Disclaimer: I don't own the Slayers, various companies do. However, this story is my own, and I'd like to keep it that way. Have honor, okay? Enjoy.
This is my fourth part and I've only gotten one email! C'mon, I know you're out there! Email me at email@example.com with any commentary. Please? Even the smallest suggestion is appreciated, and the more critical comments are indispensable. Drop me a line even to tell me if you are reading this. It helps. Alternately, feel free to use firstname.lastname@example.org if you're on my webpage, Inspiration Stemming from Sleep Deprivation. I'll do my best to get back to you. Well, enough of that, on with the story.
I just want to add a little thank you here, as I haven't done so in
a long time. I'd like to thank Des, who probably is not reading this at
the moment, for everything he's done for me. Without his encouragement
early on, I probably would not be the writer I am today. Thanks.
It was a starless night. On the rare occasion that a ray of moonlight evaded the clouds, they might have seen him looking at them through two dark, slitted eyes. The monster priest held back a laugh, grinning as he observed the scene. He reveled in the agony of the young girl, and wanted to dance as the chimera struggled with his thoughts.
"We will find a way to cure you," she vowed. Tears still ran down
her cheeks, but a blaze erupted inside of her, giving her the strength
to help the cursed man before her.
He allowed his hand, still covered in his sleeve, to graze her skin one last time before lowering it to his side. "I don't want you to. It's too dangerous."
"I don't want to talk about it. I'll be leaving tomorrow." Something dark ruptured in his mind. Zelgadis became horribly upset, and angry. He clenched his fist, the hand so gentle to Amelia only moments ago. It all came down to power. Zelgadis was a chimera, part demon, part golem. The first gave him unnatural speed and agility, plus enhanced his magical prowess. The latter made him virtually invulnerable to any number of physical attacks. Rezo had given him the power he had asked for so long ago, but, in the end, not as much as he needed. Zelgadis still lacked the power to change himself back to normal. He wished he had been the one to kill Rezo, not Lina.
Amelia remained quiet as she studied Zelgadis' form in the darkness. Squinting, she tried to make out his expression, to no avail. It was like inversely trying to make out the center of the sun. "mister zelgadis?" It scared her when he did not reply. Carefully, she reached her hand out to touch his face.
His fingers snapped around her wrist immediately before she made contact. His eyes widened. In the muddied light of the moon, filtered through treetops, he could see its reflection on her tears. He muttered the beginning of a curse to himself as he released her wrist. The hate inside of him melted into shame. He was so dazed before, he realized that he could have hit her if he had not caught himself. Then he hated himself for being so irrational.
There stood before him a sad young woman, concerned and trying to be strong for his sake. And he was hurting her, through words and actions. I really am a monster. He exhaled a long, drawn out breath, pushing out all the negativity and whatever other dumb words he could have said. "Please don't touch my face," he calmly requested.
"Take it back." She had at last worked up the nerve to say it.
"Take what back?"
The words still played in her mind, louder than he had said them. "I'm not that lucky." "What you said, before, when I.."
"I take it back," he coolly denied his proclamation.
It infuriated Amelia. "Don't lie!"
Zelgadis nearly fell over in surprise. "But you said..."
"Don't say it if you don't mean it!" she pouted. "Lying is worse than what you said!"
He thought a moment. "I just wanted to..."
"You just wanted to lie so I.. we'd let you run off on your own! Well, I'm not about to let you go off so you can kill yourself, Mister Zelgadis! I.."
"Hey!" he interjected. "Slow down. Who said anything about killing myself?"
"I said I didn't want to live anymore," he corrected. "I didn't say I was going to kill myself. I've suffered for years, what good would that have been for if I just ended it now? If I'm going to die, it will be for a reason." He struggled for a proper example. "Trying to find my cure, perhaps."
Her voice dripped with frustration, "That won't make me worry any less! It doesn't matter if you do anything about it or not, you shouldn't want to die. And you shouldn't lie to m.... your friends, either."
"I just wanted you to stop crying."
"That doesn't make it any better," she contended. Yet, somehow, it did. He wanted me to stop crying... The thought brought a small smile to her face, and she hoped that his vision was as bad as hers in the dark. He would not believe a word she had said if he saw her smile.
"Anyway, you'd best head back now."
Just when she believed she had reached him, the dream shattered. "I don't want to leav.."
"I'll head back in a few minutes. And watch out for trolls."
"Sure." Dejectedly, she reversed her steps back towards the campsite. Her feet spragged across the ground the entire way. But we were really connecting there, Mister Zelgadis.
Unbeknownst to her, he smiled as she left.
As did Xellos.
