a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 19: Mazoku in the Making
The wind rustled peacefully over the little meadow, making the taller blades of grass dance and sway gently. The sun shone merrily from above. A squirrel made its way down a tree trunk and warily skittered its way into the field to find some morsel of food. Birds chirped.
And then a large bubble shot through the clearing, causing the birds to fly off and the squirrel to panic and scramble for cover in several directions all at once. The bubble was gone almost as soon as it had appeared, veering around trees and flying out of sight. The squirrel looked curiously after it, wondering what in the world had just happened before the memory of it dropped out of its tiny brain. Squirrels, along with being panicky, have very short attention spans.
A ways down the road, the bubble slowed, eventually coming to a stop and dropping its four occupants in the dust.
"Whoa, whoa, Amelia, why're we stopping?"
Amelia dropped to her knees, the Diem Wing spell having sapped her energy. "I'm sorry, Miss Lina," she panted, "I just can't keep the spell up any longer... I'm exhausted!"
"What? Oh, come on..."
Amelia gave her an apologetic glance, completely burnt out. She looked up as a stone hand rested on her shoulder. "I'll take over, Amelia. Get some rest."
She gazed up at him, her mouth in a surprised o. "Mister Zelgaddis... Thank you," she said meekly.
"Hm," he grunted and smiled down at her. She couldn't help noticing that the smile was bigger than the usual flat hint of a grin that he had always given her before.
"Diem Wing," he commanded. The bubble reformed and slowly raised them all up above the trees, then, picking up speed gradually at first, it shot off again with renewed power.
* * * * *
A knock in the middle of the night is always enough to send you immediately to your feet, especially if the person knocked like Lina Inverse and you weren't sleeping very, very deeply.
"Coming, coming!" Emma Debarro's voice rang as she slipped a robe on over her nightclothes and hurried down the stairs. "Can't believe it'd be all that urgent at this time of the night... Oooh, stop your pounding, already! I'm coming!"
Mrs. Debarro opened the door to the four travelers, all of whom looked rather desperate. "Ah, it's the lot of you again!" she said cheerily. "Come in, come in. Where's that darling Mayaki at?"
"Sorry to wake you, Emma, but it's an emergency," Lina apologized quickly. "Is Alemo around?"
"Why, no. He's out searching for his father again. Said he was going east again, toward Miss Mayaki's home."
"Dangit. He picked a hell of a time to get wanderlust," the sorceress complained.
"What's happened to Mayaki?" Emma demanded. "And that other friend of yours, the one with the purple hair... Alemo told me he didn't trust 'im." She looked from face to face around the circle. Gourry's look was blank as ever, Amelia's was upset, though she was fighting not to look it, Zelgaddis was trying his hardest to hold back his rage, and Lina's look was the slightest bit guilty. "He's took her, hasn't he? The one my Alemo said was of the Evil Race," she finally deduced.
Zelgaddis slowly nodded. "And we're going to need Alemo's help to get her back, if we even can."
* * * * *
Morning came quickly, and as soon as Lina had paid a messenger to find the Wyvern Killer, they were off again.
"Best of luck to you, Miss Lina. Bring her back safe and sound."
Lina nodded. "Thanks again for putting us up, Emma."
The aging woman smiled. "Never you mind that, you're always welcome 'ere. Godspeed."
* * * * *
Mayaki soared over the land, trying to spot the bunch of travelers. Xellos had tried to train her to find certain souls from the Astral Plane, but for some reason, most probably her conscience, she was no good at finding people. It was much nicer to use her wings anyway, she thought. Floating everywhere was a little tedious.
She recalled Zelas's sending her out. She was still frightened of the Mazoku woman, and with good reason at that. "I give you my power, little wyvern Mayaki. Put it to good use in getting rid of these meddlers, and I'll give it to you to keep."
"As you wish, Master," she had replied, and looked on in awe as the monster's platinum hair blew out behind her. She extended a hand at Mayaki, and when she touched her, a strong shock ran through her body-stronger than one of Lina's Mono Bolts-so painfully that Mayaki had to grit her teeth against the pain of receiving the Beastmaster's power. Zelas had laughed at her pain... but then, causing pain was a Mazoku's prerogative.
