a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 28: Next Time, I'll Take the Bus
"He's gone," Zel growled flatly.
Mayaki turned away from the door she had been knocking at. The room had previously been occupied by Alemo, before his (quite literal) flight from the castle. "What?" she said, not fully comprehending.
"He's trying to beat us to Elric. Right now he's probably got a good four-hour head start on us."
Mayaki gawped and shook her head in denial. "No. I don't believe you. My brother wouldn't do that to us."
Zel's eyes never left hers. The rest of the group stared on tensely. "Open the door. See if you believe me then," he told her, giving her the uneasy feeling that he was right. He hesitated for a moment, then swung the door open. After peering inside for roughly three seconds, she slammed it again.
"It... can't be..."
"But.. why would he leave before us?" Amelia queried, looking for all like the world had just caved in on her entire value system. "Doesn't Mister Alemo even care if you could both get to be human again?"
The chimaera snorted. "Apparently not. All he cares about is making sure Elric dies at his hands."
The diminutive princess applied some deep thought to this. "That's not very just," she decided.
"Hush, Amelia." Lina stopped her before she got any further. "So Alemo's off to the Darisalito Mountains without us. And he's got a good lead too. But," she added optimistically, "Chances are he doesn't know where the Darisalito Mountains are!"
"But we do, right Lina?" Gourry cheered, backing her up. The petite girl wilted. The mercenary looked down at her. "Lina?"
"You have no idea where we're going, do you?" Xellos prodded.
"Very perceptive, Xellos."
"We'd better get a move on, then. If Lina doesn't know where it is, it's going to take a lot of searching to find it." The sorceress blushed at Zelgaddis's unexpected compliment. He nodded at her with a grin, the turned his attention to the wyvern girl. "Mayaki, it's up to you to get us back to the mainland."
She nodded once in assent. "No problem. I can take us through the Astral Plane. WE might even gain some time on Alemo that way."
"Except," Xellos volunteered, "that any strange energy on the Astral Plane will attract Mazoku."
Mayaki gave him an odd glance. "It didn't before..."
"You were mostly Mazoku the last time you traveled that far, and you didn't have human passengers," he pointed out, holding an extended finger under her nose. "If we take the Astral Plane, we'd better hope it's a short trip."
"Why's that?" Amelia piped. Xellos fixed his eyes firmly on her.
"Because they'll think we're food."
"Llllch!" the princess grimaced, eyes wide open with fear.
Mayaki crossed her arms and thought. "Can't dilly-dally, then. I'll have to make this trip as fast as possible."
"Right,"" Lina said sharply, taking control. "Mayaki, if you can carry three of us... can you?"
"I think so... yes..."
Mayaki nodded, half-sneering at the returning thought of her half-brother. "Got it. Zel, Gourry, get on." Green mist swirled around her form as it changed from human to wyvern.
"Right now?" Gourry looked stunned.
Lina began pounding on him. "No, Gourry, tomorrow! NOW! We don't have time to mess around here!"
"All right, all right! I get it! I get it!" he yelped, trying to fend off her blows. Obediently he straddled Mayaki's back as Zelgaddis climbed on in back of him.
"Skraa?" she grated, turning her head back to look at them.
"We're good," Zel confirmed, reading her expression more than understanding the wyvern language.
Without a response, she turned her eyes forward and pelted down the hallway, gaining speed for takeoff. She showed no sign of slowing or turning away from the wall that was quickly rushing up to greet them.
"Are you crazy?!" Gourry hollered. He was immediately followed by Zel's warning shout of "Mayaki!" A half-second before impact, the three of them simultaneously phased out.
Amelia and Lina let out the breaths they weren't aware they had been holding. Xellos gave them an encouraging smile. "You get used to it," he said cheerily.
