Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Detour ❯ Chapter Twenty Five ( Chapter 25 )
[ 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 Twenty Five
Zelgadis woke feeling fuzzy. He didn't hurt anymore, which he knew meant Amelia had stopped by, but he had no energy and his mind wasn't functioning properly. He initially considered going back to sleep, but he felt as though the air was vibrating around him and knew it would be pointless to try.
Even after eating, he still felt hazy, so he drew himself a bath in the adjacent washroom. It was halfway through, when the steam finally cleared his head, that he realized that the air was buzzing with bloodlust. Specifically, Xellos' bloodlust. Zelgadis could feel it even from the other room. It felt as though a swarm of bees was nearby, and it brought him from the fuzzy exhaustion onto high alert in seconds.
Zelgadis had only ever felt Xellos' bloodlust a few times in the past, usually when they were up against some sort of enemy—Seigram, Kanzeil, Mazenda, Valgaav. Especially Valgaav. He'd also felt it when Xellos had intimidated Milgasia, and briefly a few times around Filia, as though she had irritated him too much to hide it. Usually it was absent while he masqueraded as a benign priest.
Something had definitely angered Xellos, and Zelgadis felt vulnerable. He considered his options, which were incredibly limited. He probably had enough energy to levitate out the window, but he'd neglected to grab clothing on his way in. All he had was the torn, filthy pair of pants he'd nearly died in. And if Xellos really wanted to kill him, running wouldn't stop him.
He knew that it would probably be easier on everyone if Xellos just did what he should have done in the first place. If the Mazoku decided to do it, resisting wouldn't do any good. If it was directed elsewhere freaking out would be equally pointless. So Zelgadis did his best to ignore the bloodlust and finished bathing, scrubbing the blood and grime from his skin. If he was going to die, he might as well be clean.
When he had finished and was drying, the bloodlust moved closer, toward the door. Zelgadis wrapped the towel around his waist and steeled himself.
Xellos was carrying a folded pile of clothing. “Ah, Zelgadis-san. You've finished. Amelia-san had these sent up.”
His face was tilted downward and his bangs hid his expression, but the bloodlust was so high that Zelgadis was having a hard time forcing himself to stand his ground.
As Xellos moved closer he raised his head slightly and Zel could see the curve of his smile, strained in an expression of fatal mirth, anything but benign. Any sane person would have been running, but Zelgadis felt frozen. It was when he saw Xellos' eyes, as cold and deadly as they had always been before but somehow more frightening, that he tried to move away instinctively.
It was an automatic reaction to the fear and attempt to flee, slamming Zelgadis against the wall and holding him there by the throat. The brief burst of panic, the way his body shuddered against the wall, a brief, fruitless push against the staff holding the rest of his body against the wall, was delicious. After so long inactive, it felt good to have a trembling life at his mercy, to feel a rapid heartbeat under arteries at his fingertips.
The need to kill had festered all morning after Amelia's foolish comment with no outlet, no ability to leave and run amok for a few hours. He was tethered to this life, the chimera. He wanted to extinguish that life so badly and yet when he tried he could not move his fingers, make them cut off the flow of blood to Zelgadis' brain. Xellos still could not kill him. Zelgadis had weakened him somehow, but he couldn't even hate him.
Xellos was not a do-gooder.
Underneath the fear was resignation, and he was surprised when Zelgadis took several deep breaths. The pulse beneath his fingers calmed a little and blue demon eyes opened the regard him cautiously.
Xellos leaned in closer, shifting his grip on the youth's neck, and Zelgadis shuddered before he pressed on.
“I don't want them to find me like this,” he whispered. “Please let me dress before you kill me.”
The request was accompanied by a bit of shame and self-loathing. That, combined with the fact that he simply could not kill him only enraged Xellos further, and he ripped the towel from around Zelgadis' waist. Sapphire eyes widened before closing tightly, and his hands tried to grab for the towel, but it was already gone.
