Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Detour ❯ Chapter Twenty Eight ( Chapter 28 )

[ 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 Eight
Amelia was barely aware of Lina steering her, the sorceress's hand on her shoulder. Her arm stung, but she couldn't focus enough to figure out why. She barely even felt the cold as they hiked after Xellos. Everything—even her own emotion—was numb.
The only thing she could think about was the emptiness in Zelgadis' eyes, his face blank as he swung at her. There had been no recognition there, none of the gruff affection she was used to. Just… nothing. Like he was dead. The thought made her shiver, and she felt, dimly, Lina squeeze her shoulder gently, reassuringly.
Zelgadis' aim always rang true; only Xellos' intervention had saved her.
That thought jolted her out of the numbness. Xellos had saved her. He had, once again, proved that he was more likely to do good than evil, now that he wasn't forced to bend to the will of a Mazoku Lord.
Amelia's senses were able to discern her surroundings again with a suddenness that almost felt like jumping into cold water. They had stopped in a small ravine, taking shelter inside a little dip in the wall of the rock that would keep them relatively protected from the elements.
Night had fallen, and with the evergreen trees that lined the ravine blocking any light that may have come from the moon and stars, it was almost darker than dark. Gourry was starting a fire, and Xellos seemed to be examining Zelgadis' head.
Amelia flinched when Lina prodded her arm none too gently. “Ah, you felt that. Good.” The sorceress looked concerned. “It's pretty deep, Amelia, and it's still bleeding a bit.”
She knew Lina was hesitant to cast White magic unless there wasn't any other choice, but Amelia wasn't concerned about her arm. “Zelgadis-san is injured.”
“He's not bleeding all over the place,” Lina pointed out. Her body language made it clear that Amelia wouldn't be going anywhere unless she healed herself.
She nodded and cast Recovery on her arm, feeling the flesh repair itself rapidly until the cut was gone. The only evidence that it had ever been there was the hole in her sleeve and the blood that stained it to her wrist. She felt a little hazy, tired, but she was determined.
Then Amelia stepped forward, only to find Xellos blocking her. “Xellos-san, I need to heal him.”
“Certainly. After he wakes.”
She stared at him, reproachful. “But he's hurt now!”
Xellos didn't move. “I would prefer not to have to hit him again, Amelia-san.”
That gave her pause. She glanced at Zelgadis again, frowning. He was sprawled on his side, so limp that he looked almost like a broken doll. He certainly wasn't a threat. “Why would you need to?”
A hand on her shoulder startled her and she glanced back to find Lina behind her. “Last time he acted like that it was because Rezzo was controlling him. Pain broke the control.”
Amelia couldn't stifle a gasp. She hadn't been with them during that battle, and had only heard about it. They'd always talked more about the battle with Shabranigdu, in part because Zelgadis didn't like discussing his grandfather. Copy Rezzo hadn't done anything like that.
Gourry looked up from cleaning the blood from Zelgadis' sword. “When was that?” he asked, scratching his head.
“Before he released Shabranigdu, he put Zel under his control with that spell, and made him fight us.” She glanced back at Xellos. “Could someone else use that programming?”
“Realistically, Akahoushi Rezzo was probably manipulating his golem third,” Xellos commented, gaining the redhead's full attention. “That isn't exactly what happened here, but the effects are similar.”
Lina glared at him. “Explain.”
Xellos smiled at Lina slightly, in a way that made Amelia inexplicably nervous. “When he wakes.” He turned in her direction, and she couldn't stop herself from flinching. “As you pointed out in Seyruun, Zelgadis-san does need to know what is happening. Now more than ever.”
Amelia shivered lightly, but gathered her courage, glancing behind him at Zelgadis' still form. Whatever had happened was over for the moment. “Can I at least check his injuries? To make sure they're not too bad?”
His smile abruptly became benign for the first time since the attack, and he stepped aside. “I suppose.”
She rushed past him immediately.
