a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 24: The Lap of Luxury!
"Mayaki... Mayaki! Stop, stop talking... I can't understand you!"
"Rrrk?" the wyvern blinked, drawing back with a curious look. She quickly morphed to human shape.
Amelia piped up as she did so. "You can't understand Miss Mayaki at all? What does that mean?"
"I've been trying to figure out why I felt so weak. When Zelas took her power back from me, she must've taken all the energy she gave me when she turned me into a Mazoku in the first place." He looked down at his lap pensively, then tried to get to his feet. Gourry caught his arm as he staggered dizzily to one side. He put his hand to his temple as if a sudden headache had gripped him. The group was silent. "I'm not a Mazoku any more."
After a long pause, Zelgaddis finally stated, "You were human." Xellos nodded, then stopped.
"I am human." He looked up to meet the chimaera's blue eyes with his amethyst ones.
Zel ground his teeth and clenched a stone fist, holding his anger back, but just barely. "Let's go," he growled to the others.
"What, we're leaving already?" Lina complained loudly. "In the middle of the night, when we're all exhausted from fighting a dark lord, and likely to get lost and sucked down Deep-Sea's whirlpool again? Come on, Zel..." She patted his stone shoulder convincingly.
"Would you rather stay here and fight off wolves all night?" he grumbled at her.
"'Course not. We have Wolfpack Castle all to ourselves. Right, Xellos?"
Xellos nodded fervently. "That's right! And..." he added tactfully, "Zelas had a rather impressive library you might be interested in," he smirked.
Zelgaddis clenched his fists harder. The ex-Mazoku had a point... Zel couldn't pass up a library if it had the possibility of containing a spell for his cure. He wasn't going to find it by refusing to search. With an expression of irritation and a sigh, he turned around and followed the others to the castle.
* * * * *
The small lighting spell shone through the insides of the castle, throwing random shadows to play over the walls. After dancing their way down a corridor, they lit and stayed on a pile of fallen and crumbled stones.
"Well, that's as far as it goes, then. Looks like the whole tower came down right here," Lina toed the rubble, trying to find a way through it. "I wonder if I could just Dragon Slave the whole thing..."
The rest of the group showed various expressions of shock and fright.
"Lina, are you nuts? You'll bring the whole place down on top of us!" Gourry yelped.
The sorceress gave him a deadpan look. "It's okay, Gourry, I'm not that stupid."
"Sometimes it just seems that way-ouch!" The swordsman ducked and rubbed the lump on his head, caused by Lina's fist.
"Anyway, no treasure down here. I was hoping to get to the throne room... there must've been some valuable stuff in there before you guys trashed it," Lina complained bitterly at Xellos and Mayaki.
A large yawn came from the group's smallest member. "Miss Lina, do we really have to look for treasure right now? I'm really tired..."
"She's got a point, Lina," Zelgaddis backed her up. "It's not as if it's going anywhere, especially since we're the only people on this godforsaken island."
The little redhead considered this. "Okay, whatever. Tomorrow's just as good, and come to think of it, I could stand a little shuteye. Xellos, bedrooms!" she said with sudden enthusiasm.
Normally she would have expected a smart-aleck remark like "At your service, Lina," or "You certainly could use the beauty-sleep," but none came. The self-called 'mysterious priest' was mysteriously silent, about the only time she had known him to be so without obviously hiding something. He waved a hand casually for everyone to follow him, and simply led them back down the hallway without so much as a word.
After some backtracking and a few more twists and turns, Xellos finally stopped beside an intricately-if gruesomely-carved door, adorned with heads, bodies, claws and tails of creatures too hideous to even carry a name. "Zelgaddis," the priest said shortly, "this is your stop."
The chimaera glared at him. "And why is that?"
The former Mazoku turned and grinned at him. "That is..."
"Xellos!" Lina snapped at him. He held up his hands in defense, trying to calm her down.
"Easy, Lina! That wasn't at all what I was going to say!" I was just going to tell Zel that this is the library."
