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enough of that, on with the story.
His mouth watered, slightly, in a dignified sort of way. As did
Amelia's as she inhaled the rich, spicy aroma that contained just a hint
of sweetness. Lina and Gourry outright drooled, yet both hesitated to dive
into their meal as they usually did, for on the table before them rested
plates of the best cuisine in the world. Dragon cuisine was fit for kings,
but truly it was only meant for red haired sorcery geniuses and their closest
Zelgadis took his first bite pensively, letting the rich juice of the meat linger on his tongue. It was savoury, to say the least, and he could immediately understand why it was said that kings moaned over eating it. It was gorgeousness and gorgeousity, in meat form. They were quiet as they ate that night, with good reason. Every bite was chewed delicately. Dragon cuisine truly was meant to be held in silent reverence, if only for the taste buds.
There was so much dragon that even Lina and Gourry could not devour it all, and so it was available to others who had the pleasure of dining that night. As a result, merriment was to be expected. A small band was hired, and as dinner settled in the crowd's stomachs, strings and toms cast rousing melodies in the tavern.
Lina was in such a good mood that she ordered drinks for her companions out of her own pocket. Amelia and Gourry drank fine wine with surprise and delight. Zelgadis smiled, almost stunned with the good mood he was in. It seemed as though everyone was happy tonight for such simple reasons: good food and good music. Some of the tables were pushed to make an impromptu dance floor to celebrate the last night of six months of dragon feasting. He watched some people get up to dance with no apparent thoughts in his mind, and heard the close sound of wood scraping wood as a sorceress and a swordsman pushed their chairs back to join the congregation of quick steppers.
The chimera's eyes shifted pensively to Amelia as he heard her seat slide back as well.
With a meek smile and a forced boldness in her voice, she asked, "We're going to dance, too, right?"
His fingers, only moments before coiled into a fist to support his chin, now lightly rested on his lip. "dance?" he mumbled blankly. I can't dance, followed it up. "Why?"
"Because I'm a lady and its the gentlemanly thing to do, you being here and Gourry being on the dance floor already," she pouted, hoping to convince him.
"Someone else will ask you in a while," he quipped coolly.
"It'll be a stranger."
"I'll watch you, so nothing will happen."
"I want to dance with you."
He managed to keep the rest of his expression calm, but his eyes widened with shock. He knew that she felt that way, but for her to actually say it was something else entirely. Two years had never seemed like a longer time, and he thought she had grown more than he could have imagined. As his thought process reeled, he realized he had to say something. Slowly, he succeeded in a, "what?"
The princess reclaimed her place on the chair next to him. "I won't dance with anyone except you, Mi.... Z... ah...."
"I hate to disappoint you, but dancing isn't really my thing," he solemnly informed her with a half smile.
She wrung her hands in the bottom of her shirt. "I know, but I'm hoping you'll reconsider."
Zelgadis studied her under the hood of his cloak. Navy eyes were glistening with a somber hope, trying to catch his eyes for a glimpse of his soul. He watched the floorboards. "You're optimistic."
"Shouldn't I be?"
All the forward, simple retorts were unnerving him. Mainly because he did not know the answer to any of them. "I... don't know."
"Have you ever danced before... zelgadis?"
His ears perked once again with the mention of his name. The chimera was starting to like the sound of it. "Not in years."
Pensively, she offered, "I can teach you."
"I know how."
"Oh." She accepted defeat as she relaxed, leaning onto the table for support as she watched her friends dance. Amelia gave into the great wall before her and the knowledge that drawing the human side out of Zelgadis was like trying to scratch through a rampart with a toothpick.
The fact that he had depressed her made something within him ache, and also question what he was doing. Suddenly he was no longer part of the happiness around him, and the dancers and the music turned strange and surreal. Again, as they always were. And he thought for an instant that maybe they should not be. Or maybe he was tired. He was not sure, but either way, he mumbled, "maybe one dance. if you don't mind a novice."
Amelia stared blankly at him for a moment before grinning. "I'm sure you'll pick it up again fast, Zelgadis." Her zest was unnerving, and for once he found he liked it.
They stood before each other as if naked, avoiding eye contact at all costs. Suddenly dancing seemed intimate, and in a way it was. They would have to hold hands, move in synch. Zelgadis would have to allow her to touch his shoulder in a non combat situation. Their hands shook nervously as they clasped together. Amelia's fingers tensed around the chimera's hand like a vice as her glove absorbed the cold moisture forming in her palm. Zelgadis had to use every ounce of self control to keep his hand from having the same reaction in fear that he would crush her hand into paste. Their feet moved in a jittery manner, ignoring the tempo of the music or any steps that they had learned. Zelgadis watched her feet like two beacons, making absolute sure he did not step on them.
"Sorry," he apologized distractedly, still concentrating on her boots. "I'm not very good at this."
"I know, but I like it anyway. It's more entertaining than dancing with anyone else."
He paused to look at her, and she stepped on his foot. "Really?"
