The Cure (Sort Of)

"So do you think it's possible to cure him?"

The blue-haired mage examined the chimera a moment longer before answering Lina's question. Several years ago he had helped his friend Rezo develop a spell which could turn a human into a golem/human/Mazoku hybrid. The spell was meant to increase the physical and magical abilities of a person. Little did he expect Rezo to use the spell on his own flesh-and-blood.

"I'm trying to remember the components of the spell," Rune replied. "Rezo took all the records when he left."

"I told you this was a waste of time, Lina," Zelgadis sighed. "It's just another dead end." Another false lead. Another cure that didn't exist. He was beginning to think he would spend the rest of his life as a chimera, alone and ugly. "We never should have come. This boy obviously doesn't know a cure."

"Boy, huh?" he glared at the chimera. A hand reached up to straighten the headband that kept the hair out of his eyes. So what if he looked liked he was barely out of his teens? "I'll have you know I was born before the Kouma War and just because I don't remember every little detail about Rezo's spell doesn't mean I can't help you."

"Take it easy, Zel," Lina laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Rune taught me everything I know before I left Zefiria. If anyone can come up with a cure, it's him. Right, Rune?"

"Are you sure your boyfriend here deserves to find a cure?"

Zel huffed defiantly and looked away, just missing the blush that appeared over Lina's face. This whole ordeal had been Lina's idea. Gourry was off visiting Sylphiel and Amelia had been called back to Saillune on diplomatic business. That pretty much left Zel and Lina with nothing to do. He was preparing to leave on his own again when Lina suggested that her old teacher might be able to give them a clue into finding his cure. He had nothing better to do so he went along with it.

Now he was beginning to regret his decision. He had expected a wrinkled old man. What he found was a boy that only looked a few years older than Lina, yet, he claimed to have known Rezo and worked alongside him. It was a story he found hard to believe.

"Can you do anything?" Lina asked once she had cooled down. "We've been looking for so long -- "

"Lina, if he doesn't know anything then let him be," Zel growled. "It's my problem. Neither his, nor yours."

"But Zel -- "

"We've wasted enough of your friend's time. We should go."

"Well, if that's the way you feel," Rune sighed. "I suppose you two will be returning to Saillune to meet with that princess friend of yours. Lina, why don't you and stone boy at least stay the night here. Saillune is an entire week's travel away."

"Thanks, that would be great. Don't you think, Zel?"

"..." The chimera got up and walked out of the room.

"Pleasant fellow, isn't he?"

Lina sighed sadly. Things weren't turning out as well as she had hoped. "Rune, I'm sorry. Zel normally isn't like this. He's really sensitive about his...curse. I think since he found out you helped develop -- "

"Don't worry about it, Lina. I can understand how he would feel. Why don't you and Zelgadis take the guestrooms upstairs. Get a good night's sleep. You'll most likely need it with the trip ahead."

"Thanks. Goodnight, Rune." She turned to leave.



"You care for him, don't you?"

Lina blushed again. She tried to hide it by looking away, but it was no use. She could feel the blood rushing to her face. "Is it that obvious?" she whispered, trying to keep her voice low enough so Zel wouldn't be able to hear them in the next room.

The blue-haired mage nodded. "I noticed you seem to be more than willing to help him in any way you can whether that involves finding his cure or apologizing for his actions. On the other hand, I doubt stone boy even suspects anything. He seems too wrapped up in his own self-pity to think straight, let alone notice the affections of another."

"I know," she replied sadly. "I wish we would find his cure. At least then he would be happy."

"You believe he's worth all this trouble?"

She nodded. "We've been through so many things together. He might not act like it sometimes but he really is a nice person when he allows himself to be. There were times when things were so bad I thought I would die for sure. Then I would see Zel and somehow find the strength to keep going. I just wish I could do the same for him."

"Well, they say miracles do happen."

Lina gave him a puzzled look. What was that suppose to mean? Then she noticed his smile. It wasn't an ordinary smile. She recognized this one. It was that grin he could put on that says he knows more than you do, and he wants to make sure you know he does, too. She had seen it on several other occasions.

"You and Zel should get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning."

"Okay. Goodnight, Rune," Lina departed, unsure of what the morning rays would bring.