Xellos watched, carefully keeping an amused expression on his face, as Amelia checked Zelgadis' injuries. They were mild compared with what had happened in Seyruun, and already the small cuts in his skin were healing, but he had to admit to himself that he was concerned. He hadn't meant to do any real damage when he hit the youth. Though he hadn't seen a cut, there had been blood in his wiry hair.
“How long has he been unconscious?” Amelia's voice wavered a bit.
“About twenty minutes.”
She glanced at him, frowning. “You hit him too hard, Xellos-san. He has a concussion.”
He shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “He does have quite a hard head. I suppose I could have waited for him to snap out of it on his own.” His smile widened as Amelia shivered lightly. “Though I doubt he would have appreciated that.”
Lina glared at him. “We're not telling him what happened.”
Xellos opened one eye, regarding her in silence for a moment. She didn't back down. “He's hardly an idiot, Lina-san. He will realize it on his own, and I doubt he'll enjoy being lied to.”
“Yeah. I guess he gets enough of that from you.”
He opened his other eye. This time Lina looked away, and he could feel her nervousness. “You're well aware that I don't lie, Lina-san. I haven't done anything to warrant being insulted.”
“Like I need a reason,” Lina muttered. “You've done plenty to us to deserve it.”
“And I could do plenty more, yet I have not. I have, in fact, been helping you.”
She scowled at him. “Yeah, for now. But you always have an ulterior motive. I just haven't figured it out yet.”
“If I had one, it would make my life much easier,” he admitted after a moment. “Perhaps that is one of the things we need to discuss.”
Lina studied him suspiciously, then apparently decided to drop it for the moment. She turned to Amelia. “Is he going to be okay?”
The princess nodded. “But if he's unconscious much longer I'll need to heal him or it could be dangerous.”
Xellos couldn't stop himself from asking, “How long?”
She blinked at him, startled, then smiled. He found himself irritated at her affection. “Fifteen minutes at most, Xellos-san.”
“Good,” Lina said. “That's plenty of time for you to start dinner. And while you're doing that, Gourry can go get some firewood. We're going to stay here for the night.”
Xellos knew that she was more worried that Zelgadis would attack again when he regained consciousness, and wanted Amelia out of harm's way.
That fear wasn't unfounded; it was, in fact, probable. Xellos hoped that the pain from the chimera's head would snap him out of it. Zelgadis had been injured far too often lately, and he didn't want to have to hit him again.
But if those fifteen minutes passed and he was still unconscious, he would probably have to after Amelia healed him.
To distract himself from that possibility, Xellos pulled blankets from the Astral realm again and handed them to Lina, who set them aside. Then he set a pot of tea to steep near the fire before returning to watch Zelgadis.
He was concerned about more than just Zelgadis' immediate health. Zelas would have, by now, sensed Xiuh's destruction, and it was certain that she would investigate. Xellos could, perhaps, deceive her. He could convince her through implication that Dolphin or Dynast was to blame and lead her away from the sorcerers, protect Zelgadis.
By a stroke of luck, the hybrid magic left no residue in higher level Mazoku, destroying their Astral bodies utterly. For the moment, his former mistress would have no clues to investigate, and might, by force of habit, trust him.
It felt strange to be thankful for something that should have caused concern.
Xellos found himself relieved when Zelgadis woke only a few minutes later. His terror continued past the unconsciousness, and unbridled violence was only prevented by pain. The injury Xellos had inflicted made sudden movements physically impossible. Even so, the youth nearly made it to his feet before collapsing back to his hands and knees, retching.
Amelia ran forward, but Xellos held out an arm to stop her, waiting. It wouldn't do to have her rush into danger, into a situation he had prevented for Zelgadis' sake.
The chimera coughed up what little was in his stomach, then slumped to the side with a groan. He lay there, panting and shivering, weakly clutching at his head. Only when the terror faded into agony did Xellos drop his arm and allow Amelia to pass.