For a moment, she thought she caught a glimpse of a smile, but it disappeared before she could confirm it, and they were trying, and failing, to keep up with the rousing music once again.
The chimera stopped with the music, and immediately returned to his seat. Amelia followed, walking all the more slowly with disappointment. "Aren't you enjoying yourself?"
"No." He could not tell himself, so it seemed like an appropriate answer.
"Would you rather go out for a walk?" she requested, that gleam growing in her eyes.
This is getting ridiculous! Why is she being like this... Why with me? "No."
Before she could ask anything else, he stood up and began walking towards the door. A discouraged young woman rose, calling a name to decidedly deaf ears. "Mister Zelgadis!"
I'm sorry, Amelia, but I can't let you do this to yourself. It was, in his mind, time to leave the group.
"Mister Zelgadis!" A small, gloved hand took hold of a tan hood in hopes of making its owner yield. He did, momentarily, as the material around his neck jerked back. The chimera turned around sharply to yell, and a couple ran right into his back. Another one hundred eighty degree turn was met by a shrill scream, and all eyes in the room turned to Zelgadis.
Everything in the room froze: people, music, dancing. He wanted to pull his hood up, hide his face once again, but he knew by now it was a moot point. Eventually the crowd's many voices began to work, and whispers of "What the hell is that?" and "What does it want?" could be heard by ultra sensitive hearing. He could feel the pull at the base of his skull, telling him to act before things got too bad. But maybe she needs to see this....
"mister... zelgadis....." Even Amelia found her eyes inexplicably locked onto the chimera. Never had his looks seemed so different than when forty normal looking people were gawking at a face seemingly carved of stone.
"Is it a monster?"
Some people left immediately.
"I've never seen anything like that."
A traveler opened his mouth. "I know I've seen him before."
"There were rumours..."
Lina slowly backed into Gourry as she clenched her fist. "go get your sword," she whispered to the tall blonde. "and let's get out onto the street. something tells me anything can happen."
"Someone said there was a man in a brown cloak breaking into temples..."
Everything was still.
A shaking bartender, a large man of an older variety, a settled adventurer, approached Zelgadis. "Sir," he said, keeping a calm consistency in his voice. "I would appreciate it if you left."
Somber eyes met the man's. "Sure."
"My cousin sent word of explosions at a temple last week."
Lina and Gourry walked out of the tavern, grabbing Amelia on their way.
"But Miss LInummph..!"
"I hear there's a reward for bringing down that guy."
Zelgadis slowly made his way out of the building, fear pushing onlookers out of his way like a polarized force. As soon as he took ten good paces out of the tavern, he was stopped.
Zelgadis paused, but did not turn around. His friends watched from their post three houses down, where they stood ready for a fight, or to protect him, if there was a need.
"Yeah, freak, you. Turn around and look at me."
Freak. The word echoed in the chimera's mind. Freak. An utterly degrading word, he thought. Different shades of red melted into black, coating his vision. He almost snarled as he whipped around to face them.
He did not hear two females yelling in the distance, "DON'T!"
"BOMB DI WIND!"
Men, bricks, wood, and swords were tossed into the air like flurries in a gale. A rooftop was partially torn from a house. Lina and Amelia both threw up a shield just in time. Debris battered and jarred their personal safe haven, while Gourry remained on his knees behind them. When the miniature storm abated, people stared in shock and horror out the windows of the tavern. Zelgadis lowered his eyes, smiled, and asked in a near whisper, "Anyone else care to try?" Everyone heard him, but only one person replied, unconsciously shaking their head "no." He walked out of town, and, inadvertently, towards his friends.
"Mister Zelgadis! How could you!?" Amelia near shrieked as she ran towards him. He did not stop.
"They deserved it."
"Come on, Zel!" Lina chimed in. "Even you have to admit that was a bit much!"
Slyly, he threw her a sardonic glance. "You're one to be telling me about overkill, Ms. Dragon Slave."
Gourry cupped his chin. "You know, he's got a point, Lina. You are notorious for.."
Lina's jaw dropped. "What did you say?!"
"Yeah.. you know, for overreacting."
"When did you learn as big a word as notorious!?"
"Miss Lina! That isn't the issue right now! Zelgadis just really hurt some innocent people!"
"They weren't innocent," he scowled. "They were, if you hadn't noticed, trying to kill me."
"They couldn't have killed you!" the princess argued, tears forming in her eyes with anger.
"Oh? So I was just supposed to stand there and let them try?"
"You could have killed them! Maybe you did; we don't even know!"
His cool, casual demeanor was getting under her skin. She'd never known him to be so cruel, no matter how much he acted it in the past. "ZelGAdis..!"
Lina could not see this going anywhere good, and decided to break it up before the conversation turned ugly. "Whoa! Hold it you two! Amelia, it's Zelgadis' decision how he wants to handle people who come after him." The redhead now stood between the couple with her arms spread.