* * * * *
Both Zel and Gourry flinched as they passed straight through the stone wall as if it had been slightly thick air. The tiny piece of land between the castle and shore blurred by as if it had never been under their feet at all. Mayaki extended her wings, gliding to a slightly more advantageous altitude. Sky and clouds zinged past overhead, as did the vast expanse of ocean below them. Gourry tightened his grip on Mayaki's shoulder blades, making her wince, but she kept steadily on course. He clenched his eyes shut, whimpering so lowly that, had there been any sound at all in the Astral Plane, no one would have heard him. Zel rolled his eyes at how childish the swordsman was being, even though the experience was giving him vertigo as well.
He didn't like this half-dimension-*...more like a demention,* he thought. The color was all wrong. The light slanted and bent in odd ways here; there was wind, but it made no sound as it rushed past his sharp ears. And there was something else about it that he couldn't quite pin down. Whatever it was, it set his teeth on edge. He could only guess at what Gourry was going through, with his highly developed instincts. "Are we almost there, Mayaki?" he couldn't help asking.
"Kraaa," she answered, continuing to speed over the Demon Sea without facing him. He couldn't tell if that was a yes or a no.
Another minute was all he had to wait. The shoreline approached, then shot past them. A wall of air seemed to slam into them as they re-entered the earth-plane. Mayaki scooped the air with her wings, stabilizing herself and circling down for a landing. It wasn't her best, jarring to a running stop and letting her passengers slip off backward. She shrilled what might have been a quick apology and disappeared again.
* * * * *
Not four minutes has passed when the wyvern snapped into existence in the hallway again. "Wow, that was quick!" Lina commented as she climbed on Mayaki's neck ahead of Amelia.
"No time for chit-chat, Mayaki, go!" Xellos ordered as soon as he secured himself on her back. Hardly straining at all, she repeated her suicide run down the empty hall, once again vanishing to the Astral plane before impact.
"So this is what the Astral Plane is like," Lina mused. "Hmm.. pretty boring, if you ask me," she shrugged, not terribly impressed by the odd light or lack of matter.
Amelia turned her head to look behind them, curious to find out how far they had already gone, but what greeted her vision instead made her flinch. "Aaaa! There's something following us!" she called nervously.
"What?!" The sorceress twisted around to confirm the sight for herself. Xellos did likewise.
"Oh, great..." he groaned to himself. "Better step on it, Mayaki!"
"Eaakaakkaakk..." her reply carried back. If her speed increased at all, the change was imperceptible to her passengers. Nonetheless, the continental shore appeared on the horizon, growing by the second as the ocean flew underneath them.
Amelia checked behind them again, eyes getting as wide as dinner plates as she reported back, "It's getting closer! It's gaining on us!" Sure enough, the creature, bobbing its snakelike head and neck, swam through the nothingness of the empty plane at an alarming speed, and on a direct course to intercept the half-wyvern and her passengers. The shore floated distantly ahead of them, taunting in its nearness, but not near enough...
Xellos turned his head enough to catch the approaching monster in his peripheral vision. It was much, much too close. "Mayaki, drop out! Now!" She bobbed her head and did as she was told, closing her eyes against the sudden burst of air that hit her as soon as she phased out of the Astral Plane. They were still above the water, but not far from shore. The more resistant air slowed her flight considerably. She could see her two previous passengers, a mile or so from the beach. Beating her slender wings as fast as she could manage, she all but willed herself forward to them, descending as low as she dared. Her wings ached. She strained to stay airborne, exhaustion pressing down on her like a lead weight. Over the sand, over solid ground. Finally.
She managed to backwing a few times before outright dropping onto the sand a few feet below. Lina, Amelia, and Xellos toppled off during the awkward, exhausted landing with startled squawks. Gourry and Zelgaddis, still a distance off, ran to meet them. They skidded to a stop on their heels as a man-or what looked like a man-appeared, floating over them.
"Aww," it said in a playfully disappointed tone. "Aren't you going to run anymore?" Mayaki's eyes widened slightly at the dark voice. She flopped her wings ineffectually, too burnt out to do more, and only managed to push her snout into the sand when she attempted to regain her feet. Her strength gone, she simply fell on her belly with a grunt, panting, trying to regain the strength to flee.
