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Chapter five
Chapter 5: Proposal! Gourry's Important Question!

The wedding preparations were well under way, with the dais being raised in the garden, the white pavilions scattered around the field being decorated with silk roses and elegant pastel buntings. It was in the midst of all this that Gourry remembered something very important that he had to ask Lina, and immediately set out to look for the little redheaded sorceress.

He found her talking with the Lady Mara, who looked like an older version of Lina, only she had blue eyes. Gourry could have sworn that Mara looked a lot like Rubia, the woman that the sorcerer Halciform had loved, and the thought had crossed his mind that Mara could have been a Koppi, but then his brain reminded him of his task. The two young women had become good friends for reasons that weren't really clear to the swordsman, since their initial dispositions were so different from each other. The Lady Mara was the epitome of casual elegance, in contrast to Lina's easygoing tomboy attitudes. He supposed that they satisfied some obscure female need to talk and bond with each other despite their differences. Seeing them engrossed in conversation, he deliberately made his heels click on the ground to warn them of his arrival, and to spare his head the lumps that were guaranteed to be given to him if he startled the redheaded sorceress.

Lina heard his footsteps and turned. "Hey, Gourry! What's up?"

Mara smiled up at him, which was all the greeting that was needed.

Gourry remembered his manners and bowed to Mara. "Ladies..." he straightened.

Lina blinked up at him. "Gourry, are you feeling okay? You're usually not this polite..."

"Very funny, Lina. Um, Lady Mara, would you mind if I borrowed Lina for a little while? There's something really important I have to ask her."

Mara blinked, looked at Lina, who flushed slightly. "Oh, uhm, yes, of course. It wouldn't be a bother at all. In fact, why don't you go over there to that bench under the willow?" she pointed to a sheltered area near a small koi pond a short distance away. "You won't be bothered if you want privacy."

Gourry smiled. "Thanks, Lady Mara...I'd like that." he reached out and put his hand on Lina's shoulder, leading her away.

Surprised, Lina looked up at him, a faint blush on her cheeks. "So...uh...Gourry...what's this all about?"

"Well..." Gourry looked at the workers bustling about, getting Hallas' estate ready for his wedding. "All this reminded me of something I've been meaning to ask you for a long time."

"You actually remembered? That's a first..." Lina said. "It must be very important then."

"Yeah, actually, it's very important, and I wonder why I forgot it in the first place." Gourry laughed. "But I'd better ask it to you now, before I forget it again."

"Ask away," Lina waved her hand airily.

"'s just that we've been travelling together for such a long time now... and I know I promised to protect you for the rest of my life..."Gourry began. "It's just that...well, such a job made me forget about some other things I had to do..."

"What things?" Lina asked.

" asking Sylphiel to marry me."

"Sylphiel...?" Lina echoed softly, first surprised, then suddenly, she felt an ache building in her chest.

"Yeah," Gourry laughed and shook his head. "Can you imagine, I forgot something as important as asking the girl I want to marry to marry me..." he chuckled to himself some more.

"Yeah... really something." Lina looked at her feet, unsure of how to react. She should be happy, but why wasn't she? Instead...she was ...disappointed? Why?

Gourry looked down at her, his expression as intent and as serious as he continued to speak. "Lina, I promised you I'd be your guardian, but even I know I can't do that and marry Sylphiel too."

Lina blinked, flushed, then glared. "Hey! Don't you not marry Sylphiel just to keep that promise! I'll free you from your promise to me so you can make yours to her!"

"Who said anything about breaking promises? I never break promises! It just isn't right." Gourry told her. "But I won't be able to relax and settle down with Sylphiel if I know you're running around loose and unprotected. You are a good, special friend, and I don't just abandon my friends, right?" He dropped his hand on her head and ruffled Lina's bangs affectionately. "I'll hang around until you find yourself a new guardian, someone who'll take my place. Of course, I'll have to approve of him and make sure he can pass the test."

"You're going to give this guy, whoever he is, an exam?!" Lina exclaimed. "You've gotta be kidding me…" she muttered in disbelief. Then again, this is Gourry we're talking about…

"Yeah! It's the only way I'll know he can take care of you! You get into lots of trouble after all."

Lina twitched, but knew that was true. "It's not as if I look for trouble." She muttered.

Gourry laughed. "Well, whether you look for it or not, it sure finds you." He stood up. "Thanks, Lina. I wanted to make sure you understood first." He got up. "Do you think I should go and ask her now?"

Lina nodded, smiling up at him encouragingly. "Of course you should! She's waited long enough, hasn't she?" she gave him a shove. "Go on! Get on with it!"

Gourry laughed, then suddenly hugged her close to him. "Thanks, Lina... for understanding, and listening." He bent and kissed her forehead, then ran off to find Sylphiel.