When Xellos stopped Amelia, Lina nearly exploded in rage. Zel had suffered enough, and was clearly in pain. She wanted to fireball the Mazoku. But before she could, he dropped his arm and let Amelia past. Lina realized that he had been making sure that Zel wasn't… being manipulated or whatever was going on. He'd actually protected Amelia. Again.
Amelia rushed forward and knelt beside him, placing a hand on his forehead and casting Recovery. Zel murmured something that Lina couldn't quite hear, and Amelia nodded. “I'm here, Zelgadis-san.”
Lina stepped up beside Xellos, watching as Amelia healed Zel. “You really better explain this to us, Xellos.”
Xellos glanced at her. She watched him, but there was no clue as to what he was thinking. Even his customary amusement was missing. That wasn't exactly reassuring.
“I intend to.”
Zel pushed Amelia's hand away. “I'm fine.” He sat up, then groaned and clutched his head.
Gourry set Zel's sword aside and hurried over to help. “You're not fine, Zel. Xellos hit you pretty hard.” He helped Zel to his feet with some difficulty and guided him toward the fire.
Only after Zel was seated, leaning back into a little alcove near the fire, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders and a cup of the tea Xellos had made in his hands, did what Gourry had said seem to sink in.
He glanced at each of their faces in turn before asking, “What happened?”
Lina glanced at Xellos again, who kept his face hidden in shadows and didn't answer. He apparently expected her to break the news. She glared at him before answering Zel. “It was like when Rezzo controlled you.”
Zel stared at her, and she looked away. She couldn't face the horror she knew he was feeling at once again being used. Seeing his face the first time, after Rezzo, had been bad enough. When she found out who had done this, she was going to Dragon Slave them into the next dimension.
“I attacked you?” His voice wavered.
“Amelia-san,” Xellos chimed in. Lina scowled at him, but he ignored her.
Zel glanced toward Amelia, who avoided his gaze. His expression went blank when he saw the blood staining her sleeve. “You should go back to Seyruun. All of you.”
Lina stalked forward and smacked the back of his head. He dropped his teacup and winced. “I already told you! We're not leaving you to deal with this alone!”
“Lina-san! Don't hit his head!” Amelia glared at her, handing Zel another cup of tea.
She held her hands up apologetically, wincing. In her rage, she'd forgotten about his concussion. “Whoops.”
Zel put one hand to his face, grimacing. Shadows crossed his face, and not all of them were caused by the firelight. “Lina, if they figured out how to control me, it's too dangerous. You could be killed… I could kill you!”
“But you didn't!” she argued, angry.
“Xellos stopped you,” Gourry said.
He lowered his head, and his face was obscured by gleaming wire hair. “And if he's not here to stop me next time?”
“We'll be prepared, damn you! With Rezzo you came to your senses when I hit you, so we'll be ready.”
She stared him down, but he wasn't even looking at her. Lina wanted to smack some sense into him, but didn't dare hit him; she was pissed, but she wasn't willing to hurt him, not after everything he'd been through.
“Actually,” Xellos interjected, “Zelgadis-san was not being controlled.”
Lina turned to him, surprised—and more than a little angry that he hadn't just said so in the first place.
Zel spoke before she could, his voice almost a snarl. “I would never attack Amelia!”
“I never said you would.” Xellos inclined his head, his features coming out of the shadows to reveal a bland expression that would have looked honest on anyone else. “However, if your reaction was any indication, you recognized the magic that was used.”
Gourry shook his head. “What magic?”
Lina frowned, but didn't chastise the blond; he wasn't great with recognizing magic since he couldn't use it. “That weird blend of magic, right? It just kind of exploded right before Zel went nuts.”
“It felt a little like White magic,” Amelia mused. “But something had twisted it…”
“White, mixed with Astral. It destroyed the Mazoku from within.”
Xellos seemed to be studying Zel, and Lina looked at the shaman to find that he was shaking slightly. Her anger melted away at that, and though she wanted to refocus it on Xellos, instead she felt almost numb.
