a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 25: Get Serious!
"Mister Zelgaddis?" Amelia said quietly, opening the library door barely enough to stick her head through. She didn't like this library at all. It was dark and creepy, and the strange creatures carved on the door certainly didn't ease her mind any. "Mister Zelgaddis?" she called again, daring to come all the way through the door this time, nervous though she was.
"Hm?" Zel's voice drifted back. "Oh, over here, Amelia." She looked the direction the voice had come from and followed the dim light of his lantern through the high, wide bookshelves. There she found him, sitting cross-legged and skimming through the pages of a book. He finished looking at it and flipped the cover shut, looking up at her with a grin. "Guess I'll have to keep this one, too," he told her, adding the tome to an already massive pile. "They're all so valuable, I can't bring myself to leave them here."
"Hm," she nodded. "Miss Mayaki said that breakfast is almost ready and to 'please pry you away from whatever you were working on so you don't starve,' " she recited dutifully.
Zel chuckled. Mayaki couldn't have predicted him more accurately. "What time is it?"
Amelia shrugged. "About nine o'clock, I guess. How long have you been in here?"
"Sometime before dawn," he answered without looking, selecting another book from the shelves. His dreams had been full of Rezo the Red Priest and his transformation into a chimaera, and the possibility that the cure was so dauntingly close. He hadn't slept more than a couple of hours, truthfully, but he wasn't tired. There were still rows and rows of books to check. He scanned the volume's contents, then replaced it on the shelf and looked back to Amelia. "Go on and eat without me, Amelia. I'll stop by the dining room later to see what's left."
"Are you sure, Mister Zelgaddis?" she double checked with wide eyes.
He nodded absently. "I'm really not that hungry."
The little justice crusader nodded. "Me either." She picked up a book and sat down, leafing through it, wondering what a cure spell would consist of. Just then her stomach decided to turn traitor and grumbled loud enough to shake the room. A few books toppled from their places and dust filtered down from the higher cases. Amelia winced. "Stupid stomach!" she berated it.
Zelgaddis chuckled inwardly and grinned at the princess. "On second thought, Amelia, I am feeling a bit peckish. Shall we go see what Mayaki's cooked up?"
Amelia nodded gratefully and accepted the hand he offered to help her up.
* * * * *
"Wow, Mayaki, it smells delicious, whatever it is!" Lina drooled.
"I never knew eggs could smell that good!" Gourry added.
Mayaki snickered at him. "That's because it's not just eggs!" She swung a plate mounded with steak, eggs, and white gravy in front of him, then in front of Lina, Alemo, and Xellos as well. "The eggs might be a little light... I had to beat a lot of air into them in order to stretch them a little..." she explained embarrassedly as Zel and Amelia arrived and joined the others at the enormous dining table.
The steaks had been butterfly-cut in order to cook faster, but Mayaki had seasoned them with her usual painstaking style and had made the drippings into the most wonderful gravy imaginable. Even the salt-and-peppered scrambled eggs looked as though they had been prepared for a gourmet meal. Of course, none of the travelers took in any of this as they began inhaling their food. Mayaki sat casually across from her half brother and began cutting her steak delicately and precisely.
As they ate in a full-mouthed silence, a thought occurred to Lina. "Hey, Mayaki," she mumbled through her food, "where'd you get the meat from? I thought we were all out."
Mayaki's Mazoku side cackled to itself. "Do you like it?" she asked hopefully, masking her amusement.
Lina swallowed hastily. "Yeah, but where'd it come from?" By now, she had the attention of the rest of the table. They were all chewing a bit slower now. Mere curiosity was no match for delicious food.
The cook sounded slightly irritated as she answered, "If you like it, then eat it. It doesn't matter where it came from."
"It matters to me!" Lina snarled, trying to stare Mayaki down.
Gourry raised his fork slightly. "And me."
"And me!" Amelia and Xellos chorused. Alemo tried to hide a grin, but no one noticed except Mayaki. Zelgaddis simply looked aghast and tried not to focus on the topic at hand.
Mayaki simply straightened her back, cleared her throat, and averted her eyes, carefully spearing a bit of steak with her fork.
"Mayaki, tell us!" the sorceress demanded, standing up and leaning on the table. Curiosity laced with dread really was enough to make everyone stop eating by now. The girl simply kept on eating her meal without saying a word, though when a wolf howled from somewhere outside, she cocked her ear at it with a strange little grin.
"Wolf?" Zelgaddis queried with some obvious disgust. "We're eating wolf?"
Mayaki didn't respond, closing her eyes and eating another bite of steak.
Lina clapped her hands over her mouth suddenly to hold back a gag and dashed from the room. Amelia and Gourry left right on her heels wearing similar expressions.
Xellos and Zelgaddis continued to stare at her quizzically.
"You fed us wolf meat?" Xellos accused. "My first breakfast as a human again and you feed us wolf meat?!"
