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Xellos wondered what Lina was up to now, the inability to scry was upsetting. He had only seen a similar effect around the other monster lords’ lairs and even that was not as effective. Had Lina discovered a new spell, and if so what was she doing that was secret enough that she felt she had to use it? As fun as all of it was, he hoped that Lina hadn’t decided to push Zelas too far; their little trips were the closest thing he had to vacation time. Really, just one of Lina’s temper tantrums was enough to feed him for a week without any further effort on his part and it was such a nice pure rage, devoid of other adulterating emotions.
Xellos kept on trying to probe the mist; the boundaries were clean cut but moved in a peculiar pattern, almost as if it was centered on someone moving around inside. It could be a talisman but he hadn’t heard of any that worked in quite that way before. Quite a puzzle but it was time to see Lina, he smiled happily. If he could only see where to teleport to, things would be perfect. She hated being surprised.
Keeping to the shadows, he heard Lina’s voice coming from the guardroom. She was asking directions to the foothills and descriptions of the caves. What was she searching for? He took a sharp breath as she asked about the Dragon Sword, a nice piece of metal and quite effective in the right hands but not enough to merit the type of spell that was blanking out the scrying. He calculated carefully, no the center of the mist was not with Lina. He waited quietly as Lina placed the map in her bag and walked through the door.
“Hello Lina! You weren’t thinking of leaving me out of the fun were you? And here I was counting the days until we saw each other again. Life has been so boring lately!” Xellos smiled brightly.
“Xellos, what are you doing here?” Lina screamed. “As if I don’t have enough weird people around me.”
“Weird? Who me? Never! How could you say such a thing about our old friends Amelia and Gourry; I know sunshine and stupidity are hard to handle but I’ve never heard you call them weird before.”
“I’m stuck with you, aren’t I” Lina grumbled. “Just remember if you get out of hand I’ll have Amelia sing her love and joy song to you.”
Xellos paled lifting a hand in surrender. “Anything but that please, our paths are simply going the same way again. We’ve worked so well together in the past I thought it might be fun to do it again.”
Lina glared at him. “Are you telling me you have no interest in my newest traveling companion?”
“Someone new?” Xellos started, then thought about the mist. Someone with power was interested in Lina. A new power was involving itself in her life. A possessive anger bubbled up in his chest, no one else was allowed to play with his toys. He reined in the emotion and smiled at Lina wagging a finger at her, “Not one of ours, I’m afraid. Have you checked in with the dragons? They like playing with humans too. They’re just more orderly about it.”
Lina looked at Xellos closely then sighed, “You haven’t outright lied to me yet. I’d describe Melee to you but I don’t think I could do her justice. This is one individual that you have to meet for yourself.”
Motioning for him to follow Lina started back to the castle entrance, a smile quivering on her lips. This should pay the monster back for a few of the tricks he had played on her in the past.
As they arrived at the door, Amelia and Gourry rushed through almost knocking Lina down. Behind them Melee followed looping around, oblivious to the destruction in her path. The newly arrived duo looked pleadingly at Lina as the sound of Melee’s off key singing wafted through the door.
“Make her stop, please just make her stop!” Gourry groaned. “I’ll do anything, I’ll give you all my food just make her stop.”
Any other time Lina would have found their plight hilarious but not when she was being subjected to it as well. She did take a mental note of Xellos standing frozen with his eyes wide open so she could remember it later.
“Hey Melee! Come meet the newest member of our team!”
Melee immediately stopped singing and flew over to Xellos and Lina. Hovering in the air, she started examining Xellos, poking at his cape and peering into the stone at the top of his staff. He took it in good humour until she grabbed for the pouch on his belt, as he rapped her knuckles and backed away, he growled dangerously.
“Who and what are you?”
Melee’s eyes went distant. “Xellos, child, you don’t remember me? I was there at your birth ... such a lovely child so full of anger and spite... you’ve grown and changed... not better not worse but more balanced ... perfectly balanced no not quite. So beautiful and so terrible are you one of the ones ... you could be... not now...maybe soon... yet you could be... I hope you are...” her voice trailed off as she looked inward. Then with a quick change of expression, she smiled happily, laughed and performed a quick loop de loop.
“You will be traveling with us?” Melee giggled. “Good, we could use another handsome man. I like keeping warm on cold nights and what better than two of you. One for each side.”