Mayaki had looked up afterward and smiled wickedly. "Thank you, Master Zelas."
So now, all that was left was to find Lina and the others. Lina was to be kept alive, the rest destroyed. Simple as that, really. Except she didn't feel nearly as wicked now. Images of her friends played by in her mind... Lina, Amelia, Gourry....
She shook herself out of it. This mission was something that she needed to do. I mean, after all, she was a monster now. What was she going to do, spend her time baking cookies for the rest of her life?
*Want to bake something...* her mind insisted. It was always on her mind anymore. Ever since she was little, it had eased her to nerves to cook. She remembered back to a time when she and Talia had baked together... marvelous dishes that astounded the eye and tongue of travelers who had stopped by for the night....
"Like this... You mustn't stir fast, or too much air will get whipped into the batter, you see? Now you, Mayaki... There, that's just perfect..."
And she remembered another night when she'd stormed into the kitchen, mad with grief and rage... her mother had been sick for weeks with the crimson fever before it had finally taken her, though she seemed to be recovering just before the end came. Mayaki had been at her bedside at the time. "Mother, don't go!" she'd begged. "Please, don't!"
"My darling little Mayaki," Talia said with her dying breath, running her hand through Mayaki's burgundy curls as her spirit left her body for the pull of the afterworld. "Mother!" Mayaki had screamed, no more than thirteen years old at the time. "No, it's not fair!" She didn't even realize where she was going as she ran out of the room, and hardly noticed bumping into Ari and all but knocking her down as she and her father had come to see what was the matter. Somehow, she found herself in the kitchen when the tears cleared out of her eyes. Her gaze stopped on so many of Talia's things, pots and pans, knives, her spotless apron, hanging beside Mayaki's smaller one...
*Have to cook... need to cook* her mind had told her then. It seemed like Talia was in the kitchen with her, just as she'd always been, making sure he daughter didn't add too much parsley to this or oregano to that, cleaning a pan or putting something in the oven.
"There, that's just perfect. Now we pour the batter into the pan you helped me flour earlier, and put it in the oven, and soon we'll have a nice, soft cake for you to decorate!"
"Hooray!" her own young laughter echoed.
Ariella stood at the door, watching her friend frantically flit from one place to another, stirring, stewing, baking, roasting, frying. Ari looked up to her father. "Papa, when is she going to stop? She's been cooking for three days! And I know those no good rotters we sent the dishes to won't give them back..."
Gavin set a gentle hand on Ari's petite shoulder. "Let her be, Ari. This is something that Mayaki has to do for herself."
*Oh, Mother...* the wyvern thought as she drifted aimlessly over the forest and hills.
*Have to cook something...right now!* She plummeted out of the sky like a dart onto an unsuspecting deer that never had a chance against her, its back broken as she slammed it to the ground under her claws. Shifting back and forth from her wyvern form to her human one rapidly, Mayaki stacked a load of firewood, breathed flame on it until it caught, then used one of her daggers to skin the carcass. With one of her hindclaws, she tore the deer apart, then skewered it on bark-stripped branches, carefully setting them to roast around the fire. Still feeling inadequate without any spices to season it with, she pulled up a few handfuls of fragrant grass and added them to the embers to smoke the meat. It just wasn't right... venison needed salt and at least three kinds of finely ground pepper, and a hint of curry and...
She kicked over one of the poles with a shout and a snarl and watched the fresh meat sizzle, then char on the hot embers, finally being consumed in the flames with the stench of burning flesh hanging in the air.
Mayaki shook her head and sat down next to her fire. She rested her head against her fist and sobbed, then growled at herself for it.
She didn't sleep... monsters didn't need sleep. Instead she stayed awake and wondered if there wasn't still a shred of humanity left in her.
Morning was a long time in coming.
* * * * *
The four travelers had sped along the road nearly the full day, high above the heads of merchants who looked up at them in amazement as they shot past. Amelia had handled the spell in the morning, but was completely exhausted by lunchtime. Lina had tried her power after a break, but even with all her power-enhancing talismans, her magic petered out after a little more than half an hour. From there on out, Zelgaddis had taken over with a Ray Wing, but he wouldn't be able to continue much longer. His power was tapped out as well. He was getting tired, weak, but each time he felt like stopping, he would egg himself on. "Just a little farther... I can make it a little farther..."
