Disclaimer: You have got to be kidding me. Do you honestly think I could own anything that isn't mine? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard! Okay, maybe not the dumbest...but it's pretty close! So basically, I don't own anything except that which belongs to me. Aren't I so concise? ;P
A soft, warm wind blows a tattered cape against a pair of brown traveling boots worn so much that it is almost paper-thin. The owner of this cape smirks, feeling a larger wind blow his hair forward, obscuring his generally keen eyesight. The wind is left behind as the figure takes another step and goes into hyper speed. The wind, deadly to any normal human, changes direction in its search for another victim in the Desert of Destruction.
Halfway through the closest town, on the brink of the Zephilian Empire, the same figure slows to a graceful stop. Peasants and merchants alike stop to look at him, while some children point fingers to their friends at his...features. Even with his beige hood up, it is obvious to see that he has a bluish tint to his skin, accompanied by randomly placed pebbles. He ignores these stares as best as he can as he makes his way to a nearby tavern.
Inside The Lone Star Tavern, the traveler sits down at the bar, one seat way from a couple of drunken blokes. The bartender sets down his monotonous order before him, a coffee blend specific to Zephilia. He drinks silently, pretending to be content only with his drink, but that is not the case. His thoughts are just as heightened as his senses.
Day after day
Time pass away
N' I just can't get you off my mind
He wonders where his friends are, what they've been up to. The crown princess of Seyruun, who had an obvious crush on him back when they traveled together, is no doubt buried in paperwork in Seyruun's capital. The dense jellyfish he has come to respect as a swordsman is probably still guarding the fiery sorceress that had caught his heart so long ago. Sweet, darling Lina. His thoughts come to an abrupt stop as he curses to himself. He promised himself long ago that he would not think of her for her heart was bound to her sworn guardian. Just then snippets of conversation reaches his pointed ears.
"...what happened to you? It's almost as if the infamous Bandit Killer smoked you for lunch!"
His heart skips several beats, not that it matters, but he knew it had.
A raucous laugh follows, but as it stops, another voice answers, "It was her all right. Wasn't even doin' nothin' wrong either. That pipsqueak'll have another thing comin' the next time I see her."
More laughter follows. The first voice, originating from the stool two away from him, comments, "Ha! Doesn't she have a kid somewhere or something? And didn't she settle down a few years back? Beaten down by a crippled mother!" He breaks into harsh laughter again, joined by his companion. The newcomer is obviously not amused.
He chokes back a growl deep in his throat. He doesn't want to catch attention, so he clenches his fist instead. How dare they talk about her like that.
"Can it, already, would ya? I'd estimate she's even stronger and more violent than she was before. Besides, no one knows if those rumors are true – anybody who asks gets barbecued, and any who've seen it don't tell."
The mocker's companion speaks up now. "Enough's enough. What'd you do to get her so ticked at you?"
The traveler's keen ears note the newcomer's shrug. "How the heck should I know? The stupid twig is probably just ready to snap at anyone she sees."
He can't take it anymore. He has to leave. The traveler stands, pays for his drained cup, and glares at the conversationalists before walking out the door. He looks left, then right. His destination is unclear, even to himself. Finally, he decides to head west, towards ample forest. Perhaps he can find his answers there. He doesn't know what he's looking for anymore. His goal is undetermined.
I hide it inside
I keep on searching but I can't find
He stands at the border and takes a deep breath before stepping into the natural green area. He walks on, not knowing what is in store for him. Not a single bird twitters in the sky, not even the smallest creature stirs in the brush. He finds himself wondering where the life in the forest is. Not paying attention, he gets knocked back by an invisible air shield. Static electricity crackles on a flickering shield, soon returning to transparency. He looks on, wondering what the shield is protecting.
Curiosity wins over common sense, and he steps back to unleash an eradication spell he has learned during his travels. The shield pops and disappears. Like an anti-Pandora's box, sounds erupt from within, spreading throughout the forest. Birds chirruping, tree leaves rustling, a dragon's distant roar...all come from within. Raising an amused eyebrow, he brushes himself off, and enters this would-be sanctuary.
Not much later, he bumps into something crossing his path. They both fall to the ground with a soft thump. He looks over and draws in a surprised gasp of breath. There she lay, adorned in a sleeveless summer dress (black in color). A vibrant red-head groans clutching her head with a hand.
Hiding all nervousness, he quickly stands up and offers her his hand in assistance. Barely opening her eyes, she takes it. She wipes the dirt off of her dress before looking up to see who she has bumped into. She gasps as well.
Both are silent for quite some time, but finally, she speaks. "Z-zelgadis? Is that you?"
He makes a faint attempt at a grin, but fails miserably. Nevertheless, she recognizes and acknowledges it. She answers her own question. "It is you! Oh L-sama, it's been so long!"
He twitches at the reference, but has no objection to the hug that follows it. He is stiff with a deep blush that goes unnoticed. When she breaks it off, she looks up at him and smiles softly. She whispers, knowing he can still hear her, "You don't know how much I've missed you. Come on and follow me."
