Libra Dohko, gold Saint and warrior of Athena was concerned. Not about the upcoming war, although that did weigh heavily on his mind, but about something that was much closer to home. There was something wrong with Shion, and he was going to find out what it was.
It was unlike his friend to be late to any sort of official meeting. Maybe he been in Jamir, but he should have been called back in plenty of time to be there. The Pope would never have left something like that to chance. Besides, Shion hadn’t looked right when he had come in. Most of the other Gold Saints probably hadn’t noticed anything amiss, but Dohko knew his friend well enough to realize something was wrong. He had looked tired, withdrawn, and even paler than usual. After the meeting he hadn’t said anything to anyone. He had gone straight to the Pope to speak with him, and then been taken off to a side chamber to give his report. Dohko had waited for Shion to pass through his temple but when the Aries Saint had reached Libra he had passed through without even muttering a hello. It wasn’t even as if Shion had been deliberately ignoring him. It had seemed more like the Aries Saint was so absorbed in his thoughts that he had barely even noticed his surroundings. That would have set off alarm bells in Dohko’s head even if nothing else had.
That was why he was on his way down to Aries now. Something had happened in Jamir, and whatever it was had very plainly disturbed his friend. If there was a way he could help, he was going to.
Shion wasn’t there to challenge him when he reached the first temple. That alone was enough to cause him concern since he could still sense that Shion was awake. As he headed over toward the private rooms in the back and Shion still didn’t come out he really started to worry. It wasn’t like him to just let someone walk through his temple without at least saying something.
The Aries Saint wasn’t in the living area of his private quarters. Dohko walked over to the stairs that lead down to the work area under Aries temple. The door at the bottom was a open just a crack so he descended the stairs and pushed the door all the way open. Shion was seated against one wall, a half repaired Cloth that he wasn’t paying much attention to off to the side. Instead he just seemed to be staring at the golden hammer he was turning over and over in his hands.
“Find something interesting on that?” Dohko called by way of greeting. Shion actually started, nearly dropping the tool, something that added to Libra Saint’s surety that something was very, very wrong with his friend. No Saint who had earned Gold Rank shouldn’t be surprised that easily.
“Dohko,” Shion responded, trying to keep his voice steady and just as clearly going to pretend he hadn’t jumped. “What are you doing down here this late?”
“It’ isn’t that late,” The Libra Saint said cheerfully as he crossed the room. “It’s barely starting to get dark! Besides, do I really need a reason to come visit a friend?”
“I’m not going to be the best company today,” Shion stood and started to put his tools away. Dohko watched him. “I’m tired and I think I’m going to go to bed early.”
“I think you’re more than tired,” the Libra Saint said quietly. “You’re preoccupied, Shion. You didn’t even notice me come into the same room as you. That’s dangerous for a Saint during a Holy War.”
The Aries Saint paused for a moment. “You’re right,” he admitted. “That was careless of me. Even if I’m familiar with your cosmo I should have noticed something. I’ll make sure it does not happen again.”
Dohko got to his feet. “Maybe telling me what’s on your mind would help with that?” Shion glanced back at him, every line of his body going tense. “Don’t tell me there isn’t something going on, Shion. You’ve been acting oddly ever since you walked into the meeting.”
“It has nothing to do with you,” the Aries Saint said shortly and turned back to his tools. He was putting far more concentration into the task that was absolutely necessary, making sure that each tool was placed just perfectly. “You do not have to worry about me, Dohko.”
“I’m your friend Shion,” he reminded the other Saint. “You can tell me what’s wrong.”
“I heard you took on a student,” Shoin said, ignoring the Libra Saint’s words. “I will admit that was a bit of a surprised. I hadn’t expected you to find someone yet..”
“Shion,” Dohko cross the room and grabbed his friend’s shoulder. Shion half turned and glared at him. “I am your friend,” he repeated, “and something is eating you up inside. I want to help, so please, just talk to me.”
“I told you that it has nothing to do with you!” Shion whirled all the way around, knocking the hand off his shoulder.. “I think it’s time that you leave.” There was something beyond the anger in his voice however. He was nervous or scared, although why the Libra Saint still couldn’t tell.
“Not until you tell me what’s happening with you!” Dohko didn’t bother to move. “Shion, you’re being worse than usual. This isn’t just your usual need for privacy. What happened in Jamir?”
“That is a private matter!” Shion glared at him. “Why are you so insistent on this? It doesn’t affect you!”
