Disclaimer: Slayers does not belong to me, but belongs to Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi and the companies that represent them. I'm just borrowing the characters for a little while.
Spoiler alert: This story takes place between episodes 6 and 7 of Slayers Revolution. Many thanks go to EarthStar for betaing this story. Recognizable dialogue from the middle of the chapter comes from the short story, "The Things He Sees Beyond the Point of His Sword," from Slayers Special vol. 24. The original translation was done by QP-Diana, supplied with a secondary translation from my own copy and cleaned up the English.
Chapter 4: "Turn Left"
"You turned left. But what if you'd turned right? What then?"
- Fortune Teller to Donna Noble: "Turn Left," Doctor Who
"I didn't save her."
The despondent words echoed through the clearing, and the once too-bright scene suddenly dulled until everything was muted shades of grey. The only color surrounding Gourry was coming from his companion, who reclined against a rock and waited for him.
"Damn it!" Gourry's fist came down hard on the ground as the memories finished seeping back into the places where they belonged. He dragged a hand through his hair, pulling at his bangs in frustration. He'd killed his brother. He'd caused his mother's death. He …
"Oi. Before you turn into a stewing pot of angst, let me tell you one thing." Raulf pushed off his perch and moved to stand before Gourry. "You didn't cause her death."
"I didn't say it aloud."
"We're in your mind, remember? Your thoughts are broadcasting loud and clear." Raulf folded his arms over his chest and chewed absently on his unlit cigarette. "Now, let me repeat this before I have to beat it into you. You didn't cause her death. You're a mercenary, yes? You're Lina Inverse's bodyguard, yes? You are no stranger to death."
"But I …"
Raulf suddenly planted his foot in the middle of Gourry's chest, forcing the younger man onto his back. He sighed. "Children. They never listen."
Gourry blinked up at him. "Um … But I'm not …"
Raulf merely arched an eyebrow, then chuckled. "Close enough, I think."
Gourry struggled to sit up. "If I couldn't protect my mother, how can I protect Lina?"
"She's not dead yet, is she? Well, permanently that is."
Gourry hesitated. "No …"
"Then, son, I think you're doing an adequate job of protecting her. I have it on good faith that if you weren't, her family in Zefielia would have a word or two to say to you." Raulf winked. "Son, you're not a dad. You want to be one some day. I can see that in you. Parents, the good ones, will protect their children no matter what the cost to themselves. Your mother could only save one of you. It's terrible, seeing child pitted against child. But she would still do her best to save her children. If it was me and one of my daughters were about to get killed, I would gladly take the blow." Raulf's expression gentled. "We don't want our sacrifices to be in vain."
"Mister …," Gourry started to say, but then the scene changed around him again. He stood upon cobblestone, buildings and temples crowding around him. He swung around, looking for Raulf, and saw himself again. "Not another one," he muttered, not quite sure he could take the mental blow. Then the door to one of the temples opened and a familiar-looking girl stepped out. Raven-black hair swung at her hips as she gave the younger him a gentle smile.
"Gourry-sama, you look recovered from your wounds." Sylphiel Nels Lahda gently took his arm and led him down the street.
He grinned at her. "Your cooking went a long way in helping with that, Sylphiel."
Her cheeks pinked, and she glanced away quickly. Then, she shifted her focus back to him and her eyes were serious. "You'll be joining the rest of your squad soon, yes?"
"Yeah. Think if I push myself, I'll catch up to them before they reach the Coastal states."
"That's good." Sylphiel chewed on her lip as they approached one of the majestic fountains honoring Ceiphied that were spread throughout the city. She came to a halt, forcing Gourry to stop with her. Her gaze swept over the large statute before she took a deep breath. "I was wondering … where did you go last night?"
Gourry felt his cheeks redden. "I couldn't sleep really," he said. "Just haven't been able to sleep that well."
"I see," Sylphiel said slowly, and Gourry suddenly felt as if he was about to be chastised by his mother. "Does your inability to sleep often drive you to wander?"
"Yeah," he admitted and he found he couldn't quite meet her eyes.
