a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 15: The Hunter and the Hunted
After walking alone and in silence for a while, Mayaki dropped her pace so that Zelgaddis and Amelia eventually came up beside her, and she fell in with their gait. She seemed quite pensive, and refused to look up for a while.
Zel glanced over at her out of the corner of his eye for a long time. When she finally looked up guiltily, he realized she was waiting until they could be alone to talk. "Amelia," he said softly, "why don't you go see if Lina and Gourry could use a hand with the horse."
"Mister Gourry just took him over... I think they're okay..."
"Well, go see, okay?"
Amelia looked hurt. "All right..." The two of them watched as she dragged herself disappointedly up to Lina and Gourry, who were, at the moment, trying to shoo Xellos away from the already nervous pack horse.
They both started at the same instant. "Zelgaddis, I..."
"Mayaki, I..." They stopped, blinked at each other, and laughed.
Mayaki picked up the conversation first. "I wanted to say I was sorry for the way I acted this morning... my Mazoku side kind of had a hold on me..."
"I figured it was something like that," Zel replied with a nod. "I think your being around Xellos so much might have something to do with it. He might be influencing you without your knowledge."
She ducked her head and blushed conscientiously. He only had an idea, but it was pretty accurate, for all it lacked. She played innocent as best as she could manage. "You... you think Xellos is doing this to me?"
"I wouldn't put it past him. I'm not saying he is necessarily even doing anything, but he seems to be hanging around you an awful lot, and you don't seem to mind him being around. He might be attracted to your Mazoku side and is drawing it out of you, on purpose or not."
"Xellos? But..." she started.
Zel gave her a sidelong glance. "He's a very powerful monster, Mayaki. I've seen him do cruel things you wouldn't believe him capable of. Don't let him fool you. Xellos is extremely evil." Mayaki blinked at him. "I want you to stay away from him, if you can. Will you do that for me?"
She hesitated. "Y..yyyyeeess..." she said, almost guiltily.
"Mayaki," he said very seriously. "I care for you very, very much. I don't want to see Xellos bringing out the worst in you and making you do evil things because I know that's not like you. Promise me. Promise me you'll stay away from him."
"I'll... I'll try, Zelgaddis..." Deep down, part of her was saying, *Gods, I'm a rotten little liar...*
After another little silence, Mayaki asked, "What's up with Amelia? She's sure moody..."
Zel stared over at the Seyruun princess, who had her arm up over her eyes and appeared to be wiping something away. "I don't know," he said guiltily, knowing he must have had something to do with it.
Mayaki did feel a little twinge of guilt herself at the treacherous ruse she was playing out. She really did like Zelgaddis, but, well, other things had priority over him at the moment....
* * * * *
The crowds had ceased. No one was on the streets, so most of the shops must have been closing or closed for the night. The air was cooler, and Leam could no longer feel the rays of the sun even weakly. He momentarily regretted the fact that he hadn't been able to see the sunset, and never would again.
He picked up his bowl and ran his fingers through the coins he had taken in that day. Not nearly as much as he would have made as a bandit, sure, but enough to get by on... for now. What would he do once the crowd stopped paying to hear his tale? When winter came and they no longer cared to stand around in the cold listening to a story? Perhaps he could beg a ride from a kind traveler to take him to the next town, or head south for the winter. It wasn't as cold there. How degrading it all was, having to sing for his supper and fumble his way along the streets without his eyes to guide him. By the time he found his way out of the woods and reached a town with a suitable healer, they told him it was impossible to heal his eyes. Damn that girl, doing this to him...
Heavy footsteps sounded in front of him, made intentionally loud to alert him. "Well, look at you."
Leam perked up at the voice. "Race! Oh, Race, it's you! You've come back for me!"
Race glowered at him for a moment, then grinned widely. "Yes, friend Leam, yes, I have. So good to see you."
"If only I could say the same, Race," the larger man said, feeling along the wall beside him.
"Yes. The wyvern only took your eyes. You should be grateful. She killed half the others. I only just escaped with my life as well. I even left my sword behind."
Leam snorted bitterly. "Was no mercy she did me, Race. Reduced to begging, not able to fight or even walk down the street without stumbling on the cobbles." Race took his elbow and steered him around a corner. "Ah, thank you. I've been staying with a kind innkeeper and his wife a few streets away to the west...which way are we going now?"
"North," Race lied, steering his blind friend into an alley.
"Damn that wyvern girl... I only hope someone will show her the same mercy she showed me."
"That's all taken care of, Leam. Don't you worry a bit about it. I sent an assassin after her yesterday morning."
Leam laughed ruefully. "Oh, then a fine job your assassin did, friend. She came and dropped some coppers in my bowl this morning. Came by to warn me about defaming her."
"What?!" Race exclaimed. "Impossible. Someone must have been playing a trick on you."
"Race, she said she would come back and finish what she started with my eyes. I know it was her, I recognized the voice! She'll come back and kill me, Race!" The man jittered and shook so much at the thought that his bowl with all its contents began to jingle and rattle musically.
