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Chapter Three
Life in the Shadows

     After more discussion, Lina decided that she should get some rest before starting her research.

     "Hey, Canal, where do you sleep around here?" Lina asked.

     "I have one guest room ready.  It'll take a bit before I have a second one ready."

     "Don't worry, Xellos isn't going to be needing any sleep.  He can just store his stuff in my room," Lina answered cheerfully, not noticing the deep blush painting Kain's cheeks at her comments.  "Come on, Xel.  There are a few things in that book we haven't tried yet."  Lina and Xel then followed Canal to their room after casting a curious look at the squirming Kain.

     Thanking Canal, Lina took a look around the room and flopped down on the bed, projecting a need for privacy at Xellos. He smiled and closed his eyes.  After a moment he nodded and looked at Lina. "They shouldn't be able to listen in now with their gadgets.  Now, what is your opinion of these people? I really don't want to take off to the astral plane and leave you here by yourself if you do not feel comfortable."

     "I like them, cape boy seems a little repressed, but not as bad as Zel was when we met him.  Canal is okay but I have a feeling that I don't want to see her if she gets stubborn about something." Lina scratched her head. "All in all, I think they'll be good questing partners.  I'm curious about the third member of their party; her name was Milly right?  She's still an unknown.  What did you pick up besides a good meal back there?"

     Xellos snickered. "No real sense of hostility from any of them.  That Kain though, repressed is not the word.  If you could have felt... well never mind it's not important, let me just say that Zelgadis has nothing on him.  The embarrassment of us sharing a room was enough in itself for a good meal."

     Lina blushed. "They don't know that you don't sleep, do they?"

     "Well, I don't think he thought we were going to the room to sleep," Xellos answered.

     "Oh, you know we do have to talk about our relationship." Lina looked down at her fingers as she started twisting them together.

     "It's pretty simple Lina-dear.  I love you," Xellos answered directly for once.

     "Do you?" Lina answered, becoming even more absorbed in her fingers.  "I don't know.  I think you need me, and in a way you may love me, but whom else are you going to latch on to?  We spent some pretty intense time together when your emotions were awakened.  You haven't experienced enough yet to truly know if what you feel for me is imprinting, gratitude or just a fear of being alone."

     "I don't agree with you, Lina.  I know what I feel." Xellos stretched out a finger and stroked Lina's cheek gently.

     "Emotions are still new to you, you haven't run though the gamut of crushes and infatuations most people go through.  I really don't think you should dive right into this. We're going to be together too long for us to start off with a mistaken romance and ruin our friendship."  Lina looked away from Xellos. "We have a lot to do here.  I'd like to see you take a very quick peek at the astral plane and let me know what you see.  No roaming around, look and leave, you got it?"

     Xellos sighed, it wasn't the first time he had had this talk with Lina and he was sure it wasn't going to be the last.  It would be more difficult, in a way, if he couldn't feel that she cared for him as well, but the knowledge made it difficult to hold back and wait for her to work through things on her own.

     In the control room, Canal was fussing at the monitors.

     "What is the matter with you?" Kain asked.

     "They shut me out!  I lost all surveillance capabilities in their section of the ship," she fumed, tossing her braids behind her.  "Oh, I just got my sensors back.  What is going on? Xellos is gone.  Lina is showing signs of sleeping, but Xellos is gone.  He must have decided to go to the `astral plane', wherever that is.  They are going to hear from me about this, just you wait and see."

     "Umm, Canal, are you planning on telling them off because they didn't let you eavesdrop on their private conversations?" Kain asked in an innocent tone of voice.

     "You bet I'm going to.. tell... them... oh right," Canal trailed off laughing in a chagrined manner.  "Well that's that then. Kain, what do you think of them?  Gut feelings now."

     Kain thought for a second. "I don't know.  That Xellos guy seems harmless, that girl though is pretty scary.  What an attitude."

     "Talk about the pot calling the kettle black," Canal mumbled.

     "What's that?" Kain asked.

     "Just talking to myself, continue with your thoughts Kain."

     "I just wonder what the real story is.  We're in a losing battle and poof help shows up. It is a bit convenient, isn't it?  And this talk about monsters and dragons is straight out of a fairy tale."

     Canal looked at Kain. "Actually, the monsters and dragons bit is the easiest for me to believe, looking at the files I have on dimensional analogues and conversations I had with your grandmother, it fits it.  It is Xellos that bothers me; there is a taint to him of old evil.  That taint is absent, by the way, in Lina.  He also isn't present in this world, not completely.  There is a distortion to the fabric of space around him that makes me think that he properly belongs in another realm.  Actually the closest match I've ever seen to him is Dark Seeder, though not a perfect match."

     "We're going to have to talk to them about that then, whenever Xellos comes back from where ever he went to."

     "I wonder how Milly is going to react.  Ego facing ego is not going to be pleasant for the rest of us."

     Canal snickered, "We should have an ego competition, followed by a cape competition. Didn't Lina say yours was a bit plain?"

     Kain gave Canal a dirty look and stomped off to bed.

     Xellos, on the other hand, was having the time of his life.  The astral plane was so nice and quiet without the minor monsters running around, he decided that he'd take a little walk around the place.  It had been a while since he had been able to stretch out in his astral form and it felt good.  Sending out a few smaller cones as a protective barrier, he relaxed.  As much as he enjoyed the mortal world, there was something to be said about lounging around in his natural state.

     Glancing to the side of him he saw a patch of darkness; curious, he drifted over to it.  Suddenly, what looked to be a blond haired human appeared in front of him.  The man bore a surprising resemblance to Gourry - tall, long hair, and a swordsman's stance.  Seeing the sword that the man had drawn, Xellos prepared for a challenge; this must be the second sword of light that Canal had mentioned which made this man an enemy, not a friend.

     "Who are you?" the blond man asked as he waved his sword threateningly.
     "Now, now don't get yourself in an uproar.  I was just doing a bit of sightseeing,"
Xellos answered, trying to unobtrusively prepare more cones.

     "Who are you?" the man repeated. "And what are you doing in my domain?"
     Xellos looked at him closely, the blonde had a lot of power and Xellos was unprepared for battle at the moment.  Taking a deep breath he decided the fight could keep until later.

     "I am what you see, a simple priest." Xellos smiled. "As for the rest..."

     "Yes, explain yourself," the other man demanded.

     "Well you see, that is..." Xellos paused dramatically, "a secret."

     Xellos then disappeared from the astral plane, leaving the other man blustering in anger.  He smiled gleefully, he still had it.  "You know, Xellos my lad, that is just as much fun to do on the bad guys as it was to do on the good guys."

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