The moon was high overhead as Zel stepped out onto the balcony. It was well past midnight. Lina and that annoying young mage should be fast asleep by now. He should be able to leave and disappear into the night. No one would notice he was gone until in the morning. Not that he expected anyone to follow him. Who would want to be around a freak?

He looked over at the next balcony and sighed. If only he could tell her how he felt. How would she react? Would it destroy their friendship? Or would she be able to return his feelings? He dared not take that chance. Lina was one of the few people he called a friend. That friendship meant more to him than anything, even his cure. Which was why he had to leave. He wanted to tell Lina everything, how he felt, how beautiful he thought she was, and how much she meant to him. But the inner turmoil he felt kept him from saying anything. It was enough to make him want to scream.

"I'm sorry, Lina," he whispered. It was funny how much a person can feel inside, yet never be able to say a word. That was why he was leaving tonight, wasn't it? He was afraid to love, but even more afraid to lose. Why was nothing ever easy? He was never going to find his cure. He would never be human again. He would never get to be with Lina.

The balcony was only two stories up. Even if he didn't use Ray Wing to fly off he could still jump down and use his Mazoku-enhanced speed to run away. He already had one foot up on the railing when he heard something up above and behind him.

"Going somewhere, stone boy?"

Great. The boy. Just what he needed. Why was he still up at this hour?

"What do you want?" he grumbled.

"I believe the reason you and Lina came here had to do with what you want. Not me."

The chimera jumped up onto the roof of the mansion to find the mage comfortably sprawled out with his arms folded behind his head staring at the stars. How long had he been lying here? Was he spying on him?

"You're probably wondering why I'm lying here looking up at the stars, right?" A hand absently reached up to push his headband up.

"You could say that."

"I thought you might try something like this and I wanted to talk to you. Alone."

"Why?" He wanted to get this over with as soon as possible. He was in no mood to talk.

"I want to know why you are so desperate for a cure," Rune said, his eyes never leaving the picture of the stars hanging in the sky.

"Isn't it obvious?" Why did this mage insist on irritating him so?

"Yes, but those reasons are superficial. What are the real ones?"

"What do you mean?"

"From what Lina tells me you hunt for cures like a madman and constantly strive to keep yourself distanced from others. If it was as simple as you made it out to be I believe you would have killed yourself a long time ago. I want to know the real reason why."

"That is none of your business," Zel hissed as he began to walk away.

"What are you running away from?"

He ignored the question and kept walking.

"Is it Lina?"

That stopped him.

"Is it?"

"And what if it is?" the words came out before he realized he had even said them.

Rune sat up from where he lay. "So you have feelings for her. Is that it?"


"So you do."

Zelgadis glared back over his shoulder at the blue-haired mage. He was trying to manipulate him. Why? What was he working towards? "Even if I did have feelings for her, how could she love a freak? I would bring her nothing but trouble."

"You would bring her trouble?" Rune smirked. "Lina is ill-tempered, underdeveloped, and can cast the Dragon Slave a dozen times over. She is walking trouble. She knows enough about magic that the Mazoku and the Ryuzoku both consider her a dangerous threat."

Zelgadiss frowned, peering at the youth as Rune began to reminisce, his voice soft and wistful. "Did you know that she was only 11 when she created the Giga Slave?"

"What?" Rune glanced over to him and saw the chimera do a double-take, then stared back down at him in utter shock. "She made the Giga Slave at 11?! How?!"

Rune rubbed the nape of his neck sheepishly. "She got a peek at some of my notes on the table and she worked from there, I believe...I am as much amazed as you," he grinned lopsidedly as Zelgadiss gawked at him.  "Lina made the Giga Slave only with that tiny scrape as well some alterations to the Dragon Slave spell..."

"You taught an 11 year old how to cast the Dragon Slave?!"   Zelgadiss burst out when he finally recovered his voice.

"Eh?" the youthful-looking mage blinked in startled puzzlement then flailed his hands wildly in denial. "NO! I didn't teach her the Dragon Slave!!! In fact, I tried my hardest to keep her from learning that spell!!!"

"Then how the hell did she base her Giga Slave on the Dragon Slave?!"

