Perchance to Dream
"So where are we going now, Miss Lina?" Amelia asked as they wandered down a dusty road with no true fixed destination. The trees were full, leaves green and the day nice, bright, and cheerful. It was just the kind of day that Amelia loved. The only thing that could make it completely perfect was if two of her companions would stop sulking and admit that they liked each other. Honestly, it was just like Lina and Zelgadis to ruin a perfectly good day...
Lina shrugged as she walked. "We'll just see where this road takes us, Amelia. I mean, it's not like we have a pressing schedule or anything, and I'd like to be able to have a little downtime. Shigai no Ishii was not anything I care to repeat anytime soon."
Amelia suppressed a shudder. It had taken everything within her to build up the force of will that was necessary to go down into that cursed place to begin with... but then to find that Lina and Zelgadis were in trouble... She'd feared the worst when she'd seen that black miasma in the room, and that fear had granted her the strength to overcome herself and cast the spell.
And it had worked. Amelia had been the one to save the day. It had felt pretty darned good.
But this wasn't good. The princess of Sailune cast a covert glance over to Zelgadis and noted him walking along with his hood drawn up over his face, head tilted down. He was upset, she could tell. And she was willing to bet her entire spellbook that it had to do something with that slap. Though why Lina had slapped him after he’d kissed her was completely beyond Amelia. If he'd so much as tried to kiss Amelia... well, she'd probably have fainted from delirious delight. Amelia frowned to herself and wrenched her thoughts away from that path. Zelgadis wasn't hers, she shouldn't think like that. She should be trying to make Lina and Zelgadis see that they were meant for each other, no matter what Lina thought. Love and justice and triumph all went hand in hand… right?
Amelia looked up to Lina, saw the stiffness in the shoulders, the way the sorceress was holding her head. She's still mad... Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut for now...
"Say it, Amelia."
Startled by Lina's voice, Amelia blinked and came to a halt. "Say what, Miss Lina?"
Lina turned around and walked back to the girl. "Say that you think I'm making a big mistake here. Go ahead and tell me how stupid I'm being." There was a strange light in Lina's eyes, a light that Amelia didn't know how to interpret.
"Um... I don't know, Miss Lina... you really shouldn't rush into relationships..." Amelia hedged, trying to figure out what Lina was after. No clues were forthcoming from the sorceress, so the princess simply let her words trail off into the trees.
"Do what you want to do, Lina," Gourry said as he walked up behind Amelia. "What does it matter if it's a spell? If the feelings are real, maybe it took a spell to reveal them."
Lina's gaze shifted over Amelia's shoulder to the blue-eyed blonde, and Amelia noticed that Zelgadis hadn't stopped walking. He would leave them all behind shortly.
"You're insufferable, both of you," Lina said, rolling her eyes and turning around and walking off, following the path, and consequently, Zelgadis.
As the group continued along the path, Amelia had an idea. "Miss Lina... let's go to Sailune. It's been a while since I've been home... and I'm sure that Daddy would like to see all of us again."
Lina shrugged, not looking back. "Sure, Amelia. Why not?"
Days later, Lina learned why not.
There was to be a ball, a gala unlike any that had been planned within Sailune before. Amelia had invited anyone who was anyone, including Lina, Zelgadis, Gourry, and Sylphiel (who just happened to be furthering her white magic training within the city.) Gourry had immediately asked Sylphiel to accompany him, which didn't bother Lina. What bothered Lina was that Amelia would be unable to have an escort, due to her status within the city... and that left Lina paired with Zelgadis.
It was a shrewd move by the innocent-looking princess indeed.
Lina was considering leaving. There was no way that she'd be forced to stick around for a night of fluff and propriety, especially with the tense situation between herself and Zelgadis. She'd rather be out blasting bandits and teaching the bad guys who Lina Inverse really was.
She'd even settle for a knock-down drag-out fight with Naga, like in the good old days.
But no, here she was, stuck in a room in the palace, with several servants smiling expectantly while producing gown after gown, each with what must have been enough lace to stretch from Sailune to Zefilia and back three times. With an exasperated sigh, Lina looked at a servant. "Don't you have anything with less lace?"