Lina and Amelia started laughing helplessly. Seeing the scared looks they were receiving from the two speechless men, tears started rolling down their faces.
“Still think she might be a dragon, Xellos?” Lina asked as she caught her breath.
“I don’t know her and I’ve never seen anything like her before,” Xellos explained in a strained voice. “What she said at first, I have no explanation except senility for.”
Becoming more serious, Lina queried, “You mean her race is totally unknown to you? You’ve been around for a while, Xellos, how is that possible?”
“I don’t know Lina, I just don’t know.” Remembering the mist around Melee in the scrying field he reminded himself to keep a close watch on winged woman. There was something going on here and for once he was not the one with the secrets.
After a hard day of traveling, the intrepid group of travelers expertly made camp and finished off the evening meal amid much shoving and food snatching. Afterwards, Melee happily tried to see exactly how red she could turn Gourry while Lina and Amelia settled down for a good round of gossip. Xellos found himself a comfortable tree a bit off from the group and looked up at the cave entrance in the side of the mountain.
Xellos didn’t like being out of the loop and the insect was getting on his nerves. He had been right there was more going on than a simple search for a sword but what? Taking advantage of Melee’s attentions to Gourry he started to review what he had sensed from the thing. She was of a race completely unknown to him. There were her cryptic comments when they met and that strange mist. What was the worst was that strange familiarity to her power; it seemed almost to be a blend of every power that he had ever felt, even Darkstar’s. It was innocence and lust; hate and love in equal measure. Her power called to him pulling him towards it. He shook his head, she was right though, traveling with the slayers had changed his nature, their adventures had forced him to use restraint for the first time and depend on others for more than nourishment. Usually monsters used humans that were closest to their own nature, “Good” humans were only manipulated and killed. He ground his fists into his eyes. He was going to have to get some answers out of Melee one way or another.
He felt a warm weight snuggling into his side. He looked down and saw Melee using him for a backrest with her feet up on a rock. Glancing over he saw that Gourry had rolled up near the fire and had gone to sleep.
“What did you mean by one of the ones?” he asked quickly hoping to get a rational answer.
“One of Hers of course, and one of mine too. I’ve found two of the ones, one is unready, one is unwilling.”
In one of her lightning quick moods Melee flipped up and grabbed the sides of Xellos’s face while hovering front of him. “You are not ready but must you be chosen before becoming balanced? Choosing you will cause unbalance until you are ready I think but how much of a tilt will it cause?”
“What are you talking about?” Xellos asked.
“The Beastmaster would know if she could remember,” Melee grinned, kissed Xellos full on the mouth and laughed as he backed away wiping his mouth furiously. “In the past you would have pretended lust just to get information. Why can’t you do that now my child?”
“Do you want me to?” a furious edge came to Xellos’s voice.
“Not really. You don’t know what you’re missing though.” With a mischievous wink Melee landed and walked away with an exaggerated waggle to her hips. Xellos just turned around and started banging his head on the tree behind him. A hand on his shoulder made him turn back.
“Lina dear, have you gotten any information out of her?” he asked the girl.
“What did she tell you, Xellos” Lina replied.
“That is a secret.” Xellos replied with a forced smile and a shake of his finger.
Instead of the anger he was hoping for Lina just sighed. “Didn’t get anything out of her either did you?”
“Not a thing that made any sense,” Xellos sank down to rock. “I really don’t like this Lina, I’m completely in the dark and it’s driving me crazy.”
Lina smiled, “Now you know how I’ve felt with your secrets,” she added, “It’s this one of the ones thing, it feels almost like cheesy prophesy. I want to keep away from destinies but then I remember what could have happened if we hadn’t followed the prophecy about Darkstar...”Lina trailed off. “I don’t like this Xellos.”
“Take comfort Lina, this one seems to involve me this time, I don’t have a clue about what she means about becoming balanced though. I assume it has to do with my nature but how?”
Lina smiled “Maybe you’ll grow wings and become a dragon.”
“That’s been done in reverse already so I doubt it.”
“Valgarv just exchanged the nature of the dragons for the nature of the monsters so it would have to be a mixture of the two. Oh no! Xellos, not again. I am not getting mixed up with her again!” Lina disappeared in a flurry of activity and soon all that was left was a tiny point coming from the ground.
“Did you talk about her sister Mr. Xellos?” Amelia yelled over the fire.
