Perchance to Dream
Lips the color of the palest amethyst curved into a smile. Well, well. That had gone easily. And she hadn’t suspected a thing. It made things so much… more enjoyable. Of course, She probably wouldn’t take well to having been impersonated… but what his mistress didn’t know wouldn’t kill him.
One by one the pieces of his game were falling into place. The time was coming. And by then, not even that damned chimera would stand a chance. There would be nothing that anyone could do.
Yes… it was all starting to come together. But the precise what of it was, of course, a secret.
The garden was quiet, only a few night-time creatures scurrying here and there as Lina and Zelgadis made their way to the back of the garden and the bench by the waterfall. It was peaceful, and the silence from her companion allowed Lina’s imagination to consider any number of reasons why Zelgadis would have asked her to come out here with him.
But, of course, he wasn’t talking at the moment, and she could only wonder what he wanted her out here for. Unless… no, he couldn’t! He wouldn’t!
Lina’s eyes widened as her highly overactive imagination went into full swing. No way! He’s not that kind of guy! I mean… well… even when he was asleep… he didn’t try anything… She started to slow down, falling several paces behind him as she thought.
They walked along in that fashion for a while before he noticed that she had slowed and fallen behind. She was preoccupied, he could tell.
He stopped at the bench, head tilted down in thought, and he turned to look at her. “Lina. There’s something that we need to talk about.”
She came to a halt, looking up at him from her thoughts, suddenly feeling very vulnerable. “Okay…”
With an open hand, he indicated the bench. “Would you like to sit, Lina?” He could tell that she was uncertain about something, and decided that it was probably her worrying about the next visit from Xellos.
She shook her head. “No… I’m okay. What is it… you wanted to talk to me about?” She could tell that her uneasiness was making him uneasy. I’m awful at personal things!
He looked off over the water, not unlike Lina had been when she had been confronted by Jedah. “It was too easy, Lina.”
Lina blinked in confusion. “What was too easy, Zel?”
“Going to Wolf Pack Island and talking the Greater Beast into releasing Xellos from death. There’s something incredibly wrong with that, but I can’t put my finger on it.” Zelgadis replied.
Lina almost fell over in relief. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be wrong! She thought. Out loud, she mused. “Now that you mention it… it did seem fairly strange. I mean… the thought of my sister playing card games with anyone…”
“Is just as strange as thinking that the Greater Beast would rescind something as serious as the death of her most powerful Mazoku without a fight. Or, stranger yet, that she would be convinced to destroy him to begin with.” Zelgadis replied.
“Unless he’d done something that he shouldn’t have…” Lina said quietly. “Like harming you?”
Zelgadis shook his head. “I’m not half as important as you are, Lina. I haven’t been touched by the Lord of Nightmares and lived to tell of the experience.”
Lina fiddled with the necklace at her throat. “I… I still don’t know why I did. But maybe this has more of something to do with you? I mean… Sylphiel and Amelia both said that it felt like you turned into a Mazoku when you went to rescue me…”
He stiffened at her words. Afraid that she’d gone too far, she moved to him and put her arms around him, resting her cheek on the back of his shoulder. His hand covered hers, and when he spoke, his voice was quiet. “Rezo told me that if I didn’t accept the Mazoku aspect of myself… there could very well become a time when I would lose control over it and be swallowed whole.”
“Like what happened with Rezo and Shabanigdo…?” Lina wondered.
“Perhaps,” Zelgadis acknowledged. “And I am not sure what upsets me the most. The fact that I have to somehow reconcile the differences between myself and the Mazoku… or the fact that I could become a Mazoku.”
Lina considered, her mind working the puzzle, trying to put the pieces together. “Zel…” She let go of him, tugging on his arm lightly to turn him to face her. “What if that’s exactly what Xellos wants? If you become a Mazoku… then you’re subject to the Greater Beast.”
Lina started to pace, her cloak swirling around her ankles, Zelgadis watching her as she mentally put the puzzle together. “Even worse, you’d be a Lesser Mazoku, and subject to Xellos’ whim. And with you subject to him… it would mean that you couldn’t protect me!” Fury broke across her eyes as she came to a halt and some twisted hand of fate caused her cloak to flare out in a breeze at that precise moment. “That pervert!”
Lina’s connection of events stunned Zelgadis into silence. But as a Mazoku… he had little trouble defending from Xellos. Except that he wasn’t a full Mazoku either of those times, was he? And as a full Mazoku, Amelia and Sylphiel would be forced to defeat him… and that would neatly remove Zelgadis from the picture. Even as the thoughts occurred, he could sense the danger they both were in. “Lina… I have to do this once and for all.”
Lina looked at him, saw the determination etched into his eyes. “Do what…? Zel?”
He kissed her on the cheek lightly, startling her into silence. “No matter what happens, Lina. Remember.” His lips moved against her ear in an almost silent phrase, and then he vanished before her eyes.
Lina came to a halt in the main hall. Several servants looked up as she looked around the room and then took off at a dead run towards the stairs that led up to the hall where all the bedrooms were. Where did he go…? He can’t do it alone…I have to get everyone. We have to find him.
It was a silent room, old and undisturbed, protective wards intact from a time before. He’d been drawn to it, and knew that this was the place where he would find the peace and quiet to understand the Mazoku aspect of himself once and for all.
He sat in the chair facing the dust-shrouded mirror and looked into the strange reflection for a moment before closing his eyes.
The Mazoku was waiting where he always was, staring out over the ruins of the devastated town. Only this time, the flames were out and the stone street cold. It was nighttime, and the only light was from the light spell that Zelgadis cast so that he could see his way to where the Mazoku waited for him.
