I'd like to state for the record that this is only the second fanfic I have ever attempted...and the first one was too silly to live. Also none of the characters from the Slayers universe belong to me, I'm just borrowing them for the purposes of this fic.
Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun sat at the café table basking in the bright spring sunshine and trying valiantly not to cry. He hates me! She thought, plucking at the hem of her shirt, he can't even bear two minutes alone with me. The idea of leaving crossed her mind, packing her bags and returning to Seyruun and her father. But it was not in her nature to give up.
"Justice will triumph! Two lonely hearts must be joined together! I will make him love me!" She blushed and climbed down from the table she had jumped to in her excitement. The other patrons of the café looked at her oddly before returning to their own meals. Forcing someone to love where they do not is not very just either.
"Oh Zelgadis," she whispered, "how can you care so little for me when I care so very much for you?" There was a kind of popping noise above her, Amelia looked up to see Xellos, in all his priestly regalia, hovering above her.
"Good morning Amelia-san!" he said brightly, descending to the ground.
"Good morning Xellos-san," she replied somewhat warily, "what are you doing here?"
The Trickster Priest grinned, never opening his eyes, "Sore wa himitsu desu!
Amelia sighed; she should have seen it coming. Lina would not be very pleased when she found out Xellos had returned. Just imagining the sorceress' reaction made her wince. "Would you care for some tea, Xellos-san?" she asked politely, pouring a cup from the service in front of her.
"Indeed I would," Xellos replied joining her at the table, "that is very kind of you." They sat drinking in silence for several minutes. Amelia tried not to look uncomfortable, how does one start a conversation with a powerful mazoku anyway? She was so intent on thinking of something to say that she almost didn't hear Xellos speak. "Are you all alone this morning, Amelia-san? Where are your companions?"
"Lina and Gourry went to explore the markets in town." She paused, "and Zelgadis-san," she paused, "Zelgadis-san went to the local temple."
"My, my," was Xellos' soft reply. "And you chose not to join them?"
I was not invited, she thought. "No. Shopping with Lina is an experience that does not bear repeating. And who wants to poke around a dusty temple anyway?" she finished in a rush.
"There are lots of things to do in Darivrad! Beautiful gardens! Monuments and museums! And the chance to bring the light of Justice to another part of the world!" Amelia stabbed her fist in the air. Xellos face faulted and the patrons of the café didn't even turn around this time. Xellos pulled himself back together as Amelia sat back down in her chair.
"Would you like some company, Amelia-san?" he asked.
"You'd like to come with me?" she was startled. None of her friends ever wanted to join her in her explorations of the towns they visited, they all had their own agendas.
Xellos opened his eyes. "I would be honored."
She was still a little afraid of him. He could sense it, like a pie cooling on a nearby windowsill. With a little prodding that fear could be molded into something much bigger, a real mazoku feast. And yet, he did nothing. Just waiting for the right moment, that's all he told himself. His mistress commanded that he keep an eye on Lina Inverse and her companions, but of late he found himself observing more often than even Zelas had suggested, and it was not always Lina that caught his attention. He brushed an errant thought of his mind. Amelia was the antithesis of everything mazoku, and little better than a child. Even still, something in him stirred when she looked up at him, sunlight dancing on her raven hair. It was ridiculous to think of such things, and he berated himself for becoming so bogged down with human ideas. The Trickster smirked to himself. He loved a good game, no matter how high the stakes.
After such a dismal start, the day had turned out to be surprisingly pleasant. Xellos had been such a nice companion there had been several times she had forgotten who it was she was with. He's a mazoku! To say nothing of a trickster and a rascal! Amelia couldn't deny that she had fun with him. He had been very patient with her in Darivrad's gardens as she exclaimed over every flower and every creature that made its home in the beds. Xellos had even identified some of the flowers for her, and told her how they had been named. She had no idea that he knew so much about plants. He is more than 1000 years old; he probably knows something about everything. They had stopped to rest beside the large fishpond at the center of the gardens. Amelia watched the brightly colored fish swim and marveled at her situation. Mostly she was happy to have a day spent doing the things she wanted to do. She snuck a look at her companion. He was reclining on the stone bench, eyes closed, the corners of his mouth quirked upwards in a faint grin. He was actually kind of attractive when you really looked at him. Amelia almost fell off the bench; did she really just think that? A mazoku, attractive? Especially this one! Xellos was always up to something, always trying to cause trouble. And he was definitely not on the side of Justice. Besides, l love Zelgadis! I shouldn't jump to conclusions just because Xellos-san was nice to me today. She focused her mind on the chimera and took a deep breath. She loved Zelgadis. Xellos was being nice to her for his own mysterious reasons and she shouldn't trust him. If only the rest of her would listen to the sense her head was making. Lina always says I'm too gullible. She sighed and looked up at the sky. It was getting late. Before departing that morning, the four friends had agreed to meet at the inn for dinner, and Amelia knew she had better be on time to have any hope of getting food with Lina and Gourry around. She sprung off the bench and turned back to face the priest
"Xellos-san," she began, rules of courtesy firmly imbedded from years of royal training, "Thank you very much for spending the day with me. It was fun, but I have to go now. So, uh, bye!" She smiled brightly and took off for the inn.