“No, I think I managed to find something worse,” Xellos answered faintly; he now knew who was the unwilling, and tried to cheer himself that he also knew one thing that Lina didn’t, not that it would help either of them.
A cough was heard from the forest, “Who mentioned Lina’s sister?” a voice asked from the trees.
“Mr. Zelgadis!” Amelia shouted happily as she threw her arms around his neck.
“I heard you guys were on the road again and I had to make sure you, well all of you, didn’t get into trouble.” Zelgadis detached Amelia slowly a blush coming to his cheeks.
“Another one, no you are only balanced on the outside. You are orderly aren’t you! Can I hug you too? Xellos didn’t like it at all and Gourry just turns purple, can I please, please?”
Zelgadis looked at Melee as she jumped up and down in front of him. Slowly, one of his rare smiles broke out on his face. “You’re just like a puppy, aren’t you?”
“Yes, yes! You understand. That’s my nature at the moment.” Melee hugged him happily. “But it might be different soon.”
Zel was taken aback, “Sounds like Lina’s mood swings.”
Melee just giggled and flew though the branches looping happily around them.
“Should we get Lina out or should you tell me what’s going on first?”
“Explanations first. I think Lina needs some time to calm down, and I think Mr. Xellos has a few things to say.” Amelia looked sharply at Xellos. “You were about to explain, weren’t you?”
“It’s very simple really, it seems our little Melee is involved with the Lord of Nightmares and she has some plans for me,” he glanced at the pyramid tip, “and for Lina as well.”
After digging out Lina, the group once again settled down around the fire. Melee took advantage of Gourry’s slumbering state and doodled on his face. While still shaky, Lina had now calmed down enough to be coherent. Zelgadis looked around him and shook his head; it was going to be a long night.
“Okay, lets pool our information,” Zel informed the group sternly, as he had already decided that Lina was not going to be able to take charge of the group for a while. “What are all of you doing here in the first place?”
Lina took a deep breath, “Gourry and I were just looking for a sword to replace the sword of light, we heard a rumour that there was a magical sword lost near here and we were following that up.”
“When did Melee turn up?”
“Just before we left, she told us there were some manuscripts with the Dragon Sword about her race,” Amelia interjected.
“Not all.” Melee touched down, “I wanted to evaluate one and find one.”
The group looked at her in surprise taking in her serious tone. “I can be serious too that is all part of being, did you never think to remember that L-Sama made order out of chaos. That she made Dragons as well as Mazuka! Balance all things in their place.”
“What did you mean by my not being ready, ready for what?” Xellos asked tensely.
Melee looked at him fondly, “You were born a monster and as such you are incapable of feeling love or joy but have you not felt your hunger changing? You need less to feed you and you tend to prefer undiluted emotions. You have learned that others are not just food or playthings and that, more than anything, has brought you closer to balance.” Melee’s expression saddened, “The problem is that I don’t think you can go any further without being chosen.”
“What if I don’t want to be chosen?” Xellos demanded.
“Being chosen will increase your power Xellos and free you from your bond to Zelas leaving only your link to the Mother. Could you refuse that?” Melee inquired.
“No, you are right. I could not.”
“I don’t understand one thing,” Amelia asked taking a quick look at Lina. “Why haven’t you chosen Xellos then?”
“It’s balance, isn’t it Melee?” Lina interjected, taking part in the conversation for the first time. “Our battles with the Monsters have upset the balance between order and chaos and you don’t want to tilt the scales anymore. What I don’t understand is the whole thing with the sword and the manuscripts.”
“A lot of it was an excuse to travel with you and you friends, but our sleepy friend does need the sword for the battle to come and the manuscripts with it tell the location of the Sword of Chaos which you will need as well.”
“Battle to come?” the slayers asked in one voice.
“Forget about that and worry about the battle right now.” A hard voice said, as a blond haired woman stepped in front of Melee.
“Zelas, long time no see,” Melee said happily. “I guess you want to keep Xellos, don’t you? Remember that I can take him, he agreed.”
“Priestess, you can not take that which is mine. I will not allow it, I’ll destroy him first.” Zelas screamed harshly.
“You'll have to come though us,” Lina shouted. “Gourry wake up!”
Gourry launch himself at Zelas as Lina prepared to cast a Raguna Blade.
“Ra Tilt!” Amelia and Zel shouted together knowing that it would only slow Zelas down slightly.