Lina's angered expression dropped into one of shock instead. There was no trace of humor in his voice, no indication that he was covering anything up as there had been so many times before. He gazed seriously into her eyes, the violet of his own now seeming to have more depth than she'd ever seen in him. Now they truly had a soul reflected behind them, and it was clear to Lina that they carried a deep-down haunted look. She felt sorry for him.
"Now.." he continued, turning away from her searching eyes, "If everyone would follow me, the bed chambers shouldn't be too much farther." He stalked off down the corridor, refusing to meet anyone else's eyes. The rest followed him in silence, except for Zel, who lingered behind. Mayaki and Amelia exchanged a puzzled glance as they walked, following Lina and her spell light. Behind them, Alemo and Gourry did the same, the half-wyvern answering the swordsman's unspoken question with a shrug, shaking his head. None of them could determine the reason for their friend's sudden change in personality.
Zel paused, laying a stone hand against the ancient wood of the library door. *It could be in there...* he thought forlornly. If it was, it wasn't going anywhere until morning. He could wait at least that long, he told himself, though the words weren't nearly as convincing to himself as they had been to Lina. He tried telling himself that he needed the sleep. His thoughts lingered on the hope for his cure. If it wasn't in this library, he would just have to look someplace else for it. His quest to restore his body had been long and tiresome, looking for a cure that might never have existed.
He watched Alemo catch up to Amelia and set a hand on her shoulder. Zel averted his eyes so he wouldn't have to watch her enjoy the presence of a flesh and blood man. He cheerful giggle sang in his pointed ears.
He was getting so tired of searching.
"Damn you, Rezo," he muttered under his breath. Somehow, cursing the one who had cursed him helped, just a little. The problem was still there, of course, but having one person to direct his hate toward alleviated some of the pain he carried.
Leaving the door and trying to concentrate on other things, he bitterly followed the others as they disappeared around a corner.
* * * * *
"Wow... I'll give Zelas one thing... she went all out for extravagance," Lina commented, examining the luxurious bedroom with its enormous canopied bed, thick rugs, and exquisitely carved and finished mirrors and wardrobe.
Xellos gave a little chuckle. "Well, if you were powerful enough to create something like this on a whim, wouldn't you?"
"Can I have this one?" Amelia asked, checking the next room. Unlike the previous one, which had a rather dark mahogany and blood-red color scheme, this room had been done in whites, pinks, and lavenders. The only dark contrast was provided by Amelia's black hair and blue eyes as she skipped into the room, spinning around to take it all in. "It's so pretty! I thought monsters weren't supposed to like pretty things," she queried at Xellos with a curious look. He blushed and scuffed a foot on the hall carpeting.
"Zelas was having an off-day when she made that one," he muttered, embarrassed for his former Lord. Amelia was completely unaware of his bashfulness, and continued to dance around the room. She looked as thought she could break into song at any instant. The odd room fit her perfectly.
Mayaki checked the next room down. It was painted all in black, the carpeting was black, the furniture had been varnished so heavily that it might as well have been black. Even the linens on the bed had been dyed black as night. Mayaki got dizzy looking into it for too long. It made her feel like she was falling into a black hole. "Wow. How Gothic. Depressing." She shut the door and moved on to the next, furnished in dark blues and greens. "This'll do," she grinned as the boys and Lina chose their accommodations across the hall.
"Good night, everyone!" Lina called with a wave.
"Good night! Sleep well!" Amelia echoed, the others giving similar responses as they closed their doors and turned in for the night. Mayaki closed her door to just a crack, peering out at Xellos, who remained in the hallway alone. As she watched, he sighed deeply and sat against the wall, his back sliding down until he was on the floor. His purple hair fell over his eyes as he hung his head.
When he didn't move for several minutes, Mayaki swung the door open and padded silently over to him, sitting on his right side. He barely acknowledged her presence at first, barely tilting his head to catch sight of her out of the corner of his eye, but then he sat up. "Aren't you going to sleep?" he asked quietly, trying his best to sound cheerful. She picked up on the sadness in his voice.
