Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Detour ❯ Chapter Ten ( Chapter 10 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

by Rose Thorne
Disclaimer: Slayers is owned by a bunch of folks who aren't me. I'm borrowing them for my perverse pleasure, much as Xellos borrows emotions for his.
Chapter Ten
Xellos hadn't bothered to mention the blizzard, probably on purpose. If anything it only made Lina more determined. Even though they were cold, Amelia and Gourry hadn't complained. They managed to reach a town before the storm became too unbearable to continue.
The first night there they discovered they were in the right place. Some of the drunks in the restaurant were boasting of slaying a monster, and though they were clearly exaggerating the tale, the details made it all too clear that they were talking about Zelgadis.
Only worry for Zel kept Lina from fireballing the inn right then and there. But, then, her version of restraint was grabbing one of the drunks and forcing information out of him. She spared his life, merely blasting him through a wall with Flare Arrow.
“You better hope for your sake Zel's not dead,” she told his friends as they cowered in a corner of the bar. “Cuz I was holding back.”
Later on, one of them muttered something about “crazy demon-lovers,” and faced Amelia's fists of justice and a long lecture on the unjustness of judging others based on appearance. The other patrons avoided them and kept quiet after that, which was fine with her.
It was the days-long wait that really bothered Lina. She had read between the lines in the rumor's they'd heard, and realized that a sorcerer conducting chimera experiments and trying to replicate Rezzo's results would most likely have captured Zel for research. Enough people knew he had been turned into a chimera by the Red Priest to make that a real danger. And even though she knew he could take care of himself, she'd had a bad feeling and she'd learned not to ignore those.
She'd kept it from Gourry and Amelia, hoping she was wrong. Lina had convinced them that they should check out this lead for Zel to help him find his cure. Amelia had enthusiastically endorsed the idea, but Lina didn't think Gourry had been convinced. He certainly hadn't seemed surprised when they found Zel's sword and the charm Amelia had given to him in the burned remains of the sorcerer's laboratory. He'd just looked to her, expecting Lina to have an idea of where to go from there when she didn't. For all the bravado she'd put on for Amelia, until Xellos showed up and hinted otherwise she had given up hope that their friend was still alive.
With Zel so close, but cut off by the storm, waiting was almost unbearable. It was almost a relief when Gourry convinced Amelia to put a sleep spell on her, only waking her when the storm was winding down the next morning.
Not that it had kept her from pummeling them.
They set out as soon as the weather was mildly tolerable, headed for the lake whose location Lina had beaten from the boasting drunk. She figured that once they got there, they'd find some sort of sign that would help them find Zel.
And they had, in the form of a sword imbedded in a bluff and a trickle of smoke from the far side of the lake. A quick Ray Wing later, and they were standing at the entrance to a cave.
Despite having rushed to get there, Lina found herself hesitant to go in, afraid of what she would find. Amelia and Gourry seemed equally reluctant, and she eventually forced herself to enter the cave.
Inside, near a campfire, Xellos sat cross-legged near a bundle of blankets. Amelia rushed past Lina with a soft cry, kneeling next to the bundle and carefully lifting a corner of a blanket to reveal Zel's flushed face.
Xellos looked unsurprised by their arrival. “I thought you might see the smoke.”
“He's running a fever,” Amelia said softly. It was worse than that, Lina could see. The chimera was having some trouble breathing.
The Mazoku's smile twisted a bit. “I'm afraid I'm not very good with human illnesses. He appeared to be getting better, then suddenly became much sicker. Also, white magic would likely kill him at the moment.”
Lina frowned at this information, but didn't ask. That could wait. “Illness can't really be healed with Recovery, anyway. We're going to need medicine.” She knelt beside Amelia, reaching over to pull the blanket back further and scowling as she saw what Zel was wearing.
Amelia was outraged. “Xellos-san, you shouldn't toy with him when he's sick!” The Mazoku didn't respond.
Lina decided to take charge of the situation. “Amelia, we're going to need supplies and medicine for Zel. Take Gourry with you.”
“But Lina-san—“
“No `buts.' You're training to be a priestess, right? You know all this healing junk. You'll know what to get, and I won't. I'll stay here and make sure Zel's okay.” Amelia looked like she might pout, and Lina continued hurriedly. “Zel needs your help.”
The princess finally nodded. “Come on, Gourry-san!” She grabbed his arm and dragged him from the cave, and Lina heard her cast Ray Wing, followed by Gourry's typical yelp of fear at flying.
Then she turned to Xellos. “You're telling me what happened. Everything.”
The Mazoku frowned at her, pulling the blankets back over Zelgadis. “I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific, Lina-san. I don't know everything myself.”
Lina managed to hold back from violence only because she didn't want to wake Zel. “I know he was captured by that sorcerer. I didn't tell Gourry and Amelia that. I hoped I was wrong. What did he do to Zel?”
Xellos bowed his head slightly, his bangs falling into his face and hiding his eyes. “Experiments. I don't know exactly what, and I doubt Zelgadis-san knows either. However… The effect is that the three parts of his soul—the golem, brow demon, and human—have been partially separated. Magic, particularly Astral, widens the partition and could conceivably destroy his soul.”
From a scientific aspect, that kind of magical application was almost fascinating, but more horrifying to Lina because it was happening to Zel. She wanted to blast something.
“It's not fair,” she finally said after calming down. “He's already been through enough!”
“It also appears that the experiments threw off the careful balance Akahoushi Rezzo set up. He mentioned that he shouldn't be able to get sick.”