The sun's setting turned the sky flame orange. Zel finally realized that to push himself any further could be dangerous for them all. If he lost the spell at this speed and this altitude... well, best not to think about it and quit while he was ahead. He guided the bubble down to the grass of a field that looked like it would make a suitable campsite.
Slowly, the others got to their feet to help make camp and scrape something together for dinner. Zelgaddis stood where he'd landed for a long while, partially from exhaustion, partially because he was lost in deep thought.... Until...
He looked down into the bright blue eyes before him. "Amelia..." he said, almost with wonder.
"Dinner's almost ready. Are you all right?"
Yes, he was fine, considering that he'd been unfairly transformed into a chimaera, trapped in a body of stone for which he'd been ridiculed and thought of as a monster, searching in vain for a cure for the past five years or more, the woman he'd fallen in love with was a wyvern and had just painfully left him for a Mazoku that Zel absolutely hated. Considering all that, he was pretty damn good.
He'd wanted to say that. It certainly would have been easier than holding it all inside. But it wasn't Amelia's fault that any of this had happened to him. It would be unfair to snap at her just for being concerned about him.
*And I should be used to it by now,* he thought to himself. *She only checks on me constantly anyway.*
"I'm fine, Amelia," he lied quietly.
She wasn't going to pry; he could sense that much. He also knew, though, that she wasn't going to leave it at that and run along. Traveling with her off and on for three years, they'd gotten to know each other pretty well.
She waited for him to begin walking and pulled up beside him, falling into his stride. "Are you worried about Miss Mayaki?"
He peered down into her eyes again. "Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" he said gently. "One does tend to worry when their friend turns into a Mazoku and disappears right before their eyes..."
"Yeah. I guess I see your point," Amelia mumbled. "I am too..."
Again, Zel looked shocked. "I thought you two were still at each other's throats."
Amelia tittered nervously as she sat down beside the fire and crossed her legs. "Oh, no! It's not like we were enemies or I'd be fighting her! Miss Mayaki is on the side of Justice! ...she was anyway." The little princess paused pensively as Zelgaddis cast a small fireball into the stack of kindling Lina and Gourry had piled up. He took two of the sandwiches Gourry offered them and handed one to Amelia. She continued staring into the fire as the flames engulfed the wood, burning merrily with the rushing sound of hot air. "Rivals, maybe," she added quietly. She didn't think Zelgaddis could hear her, and so didn't notice the curious, quirked look he gave her.
High above them, a dark shadow circled, drawn by the light and smell of their fire.
Mayaki crashed into the campsite, all but landing in the fire. It looked as if the wyvern didn't mind the heat of it at all. A second later she stepped through it and transformed back to her human shape. "Hello, everyone," she said tauntingly. "Did you miss me?"
In a panicked flurry, everyone was on their feet. "Mayaki!" Lina yelped.
"Mayaki! What're you doing?" Zel demanded.
The girl laughed wickedly in response. "Well now, Zelgaddis, I could tell you that, but Master Zelas might be awfully annoyed at me for spilling her little secret to you. Anyway, it won't matter in a few minutes, since I've been sent to kill you all." She snorted with amusement. "Such a shame I can't play with you any longer."
"Mayaki, don't do this," Gourry said softly, unsheathing his sword.
She grinned, looking at him with the corner of her eye and chuckled. Somehow, as a Mazoku, everything was extremely entertaining, though no one else seemed to get the joke. In a swift motion, she reverted to her wyvern form and snapped her jaws, trying to catch the swordsman between them inadvertently. Gourry was no fool when it came to fighting monster though-wyverns included-and deftly leaped aside, blocking her with the flat of his sword and whacking her under the chin with the hilt.
"Don't hurt her, Mister Gourry! We have to get Miss Mayaki back to normal!" Amelia cried anxiously at him.