“He cannot be allowed to control us,” the Mazoku grated as Zelgadis approached. “To control us is to give her to him.”
Zelgadis sighed. “Yes. He counts on our opposing natures to keep us apart.” He turned to look over the town and the remnants of the buildings destroyed his own hands.
“We are not so different,” the Mazoku commented. Zelgadis was frequently a man of little words, but the Mazoku before him had even fewer words to offer. There weren’t many needed.
“Perhaps not,” Zelgadis admitted after a lengthy silence. “But everything I have been taught…”
Was taught to you by Rezo and Shabranigdo. Would the Dark Lord not want us apart so that the day could come for him to control us as he did Rezo?
Shock ran through Zelgadis as he looked to the Mazoku who had spoken without words. Worse yet, the words felt true. “Manipulated as a child to prevent the adult…”
The Mazoku nodded, silent now.
“Then what now? If what I have been taught is wrong, what is your nature? How can you be a Mazoku if you don’t feed on hatred and pain?” Zelgadis asked the Mazoku before him.
“Put out your hand. You must trust me,” the Mazoku replied.
Warily, Zelgadis put out his hand.
The sensation was not unlike flying, and for a moment, Zelgadis’ mind spun in trying to grasp what was happening. Then, he saw memories, scenes from his life when he had taken actions that even he himself hadn’t been able to understand at the time. He’d just… done it.
He had the rapid healing a Mazoku had… if anything had managed to break his stone skin… he would have lived. The damage from poison he had taken so long ago had been undone by the regenerative powers of the Mazoku.
The attack was for Amelia. He had no second thoughts as he leapt between Garv and Amelia. And he’d survived. He’d been horribly injured… Milgazia was healing him. But the power that kept him alive for Milgazia to do so... That was the Mazoku.
The power that he had drawn upon when fighting Dark Star… that which illuminated the Weapon held in his hands… without knowing it, he had called upon the Mazoku to lend him strength.
The time that he’d thrown Lina away from him in the battle with Rezo. That had been the Mazoku’s speed when he’d run. (He conveniently ignored the fact that he’d actually thrown her into the tree.)
Every time he’d cast the Astral Vine on his sword…
That power which saved him from annihilation in Shigai no Ishii.
The power that he’d used against Xellos… he’d known that was the Mazoku. But that which had kept him alive afterwards… what allowed him to open his eyes in the Royal Palace… that had been the Mazoku.
The very fact that he looked human now.
Aquamarine eyes blinked, looking into the quietly burning eyes of the Mazoku. But there was one thing left to show, one irrefutable fact:
The Mazoku was the source of the overwhelming current of emotions that ran within him, those that linked him to his friends and to Lina. The heart of those emotions was the inherent fire within the figure before him. No… the Mazoku was not evil. Not in the finite and precise definition of ‘evil’. In a broader sense, perhaps he was. But inasmuch as love could be a dual-edged sword… so too, was the Mazoku.
There would always be light near darkness… for without one, there could not be the other. Without Light, there could be no Darkness. Without Darkness, there was nothing to distinguish Light from anything else. More precisely, there would be Nothing.
It was the basic premise of Life.
Good and Evil, Evil and Good. That tenuous balance that existed between them.
He had to be both… or Nothing at all.
He had to choose.
And it had to be Now.
It had been entirely too easy to find him here in this forgotten place. The trail that he had left as he moved was like a beacon for all to follow. The wards of the room were pathetic, cast long ago by someone with weak control. At least, to a full Mazoku like Xellos they were. The victory would not be as he had intended, but it would be his victory ultimately. He paused a moment to savor the moment, to gloat over the fact that he’d finally win against Zelgadis. The staff leveled towards the unaware figure in the chair, talisman beginning to glow.
One… simple… bolt…
How he looked forward to the pain that would be in Lina’s face when he got to tell her that her beloved Zelgadis had failed and was now dead. Dead in the very same room that Amelia’s mother had died in.
He smiled darkly as the talisman built up full power. Goodbye, Zelgadis. It’s a pity that you didn’t want to join forces with me.
Lina’s hands were cupped around the stone in her necklace as she and the others followed the magical ‘trail’ that traced Zelgadis’ movements. He’d woven a path for them, headed into the old and abandoned part of the Palace, much to Amelia and Naga’s discomfort.
As Lina walked the halls, the girls behind her grew more and more uneasy, even going so far as to take one another’s hands as they had done as children. But Lina hadn’t stopped, no matter what the two Princesses had said.
They turned down a hallway, then another, with Lina in the front, Jedah behind her, with Gourry and Sylphiel behind him. The Princesses brought up the rear reluctantly, walking slower and slower as they approached a hallway they both dreaded. Indeed, as they feared, Lina turned down that hallway, approaching an ornate door at the end.
Coming to a halt at the door, Lina let the necklace fall against her chest and rested her hand on the handle, looking at the ornate carvings. “This is it.”
Amelia and Naga both turned white and stared at Lina. “You can’t… we can’t go in there,” Naga managed to whisper.
Lina frowned, unaware of the emotions felt by the two Princesses. “What do you mean, you can’t go in there?”
“It’s… where Mother died…” Amelia stammered. Naga could only bite her lip and nod at Amelia’s words.
Lina looked at Princesses, then the door. Something was wrong behind it, and she was pretty sure that it wasn’t related to the Princess’ mother. Squaring her shoulders, she turned the handle of the door. “I’m sorry. I have to,” she said.
And she opened the door, stepping through it without another word.
The explosion filled the room, the light spilling out into the hallway and blinding almost everyone.
Then the silence and darkness fell.