Zelgadis awoke with a startled yelp as he heard Lina's shout. He half stumbled out of the tent, nearly falling as his legs tangled in the blanket. He caught himself before he did, luckily, cursing as he snatched at his cloak, which was folded neatly just inside the tent flap. Moments later he decided it didn't matter and dashed towards Lina.

"Lina!? What's going on now? Is it the maz..." His voice trailed off as he caught a glimpse of the expression on Lina's face. He skidded to a stop beside her. There was silence for a moment, then the sorceress spoke.

The chimera had to strain to hear her words, and even then he could not have been certain that he had heard her correctly, "What?"

"Gourry..." The swordsman's name was clear enough, followed by something mumbled about mazoku and plots. Zel found it all very confusing, but from the look of things, grilling Lina for information wasn't going to do much good while she was in this state. That and it might get him blasted with a dragon slave.

He looked around, hoping for some sort of inspiration. All he saw was Amelia, emerging from her tent and rubbing at her eyes sleepily..

"Miss Lina? Mr. Zelgadis?" The Seyruun princess sounded much like she looked, tired and rumpled. Her elegant white shirt sagged slightly, sliding down to expose one smooth shoulder and an expanse of creamy skin. The chimera averted his gaze, a faint reddish flush crossing his cheeks as he coughed into one hand.

"I'm ok, Amelia... Gourry's just gone off somewhere." Lina sighed, rubbing briefly at her eyes. Zel's worried gaze followed her as she made a quick retreat towards the tent.

"I guess this means I'm on guard again."

"Don't worry, Mr. Zelgadis." Amelia came up beside him, still yawning. "It's almost my turn anyway, so I'll keep you company until it is."

Zel barely managed to keep from smiling at her offer as he went to sit by the dying fire. She sat down beside him, hugging herself slightly in the cool air. The chimera blinked as he saw her shiver, his gaze softening somewhat, and he swiftly rose to fetch his cloak, which still lay in a crumpled heap where he had dropped it outside the tent. As he went to sit back down, he draped it lightly over her shoulders, acknowledging her grateful look with a slight nod.

"Mr. Zelgadis," Amelia clasped the cloak tightly around her slender frame. "Shouldn't we go look for Mr. Gourry?"

"I don't know Amelia..." Zel admitted after a slight pause. "I have absolutely no idea what is going on right now."

"Well, I think someone should go look for him. It's not safe to be wandering around all alone when there's mazoku around. I bet Mr. Gourry didn't even bother to take his armor when he left." She was back in her 'hero of justice' mode, which Zel found at once irritating and oddly endearing. Unfortunately, the pointed look she was giving him made it plain just WHO she expected to go on this wild Gourry chase.

"He can take care of himself." Zel really didn't want to go out and try to find the swordsman with mazoku about, especially not when it would mean leaving the young princess on guard duty by herself.

"You're so cold, Mr. Zelgadis." Her dark blue eyes flashed with reproach. "Well, I can't just sit around and do nothing while my allies are in danger! I'll have to go look for him myself!" She stood, fist clenched, an expression of fiery determination on her face.

The chimera was nearly knocked over by her rapid action, and he looked up at her in surprise. He hadn't expected this, but knowing Amelia's nature as he did, he probably should have seen it coming. The sudden image of Amelia running around, confronting mazoku with a pointed finger and her trademark justice spiel was enough to send cold shivers down his spine. He could picture her doing it too.

Hastily he put one hand on her arm to keep her from immediately dashing off. "Um... I'll take care of it, Amelia."

"But Mr. Zelgadis... you said..."

"I said he could take care of himself, I didn't say I wouldn't go look for him."

She lit up immediately, looking at him in near adoration. "Oh, Mr. Zelgadis! You're not heartless!" Zel beamed at this, but drooped slightly as she added., "A bit creepy looking, maybe, but not heartless."

"Gee thanks..." The chimera crossed his arms as he started walking. His eyes scanned the ground for tracks, which he found easily enough. The swordsman had obviously not been particularly careful about where he'd been going, and if he might be followed.

While he walked he let his mind wander. Things had been going strangely this last day or so. More strange than usual where Lina and Gourry were concerned. The incident with the mazoku disturbed him greatly, especially in light of the swordsman's odd behavior and Lina's obvious distress. Zelgadis had no doubt that all of this was connected somehow, he just needed more facts to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

If only Lina ha been in a better mood... He could have compared notes with her. After all, attempting to compare notes with Amelia could be trying at best, hair-tearing frustrating at worst -- since she had such a unique take on things. And having any sort of intelligent conversation with Gourry was out of the question entirely. It would be like trying to teach magic to a stump, only the stump would probably catch on faster!

Movement caught his attention and he pulled his blade, glancing around. A flash of light blue a short distance away was easily identified as their lost swordsman, clad only in his normal shirt and pants. Apparently he really hadn't bothered to put on his armor before traipsing through the woods.

"There you are, Gourry." Zelgadis sheathed his sword, trying to make his words nonchalant and only managing to sound flat and bland. "Why'd you run all the way out here? You're worrying Lina you know."

Gourry didn't seem to hear him. He was sitting beneath a tree, legs curled up to his chest, and he was hugging his knees, gaze fixed on the ground a few feet away.

"Um... Gourry?" Why did this non-conversation seem familiar?

Slowly the blonde swordsman raised his head to look up at the chimera. "Zel?" He sounded confused, which was normal, and sort of resigned, which definitely wasn't. "What are you doing here?" A bit of awareness crept into his expression and he added, "Just where IS here anyway?"

"I came looking for you, and we're about half a mile away from camp." Zel summed up quickly.

"Oh yeah..." Gourry slowly got to his feet and stretched, running his hands through his hair to straighten it. "Are we heading back now, Zel?" That was it. No explanations of what had happened, no confessions or revelations, just the one innocent question. Like nothing had happened at all.

Zel sighed and rubbed lightly at his temples. He could foresee major headaches for him in the future if this kept up.

Luckily for him, Amelia was pretty good at curing headaches. Zel mused silently as he led Gourry back to camp, thinking of the young princess's healing skills. She had such a gentle touch.

You know... I think I do feel a headache coming on...

04   |   Fanfiction