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Chapter Two
Slayers Dragon Cycle
Chapter II: Serendipity! Look What I Found!
by Shadow

            Milgazia and Filia strolled through the hills near the borders of Dils and Ralteague, taking a rather lengthy route to the port cities of the Alliance of Coastal Nations, which would take them outside Demon's Isle, where Filia lived.

          Milgazia looked over to his younger companion. "If you don't mind my asking, Filia-san...why don't you just stay in the valley? I know what you told the Council of Elders, but I sense that there is a different reason why you chose not to stay amongst other Ryuzoku. There are plenty of Dragons like Val, so he would know his kind, and, even if he should remember the past, he would know not all the Gold Dragons are hostile to the Ancient Dragons."

          Filia shook her head, her eyes far away. "No...Though many have asked that of me, not wish to stay with other dragons, Milgazia-san." She sighed and readjusted the bag where she kept Val's egg. "Isolation and being aloof gave us kin and I...a very inflated ego. Saichuurouh-sama was ready to sacrifice another world as long as ours was spared Dark Star's coming. It was only by cooperating with the others...Lina...and Xelloss, the combination of our magics...that we were able to prevent that from happening." The young Dragon looked up at the taller Elder. "I want to learn more about the mortals who we think so little of, Milgazia-san. And more importantly, I want Val to learn. I don't want him to be making the same mistakes that we did. Perhaps if he lived amongst them...he will learn how to value them. I want to find a home, preferably near some humans. They have certain qualities I want him to be exposed to, so that hopefully, he'll be a little more aware of the other races, instead of seeing them as unworthy, like my clan did."

           Milgazia nodded gravely. "You have a very valid point, Filia-san. Perhaps if we were to mingle more with the humans and the other mortals, we would have much to gain. They too have as much right to live as we...indeed, even more so, because they have so little time in which to live." Milgazia smiled to himself, remembering someone who had very briefly touched his life and impressed him with an intense desire to live, to survive. He was starkly reminded of his own survival, and how willingly he had been able to volunteer his own life in order for her to live. He wondered how she was, and where she might have been. Indeed, Filia had been the first to be able to bring him any news of her.

           A shrill scream cut through the air, bringing Milgazia from his reverie and snapping Filia to attention. "That sounded like a cry for help!" Filia said, looking at Milgazia.

           Milgazia nodded. "Stay here," he ordered then teleported into the area of the sound of a young girl screaming for help. He stopped just a short distance from the fracas, and saw a black-haired girl in brown surrounded by bandits. She was taking small, frightened steps backward. Milgazia assessed the situation—one girl against eight big, smelly humans. He strode forward confidently, noting that none of the humans noticed his approach. So, he coughed politely. "Excuse me."

          The large males looked up at him. "Who're you?" said a man who was decorated with a web of scars on his pate.

          "Hey, another nobleman!" gloated another. "Today's our lucky day! We can hold them both hostage for lots of cash."

           Milgazia dropped all plans of peaceful negotiation. "You will cease harassing this young human right now. Go back to where ever you came from. I will only ask you once." He demanded.

           "What'd he say?" one would-be hostage taker asked.

          "Dunno. Sounded like a threat though." A man with an eye patch replied.

          A bald human who was half again Milgazia's height made a rude noise. "An uppity rich pretty boy! At least this one was scared of us." He jerked his thumb at the quavering young girl. "And he's got no weapons too! You must really be stupid to go wandering around outside your castle without a sword, Lord Dumb-ass. Let's teach him a lesson, boys." The man cracked his knuckles and advanced on Milgazia laughing in sadistic delight. "After we've broken your jaw, we'll take those big red jewels on your cloak and belt. How'd you like that?"

          "H-hey, wait a minute, leave him alone!" the girl stammered, looking over her shoulder.

          "You'd best flee, human child. I will handle them." Milgazia said, his expression as calm as always.

          "Eight of us against one of you? Gods, you're really overconfident. Rich guys these days. Get 'im men!"

          The eight jumped at him, drawing an assortment of swords and other bladed weapons. Milgazia raised a single finger and negligently traced a circle in the air. He sighed, accepted the inevitable, then murmured "Dil Brando."

           The ground right in front of him blew sky high, taking the eight men with it. Milgazia sidestepped the small crater he had made and walked toward the black-haired girl who stood gaping at him. He blinked and looked closely at her. "I seem to recognize you, human girl. Are you not one of Lina Inverse's companions?"

           The girl blinked up at him. "Hey! You're the Dragon Elder Milgazia! What are you doing out of Dragon's Peak?!"

          "I could ask the same of you..." Milgazia began, just as Filia rounded the bend and ran up to them.

          "Princess Amelia! What are you doing alone out here? Elder, are you all right?" Filia asked.

          "I am unharmed, and neither is the princess." Milgazia said in even tones, just as it rained bandits.

          "Um, you see..." Amelia said, pushing her fingers together. "I'm not really alone..."

          Milgazia raised one eyebrow. "I do not see," he looked around at the fallen bandits "any of your companions, Amelia-san. Where are they?"

          That question was answered in the form of a rolling screaming ball of arms, legs and bodies. Filia and Amelia jumped aside and Milgazia took one step backward as the ball hurtled past them and bounced into the crater made by Milgazia's Dil Brando. The tangle of humanity catapulted out of the pit and slammed into a large, sturdy tree, which miraculously did not topple.

           The dust cleared, revealing Amelia's companions plastered against the tree's bark. Milgazia squinted, trying to make sense of the mess. The wielder of the Sword of Light, Gourry, was kissing oak. The chimera, Zelgadiss, had helped him make a very good impression, while Lina was sandwiched between him and Xelloss.

           "Lina-san!" Amelia cried, running toward them. Gourry groaned in pain, and twitched once. Zelgadiss creaked backward, slowly falling off him, taking Lina and Xelloss along for the ride. In an amazing display of agility, Xelloss twisted around with Lina in his arms and crashed with her into the dirt. Zelgadiss glanced off the Mazoku's back and lay dazed nearby.

          Xelloss raised his head from Lina's chest and looked down at her, smiling. "My, my. That was a very soft landing, ne Lina-chan?"

           Lina was too busy blushing to reply. "It's a good thing that I was able to keep Zelgadiss-kun from crushing your delicate little form into the ground. He is so heavy, ne?" he frowned at Lina's lack of response. "I think a reward is appropriate, ne, Lina-chan?" his smile was sensuous as he bent down even more to kiss the dazed sorceress.

          Milgazia, standing over them, coughed loudly. Xelloss jerked in surprise and vanished, reappearing ten feet away, staff in hand.

          Lina blinked up at the Dragon Elder as he knelt down beside her. "Mil...gazia? What are you doing here?" she sat up, and reeled, her eyes glazing over. Milgazia caught her before she fell backward, holding her as Lina shook away the spots dancing in front of her eyes. She groaned. "I feel like Neechan bashed me with her tray." She straightened in consternation, remembering someone.