"During the battle, when you used the Sword of Light, you mentioned something about bringing honor and not disgrace to your family. Does it have something to do with that?"
"I don't want to talk about it," he snapped. Sylphiel barely flinched.
"Gourry-sama, you know as well as I do that what you're doing isn't healthy. I can tell, you won't even look at me." Her grip on him tightened until he finally did, expecting to see tears in her eyes. Instead, he saw compassion and a steely resolve. "I care for you a great deal, Gourry-sama. As a shrine maiden, it's my duty to help those who are lost."
He gave her an odd look. "I'm right here, Sylphiel."
She laughed. "Not in the physical sense, Gourry-sama. Beyond that. I help people who carry a great burden on their souls. You hide it well, but you carry one on yours. That's why you go out at night, wandering and … that's why you said those words in the middle of the battle. What you're doing isn't that different from your comrades, and I sense they're the ones who've had that influence on you." She scowled a bit. "But, who you are doesn't match what you're trying to look for. You're a good, good man, Gourry-sama."
With a heavy sigh, Gourry sat on the edge of the fountain, knowing exactly what Sylphiel was talking about. "No, I'm not," he admitted. "I did a horrible thing a few years ago. I don't ever want to talk about it."
Sylphiel didn't say anything for a moment. "Whatever it was," she decided, "it was a great sacrifice, wasn't it?"
"You could put it that way." He stared at the ground.
Sylphiel leaned forward and gently tipped Gourry's chin up until his eyes met hers. "Then, don't let that sacrifice be in vain," she instructed. "Don't throw it away."
Gourry startled, so caught up in the memory that he didn't realize at first that the scene suddenly changed, and he was standing on the shore of a lake. He faced Raulf, blinking with surprise. Am I in another memory? No, this feels different. I'm back in my mind, but ... "I'm sorry?" he stuttered.
"It's wasteful." Raulf repeated, tilting his head. "Do you have a grudge against your sword? Will you throw it away?"
Gourry looked down and saw the Sword of Light hilt in his hand. His grip tightened on it as the newly released memories rolled through his mind. The murders, the five years of wandering and seeking release from his nightmares where ever he could find. He glared at Raulf. "It's none of your business. If you're wanting me to give you my sword, I'm not doing that."
"Whoever said I asked for your sword?. I don't care if you throw the sword away. I don't care if someone else takes it and kills many, or if you use that sword to save people." Raulf shrugged and adjusted the fishing pole on his shoulder, casting his gaze over the water. "Again, none of my business."
"Then, what's the point?" Gourry snapped, really wishing the man would go away.
Raulf rocked back on his heels and for a moment, Gourry was reminded of Lina for some odd reason. "When I was younger, I was a mercenary too. It was my policy to call a man 'second class' when he doesn't care about his sword, and a man 'third class' if he's hard on it. Thus, I was interested in you and meddled. I wanted to see what kind of man you are."
Shame rolled through Gourry and he stared at the Sword of Light.
"Don't mind me. Throw away the sword if you don't like it. It won't get rid of what's on your mind. And, speaking of that, don't display those troubles in front of the woman you're in love with."
Lina's face popped into his mind once more. "Why not?" he challenged.
Raulf blinked, a slow smile spreading. "Well now," he murmured, "that's different." His features softened and his voice gentled. "I used to be alone, like you. Then I found my wife. We married and had our daughters. Like you, I had my own worries and regrets. I realized that I'd do them all over again, though, if it led me to my wife once more."
"Did you ever tell your wife about them?"
Raulf grinned. "Idiot. How did you think my wife knew I loved her?"
The scene shifted again, and Gourry found himself on the path just outside Kulsida, where he had met Raulf for the first time just over five years ago. Instead of being alone, Raulf appeared in front of him. He stretched out his fingers, waggling them. "So, want to give me that?"
"Not on your life." Gourry quickly tucked the sword where it belonged.
"Well then." Raulf flipped his hair over his shoulder and gestured to the road. "On that day, after I left you, what did you decide to do?"
"I …" Gourry's voice trailed off as he thought of Raulf's words and Sylphiel's advice. "I didn't think there was anything I could do to make up for what I did."
