|Beauty and the BeastMaster
Author: GinTsuki PM
How far will one girl go in order to get back the only thing that matters? How far does one need to go before they lose the only thing that makes them human? That far. She only needs a push.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Adventure - Lina I. & Xelloss M. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 13,156 - Reviews: 30 - Favs: 17 - Follows: 25 - Updated: 10-28-09 - Published: 05-18-09 - id: 5072096
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The rain was the first sign that something terrible was on its way. It was heavy, cold and damp – just like any other rainy day, but there was melancholy in it that was seeded into my mind. I couldn't help but think it was a stage for an event so bad that it bled through time to affect me now. I should have noticed. I could have completely averted what was to come… if only I had listened to my instincts.
I looked across the table at Gourry, my eyes still reflecting the graveness from the window. He was holding two chicken legs in one hand and a bowl of soup in the other. His eyes were trained on my face and I couldn't help but gawk at him. A worried expression managed to make its way out of the sauce and rice plastered to his mouth. I blinked away the subtle shivers that rode my spine and snapped back into reality.
The table was littered with crumbs and empty plates. I noticed that the twelve course meal I ordered was suddenly reduced to one. "GOURRY!"
"You didn't look hungry… you were gazing out the window all worried-like. I thought that something was up! What's the matter? You don't seem yourself tonight…" He managed to say all of that while stuffing his face. I was both irritated and impressed.
"Very astute of you Gourry, maybe I was worried you were going to inhale me along with all of the food!" My temper rose and I threw a bone at him. It bounced off of his nose and he rubbed it with a greasy hand. "Lina-!" he whined, "you know I wouldn't do that. You'd probably taste terrible! Like… garlic or vinegar."
"Garlic or vinegar! GARLIC OR VINEGAR! I'll have you know that I taste delicious! Like strawberry shortcake or vanilla ice cream!" I countered, insulted.
Gourry laughed, "Short, cold and filled with calories?"
I sputtered in shock, "Did you - did you just make a witty rebuttal, jelly-fish for brains!" I ground my fist into his head, messing up his blonde hair. "I'm the one who gives the sass around here! ME!"
Gourry begged for mercy a few minutes later, and by that time I had finished another order of dishes. We started to feel sleepy after stuffing ourselves; that, and the day's travels had taken a lot out of me. I didn't like trudging through mud. Call me a sissy, but have you ever cast a fireball in a monsoon while cramping? Makes a sorceress feel third rate.
After dessert, Gourry and I went upstairs, making sassy insults all the way to the quiet corridors of the inn. When it came time to separate into our respective rooms I couldn't help but feel the need to come up with some silly excuse to stay in his room with him - but I didn't. It had been like this for a while now - all awkward moments and suppressed feelings. This sort of emotional dance wasn't something I did... I liked to charge in Dragon Slaves blazing to just take what I wanted; but Gourry wasn't some priceless artefact – as much as his lack of intellect may fool a passerby. I didn't know how to proceed. Obviously the feelings were mutual, because I was damn adorable, not to mention powerful and all sorts of magnificent; yet, he wasn't going to make the first move, and I didn't understand why.
I made sure I didn't look back at him when I opened my door, suddenly angry for no apparent reason.
The room wasn't shabby like most the inn's Gourry and I usually stayed in. It must be because we were close to Sailune and quality seemed to be a 'thing' around these parts. I was glad because I was suffering from some terrible cramps and I didn't want to fight a batch of ruffians looking for coin during 'that time of the month'.
I sat down on my bed and stared out the window, the rain still on my nerves. Maybe it was just the paranoia I was feeling at being rather defenceless without my magic, or maybe I wasn't being paranoid enough. Whatever it was, it would have to wait till morning. I was tired.
I threw my mantle on the floor and slipped under the covers, wondering if the rain would be there to dampen my day in the morning.
When I awoke, I immediately checked the weather: Rain, with clouds as black as sin. It took all my energy to crawl out of bed and grab my mantle off the floor. I grumbled at its weight and made my way to the bathroom to wash my face and comb my hair.
I met Gourry in the hallway several minutes later. He was looking refreshed and energetic, so I couldn't help but feel a little energetic too. I think that natural ability was the only reason he survived mornings with me.
"You're looking better today!" He said with a dopey grin that made me elbow him. He dodged for once and grabbed the back of my head to direct me down the stairs and into the common area. I spun around to loosen his grip and walk backwards as we left the inn. The cooks even waved good-bye with tears in their eyes – they always seemed to be present to see us off. Maybe they were overjoyed we didn't order breakfast.