Lina watched him go until he disappeared around the corner of the mansion, calling Sylphiel's name. When his voice faded into the distance, Lina looked down at her feet, feeling decidedly bad and wondering why.

I'm not in love with him or anything.... so why am I upset?

Lina felt the presence of another person, another person she knew well, come closer. Part of her didn't want him to come over, part of her didn't want to be alone. The latter part won out.

Zel sat down and said nothing for a while, simply offering support. Then, he spoke. "Want to talk about it?"

Lina sighed. "I guess I was kind of stupid...thinking that we'd end up together simply because we've been travelling partners for so long."

Zel shrugged. "I don't think so. Staying together like that does mean a kind of commitment, so it wasn't so wrong of you to assume that you and Gourry would stay together for the rest of your lives. It's a natural assumption, since he's taken care of you for so long and after all, you two have never parted ways the way Amelia, Filia and I have left our little troupe." He placed a hand on her shoulder. "And you didn't know Gourry had other plans. It's not your fault, and you've got every right to feel sad, since you and Gourry have been close. Just grieve a while, then let it go. After all, you'd want Gourry to be happy, ne?"

"Yeah... Sylphiel's good for him." Lina chuckled. "Remember when we stormed Rezo's lab back in Old Sairaag? She was paying so much attention to him, asking if he got hurt, fussing constantly over every little hurt and lump. You asked me why I was so angry then... I guess it's because Gourry acted so much better with Sylphiel around... He sure never treated me that way."

"You were jealous, in other words." Zel summed up.

Lina looked at him angrily. "No I'm -" at Zel's searching look, she slumped. "Heh... I guess you're right."

Zel buffed his fingernails on his cloak arrogantly. "Of course I'm right! I hang around with the Great Lina Inverse, Sorcery Genius Without Peer!" he gave her his smuggest, haughtiest smirk, striking a swaggering pose.

The result was Lina laughing hysterically, pointing at him, tears running down her cheeks. "HAHAHAHAHA! You look insane, Zelgadiss!" she fell down on her rear, clutching her midsection. "Oooh, ouch, it hurts, hahahahahaha!"

Zelgadiss kept it up, turning his nose up into the air, glad that at least she was laughing now. "Hmph. Serves you right for laughing at me."

"Stop, stop stop! You sound like Filia when she and Xelloss are fighting!" she pounded the ground, howling with laughter.

Zelgadiss laughed, bent and offered her his hand. "There. Feeling better now?"

Lina grabbed his hand and he pulled her up. "Yeah, I'm feeling much better now, you goofball..." she wiped her face and hiccuped. "My sides are aching..." she dusted off herself and smiled up at him. "Let's go and congratulate Sylphiel, shall we?"

"Congratulate Sylphiel for what?" Filia asked, walking up to them, Amelia close behind. "You sure had a good laugh, Lina... we could hear you clear from over there." she pointed back to the mansion.

"Blame Zel for that. He made me laugh." Lina jerked her thumb at Zelgadiss.

"I plead guilty," the Chimera said dryly. "Gourry's going to ask Sylphiel to marry him. Let's go see if he remembered to ask the right question."

"REALLY?!" Amelia gushed. "That's wonderful! Miss Sylphiel will be so happy!" she looked over to Lina. "Let's go to her and Gourry-san and congratulate them at once!"

"You know where she is, Amelia?" Zelgadiss asked in surprise.

"We saw her talking to Milgazia-san in the other end of the garden, something about if it's possible for us to learn holy magic again." Amelia replied, hopping from one foot to the other in her excitement. "If Sylphiel-san is to ask anyone about Holy Magic, Milgazia-san is the best one to ask since he lived before the Kouma War ever happened. He might remember some of the old spells, wouldn't he?"

"Sylphiel's talking to Milgazia? That's great! C'mon, let's go! If Gourry forgot, let's remind him!" Lina said, reaching out and grabbing the Saillune Princess by the hand and dragging her away.

Zelgadiss shook his head, smiling. "She's certainly cheered up now…Let's join them, Filia…" he turned to find Filia sobbing into a handkerchief. "What's wrong, Filia?" he asked. "Aren't you supposed to save the waterworks for the wedding day?"

"I know that, baka." Filia sniffled and dabbed her tears away. "But…it's just so romantic I can't help but cry tears of joy…"

Zelgadiss sweatdropped. "If we stay here any longer, then we'll miss most of the drama, you know…" he said dryly.

"Eep! I don't want that! I don't want to miss a single happy detail! What are you standing around like a statue for, Zelgadiss?! Let's go!" the dragon maiden darted past the startled Chimera, grabbed his wrist and hauled him along as she ran to catch up with Lina and Amelia.

As he flew without the help of magic, Zelgadiss rolled his eyes. Women.