Zelgadis tried to struggle, and his terror was wonderful. Xellos pinned him to the wall, pushing his knee between the chimera's legs, trapping him, and horror and panic joined the terror. He was trying to murmur a spell when Xellos leaned in and kissed him hard, forcing his way in with teeth and tongue. He kept Zelgadis from turning away with his hand, clamped hard enough against his windpipe to prevent him from breathing. The youth's hands clawed uselessly at Xellos' chest in an attempt to shove him away, but they weakened slowly and his terror peaking further with his helplessness.
Xellos ended the brutal kiss, leaning his forehead against the chimera's and loosening his hand to allow him breath. He had needed those emotions, had been hungry for them after so many days without feeding. But he hadn't intended this, hadn't really realized he'd wanted it. And unfortunately, Zelgadis' fear wasn't abating with the end of that kiss. Instead there was a terrified anticipation of more.
He moved his hand away from Zelgadis' neck to cup his chin, his fingers gentle now, but the boy only trembled harder and a soft, frightened noise slipped through his bruised lips.
Xellos sighed. “I don't want to kill you, damn you. That's the problem.”
The words seemed to register with Zelgadis through the terror and he opened his eyes again, watching him warily.
“I seem to want to protect you,” Xellos mused. “And that shouldn't be possible.”
Zelgadis didn't react, and Xellos doubted he was capable of much more than gibberish at this point. He released him and stepped back, and Zelgadis slid to the floor like a puppet whose strings had been cut, hunching over, shaking, and covering himself ineffectually with his hands.
Xellos retrieved the towel from where he had flung it, gathered the clothing that he had dropped, and squatted in front of him, draping the towel over his lap without looking and setting the clothing beside him. Zelgadis cringed away from him, and Xellos sighed again. “I apologize, Zelgadis-san.”
He was startled when Zelgadis made a noise that was almost derisive, and anger joined the fear. Zelgadis didn't speak and after a moment of silence Xellos stood and left the room. He couldn't think of anything else to say.
His position against the wall was uncomfortable, but it was still quite a while after Xellos left before Zelgadis could bring himself to move. It was difficult to calm down enough to think beyond the emotions that simply wouldn't go away. Sending commands to his limbs to move was impossible. The fear had simply locked up his body, paralyzed him, even after the danger was gone.
When he was able to move, he dressed quickly, shakily, anxious to cover his body, to hide it so it wouldn't be exposed. Even though he knew the clothing would make little difference to Xellos if he decided to come back and finish what he'd started. That very thought left him huddled in a corner of the bathroom, his knees to his chest, while he made an effort to calm down again.
Beyond the fear, Zelgadis was angry, more at himself than Xellos. The Mazoku couldn't help being what he was, but Zelgadis had let him close enough to enable him to take advantage of his vulnerability. And, worse, he had believed Xellos wouldn't… do what he'd just done, in Xellos' word. Beyond the incident in the inn and that damnable kiss several days before, Zelgadis should have been more worried. And he definitely should have been alarmed when Xellos had basically caressed his soul in the library. `I am not that kind of Mazoku,' his ass.
Zelgadis couldn't figure out when his life had gone so wrong. These past few months were just more in a series of events, probably starting with the death of his parents so long ago, slowly escalating and making life just not worth it. For a while after meeting Lina—actually being accepted by someone who wasn't a beastperson—he'd thought that maybe things were getting better. But even after having been imprisoned in a tank and experimented on, being molested by a Mazoku was a brand new low.
He wanted desperately to just disappear, and he pretty much intended to, once this debacle was over. He wasn't ever going to find a cure and human society would never accept him as he was. But even hiding in the wilderness wasn't likely to get Xellos to leave him alone. The only thing that would guarantee that was death, and he was damned if he was going to succumb to that without taking out at least a few of whoever was after him. And, really, he was more interested in killing all of them and then figuring out how to shut Xellos out than dying.
Even now, Zelgadis wasn't suicidal.
The sun was setting by the time he'd reached a meditative calm state, and that was almost shattered when the bathroom door opened. Zelgadis nearly panicked before realizing it was only Gourry.
The blond blinked at him, frowning a little. “Hey, Zel. What're you doing in here?”
What, indeed? The question pretty much required an answer, and eventually Zelgadis supplied, “Thinking.”