          "Amelia! Where—" she looked around, trying to stand at the same time.

          Amelia waved. "Lina-san! I'm okay—Milgazia-sama saved me from those bandits!"

          Milgazia quietly helped Lina to her feet as Amelia ran over to the dizzy chimera near them both. "You're all right?" Lina asked.

          Amelia nodded. "Uh huh! There's no need to worry about me!"

          "Good." Lina was at Xelloss' throat so fast that it seemed she'd teleported there. "YOU STUPID JERK!" Lina proceeded to turn Xelloss into a Mazoku maracas. "Of all the stupid lame-brained pranks you had to pull, why did you have to pull one NOW?! If it weren't for Milgazia Amelia could have been hurt!"

          "L-li-lina-ch-chan, I didn't mean to mess up your plan at all! You see, I tripped and..."

           Zelgadiss chose that moment to recover and actually tore Xelloss from Lina's grasp, then started to stomp him into the ground. "You-you-you!!!!!!" too enraged to say anything more, Zelgadiss performed a one-boot Mexican hat dance on Xelloss' head, which resulted in more dust clouds that conveniently obscured the sight of unrestrained violence of the type not suitable for young audiences.

          Lina turned to Milgazia just as Sylphiel came running down the hill they'd just cut a track through. "Gourry-sama!" the shrine maiden cried, running past Filia and yanking Gourry out of the Gourry-shaped hole in the oak. Catching the swirly-eyed swordsman in her lap, she immediately began to heal him.

          "Milgazia-san! What are you doing here?" Lina asked.

          "Watching your friend flatten Xelloss into the ground right now, but before that, I was helping out your friend, the princess Amelia." Milgazia replied absently, blinking once in astonishment. Mazoku don't have bones to be broken, I think...He stopped his reflection to look down at Lina. "Are you all right?"

          "I'm fine. Filia?" Lina looked past Milgazia in surprise.

          "Oh, Lina, are you all right? Did that namagomi hurt you?" Filia asked.

          Milgazia raised an eyebrow. Namagomi?

          Lina waved that away. "Xelloss actually kept me from getting crushed. What are you doing here?" Lina asked, pointing at Filia. "You're supposed to be taking care of Val! Hasn't he hatched yet?" Lina demanded. "Can I see him? I want to see him."

          Filia laughed and held up her bag. "I'm afraid he still hasn't hatched. I hope to get home first before he does."

          "Oh? Where do you plan to stay?" Lina cocked her head inquiringly, as Zelgadiss came over. The Chimera dusted his hands off with a slightly satisfied smirk on his lips. Behind him, Xelloss was a purple and black splat on the ground, remaining that way for a few seconds before he pulled himself together (literally) and dusted himself off, unhurt, unharmed and as cheerful as ever.

          Filia gently settled the egg pouch back against her hip. "Well, Jiras, Gravos, and I have found a place where we won't really be too noticed. It's a port city on the island of Darata called Windy Meadows."

          "That sounds really hard. Where are you going to stay to bring up an Ancient Dragon?" Amelia said.

          "Dragon's Peak?" Gourry suggested, fully healed now. "That's where all the Dragons live, ne?"

           Everyone, even Milgazia, popped loose hairs and sweatdrops. I see that hasn't changed, the Elder thought to himself, wincing.

          Lina headlocked him. "Jellyfish brains! Don't you think that Milgazia-san would have offered for Filia to stay with them by now?!"

          "...oh yeah."

          Milgazia sighed. "Actually, we did. Filia did not wish to stay, so she is now returning to the place where she plans to settle. I am here to accompany her on that journey. It is my wish, and the Council's, that Filia and Val be safely settled in a place where Val can grow up without any worries."

           "Good for you, Milgazia-san! In fact, we'll help you!" Lina proclaimed.

         "Who are you?" Gourry asked, looking at the Elder.

          Milgazia's sweatdrop suddenly had babies. "Um, wait, I think I remember your name..." a dim little lightbulb appeared over Gourry's head. "Oh yeah, I remember you! You're that talking dragon guy, Mazinger!"

          Everyone facefaulted again.

          Lina pulled her face out of the dirt and jump-kicked the clueless swordsman. "His name is MILGAZIA, you empty-skulled ghoul! He's the Dragon Elder who helped us find the Claire Bible!!!!"

          "I thought that Valgaav got turned back into an egg!" Gourry protested. "When did you grow up? I didn't think you would have blond hair the second time around...where's your horn?"

          Lina swiped Filia's mace and proceeded to hammer Gourry into the ground. "Val's an ANCIENT DRAGON, you moron! That's Milgazia and he's a GOLDEN Dragon Elder!!!"

          "Ow..."Gourry whimpered from the nice deep hole he lay in. Sylphiel knelt next to him and healed him up again. "They're both dragons, ne...?"

          "Gourry dear, hush." Sylphiel advised wisely.

          Xelloss appeared at Milgazia's side and patted his shoulder. "Oh well, you're going to have to get used to that, Milgazia-san, because Gourry-kun just isn't that good at remembering things..."

          "Don't you touch him, you namagomi Mazoku!" Filia's mace shot out and missed Xelloss' face as well as Milgazia's head, by mere millimeters.

          "I was only trying to be nice, Filia-chan!" Xelloss sang out, hopping around and over the heavy spiked mace that had suddenly become a morning star.

          "DON'T CALL ME –'CHAN'!!!" Filia howled. Milgazia flickered out of sight and reappeared in front of Lina, dodging another wild swing.

          "Besides, you almost hit Milgazia-san! Twice!" Xelloss pointed.

           Filia screeched to a halt, blue in the face. "Aaah!!!!!! Elder-sama! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Just let me get at that namagomi Mazoku so that I can cleanse the filth of his touch from you!!" A reddish aura appeared around Filia and she set off after Xelloss again, almost running Zelgadiss over.

          "Watch it!" he yelled.

          Xelloss danced out of the way. "Temper, temper, Filia-chan..."

           Amelia screamed and jumped into the air as Mace-sama swung past where her head had been.

          "Oooh, look! You almost nailed Amelia! She could have been very badly hurt!" Xelloss teased, leaping over Gourry and Sylphiel as the two ducked out of the way. Filia howled in frustration and hopped over them as well. Sylphiel covered Gourry's eyes as she did.

          "Oh, can't those two just give it a rest?!" Lina groused, stomping out from behind Milgazia's protective position in front of her. She waited for Xelloss to flit past her, then took one step forward into Filia's way. "That's enough out of the both of you!" she yelled into the Dragon maiden's face. "For crying out loud, we're all together for less than ten minutes and ALREADY the two of you are fighting!"

          "But Lina-san!" Filia protested. "That namagomi touched the Elder!"

          "It's not as if Xelloss were some plague, though he might act like it sometimes!" Lina snapped. Xelloss twitched. "Elder Milgazia can take care of himself, Filia, not that he needs protecting from Xelloss, but rather from you. I saw you almost brain him twice already. They say third time's a charm—care to test that out?" she turned to Milgazia abruptly. "Milgazia-san, you didn't catch a cold just from Xelloss' touching you, did you?"

