
Naoya looked up from his copy of Mishima Yukio’s Confessions of a Mask. "If you meet him, you’re not going to tell him anything, are you?"
"Of course not. Next thing we know they’ll insist on involving us in defending the planet, because it’s our responsibility, et cetera." Junichi grinned. "They don’t seem to grasp the concept that some heroes want to lead a normal life."
"Is that what we are? Heroes?"
"Okay, so we’re just a couple of people with extra ability. But does that mean we’ve got to use it? I think not. As long as there are still guys like the Saints of Athena, we can afford to relax. We will only step in when we have to, right?" Seeing Naoya’s countenance, he added, "No, don’t be a convert yet. We chose this path and we’ll stick to it. Won’t we?"
The older man was quiet for a moment. "There are times when I think we are wrong to neglect our…responsibility, as you call it."
Junichi hummed. "That kind of thinking will bring you more misery than it’s worth. Is it so noble, sacrificing oneself for mankind? For some, probably, but not for me."
Naoya stared down at the open book on his lap. "Yes."
Junichi watched him, then started changing the channels again.
"I think I do know." Saori leaned back on her chair, her eyes distant. "Some part of me which is Athena can still remember all the things Athena has ever done in the past. Some of the memories are rather foggy, though."
They were in her study. The heater was turned up since it was winter sunset, and getting colder. Seiya, Hyoga, Shun and Ikki had come back at three o’clock, and Shiryu not long after them. He had remarked that after midday not a single monster was in sight. He also mentioned his meeting with the strange young man and what had passed between them.
"What do you remember, Saori-san?" asked Shun.
Saori frowned a little. "It must have been – I don’t know, six or eight centuries back. Athena disowned the Aquarius Saint under the verdict that he went over to Poseidon’s side. I didn’t know precisely why she did that – that much I don’t recall. Of proofs there weren’t so many…I suppose she was influenced by evil tongues."
"Was it another Saint, do you think?" said Seiya.
Hyoga seemed to object to this. "What sort of Saint would betray a fellow Saint?"
"I guess we’ll never know. All the same, I am sorry for Aleron’s grandfather." Saori looked at Shiryu. "The young man you saw today – would you say he was dangerous?"
Shiryu shook his head. "No. He was – I’d say he was nonchalant. Defend the earth if you want, but I’ll pass. That’s what I see from his attitude." Shiryu turned toward the others. "He wasn’t threatening in any way, but neither was he helpful. And I couldn’t identify his power. He’s not a Saint, but what he is I can’t determine."
Ikki snorted. "As long as he stays out of our hair we won’t bother him."
"I’ll try and find him," Shiryu half promised to himself.
A silence cloaked the room. Seiya broke it. "Will we ever see Aleron again – or Sloa?"
"Unlikely," Shun said. "They weren’t exactly enthusiastic to renew their acquaintance with us when we parted." He heaved a mournful sigh. "I should be relieved, but I’m not. This is one battle we’ve lost. We didn’t resolve anything."
"They don’t want to be won over," Ikki reminded him. "Aleron just wants peace – truce, at least – and Sloa may want to challenge Athena one day. Surely you didn’t expect them to see the light and dedicate themselves to Athena?"
"Oh, I don’t know," Seiya answered lightly, "we could use a couple of new Saints." Then, seeing Shun’s look, he added, "No, they won’t go over to our side. Chances are we’ll never hear from them again. If they’re lucky, they may find another place to live and turn a new leaf in. If not – Saori-san, will the door be open for them here?"
She nodded firmly. "Absolutely, Seiya." She thought for a moment. "It’s possibly guilt, trying to make things up and all that, but yes, they will be welcome."
"That’s good." Seiya headed for the door. "It’s dinnertime."
Arrested, Seiya glanced at Shun. "Yeah?"
Shun hesitated, then shrugged and smiled. "This may not be the perfect time, but what the hey." He did a flawless bow. "Happy birthday, Seiya."