"Aren't you?" she countered. "Besides, who can sleep a wink with a gorgeous guy like you sitting outside my door moping?"
He chuckled sullenly. "Yeah, well. Don't let me keep you up. You should get to bed... you need your rest..."
Mayaki snorted. "So do you. Come on Xellos... won't you tell me what's wrong?"
The priest gave a little laugh. "What's wrong? My life-my whole entire existence. I've never done anything but damage. Ryuzoku, humans, other Mazoku; men, women, children... I took away their lives."
"You were under Zelas's control."
"Yes. But I went with her willingly. At a vulnerable moment, her words seemed so appealing... the offer of eternal life and limitless power..." He shook his head mournfully. "The things I did for that monster! Thousands of innocent people..." He stopped abruptly as another thought struck him. "I murdered the woman I loved," he almost whispered, voice deserting him. His eyes held astonishment, as if he had just now realized the events in his swiss-cheesed memory. "I murdered Aryssa because SHE told me to!" he almost shouted, but as sorrow replaced anger, his voice calmed back down to a normal speaking tone. "I could have walked away then. I could have refused Zelas, and Aryssa would have lived."
Mayaki patted his knee consolingly. "Don't worry about the past," she told him. "There isn't anything you or I or anyone can do to change it. And you're not her slave anymore. It's all over now. It was only a bad dream."
"A bad dream that lasted for a thousand years, and turns out that's reality. I really do have all of those innocent people's blood on my conscience, and for most of them, there is nothing I can do to atone. It's a burden my soul will have to bear for the rest of my days." He met her tearful eyes. "I almost let it happen to you, too."
"But you didn't," she reminded him. The air was thick with silence between them for a moment before Mayaki asked, "Why didn't you kill me? I mean, why Aryssa, and not me? What made you turn on Zelas?"
"I..." he began after a few moments of thought, "I don't know. Aryssa's soul was dark-I told you that before, that's what drew me to her in the first place-but yours, even when you were almost fully Mazoku, there was still some sort of spark in you... something that was still human and alive and... I don't know... good, I guess. Pure." He paused, realizing, then chuckled. "You may have been almost wholly Mazoku, but you still love with the heart of a human." He accented the word 'human' as if it was something very special and important. Mayaki gazed at him with an unspoken question on her lips as he laced his fingers through hers. The tricksterish gleam she was used to returned to his eyes. "Never did get to thank you for saving my life out there," he smirked at her, then gave her a deep kiss on the lips before she could do anything to react.
She grinned blissfully as he parted from her. "You're welcome," she managed, smirking right back at him.
He gave her an ear-to-ear smile in return and rose, helping her to her feet afterward. "We'd both of us better get some sleep or Lina will be on our case in the morning about not letting her get any rest, talking all night," he winked.
Mayaki giggled a little. "Yeah. Good night, Xellos." She waved, turning toward her room. He did similarly, not taking his eyes off her.
"...and Mayaki?" he stopped her as she was about to close her door.
"Hm?" she said dreamily, looking back at him.
Xellos looked slightly embarrassed, twiddling his fingers and nervously looking down at his feet for a second. The words were there, he wanted to make them come out, but for some reason, they were just stuck. He sighed and shook his head at himself. The words had an unfamiliar taste and feel to them... something he hadn't been able to say for a millennium. Still, he wasn't going to let that stop him. "I love you, too." A hint of a blush colored his cheeks.
Mayaki felt lightheaded as a smile lit up her face. "I know," she whispered, disappearing behind the door to her room.
Xellos continued staring at her door long after she had closed it, just in case she came out again, but after a while his eyelids began feeling heavy and he held up a fist to block a yawn. He blinked, surprised at himself. "This is going to take a little getting used to," he muttered to no one and closed his door as well.
Lina had very little sympathy for those recovering from some supposed trauma.
Mayaki found this out firsthand that morning. "Hey Mayaki! Get up! Hurry!"
Shaken thoroughly by her shoulder, Mayaki's eyes snapped open and she sat up quickly. "What is it? What's going on? Is something wrong?" Her mind kicked into panic gear.