          Raising his eyebrows, Milgazia shook his head. Lina turned back to Filia and shook her finger in the Dragon maiden's face. "Since he didn't catch any disease from Xelloss' clapping him on the shoulder, I don't think he'll die right now either. Now stop it, or I'll stick both of you together in the same rooms every single inn and force both of you to share the same bedroll every night throughout the entire trip!"

           "What?! Me and that namagomi in the same room together...?! Lina-san, you wouldn't!" Filia wailed.

          Lina rubbed her head. "Try me."

          Zelgadiss snorted. "Go right on ahead, Lina." He scowled at the Mazoku, who ignored him.

          Xelloss held up his hand. "Oh, don't worry, Lina-chan. I'll behave; as much as I can, anyway. I can't guarantee Filia-chan's behavior however. You know how selfish certain dragons are..."

          "WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?!" Filia's tail popped out.

          Milgazia held up a hand in front of her. "Peace, Filia-san. You have an egg with you." He said, grasping at the first idea that he had to try calm her down. Inwardly, he wondered if what he had just said made any sense and would work on the hot-headed dragon maiden.

          Apparently it did, for Filia's tail vanished. "You're right, Milgazia-sama...I have to remember my responsibilities..." With that, she started to stroke the egg in its pouch gently.

           Lina sighed in relief as things quieted down. "Thanks, Milgazia-san...that helped." She looked up and saw the small bandit gang trying to tiptoe away, hoping that they were forgotten and forgiven in the light of being ignored.

           "Just where do you think you're going?" she asked sweetly.

          "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!" the leader howled, his legs a blur under him as he tried to flee.

          Lina snickered, then raised her arm and swept it at the path in front of them. "Demona Crystal!"

           A mist sprang up from the line she had drawn on the ground and engulfed the eight, sealing them into a solid block of ice. Lina walked up to them and patted it. "How rude you bandits are, trying to escape when I'm collecting your bounty! It's jail for you, `coz rude boys never get on a girl's good side, right everyone?"

           "That just didn't make any sense at all..." Amelia murmured, her brow furrowing in confusion as Milgazia watched Lina produce ropes from under her cloak, to help in hauling the outlaws back to the nearest town.


          Lina strolled out of the sheriff's office, happily tossing a small bag of coins. "Hee! Enough for our night's stay at a good inn and for even better food!" she crowed.

          Filia chuckled, her eyes crinkling in delight at Lina's infectious good mood. "You haven't changed at all, Lina-san."

           Milgazia smiled as four constables worked at chipping the bandits out of their icy prison. "That was a nicely controlled spell, Lina. Also, the ice lasted much longer than I would have believed it could have. Well cast." He smiled in admiration.

          Lina ducked her head, unused to compliments that came out of the blue. "Ah...thanks, Milgazia-san. C'mon guys. Let's get to the inn and you—" she nodded at Filia "tell us where you're going so we can plot out our travelling route."

          "Well, we're going to the island of Darata, so..." Filia began, tucking her cloak around herself and Val's egg as the day began to cool.

          "Hold it! We'll talk about that after dinner!" Lina held up her hand. "We've got to get our priorities in order, after all! The Silver Springs Resort has one of the best menu services in town, as well as some really nice hot springs! We can talk it over when we're in some really hot water, relaxing." She stretched. "Aaah...nothing like a good meal and a hot bath to end the day!"


          After registering for rooms and inquiring about a separate space for the pools, the troupe separated to settle for the night. Milgazia removed a small hidebound book from the depths of his cloak and sat at the little desk, reaching for the quill that was provided with the desk. He began to write the day's date when he heard a knock on the door. Filia poked her head in, apologizing in case she had disturbed him, but Milgazia put the journal away and told her that she was no bother at all.

           "Lina-san said that we've got ourselves a slightly secluded pool at the far end of the resort, and it is also dinner time, Milgazia-sama. We can eat at the poolside too." The former miko said.

           "Ah. Well then, let us join our companions?" Milgazia made as though to close the door behind him, but Filia spoke again.

          "Ah, can't go into the pool area in your normal clothes. It isn't allowed."

          Milgazia looked down at the dragon maiden, noting that she had Val's pouch slung at her side, a towel over the other shoulder and a tight-fitting pink suit that revealed her arms and legs. "I see..."

          "Oh, this isn't mine. I asked the hotel for one, and they have swimsuits for guests who are just passing by and don't have proper attire to make use of the springs. You can ask also." Filia said, gesturing to the suit. "They had one in my favorite color." She grinned.

           "I see...thank you, Filia. Go on ahead. I will meet you where the others are." Milgazia nodded to her and turned away, catching sight of one of the hotel staff.

          Filia turned the corner, hearing Milgazia's polite "Excuse me..."

           The attendant looked up, shifting a mop on his shoulder and blinked at the tall blond man in front of him. "Yes sir, how may I help you?"

           "I was told that guests could avail of swimsuits provided by the hotel. Where might I obtain one?" Milgazia gazed idly at the attendant, a young boy of perhaps fifteen years of age. He wore a blue and gray uniform and a cap that said "Silver Springs Resort Maintenance Crew." A shiny pin saying "Steven" was clipped to the front of his uniform.

          "Oh. You can find some at the souvenir shop. If you're staying here, they give you a suit for free." The house boy moved his janitor's cart aside.

          Milgazia nodded—that made sense if you wanted to attract customers back to the resort. "Where might I find this souvenir shop?"

          "Go back to the lobby. There's a sign there that points to it. Its got another big sign over the door, and you really can't miss the displays. Will there be anything else, sir?" the youth looked at the taller Ryuzoku, pushing up his cap over his bangs in a mild salute.

          "No, that will be all, thank you for your help." Milgazia remembered a vague custom where one was supposed to reward a particularly helpful servant in places like this. What was it called? Oh yes, a tip.

           The boy had started to push his cart away when Milgazia tapped him on the shoulder. "Yes sir? Was there something else?"

Milgazia took his hand and placed a small round object in it. "For your aid." With that, the white-robed Ryuzoku took his leave.

            The boy blinked owlishly at his back, then looked down at the thing he'd been given. At first, he mistook it for a red marble, but noticed that it was not smooth, but faceted, each minute facet catching in the light. His eyes opened wide when he realized he was holding a flawless, perfectly cut ruby in his hand. This was way too much! "Sir! Wait a moment!" But the stranger was gone.


            "...And so I told her 'you're going to get into trouble,'" Jessica said to her fellow shopkeeper. "but do you think she listened?"

           Fara looked over her shoulder and laughed. "No! I just worry that with the way she's acting, Medeline's gonna give the place a rep..." the girl trailed off, dropping a handful of little beanbag dolls to the floor, her eyes wide.
          Yeah, I hear you." Jessica shook her head, light brown hair waving over her eyes. Annoyed, she pushed the stray lock away. "I gotta get a haircut..." she looked up as the little bell that announced the entry of a customer, launching into her greeting before getting a good look. "Welcome to Silver Springs Resort's Souvenir Shoppe! I'm Jessica, how may I"

          A tall, blond man in white robes glided in, looking around. "This must be the place..." he murmured.