"So do you think it is possible for humans to reclaim the lost arts of Holy Magic, Milgazia-san?" Sylphiel asked the Dragon Lord sitting next to her. He had, on request, recounted various examples of the sorcerer-priests of old casting Holy spells, citing several battles in particular where he himself witnessed such magics. The Ryuzoku had gladly answered all of Sylphiel's questions and even volunteered tidbits of information on his own.

Milgazia's eyes became distant as he considered the question, leaning back on the stone bench as he did. "It is possible…after all, the Barrier of the Mazoku is gone."

Sylphiel's expression grew eager. "Do you think we could learn Holy Magic from the Ryuzoku? The knowledge to Holy Magic was lost during the Kouma War…" she trailed off as Milgazia shook his head. Her face fell. "You mean…we can't learn Holy Magic…?" she murmured, crestfallen.

"Humans cannot learn the spells of my people. No human can cast them – they take more power from the caster than a human is capable of handling at one time." Milgazia corrected her. "However, the basic principles of Dragon and Human Holy Magic are the same and I think that can be learned." He watched her face as she brightened once more with hope in her eyes. He shook his finger at her in caution. "I fear that humans will have to develop their own spells…" he paused and looked up and beyond her.

Sylphiel turned and saw Gourry standing politely a few feet away. "Gourry dear…"

"Hi, Sylphiel, hello Milgazia. I'm sorry to butt in your conversation, but I've got something really important to ask Sylphiel."

"I do not mind at all. We can continue this later…" Milgazia got up and started to excuse himself, when he noticed that he wasn't being noticed any more. Apparently whatever Gourry was going to ask would not take long so the Ryuzoku decided to wait after all. The conversation with Sylphiel had been fascinating, and the shrine maiden had asked many questions, all of them very well thought of. He had answered them to the best of his ability and he wished to continue this interesting discourse with her. If humans could learn the Holy Magics once more…then perhaps…

"…was it you wanted to ask me, Gourry dear?" Sylphiel was saying, her eyes seeing only her beloved. Milgazia couldn't resist smiling slightly at this. He would have to be deaf and blind to have missed her adoration for the swordsman, as it showed on her face from the day he had first met them. He moved over to examine a rosebush that bore blossoms of such a pale hue of pink he had to look twice to make sure it wasn't white, and to give the two a measure of privacy.

"It's really important, and I can't understand why I've been forgetting to ask you this for so long." Gourry laughed in bemusement. "I guess it's because things have been busy, and so much has been happening that it just gets shoved back in my mind."

"Oh, that happens a lot, Gourry dear…" Sylphiel excused him. "There's really no need to browbeat your self over it."

"Yeah, but how many guys forget to ask the girl he's in love with to marry her?" Gourry asked pointedly. Sylphiel gasped, and he smiled, his expression becoming tender. "That's right, Sylphiel… I'm in love with you, and I want to marry you. I just never got around to asking, and with all these preparations for a wedding… I remembered." He got down on one knee and took her hand in his, looking up at the stunned shrine maiden. "I want to make this as formal as possible, and we've got Milgazia to witness it." Gourry grinned at the startled Dragon Lord, who had realized this conversation was more private than he had first believed. "You don't mind witnessing for us, do you, Milgazia?" he asked as Milgazia started to step away.

"Gourry…" Sylphiel's eyes filled with tears. Having a witness was an ancient tradition, a tradition so old that it was archaic. A witness was supposed to back up a man's claim of proposal if anyone questioned it. To have a Ryuzoku as a witness, and one with Milgazia's stature, would mean that no one could question the engagement, or challenge it.

"Ah… no, I don't mind. I am very honored, Gourry, to be your witness." Milgazia murmured, taking a few more steps closer instead of away. "You may proceed."

"Thanks!" Gourry cleared his throat and looked earnestly up into Sylphiel's eyes. "I know it's taken me a long time to finally getting around to asking you this, but I hope you'll accept me even though I've been remiss." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, carved wooden box. He flipped it open with his thumb and revealed a beautiful ring, made of golden ivy vines. The leaves curled up to clasp a large diamond, a gem so clear it shone like a piece of ice carved from a glacier – white, with a pale blue overtone. "Sylphiel Nels Raada, Shrine Maiden of Sairaag, will you accept me, Gourry Gabriev of Elmekia, as your consort, and hopefully as your loving husband?"

Sylphiel watched as Gourry slipped the ring onto her finger, tears forming at the corner of her eyes. With a cry of sheer joy she threw her arms around the swordsman's neck and embraced him tightly. "Yes! Yes I will!"

Gourry stood up, sweeping the shrine maiden off her feet and spinning her around a full 360 degrees before placing a tender kiss on her lips. Sylphiel responded with equal tenderness until she remembered that Milgazia was there, and pulled away, embarrassed but obviously happy. Gourry didn't look in the least bit concerned about the Ryuzoku's presence. "You heard me, right, Milgazia?"