“Stop!” shouted Melee. “Her death would destroy too much balance, especially now. Zelas, would you like me to lock you away?”
Melee straightened and power radiated from her body. “I am the Voice of the Mother. Do you want me to use my full strength against you now? You are not ready for a battle with me and your loss would sadden me greatly.”
“You are right. I will be back though with allies. You will not take my servant and keep him.” Zelas teleported out.
“Good thing she does not know I’m not what I was.” Melee muttered. “Damn, I don’t like having my hand forced like this. Thank you Mother for reminding me of the futility of making plans.”
“Xellos I wanted to wait but such is the way of chaos.” Muttering a quick spell under her breath Melee turned to Xellos and touched his forehead. “Forsake all other bonds become one with the Mother of All Things, Lord of Nightmares and the Creator of Order. You are Chosen, one of the Ones, Future Priest of The Mother.”
Xellos fell to the ground screaming, feeling his ties to the monster race being ripped out and being reformed. A frightening joy overwhelmed him as he blacked out.
Melee leaned over to touch Xellos's forehead and then stood up, “I just cast a sleeping spell on Xellos, he’ll have less problems with adjusting if his subconscious takes over for a while.” She looked over at Zelgadis. “I’ll need Lina here with me, but tomorrow morning Gourry needs to get his new sword. You, Zelgadis, must bring me back the manuscripts that are stored with it.”
Melee then added in a quick whisper to Zel, “Xellos will not be able to handle Amelia’s sweetness and light when he wakes up.”
“What do you mean? Mr. Xellos should be given a chance to work for love and justice. Now that he is no longer a monster he should embrace all things beautiful and love life.” Amelia proclaimed suddenly above them perched on a tree branch.
“You misunderstood girl. Xellos is still a monster; he is just no longer bound to the monster race and is now bound to the Mother. He has also been given the capacity to feel other things but he has no idea how to do it. I want him to start with a simple friendship first, Lina is the closest to his nature.” Melee started to hop on one foot and then began looping around the branches again laughing joyously. “I have chosen one of the ones, sleep now and be happy.”
The group sweatdropped. “I guess she’s off her rocker again,” Amelia muttered.
“Now tell me what happened to Xellos again and who was that pretty blond lady?” Gourry asked.
“Trouble you jellyfish, more trouble than we want!” Lina fumed as she hit Gourry over the head with a mallet.
“But we always have trouble when you’re around Lina,” Gourry protested weakly. “We’re still getting my sword tomorrow though, right?”
“Yes Gourry, go to sleep now.”
Meanwhile back at Wolfpack Island Zelas was throwing around papers. “I need more information, there is something else going on here. I’ll have to destroy that damned thing and the rest of them, Melee will be too strong once Xellos is trained.”
Stopping, she sat down and sighed. “I will have to make that alliance. They’ll be weakened as well. Xellos you will pay for driving me to this point, you will pay.”
The next morning found Xellos still asleep. He twitched periodically as his mind came to terms with the changes Melee had wrought on his body. Lina quickly stopped Amelia from casting a healing spell on him. “There is too much of this happening on the astral plane. The effect of white magic at this point would be much too dangerous.”
Amelia nodded with a worried look on her face, “Can’t Melee do something to help? Mr. Xellos looks as if he’s really hurting.”
Lina looked at Melee who was crawling on the ground following an ant. “Let’s wait a bit longer. I will probably get more sense from her once you’re gone.” Remembering Melee’s comments about Amelia, Lina figured waiting was a lot better.
As Gourry, Amelia and Zel started to leave, Gourry turned towards Lina, “I can’t leave you. Who will protect you while I’m gone? Lina, those two are strange.”
Lina smiled at her thick-headed friend, “I can take care of myself, besides you need that sword or you’ll never be able to touch Zelas or any of her other cronies. She won’t be back for a while so go get it now. Besides, can you imagine what would happen to Xellos if I left him alone with Melee? Now go, I’ll be careful.”
After watching the trio disappear into the cave, Lina sat down beside Xellos. She really didn’t like sending them off by themselves. Placing a hand on Xellos’s forehead she took a reading of the powers he was radiating; closing her eyes to concentrate, she missed a pair of violet eyes opening and staring at her.
“Lina, where am I?” asked a weak voice.