She really is a very strange girl, he thought to himself, not without amusement. He followed her form until it was out of sight and then phased out himself.
When Amelia arrived at the inn, Lina and Gourry were already at a table but had thankfully not yet begun to eat. Lina had purchased some assorted magical artifacts that she hoped to resell a few towns over for a hefty profit, and Gourry had restocked his sword cleaning kit. Both were well pleased with themselves and each other.
"Where is Zelgadis?" Lina asked, having safely stowed away her treasures.
"I don't know," Amelia replied quietly, "he said he was going to the temple." Her friends wisely left it at that.
"What did you do today, Amelia?" Gourry asked brightly.
Amelia felt herself blush. How much should she tell? News of Xellos' appearance would almost certainly ruin Lina's good mood, something Amelia would rather avoid. But she had fun, and it was not in her nature to lie. "I-I went to the Darivrad gardens."
Lina groaned, "I don't know why you'd want to see that stuff after traveling through the woods for weeks. Wasn't it boring?"
"Not at all, she had me for company." Xellos answered, phasing in behind Amelia. Lina and Gourry responded by falling out of their chairs.
"You what?" Lina cried, pulling herself up to the table.
"Xellos-san came to the gardens with me. "Amelia replied.
"Are you out of your Justice-crazed mind?" Lina paused, "And what are you doing here anyway, Xellos?"
Xellos waggled a finger at her. "Sore wa himitsu desu!" Lina rolled her eyes. "Lina, I'm hurt. You make it sound as if you don't want to see me."
"I don't! You're nothing but trouble Xellos, and we generate enough trouble on our own."
Gourry looked at Xellos and then at Lina. "Wait, who is he again?"
Lina boxed her blond companion's ears. "Hello? Xellos, Trickster Priest, servant of Beast Master Zelas? The mazoku who killed off a race of dragons? He was with us when we were searching for the Claire Bible? Does any of that ring a bell, jellyfish brain?"
Gourry looked at Xellos, who had accepted Lina's description with a gleeful smile. A light went off in the swordsman's brain. "Oh, yeah! The fruitcake!" Everyone face faulted and Lina ground Gourry into the floor of the inn. Before she could return her attentions to abrading Xellos instead of Gourry, the door to the inn banged open and Zelgadis dashed in. He looked slightly out of breath, like he had ran all the way from the temple on the other side of town, and more excited than anyone had seen him in months.
"I've found it!" he declared
"Found what?" asked Lina
"I've found my cure!"
For a moment no one spoke.
"Zelgadis! That's wonderful!" Amelia said into the silence.
Lina glared at Gourry, daring him to ask 'the cure for what?' "Zel, are you sure this time? We've been on a lot of wild goose chases."
"I'm sure. This is it." He looked about to explain when he caught sight of the newcomer to the party. "What are you doing here?" he growled.
Lina clamped a hand over the trickster's mouth before he could even open it. "Don't" her tone was dangerous and Xellos nodded meekly. She turned to Zelgadis and looked at him significantly. "Maybe we should all get dinner and head to bed. It's too late to start traveling now." Zelgadis' eyes darted to Xellos and he nodded to Lina.
"You mean it's finally time to eat?" Gourry asked, nearly in tears, "Oh waitress!" Xellos looked momentarily displeased that he wasn't going to hear Zelgadis' latest hope, but he shrugged and pulled up a chair next to Amelia. She looked somewhat startled, which only made him grin more.
Amelia took a deep breath and screwed up her courage, "Are you sure you want to eat with us Xellos-san? You know how they are."
Xellos revealed his violet eyes to her briefly. "Indeed. But they are at least amusing. And of course, the company is pleasant." His smile was enigmatic, but the tone of his voice made her blush. She looked away quickly, only to encounter Zelgadis' eyes. He was watching the exchange with a rather distasteful expression on his face. Then the food came and Lina and Gourry began arguing over every piece. Amelia sighed. It was going to be a long evening.
