Chapter 26

Chapter 26

Lina awoke slowly to hear Amelia humming happily as she brushed her hair. The droopy young girl had vanished with the night, and the cheerful champion of Justice was back in full force. "Eh… Amelia… you had to remind me why I don't share hotel rooms with you…" Lina buried her head under her pillow.

Amelia bounced over and threw open the shutters, letting light into the room. "But it's such a beautiful morning, Miss Lina! Look!"

Lina peeked out from under the pillow and had to at least agree in part. "Yeah, it's lovely." She sat up, pushing her hair out of her face and looking at Amelia. "Are you all right, Amelia?"

"I'm fine. You were right, Miss Lina. I'm only as alone as I force myself to be… and so I'm going to embrace the world with the spirit of love and justice!" Amelia bubbled.

Her redheaded companion immediately decided that this was more than she was equipped to handle this morning, and promptly fell over with a groan. "Oh Cepheid… I can't take this…"

Amelia paused, looking at Lina in concern. "Miss Lina…?"

Lina pulled the blanket over her head. "Yeah, yeah. I'm going back to sleep. There's just too much… cheerfulness in here for me."

"Um, okay, Miss Lina. I'll tell everyone for you!" The door shut behind Amelia.

Lina sat up with a sigh. Lest Amelia make a mess of things and worry people, Lina dressed in all haste, brushing out her hair entirely too quickly for comfort. She was tying the ribbon about her hair as she stepped out of the room – and walked right into Zelgadis, who had just been about to knock on the door.

Once again, he was forced to catch her or be knocked over. "Lina, we're going to have to stop meeting like this. People will talk," he said with a gentle hug as he set her on her feet.

A thrill rippled through her and she blushed. "They already are… I'm sure my sister has found out and has told everyone back home."

"Well, that will make it easier, won't it?" Zelgadis said, offering Lina his arm.

Lina looked at him funny, taking his arm and recalling the last time that she had done this. It was in that stupid Temple of Marriage, when they were looking for the fifth weapon of Dark Star. Amelia had been so angry…

They walked arm-in-arm into the dining area, and Amelia looked over and waved cheerfully. She'd known then that she wasn't what Zelgadis needed… wasn't who he was destined for… but it hadn't made her happy. But now, she was a little older, a little wiser, and when she didn't let herself get depressed over something that could never have been, she could see it. There was a light in his eyes when he looked at Miss Lina… a glow of warmth. Lina was his true counterpart, complimenting him like a flame that revealed the fire within a crystal.

The pair walked up to the table where Amelia and Gourry were eating, and only then did Zelgadis allow Lina to slip out of his grasp. Sitting, Lina contemplated this recent twist. Her stomach gave a funny little flip as something occurred to her. He'd said something about it being easier if the people back in her home knew… Oh no! Oh great Cepheid! He's not… he couldn't…! I mean, it's not that I hardly know him, but… I'm not ready to settle down yet!

They sat through the entire meal, no-one saying anything, which set Lina on edge all the more. She felt like they were plotting something, but she couldn't figure out what, and she was starting to get more than a little nervous. "So… what are the plans for today?" She asked with false brightness.

"I don't think we had any, Miss Lina. After yesterday, I think it would be a good idea to take it easy today and get on the road tomorrow," Amelia said, setting down her empty teacup.

Gourry nodded. "Sounds like a plan to me. I could use a day when I didn't have to worry about anyone or anything."

Lina eyed Gourry disbelievingly. "Since when do you worry about anything?"

Gourry looked at her in all seriousness. "Any time one of you gets out of my sight. I'm sorry, Lina, but trouble is drawn to you like moths are drawn to a flame… and that makes you constantly at the top of my worry list."

Lina's mouth fell open. "I'm trouble? I'm trouble?! Let me show you trouble, mister!" She reached out and flicked her finger at him. "Fireball." A miniature fireball appeared and popped by his nose.

Amelia giggled; Zelgadis shook his head.

Gourry blinked. He'd been expecting something far more… destructive than that. He reached up, rubbing at his nose. "That wasn't fair!"

Lina smirked, finishing the last of a sweet bun. "Would you rather me singe you? I can do that too."

Gourry was, fortunately enough, smart enough at the moment to reply, "No! I mean, I know you can, but I don't want to be hit with a big one…!"

Lina smirked. "Then I guess you'll just have to live with me being trouble."

Zelgadis stood from the table and looked to Lina. Understanding his silent request for her to join him, she waited long enough for him to be gone, but not too long for him to lose his patience. "I'd… better go see if he's okay… here…" She tossed a few coins on the table, much to Gourry and Amelia's surprise.

As Lina moved away from the table, Amelia leaned over to whisper at Gourry. "She must be worried about him. She never wants to pay…"

Gourry tried not to choke on his drink, but failed, spluttering at both Amelia and the coins.

"Zel…?" Lina called out as she left the hotel. No, he wasn't waiting by the door… but there was one of two places where he probably was. She took off to the little grove of trees first, and sure enough, there he was waiting for her. She came to a respectable halt before actually entering the clearing, brushed at an errant strand of hair, and thought briefly: Why am I doing that?? Shaking her head at herself, she walked quietly into the clearing and looked at him. "Zel…?"

He turned to look at her, eyes unusually expressive and reached out a hand to her. Walking forward, she took his hand with a frown. "Zel… what's wrong…?" Somewhere in the back of her mind, she registered the fact that somewhere along the undoing of Rezo's spell, she'd stopped calling him Zelgadis, and gone to the more informal and familiar shortening of his name.

But her thoughts came to a momentary grinding halt when he fell to one knee and looked up at her.

Oh no… no… no… no… He can't be… he wouldn't…! Oh no…

"Lina… There's something of importance that I want to ask of you, and I know that you will want… time… to think it out. But please, listen to what I have to ask…." He started, a faint blush crossing his cheeks.

Oh… Cepheid… What do I do…? What do I say…? I've never… well, once, but that didn't mean anything! And I didn't get paid, either…! But this… It's… Zelgadis…

"Ever since I met you, I've felt… something… indescribable, unexplainable… and now I think I know what it is. You have a fire, a passion, and somewhere inside my soul, there was an echo of that. For a long time, I've kept this buried, thinking that you were for someone else… but now, now there's a chance…" he said, placing his lips to her hand and whispering the words against her glove.

When I get over this, I'm going to kill him…! I'm so glad he isn't saying all of this in front of Gourry and Amelia! I'd never live the humiliation down!!! He's kneeling in front of me… spilling his soul… and it's… it's… She paused, growing wonder tingling at her mind. It's amazing. I never thought… but here he is…is it that spell that's doing this?

"Will you… will you…"

She held her breath.

"Will you teach me the Dragon Slave?"

Even from a great distance away, the words could be heard.

"FIRE-BALL!!!!!!!!"