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Chapter 3
Slayers Dragon Cycle
Chapter three: Bargain! A Learning Experience!
By Shadow

Note: Thanks to Merlinros for the title suggestion for the title and she also helped me come to a decision to truncate the chapter, which was originally much much longer. I don't know what they call the currency in Saillune, so the half-crown is only made up.
          Milgazia rose before the sun did, as was his habit. He got out of bed, stretched, and pulled on his clothes, taking a few moments to wash his face, rinse out his mouth and make the bed. Taking his journal out of his cloak, he began to write, choosing to write rather than use a spell.

          "Second week, fourth day,

          We met up with Lina Inverse and her friends yesterday through chance and accident. One of her companions was being accosted by some thieves and I aided her.

         Xelloss, servant of the Greater Beast and Dragonslayer, still travels with them. Naturally, he does not say whether it is out of whim or task. I will remain watchful, as always, where he is concerned.

          Filia's behavior towards him is curious. As far as I know, none save Lina and her friends have survived insulting the Dragonslayer, as he normally does not tolerate such affronts on his honor. Perhaps he has orders regarding Filia's continued existence, but whatever the reason, she still lives and that aids my task greatly. Val must live.

          I simply cannot believe there are no Ancient Dragons left. Nor can I understand the reasons behind their slaughter. Surely there must still be a few left living, hiding now in fear of the Gold Dragons because of what came to pass. If there are, I must find them...the Mazoku are enemy enough without us fighting amongst each other.

          If the Ancients are truly all gone, then I must do the next best thing: find everything I can about them...for Val's sake. "

          His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. As he raised his head, Lina's voice filtered through. "Milgazia-san? Are you up yet?"

          Blinking in astonishment, Milgazia realized that the sun had risen already and he must have slept later than he normally did. It usually did an hour after he woke. I must have slept well indeed. I suppose it is true that hot spring baths aid one's relaxation greatly. Milgazia put his journal back into his cloak then rose and went to the door, unlocking it. He opened it and smiled in greeting down at the petite sorcererss standing there. "Good morning, Lina. Did you sleep well?"

          Lina grinned up at him. "Yup! Slept like a baby. You?"

          "Better than I have in a while."

          "Glad to hear it! Well, I'm going down to breakfast. We'll leave right after it. You packed already?" Lina asked.

          Milgazia paused. "Well, what do I do with the swimsuit they gave me?"

          Lina shrugged. "Keep it, I guess. It's good to have a spare..."
          "I suppose you are right... I will join you in a moment, Lina. You may go on ahead, if you wish."

          "Nah...I can wait for you." Lina settled against the door frame easily, her arms crossed lightly over her stomach.

          Milgazia blinked in surprise, and stepped back, gesturing for her to enter. "I will only be a moment..." he murmured as he stepped into the bathroom.

          Lina nodded absently, looking around the room to see if Milgazia needed any help. "Take your time, breakfast is still being cooked after all..." Then again, he doesn't have anything but his clothes on him...I've never seen a travelling pack or anything like one...

          "I'm finished packing, Lina... we may go now." Milgazia stepped back out, pulling the bathroom door shut behind him.

          "Huh?" Lina blinked at him. "Gee, you really do only take a moment, huh?"

          A small smile passed over his lips. "The swimsuit is the only thing I am taking with me. It will make an interesting and useful souvenir."

         "Well, you have a point..." Lina laughed as they left the room. Upon rejoining their companions, they found that breakfast was being ordered and the waitress serving them was none other than the rosy-haired Medeline.

          "Why, hi there sir..." Medeline crooned, bumping up against Milgazia as he pulled out a chair for Lina to sit down in. "Can I take your order?"

          Zelgadiss rolled his eyes, his instincts telling him that this girl was trouble. The sooner that they were out of here, the better, and he told Sylphiel so in a low voice.

          Sylphiel watched Lina pick up her menu. "I don't think that's very likely, Zelgadiss-san..."

          Filia nodded in agreement as another waiter brought in Gourry's and Amelia's orders. Xelloss was already buttering his toast.

          Milgazia sat down then inclined his head toward Lina. "Ladies first, I believe the custom is..." he replied.

          "Right! Thanks, Milgazia-san...I'll have..." Lina began, opening the menu and skimming it.

           "Would you like some tea or coffee? Pancakes? We've got a really delicious blueberry pancake mix..." the waitress sidled in between Lina and Milgazia, bumping into Lina with her hip.

          "Hey! Watch where you're swaying!" Lina snapped.

          Medeline looked over her shoulder. "I'm so sorry, miss... I'll take your order in a moment."