She opened her own eyes and saw that Xellos was awake. Shushing him quietly as you would a child she told him, “Melee placed a sleep spell on you so the change wouldn’t be as difficult. How are you? How do you feel?”
“Strange, I can feel so much more, what is it that I feel from you? It’s so warm...” Xellos’s voice trailed off weakly.
Lina turned around furiously and glared at Melee who smiled innocently back.
“He’s not used to positive emotions yet. A good shot of anger will strengthen him” Melee informed Lina.
Lina turned around and noticed that Xellos was looking better.
“So you just get good old hair-trigger Lina mad and feed him is that all?” Lina tried to work herself into a rage.
“Well that is all a flat chested girl like you is good for isn’t it?” Melee added.
Lina started chasing Melee around with her magical mallet completely forgetting about Xellos for a minute.
“That did it, thank you, Lina dear.” Xellos called out. Lina turned around and glared at him before stalking over and sitting down in front of him.
“The things I do for friends,” she muttered.
“Am I a friend?” Xellos asked, “Is that what I feel coming from you?”
“Friendship, concern, and a hell of a lot of exasperation you fruitcake.” Lina retorted sharply. “Now what Melee? Am I supposed to run the gamut while Xellos nibbles on my emotions?”
“Basically, that’s it. I want you to talk to Xellos, tell him stories about things that bring sharp emotions to the forefront. By experiencing them second hand, he will be more able to identify them within himself. Start with shared experiences then go to your childhood. He should relate well to humorous things first, he has always liked jokes.”
Melee looked off in the sky and thought to herself, “If I want the unwilling, willing I’ll have to show her it is not so bad to be chosen. I’m getting weaker and I’ll need their strength for the battle to come.
Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis entered the cave after glancing one last time at the campsite.
“I hope we’re doing the right thing leaving Lina behind.” Amelia chattered on. “I don’t think she has enough patience to take care of a sick Xellos. I don’t think she has enough patience to put up with a healthy Xellos for too long.”
“Don’t worry too much, Lina is a lot tougher than you give her credit for.” Zelgadis answered. “Gourry, if you were fighting a retreating defensive battle against a overwhelming foe which way would you go?”
“High and narrow would give the best advantage in a running fight. Are we assuming a running battle? If it was a panicked retreat, he would follow smooth paths and tend to move down ward.” Gourry scratched his chin. “Now why was this guy here again?”
“Gourry! A dragon was fighting monsters here, overwhelming numbers, a magic sword,” Zelgadis explained tersely. “Let’s try panicked flight.”
“Okay,” Gourry agreed and took the path sloping down. “Do you know if he was right or left handed?”
“How would we know that?” Amelia interjected.
“It’s just that if he was right handed he would take the right path if the choices were similar. The left side for the reverse,” Gourry explained. “If we don’t know, then we’ll assume left as dragons tend be left sided.”
Amelia and Zel just looked at Gourry for a second, looked at each other, started to talk, then shook their heads. It didn’t matter; Gourry was just Gourry. There were no explanations for him.
Following Gourry the group made their way down the tunnels. As each tunnel branched out, Gourry would stop check out both sides and then confidently choose one. After a few hours of traveling Amelia suggested that they break for lunch. Setting down the light ball she had purchased at a local magic shop before they left, she handed out the sandwiches.
“Are we going the right way or are we completely lost?” she asked in a tired voice.
“I don’t have the slightest,” Zelgadis answered, “I’ve been marking our path so at least we can get back but I don’t know if we are on the right path.”
“Don’t worry,” Gourry interjected in a cheerful voice. “From the claw marks on the floor there has been an injured dragon here, from the weathering of the marks I would say that it was quite some time ago. He was hurt pretty bad so it shouldn’t be much further.”
“Why didn’t you say something before?” Amelia inquired finally understanding why Lina punched Gourry so often.
“I was hungry,” Gourry answered as if that was a reason for anything or everything; then again knowing Gourry it probably was.
After a calm lunch (remember no Lina), the group discussed hiding places that an injured dragon would use to hide a sword and manuscripts. Finally deciding on the one cavern that could accommodate an untransformed Dragon, they set off again, Amelia and Zel flying to check out the walls and ceilings and Gourry pathfinding below.
“What is the trail showing now?” Zel shouted at Gourry.
“The dragon can’t have gotten much further, there seems to be a widening further ahead, that probably is it,” Gourry replied.
