Mazoku of My Dreams

by Beedoo!

Mazoku of my Dreams

a Slayers fanfic

by Beedoo!

Chapter 3: Roadtrip Revelations

Lina stood out in front of the inn, looking impatient. Gourry, standing beside her, took in their surroundings, the road, the town, the forest. "Sure is peaceful around here," he said aloud, just before Lina shattered this illusion.

"What's taking them so long this morning?! Let's go!"

Xellos appeared on her right. "Well, I was ready a long time ago! Why didn't you say anything?"

Lina grumbled something at him, but was interrupted as Amelia jogged up. "Here I am! Are we ready to go? Wait, where's Mister Zelgaddis?"

"Come on, Zel! You're holding us up!" Lina shouted.

"That's funny," Gourry observed, almost thoughtfully... a rare occurrence in itself. "Zelgaddis is usually ready to go long before any of the rest of us..."

After a few moments, Zel finally appeared at the door, wearing both his hood and facemask.

"Huh?" Lina blinked. "That's not like him at all..." As she and the others watched, he held the door, allowing the girl who had cooked them dinner to pass through before closing it.

"Goodbye, Ari! Take good care of things! I'll write!" she called back before Zel closed the door. Mayaki was dressed in a brownish-burgundy hooded cape, a long red and blue dress suited to traveling and a pair of dark walking boots. "I'm ready to go finally, everyone! I'm sorry if I've made you all a bit late." She sparkled, and her grin showed just how eager she was to leave the little town.

"You all remember Miss Mayaki from last night, I'm sure," Zelgaddis said in tones that left very little open for argument. "She'll be traveling with us for a while."

"Ooooookay..." Lina said slowly, "well, six heads are better than one, I suppose."

Xellos capered by on the air. "Not in the case of monsters, however," he crowed, turning to float on his back. Mayaki gasped slightly and stared at the sight. The Mazoku priest sensed her eyes on him and caught her gaze for a second. Despite all the mischief on his face, he cocked his head, looking curious and puzzled. She noticed his attention, though, and quickly dropped her eyes to focus on her boot-toes.

"Her eyes..." he said aloud, though barely audible. The trickster continued to look at Mayaki for another few moments, thinking to himself. *There's something strange about this human,* his mind told him, but he dismissed it as he realized Lina was talking to him.

"What did you just say, Xellos?"

"Oh, nothing important. You were saying?"

"I said, surely there must be some lovely six-headed beauty out there in the Astral plane just waiting for you to come and sweep her off her talons or tentacles, or whatever."

He waved her away. "Don't be silly! The only thing I'm attracted to is chaos! You know that by now I'm sure, Lina."

"So all that flirting with Filia when we were searching for the Five Weapons?"

Xellos chuckled. "Exactly! Just a ruse. She had the most negative emotions toward me... I'll always be fond of the time we spent together. Ahh, memories.." he sighed mockingly. Lina eyed him suspiciously. He laughed. "Lina, Lina, Lina... I forget sometimes how human you are! Flirting is only flirting and nothing more. Did you actually think I could be in l... In l... with a dragon? Oh, please!"

"I guess not. Being in love would probably make you more insane than you already are." The girl shrugged. "Still, what could be more chaotic than a Mazoku-dragon coupling? I'd think that would be more appealing to your Mazoku nature than anything."

"Lina!" the demon whined and blushed.

"Easy, Xellos, I was just kidding."

* * * * *

"So where is it we're headed, exactly?" Mayaki asked an hour later, completely disoriented from the twists and turns inn the road. Her feet were sore from so much walking and she was tired, and she knew she'd miss her bed at the inn tonight if they were going to be out in the wild.

"Telgen City," Lina answered her. "Legend has it there's some grail there that grants wishes. Of course, most of these legends are just silly superstitions and mumbo-jumbo, but it's worth a shot." The sorceress shrugged. "Might make a pretty penny selling it at least. We probably won't get there by nightfall. Your friend was right... your village is pretty remote."

"But it has the best food! Well, it had the best food," Gourry added. "But now that you're traveling with us, we can have that kind of feast every night and -OW!" he rubbed his head where Lina had bonked him.

"Jellyfish brain... she didn't bring the kitchen with her!"

Mayaki giggled at the two of them. "Well, camp cooking isn't really my area of expertise, but I'll sure give it a good try!"

Lina gave a leap in the air. "All right! I can hardly wait... in fact, let's make camp right here! Amelia, get some firewood! Gourry, Zel..."