Mayaki burst into giggles. Alemo let out a belly laugh that shook the room. Zelgaddis eyed them suspiciously. "Is this a wyvern thing, or would you two care to let the rest of us in on the joke?"
Alemo stopped guffawing long enough to answer him. "It's not wolf."
"Not wolf?" Zel echoed, still suspicious.
"Plain old regular beef, in fact," Mayaki added with a coy smile.
Zel glared at her. "Beef?" he said flatly. "Mayaki..."
"I made a little trip to the mainland this morning, since Lina and the other two ate us out of food. I figured they needed to learn their lesson." The girl grinned secretively.
Xellos inspected his plate skeptically. "So... how do we really know this isn't wolf steak we're enjoying?"
Mayaki put her hands on her hips, mouth open indignantly. "Don't you trust me?"
Alemo explained for her between bites. "It's not. I've had wolf before and it's much coarser meat. Plus, with the conditions of the wolves on this island, I daresay their meat would be near impossible to chew." He turned to his half-sister. With a smirk. "Mayaki, you little trickster!"
Xellos offered a chuckle. "Lina's not going to be happy with you when she finds out, you know," he grinned.
Zelgaddis merely shook his head at them all as he finished breakfasting. "I'm going back to the library. If I hear a loud boom, I'll know Lina found out." He gave Mayaki a crooked smile as he passed her. "Try to stay out of trouble..."
* * * * *
"I can't believe she would do that to us! Oh, is she ever in for it! I'm not letting her get away with this. Mayaki's gonna PAY!" Lina continued the rant she had started nearly an hour earlier, when Alemo had casually passed the word to the livid victims of Mayaki's wolf-meat joke. Lina, naturally, was mollified to find out she'd been suckered by a cook.
But, instead of going after Mayaki herself, Lina contented herself to complain and issue threats to Amelia and Gourry as she explored and more or less looted the castle. "I mean, what was she thinking? Making us think we were eating wolf, ugh! The jerk! Ooh, hey, jewels!" The sorceress's demeanor immediately changed as the gems caught her attention. She pulled the desk drawer out completely and dumped it into her sack of previously collected booty. Then she carefully replaced the drawer and slid it into place.
"Why bother putting it back?" Gourry asked over her shoulder. She handed him the bag to carry for her.
It's fine furniture, Gourry. You don't just pull a drawer out and leave it!"
"Yeah, but...it's not like anyone would care. There's nobody here, except ghosts maybe."
"Ghosts?" Amelia squeaked.
Lina shook her head slowly, sighing. "Amelia, he's just being stupid. If there were ghosts here, I'm sure they would have showed up last night."
The horror never left Amelia's eyes. "What if they're just waiting, to reassure us?"
"Those would be some pretty smart ghosts," Gourry stated, holding out the bag for Lina to dump another batch of knickknacks into it.
"Come on, guys... why would there be ghosts HERE? Nobody's ever been here except wolves and Mazoku," Lina scolded.
Amelia looked no better for the reassurance. "You don't know that for sure, Miss Lina! Who knows what went to in this creepy castle?"
Something in Gourry's mind clicked together. "Maybe they're ghost wolves!" He seemed proud of his assessment.
"Aaaaa! Miss Lina!" The timid little princess clung to the redhead, blocking her windpipe.
"Amelia, get a grip!" Lina choked out, trying to detach her.
"I'm scared! This place is spooky!"
"Amelia!" the sorceress squawked, managing to disengage the smaller girl with much struggling. Amelia had no intention of going anywhere, dropping to her knees and grabbing Lina around the waist. "Please, Miss Lina! I want to get out of here!"
Lina rolled her eyes skyward, sighing. "Come on, Gourry, let's see what else we can find around here," she told the swordsman and started down the hall, dragging Amelia along behind her.
* * * * *
She paused, assessing the chest of drawers before her. "It really is a shame we can't take any of this great stuff back with us. It would sure turn a nice coin on the open market!"
Gourry meanwhile fiddled with a vase of pussy willows. "Well, why can't we?" he asked absently.
"Gourry! Idiot! We're on an island in the middle of the Demon Sea, the most treacherous body of water in the whole world, with no boat!"
Amelia piped up from the vanity, where she was sorting through a drawer of assorted baubles, trying on every other thing she came across. "You could always ask Miss Mayaki and Mister Alemo to take something back for you," she suggested. "Do these look like real pearls to you?"
Lina didn't even bother looking. "Why would Zelas make fake pearls when she could make real ones?"
"Anyway, Mayaki isn't exactly a pack horse, and even if Alemo did the carrying for us, once we get it back to the continent, we wouldn't have a place to put it," Lina sighed, her tone becoming more depressed by the instant. "Oh, why? Why me? This stuff could be worth so much if we only had a place to store it until we could sell it off..." she whined.