"Oh that!" Rune's lopsided grin returned. "She...uh...swiped some of my notes on the Dragon Slave."

Zelgadiss leveled a half-gape, half-glare at him. "I don't believe you didn't have better protection on those things!"

Rune snorted, looking slightly stung. "With Lina? Do you think I could devise a way that could keep her out? C'mon!"

"...Well. Yeah...this is Lina we're talking about..." Zelgadiss sweatdropped even as he nodded in agreement. "Still, what kind of idiot would leave notes like that lying around when you have a precocious redhead like Lina in your house?"

Rune laughed sheepishly. "You're looking at him."

The chimera had to laugh a little. "And here I thought you'd have learned."

He shook his head. "Nope, I didn't. Besides, I had Lina promise me that she would never ever cast   the Giga Slave unless she had no other means to protect herself, which I pray she never does," Rune beamed. "See, I am not that hopeless. I mean, what are the chances of her ever casting -- "

"She already has. Twice."

"What?!" Rune face-faulted into the ceiling tiles. "I told her never to use that unless she was facing Shaburanigdu himself or something."

"Ah, she kept her oath then, since she only cast the spell when we did have to face him."

"..." Once again, Rune found his face buried among the clay tiles.

"You did ask,"  Zelgadiss pointed out, wincing slightly as he regarded the mage kissing the roof.

"My bad...itai...So, when did this happen?"

"About three years ago. It happened at Rezo's tower."

"So that's what happened there."

"And then once again at Sairaag."

"She was the one who blew up Sairaag?" Rune finally managed to pick himself up.

"No, that was Rezo. Lina used the Giga Slave to defeat Hellmaster Phibrizo."

"Never mind. I don't want to know anymore." He sighed as he jumped down to the balcony. Zelgadis soon followed. "Anyway, doesn't that prove you couldn't possibly cause her any trouble worse than she has already been through?"

"Easy for you to say," Zel balled up his fist in front of the mage's face, silently cursing himself. "You don't have to live like this."

Rune burst out laughing, which only served to further irritate the chimera.

"What's so funny?"

"Do you really think you're the only one who suffers pain in this world? I'll tell you a secret, Zelgadis, something you would have never thought of in a million years. Would you like to hear it?"

Zel nodded. He didn't know why. He just did. What could Rune say that would possibly interest him?

"Have you ever wondered why Lina looks so young?" He waited for another nod from the chimera. "I'm sure you know how magic can slow a person's aging considerably. I'm sure you also know that it usually take five to ten years of dealing with magic before it actually begins to affect the person's age."

"Are you saying that because Lina's magic is so powerful that it has affected her aging sooner that it would other mages?" Zel asked. It would make sense. In all the time he had known Lina she had hardly changed, physically speaking. Neither had he, but then again stone skin didn't exactly age.

"You're a bright one, aren't you, stone boy?" Rune smirked before walking over to where Zel stood and leaned against the railing. The boyish and cocky look on his face was gone, replaced by a tired and ragged frown instead. "I discovered Lina when she was five years old. I could see she was gifted with a generous talent for magic, even at that age. So I took her in and began teaching her magic. Naturally, she excelled at it, but I was so enthralled by everything that I never once stopped to consider if the magic would affect her in any way. It's common that most apprentices don't start learning magic until they are in their early teens, and magic doesn't begin to affect a person's aging until they've studied it for several years. Since Lina was exposed to magic from an early age it's effected her aging considerably, however, Lina has never suspected a thing. She's always assumed she was a late bloomer.

"So it's your fault that Lina thinks she is...underdeveloped."

"Yes," he sighed. "I'm sure you think that your...curse is the worst thing in the world, but you try living with the guilt of knowing that you unintentionally screwed with someone's life. Every time I look at Lina I'm reminded of how careless I was with her life. I watched her grow up as the boys would tease her about her underdeveloped figure. I lied to her, telling her she would eventually fill out in a few years knowing it could possibly take decades. I watched her when she wasn't looking as she cried when she compared herself to her sister wondering what was wrong with her. All of this happened simply because I decided to teach Lina magic while she was still a child."

"Is that why you look so young?"

