a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 11: Following Darkness
Mayaki practically skipped along the road she was so pleased with her new knives. Every now and then she would take aim and bury one in the trunk of a tree. After she hit her target, she would give a little squeal, run up and collect her knife and trot happily back to the group. She was armed and dangerous, and darn pleased about it. No more defenseless little Mayaki!
"So where are we off to now?" she chirped merrily.
"Just follow the open road," Lina said with a shrug. "We travel until we reach a town and see what it has to offer, follow some leads on local superstitions, fight off some monsters, gain the appreciation and rewards of the townspeople, eat, get some supplies, and off we go again."
"No method to the madness then."
Mayaki rolled her eyes and accepted that as fact, giving herself up to a wanderer's lifestyle. She slackened her pace a little and took over leading the horse, giving Amelia the opportunity to scoot over to Zelgaddis's side. Mayaki snorted to herself. He probably still wasn't too happy with her from the other night. Being thrown to the ground and kicked dirt at wasn't exactly common courtesy. The disappointment of the Temple of Dreams was sitting pretty hard with him too. She understood why it hurt him so much. If not for the revelation of her nightmare, she probably would have had a similar reaction. He didn't seem like he was still angry about it, but Zel had a way of burying things deep down that Mayaki couldn't entirely comprehend. He'd been there for her during the cook-off-she'd seen him waiting for her when she came back from the market, but she was so flustered with her time limitation that she hadn't been able to spare him more than a glance tinged with annoyed panic. She hadn't exactly had time to chat just then. And he'd helped her in the weapons shop too... but then, he was the one most likely to speak for the group on matters of weapons, knowing the most about them. Maybe he was simply obligated to? She couldn't tell. It was hard to read his expression normally, much more so when he had his hood and mask up.
She glanced over at Zel and Amelia. He looked up and caught her eyes for an instant, giving her a questioning look. Mayaki turned her head back toward the road guiltily. She didn't want to have to answer the question in the gaze he gave her, because it said, "Mayaki, why are you avoiding me?"
*Truth is,* she thought, *I don't know.*
While she was turning this over in her mind, walking along stolidly, she suddenly felt an abrupt tap on her head.
"Xellos, would you knock it off already?"
The Mazoku grinned and glided down next to her, landing and walking for a change. "Why, Miss Mayaki, aren't you happy to see me?"
"Why? Should I be, you little pest?"
"Honestly, Miss Mayaki, I haven't done a thing to hurt you, have I?"
The girl's head snapped around to glare at him. "You mean besides not helping me so I had to turn into a wyvern and kill six men AND get a sword stuck through my leg? Hm? Besides that?"
Xellos's smile was replaced by a look of hurt shock. "It turned out for the best in the end, Miss Sora. If you think about it. Would Lina be as willing to let you stay if you had been discovered sneaking around behind her back?"
"She let you stay."
Xellos snorted. "She 'lets' me stay because she doesn't have any say in whether I stay or go. I've been ordered to be here by my master, you know, so it isn't exactly as if I have a lot of choice in the matter either..." he paused. "Anyway, you see, it was a favor I did you by making you fight."
Mayaki thought about it for a second. "I suppose," she said slowly, trying to think of some way to refute his argument.
"Birds do the same thing when it's time for their young to learn to fly and leave the nest. They push them out of the nest, and then it's time to either fly... or die." Xellos made a gesture with one hand soaring upward, then plummeting down.
"You would have let them kill me?!" Mayaki yelped, raising her voice and staring incredulously at the trickster.
Xellos held up his hands defensively. "No, of course not! I would have stepped in if things had gone badly for you."
"Things were going badly, in case you hadn't noticed. What were you going to do, wait until I was dead?"
"I didn't have to," he countered. "You fought back. Quite valiantly, I might add, for someone so inexperienced with her powers."
Mayaki blinked. "Did you just give me a... a compliment?"
Xellos grinned conspiratorially. "Oh, did I? Must have just slipped out. I didn't even notice."
"Yeah, yeah, right, sure," Mayaki mocked, turning away from him to look out at the field they were passing. She blushed a little at the compliment he was trying to mask.
"You certainly deserve it, my beauty."
Mayaki's breath caught in her throat. She stopped dead in her tracks. The horse kept walking despite the fact that Mayaki had dropped the reins. A pair of evil amethyst eyes floated into her line of vision from the top, their owner doing a strange sort of mid-air backbend to achieve this. Mayaki felt like a wren caught by a snake. His eyes were deep and hypnotic. She could lose herself in those eyes... she imagined herself falling deeper and deeper into them....
Xellos chuckled slightly at her and gave her a quick peck on the lips before flying off to bother the rest of the troupe.
Mayaki gulped and regained her senses. And ran to catch up with the horse, which had seen some plants by the side of the road that looked tempting and was heading after them at a brisk pace.
Zelgaddis witnessed this from the time the horse had gone around Mayaki and Xellos. He gasped when Xellos had kissed her. Amelia, thankfully, didn't take any notice. Zel wondered if this was just another Mazoku trick of Xellos's designed to annoy him. If it was, then it was certainly working. *And what if it wasn't?* some jealous part of his mind nagged. Zelgaddis seethed, but he didn't let it show, except for a slight furrow in his brow. He was, quite literally, a rock.