           Jessica blinked again and remembered that she wasn't supposed to be gaping at him like that—bad form and everything, and the customer might get freaked—so she focused on a lower part of his face—his nose—and continued as though nothing had happened. " you?" Oooh, he's dreamy! Why didn't I see him come in today? I know he's got to be a new customer...I wonder if he's royalty? We get them sometimes...

           The man looked straight at her. "Yes...perhaps I could inquire about some swimming attire...I was told I could obtain some here, courtesy of the resort's services."

           "Oh! You want some swimming trunks!" Jessica suddenly grinned. Fara had made her way behind the customer and was grinning right back at her. "Well, you've come to the right place, Mr...uh..."


          "Right! So...what size do you wear?"

          Milgazia blinked at them slowly, then his brow furrowed. Gah, he looks intimidating when he frowns! Jessica thought. "Oooh, wait! You must have all your clothes tailor-made, so you wouldn't know. That's okay! We get a lot of people like that. Let me just have a good look at you..." Jessica stepped out from behind the counter. Fara winked at her friend and trotted over to Milgazia as well, a stylus and pad in hand.

           The two young women started to circle their, customer, looking him up and down. Extensively. They took notes, patting at him or moving his cloak aside as one girl used a cord to measure his waist and hips, all the while making commentary too soft for even Milgazia to hear. Occasionally, they would grin, either to themselves, or to each other, then giggle. Milgazia idly wondered if this was how bugs felt when he and Memphy observed them. This is getting unnerving...

           Just as Milgazia opened his mouth to speak, the first girl jumped to her feet, waving the other girl's notepad in the air. "Done! I think we have one that is exactly your size, Milgazia-sama! I'll bring it right out!" she scampered toward a curtain-covered doorway when she stopped abruptly, her hand on the curtain. "Any color will be all right with you...sir?"

           Milgazia paused in his eyeing a beanbag fishman that sat on the counter. "Yes...whatever is suitable will be quite acceptable to me..."

          "Right! Gotcha! Be right out!" Jessica vanished through the door, leaving him with Kara.

           Kara smiled at him as she worked at arranging the beanbag souvenirs on a shelf. " with your friends or family, Milgazia-sama?"

           "I am travelling with some companions, yes." Milgazia eyed a small wooden doll that was standing in a barrel. Wondering what it was for, he picked it up by the barrel and ended up pulling the barrel off the base. A stick attached to the middle by a spring stood up as the barrel was pulled free. Milgazia raised an eyebrow and hoped that he didn't break the ridiculous toy...whatever. He put the barrel back and saw with some relief that the horizontal stick bent back down like it was supposed to.

          "Companions...?" Kara murmured to herself. What kind of companions, I wonder...

          "Oh, Milgazia-sama!"

           The tall Ryuzoku turned to face the girls. Jessica had reappeared, holding something in her hand. "Here's your suit! You can go and change in your room or at the changing room near the springs."

          Milgazia opened his palm and was handed a small package. "...this is it?"

          Jessica and Kara grinned at him. "Yup!"

           Milgazia looked at it dubiously and nodded. "Thank you..." he turned to leave, then remembered the tip tradition. He reached into his sleeve and gave them each a little crystal sphere and left.

           "Thank you! Come back again!" Kara called after him. "Ooooh, cute cute CUTE! Right, Jess?"

           Jessica turned the marble over in her hand. "He's droolsome, but why'd he give us a marble?"

           Kara shook her head. "What a shame...drop-dead gorgeous and weird too..."

          Just then, Steven ran in. "Hey, did you gals see a guy in white robes asking about a suit?"

          "Yeah. Cute weirdo gave us a marble." Kara replied.

          Steven held out his. "They're not marbles! They're jewels!"

          The three of them gaped at the stones in disbelief. "Who was that guy...?"


          Milgazia returned to his room a little while later, turning a little black triangle of fabric over in his gloved hands. He had seen a few of the hotel's male customers on the way back, so he knew how to wear it. It barely covered what it was supposed to, though that was true of most of the males there. "I suppose it is logical...there is no need to have a suit that will take a long time to dry." He shrugged, unclasping his cloak and slipping off his robes and boots. "More efficient that way. I wonder what the attendants found so amusing though." Milgazia pulled off his pants and turned the suit in his hands until he figured out which side was supposed to go in front. He pulled it on, noting that it fit him, snugly, though not uncomfortably. "I could almost believe that those girls had fangs..." he picked up the towel he had been given and put the pair of sandals that was placed next to the bed on his feet and went out, closing the door behind him. He had gone a few steps when he heard a woman call out behind him.

          "Excuse me, sir! You forgot your key!"

           The girl stared at him, then blinked a few times. "Ah...thank you, sir...Here is your key, Mr...?"

           "Milgazia. Be careful next time, miss. And thank you." He had forgotten that humans felt a need to lock up their rooms when they left them.

          "Oh, I will, Mr. Milgazia. I'm Alexis, and if you need anything, just let me know!"

          "I will be sure to." Milgazia turned away again, murmuring to himself about how friendly the staff was. As he made his way to the pools, he added clumsy to the list of attributes. He had run into a double-handful of female maids and waitresses in half as many minutes, a few clinging to him for a moment after crashing into him. They would apologize fervently afterward, of course, introducing themselves and swearing to come to his personal aid to make up for their clumsiness. When he entered the swimming area, the number immediately quadrupled, as other customers suddenly seemed to be in his way despite all the space there was to walk in. The women customers would introduce themselves and then ask if he was alone.

          After brushing past the fortieth buxom woman who had bounced off him, he sighed. "Where is Lina?" he muttered.

          "Hoi, Milgazia-san!"

         The Ryuzoku turned, to see Gourry standing in chest-deep water, waving at him. Gratefully, Milgazia made his way over to the swordsman, when another young woman suddenly burst out of the decorative bushes and ran toward him. Milgazia stepped back to let her pass, and she ran into the pool, squealing as she fell in, splashing water everywhere. The spray hadn't even settled when she popped back up, scratching behind her head and laughing nervously. "I'm soooooo soooooooooorrrrrrryyyyyy sir!" she jumped back out of the pool and ran to him, a towel in her hands. "Did I get you wet, sir? Here, let me, sir, I'm so sorry, let me make it up to you..." she started to pat at the bemused Dragon Elder with the towel.

          "Excuse me, my companions are waiting for me. I am quite unhurt. Thank you." Milgazia stepped around her, and strode quickly toward the shaded off area where Gourry had swum back to.

           Lina, Sylphiel, Amelia and Filia were talking animatedly when they heard Milgazia's rueful voice. "Ceiphied, I never knew human females could be so clumsy."