"Hold it, hold it," Zelgaddis said, steering her back onto the road by her shoulders. "We've still got a good couple of hours to walk if we're going to reach the city by tomorrow."

The sorceress looked crestfallen. "Why are you always trying to starve me to death, Zel?"

Zelgaddis rolled his eyes and let go of her, then dropped his pace a little to match Mayaki's. "How are you holding up?" he asked her.

She gave him a bit of a painful smile. "All right, I suppose."

Zel nodded once in acknowledgment. "Don't press yourself too hard, Mayaki. The rest of us are used to walking all day, but you..."

She held up a hand to interrupt him before he really got started. "I'll be fine, Mr. Zelgaddis. Just because I know how to cook doesn't mean I spend all day standing around my stove."

The chimaera gave her an approving smile, and the two walked on in an awkward silence. Mayaki looked at her feet and tapped her fingers together nervously. There had to be something she could talk with him about... She glanced sideways, then jerked them back when she noticed he was looking at her. She tried to think of something-please, gods, anything!-to say...

He beat her to it. "So... why were you trying to sneak off in the night so late?"

Mayaki's face flushed... she wasn't supposed to have gotten caught by anyone. If all had gone well in the first place, though, she wouldn't have had to leave. "Well, it's... no one in the town really wants me there," she said at long last. "Except for Ari, that is. They said I was a bad omen. They said I was never have supposed to have been born." She held her hands up to her eyes to block the tears, shook her head a couple of times, and that was the end of it. The rest of her tears she dried on the back of her sleeve. Zel put a supportive hand on her shoulder. She couldn't help but feel the weight of it. Curiously, she peered up into his veiled face. She realized that she hadn't so much as caught a glimpse of his face yet. Last night's dinner was a blur-the kind of blur that Mayaki loved and thrived on-and she hadn't had time to look the guests over; then he was silhouetted by the fire and she hadn't been able to make out any of his features; and now he had this veil on... It was so puzzling.

"Why do you cover yourself up so, Mister Greywords? What is it you're hiding from?" She peered deeply into his deep blue eyes. He seemed to freeze to the spot. Was he afraid to tell her? A word caught in his throat. He was about to say something when she looked away, not giving him the chance, turning her eyes back to the road.

Zelgaddis followed, still dumbstruck. He couldn't keep it from her forever. He wasn't even sure how long she was staying with them...he wasn't sure she knew either. Besides, better to get the formalities out of the way here in the woods rather than panic the poor girl-and everyone else present-when they stopped at an inn... He reached up and unhooked the veil, tucked it back into his hood, then pushed his hood back too.

"Mayaki..." he called softly. She turned back to look at him over her shoulder, stumbled and shied a bit as she took in his foreign appearance, but she never uttered a sound. Her face was stretched with the shock, though she never let fear betray it. He nodded once slowly to affirm what she was seeing. The two of them stopped in the road and stared at one another. Amelia caught up and passed them, leading their packhorse. As she did, she looked back over her shoulder and gave Mayaki a hard glare before turning to the road.

Mayaki carefully stretched a hand toward his face. Zelgaddis ducked his head obligingly. She felt across his stone skin carefully and ran her hand through the wire bristles of his hair. Still, she said not a word, though her eyes filled, brimming with tears that said much more than her lips. She reached her arms underneath his and embraced his stone body tightly, resting her head gently on his chest.

"Living stone," she breathed heavily. "Not human..."

He put a gentle hand on her back. "This is why we're traveling. So that someday I won't be trapped in this damned stone prison."

"There is a magic cure for it?" Mayaki asked curiously.

"Somewhere," he replied steadily, "there is a cure for everything." Without a word or a glance, the chimaera headed after the group at his own pace, trailing a pensive Mayaki behind him.

* * * * *

Night was falling before they stopped to make camp for the evening. Small whirring and skittering and clicking creatures everywhere were beginning to waken and go about their small-creature errands. One of Atlas's moons was just beginning its ascent over the eastern horizon. Somewhere off to the side of the winding little road, there was Lina, shouting a command for a small fireball to start their campfire for the night. Mayaki observed all this even as she took in the exact position of the rabbits in front of her. There were four of them now; the two directly out front, one a bit further off and a little to the right, and now this one, a young silver rabbit, that had just come out of the burrow. Another instant, and Mayaki sprang from the treebranch. Four small spines cracked, the snapping of tiny bones breaking, and the little clearing was motionless.

