Had she ever done this before, during those short, happy days more than a decade ago? Had she ever strolled along the streets of Tokyo, pausing now and then to contemplate the front windows of shops, then hurry forward, feeling excited that she was going to buy her loved one a birthday present? She did not think so – at any rate, she could not recall it. Anyway did it matter, as long as she could do it now, and relish every second of it?
Now, what would a suitable present be for a Saint who was now a young man and not her baby anymore? Would he like a coat maybe, something she knit herself? No, there was not enough time for that. Foolish that she was, she did not remember his birthday until there was no time to think of a present that should be made, not bought. Next year I won’t forget, she promised herself, peering at the front window of a delicatessen. As a bonus, she would bake cakes for him and his soul brothers. It was going to be such a surprise for him! She almost hugged herself with happiness, picturing his delighted face. At last she could make up for all the years they had lost.
He would not care one way or another whether or not his birthday was celebrated, but she wanted to celebrate it. What would it be, then? A wristwatch? Now what would he do with it – wear it to every battle? Her throat felt tight at the memory of battles – she had been too close to losing him forever during that deadly conflict in Elysion. That her cry had awakened him did little to alleviate her dismay. She was reminded again he was living a perilous life now, and all she could do was wait and pray.
Which is why I’m going to make this birthday special, she thought. When he’s not fighting all he has to know is joy and more joy. Let me see…I know! A synthesizer! He’s always loved music and he’ll like to own something other than his old guitar. Miss Kido said I could charge the bill to the Foundation.
Again her heart skipped a beat. The Foundation was the source of all the misery she had been through. Had they not taken Seiya away from her, she would not have gone to Greece, had amnesia and not known he had been near her all along. Then she brushed away the growing resentment – that was all in the past. She and Seiya were together again now.
The winter wind blew past her. She shivered, pulling her mantle around her. The wind bit harder into her exposed flesh, startling her. She pressed a gloved hand against her cheek and rubbed at it, wondering as she hurried on if it was going to get colder tonight.
She rounded a bend, then stopped dead in her track. A man was sprawled facedown on the pavement several yards away. She glanced around fretfully, but the street was empty all of a sudden. After a second’s hesitation, she broke into a run and knelt down beside the prostrate man.
"Sir! Sir, are you all right?" She pulled off a glove and pressed a finger against his neck. His pulse was very weak but still traceable. Sighing, she climbed to her feet. She had to call an ambulance soon. The man might have had a heart attack –
At that moment the man stirred, groaned and shifted a little. She looked down, then froze. A pool of blood was spreading beneath him. Panic rising, she took a step back. It had definitely not been a heart attack. Her concern coming to the fore, she said, "Excuse me, sir…"
His head moved, painfully and jerkily, to locate the sound of her voice. It was then that she saw his face, and her own went pale. She swirled around to run blindly on, desperately in search of the nearest telephone booth.
"Why did you have to order out?" Junichi complained, making a face at his plate of sliced raw fish on the table. "I don’t like the look of this sashimi."
Naoya grinned. "My friend just opened the store and he wants me to be his first customer. How can I say no? At least give it a try."
"Can your friend cook?" Junichi reached for a pot of green tea. "Just in case I’ll need to wash my mouth."
"Don’t be so prejudiced. Go on, try."
"All right. But remember, I’m doing it for you." He chose a slice at random, munched at it, then nodded. "Not as bad as I thought. But you cook way better."
"Thank you. Itadakimasu!"
They were sitting opposite each other around a medium-sized kotatsu, or "warming table". The temperature had fallen to below zero. Junichi had switched on the radio and the evening news was providing the background sound.
"How do you think the Saints are doing?" asked Junichi between mouthfuls of fried vegetables.
"Hmm?" Naoya looked up at him. "What makes you mention them out of the blue?"
Junichi shrugged. "I don’t know. I was just wondering what they do between combats. As for us, I go to school and you teach. And we’ve never even been in combats. This sort of life is a lot better, wouldn’t you say? We both have something to look forward to – the end of the school year, summer holidays, movies at the cinema. What do they look forward to? The next enemy?"
Naoya smiled and pushed his empty platter aside. "Who says they’re not looking forward to summer holidays? Even Saints need to unwind."
"Since Hades they haven’t had any big case. Just some happenings now and then to keep them in shape – "
Both fell into a hush. Outside, the wind was fluting in a low key. They waited, tense, all senses honed. Minutes ticked by. At length they released their breath and resumed their interrupted meal.
"Another ‘case’, as you put it, for the Saints." Naoya poured saké into his cup. "Will this one be big, do you suppose?"
"Who cares? It’s their business, not ours. Hey, what about going to that new pachinko place? Pachinkos don’t close till eleven, right?"
Continued to Visitors