          "But I'm supposed to order now!" Lina stood up, angry.

          "Yes...Lina is supposed to..." Milgazia began, just when the manager, Math, bustled over.

          "Medeline! Just what do you think you're doing?!" he demanded. "Playing favorites again, are you? I told you what would happen if you did! You're fired!"

          Lina blinked in surprise. "Hey...wait a sec..."

          "Oh dear," Sylphiel murmured.

          Medeline burst into tears. "But Math-sama, I'm just taking their orders!"

          "That's quite true, Sir." Milgazia interjected.

          "I have to agree. Everyone else has had their order taken, save them." Zelgadiss said.

          "There's no need for the young lady to lose her job, since she is just doing it." Milgazia protested softly.

          "Yes, I agree! It's unjust!" Amelia scolded.

          Medeline nodded once, surprised that they were defending her.

          Milgazia tapped her on the arm. "Just take Lina's order first. I haven't made up my mind yet on anything." he glanced over at Math. "Is that all right?"

          Flustered, Math nodded. "All right, but this is your last chance, more stunt like this, and you're out!"

          "Yes, Math-sama! Thank you, Math-sama!" Medeline bowed again and again as the Silver Springs Resort manager turned and hustled away. When he had left the room, Medeline bowed to them. "Thank you...." she rose, tears in her eyes.

          "Take my order, and we'll forget all about this incident, okay?" Lina sat back down and picked up her menu. "But I think you should try to stay out of trouble...whatever it is."

          Medeline nodded. "Right! Now..." she picked her pen up from it's string. "May I take your order, Lina-sama?"

          It was about an hour and a half later when they finally exited the dining hall. "Aaah... that was some really good food..." Lina gloated, rubbing her belly happily.

          Gourry looked at her. "Yeah. It was worth it, having triple portions..." he grinned.

          "Yum! I wonder if I can buy the recipe to those breakfast biscuits..." Amelia mused. "They're simply fantastic!"

          Filia and Sylphiel looked at them. "We just need to go and get our bags. We packed already, but we left them in the room."

          Zelgadiss was already climbing up the stairs. "I'll get yours too, Gourry."

          "Hey, thanks, Zel. I'll just go to the men's room." the swordsman replied.

          "I'll just wait for you outside, if you don't mind." Xelloss said, vanishing.

          "I need to go to the ladies room and freshen up. Filia-san, could I ask you to bring my pack too?" Amelia called.

          Filia smiled down at her. "It's no problem at all."

          Lina looked up at Milgazia. "I guess that we'll just wait here."

          Milgazia nodded, his expression serene. It was always better when Xelloss wasn't around, in his opinion. "Would you care to sit down, Lina-san?"

          "No, thanks, Milgazia. I'll just stand. Helps settle my stomach." she smiled at him and started to walk around as the Ryuzoku sat down in one of the lobby chairs. She paused to admire a particularly intricate carving that was actually a model of the whole resort, marveling at the detail. Wow. There's even water flowing through the thing. I wonder how they made it work... She was gazing at the tiny fish swimming around in the model's springs that she didn't notice a pink-haired waitress slip out of the shadows and trot over to her.

          Medeline sidled over to Lina coughed. "Uh, excuse me..."

          "Hm?" Lina turned. "Oh, it's you...Medeline, right?"

          The waitress nodded. "I wanted to apologize... again, for being so rude earlier..."

          Lina waved it away. "Hey, I said I'd forget about it, right? I've forgotten already."

          Medeline giggled. "Thank you, Miss Lina..." she glanced over at where Milgazia was sitting, idly browsing through a travel brochure. Grinning, she nudged Lina and leaned in to whisper enviously "Hey, you've got a real fine catch there. You're lucky. Me... I'm hoping some nice rich man will fall in love with me and marry me... I guess I kinda came on too strong, huh? Make sure you take good care of him, ya hear me?"

           Lina blinked and stared at the waitress. "What are you talking about?"

           The pink-haired girl shoved at her playfully. "Aw, come on... I can see it too! You're lucky, Miss Lina...he's cute, he's sweet, and he's probably some kind of noble, and you can't get that kind of guy often..."

          Lina was spared from answering by Milgazia calling for her. "Lina, the others are coming back..."

          "...right. I gotta go. You work hard now, okay?" Lina started to trot over to where her friends had gathered and were waiting.

          Medeline nodded. "I will! Have a safe trip!"

          The companions passed the souvenir shoppe on the way out and found Jessica, Kara and Steven there, waiting for them.

          "Uh, excuse me, Milgazia-sama..." Steven began, looking very embarrassed, stepping forward and bowing.