Amelia nearly fell over. "Miss Lina! Don't you ever think about anything besides money?!"
"Sure," she answered cheerfully. "Food!" Amelia groaned and fell forward over the vanity, banging her head on it and not particularly caring.
Meanwhile Lina paused for a moment with her chin in her hand. She kept her eyes pinned thoughtfully on Amelia. The diminutive princess looked up and began to balk under the sorceress's stare. "Hey, Amelia..."
"Before you even ask, Miss Lina, the answer is no! You're not going to fill Daddy's castle up with all this stuff!"
"Oh, come on, Amelia! There's no such thing as too much expensive furniture!" She waved her arms at the room around her. Zelas, obviously, had agreed with that point.
Amelia steadfastly crossed her arms. "Easy for you to say when you're not the one banging your shins on it! Besides, you're way too greedy!" she paused, the hanging silence begging just a little more from her as a conclusion. "Plus, Daddy would be mad at me." She scuffed her foot on the carpet.
Lina drooped a little. "Yeah, I guess we kind of have put upon Phil pretty often. We should probably give the guy a break," she thought aloud. "But still, I hate to see all this great stuff go to waste, and we need someplace big to put it."
"Like a barn, maybe?" Amelia suggested, relieved that the pressure was off her.
"No... not a barn. It might be big enough, but if the roof leaks..." She visualized several pieces of furniture in said leaky barn, slowly decomposing from the water damage. "Not to mention the number of mice and spiders that will get into the mattresses! No, they have to be in a house." She wilted slightly. "Problem is where can we store it all until we find a buyer? I could leave a few things with Mom and Pop and Luna, but they don't have room for all that much to begin with, and even if I did give them some to hold onto, chances are they'd want to keep them for themselves." The sorceress paused thoughtfully. It had been a while since she had run up against a quandary this puzzling... or this potentially profitable. She glanced at Amelia again in hope of gaining her sympathy, but was only met with a fierce, royally-adamant glare. Not to be defeated, Lina wrinkled her brow up, deep in thought. "A commoner like me or Gourry wouldn't have enough space to store stuff. BUT, someone with a more privileged upbringing...someone who can afford to have minions dispatched to find the Philosopher's Stone for him, someone who studied under Rezo the Red Priest...." She trailed off, her indication quite clear.
"But Lina... where are you going to find someone like that?" Gourry inquired from the sofa where he sat, bored.
Both Lina and Amelia all but fell over. "Mister Gourry!" Amelia chided condescendingly.
Gourry blinked at them innocently. "What?"
Lina explained impatiently. "I'm talking about Zelgaddis, Gourry. You do remember who he is, right?"
"Ohhhh... so, Zelgaddis has onions?"
The sorceress sighed deeply. "Why do I bother? Zel has servants, Gourry."
Another blank look from the mercenary. "He does?"
"Yes, Gourry! Do you remember Zolf and Rodimus?" Lina looked over her companion's face. "No, of course you don't. Nevermind. Let's go find Zel and ask him if we can store stuff at his place."
Amelia hopped up from her chair, gathering the jewelry she'd found into her belt-pouch. "Mister Zelgaddis isn't going to like the idea of this, Miss Lina..."
Lina chuckled in response. "He doesn't have to like it, he just has to go along with it."
The justice-loving princess stared skeptically as she followed. "You don't honestly think that when you ask him to let you fill his house up with furniture that he's going to say yes, do you?"
Giggling, Lina waved a hand at her. "Of course not! That's why you're going to ask him."
"You heard me! Now get a move on, or I'll start sending stuff to your place."
Amelia pouted. "You sure know how to coerce people, Miss Lina," she mumbled as she exited the room, Gourry trailing along faithfully behind the two girls.
* * * * *
Zelgaddis picked up another book and leafed through its contents, sighing before replacing it on its shelf. Searching Zelas's extensive library was becoming more than slightly tedious. "Can I really expect to find it here at all?" he wondered silently.
Not bothering to try answering the question, he moved on to the next book, barely glancing at the title. It didn't sink in until he began skimming its text, at which point he half-closed the book to really read the title: Origin of the Wyvern Race. His jaw slacked open as he concentrated on the words, turning page after page. He took in the tales of the wyverns' early days, when they were on a level equal to the Ryuzoku-the Dragon Race. It was wholly reminiscent of Mayaki's tale; even the wording she had used when telling her story seemed familiar. Zel thought he even remembered a few of the phases she had used word for word. Had she read this book before? Surely not... a rare tome like this wouldn't be available to just anyone. Mayaki had certainly not mentioned anything about researching her roots... but perhaps Talia...
For the second time, the chimaera closed the book, keeping his place with one finger while he checked the title pages for an author-and gasped in shock. "Mayaki!" he shouted, stumbling over his own two feet in his rush for the door. "Mayaki! Alemo!"
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. ;)