"No, not hardly," Rune laughed, his boyish features returning. "That's simply a gift from L-sama."

"The Lord of Nightmares?"

"Yes, but that's another story. What I came to talk to you about was your cure."

"I thought you didn't know of a cure."

"No, I never said that. You're the one that said you two shouldn't have come, that you're just wasting my time. You are the one who assumed I didn't know a cure."

Zel stood there with his mouth open. He didn't know what to say. "S-so you're saying you have a cure to remove my curse?" Could it be? Would he finally be rid of this retched curse?

"Well, that depends on your definition of 'cure', stone boy."

"What?" What kind of game was he playing now?

The youthful-looking mage had another one of his grins on. "When I helped Rezo develop the spell he told me one of his servants wished to be stronger. This was the best way he could think to make them stronger. Darkness forbid, that same person just happened to be you. Fortunately for you, while working on that project I had the notion that the person might run into the same problems you did. So I added an extra element from the Mazoku side of the spell."

"What Mazoku side?" the confused chimera asked.  "I'm one-third golem and one-third Brou Demon.  I have no Mazoku side!"  The thought he could somehow be similar to that fruitcake Xellos sickened him.  He wasn't anything like him.

Rune blinked away the mask of confusion before it could settle over his face.  "Now who told you that bit of nonsense?"

"Rezo!  Who else could have known -- "

The mage held out his hand to block any argument.  "Think about it.  Why would any mage waste their time researching the abilities of a Brou Demon?  Their primary place of existence is on the astral plain and they barely have enough strength to grant themselves a physical form.  What worthwhile benefits could you possible receive from such a lowly creature?"

Given the time he had to think, Zel realized what he said made sense.  The powers a Brou Demon possessed were nothing compared to that of a Mazoku.  Even amongst the bands of lesser demons they considered weak.  They were really nothing more than cannon fodder.

But why would his grandfather lie to him?

"I bet you're wondering why Rezo would lie to you."

He nodded.  Perhaps the mage knew.

"Well, don't look at me.  Only L-sama knows how the Red Priest's twisted mind worked."

The floorboards creaked in protest as Zel abruptly face-faulted into the ground.

The air rang out with the mages laughter as he slowly pulled himself up.  "Don't feel so bad, stone boy.  Life is too serious to take seriously.  I'm sure Rezo had a perfectly good reason for not telling you the truth.  It most likely had to do with the fact he didn't want you to become more powerful than he could control."

"But how does the fact that I am..." -- he wasn't sure if he completely trusted everything Rune said -- "... if I am part Mazoku help me?"

"Well, Mazoku are technically formless. They can assume whichever shape pleases them at will."

"What does that have to do with me?"


Zel suddenly noticed the glossy-eyed look in Rune's eyes. For some reason, he was looking at him with his mage sight.

"You haven't even touched your Mazoku side, have you?" the mage asked after a moment had passed.

"No, I've tried to repressed most of the Maz -- Brou -- whatever elements!"

"Darkness," Rune sighed as he blinked his eyes, returning them to the normal spectrum. "Why would you do such a thing?"

What nonsense was he babbling about now? "Why would I want to like a Ma -- err....thing like that?"

"You're part Mazoku.  I know for a fact simply by the way your aura is woven.  Accept it and get over it.  Besides, didn't you hear what I just said? Mazoku are formless. They can assume whatever shape at will."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"Is your head as thick as your skin? Your Mazoku side is your key to being -- looking human again."

"How? If I didn't repress the...Mazoku side wouldn't -- "

"You shouldn't have anything to fear from the Mazoku side," he explained. "I designed that component of the spell myself. I left out the worst elements of the Mazoku. It wasn't easy but I did it. Elements like shape-shifting I left in. Others, I don't remember since Rezo took my notes. So you'll have to discover those on your own."

So that was his cure? But how would he control it? He had hardly ever relied on his Mazoku powers, partly because he didn't know how to use them, and partly because he was afraid to. He didn't know what affect his powers would have on him or others, and he most certainly didn't want to end up like that fruitcake, Xellos.

"How do I control them?" Zel asked. If he had to learn how to use those powers he might as well have help from the man who helped turn him into what he was.

"I don't know. You're the chimera, not me."