These words are music to his ears. He nods, his smile brightening noticeably. She takes his hand and leads him through the forest. In the silence between them, he notices how slender and fragile her bare hand feels in his. He mentally notes that the rumors couldn't possibly be true; if anything, she has mellowed out rather than grown more vicious.
The courage to show
To letting you know
Soon they come to a small clearing, one with a cozy hut in the center of it. He now understands what the shield has been protecting – his love, her home, and most likely, her treasure. She comes to a stop at the door, a homely wooden door, and hovers her hand over a small blue sphere at the center. It glows a vibrant red, and the door swings in, allowing them entrance.
After she slips off her feminine slip-on sandals, he watches as she skips into the left "wing", into another room. Hesitantly, he steps in and looks around. It is a cozy little place, with a single bed consisting of red bed sheets, blankets, and pillow cover in a corner, a desk opposite it. The hallway in front of him leads to the storage area, as Lina would not leave her valuables in plain sight, if anyone else should get past her security, and a restroom of a private sort. Taking in the aroma of strawberry- scented candles, he takes another step into the home. The door shuts tight and locks behind him. With no way out, he ventures forward, to follow her strawberry-scented path.
This room is a simple kitchen with a wood-fed stove, an ice box, a wash basin, and a round table complete with three chairs. She is heating something on the stove, and when she turns toward him, he sees what it is. She smiles sweetly at him. "Care for some tea?"
He is caught off-guard by her mannerisms. He cannot remember her talking so formally in past conversations. He sighs with a soft smile of his own. "It would be my pleasure."
He can't help but watch as she glides across the small area, and gracefully sets the tea tray down on the table's surface. As her innocent ruby eyes catch hold of his sapphire ones, he is forced out of his reverie, and sits down at the table. She, too, seats herself, and passes a cup on a little saucer to him, as she gets one for herself. His eyes follow her every movement once again, this time as she tips a dainty spoon into the sugar container, and puts one, two, three teaspoons of sugar in her cup. He smiles and takes a sip of his tea without any added sugar. There was no need, for her company is sweeter than sugar could ever be to him.
I've never felt so much love before
After a few moments of silence, she breaks it again with her melodious voice. "So what are you up to these days, Zel? Still trying to find your cure?"
That stops him in his tracks. He holds the cup to his lips, letting it serve as a temporary barrier between her sweetness and the darkness raging to the surface inside him. He contemplates his answer carefully. He has been searching for his cure for twelve years now, since he was sixteen. He met her when he was twenty-one, far too long to have gone without her light. Now twenty-eight, he was past the stage of becoming hopeless. But he had little else to go on.
He sets down the teacup, and gives her a wistful whisper of a smile. "If I don't find anything more important, then that will always be the case."
The words sounded hoarse in his throat. He hasn't spoken such a long sentence for what must have been at least three, no, four years – ever since he split up with the others after the Darkstar incident. He has had little reason to speak to others since then. Perhaps that is why the fruits of his labor have never ripened – he was too eager, and none too friendly. He immediately starts thinking of rephrasing his response, but just then, she speaks up again.
"Oh...you aren't in a hurry right now, are you?"
Seeing her disappointed look, he hesitates and grimaces.
And once again I'm thinking about
Taking the easy way out
He shakes his head of his cowardly thoughts, and answers, "Not really. My last lead was a complete failure. In fact, upon getting there, I discovered that I had already been there. They were just different directions on how to get there."
She breaks into a light laughter. She is giddy with happiness, and her laugh is filled with a feminine nature, that seems to fit her perfectly now. A laugh that she would have not been caught dead using in public in the past. A special laugh only for ones close to her.
But if I let you go
I will never know
What my life would be
Holding you close to me
He frowns good-naturedly; he can't get seriously mad at her now for the life of him. "It's not funny. I had to go through the Desert of Destruction for this one!"
For some reason, this triggers another fit of giggles. He lets her ride it out this time, enjoying the childish sparkle that her giggle presents. When she looked to be just about done, he asks her, "What was so funny about that? I'm afraid I missed the joke."
She looks up at him, face flushed with merriment. Stifling more giggles, her hand hides her smile as she apologizes and explains. "Sorry Zel. I didn't mean to offend you or anything. It's just...you know the stories about that place, don't you? The Desert of Destruction I mean? Any human that travels anywhere within its borders is immediately disintegrated by the wind. Even if that cure did work, how would you get back?"
He stares at her, completely taken by surprise. As the notion sinks in, he realizes that she's right. But thinking back to the Desert, he is reminded of his desolate thoughts there, his lonely, wistful thoughts.
Will I ever see
You smiling back at me
How will I know
If I let you go
He lets out another tired sigh. "I suppose you're right, though it does nothing for my cause."