The girl hesitated, then from the bottom of the pile of lace and satin, pulled a green velvet gown that amazingly had no lace at all. Without truly looking at it, Lina grabbed it and shooed the girls out. "Fine. This will do. Now go away."
The girls bundled up armfuls of gowns and vanished through the door. Sitting on the bed with a sigh of relief, Lina looked to the gown.
It was a deep hunter green velvet with a gold trim around the off-shoulder bodice. Fine gold threads laced the front and up the length of both sleeves, accented by the gold belt that hung low across the waist, obviously more decoration than actual belt. She blinked. It was actually quite lovely. She liked it. Probably more than she ought to.
Shaking her head, Lina set it aside on the bed and walked over to the balcony and looked out. She was a fool. She really ought to just go off and stop subjecting them all to her mood swings. At least... until she'd gotten this figured out. She had to work out why she was afraid of things between herself and Zelgadis.
The door opened and Amelia bounced brightly into the room. Lina sighed. Great... just what I need now. Amelia.
The princess moved over to the dress and picked it up and looked to Lina. "You'll wear this for the ball, right Miss Lina?"
Lina sighed, hoping that this visit wouldn't take long. "...I suppose, Amelia."
"Miss Lina, are you okay? You've seemed... distant..." Amelia put the dress down and looked to Lina, eyes expressive. They almost begged Lina to talk to her, to confide what was wrong.
"I'm fine, Amelia. Really. Now let me get ready..." Lina said quietly, shaking her head, shooing the princess out of the room. She turned and looked at the dress, picking it up. No... I can't stay... I can't do this... Not to him.
Dress crushed in her hands, she lifted into the air and flew through the open balcony doors and vanished into the night.
For a week, Lina did nothing but blast bandits, eat, and sleep. Lina loved it. The days were a blur of fireballs and treasure, and lots of screaming bandits. She was footloose and on a warpath of her own choosing. The nights were silent and generally in a hotel that had a worthy restaurant.
But one night she hadn’t been near a hotel. So she’d made camp in a clearing, and woke in the middle of the night, annoyed. “Damnit, Zel… I told you not to take watch all night. You were supposed to wake… me…” Her voice trailed off as she crashed headlong into the reality that she was traveling alone.
She drew her knees up close to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs and rested her chin on her knees. What are you going to do, Lina? You’ve been at this for a week… Are you going to go back? Saillune isn’t that far away…
She took a deep breath. Only a week. And I haven’t been exactly hiding out here. Anyone halfway looking would find me… which means that he isn’t looking. Maybe the spell broke. Maybe if I’m out of sight… I’m out of mind. Maybe…
She closed her eyes. But how can I forget…?
She couldn’t then.
And three years later, she still couldn’t.
Lina sat there on the bed with everyone looking at her, lost in the memory until Naga reached out and knocked her on the head again. Amelia looked to her sister with chagrin. “Naga… you shouldn’t hit her like that.”
Lina shook her head. “Naga’s right, Amelia. And I hate it. I’ve been trying to go over it in my mind… trying to figure it all out. It doesn’t make any sense. Why is Xellos so dead-set to get me and kill Zelgadis? There’s a part of the story that I’m missing here, and I don’t like it.”
Gourry thought it over. “Gosh, I thought that it was just a simple matter of you two finally admitting that you liked each other.” He scratched his chin. “But now that you mention it, Xellos is acting more like a Mazoku and less like the annoyance we know.”
Lina rolled her eyes. “That’s what you get for thinking, Gourry. But putting Xellos aside… we have to find Zelgadis… and I think I have a fairly good tool for starting that search.” She reached up to her throat, tugging lightly at a golden chain, pulling a pendant out from under her shirt. A glistening aquamarine fairly glowed with powers yet unexplored, and Sylphiel’s eyes widened.
“Was that… part of…?” Sylphiel couldn’t finish the thought. Surely it couldn’t be…
“I think so, Sylphiel. I haven’t had time to figure it out… but I get the feeling that he meant for me to be able to find him anywhere with this. And it’s time to put that to the test.” Lina closed her hand over the pendant and then closed her eyes, power building up around her and focusing on the pendant in her hand.
“You who sail the seas of the astral plane, reveal these shadows to me!”