          "Hey, Milgazia, glad you could..."Lina trailed off, her eyes widening and blushing slightly. Sylphiel, Amelia, and Filia followed suit.

          "Eeeh..." Amelia murmured.

          Sylphiel blushed and looked down. Lina pulled her eyes up to look at Milgazia's face instead. There had been little hint of his physique, what with his loose robes and billowing cloak covering him, but his broad shoulders should have given it away. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to see that he had a powerfully muscled torso and trim waist. Well, it wouldn't make sense if he looked majestic in his dragon-form and then pathetic in his human one...but L-sama...Lina thought. Suddenly she remembered his comment and looked at him. "What do you mean by that, Milgazia-san?"
          "It is just that...I can almost believe that I've met every single female here through accident." His brow furrowed as he sat down.

          Lina blinked, then burst out laughing. "That was funny, Milgazia-san!"

          Sylphiel and Amelia caught onto the pun and also started to laugh. Zelgadiss shook his head and chuckled, guessing easily what must have happened.

          Milgazia blinked in confusion. "But...I did not make a joke."

          The laughter died swiftly and they all sighed. "Oh, never mind, Milgazia-san. You're safe here." Lina assured him.

          Milgazia nodded in agreement. "Yes. I don't think you are as clumsy or awkward as the females I've run into today."

          "Well, let's relax and plan out our journey, shall we?" Lina looked up at Xelloss, who was eating nearby. "Could you please hand me the map, Xelloss?" she pointed to where it lay next to a half-eaten chocolate cake.

          The Mazoku, dressed in dark purple swimming trunks, left his fork in his mouth, smiled around it, and handed her the map. Then he took the fork out of his mouth and licked a smear of icing from his lip. "This is very good cake, Lina-chan. Try some?" he poked at his slice with this fork, tearing off a bit and offering it to Lina.

           Lina took the mouthful and nodded her agreement. "Hey, you're right! That is good! Don't eat all the cake and save me some, Xelloss!"

          "Anything you say, Lina-chan," Xelloss chirped, polishing off the remains of his slice and getting himself another.

          Lina leaned on the edge of the pool and spread out the map. "Okay, we're here." She pointed to a small dot on the map. "The island of Darata's here." She pointed to a small island some distance south of Demon's Isle. "What was the route you have already plotted out, Milgazia-san?"

          Milgazia had lowered himself into the pool and waded over. With his finger, he traced out the path, which bypassed most of the larger cities and avoided the greater obstacles, like rivers. "We took this route because it avoided catching the attentions of higher-level Mazoku who might be in the larger human settlements," he explained. His eyes flicked over to Xelloss, who was making delighted sounds over the cake's rich flavor. "That point is moot now, however."

          Lina chuckled. "Yeah. Well, since we just became a larger party, it would be better if we took this path, stopping at towns and the like every now and then to replenish our supplies." She drew out the new route with her fingernail, which did not avoid the slightly smaller towns, but did not go through all of them. "We can also make use of the larger highways and roads, so that should help cut our travel time a bit. Will this do?"

           Milgazia glanced at Filia, who looked over Lina's shoulder. The former Miko nodded. "We don't lose so many days, so I don't mind it at all."

          "Well, you don't seem to mind roughing it, Filia." Lina said, looking at Milgazia's path. "You cut through most of the forests."

          "Well," Filia flushed. "I'm not used to it, but I did want to get to Jiras and Gravos as fast as possible, so I'm learning."

          "You're getting tougher, Filia." Lina grinned. "But then, if you think you can survive taking care of a kid, then you can survive anything." She turned to look at Milgazia. "So, found out what happened about the Ancient Dragons."

          Milgazia nodded. "A tragedy and a firm lesson to us all." His brow furrowed, as through remembering something unpleasant.

          "So, uh...are there any Ancient Dragons in Dragon's Peak?" Lina asked, trying to distract him. He looked so old when he frowned.

          Milgazia shook his head sadly. "No. The Ancient Dragons who fought alongside of us numbered less than a handful of individuals and only because they had been trapped in the Demon's Barrier as we had been. They died in that final onslaught, like much of my clan."

          Lina bowed her head. "I see." I was hoping that Val was wrong in thinking that he was the last Ancient Dragon, as Filia was wrong in thinking she was the last Gold. Her eyes crept over to where Val's egg sat, safely far from the water but close enough to avail of it's warmth. Filia is the last of her clan, because there's Milgazia's clan and the other Clans, but Val's the last of his race...She looked up again when Milgazia continued to talk.

           "I remember the Ancient Dragons as being a very closely knit group, their families often living close together, instead of being spread out over the world. The ones who were with us were scouts and messengers reporting in on the status of the other clans. They were very courageous, and very honorable. They were also most of us were young then."

          "Aw, Milgazia, you don't look that old, whatever your age is." Gourry piped in cheerfully, splashing his face with some water and hauling himself out of the spring. "I mean, look at Xelloss. He's over three thousand years old and he don't look a day over twenty!" he flipped his braided hair over his shoulder and made for the buffet table.

          Xelloss twitched. "I am only over a THOUSAND years old, not THREE!" He looked ready to throw the entire cake he held, plate, fork and all, at Gourry.

           Gourry blinked at the furious priest. "So you mean you're only three years old, Xelloss? I had no idea!"

           With a yowl of absolute frustration, Xelloss crashed into the ground and stayed there, twitching.

           Lina, Milgazia, Filia, and Zelgadiss stared up at the swordsman. "There isn't a cure for stupidity, is there, Milgazia?" Lina muttered through the stone.

          Milgazia shook his head once, quite unable to believe that such denseness could exist in such a small area without the resulting singularity becoming a black hole.

          "At least he remembered your name this time," Zelgadiss said, submerging himself to regain his composure.

          Lina suddenly squealed in horror, and ran up to Xelloss, pulling at him. "Xelloss! Xelloss!"

          Everyone blinked. Xelloss yanked his face out of the stone and looked up at Lina, eyes open in surprise. "Lina...?" he murmured. His eyes filled with tears. "You were...worried about me? I'm really touched! Oh Lina-chan!"

          "The hell with you!" Lina shoved him aside. "AAAUGH! It's ruined! That absolutely lovely, delicious chocolate cake is RUINED!"

          Xelloss tipped over sideways, falling back into the spring. Milgazia began to laugh, and Zelgadiss came up, caught between coughing and chortling. After a few moments, Xelloss burst back out of the water, tears streaming down his face. "LINA-CHAN! YOU MEAN YOU WEREN'T WORRIED ABOUT MY FEELINGS AT ALL?!"

          "Why should I? You're Mazoku, aren't you? Getting your dignity bruised isn't going to kill you! Oh my poor cake....gone!" Lina wailed.

          "That was my cake!" Xelloss protested.

          "You were going to give me some!"