Finally all the food had been eaten and the coffee drunk. Lina exchanged another glance with Zelgadis. "I'm stuffed! I think it's time for bed. C'mon Gourry!" She pulled the half-asleep swordsman from his chair. She waved and headed up the stairs to their rooms. Zelgadis yawned and followed suit, giving one last look to Amelia and Xellos, now alone at the table. Amelia looked at the man next to her. He had been good company in the gardens, and she felt bad that all her friends could do was accuse and yell at him. Perhaps he really wasn't as black as he was painted? Amelia mentally smacked herself. Mazoku=evil! Why do I have such a hard time remembering that? She knew why; she wanted a friend. Lina, Gourry and even Zelgadis were her good friends and she cared about them a great deal. They had shared a lot together during their time on the road. She wished that there were someone she could talk to, someone who enjoyed the things she did, or at least didn't roll their eyes when they were mentioned. The people of Seyruun had always taken delight in the princess' activities, but there was nothing at home except her father and royal obligation. Whatever else it brought, traveling with Lina was always an adventure.
"Will you be traveling with us, Xellos-san?" she asked, not entirely sure what she wanted his response to be.
"Perhaps" was his only reply.
Amelia looked down at her empty coffee cup, "I probably should get to bed too."
"Good night, Amelia-san"
"Good night," she answered and dashed up the stairs to the safety of her room.
Lina and Zelgadis had reassembled in Lina's room after leaving the dinner table and sending Gourry to bed. "In the southwest corner of Lyzeille there is a temple set on a sacred spring," Zelgadis began, "The spring is said to cure all kinds of things, from blindness to paralysis. That alone wouldn't be enough to get my attention, but while in the temple today, I found this." From his pocket he pulled a faded piece of paper that looked like it had been ripped from a book. Lina read over it quickly
"A purification spell?"
Zelgadis nodded, "Using the water of the spring. There is even a record of a man who had been changed into a duck being restored to normal. This is it, Lina! This is what I've been looking for."
Lina sighed, "Well, it's certainly the best lead we've had in months. But I think we need to do more research on this spring and the spell." She saw Zelgadis' impatient look and scowled, "No, Zel, I'm serious. If this is going to work we need to know what we're doing inside and out, especially if we're going to have company."
Zelgadis nodded, "What's he doing here? And what's with his sudden interest in Amelia?"
"He spent the day with her in the gardens," Lina's scowl deepened.
"Do you think he's up to something?"
"When is that fruitcake not up to something?"
Much later that evening, in another room, Xellos sat on a windowsill. At the other end of the room, Amelia slept silently. So far everything had proceeded as expected. His eyes drifted to the bed and the sleeping figure it held. She didn't have Lina's fiery nature; fortunately she didn't have Lina's violent streak either. But she was not without spirit, or talent for that matter. He had seen her fight alongside Lina and Zelgadis and hold her own. She still saw herself as a 'Champion of Justice' but at least her idea of what Justice was had improved during her time with Lina. I probably still don't measure up. He thought and his grin faded a little. Abruptly he phased out, leaving Amelia to her dream of a tug of war game between Zelgadis and a mysterious purple-haired priest, with herself as the rope.
A slow, steady tendril of smoke wafted its way to the ceiling as the Lord of Nightmares sat apparently lost in thought. She chuckled and waved her hand.
"That ought to make things more interesting." She took a long drag of her cigarette and began to laugh again. "I love my job!"
Lina Inverse wiped the sweat from her brow and looked up at the sky. Why did it have to be so hot? They had spent the past two days in the comparative cool of the Darivrad temple researching Zelgadis' spell, so of course the heat wave had begun the day they started on the road. Lina wouldn't have minded another day or two looking over the temple's archives, but Zelgadis' patience had long since worn out. She couldn't blame him really, the spring in Lyzeille looked like it might actually work. Between Zelgadis chomping at the bit and Xellos 'helping,' it was a wonder she hadn't strangled the both of them. Xellos' idea of helping was to vaguely suggest that the piece of information they needed was on the other side of the archives in a pile of papers a stack high and when they were half way through the stack to say, "Oh silly me, it's sitting right here," and pull a book of the shelf where they had started. Lina was actually relieved when he went off to see the city with Amelia. Like Zelgadis, Lina was concerned about the mazoku's sudden interest in the princess. Lina felt sure that Xellos had malicious intentions towards her friend and, much as she hated to admit it, she felt responsible for the girl. She knew Prince Phil would have her hide if anything happened to Amelia. The Princess was a loyal friend with a good heart; Lina didn't want to see that tarnished by Xellos' machinations.
Amelia was feeling the heat too, she was not quite as hardy as the others but she was not about to volunteer that information. She was so intent on keeping her chin up that she didn't see a stray root in her path. She felt her balance go out the window and she clamped her eyes shut and waited for the familiar impact...and waited, and waited. I wasn't that far from the ground, she thought.