Gourry sat beside him—or as close to beside as he could get with Zelgadis in the corner. “Wouldn't you be more comfortable in the other room?”
“I wanted to be alone.”
“Couldn't you ask Xellos to leave?” Zelgadis raised his eyebrows at that and Gourry rubbed the back of his head and grinned. “Right, uh, he probably wouldn't listen, would he?”
Zelgadis didn't bother answering that one. Xellos didn't have to follow anyone's orders anymore, not even the Beastmaster's. And while he hadn't initially thought that this would be problematic, it clearly was.
Gourry eventually broke the silence. “Do you want to hang out with us? I mean, we're going to have dinner in a little while, and since you're feeling better… Plus Phil-san said he wants to talk to you.”
Of course he did. After all, Zelgadis had destroyed his armory and killed several people in the process. The king probably wanted to give him a polite royal boot. Beyond that, he didn't think he could deal with Amelia's pity and Lina's attempts to be violently supportive. He was barely able to tolerate Gourry right now, and he knew that eating with all of them meant he would have to tolerate the court as well. Zelgadis knew that if Phil-san did ask him to leave in front of Lina and the others, they would want to come with. Xellos was clearly a loose cannon, more than he ever was. He wasn't going to let his friends get involved in this.
“I don't feel up to socializing,” he said finally. “Just tell Lina I'll talk to her later. And if Phil-san wouldn't mind coming here, I'd appreciate it.”
Gourry frowned at him again. “Are you sure you're okay, Zel? I mean, I know I'm not that good at figuring stuff out, but if you want to talk—”
Zelgadis cut him off. “No. I don't want to talk.” The blond looked a little crestfallen. “I really just want to be alone right now, Gourry. I'm sorry.”
“It's okay,” Gourry said. “But if you ever need to I'll listen. Sometimes you need to talk things out with friends.” He got up and headed for the door, then stopped and called back, “I'll get someone to bring dinner for you.”
When he had been gone for several minutes, Zelgadis reluctantly left the bathroom himself. Xellos was floating, reclining in the air, and aside from a quickly-repressed burst of fear and anger, Zelgadis didn't acknowledge him. Instead he went through his belongings, putting on the double-belt that Gourry had retrieved with his old sword.
Then he went through his supplies and organized them, all the while hyperaware of Xellos, who thankfully hadn't moved. He paused when he found the protective amulet the Mazoku had made, before throwing it at him. He grabbed his waterskin and went back to the bathroom to rinse it out and fill it.
The pendant was back in his bag when he got back. Zelgadis tossed it on the floor and crushed it under his foot, but it was undamaged. He already knew a magical attack wasn't likely to damage it, so instead he scuffed at it with his foot and sent it skittering across the tile to rest under the bed somewhere. He wasn't keeping it.
Xellos said nothing and didn't move, but after a moment Zelgadis heard the pendant skid across the floor toward the Mazoku. Zelgadis was taking inventory of his warm traveling gear when the Mazoku spoke.
“Zelgadis-san, I made this to protect you. You should really keep it.”
Just his voice made Zelgadis freeze for a moment before he was able to get his fear under control again. “Will it protect me from you?” he finally asked sarcastically. “If not, it's useless.”
A knock on the door interrupted him, and Zelgadis finally turned a baleful glare in his direction. “Leave.”
Xellos frowned, but shimmered out of existence all the same. His absence immediately relieved much of Zelgadis' tension.
Unfortunately, most of it immediately returned upon finding Prince Philionel outside his door with several servants carrying an array of food for dinner. Zelgadis bowed as he let him in. “Philionel-ouji.”
The servants came in behind the prince and transformed the small table in the room into a dinner platter. Then they set a satchel on the floor near Zelgadis' pack, took the plates from his earlier meal, and bowed before leaving, closing the door behind them.
“I thought I might dine away from the court tonight, Zelgadis-dono.”
Zelgadis started at the use of the honorific. He didn't feel he deserved that level of respect, and certainly hadn't expected it. Phil-san was intelligent enough to know that, though, and the continued use of that honorific made it clear immediately that the prince didn't blame him for what had happened.