"But, you did something, didn't you. Look at the roads. One road went to where you are right now. The other will take you down a completely different road."
"What?" Gourry startled. "Wait, I thought I was still looking at my memories."
Raulf's face twisted into a smile that reminded him of Xelloss. "Ah, but here's where the magic in this situation lies. The memory blocks on you are so powerful, so strong, that if you don't navigate out of them correctly that you'll do irrepairable damage to your mind. You'll won't remember a thing that's happened in the past five years, possibly longer. There's a good chance you'll turn into a vegetable."
Gourry's eyebrow winged up. "I'm going to turn into celery?" he asked, horrified.
"Essentially." Raulf steered him around. "You've got to choose the right path, Gourry. Right or left. Which way did you go then?"
Panic flooded him. He didn't remember having to make a decision like that! He just simply wandered where he wanted to wander. But now ... "Gah!" Gourry grabbed at his hair, tugging. He looked over his shoulder. "I don't remember! I don't remember which way I went, Raulf-san. Raulf-san?" Then his eyes widened as he realized that he was alone.
Terrified, Gourry turned back to the path. One would take him down the road to Lina. The other would literally destroy him. He thought of Lina. If he were rendered useless, who would protect her? Hell, worse than that, who would protect the world from her? His hands tightened into fists. He wanted to be with her. He would do anything to get to her. For her sake, he had to get to her and save her once more. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let the past roll through him.
Then he turned left.
The first explosion happened about an hour before dawn. The force of it shook the inn violently. Lina tumbled out of her chair. Amelia, who'd been napping on her bed with Pokota nestled on her head, found herself on the floor. She flailed a bit as she fought with her cloak and got to her feet just as Lina reached the window.
"There's our wake-up call," Lina announced, then stuck her head outside. "Zel!" she called down.
"Just outside of town," he yelled back.
"Lina-san, we've got to draw them away so they won't hurt anyone," Amelia implored.
Lina nodded in agreement. "You're right. If they want a fight, we're going to give him one, and we've got to be there first!" She snagged her cloak off the back of the chair. "Let's go, Amelia, Pokota."
"What about Gourry?" Pokota wondered.
"We can't leave him!" Amelia protested as Lina draped her cloak over her shoulders. "What if the inn's attacked?"
"We've got no choice. These minions of Duclis' may not even know about him, and if they sense one of us is out of commission …" Lina gave Amelia a smile. "Relax! It's not like Gourry's going anywhere, and even if he did, you know him. He'd probably grab the wash basin and start clobbering people with it to help out."
Amelia relaxed and laughed a bit. "True."
"Let's get to it then!"
"Right!" Amelia sailed out the door and headed for the stairs, then realized that Lina wasn't following her. She crept back to the doorway and froze at the sight before her.
Lina had moved back to the bedside and was staring down at Gourry, her bangs obscuring her face to the point where Amelia couldn't see the look in her eyes. Lina reached forward, laid a hand on Gourry's cheek.
"Look, you better figure out whatever it is that needs figuring out in there and wake up soon. You've got to pull your own weight around here, you know. No more slacking off! You're making me worry too much, you silly jellyfish for brains." With that, Lina leaned forward and kissed Gourry's forehead. She pulled away and stroked his cheek. "I lo...."
And then, as with all the touching moments in Lina Inverse's life, her words were drowned out by a massive explosion.
Lina raced to the window, Amelia rushing into the room to join her. On the ground in front of the inn, they spotted two familiar-looking figures.
"Say, aren't those the two who operated the other golem in the Gongoro Festival?" Amelia asked.
"You're right!" She frowned. "They're working with Duclis?"
"But they seemed harmless before ..."
"It doesn't matter now. Let's go, Amelia!" Lina pushed the window open and leaped out, casting a Levitation as she did so.
Amelia grasped the sill and moved to follow, then glanced over her shoulder at Gourry's still form. She thought of Lina's soliloquy and grinned despite the danger. She allowed herself one small moment of joy at the romantic moment, then leaped out the window.