There was a soft voice at her ear, "Are you alright, Amelia-san?" Amelia opened her eyes. She was not on the ground, Xellos had caught her and his face was dangerously close to hers.
"I'm f-fine," she said, not entirely feeling it. He set her back on her feet. She looked quickly at him but his face gave away nothing. Don't think about Xellos; think about walking, she told herself. She couldn't help it; the last few days had been so strange. Lina and Zelgadis hadn't let her help much with the research, so she decided to make use of her free time and explore more of the city. Xellos had offered his company and she did not refuse, in fact she had rather hoped he would join her. They went to some ancient ruins on the outskirts of town and Xellos described the buildings in their former glory with such lavish detail that it took Amelia's breath away. She just stood there, staring up at where the ceiling had once been transfixed, with Xellos' commentary bringing it all to life. Of course, as thrilling as it was, that day had only confused her more. Who was Xellos, really? Amelia was afraid she would awake one day to find herself the victim of a trick. Even as her fear lingered, she found that thoughts of the increasingly preoccupied Zelgadis were being replaced by thoughts of Xellos. And that fact alone disturbed her more than anything else. She stumbled again on the hot road, but did not lose her balance. Xellos looked her over with those violet eyes and scooped her into his arms. Amelia tried to protest, but the priest just shook his head,
"Shh." She was really too tired and absurdly pleased to be off her feet to argue any further. Her head fell back against his shoulder and she had soon dozed off. Xellos had only carried her for a few minutes before Lina noticed.
"What do you think you're doing?" she began. Xellos nodded towards the sleeping Amelia and Lina repeated her question in a whisper.
"I should think that obvious, Lina."
"I've had enough of your games, fruitcake! If you harm so much as one hair on her head..." she trailed off significantly and Zelgadis and Gourry both put their hands on their swords.
"My, my," he said, his violet eyes glinting, "Your devotion is most impressive. A pity that it has only appeared now."
Lina flushed and bit her lip. "We don't need your help, Xellos!"
"Well then perhaps I should just leave?" he asked, tightening his grip on Amelia.
Lina did not miss the gesture, "You wouldn't!" Xellos closed his eyes and resumed his beatific smile. Lina glared at him. She knew three of them couldn't take on the mazoku, especially with the risk of something happening to Amelia. Better to play it safe until they knew what his game was. "Come on," she growled, "it's not getting any cooler out here."
They made it to the next town by nightfall, only to be greeted with posters offering sizeable rewards for the capture of Lina and Gourry. Gourry had to hold Lina down to prevent her from reducing the entire town to cinders. Still grumbling, she sent Amelia and Zelgadis into the town to purchase supplies. Zelgadis didn't say much during the trip. In fact, he hadn't had much to say since they left Darivrad, he was even more reticent than usual. Amelia could understand his silence; he had a lot to think about. She just wished he would share some of what he was thinking with them. Amelia watched the chimera's profile as they made their way through town. She didn't really think of him in terms of stone and curses, she never had. She only saw a man, a talented shaman and swordsman, driven past the point of obsession whom Fate had kicked in the pants one too many times. He had sparked her sense of Justice, initially. It was unfair that anyone should be punished in such a cruel manner. But as they had traveled together she had been drawn to that stoic countenance, a bit of sanity and stability in a world ruled by Lina's temper and appetite. Now that he was so close to realizing his dream she found herself oddly dispassionate. He could care less about me as a chimera; why should that change when he becomes human? A part of her had always hoped that it was only his despair over his present form that had prevented them from becoming more than friends. She didn't know what to hope for anymore.
"Have you thought about what you want to do if this cure works?"
Zelgadis stared at her as if just realizing she was there. "I've thought about it a little," he said slowly, "Perhaps I'll go home, try to live a normal life."
"No more adventuring?"
Zelgadis shook his head, "I began my travels as a means to an end. If I find my cure, there is no need to travel." He laughed shortly, "It will be nice to sleep on a bed every night and to not have to worry about bounties on certain people's heads."
He won't need us anymore. We'll all go our separate ways. It made her sad to think that in a few days she might be seeing her friends for the last time. She consoled herself by thinking that at least it was for a good cause. She wanted Zelgadis to be happy, but it looked like his happiness didn't include her. Everything was just so twisted around in her head. She couldn't be sure how she felt about anything. She squinted her eyes and looked at him, wondering what a human Zelgadis would look like.
"Amelia! Quit staring at me and watch where you're going!" Too late, Amelia's foot caught on a cobblestone and she went flying -- this time there was no Xellos to break her fall. Zelgadis sweat dropped and pulled the princess to her feet. "We need to hurry," he said with a sigh, "Lina will have us for dinner if we don't bring back food soon."