As they entered the larger area the three travelers each took a sharp breath. The cavern had turned into a wonderland, the light talisman lit up the mica imbedded in the stone making it look as if it was built out of gold. Amelia chanted a dimmer command as her eyes began to hurt.
“Fools gold for a fool,” Zel stated harshly, pointing to a corner. There, curled in the corner, were the remains of a dragon curled around a sword and a satchel. “There’s your new sword Gourry.”
As Gourry walked towards the sword a figure materialized in front of him.
“It is time for you to die,” The newly arrived monster declared.
“Oh damn, just when things were going right,” Zel complained looking at Amelia. Then in a perfectly timed shout they screamed together “RA TILT!”
Taking advantage of the cast spell, Gourry dived for the sword grasping it tightly in his hand as he rolled to his feet. “Light come forth.”
Amelia and Zel sweatdropped.
The monster laughed at the swordsman, “You don’t have the sword of light anymore just a mundane piece of tin. Without Lina Inverse you are not strong enough to defeat me.”
Gourry considered quickly, he had no idea how to activate the sword. As he saw his partners preparing another astral attack, he shrugged and attacked, “Die monster!”
The monster’s eyes opened in surprise as the sword started radiating magical power and sliced part of his astral form away. Calculating the odds with the two magic users he decided that it wasn’t worth the fight. “You may have over powered me but you are going to be surprised when you see our new allies; that sword won’t help against them,” with his last taunt given, the monster disappeared.
“More complications we don’t need,” Zelgadis whined. “Enough is enough.”
Walking over to the ancient corpse Zel grabbed the satchel. “I think we better get back to camp and see what other games are afoot.”
Mean while back at the camp Lina was getting very frustrated with the new Xellos.
“It’s like dealing with a selfish two year old,” she complained to Melee. “He’s starting to care all right but the only thing he cares about is himself.”
“Emotionally he is a child. You got a chance to learn empathy as you grew, but he has to learn it all at once. Remember this is the first time he has felt happiness. Do you blame him for not wanting to let it go? Sadness is next, while he has fed on those emotions, he has never experienced it from the inside.” Melee looked at Lina and considered, “He will be acting less out of character by the time your friends arrive, by tomorrow all the changes will be internal.” Melee grinned and looked at Xellos who was rolling around the ground laughing at one of his own jokes. “We have at least given him the chance to embarrass himself without the others present.”
“His balancing is coming along much better than I had hoped, thank you dear.” Melee added before floating over to Xellos and making him laugh even harder by telling him a joke, which made Lina’s ears burn.
Xellos had calmed down quite a bit by now and was sitting quietly by the fire staring into the flames. As Lina desperately ran round the campsite trying to catch up to the elusive fairy, she wondered what she was supposed to do with her charge now. He was able to control his sense of humour, and feed on positive emotions without going into overload, but he still seemed so callous. In the past, he was able to counterfeit caring, but he seemed to have lost that ability. He simply responded to the ambient emotions now.
“How does a child learn empathy?” she thought and grimaced as she remembered the sessions with her mother. “Great now I have to tell bedtime stories to a monster.”
Giving up on Melee, she walked over to Xellos. “Think of him as a child,” she told herself. “Not a monster, a child.”
Xellos looked at her quizzically, “What now Lina? You feel really weird.”
Placing a rucksack against a rock and making a comfortable seat for the two of them Lina answered, “Xellos you are supposed to be concentrating on your own emotions. It is impolite to read me all the time, I do like some privacy. In fact for this session I want you to concentrate only on your feelings and my voice. Do you understand me? I want you to block my aura out completely.”
“But you feel so good,” Xellos whined. “I like your taste.”
Lina sweatdropped glad that the rest of the gang were gone. “I can just hear Zel’s comments, at least Gourry and Amelia wouldn’t understand enough to snicker,” she thought to herself.
“Xellos, stop that and do what I tell you.” Lina said sharply.
“Okay,” he answered in a downcast voice.
Settling down, she motioned to Xellos to sit beside her, he flinched as she placed an arm around his shoulders. “Don’t get any ideas. This is how my mother told me stories when I was a kid.” She then added grumpily, “You can snuggle in if you feel like it, just watch where you touch or its mallet time.”
Lina began the story. “Once upon a time there was a prince who didn’t laugh...”