Milgazia nodded, speaking the formal reply. "I have heard, I have seen, and I have witnessed your proposal to the Lady Sylphiel and also witnessed her acceptance of it. Let any who doubt your engagement come to me for proclamation." A smile graced his features, softening them. "Congratulations, you two."

"Thanks!" Gourry turned back to Sylphiel and kissed her again.

Milgazia decided then that it would be best if he left them alone, and silently walked away. He exited the garden proper to find Lina and the others walking toward him.

"Hey, Milgazia!" Lina greeted. "Did you see Gourry and Sylphiel around here? Amelia said that you were just talking to Sylphiel…"

Milgazia nodded. "I just witnessed the proposal of marriage that Gourry posed to Sylphiel. She accepted it quite readily." A smirk curved his lips.

"Let's go and congratulate them!" Amelia said, about to sprint past Milgazia. He stopped her, gently placing a restraining hand on her shoulder.

"That would not be wise right now, Princess." He advised softly.

"Ah," Zelgadiss said, leaning back against the walkway railing and smiling.

Filia blushed.

Lina grinned. "I guess they have a lot of time to make up for it… We'll congratulate them later, with a little surprise party."

"In honor of such a joyous occasion, I booked us all for a nice dinner at the Grapevine Bistro." Xelloss said, phasing in with a wide smile.

"Xelloss!" Lina exclaimed in surprise. "Hey, that's really nice of you, though, do you have to pop out of the woodwork like that?!" she grinned up at the Mazoku.

Filia eyed him. "I don't' suppose you're paying for the bill…"

Xelloss looked hurt. "You wound me, Filia-chan… Even I am capable of doing something nice now and then…" he looked at Milgazia. "Isn't that right, Milgazia-san? Besides, it's extremely bad luck to do anything mischievous right now, since there will be a wedding soon…"

Milgazia raised an eyebrow. "Don't tell me you believe that superstition."

"Of course not…but it's tradition." Xelloss said expansively. "It doesn't cost me anything to uphold old traditions, like witnessing, right?"

Milgazia resisted the urge to smile. "You are most certainly correct, Xelloss." He replied, as deadpan as ever.

The celebratory dinner that Xelloss had arranged was tastefully understated. Sylphiel and Gourry expressed their appreciation to the Mazoku, while Filia found it hard to believe that Xelloss had been considerate enough and decided not to embarrass the couple. Gourry in particular was happy, saying that he wasn't all that fond of "Huge shows". The blond swordsman wanted to settle into a quieter life, and having a quiet wedding later in the future was the best way to start. He added that he wouldn't leave Lina alone until he found a suitable Guardian to take her place.

Xelloss stood up and offered a toast to the happy couple. It was echoed and many congratulations were heaped on Sylphiel and Gourry. It did not show on his eternally smiling face, but Xelloss felt a slight bit of nausea all evening. It's worth it though to make sure that everything goes according to plan…

Mentally, Xelloss reviewed the list of Lina's companions. That Gourry had announced his engagement to Sylphiel was taking out two birds with one stone – Gourry and Sylphiel would leave in time. Amelia would eventually return to Saillune and resume her royal lifestyle – the old King was dying and Prince Philionel would eventually stop being regent and ascend the throne. That meant more duties for the hyperactive Crown Princess of Saillune. Mentally, Xelloss scratched her name from the list.

Filia too would leave in time. In fact, it was a certainty and Xelloss would move heaven and earth to ensure that the shrieky, violent Ryuzoku would stay where she was. Filia's name was also scratched out from the list – he foresaw no problems there.

Next was Zelgadiss. Xelloss scratched out his name as well. The Chimera would eventually leave as well – the endless searching for his cure would have him taking his own path sooner or later. Xelloss sipped his wine and glanced at Milgazia. Hadn't the Dragon Elder offered to aid him in his quest? Xelloss' smile quirked sardonically. Of all the people here, he wanted Milgazia gone. He and Zelgadiss posed the greatest threat to his plans for Lina, and that was something he would not allow. If Milgazia offered to take Zelgadiss back to Dragons' Peak with him to look at the Claire Bible, then it would save Xelloss the effort of sending Zelgadiss off into the far reaches of the world to look for his cure. If not, Zelgadiss would probably wander off on his own anyway and Milgazia had many other duties and responsibilities tying him down to the Valley of Dragons. The Dragon Lord would not remain with Lina for long. With the greatest of satisfaction, the Beast Priest removed Milgazia's name from the list.

Left on it were only two – Xelloss' own name…and Lina's.

This is how is will be.

Xelloss raised his glass in yet another toast of congratulations in honor of Sylphiel and Gourry's engagement. Lina and Amelia cheered in reply. He sipped the wine and looked at it with a smile.

Yes, we have many reasons to celebrate tonight indeed.

Slayers Dragon Cycle
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