A good meal and a sound (if uncomfortable) night's sleep did not bring any miraculous realizations with them. Even so, Amelia attacked the new day the same way she did every day, with a smile and an at least outwardly cheerful disposition. Lina estimated that it would be another few days of traveling before they reached Lyzeille, but the weather should improve the further west they moved. So they set off again, Lina and Gourry at the head, Zelgadis following, his nose in a book he had "borrowed" from the temple, Xellos hovering around him trying to get a rise out of the chimera, and Amelia last, concentrating very hard on not tripping over something. Lina suddenly put up a hand. The others knew that signal well, the sorceress had heard something, and it was probably trouble. Lina, Gourry, Zelgadis and Amelia all tensed for a fight. Xellos looked around in amusement. He could tell that whatever was lurking in the area was no match for Lina and company. The Trickster Priest relocated to a high tree limb where he could observe all the action. And steer clear of the destruction that is sure to follow.
Lina was fed up with waiting, "Come out already, we know you're hiding in here!" she yelled. Somewhat sheepishly, a large group of bandits crawled out from behind trees, bushes and rocks.
Last to appear was a man who was apparently the crew's leader. He sprang in front of them declaring, "It does not matter if you heard us coming! There are more of us than there are of you! That ransom money will be ours!" He and his men produced swords and daggers.
Lina yawned, "Yeah, yeah, whatever you say."
Clearly the bandit leader did not expect that reaction. "We're serious!" he cried jumping up and down, "We're dangerous bandits!"
Gourry looked at him, "Do you know what they call her?" he asked, pointing at Lina. The bandit leader shook his head, "She's Lina Inverse, bandit killer!" Lina gave them all a malicious grin and to a man they all turned very pale.
"Out of the way Gourry!" she cried and the swordsman dove for cover, just avoiding a fireball that slammed into the group.
"Lina!" he complained, climbing out of a bush.
"Hey, I gave some warning! Now get out here and help us finish them off!" The remaining bandits were not exactly pleased so see a swath of their compatriots charred by the spell and they launched themselves at Lina and her friends.
"Light come forth!
"Astral Vine!" Gourry and Zelgadis countered with their magic enhanced swords while Lina continued casting Fireballs and Flare Arrows at will.
"Elmekia Lance!" Amelia cried, adding her firepower to Lina's. The bandits were no match for the combined strength of the four. Ordinary swords and daggers could not compete against the Sword of Light and magic. The leader of the gang clearly recognized this fact and made a speedy retreat. Unfortunately, it was not fast enough to avoid Lina's sharp gaze.
"Hey you, get back here!" she yelled, dashing after him. Gourry and Zelgadis exchanged glances, dispensed with their respective challengers and followed Lina into the woods.
Amelia, engrossed in taking out those bandits who did not realize the jig was up, did not see her friends take off. "Visfarank!" The glowing fists of Justice took out the last of them and she looked around to see how her friends were faring, only to find that her friends were nowhere to be seen. "Lina? Gourry? Zelgadis?" she called, but received no reply. Xellos, too, seemed to have disappeared somewhere. Swell, she thought to herself, looking around, just me and a bunch of half dead bandits. It was, to say the least, a little creepy. Amelia reasoned that their own fights had drawn Lina and the boys off the trail. She was trying to pick a direction to follow them in when she heard a noise from the forest beside her. "Uh, Lina? Is that you?" she asked. The sound came again, like something tromping through the underbrush, something big and heavy. Not good. The crunching and snapping of twigs grew louder and four trolls blundered onto the path. Amelia barely suppressed a shriek as the huge lumbering creatures headed for her. Very not good Trolls had incredible healing powers that rendered them impervious to most attacks. Lina had a spell that turned the Troll's healing powers inside out, but Lina wasn't here with her. There's no way I can take on four trolls on my own, I need to get out of here. "Ray Wing!" She felt the spell lift her off the ground. As she was clearing the trolls' heads one of them reached out with surprising speed and grabbed her leg. The contact startled Amelia so much that she lost her concentration and the spell fizzled out. With nothing holding her aloft, the weight of the troll's hand around her leg sent her plummeting towards the ground. The troll released its hold on Amelia shortly before she made painful contact with the earth. She lay there for a moment, stunned, before remembering to breathe and rolling to a sitting position. Suddenly her field of vision was filled with a wall of purple that sorted itself into Xellos' cape. Amelia moved to her right to see what he was up to and everything shifted into slow motion. Amelia watched Xellos' normally pleasant demeanor fall away. His face was a dispassionate mask but his eyes crackled with violet fire. Without a word or a warning, a fan of energy issued from his hand, enveloping the four trolls in a bright white light. Amelia shielded her eyes against the glare. The light abruptly vanished and four pieces of scorched earth were the only indication that the trolls had ever been there. The whole thing lasted no more than a few seconds. Amelia pushed her jaw closed. It was so rare that Xellos displayed any hint of his power that it was easy to underestimate it and him. She surveyed his face, no trace of the anger that had previously clouded his features. "Who are you?" she whispered. If he heard, he gave no indication. He turned to her with a smile and a hand up.