He takes another sip from his cup; she follows his example. The rumors come back to him, and he decides to take a chance. He feels the need to change the subject anyway. "So are the rumors true? Has the infamous Bandit Killer become a settled mother with twice the firepower in her wrath?"
The fire in her eyes is obvious to see. But this time, she does not strike the would-be-victim. Instead, she answers, slightly disgruntled, "Settled? Sort of. Mother? Psh, as far away as your cure is to you at this point. Twice the firepower? Ha, maybe, maybe not. Are those the new rumors that are floating about now?"
Her reaction surprised him. Her past self would have turned anyone who dared to say all that to her face into charcoal. She is showing a surprising amount of self control...or is she just being nice to him? No, there is no reason for her to do that...is there? He growls to himself, out of frustration in his own mind.
Night after night
I hear myself say
Why can't this feeling just fade away
He sees her jump slightly at the sound, but then her smile resumes at his words. "That's what I heard at the tavern in town, anyway. To be honest, some of the other things they were saying really made me want to tear them apart. I know you must have changed since I last saw you, but there are some things that no one would tolerate being called, especially in your position."
She props her elbows on the table, teacup drained, and clasps her hands. Her head is resting in the valley of her knuckles as she responds, "You almost make me wonder what they said, but I have the feeling I wouldn't like the answer if I asked."
He shakes his head 'no' and takes another sip from his cup. He changes the subject a bit more. "So what have you been up to? I'm sure your adventures are much more interesting than mine."
She tilts her head slightly, shrugging. "There's nothing much to say. After we separated, Gourry and I traveled around a bit before he eventually insisted on us visiting my hometown. Yeah, well, let's just say my sis had a hand in making me live in this 'cottage'. Gourry received a notice from his home saying that he had to come home immediately because of some big emergency. I was going to follow him, but then my sis showed up and told me to stay put. Later I found out that there had been a civil war in the Elmekian Empire, where Gourry's from, and he died taking down the leader of the Southern revolt (la de da...no connection with America whistles innocently). That was about half a year ago. I'm 'allowed' to go places within this empire, but I really don't care to leave this sanction anymore. There doesn't seem that much out there, you know? Every so often, when I'm starting to run low on food or money, I hunt down some bandits, take up my usual hobby, and then save up. Since I do it so rarely, they expect it even less. It's a wonder that they keep coming back to rob the same place, considering that I'm not going anywhere."
He can't hold it in any longer. He laughs in spite of himself. His tone is different from hers, mainly because of the reason behind it. He laughs as a result of relieving pent up stress; she laughs because she finds something amusing.
There's no one like you
You speak to my heart
It's such a shame we're worlds apart
She lets him continue, reveling in his unhinged laugh. When he has finished, she mimics his earlier comment with a smile. "What was so funny about that? I'm afraid I missed the joke."
Returning the favor, he tells her. "It's nothing really. I just realized that the speed of which you talk hasn't changed a bit." In his mind, he adds that he, too, wonders why the bandits keep returning. Maybe they do it only in hopes of returning to their comrades saying that they had survived the wrath of the Bandit Killer. He laughs again at that.
She pouts cutely. "Well what do you expect from a merchant's daughter? It's a fast-paced world you know."
He asks in response, "In this fast-paced world as you put it, don't you get lonely, being isolated in this cottage in the middle of a forest?"
Grinning impishly, she waggles a dainty finger. "Only during 'that time of the month.' Otherwise, my magic allows me to communicate with the big cities, and I can control commerce transportation from here. Isn't that great?"
Quietly, he murmurs, "Sure, but that has nothing to do with being lonely or not."
At this, she hangs her head, unable to face him. He feels like he choked a beautiful bird during its morning song. Again he hesitates, but for a different reason.
I'm too shy to ask
I'm too proud to lose
But sooner or later I gotta choose
Finally, he sighs. He has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, if it's just a simple question. "Would...would it be too much to ask if I stayed with you for a while?" She looks up with a start, but surprise soon gives way to pure joy. Before she says anything though, he blushes and adds, "My travels have left me broke, and no one takes down bandits like you can."
Her laughter rings throughout the small home again. She skids her chair back to lunge towards him in a large embrace. "I'd love it if you could stay! But you know...my sis visits me every other week when she gets the weekend off. You'd have to ask her first."
And once again I'm thinking about
Taking the easy way out
He smiles, finally confident in his decision, the embrace helping immensely. "Don't worry, Lina. I can handle it. For you, I'll do whatever it takes to stay."
Her answer was short, but meaningful. "Thank you, Zel."
A/N: YAY!!! I got a songfic done! Finally! I'm so proud of myself right now. - No flame can possibly roast me down. The silver lining of my cloud is protecting me! Wheeeeeee!!!!! Takes a few haggard breaths Okay. Time for sleepy-bye. Zonked Out Snoring ZZZZZzzzzzzz
Sleep Talking: Reviewwwww......Zzzzzzzz....Reviewww........Onegaishimasu.....Mmph... Snoring muffled by nice fluffy cloud pillow