Zel face-faulted into the floor.

"But you just said -- "

"That doesn't mean I know how to control your powers," the mage explained. "The best I can do is offer advice as to how your powers might work. You'll have to figure it out from there."

The chimera sighed. Nothing was ever easy. "So what do you suggest I try?" he grumbled.

"Well, as far as shape shifting goes I would say you would probably have to 'will' yourself to look however you want."

"'Will' myself?"

"Yeah, that would be the best way to explain it," Rune replied. "Imagine yourself how you want to look and believe that you look that way."

"Okay," Zel replied hesitantly. This sounded like it would be another waste of time, but might as well give it a try.

He closed his eyes and slowed his breathing, relaxing as if he were meditating, much like Rodimus had taught him. He imagined himself with light violet hair and soft pale-colored skin. It was the exact way he looked before Rezo had found him. Human. He was human.

A slight chill ran up and down his body. He opened his eyes. Rune was staring at him with another one of his smirks plastered on his face.

"Hm...well, what do you know," he said to himself. "I didn't think you would be able to catch on so quickly. Zel, why don't you take a look in the mirror?"

"Did it work?" the chimera rushed into the room. It couldn't have been that easy, could it? He made his way toward the dresser by the wall. On top of it was a full sized mirror. It was dark and he couldn't see himself so he cast an illumination spell.

"I'm human," he watched his reflection's mouth move as he spoke. The violet hair, the pale skin, it was him. This was the way he looked when he was human. He pulled a glove off his hand. His skin wasn't blue anymore. The blueness was gone as were the rocky pebbles that were usually embedded in his skin. Instead, it was pale, the same as the person's skin in the reflection.

"No," Rune's reflection said as the mage stepped up close to the mirror from the side, "you just look human. Exactly as you looked before you were changed. However, you still are a chimera."

"But -- " Zel moved to touch the reflection. As he did the violet hair and pale skin faded away, leaving behind the reflection that was truly his. He was a chimera again, plain and simple, with wiry hair and stone skin. He stared at the reflection. It was as if what he witnessed a moment ago had been nothing but a dream.

"What happened?" he demanded. "Why did I change back? You said it would work!"

The mage sighed, shaking his head. "Have a little patience, why don't you? You're trying to use an element of the Mazoku part of you from which you have never used before. Did you really expect to be able to change your form with ease just like that with no practice beforehand? It's like tensing a muscle, metaphorically speaking. You can only do it for so long."

Zel stood there watching his reflection in the mirror. Rune was right. He had expected a cure to come much too easily. And this was better than no cure at all, even if he did have to work at it. Maybe now he would actually have a chance to be with Lina.

After another moment of looking at his reflection a faint smile crossed his lips. He turned to face the mage. "You're right. Thank you."

"Don't mention it," the blue-haired mage replied. He turned to leave but stopped as he reached the doorway. "By the way, give my regards to Lina. I have some work that needs to be done for the Professional Magicuser's Society. I'll be leaving early so I won't be able to see you two off."

"You work for the PMS?" This guy was full of surprises.

"Yea, it's not the best job, but it pays the bills. It usually deals with very important things. You know, hush-hush stuff. Anyway, good night, stone boy. I hope you and Lina have a safe journey home." Having said that, the mage was gone, leaving Zelgadis all alone in the room.

Zel looked into the mirror again, willing himself back to his human form. It felt strange to look at himself the way he used to be. His human form and his chimera form were so different, yet they were the same. They were both a part of him, like two sides of a coin. What would Lina think when she saw him in the morning? He couldn't wait to show her.

As the first rays of the morning sun reached out towards Lina she buried her head under the thick blanket. It was too early to get up. The bed was so warm and comfortable, and she had been having the nicest dream. She only wished she could go back to it. Sometimes she wished she could live in her dreams. They were so much better than real life at times. Just as she began dozing off again there was a faint tapping on the balcony door.

She ignored it. It was probably a branch or something caught in the wind.

Again she heard the tapping. It was soft, yet loud enough to keep her awake. So instead of getting up she pulled her pillow over her head to muffle the sound. It didn't work. The tapping only seemed to get louder.