"Are you hurt?" he asked quietly.
Amelia shook her head, "Only a bit rattled," she paused, "Thank you, you saved my life."
Xellos started to say something but stopped himself. He grinned and waved away her thanks. "I believe Lina and the others ran this way." Amelia trailed in his wake, still in awe of his performance.
They caught up with Lina, Gourry, Zelgadis and a charred bandit leader within a few minutes. Amelia didn't really want to mention her encounter in the woods, but she felt it only right to tell her friends that there were more than bandits lurking about.
"You ran into four trolls? How did you get out of that one?" Lina asked, incredulously.
Amelia looked at Xellos, "Um, well.... That is...."
Xellos cut in smoothly, "It is safe to say that those four will not be bothering us anytime soon." Lina gave Xellos a glare, but let it go. The five continued to make their way westward with no further incidents. They made camp just off the trail and, after a meal of some of the supplies purchased the day before, settled down for bed. Zelgadis agreed to take the first watch, since he needed less sleep than the others, Xellos having disappeared right before dinner. Amelia chose a comfortable looking spot not to far from a large oak tree. She covered herself with her long cape, made a pillow of her arm and was soon fast asleep.
She was standing in a dark clearing, with the lights of a small town just visible at the horizon. To her left stood a young man of average height with pale skin and blue hair. He seemed very familiar but she couldn't think why. Out of the darkness came strange skeleton-like figures. They moved towards her brandishing clubs and maces.
"Elmekia Lance!" Her spell destroyed a few of the monsters but more kept appearing. "Excuse me?" she called to the man, "Could you help me out here?"
The man turned slowly towards her, "I don't do that sort of thing anymore," he replied.
She recognized his voice immediately, "Zelgadis! It's me, Amelia! Please help, I can't fight all these creatures alone." Zelgadis walked away without another word. The skeleton monsters came at her again. "Visfarank!" Her Fists of Justice plowed through the bodies but she could feel herself getting more exhausted with each swing. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up, she thought. Over the din of the battle came an anguished yell. Amelia spun around and saw a group of skeletons advancing on Zelgadis. One of them drew a sword and ran it through the man's body. Amelia watched her friend crumple to the ground and screamed. With the sound, all the monsters suddenly vanished. She ran to Zelgadis and dropped to his side, cradling his body in her arms. "Zelgadis! Don't die!" she cried, trying to start a healing spell. His blood flowed thick and fast, staining his dun colored tunic.
"Amelia," he said breathlessly, his voice low and distant, "I'm sorry...for everything," he paused and smiled weakly at her, "you don't need me."
Amelia tried to find her voice, "I may not need you, but you're my friend and I don't want to lose you." His head lolled back and he was still. "No!" She thumped on his chest but only succeeded at getting blood on her hands. "Zelgadis!"
Amelia jerked awake, totally disoriented. She looked at her hands in the moonlight; there was not a trace of blood on them. She saw the dying embers of the campfire and the sleeping forms of her friends. She shuddered and pulled her knees to her chest and hid her head in her arms. What a horrible dream.
"There's more to it than just the texture and color of his skin," came a soft voice to her left. Xellos was sitting cross-legged, with his back against the oak tree. "As a human he won't be as fast or as strong, who knows what effect it will have on his magic. Most of all," he continued, his voice silky smooth, "he won't have the focus of tying to find his cure."
"You're not helping," Amelia said, not lifting her head from her arms.
"I apologize," he said, sounding only mildly contrite, "I only speak the truth -- "
"Don't you think I know that?" she cried, showing her tear-streaked face.
"Amelia -- " he began, startled.
"Why do things have to change?" she asked plaintively, burying her face in Xellos' shoulder.
Xellos was taken aback by the small figure clinging to him. He could sense her pain and confusion but found himself uninterested in drawing on it, as if it wasn't consumable at all. He swallowed hard, suddenly a little disturbed himself. Xellos did not allow his outward appearance to waver an instant. He put his arms around Amelia and let her cry. "That's what things do, Princess, time passes and things change. Is it really Just to expect the world not to change because you are used to the way things are?"
Amelia's tears came to a halting end. She was silent, feeling the rise and fall of Xellos' chest, conscious of his arms around her and of her own burgeoning feeling of contentment. Amelia lifted her head to look at him. "Why are you being so nice to me?" she asked quietly.
"Do I need a reason?"