Before her eyes, the pendant glowed and an image came to her. She could see him standing there in a darkened room, looking around in confusion. As she watched, she recognized the room with surprise. Looking away from the pendant, she focused her gaze back to the world as it was, and turned to Amelia. “He’s here… in his room… I don’t know how… but he is.”
She let the spell fall apart, slipping off of the bed and running out of her room and down the hall, everyone following her.
His bedroom door opened, and Lina skidded to a halt as Zelgadis stepped out of the room with what turned from confusion to relief. It was only natural that he grabbed her into a hug, wasn’t it?
safe!” He exclaimed as he hugged her to him.
“What happened?” Lina asked as she allowed the warmth to touch her for a moment. Damnit… I love him…
The others hung back slightly, but only for as long as the two hugged. The minute Lina squirmed and Zelgadis released her, the others came up and started to ask questions all at once.
Zelgadis ignored the questions and looked at Lina. “What happened? What did you do to Xellos?”
Lina blinked at Zelgadis, only partially noting the silence that descended. “I didn’t do anything. Luna was there… but she didn’t do anything that I know of… just brought me here… why?”
Zelgadis shook his head. “Somehow I ended up on an unfamiliar shore… and Xellos was there. Only, there was something wrong. He told me to go away and let him die.”
“Die?” Everyone echoed.
“Die.” Zelgadis confirmed.
Lina blinked, looking off into the distance and thinking it out. “But… he’s a Mazoku… the General-Priest of Zelas Metallium. I can’t think why she’d let him die…”
“Nor can I,” Zelgadis admitted. “I never expected that to be an option. Not even Garv did enough damage to him and half of him was blown away…”
Lina lifted her chin, a hard edge glinting in her eyes. “We can’t just let him die.”
“Why not?” Naga asked with annoyance. “After what he’s done to Amelia…”
“But, Lina… I thought…” Amelia started.
Lina put up a hand. “Look… I know what he’s done. But if he dies… Zelas Metallium is likely to replace him with someone else.” She looked at everyone in the group. “And let’s face it. Xellos is a known quantity. He’s annoying and irritating… and sometimes the best lead we get on things. Who says his replacement will be half as useful?”
It started to dawn on Zelgadis, and he began to shake his head. “I can’t believe that you’d ever be defending Xellos.”
Lina sighed. “Zel… he’s saved my life several times. He helped us defeat Dark Star. I can’t just walk away and let him… die. We have to go to Wolf Pack Island.”
“How are you going to get there, Lina? No human has ever been able to chart the island. It’s only a rumor that it’s somewhere to the south…” Naga said, folding her arms.
Lina smiled faintly. “There’s a spell that Filia taught me without meaning to. And being that Zelas Metallium’s inherent power is black magic, it makes it easier for me.” The dragonsblood talismans flared brightly and Lina closed her eyes.
A wash of power rippled out from her, and with that ripple, the world around them all began to change. Each ripple brought on a new detail, the walls were becoming trees, the carpet becoming grass…
There was a swirling dizziness, and when the group looked around, they were standing on a quiet shore, water gently lapping at the thin strip of sand. Lina crumpled, and Zelgadis caught her as he recognized the place. “This is where I was before… Lina?”
The sorceress collected herself and shakily looked around. “I’m okay, Zel… well… it looks like we got here…”
Naga looked around herself, wrinkling her nose. Amelia walked up to the line of trees and peered into the depths of the forest. Sylphiel watched Lina, Gourry standing beside the beside the cleric, looking on in mild confusion. Jedah bounced around eagerly. “Wow! You really did it! We’re here!”
Lina nodded slowly. “Yes, but keep it down. We don’t want to attract the attentions of every Mazoku living in this island…”
“It’s too late for that, Lina,” Zelgadis pointed to Amelia, who was backing away from the trees, a large white wolf following the princess.
As they all bunched together, Zelgadis stuffed Jedah behind him and drew his sword. Gourry likewise planted himself beside Zelgadis, sword drawn.
The wolf flicked its ears, padding back and forth before the little group, as if sizing them up.
“What are we going to do, Lina?” Amelia asked nervously.
Lina looked bleakly at the wolf. “We wait.”