Finally, Lina Inverse had had enough. She through off the pillows and blanket and stormed over to the balcony door in nothing more than her pajamas. Whatever was causing the tapping she would Dragon Slave. That would put a stop to that incessant noise.

As she approached the glass double-doors she spotted Zel on the other side with a smug grin on his face. He was the one making all the noise. What the hell was he doing? She remembered having dreams that started out like this, but it wasn't as if they were about to come true. It was too early and she wanted to sleep!

She threw open the doors and glared at the chimera. "What the hell are you doing!? Do you know what time it is? I'll have you know I was having the most wonderful dream and you ruined it!" She left out the part about Zel being in it.

"Well, good morning to you too, sleepy head," he continued to grin. "I thought you might want to watch the sunrise with me. The view from the balcony is beautiful."

"A sunrise? You woke me up..." Wait a minute. Was Zel acting coy? He seemed to be genuinely happy today. What was going on? This wasn't the 'woe is me' Zelgadis from yesterday. Was this Rune's doing? "What happened to you? Did Rune say something?"

"Even better," his grin grew into a huge smile. "He showed me something about myself. Here, watch." Zel closed his eyes and repeated what he had practiced throughout the night.

Lina waited anxiously. Any thoughts of sleeping in left her as she watched Zel. Did Rune cure him last night? If so, then why did he still look the same? And what was he doing now? Why were his eyes closed?

As his skin and hair began to change in color Lina watched in awe. He was human. Zel was human again. And a very good looking one at that. "Zel, you're human again!" Lina grasped him in a hug. She was so happy for him and then again she felt so sad. Now that he was back to normal he would probably leave and go see Amelia. The princess had the biggest crush on him. He probably liked her better anyway. Amelia was better developed than she was.

"No, I just look human," he replied, repeating the mage's words. "I'm still a chimera. Last night Rune told me I had the ability to control how I looked. It's part of my...demonic powers. In a sense, it's not the cure I wanted, but it's good enough for what I've longed to do for so long."

Lina released him from the embrace. She could feel the tears begin to swell in her eyes. He was going back to Amelia. At least if she cried she could use the excuse that they were tears of joy. "I hope you're happy," she sniffed. "You and Amelia deserve each other."

"Amelia?" confusion flooded his voice. "Did you think..."

"You mean you don't..."

"Goodness, no," Zel cupped her chin, wiping away a stray tear that had traced its way down her cheek with his thumb. "I love you, Lina."

"Really?" She still wasn't dreaming, was she?

"Yes, I've wanted to tell you for so long, but I thought you might be repulsed by my -- "

"Oh, Zel, I feel the same way. I just thought you liked Amelia."

"Amelia's still a child. She doesn't know what true love is," he replied. "I've strove so hard to find a cure so that I could tell you how I felt. I didn't want you to have to been seen with a freak -- "

"Shhhh," Lina put a finger up to his lips, silencing the chimera. "It doesn't matter now and it didn't then. I don't care how you look. And just so you know, you didn't look bad before. You looked...handsome, in a way."

Zel smiled and let his concentration go. Instantly, he reverted back to his chimera-like state. "So you prefer me this way?" he teased.

"I prefer the person who is you, whether that be human or chimera." Lina reached up and pulled him into a kiss.

Eventually the kiss led them to the bed, where they cuddled and held each other, sharing their love for one another. There they stayed for another hour. Time was precious and they had to make up for lost time. Lina was the happiest she had been in a long time as was Zelgadis. Eventually, they knew they had to get up. They just didn't want to.

"I wonder how long Rune is going to wait on us," Lina snuggled against the chimera's shirt.

He absently ran his hand through her fiery red hair, enjoying the moment of being so close to the one he loved. "I don't think he did. He said something about leaving extremely early. He had some business to do for the PMS, but he wouldn't tell me what."

She looked up at him. "He did, huh? Now why do I have this feeling he set this up?"

"What do you mean?"

"He's had this knack for sensing things ever since I was little," Lina explained. "If he's doing something for the PMS he'll be gone for days. Usually they don't send him assignments. He would always just pick up one that interested him. I wonder if this was one of those times."

"Are you complaining?"

"No," Lina smiled as she leaned in for another kiss.