Before Amelia could interrupt, Lina turned to face her blue skinned companion. "And you, Zel, should know better than to go ballistic on people who don't know any better, eSPECially in front of Amelia."
"Fine," he growled. "Can we just get going now? I never asked any of you to come along."
Amelia walked in silence, watching in wonderment, wishing she knew how and why the man she thought she loved one hundred percent had become so violent.
"I want you to talk to me."
"Amelia.." He did not have it in him to talk. The sun had just about set, and for once he was actually looking forward to getting a good night's sleep. The chimera was emotionally worn; he felt like a sledgehammer had gotten to the last of his sanity, and he desperately wanted respite. He buried his head in his hands as he sat on the bed. He had not even gotten the chance to change into his bedclothes. "Not tonight."
Her fist clenched. "Tonight. You've been moody ever since that night we had dragon cuisine. You haven't said so much as a word to any of us since then, and it's been nearly a week! What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he sighed.
"I won't accept that. You've never been..."
He cut her off sharply, his voice ragged with annoyance, "I said NOTHING."
"Nothing my ass!" She froze, unable to believe the word that had come out of her mouth. It got Zelgadis' attention as well, wiping away even his expression as he stared blankly at her. She fumbled for what to say next. "Uhm.. uhm.. I'm sorry."
His eyes narrowed, but Amelia could not tell if it was in aggravation or playfulness. "You've been spending too much time with Lina; she's rubbing off on you."
"Uhm.. no! Well.. yes.. but.... I..." The princess watched herself wrap her cape in between and around her fingers. "I mean... It's just... You have me very worried... and upset."
He frowned. "I told you, all of you, not to get involved."
"But we are involved; we're your friends! And you need Miss Lina to talk to Mister Milgesia for you, don't you?"
"There are no guarantees that, even if Milgesia lets us through, that the Claire Bible still exists or that there is a cure for me."
"No spell is unbreakable."
The weary chimera looked at her innocent, persevering face and wanted to smile. Always that incorruptible hope. He wished he had it. He breathed heavily, then solemnly shook his head. "I'm tired, though, and I really want to sleep."
A calm facade masked what would have been a truly nasty response. "You're starting to upset me, Amelia."
She crossed her arms. "I don't care. You haven't been acting yourself..."
"I HAVE been acting myself. It's been two years, Amelia. People change. I've changed, and I don't particularly care what you think of it."
Her eyes glossed a bit. "But you were supposed to change for the better. You said you wanted to be off on your own.."
"You're worse now."
"You wouldn't understand."
"I know," she painfully admitted. "I know I can't understand what you're going through, but I do know that it can't hurt to talk about it."
"What?" he asked slyly.
"What what?" Her eyes widened in confusion.
"Talk about what?"
"How you're feeling."
"In reference to..." he trailed off, giving a genuine impression of Gourry.
"What's happened to you these past few years," Amelia reiterated in disbelief.
He kept dragging her along. "What's happened to me these past few years?"
"Are you feeling okay?" She stared at the ceiling. "You know.. being alone and searching for your cure, and not finding it, and whatever else happened. I'm sure you're upset about it, and probably mad, too."
"Good." Zelgadis smiled knowingly and stood up.
He began to usher her out of the room. "There's nothing to talk about if you know it all, already."
"But I didn't..!" she protested as he cupped her shoulder and led her to the door. She felt trapped, distraught. Amelia could not believe what he was doing. She instantly wanted to cry, and moreso wanted to know what happened to the Zelgadis she knew.
Quick as lightning the moment he opened the door she slammed it shut screaming, "NO!" She turned on him, yelling. "What's wrong with you?! You've never been like this before! You're cold and moody and distant, and you're worrying the heck out of all of us! Why can't you just open up for once!? Can't you see that you're hurting me as well?!"
He paused. "No. I guess I don't see that."
The princess immediately calmed down. "What good are friends if you don't use them? We're here for you, Mister Zelgadis."
"I should leave," he mumbled dejectedly, reaching for the door.
She placed her hand over his, barring movement. "You could have left anytime if you really wanted to. You want to stay, admit it."
His free hand met with his forehead. "I... don't know. Amelia, please, I'm not..."
Out loud, she wondered, "Can't you see there's more to life than your cure?"
"No," he stated bluntly. "There isn't, and you can't... can never understand why. What happened at the tavern was one reason."
"Do you hate your appearance that much?"
"It's not just my appearance!" he huffed.
"There has to be something else for you to live for," she suggested hopefully.
He sat down on the bed, head in hands. "You guys, I guess. Sometimes."
She accompanied him on the bed, wringing her hands in her lap. "Please tell me what's going on, Zelgadis."
Once again, his name disturbed him, and he did not question that she used it this time for intimacy. "I don't want to."
"Why? It's obviously.."
"It has nothing to do with you, so..."
Shyly, she interrupted, "I want to hear it anyway."
He sighed, "Why?" He wanted to yell it.
Quietly, as they both stared at the floor, she murmured, "Because I love you, Mister Zelgadis."