"I'm trying not to!" he yelled back. "But she doesn't seem to have any problems with-whoa!" He jumped over her tail. "-hurting me!"
"Zel, Amelia! Try to subdue her with an Elmekia Lance!" Lina called to them. "I'll try to distract her!" Waving her slim sword in Mayaki's face, the sorceress captured Mayaki's attention.
"You forget I'm not a dumb monster like the ones you usually fight, Lina. And you're not the one I'm after," Mayaki said, knowing full well that she couldn't be understood.
"Aaaack-aaack-aaack yourself..." Lina growled at her, looking shocked and angered when Mayaki turned away from her. "Hey! Where're you going?! Dammit, Mayaki, stop ignoring me!"
Instead, the wyvern turned, glaring dangerously at Zelgaddis and Amelia.
"Haaaa!" Gourry yelled, lunging at her. Mayaki summoned some of Zelas's magic and caught the swordsman midair. He blinked and said, "Huh?" as he was turned upside down and thrown into the distance for a mercilessly hard landing.
"Elmekia Lance!" Amelia cast, unleashing the spell at Mayaki. It was a direct hit, but Mayaki barely seemed to notice more than a pinprick. The girl, she thought, would barely be two bites. Amelia shrieked in fear as the gaping jaws flew at her... but the potential painful strike was replaced by the sound of tooth hitting stone.
Mayaki was knocked back by her own momentum as her jaw bounced off Zelgaddis's stone arm. The impact jarred her brain slightly and she shook her head to clear out the specks of light dancing in her vision. She snarled menacingly at the chimaera as he held up his sword defensively in front of him.
"No," Zel told her quietly. For some reason, she stopped.
*What're you waiting for?! Kill him!* her Mazoku side screeched.
*But...* some other part of her argued.
Zelgaddis held her full attention. The field was silent, aside from the popping fire. "Mayaki," he pleaded, "don't do this... we're your friends. I know the real you is in there somewhere, deep down, and that you're not evil. You're not like them."
"Eeecck," the creature responded softly. Her expression saddened somewhat, Zelgaddis thought.
"Mayaki, if you ever loved me, then please, don't do this. Don't let it happen."
*Kill them NOW!*
*I can't!* she wailed inwardly. She stared into the depths of Zelgaddis's eyes helplessly and
vanished to the Astral Plane.
Everyone blinked and exchanged glances. Zel let his sword drop to his side, no longer in a fighting stance.
Lina finally broke the silence. "Is she gone?"
Zel nodded. "I don't think she'll be back again... at least, not tonight." Gourry wandered up, rubbing a rather large bump that was forming on his head. Zel moved to put his sword back in its scabbard when another shape crashed down next to the fire. Everyone jumped, unsheathing swords and summoning spells to the ready. A second later, the figure transformed into a human.
"Ah, I finally caught up with you all! Where's my sister?" Alemo asked with concern.
The group breathed a collective sigh of relief.
"You just missed her," Lina snarled at him, them proceeded to beat on him for scaring them to death.
* * * * *
Mayaki huddled in the roots of a large tree, shaken to her very core by the calm, pleading words Zelgaddis had faced her with. "Oh, Zel, I'm so sorry.. What'll I do? What'll I do?" she whimpered. There was no way she could return to the castle without completing her mission for Zelas, but she couldn't find it in herself to kill her friends-the only friends she had except for Ari-either.
A pair of dark boots suddenly appeared and landed beside her. She meekly looked up at their wearer. "So here's where you've gotten to!"
"Xellos!" she wept and threw her arms around one of his legs.
"Master was a bit... concerned when you didn't return immediately," he told her. He shrugged a little. "Er...and... I was too."
"Xellos!" she repeated panickly. Somehow she just couldn't get anything else out.
He bent down and stroked her cheek. "It's all right, little bird. The first time's always a little rough. You'll get over it." He carefully slid one arm under her legs and the other around her back, picking her up as if she was feather-light. "Come along... Master wants to have a word."
Mayaki squirmed, trying to get loose from him. "But Xellos..."
"Hush now, sweet Mayaki. Everything will be all right," he smirked, taking her to the one place she had no intention of going back to.
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. ;)