"It's not really like you. You're always tricking people or causing trouble, or leading people on..." she trailed off
"My, my," he said, his voice adopting that silky tone again, "and where am I leading you?"
Amelia was grateful that the dark hid her blush. She couldn't quite explain why there were suddenly butterflies in her stomach, but she thought it had something to do with how close Xellos' face was to hers, and the fact that the distance between them seemed to be closing rapidly as Xellos lowered his lips to hers.
The rational part of Amelia's brain finally figured out what was happening and made itself known, MAZOKU! it screamed. Amelia's eyes snapped open and she pulled away from Xellos. "I-I," she stammered, blushing more hotly than ever, "I should really go to sleep. More traveling tomorrow," She gave a forced laugh.
"Of course," Xellos replied, not missing a beat. But he made no move to take his arm from its place around her waist. Amelia didn't know what to do. She didn't really feel like moving, but she knew it was probably a bad idea to stay. Xellos solved her quandary for her, gently lifting her from his shoulder and guiding her to a more horizontal position with her head against his thigh. He retrieved her cloak from where it had fallen and tucked it around her body.
"I don't understand," Amelia mumbled, "this isn't normal, why are you acting this way?"
The last thing she heard before she drifted off again was a whispered, "Sore wa himitsu desu."
When Amelia awoke, Xellos was nowhere to be found. She wondered if she had dreamed the whole thing, but she was still under the tree where they had sat together. If it wasn't a dream, then where did he go? I thought he... she blushed again, remembering. Maybe it was all a trick. She sighed and shook her cape out before joining her friends at breakfast. Lina and Zelgadis were pleased to see that the Trickster Priest had not returned. Amelia privately hoped that he would appear before too long. When she was sure no one was looking and there was nothing in her path to trip over, she snuck a look at Zelgadis. He was quite obviously neither human nor dead. It was like seeing him for the first time, every curve of his stony features, his steady stride, and his quiet demeanor hiding his inner strength. They made a good team, combining their skills with shamanistic spells to the downfall of more than one villain. But Zelgadis was never going to see her as anything more than that -- a teammate, a fellow traveler, maybe even a friend. Maybe in another place, and another time, but he didn't need her now. As this dawned on her, she realized her dream Zelgadis was right -- she didn't need him either. Maybe she didn't need anyone, but she wanted someone, someone to care about her and stay with her and be a friend and something more. For some reason a certain purple haired priest kept appearing in her mind. She wished he would show up so she could work out what exactly was going on in her head.
But Xellos did not appear that day, nor the day after that. They had crossed into Lyzeille by now and the smell of the ocean wafted on the breeze. Zelgadis was like a man possessed. Lina and Gourry had to practically sit on him to get him to stop for the night. By late morning of the third day after Xellos' disappearance the four travelers arrived at the base of a high hill. At the top of the hill, nearly on level with the clouds, sat the ancient building that concealed the sacred spring.
Lina looked at the steep slope in dismay. "We have to climb all the way up there? Why aren't these things ever easy?"
"The sooner we get started, the sooner we'll be at the top." Zelgadis grumbled, "If you don't like it, you don't have to come."
"C'mon, Zel, you know I didn't mean anything by it," Lina protested, but Zelgadis had already begun to pick his way up the hill.
"Now, now, Lina, we mustn't keep Zelgadis waiting," said a voice and everyone froze.
"Xellos!" Amelia didn't think, she couldn't, she just ran towards that voice with her heart pounding in her ears. She felt the fabric of his cloak against her face and his arms around her and let out the breath didn't know she had been holding. "I-I missed you," she said in a small voice.
Xellos pulled back to look at her. He put one gloved palm on her cheek "I missed you too." She beamed at him and he felt something catch in his throat.
"Amelia! What are you doing?" Lina yelled, recovering from her face fault. Xellos looked at the smoldering sorceress and motioned for Amelia to walk with him.
"Why did you leave so suddenly the other night?" she asked, when they were a safe distance away.
"At one point you were crying, do you remember?" Amelia nodded, "We Mazoku derive sustenance from the negative emotions of others, as you know. I knew you were crying and I could feel your emotional energy but I couldn't consume it. As if my body wasn't recognizing it as food. After you fell asleep, I went to see Beastmaster Zelas. She analyzed me and it seems that my body has been altered to not recognize your energy patters as food. You have been removed from the food chain, so to speak."
"How could such a thing happen?"
Xellos shook his head, "It's beyond Zelas' power. She was as surprised as I at the discovery." He paused, "I think there is only one being capable of such an act."
"The Lord of Nightmares," Amelia breathed, "but -- why?"
Xellos' familiar grin returned, "I think this means we have her blessing."