“It terrified you,” the Mazoku continued. “So much so that I believe you were reacting instinctively to perceived danger.”
No one spoke for a moment. Lina noticed it had started snowing again, hard. The wind picked up suddenly, blowing little whirls of snow around the ravine and making the fire bank violently. Lina cast a spell to put up a barrier, preserving what little shelter they had, then watched as Xellos approached Zel.
“You recognized it,” the Mazoku repeated.
Zel set his teacup down and pulled the blanket more snuggly around his shoulders. “Yes.”
Xellos crouched in front of him. “Did it jog your memory? Do you remember what they were doing?” His tone was gentle.
Zel looked pained, and Lina's anger came crashing back. What the hell did Xellos think he was doing? “Quit tormenting him! You said you'd explain what's going on, so—”
“Lina.” She was startled when Zel interrupted. He didn't look at them. “They kept me heavily drugged, Xellos. What little I remember is vague, like voices without words. Feelings.” His voice was strained, agonized. “Nothing specific.”
Xellos cocked his head. “You had to remember something specific to invoke that much emotion.”
Zel's eyes shut tightly. His face twitched. “Just pain,” he whispered, his voice devoid of inflection. “Suffocating pain, with no way to fight back. No way to stop it.”
“Zelgadis-san…” Amelia put her hand on Zel's shoulder, but he shrugged it off.
“Please don't touch me.” Her face fell, but she nodded and withdrew.
Lina exchanged a look with Gourry, who looked as worried as she felt. “Xellos, just tell us what's going on. It's cruel to make him relive that.”
The Mazoku actually looked apologetic. He stood and backed away from Zel, giving him space. “It was possible that he had remembered something important…”
“And he doesn't. So talk.”
Xellos still hesitated. Lina grabbed him by his collar and shook him.
“Quit stalling!”
“He was hoping that I knew something so he wouldn't have to talk,” Zel murmured. “Because if he tells us what's going on, it'll be betraying the Mazoku.”
Lina was so shocked that she let go of Xellos. “What?”
“You've technically already betrayed them by not killing me.” Zel raised his head and fixed Xellos with an impassive stare. “Since my continued existence is somehow a threat because of those sorcerers. So if you're not going to kill me, you might as well just tell us what's going on.”
She had never seen Xellos look so unsettled before, and the expression only sharpened when he bowed his head, silently acknowledging Zel's words as truth. Whatever was going on was a lot more serious than she had realized. She should have; the Mother of All had gotten involved, and that was never something to take lightly.
“So the Mazoku are after you?” Gourry asked, uncharacteristically grave.
Though the question was directed at Zel, it was Xellos who answered. “I have managed to keep what is going on from the other Lords, for the moment. But we don't have much time before Zelas, at the least, realizes what is happening.”
“Wait, but wasn't that a Mazoku that attacked him?” Gourry asked, scratching his head. “I could've sworn it was…”
Xellos sighed and took a seat across the fire from Zelgadis. “Those sorcerers were working on a way to control Mazoku. They probably wish to recapture Zelgadis-san to perfect it.”
Lina stared at him, then sat down heavily herself. In the wrong hands, that power was dangerous; she wouldn't even trust it in the right hands. “So that Mazoku was being controlled? By humans? I didn't think that was even possible!”
“It shouldn't be.” Xellos' face was creased with displeasure, and the shadows cast by the fire made him look almost ancient. “However, they either heard about the Red Priest's control over Zelgadis-san, or they managed to accidentally replicate it after they captured him—though they discovered a way to manipulate the brow demon instead of just the golem.”
Zel frowned. “How did you figure all this out?”
“I revisited the laboratory in Dils. There was evidence of experimentation on brow demons. As embarrassing as it may be, brow demons are lesser Mazoku. It is possible that, with research, these sorcerers could control the Lords.” He hesitated for a moment before continuing. “The Mazoku that attacked was one of the Greater Beast's few remaining high-level minions. She will investigate this, and I cannot stall her for much longer. If she discovers this…”
Zel smiled bitterly. “She'll kill me, and probably you,” he finished for Xellos.