          Everyone blinked in surprise, and Milgazia stepped to the front of the group. "Yes, what is it?"

          Steven scratched the back of his head. "Its...about these." he held out the gemstones Milgazia had given them the day before. "We can't take them, really..."

          "Ah..." Milgazia blinked. "Those were inappropriate tips?" he took back the gemstones and turned them over in his hand.

           "TIPS?!" Lina, Gourry and Zelgadiss gasped.

          Milgazia reached into his robes and put something in Steven's hand. "I'm sorry for giving you an inappropriate amount. Here, I trust these will be sufficient. Please give the extra stone to the waitress who served us breakfast. I forgot to leave a tip." He removed his hand and Steven gaped at the stones, sapphire, ruby, emerald, and diamond, each twice the size of the first set of tips the Ryuzoku had given.

          Jessica and Kara stared in disbelief. They couldn't refuse the tip any longer without seeming rude or greedy - apparently this foreign nobleman had completely misunderstood what they were trying to say. In unison, they all bowed. "Thank you very much, Milgazia-sama! We hope you all enjoyed your stay at Silver Springs Resort!" they chorused.

          "Milgazia-san, when is the last time you left the Valley?" Amelia asked politely, while Lina got over her shock.

          Milgazia shook his head ruefully. "I'm afraid I haven't left since just after the Kouma War. I've been too busy since. Why do you ask, Amelia-san?"

          "It's because nobody uses jewels for currency, Milgazia..." Xelloss said, having seen the entire episode. "Humans consider them very valuable, but they're not used in common barter or trade." he told the tall Ryuzoku as they began to walk down the path.

          Milgazia looked over to Filia, and the former Miko shook her head. "That's true, Milgazia-sama... don't you have money on you?"

          "Money? As in, coins? Uhm...I think I have a few coins..." Milgazia started to search through his clothes and cloak. He brought out several pouches and looked inside them before putting each pouch back in it's hidden pocket. "I'm afraid I don't have money. I have..." he brought out a pouch and looked inside, pulling out a large sapphire after a moment. It sat in the palm of his hand like a piece of the ocean deep. "Uhm, no, that wasn't what I wanted to show you..." he dropped the gem back into the pouch and put the pouch away, then pulled another out of his sleeve. He shook some of the contents onto his hand and several brightly colored gems, some colorless, all of them as large as Lina's thumbnail and each finely cut and faceted. "Neither were those..." he put that pouch away and fumbled around again. "Ah, I do believe...yes, I think this is the pouch." he drew out a pouch from the folds of his cloak and emptied the pouch. The others heard the sound of coins falling against each other. "Yes, I knew I had some." Milgazia said happily, then opened his hand to reveal some gold disks and the odd gold nugget.

          Amelia's eyes went wide. "Those coins are older than the Kouma War!"

           "And that nugget is as big as" Gourry faltered, not knowing what to compare it to.
          "A cookie," Sylphiel finished.

          Zelgadiss and Xelloss sweatdropped. "...right." Zel murmured.

          " does kind of look like...a cookie..." Xelloss chuckled softly.

          "Let me see!" Lina said, running up and pulling down Milgazia's wrist to grab a coin. She held it up and looked at it, then stared at Milgazia. "Where'd you get this? And all those jewels! And that nugget?! You're carrying a fortune in gems!"

          "Hm?" Milgazia's brow furrowed as he tried to remember. "Well... My one of elven friends makes jewelry, and Memphis sometimes gives me the gems she finds. The coins I had when I last visited Saillune - the crown prince gave them to me so I could buy a new cloak when he tore mine with his sword by mistake."

          "WHAT?!" Amelia exclaimed, mortified. "Why'd he attack you?!" "Oh, he didn't attack me...he was asking his sword master if his new technique was any good...Everything was doing well until the sword slipped out of his hand and slashed my cloak." Milgazia replied.

          "I remember the then crown prince's ineptitude with the blade was legendary, even amongst the Mazoku." Xelloss laughed.

          Little blue kami* formed around Amelia's head as she slumped in embarrassment. "I'm so ashamed..."

          "Never mind that..." Lina said impatiently. "These coins are out of date, Milgazia-san, so they can't be used any more."

          Milgazia blinked. "They can't?"

          "So, why don't I just take them off your hands, hm?" Lina offered, smiling winsomely. Behind her, everyone facefaulted.

          "Lina!" Filia exclaimed indignantly, pulling her face out of the dirt road.