"Ready to be a mattress again, Zel?" Lina teased him as he entered
He smirked as he removed his cloak. "Well now... Which one of you is lucky enough to get this?" he tempted them, holding it up as both Lina and Amelia rubbed their arms for warmth. "Aren't you two going to fight over it?"
"Why don't you pick, Zel?" Lina asked innocently enough, but with an ominous grin.
His smile grew, nearly revealing teeth but not quite. He tossed his cape to Amelia, who caught it with a bit of surprise. It seemed surreal to actually be holding his cloak, and she held it tightly to her chest, inching it slowly to her face to hide her blush. As the fog over her mind lifted, she lost all breath as it occurred to her that Zelgadis was also removing his shirt. "Ah... ah..." she gasped. "Missster Zelgadis..."
The chimera lay down once again with his left arm nearly in the campfire, awaiting for adequate conduction to spread the heat over his body. Carefully with his free hand he folded his shirt and placed it on his chest. He was about to tell Amelia to lay down with him, but thought better of it. He stood up, removed his cloak from her arms, and wrapped it around her. He walked her to the fire and, conscientiously placing his shirt beneath her soft hair as he did so, eased her down on him. Finally, after placing one arm near the fire and wrapping one snugly around the princess, he allowed himself to look at her.
Fortunately, she was not looking back up at him, or she would have seen the softness in his eyes, which he convinced himself would be a terrible thing. He certainly did not wish to lead her on, give her false hope. Amelia, for her own part, buried her face in his shirt, trying to hide her cherry tomato of a face. Her insides were jumping like a thousand rabbits, and she felt as though she would explode if they made eye contact.
"I'll keep watch," Zelgadis offered to seemingly no one. Amelia paid no attention to his words, they meant nothing to her as they vibrated into her chest. She wanted him to say more if only to get that feeling, every utterance of his rumbled through her in warm bass tones. His breathing had a nice rhythm to it as well, when it occurred. She could have sworn he was breathing more slowly than she ever remembered anyone else doing.
Her speculations were interrupted as Gourry rested his head on Zelgadis' thigh, spreading his arm out over the chimera's stomach to cushion Lina's head against the hard surface. It calmed Amelia down significantly to know that she was not going to be alone with Zelgadis as they were, although some part of her wished they would go away. Still..... Her thoughts broke off and turned lazily to sleep. Zelgadis' shirt is soft.
"I used to like cold nights," Zelgadis shared his stray comments with the glazed void above. Amelia sighed happily as his words moved through her, lulling her to sleep like waves.
"Mattresses don't talk," Lina complained.
Amelia half yawned, half mumbled, "Leave.. Mister... Zelll.gadis alone, Miss. Lina.... He can taaalk.. if he... wants to." She felt his grip on her shoulder pulse for a moment in appreciation as she dozed off.
"Gimme a nudge close to sunset so you can get some sleep then," Gourry reminded his bed.
"Yeah. Goodnight, guys."
He could not have fallen asleep even if he had wanted to. His
mind constantly shifted between thoughts of his cure and thoughts of Amelia.
There was a warmth inside of him as he smoothed his cloak over her arm
for what must have been the thousandth time. The feel of her laying on
him brought a certain peace with it when he acknowledged her presence.
Of course, his thought process began to cycle after about an hour. The
more he thought of Amelia and what he could possibly feel for her, the
more he convinced himself that anything beyond friendship was impossible
for a monster, and so he became more driven to find a cure.
How could anyone love a freak like me, he asked himself. Then the word 'love' disturbed him. No one could love a freak like me. Love love love. He hated that word. Hated it. He released his hold on Amelia, propping himself up on one arm to stare down at Lina and Gourry. The two smiled as the slept, Lina snuggled up close to her protector. Zelgadis scowled at the sight. His mood lasted all of three seconds before he fell back onto the dirt. "What's wrong with me?" he groaned. "Lina and Gourry are my friends. I'm glad they're happy. I want them to be happy."
He watched the clouds shift above him, patiently awaiting a glimpse into space. For a long time he stared up at the stars as they came into view, trying to clear his mind like the sky. There were no answers waiting for him in the stars, only emptiness, but the void above him was peaceful. So peaceful was it that he did not notice the faint sounds of snapping branches nor the low growls around him that his heightened, inhuman hearing normally would have. As a matter of fact, it was not until he heard the fierce howl of an onrushing troll that the chimera realized he and his friends were to be prey. A mob of trolls fell in upon them in a flash, preparing to crush the small party with their sheer numbers.