          "I'm so glad that you're all enjoying the spring, ladies and gentlemen!" The companions turned to see a slightly pudgy man with gray hair approach them. "I hope that everything is to your liking. I try so hard to please my customers. My name is Math, and I'm the proprietor of this humble resort." He bowed, sweeping his arms out to either side of him. He wore a bathrobe and a pair of sandals, both of which were adorned with a crest that was also the resort's logo. "And don't worry about the mess. That can be cleaned up easily!" he snapped his fingers and two young men with brooms and washcloths appeared out of the woodwork. They swept up the shattered cake and its plate then jumped back into the bushes, leaving the flagstones without any hint of chocolate.

          "I don't suppose that you have any more of that cake," Lina asked Math hopefully.

          "Well, the bakers are still making the next batch," Math said, scratching at his double chin thoughtfully. "But there should still be some at the main buffet table!"

          "Well, have it brought over here!"

          "Oh, that wouldn't be fair to the other guests. I'm afraid if you want some, you'll have to go out and socialize a little." Math said apologetically, bowing. "But as soon as there is a cake finished, I'll be sure to have it sent over here."

          "Socialize for some cake?" Xelloss smiled. "I suppose it's not too much of a bother...Later, minna-san!" With that, the Mazoku priest darted out of the bush-enclosed space.

          "...does he really have taste buds?" Sylphiel wondered aloud to herself.

          "I guess he does, or else he wouldn't be this persistent." Amelia replied, shaking her head. "That must be some cake!"

          Lina rolled up imaginary sleeves. "I'll be damned if I let some crazy priest who doesn't know how to cook beat me to one of the best chocolate cakes I've ever tasted! He'd better leave me some! C'mon guys!" she ran after Xelloss, fist in the air.

          Zelgadiss shook his head. "I'll stay right here and save the spot for us." With that, he sank lower into the pool and closed his eyes.

           "If I don't get there, there won't be any cake left for me to try!" Gourry yelped, racing across the pool and vanishing around the bend.
          "Hmmm...if I taste that cake, maybe I'll be able to duplicate it for Gourry!" Sylphiel murmured to herself as she followed.

          Amelia struck a pose, leaping out of the pool and showering both Milgazia and Filia with water. "It would be unjust to let beautifully prepared cakes be uneaten!" she cried. "Let them fulfill the purpose for which they were baked in the name of Love and Justice!" with that, she scampered after the others.

          Filia sighed, climbed out of the pool and flipped her wet hair over her shoulder. "I suppose I could ask Sylphiel-san to teach me to cook it, but I have to taste it to know it was mixed right..." she turned to look at Zelgadiss. "Could you please look after Val's egg for me, Zelgadiss-san?"

          Zel nodded, not even bothering to open his eyes and waved her off.

          "I might as well go as well." Milgazia said, hoisting himself out of the water. "This human preoccupation with food is something that I find curious indeed. It deserves research."

          After the Dragon Elder had gone, Zelgadiss sighed in relief. "Aaaaahh...peace and quiet at last." Happily, the Chimera sank into the hot spring and vanished altogether.


          Xelloss had managed to wheedle a slice from the waitress at the buffet table. Lina and Gourry argued on who would get the next slice so Amelia and Filia got their slices first. Sylphiel got a slice for herself and Gourry, so the fight that was supposed to have been did not happen.

          Lina grinned. "Thanks Sylphiel! He's outta my hair! Now for that lovely..." she turned back to the buffet and gaped. The waitress put away the platter that had held the cake and placed some fruit salad in its place. "Oh no! It's all GONE!" she wailed, big fat HUGE tears welling at the corners of her eyes. She rushed to the table, looking back and forth frantically, hoping that there was a slice left for her, a crumb perhaps, even a little smear of icing...

          "Pardon me, Lina...would you like some?"

          Lina turned to see Milgazia holding out his plate to her. On it were two slices of the much-coveted chocolate cake. Her eyes grew wide. "Why do you have two pieces?"

          Milgazia shrugged. "The waitress gave them to me. I am not all that hungry, so this would just go to waste. Would you like to share it with me?" The others had gotten their own respective meals and now occupied a table, eating.

          "Would I?!" Lina grinned. "I'd love to!"

          Xelloss looked up upon hearing Lina's enthusiastic cry. He and the others watched as she followed the Ryuzoku to the only free table a few meters away. Xelloss' eyes narrowed as Milgazia pulled out the chair for Lina and placed the cake in front of her.

          Lina smiled up at him in surprise as she sat down and he pushed her and the chair closer to the table. "Hey, thanks, didn't have to do that..."

          Milgazia shook his head as he moved to other side of the table. "It is only proper and polite, Lina. Is that not how a human male should treat a lady?"

          Lina blushed slightly at being called a lady. "No one calls me a lady, and I hardly qualify as one..." she protested softly. "Thanks."

          The Dragon Elder raised his eyebrows questioningly. "You are a human maiden in full bloom, are you not? I do not see why you should not be considered a lady." he lowered himself into his own chair directly across from her.

          Gourry chuckled, overhearing the Ryuzoku's affirmation. "Heh, no one in his right mind would call Lina ladylike—" Sylphiel laid a finger over his mouth.

          "Well, in a way...Milgazia-san is right. Lina's old enough to be called a lady and not a girl...though you wouldn't know it from the way she acts sometimes..." Amelia said softly.

          Sylphiel shook her head. "Oh, I don't think so...Maybe Lina-san can be ladylike too...just like she is being ladylike now with Milgazia-san, ne?"

          Xelloss clacked his teeth on his fork and finished chewing before he spoke.. "Oh yes...she is being very ladylike. She has always been a lady. I'm surprised that you haven't noticed that." he looked sideways at Milgazia from their table as he drank. "Unlike some other people I could mention..." he didn't look at Filia but everyone there knew who it was directed at.

          Filia snorted in derision. "Hmph! What would you know about being a gentleman and being ladylike? Filth like you wouldn't travel in the proper circles of society to recognize the manners of a lady even if it hit you in the head!"

          Xelloss grinned. "I guess you really must know what you're talking about, Filia-chan. I mean, with your attitude, I'd say you were barred at the gates of polite society when they saw you coming a mile away!" He laughed.

          Filia shook with rage and threw her fork at him. "YOU NAMAGOMI!!!"

          Lina turned at the ruckus and sighed, glad that she was for once, not sharing the table with them. "Geh...I'm not letting those two ruin my dessert."

          Milgazia watched as the verbal battle between Filia and Xelloss escalated to its usual dizzying heights. "Why does she call him 'namagomi'?"

          "Oh, that started when they met. I asked Xelloss about it. He asked her how the Karyu-oh was doing and she started screaming at him, calling him a cockroach and garbage. I'd say he was pretty darn insulted."

          Milgazia frowned slightly, nodding. "I see..."
          "Oh, never mind them, let's get to more important things, like..." Lina reached for a fork and realized that she forgot to bring one with her. "Oh drat, I forgot..."

          "...your fork?" Milgazia held out one to her, holding one of his own. He gestured to the plate as Lina took the utensil, thanking him. "Ladies first."