Mayaki moved to pick up her prey. It had felt good... she'd needed to kill something. Another part of her was sympathetic and mourned for the poor bunnies. At least they hadn't felt anything. Probably hadn't even had time to feel fear, she'd killed them so quickly. With the other two she'd already caught, that made a brace and a half. Surely that would be enough for dinner. With the salad and twice-baked stuffed tubers and crustless pie she could make once Amelia returned from picking berries it ought to be enough.. then again, she had seen the way Lina and Gourry could eat. She chuckled to herself. "With my luck, I'll burn it all to cinders on my first try..." She had never tried cooking on a campfire before, and was rather nervous about the outcome.

"So, caught enough food, have we, little huntress?"

Mayaki startled. Xellos floated down to her level, light as a feather.

"I knew there was something interesting about you, Miss Mayaki Sora," he smirked. "It was obvious from the start that you were hiding something from us."

Mayaki looked panicked and extremely embarrassed. *If they knew, would they still let me stay?* she wondered.

Xellos brightened and tilted her chin up with his fingers. "Now, now, my dear, don't you worry about getting caught in the act. It'll be our little secret." He held up a finger, sealing his lips. "Lina and the others can tell you how good I am at keeping one, too. Now how about coming back to camp, hmm?" He offered a hand to help her from her knees to her feet.

Mayaki refused to meet the Mazoku's eyes. "Thank you..." she murmured softly.

"After all, you can't deny your nature forever," Xellos taunted.

"I can deny it for as long as I must," she replied coolly and shoved past him, heading for camp. She heard Lina and Gourry laughing about something together, and thought about Zelgaddis.

* * * * *

By no small miracle, Mayaki's wonderful cooking kept even Lina and Gourry sated. The group sat around the camp chatting and setting up their bedrolls. Lina patted her full stomach before moving to set up her own. She said something about not being able to move with a stomach that full. "Man, Mayaki! I've never had such good food, barring last night's! Where did you learn so much about cooking?"

Mayaki blushed. The meal hadn't been as good as it could have been, she knew. It lacked the white gravy she usually prepared to go with roast rabbit, and they really weren't at their best unless they had a cored and spiced apple roasted inside the chest cavity. She'd done her best though, for the circumstances. "Thank you, Miss Lina." She bowed slightly. "My mother was a great cook. She taught me all I know about cooking. And there are a few things I picked up by experimenting... tinkering with the recipes until they were just right."

Gourry took most of this in blankly. "Sounds complicated. I'm going to bed. G'night girls!" he waved casually and strolled over to his spot on the outskirts of their little camp.

"'Night, Gourry!" Lina called after him with a smile and yawned. "I think I'm gonna hit the hey too. 'Night Mayaki, Amelia!"

Mayaki smiled and waved her fingers at Lina quietly, then turned back to staring into the fire. Across from her, on the other side of the merry blaze, sat Amelia, with a permanent scowl etched on her face since the moment Mayaki had joined the group. Amelia blinked as she realized Mayaki was staring at her. She looked right back, but not without a hint of bitterness. The princess was maybe two years younger than Mayaki, though in her seriousness almost seemed to be much younger, pouting and sullen because she couldn't have something she wanted, or having got caught at something she shouldn't have been doing.

Mayaki finally broke the awkwardness between them by getting up and sitting next to Amelia.

"Nice night, isn't it?"

"Hmm," said Amelia, still in her sulky mood.

"Look, I know there's something bothering you about me. Want to talk about it?"

"No," the girl said shortly and turned her back on Mayaki.

She blinked in confusion. "Come on... I can't help you out if you don't tell me what it is I'm doing to upset you." When Amelia refused to even dignify her with a response, she reached out a hand and put it on the girl's shoulder. "Hey..."

Amelia nearly exploded. "I'm fine and it's his life anyway so just leave me alone!" Tears streaming from her eyes, Amelia jerked away from the cook and ran to bury her head in her bedroll. Mayaki stared after her, wondering what she'd done.

"My, my, that certainly went well, didn't it?" Xellos said, floating up behind the dumbfounded girl.

"Shut up," Mayaki groaned, heading for her own bedroll. Xellos smirked after her, chuckling to himself.

**********************************************************************************

Disclaimer in short: Slayers and related characters aren't mine. Mayaki and various other incidental characters are.

Thanks for reading! Please leave me some feedback; I live and thrive on criticism! (not to mention, I'm a perfectionist. ;)

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