Lina's fingernails were cutting into her palm through the gloves, and she flexed her hands. “How can we undo this? We can make the sorcerer fix this, can't we?”
“The sorcerer is dead, Lina-san. I wasn't aware of Zelgadis-san's predicament at the time.”
“Okay, so his notes. Maybe if we read his notes and find out what he did—“
Lina grabbed his mantle and shook him. “Why? Why the hell did you do that?”
“Sore wa—“
Zelgadis' soft, hoarse voice interrupted him. “His orders.” Then he broke into a coughing fit.
“Zel!” Lina immediately let go of Xellos, pushing him back and thwacking the chimera on the back a few times.
When the coughing subsided, he smiled slightly, looking grateful and a bit surprised. “You came.”
“'Course I came, you big dope!” She grinned at him, helping him sit up slightly so she could give him some water. “So Xellos saved you?”
“He wasn't supposed to.” Xellos frowned, but didn't say anything. Zelgadis didn't seem to notice. In fact, Lina realized, he was only just barely awake. “Best I can tell, his orders were to destroy all the research. That should've included me.” He coughed again. “I think he defied Beastmaster, but I don't know why.”
At that, Xellos did speak, looking somewhat alarmed. “Zelgadis-san, that…”
The Mazoku trailed off as the chimera's eyes slid shut again. “Oh, I wasn't supposed to know that, was I? Sorry.” His tone was actually apologetic. Xellos' frown deepened.
Lina decided to deal with that issue later. “Zel, do you have any ideas about how to fix this?”
“No,” he murmured. “Might not be fixable…”
“Don't be such a pessimist! We're going to figure it out, and then we'll all go with you to look for a cure.”
Zelgadis' eyes opened, regarding her blearily. “I'm done. It doesn't matter anymore,” he whispered. “There is no cure.” His eyes closed and his head lolled slightly as he fell back to sleep.
Lina winced, and not only because Zel was leaning against her now and was heavy. The one thing he'd always been determined about was finding his cure, and now he was giving up, and he sounded so… hopeless. As if he expected that he was going to die. As if she'd allow that!
To her surprise, Xellos carefully lifted him off her and then settled Zelgadis on the ground, even drawing the covers up around the chimera's shoulders. She had never seen him do anything like that without reason. He'd picked Lina up and been pretty gentle about it when they were fighting Darkstar, but that had been to save the world. Well, so Mazoku could destroy it, he'd said.
“You don't do anything without a reason. You always have a plan or ulterior motive.” Xellos regarded her silently, his eyes hidden in shadow again. “I don't care why you saved him. I'm just glad that you did,” she told him. “But if you hurt Zel, I swear I'll find a way to kill you.”
“Yare yare. So untrusting.”
“With good reason.”
“Saa…” Xellos lifted his head and Lina repressed a shiver as he regarded her impassively with his inhuman eyes. “And if I told you I have no ulterior motive?”
“I wouldn't believe you.”
The Mazoku grinned at her, standing. “Well, I suppose there's no point in trying to convince you otherwise.” He disappeared.
Lina glared at the spot where he had been, then sighed and settled back to wait for Amelia and Gourry to return.
Xellos watched from the Astral Plane as Zelgadis was cared for by his three friends. Amelia and Gourry had bought proper thermal pajamas for the chimera, and Lina and the princess had retreated from the cave while Gourry painstakingly helped a barely-conscious Zelgadis change, a task made more difficult when his wire hair got caught in the shirt. Amelia had apparently decided to buy the entire stock of pillows from the village market—how they had managed to carry them back to the cave was a mystery—and had set up a “bed” for him, warning both Lina and Gourry not to steal any of the pillows. Zelgadis had seemed irritated, but had apparently known better than to argue with the determined champion of justice.
And they had, of course, gotten medicine. From their conversation, Xellos had realized his mistake; apparently one large dose of medicine was not enough. Against all logic and efficiency, humans required small doses over a longer period of time. The Mazoku could almost appreciate the chaos of it, though his lack of knowledge could have easily killed Zelgadis.
Normally Xellos wouldn't have been offended by Lina's assumption that he had an ulterior motive, because it was usually true. This time, however, it bothered him, because it should have been true and wasn't. Having an ulterior motive would have made sense of his actions, but his altruism was actually getting somewhat painful. He had given the chimera too much information, and now it was in part known to Lina—who didn't believe it, thankfully. This weakness was too easily deduced with such information, and he didn't want it exploited.
The desire to help Zelgadis for the sake of it went against his nature as a Mazoku. Given the choice, he would be quite happy to leave the chimera to Lina, Amelia, and Gourry, and go off for some chaos-causing destructive enjoyment. But orders were orders, and he was bound to do as Beastmaster commanded. He only hoped that he wouldn't become useless to her if this continued.
Yeah, I so wrote even though I'm teaching and also should be writing “real” fiction. I'm such a geek sometimes. But, seriously, I do need to concentrate on teaching and stuff.
Something you may have noticed is that I'm working with POV here. Thus when it's close to Lina, I'm trying to make it sound like her (mostly using Zel instead of Zelgadis, for example). I like experimenting with these kinds of writing techniques in fanfiction, because it allows me to improve my writing. So please bear with me and let me know if you think it's working.
Anyway, thanks to Chrissy, Chrislea, and Fawx for putting up with my crazy rambling. This honestly wouldn't be getting written if it weren't for them letting me bounce ideas and such off them.