          "Thanks"! Lina said, carving off a mouthful and guiding it to her mouth eagerly. Her eyes popped open, and she closed them again, sighing happily. It was worth it, being almost sinfully rich in flavor. She could taste little bits of solid chocolate in the icing layer between cakes, which was almost black in color but not bitter, and the cake itself was moist, almost creamily melting in her mouth. "Ooooh,'s great! It's absolutely delicious! Isn't that right, Milgazia?"

          The Ryuzoku nodded in agreement, his mouth full. He waved to a waiter and mimed drinking, then pointed at himself and Lina. Milgazia turned back to Lina and smiled. "I must agree...It is very flavorful indeed. I am afraid I'm not used to such rich foods may have the rest, if you like."

           Lina gazed at him, stars filling her eyes. "Of course I like! Thanks, Milgazia!"

          "It is no problem at all..." Milgazia replied, taking the drinks from the waiter and sipping his judiciously.

          "I guess that it makes sense you're not used to this." Lina poked her fork at the cake. "Chocolate isn't that easy to get in Dragon's Peak after all, ne?"

          Milgazia nodded gravely. "That is quite true." He sipped more of the fruit punch he had been given, then drained the glass. The moment he set it down, a waitress appeared out of nowhere and refilled it, pausing to smile winsomely at him before she sashayed off.

          "I really love this cake," Lina said, having already finished off half. "The food in this place is quite good." She snapped her fingers at a waiter and proceeded to order some tempura finger foods.

          "Double portions, if you please."

          Milgazia looked at his glass, sipping frequently. "So, Filia came to Dragon's Peak for help." Lina raised her eyebrows at him inquiringly.

          Milgazia nodded, swallowing more of his punch. "She wished to learn about taking care of baby Ryuzoku. While it has been a while since we've had any hatchings, the youngest Ryuzoku we have are about her age, and their parents remember taking care of infants. She seems to have amassed enough information on the subject to be confident enough to take Val and live outside of the Valley."

          Lina smiled. "Glad to see she's taking things responsibly for a change! I hope she decides to go back...Val needs to grow up with some of the other Ryuzoku too, so he can learn about being one." she took another bite out of her cake. "So...if you don't mind me asking, that did the other Ryuzoku take learning about what happened to the Ancient Dragons?"

          Milgazia's brow furrowed a little. "Badly. Especially the youngest ones. They are idealistic, but still..." he shook his head. "Such a thing must never happen again."

          Lina leaned forward. "I don't get it, Milgazia-san...why didn't the other dragons who followed the other Dragon Kings help your clan? Even Neechan could be vague about the histories..."

          "Each of the Shinzoku were assigned to a particular part of the world to watch over, to guard against Shaburanigdo's resurrection. Neither could risk leaving his or her sphere of influence...for the Mazoku might have over-run it if they did."

          "But that happened anyway in the Kouma War!" Lina protested as the waiter brought back a trayful of the requested tempura tidbits.

          "No. Each of the Kings support each other in a way...and the plan of the Mazoku was masterful indeed." Milgazia's hands curled around his glass as he gazed into the liquid inside and beyond. "They sealed us away in this area and attacked the Seiryu-oh with all their might and Gaav while we were confused and in disarray. It was in the heart of this chaos that Gaav faced Seiryu-oh-sama and Xelloss was sent after us. In a way, were were already injured, weakened, on the astral level when Xelloss appeared. It was why...he took us down so easily."

          Lina gazed at him, thinking to herself. He was alive when the Kouma War old was he then, I wonder...she watched him drain the glass he held. I wonder if I could get him to tell would be very interesting to know what really happened in the War...all we have are legends, fragmented records...

          Milgazia set his glass down and again a busty young waitress sashayed over. She leaned over while she poured, filling it. She overbalanced and ended up pressing against him, just as Lina was wondering what to say in order to banish the sudden pall that darkened the day.

          "Ooh, I'm so very sorry sir!" the waitress cooed, brushing her hand across his chest and jiggled a little more against Milgazia, who only looked up at her, a little confused.

          Lina stared in shock before recovering. That definitely work, she thought wryly.

          She hid her smile with a mouthful of cake, knowing that this girl was being very blatant. It seemed that Milgazia had no idea what the waitress was doing, and Lina wondered how long it would be before she got frustrated. There was nothing worse than trying to catch the attention of a totally clueless man. Out of the corner of her eye, Lina caught a glimpse of Amelia's and Filia's scandalized expressions. Sylphiel simply looked embarrassed.

          "Quite all harm done." Milgazia replied politely.

          "Oh no...let me make it up to you!" the waitress purred, a lock of long pink hair slipping from her shoulder-clip to brush against the Dragon Elder's cheek. "My name is Medeline. Just call for me anytime."

          Milgazia sneezed, the hair tickling his nose as Medeline leaned forward some more, making him jerk away. Lina took pity on him at that point and stood, having finished her cake, snacks and drink. As she rose, Lina quickly grabbed Milgazia's hand, tugging the Ryuzoku to his feet and away from the waitress. "C'mon, let's go for a swim. I'm parched."

           " you wish, Lina..." Milgazia replied, trotting obediently along after her. "But perhaps you shouldn't just ate after all."

          "Yeah, I guess so. Hey guys!" Lina waved to the others. "Let's get back to our spot! It's getting too crowded around here for my taste." She glanced back at the over-endowed waitress, who glared at her and flounced off in a huff. That looked pretty bad. Good thing I rescued Milgazia from her. I don't think that he knew what she was talking about...Lina decided, just as the Sylphiel, Gourry, Amelia, Filia and Xelloss fell into step around her and Milgazia.

          "Lina-san...shouldn't we be getting some rest?" Filia asked her as they entered the secluded area that they had reserved. Zelgadiss was languidly relaxing against the side of the pool, letting all his muscles go limp.

          "In a bit. I want to enjoy the springs first before we all turn in. It would be a waste if we didn't." Lina replied. Amelia dove into the water and surfaced some distance away. "Nice dive, Amelia!"

          "Thanks, Lina-san! Why don't you join me? The water's even more wonderful now!" Filia dove into the spring and surfaced next to Amelia. Sylphiel slipped in and swam to a nearby boulder. Gourry sat at the edge and splashed with his feet.

          Lina grinned suddenly. "That's a great idea!" She let go of Milgazia's hand darted away from the edge of the pool, snickering evilly. Milgazia looked after her curiously and lowered himself sagely into the pool, Xelloss swimming slowly past.

          "Eh?" Amelia and Filia blinked. "I thought she was going to join us..."

          Sylphiel burst out laughing. "Oh, she is!" the Shrine Maiden squealed and ducked underwater.

          Amelia and Filia stared then looked up. The two of them hugged each other with a yelp of dismay.

          "Lina-san, you wouldn't DARE!" Filia yelled.

          "She is!" Amelia whined, trying to hide behind Filia, who pulled her back out from relative safety.

          "INVERSE CANNONBALL!" Lina crowed, having launched herself into the air with a levitation spell. She stopped floating and catapulted toward the princess and the Dragon Maiden, laughing maniacally.