Breakfast! I had completely forgotten! I stopped my reverse walk and started to bee-line it back to the inn but Gourry gave me a clueless look and stopped me. "Lina, where are you going?"
"Back to breakfast of course! I'm HUNGRY!" I replied, wondering why he was separating me from food when he was usually the one racing me there.
"But Lina, we spent all our money on dinner last night…"
My face fell and I practically draped myself over Gourry's outstretched arm. The rain and the lack of breakfast were starting to affect my mood. "Oh… right. Well then! It looks like we're going to have to shake down some bandits on our way to Sailune."
Gourry sighed, "You mean I'LL have to shake down some bandits right?"
I practically wobbled to the ground at that comment. The rain, the lack of breakfast AND the fact I couldn't use magic was definitely going to get to me. Gourry patted my head and propped me up. "Don't worry Lina! Remember all those times I was useless without a sword? Now you can be useless!"
"That's not exactly a comforting thought Gourry - though nice try." My sarcasm barely made it out of my clenched teeth. "Though, I'm not entirely useless; I'm still an incredibly skilled swordswoman as well as a beautiful genius sorceress." I said, fluffing out my hair before folding my arms over my chest so that he couldn't point out my most underdeveloped feature - as he was usually prone to do.
But when the comment didn't come I grinned, he must be learning not to mess with me or he'd get an upper cut to the jaw. I looked at his face to give a smug look but he was looking over my shoulder with an expression of concern. Immediately I turned - my hand on my sword to see what was coming.
There were three men, or from a closer look, one man and two demi-human cronies marching through the muddy path that lead to the inn just behind us. The only problem was that they didn't look interested in the hospitality - they had their eyes glued on us.
The man was dressed in dark gray which was drenched to near black in the rain. His hair was white and unnaturally stiff, but his most dominate feature was his eyes; they seemed to be too wide for his face, making him look maniacal.
The other two goons seemed like stereo-typical lizard men in rags. They seemed to be of a low calibre compared to the man who was obviously magically inclined. Whoever did the flunky match-up was probably just as brainless as the henchmen he acquired.
"Look Gourry!" I said with my usual grin, "We didn't even have to look for some bandits, they came right to us!" I drew my weapon and Gourry drew his. These three didn't look too tough.
"Lina Inverse. Gourry Gabriev." The man in the middle of the trio said. His voice was low and raspy; it made my skin crawl which surprised me. I was used to enemies speaking with an intimidating tone, but this guy was different. It was the way he said our names… like it was supposed to be a question, but the answer was something too apparent to deny.
I hardened my features, wondering if I should take these guys seriously or not. "Yeah, that's us - what about it?"
"Prepare to die."
I was a little taken back at this guy's gall. He spoke with utter certainty, allowing time for Gourry and me to look at each other and assess our options. Gourry was waiting on me to make the call, that much was for certain in the way he was mimicked my body language, but I was having second thoughts. Did this guy have the firepower to back up his threats?
"Oh? And by your hand I take it? I've seen your type before buster. All talk no fireball."
The man snapped his fingers and five shadows in a fairly humanoid shape appeared before him.
That was bad. Really bad.
I immediately sought to find a way to retreat, because someone with that kind of manipulation over darkness had to be a mazoku, and there was no way Gourry and I could take him down alone in the situation we were currently in. The problem was I couldn't ray wing myself out of there, and I seriously doubted if I could outrun them all.
"Run and the lives of those in the inn are forfeit" said the monster, as if reading my mind.
I silently cursed. If I were to run now, I wouldn't hear the end of it from Gourry. Who was this guy and what did I ever do to him!
"Look pal, let's talk things over. I don't know you, and I haven't picked off any of your kind in some time, so I see no reason for this pointless battle. Last time I checked you guys were rather slim in number, so you should probably be thinking about self-preservation."
As I spoke the five shadow elementals attacked and I jumped reflexively behind Gourry, who then swiped at them with his blade. They dematerialized and then reformed as if nothing happened. I expected that, but I had nothing in mind to counter it. My only hope was Gourry's sword of light, which he was busy trying to switch to while complaining about it. I decided to play decoy to give him some time and lunged directly at the monster.
"It's rude to initiate when a girl is talking!" My leg was outstretched in a flying kick, a move I was mimicking from Amelia.