Lina pulled her cloak more snuggly about herself, though she knew that it wasn't the cold that made her shiver. Xellos hadn't simply given them information on a Mazoku weakness; he had just betrayed his former mistress. He'd just proved his independence—not only from her, but from his own race—and under the circumstances she was more disquieted than relieved. She felt as though the world had been tilted.
“Why are you helping, Xellos? Zel's right. Just telling us this makes you a traitor to the Mazoku.”
Xellos leaned toward the fire, letting his hair fall forward and veil his face. “As I told you in Seyruun, my motivations are my own.”
Lina scowled; that answer wasn't cutting it anymore, but she doubted pressing Xellos would make him talk.
“So I was right!” Amelia cheered, smiling happily. They glanced at her, startled. “Given the choice, you really are more likely to choose good instead of evil!”
Xellos snapped his head up, and Lina felt as though she had fallen onto a beehive, like dozens of bees were stinging her all over. Pure bloodlust shrouded his eyes. They were far more terrifying than before—human, but without the humanity. Gourry's hand strayed to his sword instinctively. Amelia eyes widened impossibly.
The Mazoku glared at Amelia for several seconds before a strange look that Lina couldn't decipher crossed his face briefly. Xellos' eyes flickered toward Zel, and Lina spared a glance. Zel had pressed his body back into the alcove as far as possible, his eyes clenched shut. Before Lina could wonder about that, Xellos disappeared in a shimmer of purple.
The feeling disappeared with him, but it was several minutes before Lina could speak again. “Amelia, that was a really dumb thing to say.”
“But it's true! And he didn't react like that when I said it in Seyruun.”
That caught Zel's attention. “You said that to him in Seyruun?”
There was a strange tremor in his voice, and Lina watched him, frowning. He looked more shaken than she would have expected normally.
“He took care of you, Zelgadis-san.”
Zel seemed to notice Lina's gaze and stood shakily, moving away from the fire, deeper in the dip in the cliff. “Xellos is Mazoku,” he said after a moment, his face shadowed and unreadable. “You just insulted him.”
“But he's doing good deeds!”
Zel didn't reply, instead choosing a relatively level bit of ground and spreading his blanket on it. Lina wanted to find out what Xellos had done in Seyruun, but she could see that he was done for the night, and she certainly didn't intend to press the issue.
Instead she put a hand on Amelia's shoulder. “Pointing it out isn't a good idea. You're lucky he left.” The princess shivered; clearly she hadn't forgotten exactly how dangerous Xellos could be. “Let's have dinner and get some sleep, okay?”
Amelia nodded and turned back to the fire. Gourry joined her, pulling out plates.
When Lina glanced at Zel she found that he was already curled in the blanket, his hair the only part of him that was visible. He was, presumably, asleep—or pretending to be, anyway. She covered him with a second blanket, then stared out into the darkness at the deteriorating weather.
She had a feeling that things were only going to get worse from here.
Sorry for the delay. I'm taking some heavy-duty writing classes. It's been hard to find the time to write this. That and the characters took turns refusing to cooperate. I'm also working on my thesis (a novel) so I can graduate. I hope to finish this fic completely by the time fall semester starts, but that order might be a bit tall.
Not many people seemed to notice that Tsutsuji has started writing Birth Rite again, which is the absolutely amazing sequel to Poison. If you haven't read them, you should. Great plot, awesome characterization, and some really hot X/Z smut. It took her three years to get back to writing it, so please, please keep her interested in continuing by reading and reviewing!
This chapter is so much longer than I intended. Lina's section just exploded!
Thanks to Chrissy, Tsutsuji, Tora, and Chrislea for going over this for me. Chrislea seems to be hell-bent on getting Lina/Amelia smut as well as Xellos/Zelgadis smut.