A pair of legs walked up beside her, and their owner stroked her neck soothingly. "It's all right... just rest. I'll handle this." Her eyes sprung open at this, heavy through they were, and the closest one followed Xellos's every movement until he move out of her field of vision. Her heavy breathing prevented her from saying anything to stop him, not that it would have made a shred of sense to him. Her heart and thoughts, though, begged him not to move, not to go. "I'll be fine," he said from behind her. She was certain he was waving in that callous way of his, too. "Trust me." She would have watched him, if she'd had the strength to turn her head; as it was, all she could do was listen and hope for the best. Her exhausted stomach flip-flopped. *..going to vomit..* she thought.
* * * * *
The Mazoku executed a graceful backflip as he floated down to the shore, letting the waves splash against his boots. "Well, what have we here?" An exhausted wyvern and a handful of humans. How interesting."
"Who are you and what do you want?" Gourry demanded, keeping the Sword of Light at the ready.
The visitor turned his nose skyward with a slight chortle. "Who I am is really of no consequence to you. As to what I want... well, your living essences will do nicely for a start..."
"Hello, Tamric... I wish I could say it's nice to see you again," the approaching priest greeted, less than cordially. The man-monster snapped to attention. "Beastmaster Xellos!"
"Glad to see you remember me," the priest-general nodded.
Tamric, after his initial reaction, dropped his posture and regarded Xellos coolly. "Word has it that Greater Beast Zelas has been destroyed. How can you still be alive?"
"Quite simple, really. Master Zelas and I had... a falling out, just before her death."
"You left her service? After all the power she endowed you with? How could you be such a fool? It's really not like you at all."
"It wasn't quite like that... it was more like... oh, how do the humans explain it... I was laid off."
The monster nodded. "Is that so?" he pondered. "You've lost your staff as well, I see."
"Destroyed, I'm afraid." He didn't lie; he did regret the loss of the weapon, in a rosy-hued reminiscence, especially in this situation, when he could have used it...
Tamric shifted his gaze. "Why, I wonder, Beastmaster, why would you do something so completely incipient?" Xellos scowled slightly at him. "What master are you serving now?"
"No master but myself, dear Tamric," Xellos smirked, making the 'dear' sound like a personal insult.
The Mazoku wasn't in a playing mood anymore. "Do you take me for an idiot?" he snapped.
Xellos, despite the instinctive desire to flee, stood his ground and grinned. It was a grin he had mastered over his thousand years as a Mazoku, a grin that could catch any enemy off-guard. Something in is made Tamric flinch. That grin was a well-sharpened weapon when it came down to it. "Well, since you asked..."
"Enough!" The man-thing drew his arm across his chest, unleashing a fierce wind, strong enough to knock everyone off their feet. Xellos was thrown to one knee. He raised an arm to his face, warding off stinging particles of sand.
Tamric hadn't practiced a hearty grin for centuries as Xellos had, but the smile his face barely contained was nothing to be ashamed of in comparison. "Ahh, I understand now. You've lost your powers. I must say, all that bluffing does you credit, Xellos, but you'll never have a chance to do any more of it." He smirked at his easy triumph.
Then he balked.
Xellos grinned calmly and evenly as he rose back to his feet. "Tamric, you've always been a fool. You think I've lost all my power? Perhaps, perhaps I have. But I am still more powerful than you. Or do you need a demonstration of the power I have?"
The rest of the group (except for Mayaki, who had passed out from fright and exhaustion) clustered together uneasily.
"Is he bluffing" Lina whispered.
"If it's a bluff, it's a good one," Zel whispered in reply.
Gourry nodded in amazed agreement. "But.. didn't Xellos tell us he lost all his power?"
Lina's brow furrowed in either irritation or thought, possibly both. "I wouldn't put anything past Xellos," she said, "especially when it comes to guarding a secret from us."
"From anyone," Amelia added.
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. ;)