Not having much time to react, Zelgadis quickly cast Ray Wing in hopes of making a hasty retreat to the air. The spell was finished only moments too late, and Zelgadis found himself completely engulfed by a sea of snarling beasts, all pounding madly at his shield. Both arms extended, he grimaced as each blow to the shield reverberated through his body. "Everyone! Wake up!" he yelled, to no avail. "Lina! Amelia! Gourry!" A powerful strike against the air field knocked the breath out of him. Shuddering, he began to curse his luck. Destroying a small army of trolls was not a problem. Alternately, destroying a small army of trolls while flat on his back holding up a shield to protect his friends, who could be fried or crushed or impaled if he used a spell appropriate for such a situation, was slightly more difficult than he would have liked to handle.
"WAKE UP!" Someone made a sound, but he could not tell who. He considered his options, and finally devised a plan just as the pounding in his head reached a peak. He firmly grasped Amelia around the waist, then threw a leg over Lina and Gourry, hoping he could hold onto them. Please don't let them get caught in this spell... The trolls fell foward towards their victims for a split second as the shield came down. They were now the victims. One arm raised straight towards the sky, the shaman summoned the air once again. "BOMB DI WIND!"
The hulking monsters were violently lifted into the air by swirling winds before they were strewn about the forest along with small trees, fire wood, and a multitude of leaves. Zelgadis tensed his body as the forces around him threatened to take his friends along with his adversaries. Before the short storm calmed, his friends awakened, screaming bloody murder and clutching at the leaden weight of a man to avoid being blown away. Except for Gourry. Gourry snored through the experience, only waking when the wind died down and Lina crashed atop of him.
"What the hell!?" Lina fumed, looking as though she was about ready to crack the sorcerer's skull with her waving fist.
"Trolls!" he spouted nervously at the fiendish look in her eyes. The red haired girl was not a morning person, and, moreso, definitely not a three-hours-until-the-sun-rises person. "There were a lot of trolls. They surrounded us. You wouldn't wake up, so I had no choice."
"You're lucky," Lina growled. "Now lie down so we can get some sleep."
Holding back a laugh, he humoured her. "Whatever you say."
Amelia ignored Gourry as she watched the chimera lean back on his elbows. "Aren't you tired, Mister Zelgadis?" For the first time he looked at her wrapped up in his cape. She seemed small in it, hidden; it was draped over her shoulders with inches of the material resting on the ground around her feet. His shirt was in her hand, one of the sleeves also in the dirt. She looked tired, worn, but her large navy eyes showed only concern.
He swallowed hard. "Na.. not particularly."
"You look tired. How long have you gone without sleep?"
"Three days. Someone has to keep watch."
Gourry stood up, stretching his arms to the sky. "I'll take watch. Amelia's right, Zel, you do look tired. You've got dark spots under your eyes and everything."
"Those are rocks," Zelgadis retorted somewhat peevishly upon being reminded.
"Whatever," Lina interrupted, standing herself. "I don't care how long you can go without sleep, we need you sharp for tomorrow in case we meet any more trouble. And besides that, if you pass out from exhaustion or something, there's no way we can carry you."
"i could carry him..." Gourry mumbled to himself defiantly.
Feeling no particular urge to protest, Zelgadis allowed Lina and Gourry to wander off to a good vantage point. He sat up as Amelia kneeled down next to him, ready to get her bed back. Her hand inched towards his shoulder, and met only with his cape. Zelgadis quickly wrapped it around her once again, folding his shirt on his chest while he prepared to rest again.
She examined the situation, the way the cloth was wrapped around her in a way that her arms would not come out if she did not deliberately wish them to. "You're avoiding me. You really don't want to be touched."
Upon eye contact, the first turquoise glimpse was curious, but the second, sustained one was sad. "I said I didn't want you to. I meant it."
"But I was sleeping on you..."
He ran his hands through silver hair. "I know, but.... I don't want to get into this... Please don't touch me, okay?"
They both laid down, half of Amelia covering half of Zelgadis. "Okay. I won't if you don't want me to," she murmured. He held her shoulder, squeezed it reassuringly, and she realized she had never really touched his skin. His clothing, yes, she had fallen into him and had been carried by him many times. She had played with his hair that had been pulled out courtesy of a table top. Though, yesterday, for an instant, he had wiped her face with his hand, the throbbing of her head did not allow for sensation. Never had she felt the stone skin of the chimera. She frowned.
Long minutes passed, and neither could sleep.
Amelia sighed, trying to think of something to say. "Thank you for protecting us from those trolls."
"No need to thank me. Any of you would have done the same." That brought a sharp end to the conversation.