“Yes it does,” Dohko replied quietly, carefully meeting Shion’s eyes as he spoke. “It does when it makes one of my friends so distracted that I’m not sure he would notice a threat. It does matter when it’s bothering a friend so greatly that he doesn’t even want to talk to me about it. Then it does affect me, because I start to worry about my friend.”
For a moment the Libra Saint thought his friend was going to snap and say something else, but then the fire seemed to die from his eyes and he slumped a little.
“Perhaps you wouldn’t worry so much if you knew what kind of friend I really was,” Shion said softly. “I’m not even sure I deserve that title anymore.”
“Shion,” Dohko said in surprise. “What makes you say that? I mean, you’re stubborn, seem to like being difficult, and take things too seriously. But,” he continued even as he saw his friend wince, “you’re also the most loyal, trustworthy, and honest Saint I know. Everyone in Sanctuary respects you…even Manigoldo, although you would never be able to drag it out of him.”
Instead of cheering up his friend, his words just seem to make the darkness he could see lurking in his eyes grow.
“I’m also blind,” Shion said quietly.
“Well that’s never stopped Asmita,” the joke came before he could stop it. He saw his friend wince again. “That’s not what you mean, is it? Will telling me about it really be that painful?”
The Aries Saint hesitate for a moment. “Yes,” Shion admitted quietly. That alone told Dohko more about his state of mind than anything else. He wouldn’t normally admit to something that would wound his pride.
“Whatever you say, Shion, I will remain your friend regardless. I know you well enough to have that much faith in you.”
“You’re a good friend Dohko.” Shion finally looked up at him. “Just…please, do not interrupt me. I feel it would be best to tell the whole story all at once.”
“I promise,” Dohko said. Shion nodded, took a deep breath, and then started talking.
He explained how he had gone back to Lemuria at his Master’s request, about finding Specters there, about Yuzuhira and her brother, his former friend Touksa. Even if Dohko hadn’t made his promise he would have known better than to say anything. Shion didn’t normally speak in a rush, with an almost desperate tone like that. When he finished he just stood there, not able to face the other Saint.
Dohko hesitated for a moment, trying to get his words in order. “You did what you could, Shion,” he said at last. “By the time you arrived their Touksa had made his choice. If even his sister’s words failed to reach him then I think he was too far gone for anyone to help.”
“Are you sure about that?” was the quiet reply. Shion looked up at him with grim eyes. “I attacked without trying to reason with him. We trained together, lived together, and yet I managed to see him as an enemy so easily.”
“Because he was an enemy at that moment,” Dohko said firmly. “You weren’t just defending yourself at that moment, Shion. Do you think he would have hesitated to finish off Yuzuhria if you had stood by?”
“I want to say we don’t know,” the Aries Saint admitted. He slowly sank down to the floor, ending up cross-legged. Dohko quickly took a seat across from him. Violet eyes meet his once he was settled. “But I know it’s just my emotions, my heart that wanted him to recognize his sister. If I hadn’t intervened he would have killed or seriously injured her with that attack. I know how close they two of them were. Even if she tried to put up a defence I’m not sure she could have brought herself to fight seriously against her own brother.”
“Then what happened was not your fault,” Dohko said firmly. “I know you Shion. One of your strengths is that you aren’t afraid to make hard decisions.” He held up a hand when Shion started to protest. “That doesn’t mean you’re heartless Shion. If anything, the fact that you’re worry over this now proves the opposite.”
Shion was slowly losing that jitter, desperate edge he had been holding onto. It wasn’t as he was fine, but Dohko thought he looked better. Shion always responded best to logic. “I….there really was no other choice, was there?” he said softly, looking down at his hands. “Even if I had teleported him away he would have come back. He wasn’t sane anymore. Hades had broken something in him.” There was some conviction in the words.
“Exactly,” Dohko knew the words were only repeats of what he had said earlier, but the fact that Shion was actually start to believe them was worth not saying anything about that. “Touksa wasn’t himself then. He had already lost his mind and accepted the deal Hades had offered him. His choice had been made before you even arrived in Jamir. You had nothing to do with that.”
“Is that the real truth?” Shion was rubbing one his arms absently. He looked up, but his gaze was focused somewhere far away. “I was the eldest student, the one that was suppose to be held up as an example to the others. I was the one who was suppose to watch out for them, Dohko. I called Touksa my friend and yet I never even noticed how he felt. I was aware that he wasn’t adept at the training as me or Yuzuhira, but I didn’t know it went that deep. I didn’t even know he resented me. If I had noticed, if I had tried to speak to him about it, maybe there was a way I could have..”
