Part 4

Lina scanned the room. Spotting Ryoushi in a booth by herself, she went to join her.

"Gourry and Amelia will be down in a minute. Where's Zel?" she asked as she sat down.

"He left a few hours ago."

At the mention of him, Ryoushi thought back to the conversation she had had with Zel that morning.

"I'm surprised."

Ryoushi internally jumped. She had been so deep in thought, she had not consciously noticed Zelgadiss' approach.

"Why?" she asked.

"I was not expecting anyone to be up. Rarely ever do one of my companions rise before me. Especially when I take such care as to leave without their noticing. "

"I did not know you included me in that group."

Zelgadiss sat down across from her. He half-smiled

"Of course, I could have left without your noticing. I could have danced a jig, and you wouldn't have noticed."

Ryoushi was faintly surprised at the attempt at humor, which was so unlike him. The prospect of his cure must be raising his spirits. She was also highly amused.

"I would have been truly sorry if I missed that."

She smiled at the thought of Zel high-stepping on the table, then added skirts, fishnet hose, boots, a hat with a feather, and a garter to the mental image. She laughed, for the first time in quite a while.

Zelgadiss didn't know how to respond to the very short burst of laughter.

She meanwhile added him singing tavern songs in a warbling soprano voice, and let out another quick burst of laughter.

"What is it?"

Ryoushi mumbled something to herself that sounded to him like "Can can can yoododa can can can yoododa can can...."


"I'm sorry. I'm always a little fuzzy-headed in the morning. I'm more of a night person."

Zelgadiss looked at her quizzically.

"Then why," he asked, "are you up so early?"

"I hate to get too much sleep. I need very little."

Any further questioning was delayed by the arrival of a waitress.

"What can I get for you two early birds?"

"Just a cup of tea."

"Coffee, please."

The waitress left to get their small order.

"It's nice to have a meal with someone who doesn't eat as much as an elephant."

"All I've ever seen you eat is coffee."

The waitress had returned with their drinks. Ryoushi inhaled deeply from her cup.

Suddenly Zelgadiss looked at her.

"What were you thinking about before? When I first came down, I mean."

She took a slow sip of her tea and held in her mouth for a moment before swallowing. It was impossible for Zelgadiss to know what she was thinking. He couldn't read any emotion, especially with those glasses of hers. He frowned.

Ryoushi rubbed her forehead.

"I was thinking of why it was I wanted to get here, and what I'm going to now that I am."

"Why DID you come here?"

"What exactly do you mean?"

"I don't believe you came be near Lina and us for no good reason, not for a minute. You're not that kind of person. I want to know why, then. Why?"

"I came on a job."

"What kind of job?"

She simply looked at him, from behind her glasses. A minute passed, then another. Zelgadiss was getting impatient.

"What kind of job?"

Ryoushi sighed.

"I am hunting something."

The chimera frowned in thought. The way she had said that...the tone of her voice, her choice of words. 'I am hunting something'. It was not 'I am looking', or 'I am searching'. 'I am hunting something.' Something? Or someone? What does she mean by it? A sudden picture of Ryoushi shooting a deer through with an arrow. A mercenary? Assassin? Who was the most likely target? Lina was too powerful, and there was no one who would want Gourry killed....Amelia. The image changed. It was Amelia lying on the ground now, Amelia with an arrow straight through her heart. Amelia, in a pool of blood; her body lifeless.

Meanwhile, Ryoushi was trying to get control of herself. Those pictures...they were so graphic, so horrible. So delightful. The anger, fear, and mix of other emotions were swirling around her, enticing her. Get a hold of yourself, dammit! She mentally screamed. She had to stop this, or she didn't know what she might do.

Zelgadiss looked at Ryoushi. Her hand was twitching. Not nervously, but as if she were trying to keep herself from doing some kind of violence.

"I am not hunting a person." She said. It was as if she wasn't paying full attention to what she was saying, or almost like she didn't want to say it. She shook her head.

"I said I was hunting something, and I meant it." This she said firmly.

Zelgadiss was still wary. He didn't believe her, but he wanted to get going. He stood up and stared hard at her.

"I am not going to hurt Princess Amelia or anyone else who is your friend. Do you understand me? No matter what you think, I am here to protect them." If I don't completely lose it first, she added mentally.

He stiffened.

Oh L-sama, what an idoit she was. She had gotten flustered and blown one of her secrets. She could try to play innocent, but decided not to.

"That's right, I read your mind."

Thoughts raced through Zelgadiss' head. Ryoushi caught a few. I didn't even feel.....Couldn't recognize.....Powerful...Mind block isn't working?... Dangerous?....Should I leave?...Or stay to protect....People, city...

"You really should get going, if you want a head start." There was a trace of weariness in her voice. "I am not a fool as such, that even if I were to attack anyone, I would not do it in a city. In broad daylight. Take your logic from that."

Zelgadiss knew she was right. Hell, she knows I know she's right. And now she knows I know she knows I know she's right. How confusing.

She sighed. "If it makes you feel better, I give my word that I will allow myself to die; by your hands, if you so wish, if one of your friends is dead when you return."

Even though she respected the man, she was not in the mood to argue. Knowing he could not detect it, she added a mental under tone while she spoke to help 'convince' him to believe her. She was not underestimating his mind, but she knew it would have the desired effect.

"I will hold you to that."

He turned and left. Ryoushi sat down again, slowly. She flagged down the waitress for another cup of tea.

"Hello! Heloooo? Ryoushi?"

Ryoushi came back to herself in the present.


Lina frowned.

"I was asking you if you already ate. I asked you several times, but you weren't listening."

"I'm sorry, I was thinking about something."

She couldn't keep getting distracted like this. She didn't need to die when Zelgadiss returned. Oh there's a threat to his friend's lives all right, she thought, it just isn't from me.

Part 5   |   Fanfiction