Amelia tipped her chin up to him expectantly. Their faces were inches apart when an explosion rocked the forest. Lina had taken her frustrations out on an innocent tree and was now flying to the top of the hill, Gourry in tow and Zelgadis close behind.
Amelia had a sick feeling in the bottom of her stomach. In gaining Xellos, had she lost her three closest friends? "Lina, wait!" she cried, but the sorceress was already too far ahead.
"Hang on," Xellos said abruptly, grabbing her hand. Amelia was about to ask, "to what?" when a powerful wrenching sensation bent her body in a direction it was not meant to go. For a split second, everything was black and then suddenly they were standing behind Lina, Zelgadis and Gourry in what was obviously the temple's anteroom.
"Lina -- " Amelia began, but the redhead cut her off
"Our job right now is to find the spring and help Zelgadis, we can talk later." Amelia nodded. Lina didn't sound completely pissed off, maybe there was still hope. The anteroom was made entirely of stone, with green moss growing between the cracks. Two columns offset the door directly across from the entranceway. They took this as a good sign and dashed down the hallway. The stone walls here were etched with murals of the spring's curative properties and the blessed nature of the temple. The dimly lit hallway twisted around for several yards before suddenly opening up into a large, bright room. The source of illumination was a large skylight in the high ceiling, stationed directly above a round pool, about the height of a small child, decorated in blue and green tiles. Lina and Zelgadis rushed to the edge and looked in, only to see the dull white of the masonry that lined the pool and a spout from which water presumably once issued.
"It's all gone?" Lina asked, slumping down beside the pool. Zelgadis clenched the edge and hung his head.
Xellos popped up beside them, "Oh dear, did I forget to mention the spring dried up 100 years ago? Silly me." Two pairs of murderous eyes turned on him and Xellos decided now was a good time to back away slowly.
Lina grumbled to herself, just like that stupid mazoku to 'forget' something like that. "We can't give up so easily," she said aloud, "there must be some clue in here, another spring, or the source of the magical power." The five of them fanned out over the temple, examining every inch of the stone building. Lina waited until Amelia had moved into the corridor before marching up to Xellos, grabbing a handful of the fabric around his chest and pulling him towards her until they were nose to nose. "You listen to me mazoku," she growled, "you do anything to hurt her, you make her cry just once, and I will find a way to kill you -- permanently. You got me?" Xellos blanched and nodded slowly. Lina let him go and returned to her searching. She was seriously considering giving up when she heard a voice from the hallway.
"Lina, Zelgadis, I've found something!" A moment later Amelia came running into the room with something clutched in her hands. The others clustered around to see her discovery. "I found it at the end of the hallway," she said, showing them a glass bottle with a paper label that read, "Sacred Spring Water. Great taste and curative properties from the oldest spring in Lyzeille." Lina made a dismissive motion. "Wait, Lina, here's the interesting part. 'Bottled at the source in the mountains of Southern Lyzeille' and here's a little map showing how to get there."
Lina snatched the bottle out of Amelia's hands, "Amelia, you're a genius! Don't give up yet, Zelgadis, there may still be a chance! C'mon, guys, the mountains aren't more than a day from here!" She dashed out of the room, the others closely following. Lina, Gourry and Zelgadis ran out the main door and back down the hill but Amelia paused at the doorway and looked back at Xellos.
"You will come, won't you?" she asked, hopefully.
"How could I pass up an opportunity to spend quality time with a sorceress who wants my head on a platter?" he asked sweetly. Amelia's face fell and she turned away. "Amelia-chan, wait," he said softly. He reached out and touched her raven hair with one gloved finger. "Of course I'll come with you -- anywhere you ask, in fact." He put up a hand to stop her from flying into his arms, "But there is something you must understand about me. No matter what the Lord of Nightmares has done, or what I feel, I am still the servant of Beastmaster Zellas. I must obey her above everyone else." He opened his eyes and looked at her. "But I promise you, I will never knowingly do anything to harm you. You know I have been -- ," he coughed delicately, "less than honest in the past, and I will probably have cause to be less than honest in the future, but I am telling the truth now."
Amelia met his gaze with a deep breath, "I understand, Xellos, and I believe you." She laughed, "I shall try not to be too much of a 'justice freak' around you," her face became earnest, "I have seen you do some callous and cruel things, Xellos, but I have also seen you be kind and gentle to a princess who needed a friend. There is a lot about you that I don't know -- that I may never know, but what I feel...." Her voice trailed off and she blushed.
Xellos took her face in both of his hands. "I know." He pressed his lips tenderly to hers and then smiled his trademark Xellos smile. "Who are we to go against the wishes of the Lord of Nightmares?" He scooped her into his arms and levitated out of the door.
"Who indeed?" She replied, wrapping her arms around his neck and with a laugh they flew to catch up with their friends.