Long afterwards, Amelia spoke up once again. "Mister Zelgadis.... why don't you.... I mean.... if you're looking for a cure.. you should stay in Saillune."
"What makes you say that?"
"Well," she defended her words, "If you learned to be a cleric, there's a good chance that you'll be able to cure yourself, isn't there? Saillune is the white magic capital, after all."
"Do you know how to cure me?" he quipped.
She stuttered, "Ah... well... n.. no. But I've never studied white magic that intensely."
"Do you know of any spells that could help me?"
"Then how can learning white magic help me?"
"It wouldn't hurt to learn," she reasoned.
"Maybe resurrection," he offered. "I do want to learn that spell eventually, but I have no real desire to master white magic."
"Amelia.. What if I did learn white magic, and I mastered it, and I still couldn't cure myself?"
She considered it a moment, tilting her head into his chest as she thought. She tried to look at his face, but the angle she was laying at prevented it. She gave up thinking as soon as she gave up trying to look at him. "I don't know."
Calmly and without noticing her efforts, he continued, "I'd have to master black magic then, wouldn't I?"
"I don't get it."
"Well, if I went to all the trouble to master white magic for no reason, then I should at least learn black magic. Otherwise, learning white magic would have been a complete waste of time. If I was going to learn spells solely for a cure, then I'd have to keep mastering spells until I found one."
"So?" Amelia asked, still confused.
"After I wasted all that time and energy on black magic, and still did not find a cure, I'd have to find another spell, right? Perhaps something a monster could do..."
"No!" She sprang up into a sitting position, staring at him in shock. "No! That's wrong! You wouldn't...!"
"That's why I won't learn magic solely to find a cure, because I'm afraid there isn't one," he concluded. "I won't become the next Rezo."
Her eyes widened and her voice died out. "re...zo...?"
"Rezo went insane trying to cure his blindness. He mastered every magic imaginable, and eventually revived a Dark Lord to regain his sight," he reminded her. "I refuse to allow what happened to him become my fate as well. That's why I would rather find someone else to cure me, or find a definite spell, than go at it haphazardly."
"mister zelgadis..." There was a kindness in her eyes, a yearning to help that unnerved him. He wasn't expecting it.
"Are you going to sleep or not?" he asked brusquely.
"I.. don't think so. No."
He sighed. "Well, I'm tired. Good night. Or morning." He turned away from her and towards the fire, almost instantly closing his eyes and losing consciousness.
"I know you're supposed to fan a fire to keep it going, Miss Lina
"Do you want breakfast or not?"
"I don't like eating fish very much, Lina. Couldn't we just wait until we get to town? .... Why don't you want Lina to keep the fire going, Amelia?"
"Well, I'm hungry, Mister Gourry, but Mister Zelgadis is right there, and..."
"And we got food for him, too, so...."
"That's not my point. The point is.."
"Got it! Ah... oh! Oh, no..."
"That's what I was talking about!"
He wavered as heat traveled up his leg. Slowly, he opened his eyes.
"What are you going to do, Miss Lina?"
"Ah... AQUA CREATE!" Lina flicked her wrist with her hand open and water gushed up in a geyser out of nowhere.
Zelgadis awoke with a start as the water coated him, running off his hair and soaking into his clothes and, slightly, skin. "What the..!"
"Ehheh... Sorry, Zel. We were just trying to keep the fire going."
He sat up, panting from shock, to find a sizable hole burnt into his pants, exposing his thigh. He covered his face in his hand and sighed into it. Water still dripped from his hair to his face. "What did I do to deserve this?"
"You were the one who wanted to run off," Lina chided. "The fact that we're out here is all your fault in the first place."
"This is all your fault," Zelgadis argued. "You're the one who insisted we stay out here last night."
Lina grinned. "You should have known better than to sleep so close to a fire. If you were going to insist on sleeping that close to a fire, you should have taken all your flammables off."
Zelgadis sweatdropped and Amelia blushed. Hurriedly, she cried, "Miss Lina, you put the fire out with that spell!!"
One Flare Arrow, thirteen burnt fish, and three miles later, they reached the next town.
"Whoo hoo! Time for some real breakfast, guys!" Lina cheered,
picking up her pace.
"It's past lunch, Miss Lina."
"Whatever, I just want to eat!"
"Lina, where'd Zelgadis go?"
The three travelers turned around, looking in every direction to find their lost member. "If he ran off again, I'll..."
"You go to the inn. Leave finding him to me," she bid them. "I think I know where he is."
As she had thought, he remained in a clearing at the edge of town, sunning himself on the grass with his shirt and cape in a bundle next to him. She smiled to see him stretched out, his, literally it seemed, chiseled, lean muscles baking in the midday sun. With his eyes closed, he almost seems peaceful there. "You're still wet?"
