A/N: ^_~ “Cat-in-the Hat gone sour”? Interesting insight. Well, you’ll have to forgive my poetry, I’ve never really had much of a knack for it. Still, they’re necessary to my story, and if you finish reading it, you might see why. The None-so-Grand Finale! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don’t own Slayers, or anything else that isn’t mine to own.
Zel found that the road now split into two separate paths. Both seemed identical in appearance. Zel walked up to the wooden bulletin board between the paths, and read the note, scrawled in the same handwriting, on the same type of paper.
The Second Day has passed at last,
The Third you have yet to surpass.
Whether you do, or you don’t,
Is a matter of choice.
The Left holds the one you were searching for since yesterday,
The other holds what you’ve been seeking for all eternity.
Either one, will allow time for rejoice.
Which one will you choose?
Zelgadis contemplated this recent message. He knew for certain that the one he had been looking for since yesterday was none other than Lina. It took a moment, but he once more remembered why he had set his sights for here in the first place – his cure, the Curing Chisel. So one road held his cure, and the other held Lina? Zel unconsciously seated himself cross-legged in front of the sign. He pondered his current position.
To one that had spent almost half of his life obsessed with finding his cure, this was a hard choice indeed. In actuality, he had first met Lina only a year or two after he was first cursed. However, he had only recently begun to have a more-than-friends feeling about Lina. Either choice would dramatically change his life. If he chose the chisel, no longer would people stare at him and scream that he was a demon on a rampage, who sought the destruction of any town or creature in his path. That was more Lina than him anyway.
On the other hand, if he chose Lina herself, he could take to a quiet refuge away from society, alone in the wilderness with Lina. No one would judge him, and he’d lead a nice, peaceful life with the woman he had. . . he didn’t know what he had. This presented a problem, but Zel pushed it aside to see how both plans could backfire.
For one, the chisel could be like all his other leads – complete and utter fakes. If that was to be true, he would lose his. . . best friend forever, all for a meaningless fake. As for choosing Lina, she might not have the same anticipation for a future with him. She could leave him forever and he’d be alone, without a cure. He concluded to himself, that either way, he could be left with absolutely nothing.
With a sigh, Zelgadis stood, and headed down the left path. He had resolved, in his mind, that it would be best if Lina was safely alive, even if she wasn’t with him. He walked on for what seemed like miles. Zel had become accustomed to walking in the years, and didn’t feel the least bit tired. However, this time allowed him to search within himself, for an answer, the one answer he was looking for. How did Lina feel about him? She had always been good at concealing most of her emotions, so Zel could never tell for sure. He could have sworn, that all those times she hit Gourry, it was only a sign of playful affection. If that was the case, a regular relationship with Lina would be painful. Zel didn’t doubt the fact that Lina could hurt him easily, if she wanted to. That was the most important part of it all. What did Lina want? His decision’s outcome would rest firmly in the decision of Lina.
It didn’t take long for Zel to start to think that he might just be happier without his cure, but only if he had Lina. Sure, other people might judge him from appearance. Heck, Lina, Gourry, and Amelia had all prejudged him when they first met him. But now. . . at least, ten years ago. . . they had been his best friends. What now? Ten years really was a long time to spend away from companions. He had been so obsessed with finding his cure, that he hadn’t even acknowledged Amelia’s wedding. With that admittance, Zel slowly began to realize how utterly narcissistic he had been acting all along.
Also, with that realization, he realized, too, what great friends he had had. They had stuck by him, even in his monstrous form. They laughed with. . . well, tried to have him laugh with them. They dined with him, albeit fiercely; they traveled with him, it must have been thousands of miles in those few short years. They embarked into the Outer World together, starved at first, swung into adventure next, assisted in saving the world once more, and then departed again. Zel shook his head in disbelief as he reminisced. For a group of four travelers, they had had more than their share of adventures.
A strange thought crossed his mind. At every possible chance, he tried to leave them to seek out his cure in solitude. Nearly every time he tried, he failed. Either his friends stopped him or. . . fate led him right back to them. He seemed drawn to the group, to Lina, like a moth to a flame. Yet, he resisted it, tried to run away, tried to return to solitude. Deep inside, he knew his intentions would come out fruitless. . . or maybe he never really tried. Maybe, he didn’t want to be far away from them. Maybe, he was becoming like his Grandfather Rezo. Would history repeat itself? Would he be so obsessed with finding a cure that wasn’t there, a cure for appearance purposes, that he would resort to making a sacrificial pledge with the Mazoku race? As he looked back, he knew there were times that he had turned his back on the people that. . . he thought cared for him. Like Shabrinigdo was controlling Rezo, Rezo controlled Zel so that he would attack his friends. He saw what he was doing to them, but couldn’t stop it. He hurt more when Lina attacked him back, but in the end, he knew it was for the best. Lina always knew what was best. Compared to her, he was just a big an idiot as Gourry, just in a different sense. If density was the same as denial, Gourry and Zel would be that much more similar.