Philionel sat and gestured to the other chair. “Please have a seat. My daughter tells me that you haven't been eating well lately, so I had plenty brought up.”
He wasn't kidding, Zelgadis noted as he sat down obediently. The spread was enough for five people, and he hoped that Philionel didn't expect him to eat all of it. He waited respectfully for the prince to serve himself before filling his own plate.
“Lina-dono mentioned that you are blaming yourself for the explosion.”
Zelgadis flushed, looking down at his food. “I cast the wrong spell.”
Philionel hmmed thoughtfully. “From what I understand, your injuries didn't give you many options.” Zel blinked at him. “Several of the survivors saw you fighting. You led the beast away from them.”
He looked away again, embarrassed. He hadn't been paying attention to his surroundings and hadn't noticed anyone. “People died.”
“Yes. Eight of my soldiers.” Zelgadis winced. “But you are not to blame for that. Those targeting you are responsible. You have helped save Seyruun too many times for us to blame you for this catastrophe. The three of you are always welcome here.”
In a roundabout way, he was being told he that wasn't getting the royal boot, that he could stay. But Zelgadis' common sense told him otherwise. “Right now, my presence is endangering Seyruun. I have to leave and deal with the threat.”
“I had the feeling that would be your decision.” Philionel gestured to the bag the servants had set on the floor. “I took the liberty of preparing supplies, so you aren't setting out unprepared. I will be sorry to see my daughter go, but these adventures strengthen her sense of justice.”
Zelgadis sighed. “I won't allow the others to be endangered by this. This is something I need to handle on my own. Please don't tell them I'm leaving. They'll be angry, but it's for their own good.”
Philionel smiled. “That will not stop them, you realize. Their hearts are filled with the desire to help their friends. It is better to face threats with those you trust.”
He wanted them with him for that exact reason. He couldn't trust Xellos, but he could trust them. But he knew that it was a selfish desire. “If they can't find me, they can't follow me. I'll be gone before they realize it.”
“It is your decision,” the prince said after a moment. “Please, eat. If your journey is to be as arduous as you seem to expect, it may be the last good meal you have for quite a while.” They ate in silence, then played a game of chess before the prince retired.
It was much later, after midnight, when Zelgadis shouldered his pack and left via the balcony, quietly Levitating beyond the castle grounds and sneaking through the city toward the west gate. He wasn't sure where to head, but figured that unless he needed to go to Elmekia or Zefielia, it was the best direction. Xellos hadn't returned, but he knew the priest was around somewhere. The bastard always was.
He Levitated over the gate without alerting the guards, and headed off toward the woods that flanked the border between Seyruun and Ralteague. He stopped dead when a familiar voice cast Lighting.
“Oi, Zel. What's the big idea going off without us?” The orb of light hovered over Lina's palm and the shadows it cast over her face made her look almost demonic. She tossed it into the air, and it cast light several yards to reveal Amelia, Gourry, and Xellos.
“Xellos,” he growled.
The Mazoku only smiled beatifically. “I did say `we,' Zelgadis-san.”
Zelgadis turned to Lina. “It's too dangerous.”
“Which is exactly why we're going to help you,” she said faux sweetly.
“You're not gonna convince us not to, Zel,” Gourry warned. “We're coming.”
“You can't expect us to let you shoulder this burden on your own,” Amelia added.
Zelgadis sighed. So much for protecting them. He knew well enough that nothing was going to convince them to let him handle this. Even if they knew how much danger Xellos posed to them, they wouldn't leave, and Xellos had likely brought them into this for nefarious reasons.
He adjusted his pack and headed for the trees, and they followed.
The reason Zel was surprised by -dono is the honorific is very respectful and, when used by a powerful person, places the recipient at the same level as the speaker while also being affectionate. It's not really used all that much anymore, but Phil uses it in the series a bunch, especially when referring to Lina.
This ended up being much longer than I expected it to be. Oh, well.
Chrissy, Chrislea, and Fawx all drooled over this chapter. I can't imagine why. ;)