His oblivion shattered, he coolly answered with eyes still closed, "Yes. Part of the problem with being made of rock, my skin absorbs water."
She sat beside him, spreading her legs in the grass like a gymnast. "It could be worse," she pointed out, "You could have been badly burnt by that fire."
He acknowledged, "True. But, if I wasn't a chimera, we wouldn't have been outside in the first place, as I would not be searching for a cure."
She scratched her head, pondering ways to escape defeat. He's got me there. She shrugged. "So what are you going to do about those pants?"
"I don't know. I usually mend them myself, but this is a bit much. I suppose I'll have to get new ones. The only problem is that I'll have to go to a tailor's shop, and if they take my measurements, they'll see my leg, and, well..."
Amelia began to pout, "Don't you think maybe someone wouldn't care about your appearance?"
"You don't even try."
"Trying could get me chased out of town." Then he thought to correct himself, "Trying HAS gotten me chased out of towns."
"You know," the princess reprimanded, "not everyone judges people by their appearances."
He brought himself up to her level, eyeing her incredulously as he laughed. "Oh? Like you?"
Amelia gave him a look that could freeze a Dragon Slave. "Of course like me! I've been telling you that you look cool for years!"
He smiled, and, without moving, looked up at the clouds. "Sure. Now you do, but when we first met, you were the one who said I was creepy looking."
Absent-mindedly, she cracked her knuckles. "I... I didn't know any better."
"Alright, then the townspeople don't know any better. I've still been treated like a monster. Not that I can blame them." He stared at his hand in disgust before she interrupted again.
"If you give me your pants, I'll go get them mended in town."
Once again his eyes diverted to her, somewhat surprised by her kindness. Besides that, he blushed. She had seen him in only his underwear before, he recalled, when he rescued Miwan from that water-dwelling monster. Remembering his short-lived infatuation with the false princess of Famille made his lavender complexion turn truly violet. With faked calmness, he slid off his remaining clothes and handed them over. She took all of his clothes when she stood up.
"What?" he mumbled.
Amelia fanned out his cape in the air, holding it up for close inspection. "This is full of tears and mendings and... it's a mess! All of your clothes are!" She bundled them up as she chewed him out. "You've been wearing the same clothes for two ye... no, since I've known you! You've all but grown out of them. I'm willing to be your boots don't even fit you right anymore."
Zelgadis laughed softly and shrugged. "I never think about it. I can't tell, honestly. My skin is too...." he struggled for a word, "insensitive? Hard... I can't feel too much in terms of...."
"Get new clothes!"
"I'm particular to those."
"Whatever," the young woman growled. "I'm going to get these fixed. Wait here."
Not able to hold back, he yelled to her as she left the clearing, "Do you want me to clean my room as well, Mom?"
She screamed back, "Don't you start! And CHEER UP ALREADY!!"
The chimera blinked. He was not expecting her to say that. Laying back down, he stared at the redness of the sun through his eyelids. A small smile played on his lips as he thought of Amelia and all her attempts to comfort him. It's pathetic, really. Me falling for her? His eyelids squeezed even tighter together; a sort of pain shot into his eyes like needles. No. I'm not falling for her. I don't love her. It's not an option. She's a princess, and I'm a.. a monster, of all things. Thoughts of being a prince --he would have to be a prince-- flashed in his mind. Amelia would try to explain away the fears of the people, why their future co-ruler so resembled the villains that often shattered the peace of their land. He would probably be killed, or, worse yet, Amelia would be killed and he driven into exile without her. No. It was not that he did not love her so much as he could not love her, much like the same way he could not go into town for new clothes even if he wanted them.
He rolled over and crawled into the shade of the trees around him. The bright, warm sunshine was not the place for him. Zelgadis belonged in the shadows. Staring at a tree as his vision blurred, he punched a five inch deep hole in it, before he laid down with the pain in his stomach and chest. I shouldn't even think of her, he told himself. Vaguely, he thought of how Amelia had taken his canteen before he fell into a troubled, light sleep.
Xellos tapped his fingers against the limb he sat on. Boring.
Sure, Zelgadis is fun to watch, but I don't even need to be here. Amelia's
doing all my work for me! He frowned as Zelgadis stopped moving, and
the waves of pain that the monster thrived on shifted to tiny vibrations,
even less entertainment for the trickster priest. Maybe I'll go watch
Lina for a while. She's always fun! Grinning from ear to ear, Xellos
teleported to the in, all the while contemplating whether he should reveal
himself to the travelers yet or not.