"Yeah, something's wrong-I'm starving! Get up and fix us some breakfast!"
Mayaki groaned in realization and collapsed back into her pillow. "Ungh... Lina..."
"Come on, come on! We came all this way to rescue you, ya know, and the least you could do would be to fix us a meal!"
"All right, all right, I'm up..." she protested, sitting up in bed with a yawn. Lina pitched her dress at her and she quickly pulled it on over the white tunic undergarment she'd worn to bed. She'd no sooner gotten her clothes on than Lina practically shoved her out the door and down the hallway. Once they got there, Lina stopped, looking curiously down both ways of the passage. Then she grabbed Mayaki by the wrist and hauled her toward Xellos's room. Mayaki didn't even have a chance to protest as she was dragged along on her heels.
"Hey, Xellos!" Lina thundered, kicking his door open.
"Oh, Lina, leave him be... he hasn't slept at all in a thousand years..." Mayaki pleaded.
Lina smirked. "Then one more day isn't going to hurt him!" she reasoned. "Wake up, Xellos!" she shouted in his ear. The priest flinched and woke up, looking disoriented. "Where's the kitchen?" Lina demanded.
Xellos blinked at her, trying to get his bearings. "Ah," he finally said. "There isn't one."
"There isn't a kitchen?!" Mayaki screeched.
The man shrugged helplessly. "Zelas never had any use for one. Mazoku don't need food. And if she wanted to throw a banquet, she would just conjure the food up out of thin air."
The girls both wilted, twin expressions of disappointment etched on their faces.
"N-no kitchen?" Mayaki stammered.
"N-no food?" Lina echoed.
Mayaki, nevertheless, straightened herself up immediately. "Not a problem. Lina, what's left in the provision sack?"
The sorceress tapped a finger on her chin. "I...think there might be a few eggs left..." she said at long last.
Mayaki continued to stare at her to see if she would remember anything else. After a moment of complete silence, she prompted, "And?"
Lina turned her hands up helplessly. "That's it, I think."
Mayaki's fists balled up as she fought to hold her temper. "Didn't you think to pack any more?" she growled through clenched teeth.
"Well, we did! But Gourry and Amelia and I..."
"You ate it all, didn't you?"
"Except for the eggs," Lina added helpfully. "We didn't feel like making a fire to fix them."
Mayaki gasped in exasperation. "You are all such bottomless pits! I swear! Do you even taste your food before you swallow it?!"
"Mayaki," said the other girl patiently.
"Temper," Lina winked.
The wyvern girl blinked. "Oh. Sorry," she said, getting herself back under control. "Right. Anyway, I'll be going to fix that breakfast now."
"Out of what? We just established that we have NO FOOD!" Lina groaned at her.
Mayaki narrowed her eyes at the sorceress slyly. "Give me some credit for being resourceful, Lina." With that she stepped out into the hall, shutting the door behind her.
Xellos and Lina blinked at one another. Lina shrugged. "Whatever."
"You know, now that you mention it, I'm really famished," Xellos commented.
"No kidding," said Lina halfheartedly, also exiting the room.
* * * * *
Mayaki tripped merrily along the passageway, then turned to make sure Lina wasn't following her. She giggled evilly to herself. Oh, the trick she had in mind for Lina!
She checked the contents of the provision sack. True to her word, Lina had left nothing in the gunny sack except a wilty lettuce leaf and four eggs. Mayaki snorted. "Four eggs to feed seven people... Eating all the provisions, really!" Sorcery genius or not, she thought to herself, that girl sometimes just had no regard for other people! Mayaki looked around at the junction of hallways and finally remembered that the central courtyard was to the left, and headed that direction.
Checking a few doors, she found one that led out into the bright morning sunshine. Hopping eagerly down the steps, she began gathering up sticks to make a fire. If she timed it right, she would be back just in time to catch the best coals. With the fire started with an ample supply of wood to burn through, Mayaki shifted forms and disappeared into the Astral plane.
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. ;)