If anyone else has done this I expect they'd be dead right now, but luckily I'm a little trickier than the average opponent. Before getting in melee range I dropped out of my kick and somersaulted, expecting that the mazoku would slip into the astral plane. When he did, I slid a few yards extra before jumping up and raking my blade up the front of an unsuspecting lizard man, who was just as shocked as I was supposed to be at his leader disappearing. Thank the Gods mazoku are predictable.
"This is what happens when you mis-match your hit-men!" I twirled and delivered a killing blow before the creature could react to the first one.
But as the lizard man fell, the five shadow men rose in a pentagram around me. I ducked, thinking that they would be casting some sort ray or touch attack. I was painfully mistaken as my own shadow sprouted tentacles that bound me where I knelt. The sorcerer materialized out of the astral plane at a point that was almost nose to nose with me. If I had my magic I would have tried to anchor him where he was – partly ghosted into the ground, but I didn't, so I steeled myself for my only other option.
"Clever Lina Inverse, but I am more so. Do not resist."
"LIKE HELL I WON'T!" I head-butted him, my nose making a crunching noise as it impacted his own. Blood gushed all over the man's face - some was mine, but some was his, and that's all I cared about.
I used the surprise attack to try and break free of my bonds, but I couldn't do it physically. "GOU-" I started to call but the tentacles of my shadow constricted, squeezing the life out of my lungs and trapping air in my restricted throat. My eyes felt like they'd pop out of my skull so I closed them, concentrating on the oxygen left in my body. I heard my opponent chuckle at me darkly.
"Your spirit is entertaining Lina Inverse, but I will break you."
I twisted and turned till my flesh burned, but I was definitely trapped. I heard Gourry scream my name seconds before he unleashed the light from his sword. It was around then when things seemed to echo inside my head as my lungs screamed for breath.
I cracked one of my eyes open to see Gourry duelling with the monster. He was winning from what I could see. Desperation was apparent in his eyes as they flickered to me from moment to moment. I wanted to yell at him to focus. What kind of swordsman allowed himself to be distracted in combat? But he managed to graze the mazoku pretty good, so I couldn't complain.
I twisted in my bonds, choking as I tried to talk. It was around then when the fear started to get to me. It had the same flavour as the paranoia I was enveloped in the night before. My strength was ebbing and my consciousness waning. I watched helplessly as Gourry duelled with the monster, his expert footing letting him get closer and closer to me. Something terrible was going to happen. I knew it was well as I knew myself. My intuition doesn't lie.
Darkness was inching in the corners of vision. I didn't have long, and the fact that Gourry knew this made me sick to my stomach. He wouldn't forgive himself if I died here. If only I had done something different... if I had read the signs last night...
The shadow creatures all took a step towards me, making my own shadow dance higher and consume my body. I couldn't see, I couldn't breathe, and I drowned defenceless, until unconsciousness took me.
I woke up with a terrible headache, rain slick on my face as it washed away the blood from my broken nose. The feeling of icy precipitation battering my body actually caused me pain and I groaned as I sat up to avoid it - opening my eyes as I massaged my aching neck.
The scene I saw when I opened my eyes will be burned into my memory forever.
The hilt of the sword of light was next to my elbow. I assumed Gourry threw it when I lost consciousness to dispel the binding spell I was in; but an action like that was sure to leave him completely open to the monster he was duelling. I let out a choked sob as I made my way to the only thing present that was still breathing.
Gourry's body was meters from where I woke. Blood was everywhere, and my ears started to ring. My knees gave out and I dropped heavily next to him.
His face was looking at me. His eyes, his beautiful blue eyes, staring me down like I was the only thing in the world he needed to see. His mouth moved, and no sound came out. A smile was forced onto his face, and then mine. Damn that natural ability of his.
From reading his lips he said something like, "I bet you would have tasted like shortcake... or even... ice-cream. My... sort of heaven."
"Gourry…" my eyes swam with tears. He was so stupid. His wounds were so bad that even if I did have my magic I doubt I could have brought him back. "Gourry, don't leave me, I- I love you." It was odd how easy it was to say now that I knew there would have been no other time to say it. I took his hand and slipped my other behind his head, his soft blond hair was matted with mud and blood.
He continued to smile at me as his eyes shifted from pained to the soft relaxation they express when a soul passes. He squeezed my hand during the whole process.
I sat in the rain stunned. My mind was empty; my heart was heavy, by body felt broken in more ways than one. I looked up to the sky, tear drops and rain drops uniting in a way Gourry and I never would. I swallowed hard, the silence too much to bear… so I filled it with my own screaming.
It was hours later when someone found me, still crying hysterically, though my vocal cords had long given out.