During the second big adventure
they had experienced together, Lina offered, or rather, insisted that she help
him find his cure. Somehow, that had
turned completely haywire, with Lina gone and back again. That was one momentous occasion for them
all. She had sacrificed all that she
was, for Gourry. Zel remembered feeling
a twinge of jealousy when the Lord of Nightmares related that to them. He also remembered swearing to himself that
if Gourry hadn’t beaten him to it, he
would have jumped into the
Zel stopped himself then. When had he begun to think like this? Why was he thinking them now in the first place? As Zel began to walk and think again, he came to some conclusions. He believed that it was really something like interest at first sight. When they had first met, she had backfired his own bargain against him amazingly well. But, with a chuckle he remembered, he had promised to take on three times her price, in time. This had surprised both Zolf and Gourry, but her face remained unchanged. If anything, it had become even more confident in appearance. Zel knew then, that Lina was not someone that could be messed with, without the consequence being dealt out. For some reason, the fact that he had met someone who could match or even overcome his wits, gave her a desirable quality in his mind.
It was then, that he heard Lina’s scream pierce the surrounding darkness. Zel’s heart jumped out of his stone skin, as the sudden sound scared him to death. His demonic ears were particularly good at picking up sounds within two miles, but it hurt his ear drums severely they picked up high pitch, loud screams. Not only that, but the fact that Lina screamed like that, in life-threatening pain, sent shivers up and down Zel’s spine. The sound came from a ways ahead of him, so he followed the road towards it as fast as his demonic speed would take him.
In the several breathless minutes that passed, Zel’s mind whirled with magnified intensity. Why had Lina screamed like that? She most definitely did not sound alright. Was it even her? Zel screeched his heels to a stop, stumbled, and fell over.
His breath had been completely knocked out of him. As he recollected it, he slowed down his thinking to sort it all out. The only time he had ever heard Lina scream, was when she was chasing after Gourry, fearing the worst. Zel could not remember a time when Lina had ever simply screamed, with no words, like the scream he had just heard. Maybe the dimension had gotten to him more than he thought. Or maybe. . . Lina was facing worse pain than she had felt at the loss of Gourry. Seething through his teeth, he got to his feet again, wondering if he was going insane.
When he looked up ahead of him, he blinked. The road had widened to a circular platform only five feet in diameter at the most. On the other side of the platform, there was a single door, with a red veil. He could have sworn that hadn’t been there a second ago, but nevertheless, he was relieved; he made his way toward the door. He stopped directly in front of it to quickly calm himself down again. This plan completely went awry when just a few inches from him, the door burst into bright, glowing flames. Zel instinctively stepped back and shielded his face behind his arms. The fire illuminated the darkness around him, but only slightly.
Slowly, Zel forced his arms to return to his sides. The flame continued to burn its bright red, the tongues licking threateningly at Zel. However, in the few minutes that Zel watched, it never spread more than a midget could pivot. He watched the flames intently, wondering what his course of action should be. He swore his mind was playing tricks on him again, because he heard overlapped pleads and screams in his head, in Lina’s voice. The voice pleaded to him, from behind the door, to help her, to save her, to stop- The voices were cut off abruptly, and all sounds ceased. When Zel replayed this fact in his mind, he realized that the flames made no sound, much less heat. However, as he became angrier with himself for not realizing this sooner, the flame became stronger. The realization that he was so close and yet he couldn’t even get through a door, made him even angrier at himself, as well as fed the flames. Growling in frustration, Zel punched through the flames to the door. Zel yelped slightly as the fire surrounded his fist, and traveled up his arm. Quickly, he retracted his burning arm, and proceeded to do a standing version of stop-drop-roll. So really, all he did was flap his arm against his cloak until it went out. As soon as his anger turned to panic, the flames vanished. Finally noticing the connection, Zel breathed in and exhaled deeply several times to clear his mind. When he felt completely at peace, he opened his eyes again, and the door was perfectly fine.
Putting up a breathless smile, Zel pushed aside the veil and walked into the room. A bright light blinded him upon his entrance. Zel groaned as he once again instinctively shielded his eyes with his arms. When he felt the light fade to darkness, he blinked repeatedly, adjusting his eyes once more.
Zelgadis looked around slowly. The path before him was very short in comparison to the ones in the past, and it led directly to. . . Lina. Zel couldn’t hold in his surprise. Lina was in front of him, but she was bound by her wrists by a rope and unconscious. The most surprising factor, aside from her being unconscious, was that she was suspended at least fifty feet above the level on which Zelgadis stood. He looked around for anything that might possibly boost him up there. As he suspected, nothing was around in the darkness save for the road to Lina. He walked forward until he was almost directly below Lina.
He attempted to jump, but it failed miserably. He had gone maybe two inches off the path, and landed with a thud, forming an imprint onto the path. Suddenly remembering what had happened to Lina earlier, he carefully aimed at the ground, and cast a Rah Tilt. As if sensing his plan, the road gave way and sent his spell downwards instead of simply pushing him backwards, up to Lina. Zel had almost fallen through the hole that his spell had made, but he grabbed hold of the edge of the road and hoisted himself up.