* * * * *
Mayaki sat by the campfire after dinner, turning one of her shiny knives over and over in her palm. She seemed fascinated by it, the lethal blade resting against her fragile skin. The danger of it had her spellbound.
Zelgaddis came over to sit beside her. "Umm..." he started brilliantly. "Hi."
"Hi," she repeated, a little nervously. She slipped the dagger back into its sheath at her hip before her Mazoku side did anything rash. She wasn't sure the blade wouldn't cut stone.
"Enjoying the knives?" he asked.
"Yes, they're wonderful! Thank you for helping me find them!" she said cheerily. She paused afterward and wondered if she'd sounded false.
"Any time," he volunteered. She let out a mental sigh of relief. He hadn't thought she'd sounded strange. "I suppose knives would be an ideal weapon for a chef such as yourself."
"Oh, I do know my cutlery!" she giggled. Zel stared straight forward, eyes focused on something across the field from them. Mayaki tried to read his look, but to no avail. "Something the matter?"
Zel shook himself out of his thoughts. "I... Mayaki, I... the other night. I'm sorry I upset you."
She dropped her eyes and stared at her shoes. "I'm sorry too.. I shouldn't have thrown you. I shouldn't have even followed you when I knew you wanted to be alone. It's just..."
"I know. It's okay though." He sighed. "Damn it, Mayaki! We were so close!"
"You'll find it, Zel. Don't give up now."
"I've been at this a lot longer than you," he growled at her. "How can you be so optimistic?"
She snarled back, "Hey, can you blame me for having a little bit of hope?" She bit her lip before she really got going. "Sorry."
"No, no...it's okay," he told her.
The pair of them gazed into the fire for a long time.
Mayaki finally broke the silence by asking angrily, "Okay, what is it?"
"Nothing," he replied defensively. "It's none of my business."
"Tell me," she demanded.
Zel snorted in disgust. "Xellos!" he blurted out, hoping that the demon was out of earshot.
Mayaki sensed exactly why Zel was annoyed, and kept her nervousness about the subject well hidden. "Xellos?" she asked.
"When he... this afternoon... What was that all about?" he stammered back.
She shook her head and chuckled, one of her burgundy ringlets falling over her shoulder as she did. "He was just teasing me about some things."
"What kind of things?"
"Mazoku things," she said sharply, piercing him with her gaze.
"You kissed him," Zel grumbled flatly.
She practically roared at him in response. "I did not kiss him! He kissed me! And it was only to scare me to death, I'm sure of it."
"Then why are you so jumpy about it?" he all but yelled back.
Lina piped up from her bedroll. "Will you people shut up and go to sleep already?!"
"Sorry, Lina!" they both called, dropping their voices.
"So, you're not, like... attracted to him, are you?"
She gawped at him. "We're talking about Xellos here!" she sneered.
Zel stared her down. "Yes, we are."
"So why the hell are you so jealous?" Mayaki taunted.
He frowned. "There is nothing Xellos has that I could possibly be jealous of!"
"...until he kisses me."
Zel looked helpless. There wasn't a thing he could say that would get him out of this. His blood was boiling, and he didn't have a response that wouldn't make him seem petty. He gave an annoyed sigh and dropped his head into his hands, running his fingers though his wiry hair.
Mayaki decided to end the conversation with that. "Look, we're both tired, and I know how cranky I get when I'm tired. Let's just go to bed and if you want to discuss it again in the morning, it's up to you. But I'm going to sleep." With that, she rose and flounced off toward her bedroll, grumbling to herself in annoyance.
"Mayaki?" Zel called quietly after her.
She turned around with an irritated look and put her hands on her hips.
"Pleasant dreams?" he said apologetically.
She shook her head and smiled. "Pleasant dreams to you too, Zelgaddis."
* * * * *
Mayaki carefully stepped around Lina and Amelia's sleeping forms and found her own bedroll at the edge of the firelight. She scooted into the folds and snuggled down, fluffing her hair slightly before sliding her pillow beneath her head.
She stared up at the stars for a long time. There was a lot on her mind. Zelgaddis was most assuredly not happy with her at all, and the fact that Xellos was playing mind games with them both wasn't helping the situation out any. Zel was bitterly jealous, judging from their recent conversation, even though he refused to admit it. She herself was so confused about the whole mess she almost felt sick to her stomach. She'd never actually had a guy be attracted to her before... she didn't know how to act around him at all. She'd done several things around him that she certainly wasn't proud of, tonight's conversation being the least of them. Why was she so irritated by him? And then there was Xellos. Was he trying to drive them apart, or was he just teasing her? What the hell was that stupid Mazoku up to anyway? It almost seemed that they were about to patch things up, and Xellos...
A sharp jab in her side interrupted Mayaki's train of thought. *...and Xellos is in the bushes,* her mind substituted. "What do you want, Xellos?" she groaned.
"Wake up, Miss Sora. I have something to show you."
"I wasn't asleep yet..." she grumbled mournfully. "What is it? Can't it wait until morning?" she whined, rolling over and putting her face into her pillow.
"Why, Miss Mayaki, that is a secret, of course! And no, it can't."
Mayaki groaned again and shucked off her comfortably warm bedroll, pulling her boots back on and following the direction Xellos led her through the trees.
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. ;)