           Filia screeched as Lina's landing resulted in a giant geyser of hot water, soaking the former Miko. Amelia was carried off by a wave, and another miniature tsunami soaked Xelloss, Gourry and Milgazia in the far end of the spring.

          The red-headed sorceress surfaced, spitting out a jet of water in a lovely arc before almost drowning herself with her laughter. "Bwahahahahahahaha! The look on your faces! Oh, it was RICH! Priceless!"

          Sylphiel and Zelgadiss reemerged from under the waves where they had escaped from Lina's majestic cannonball. The chimera looked at Sylphiel. "Should we get her for this?" he jerked his thumb at the gloating Lina.

          Sylphiel giggled and ducked back underwater. She resurfaced next to Lina and proceeded to splash her. Zelgadiss joined her a few moments later, and soon, all three of them were engaged in a water-squirt war.

          "Lina-san!" Amelia complained. "That was sneaky and downright underhanded!"

          Filia bobbed out of the water, flipping her long mane of blond hair over her face. "This calls for revenge!" she grinned at Amelia. The Saillune princess nodded vehemently in agreement. Soaked to the bone, they both climbed out of the pool.

          Milgazia wiped his face with his hand and looked over to Xelloss, who was sputtering and floundering. Gourry was hitting the side of his head, trying to get some water out of his ear. The Dragon Elder heard a wet-sounding splat next to him and looked up to see both Filia and Amelia posing next to him, with identical expressions of righteous indignation. He sweatdropped. "Filia? Amelia? What are you...?"

          "Lina Inverse! That was a very unjust thing to do, to suddenly get us all so wet without even warning us!" Amelia said in her Justice-lecture mode.

          Lina splashed Sylphiel with a large wave and hit Zel with a squirt attack to the face. "Aw, come on, Amelia! What fun would it have been if I warned you?" she climbed out of the water and stood on a rock.

          "Fun or not, we both must have our revenge!" Filia proclaimed, one arm uncrossing from where they were both folded across her bosom. She leveled her finger at Lina.   "Prepare yourself, Lina Inverse!"

          Sylphiel dove out of the way, laughing, while Zel raced out of the way, taking care to knock Lina off her perch and into the water.

          Milgazia prudently stepped out of disaster's way, while Xelloss vanished. Sylphiel resurfaced beside Gourry. "Let's move over here,'s safer." The shrine maiden pulled him from the spring's edge and over to some tables.

          Lina surfaced, sputtering. "ZEL! I'm gonna get you for that!"

          "Worry about your own sopping wet hide!" the chimera retorted from the safety of some rocks.

          "What are you—eh?" Lina blinked. "Where did Filia and Amelia...oh no." she looked up. "Eeeeeek!"

          Filia and Amelia reappeared some five feet above her, and all three of them vanished in a noisy, watery explosion.

          When the mist cleared, the three girls were laughing and splashing at each other until, unable to breathe, they bobbed quietly in the spring waters, occasionally hiccuping and coughing.

          "that..."Filia began, grinning crazily.

          "...was fun." Lina and Amelia chorused, weakly snickering.

          "Well, all good things have to come to an end, ladies..." Zelgadiss said, picking up his towel. "I'm turning in. What about you?"

          Gourry yawned. "Yeah. It was fun watching them trying to drown each other...but we've got an early day tomorrow."

          "Let's hit the showers, Lina-san, Amelia-san, Filia-san?' Sylphiel asked, holding out several towels. The thoroughly soaked trio made their way to her and accepted the towels.

          Milgazia looked up from where he had been examining Val's egg. "Amazingly enough, he stayed dry. Which is more than I can say for the lot of us." He announced, handing the egg back to Filia. He flipped his wet bangs out of his eyes and gave Lina a relatively wry smile.

          Lina chuckled and clapped the Dragon Lord on the shoulder lightly. "Hey, we did loosen up, and that's what we were here for. A little play never hurt a body." Then she looked up at him and at her friends. "Do you think Milgazia will need an escort back to his room? He might get mugged on the way."

          The girls all looked at each other. Amelia scratched the back of her head. "Well..."

          "I think it would be best if we made sure that he made it back safely." Sylphiel said.

          Zel chuckled. "Milgazia-san, I advise that you lock your door after you get to your room. It will...keep out...bugs."

          Milgazia looked at them all, not really understanding. "I don't understand how locking my door will keep out insects..."

          "Just take our word for it, Milgazia-san." Gourry shook his head as they all headed back to the hotel proper. They made it a point to keep Milgazia in the middle of the group. Xelloss simply disappeared, as was his wont. Between the lot of them they escorted Milgazia to his room, much to the disappointment of various women who had hoped to bump into the Dragon Elder one more time.

          Lina gently pushed the bewildered Ryuzoku into his room. "You'll be safe here."

          "Now, don't forget, don't open the door to strangers, okay, Milgazia-san?" Amelia advised.

          "Amelia-san...He's a grown" Sylphiel admonished.

          "Whatever. Night, Milgazia! Sleep tight!" Lina said, pulling the door shut. "Lock the door!" she shouted after him.

          Obediently, Milgazia did as he was told. "I appreciate their concern...but I wish I knew what they were all so concerned about." He turned away and blinked. On his bed lay, stretched out sensually, was the waitress from before. He couldn't remember her name, so only blinked. "Good...evening."

          "Hi there, handsome." The waitress purred. "I wanted to make up for here I am." She slid out of the bed and sashayed over to him, placing her hands on his chest.

           "I have already accepted your apology." Milgazia replied stiffly, taking her hands and turning her around by the shoulders. He gently but firmly pushed her toward the door. "Now, if you will excuse me, I would like to take my rest. Good night." He unlocked the door, guided her out and shut the door again, slipping the bolt back into place with a loud clink.

          Shocked, Medeline stared at the door. That had never happened before! Her ego hurt, she fled.

          From around the corner, Amelia, Sylphiel, Lina, Zelgadiss, Gourry and Filia blinked. "Persistent little tart, wasn't she?" Lina muttered.

          Sylphiel nodded, her eyes wide at the audacity of the girl.

          Zelgadiss shrugged. "Well, that's done. Let's go to bed, everyone." He yawned.

          Filia nodded. "Must get up early tomorrow!"

          Lina trotted off. "Night, everyone!" Everyone else scattered Gourry escorting   Sylphiel to her room before heading for his. They had an early day tomorrow.

          A new day...

          A new quest.


          Filia sighed, tucking Val's egg snugly against her chest. She reached over and blew out the candle on the bedside table. She kissed the egg gently, murmuring a lullaby in Ryuzoku before drifting off herself, gazing out the window panes.

          Outside her window, a shadow moved across the night, briefly blotting out the sliver of moon peeking through the trees.

          Filia woke, shivering, realizing that the window had opened. She rose and closed it, too sleepy to remember that the window had been closed when she had laid Val on the bed.

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Slayers Dragon Cycle