          Milgazia suddenly laughed and wagged his finger at Lina. "Oh no, human maiden. I might be behind on the exchange rate and business ettiquette of the modern age, but I'm not completely ignorant." he closed his fist and hid it behind his back. "What will you trade me for those coins? I get the impression they're valuable."

          Sylphiel grabbed Lina's arm. "Lina-san, you wouldn't swindle one of your own travelling companions, would you?"
"Swindle him? Oh no, I'm just working on trading with Milgazia-san here..." Lina reached into her pocket and pulled out an abacus. "Right, Milgazia, let's get to trading. I'll trade you ... those coins for twenty silver pieces!"

          Milgazia raised his eyebrow skeptically. "Gold for silver? I think not. These coins are also old, and I could probably sell them to a museum or..." he turned to Amelia. "These would be considered a national treasure of sorts, wouldn't they? I'll sell you each coin for ten gold pieces each, does that sound fair?"

          Amelia blinked in surprise. "Actually they're..."

          "WAY OVERPRICED!" Lina clamped her hands over the princess' mouth.

          "You think so?" Milgazia blinked. "Well...How about eight per coin?"

           "Five for two!" Lina held up two fingers. She let go of Amelia and hopped over to stand in front of the Ryuzoku.

          "Six each." Milgazia countered.

          This went on for a while, until they finally settled on seven per coin. Since Milgazia had some fifteen coins, Lina paid him a hundred and twelve gold pieces, with a half Sailune Crown. Lina managed to wheedle the nugget down to fifteen gold pieces before he agreed to part with it.

          Milgazia looked pleased. "Well, now I have some current currency...It was nice doing business with you, Lina." he tucked the pouch into his belt.

          "That was some pretty sharp trading, Milgazia-sama..." Filia complimented the Elder.

          "I needed the money..."

          Lina lagged a little behind them, gloating. Amelia tiptoed over. "But, Lina-san...ten for each coin was already cheap."

          "Shut up! I got them for a bargain." Lina hissed. "But those gems! If I could get them for the same kind of value..."

          "You're not going to try..." Sylphiel began.

          "I most definately will!" Lina skipped forward again. "Oh, Milgazia-san...what about those gemstones you're carrying? I'd like to buy some from you."

          "Oh? Well, I've got several kinds..." Milgazia reached into his cloak and pulled out one of his numerous pouches. He reached into the pouch and took out a handful of gems, of varying sizes and as many colors as a rainbow.

          "How about five of those little ones for a gold piece?" Lina asked, pointing to some rubies that were as big as her pinkie joint.

          "Oh no. I know humans value gemstones very much. Two gold pieces each."

           "What? No way!" Lina exclaimed.

          "You could sell them to a jeweler's shop in the next town we visit, Milgazia...I'm sure they could offer you good prices on-" Xelloss suggested.

          "Shut up, Xelloss! You're the cheapskate who always orders water in a restaurant!" Lina snapped at him.

          "I'm just more prudent with my money..." Xelloss murmured, then caught Lina's patented Glare of Death. "I'll just keep quiet now..."

          Lina turned back to Milgazia. "Two for three of those rubies!"

          Milgazia shook his head. "Four gold for three. That's a bargain, since I asked for two gold pieces each."

          "That's highway robbery!" Lina protested.

          "We are on the highway," Milgazia pointed out. "But I'm not robbing you, I'm trading with you. Four."

          Gourry laughed. "Well, that does make sense... We are on the road..."

          "And Lina's getting those gems duty-free." Zelgadiss chuckled, as they watched the two haggle back and forth.

          The afternoon sun hung low in the sky when they finally finished. Milgazia had replaced two pouches of gems with three and a half pouches of gold pieces. Lina was not so happy, since she wasn't able to manage tricking the Elder into selling his gems cheaper.

          Milgazia reached into his pocket again and pulled out something. "Here, appreciation of your bargaining skills and teaching me a few tricks of the trade." He pressed something into her hand and smiled.

          Lina blinked, then opened her fist. In her palm lay a dull gray nugget of metal, the size of a dove's egg, resembling lead.

          "After all those gems and gold, you're giving her lead, Milgazia-san?" Sylphiel asked surprised.

          Zelgadiss looked closer at the nugget. "That's not lead, Sylphiel..."

          "It's orinhalcon...!" Filia exclaimed.
          Lina's eyes widened. Orinhalcon was far more valuable than gold to mages, for the metal was invulnerable to most magic spells."...thank you, Milgazia."

          "You're welcome." With that, the Ryuzoku continued to walk down the path.
          Lina grinned suddenly. The day wasn't a total wipeout after all.

*kami - those little blue flame things that float around a character's head when they're depressed. ^^;

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