As the story progressed, Xellos snuggled into Lina’s shoulder. He found the sound of her voice and the warmth of her body reassuring; he wished for a second that he could taste what she was feeling but was soon lost in the story finding himself following the adventures of the little prince.
Three fairy tales later Xellos was sobbing into Lina’s shoulder, “That poor wolf, how could those mean pigs do that to him, all he wanted was something to eat and they burned him with water and set fire to him, that is so unfair.”
“Trust Xellos to empathize with the bad guys,” Lina thought. “I am so glad no one can see this.”
“How can you live with these feelings? How do you survive?” Xellos demanded anxiously, “Will I have to live with this all the time now?”
“No Xellos, link into my emotions now.” His face took on a look of wonder.
Lina continued flushing, “Right now I’m feeling embarrassed, of course, because I really don’t like opening up like this but I also care about you. What you’re feeling from me is friendship. I’m going to think about my mother telling me these stories now, can you feel that?” Xellos nodded. “I loved her very much; the sadness with it is because of how much I miss her but I couldn’t have the love without the sadness. That is part of what Melee meant by balance.”
“I’m starting to understand, Lina. Thank you for this, I can feel how hard it is for you. I’ve never cared before and I’ve done so many awful things...”Xellos started to sob, rough, anguished sobs. “My hands are so bloody, how can you stand to be around me?” Lina held him silently, stoically looking forward.
“That is the last step,” Melee informed Lina. “He has to come to terms with what he has done and what he has been. This should have taken much longer but I guess the Mother had other plans, she does have a capricious nature.”
“Xellos said that once,” Lina answered.
“He understands more than he realizes,” Melee agreed. “Let him cry it out, then I’ll place a sleep spell on him. He needs the rest and you should talk to your friends and warn them about what is going on. Zel has a lot of anger that he needs to redirect. Xellos can not take on any extra guilt, at this point he’d blame himself for a hangnail on the other side of the country.”
Lina nodded and stroked Xellos’s hair gently, as if he were a child. A protective feeling flooded though her, he may have agreed to the change for power but she’d not let anyone else hurt the person that he was becoming.
Later hearing noises from the cavern opening she nodded to Melee who cast a sleep spell on Xellos. Letting go of the former monster, Lina arranged him gently, using the rucksack for a pillow she spread her blanket over his body tucking it in. Satisfied that he would sleep comfortably she waited as she saw the others exit the cave.
“Lina, I got it, isn’t she beautiful!” Gourry exclaimed waving his sword in the air.
Melee rushed over to Gourry and glomped onto him, spreading tiny kisses all over his face. “Did you get me a present? Come on! Did you? Did you?”
Zel looked at her warily and handed over the satchel with the manuscripts. He then backed away quickly as she tried to glomp on him in turn then hid behind Amelia using her for a shield.
Amelia looked at him in surprise, “Mr. Zelgadis, have you become a coward?” she asked.
“Yes!” he answered forthrightly.
“The search seems to have gone well,” Lina observed.
Zel told Lina about their adventures quickly, using Amelia as a shield as Melee tried to get to him. Lina nodded without being too surprised, she knew Zelas would send someone after them though it was a bit quicker than expected. The word of other ally concerned her but Lina had enough immediate worries with Xellos.
“Okay, we’ll deal with Zelas and her allies when they show up, I’ve had a rough time and we need to talk before any of you confront Xellos.”
“What do you mean Lina?” Amelia asked. “Isn’t Mr. Xellos a good guy now?”
“He’s learning to feel right now; he’s just learned to feel guilt and his past is tearing him apart, he can’t deal with blame and hatred, he has enough self-hatred as it is.”
“You’re worried about me aren’t you?” Zel asked.
“Frankly, yes. You associate Xellos with Rezo and you’ve never hidden your dislike. He can not handle that. Can you put that hatred away and look at Xellos as a completely different person as the one you knew in the past? If you can’t I’ll have to take him away for a few days.”
Lina looked over to Melee for confirmation and realized that she had left them and was frantically going though the manuscripts.
“I don’t know if I can do that,” Zel answered honestly.
“You have until tomorrow morning,” Lina informed him. “We had to put another sleep spell on Xellos after he realized what his past meant.”
“He really is suffering, isn’t he?” Zel asked.
“Oh Zel, you don’t know the half of it.” Lina turned quickly but Zel still caught sight of the tears in her eyes.
“Let me think, it may not be as hard as I thought,” he informed Lina quietly.