Once comfortably on the road again, he looked up to Lina. If a Rah Tilt worked, maybe he could levitate himself up. He cast the spell, and he found that he could, in fact, fly. He boosted himself with Ray Wing, and made his way up to Lina. The rope swayed in a taunting manner, always keeping out of his reach. Zel found himself growling with frustration; the rope was mocking him. Every time he made a grab for Lina, the rope pulled itself and her away, like an opponent dodging blows. Finally, he resorted to physical damage – to the rope.
He launched a direct fireball at the moving target. The rope predictably moved out of the way, but Zel had anticipated this and programmed the fireball to follow the rope. Before long, it was charred. The rope soon burned through, releasing its captive. Zel raced to catch Lina, but he suddenly found that she was nowhere in sight. He whirled around and around in all directions, trying to find out where she was. He was growing more frantic by the second; his heartbeat was racing again; his breaths came out short.
He suddenly found himself wondering if he had driven away Lina already; if by some magical force, she left this plane for him to suffer alone in. Not that he wanted her to suffer, but he didn’t want to be alone. Not anymore; no longer did he have any wish to be alone. A loud, raucous laughter rang through the empty room. Again, Zel turned left and right, trying to pin down where it was coming from.
“You’re so pitiful. A weakling undeserving of the sorceress supreme, Lina Inverse. Leave now, and your life may be spared.”
The cold, malicious voice seemed to have triggered something within the room, because as Zel turned, an opening, a doorway of yellow light, appeared at the end of the road, not too far away. ‘Finally! A way out of here! Away from this h*** hole! Away from the screams!-‘
Shaking himself, Zel rolled his eyes everywhere, still trying to find the body to match the voice. “NEVER!! I’LL NEVER ABANDON LINA IN THIS PLACE!! SHOW YOURSELF!!”
Hearing his call, the voice laughed once again. It taunted him, “You are a tenacious fool. Lina shall never be returned to you; she can be put to better uses than to be your caretaker. She’ll be very happy in doing so as well. GO HOME!”
Zel felt the heat of wrath rise inside of him. He had finally recognized the voice. “I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again; NO! I REFUSE to let Lina remain in the hands of a demon! Now, show yourself, XELLOS!”
Like magic, Xellos, the General Priest of Zelas Metallium appeared; the limp figure of Lina folded over his arms in front of him. In a moment of snap judgment, Zel speeded towards Xellos in an attempt to get back Lina as he yelled, “Give me back my Lina!”
He missed horribly as Xellos teleported with Lina, but he had stopped dead in his tracks anyway. Since when had he used the possessive ‘my’ to describe his relationship with Lina? His thoughts were becoming more and more bizarre by the minute. He had to retrieve Lina and get back to the real world soon.
“COWARD!! Come and fight me!”
Now Zel knew he was becoming insane. Challenging a monster, probably the fourth strongest monster in the world now, to a fight? The very idea of such a thing was lunacy. Nevertheless, Xellos heeded his call. With a wave of his hand, he let Lina float in the air alone, and caged her. Drifting in front of the cage, as to block Zel’s view, he smirked. “Defeat me, and the cage shall disappear. Lose, and you will be returned to your world alone.”
Xellos pointed his staff towards Zel, who went into fighting stance. “Let the battle begin.”
In a flurry of spells, physical blows, and clashes of sword and staff, the battle went on. Both seemed incapable of falling, or fainting. Even when Zel tried a Rah Tilt, Xellos spun his staff and changed its course. When Xellos used the magic of his staff, Zel deflected it in the same way. For hours on end, they blocked each other’s moves, although several hits still made contact. They seemed evenly matched, and invincible. Finally, in one moment, it was over.
Xellos, in waiting for Zel to catch his breath, why he cared to rescue Lina to this extent. The answer dawned on him in a tidal wave of emotions. “Why?” Zel chuckled to himself. He turned to stare directly at Xellos and yelled as loud as he could, “Because I LOVE HER!”
As if those words were a deadly disease, Xellos clutched his sides, keeled over, and combusted (Oo0 Don’t worry I’ll explain!). Breathing hard, Zel slowly made his way towards Lina. Using his chimeric strength, Zel easily bent the iron bars, and took hold of Lina. Drifting as if he were a ghost, he slowly made his way to the exit.
In a blinding flash of light, they had finally left the dimension, together.
A/N: Sorry all you Xellos fans! ^_~ When I say combust, I’m sure you know I mean blow up from the inside-out. If you think Xellos is way too strong to be defeated just like that, wait for my explanation in my epilogue. I hope you enjoyed this story though. I’m very thankful for your reviews as well. Either I must be getting better, or more people are noticing my fics, because I think this story takes the cake! ^_^ Thanks much for your time! If you want the epilogue, tell me in a review! :P Ja ne!