"Here, let me take that before you spill your earnings," Race all but commanded the blind man, who gratefully handed it over. "Now, do you remember where they were headed, Leam? Did you hear her or her friends talking?"
"Well," Leam thought aloud, "it was about eleven this morning. I was facing the south, and the wretched wyvern came at me from my right, so east, and then she and her friends-that Lina Inverse character we were after and the rest-they left going north, I think. I could hear them talking as they went. There's a road that way that leads out of town, so I'm told."
Race patted his shoulder. "Don't you worry, Leam. I'll get your vengeance for you. I'll tear the wyvern's eyes out one at a time while she's still alive. How 'bout that, hm? You've been very helpful."
"Bless you Race. You're a good soul... er... this doesn't seem like the right way to Reller's inn... er... Race?" The hand was no longer on his elbow. Leam turned around in the alley, trying to get his bearings. "Race?"
Race's dagger whipped through Leam's neck, quick and clean. His last thought as he rapidly lost blood was that even if he still had his sight, he wouldn't have seen this coming. No honor among thieves....
"Rest peacefully now, Leam. A life as a useless beggar was not for you. I hope I've put you out of your misery before you dishonored yourself too much." He examined the contents of Leam's bowl. "Hm. Not a bad day's work, my friend. You should have taken up trade as a storyteller rather than a bandit, I think. But, let's let the past stay in the past, shall we?" He kicked Leam's motionless body, and it flopped over like a rag doll. Race carefully opened his own purse and poured the coins from the bowl into it soundlessly. Then he set the bowl overturned on Leam's stomach, giving the blind and dead man a comical-looking potbelly. He left the alley in a casual stroll, looking as if he was enjoying the mild evening.
So, the wyvern killer hadn't kept up his end of the deal. Race let that go... his price was cheap enough, even if his requisites were a bit strict. Besides, Alemo wasn't the one he was after. In fact, the stupid boy was probably dead if he hadn't gotten the job done. The only other thing Race could figure was that the assassin had found some ridiculously chivalrous reason to let them go. Idiot boy. Nevermind. Still, he had to find some allies before attacking the wyvern again. Sprogen probably had some likely candidates somewhere. And there was the matter of striking the beast and getting past that hideous armor.
Race strode evenly down the street, stroking his chin. "Archers..." he said aloud, laughing at how simple a plan it was. Simple, but it would be effective.
* * * * *
Mayaki eagerly sucked the mist out of Xellos's hand as he offered it, enjoying the fine, pure taste of the emotions. He kissed her sweetly when she was finished.
"Only a few days more, and I'll take you to my Master, who will then be our Master," he smiled at her.
Mayaki grinned back at him. "Good. It's hard enough keeping up appearances in front of Zel. He suspects you."
"I guessed as much," the Mazoku priest sighed. "He usually does. Of course, I always give him reason to."
Mayaki leaned wearily against the trunk of a tree. "I don't like going around behind their backs."
"Deception must run in your blood as well. Your father was good at it, and so are you."
Mayaki sighed. "Xellos?"
"Yes, my sweet?"
She debated asking the question on her mind. "If Mazoku aren't able to love," she cringed and almost choked on speaking the word, "then... what is it that I feel for you?" And...do you..." she trailed off.
"Shh... nevermind what it's called, so long as it exists. And yes, I feel the same for you. Otherwise, why would I be spending so much of my time and energy to train you?" he grinned.
"Sorry if that isn't exactly reassuring to me..." she mumbled.
"Well, then, let me put it another way. You're the first person to catch my attention in at least 500 years."
"500 years?" she repeated.
"Well, of course there are human girls who are nice to look at, any man will tell you the same. But honestly, they only last so long before the beauty fades. Barely a season in a Mazoku's life. Oh, but there was one. Aryssa was her name. She wrote beautiful poetry... mourning the beautiful things in life and praising evil and the Dark Lords. I worked long and hard to subvert her. The only hitch was, she had to die in order to become a monster. She took her own life the instant I told her that... my dead, insane Aryssa..."
"What happened?" Mayaki asked curiously.
Xellos's voice was flat and empty as he answered. "Greater Beast Zelas decided that she didn't care to have any servant but me, especially if she was insane to begin with. She would be much too hard to train."
Mayaki gawped, then involuntarily took a step backwards.
Xellos looked up at her. "No, no... don't you worry... it's different with you. You're already part Mazoku, so you don't have to die in order to become one of us. Enough evil in your soul, and you'll switch right over."
Mayaki stewed. "What if Zelas doesn't like me?" she said at long last.
"Like I said, don't worry about it. I'll take care of things," he replied, nuzzling her neck. "and I'll take care of you. You have my word."
"The word of a demon," she mused, somewhat bitterly.
"It's worth much more than you know," he said with a gentle kiss. "Now, how about we work on your firebreath?"
"Aaaak," squawked the wyvern.
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. ;)