“You’re not a god, Shion,” Dohko said as gently as he could. “You can’t know what everyone is thinking.”
The look the Aries Saint gave him reminded Dohko that, as human as his friend looked, he was something else all together. Things that would be beyond even gold Saints like Asmita were easy for him. “Sorry,” he amended quickly. “But you know what I meant, and I know you. You weren’t about to go prying into his private thoughts like that. He wouldn’t have wanted you know how he felt about it. Besides, your master was there as well. You are a Saint with duties here. You can’t be expected to be everywhere at once.”
“I know that,” Shion admitted, “but I fear it will be a long while before I truly believe it.”
Dohko reached out to grasp his friend’s shoulder. “I think that says more about you than anything else. You’re in mourning over someone who turned on you. You saved a friend from Hades control. I would have done the same. ”
“You call that saving?” Shion frowned at him.
“I do,” Dohko said quickly, before he could say anything else. “In the end he would have known that you saved him from hurting his sister. You let him be able to pass in peace. Believe me, I would take comfort in knowing that I had a friend who would stop me if I fell that far.”
Shion seized his arm with bruising force. “Do not talk like that Dohko! I don’t want to see another friend like that!”
There was such a wild look in the Aries Saint’s eyes that Dohko felt guilty over bringing it up. “Sorry. I was just speaking in maybes. You know there’s not reason I can think of to accept anything Hades could offer.”
“I..I know that,” Shion slowly let go and brought his hand to rest in his lap. “I should have more control than that.”
“I don’t think there’s a single person in the Sanctuary that can blame you for being emotional over what happened,” Dohko gave Shion’s shoulder gentle squeeze. “You’re a good man Shion.”
“And you’re a good friend. Thank you for coming here Dohko. You were right, it does feel better when you speak of it. I..I think I still need time, but it doesn’t feel like it’s about to crush me now.”
“Good,” Dohko allowed himself to relax. “Maybe now you’ll spot lurking in the dark and avoiding everyone? It’s not exactly going to reassure anyone if you keep it up.”
That at least got a strained chuckle. “And if I don’t leave you know Manigoldo or Hasgard will have to come see what’s going on,” he said wearily. “Hasgard especially seems to take it as his duty to check on anyone younger than he is.”
“Which is most of us,” Dohko agreed, chuckling. “I think it’s just way of showing he cares about us. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shows up at some point anyway, to ask you about your trip. You had better prepare for that.”
“I think I can handle him now,” Shion said honestly, settling into a more comfortable position. He didn’t look a little more relaxed now, something that Dohko took heart in. “…Dohko, can I ask you one thing?”
“Of course, what is it?”
“What you said earlier,” he said softly, “about wanting someone to stop you if Hades managed to get to you….that idea does have some merit.”
“Shion, I wasn’t being serious about that!”
The Aries Saint shook his head slightly. “I am aware. I, however, am deadly serious. I saw the destruction that Touksa caused, what he almost did, and that from someone who had not even been a Saint! If I were to fall that far, and become something like that…I don’t want to imagine what sort of damage someone with my power could inflict.” There was an edge to his voice. “I want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“It’s not going to. I remember you telling me how you got that scar on your arm. There’s no way you’re going to give into someone like Hades! You’ve already faced him down once before and won.”
“That wasn’t Hades,” Shion’s voice was serious. “That was just one Specter , and Dohko, it was much closer than I admitted to you. I would like to think that I’m as strong as you say I am, but Touska proved me that anyone can slip. If I do, please, I want to know you’ll stop me before I hurt anyone.”
Disbelief and fear made Dohko’s throat close for a second. He wanted to deny Shion, to deflect him again, but the look on the Aries Saint’s face made him pause. He looked desperate , and Dohko was never one to leave a friend looking like that. “You realize what you’re asking of me?”
“I do, and…I’m sorry. It’s a poor favor to me to ask of a friend.” Shion looked down.
Dohko sighed. “I understand why you’re asking, so I’ll do it…but only under one condition.”
“And that is?” Shion looked up at him, face grim.
“You make the same promise to me. If I fall, and Hades takes me, then you have to be the one to stop me.”
For a moment he thought Shion was going to protest, and bring an end to this mad idea, but then he straightened his shoulders. “I don’t like it, but it’s a fair promise. If the worst happens, I will stop you, Dohko.” The words carried more weight than eh thought possible.
“Very well,” he said heavily, “then I promise I will stop you, if it comes to that.” Even though he said the words, he silently hoped that he wouldn’t ever mean them. That they would just remain something he had said to comfort a friend and not a promise this war would make him keep.