Author's Notes: Hi there! I hope you'll like this. To tell the truth, this would be a very long oneshot, but when I got over 10 000 words, I decided to divide it into chapters so that it's more comfortable to read. The plot itself wouldn't be so long but it's quite detailed, so if you like detailed fics, this is for you! R&R, please!
Note: I'll be adding a new chapter in every two or three days.
Disclaimer: The only thing I own is a cute Xelloss-shaped smiley on my schoolbag. Don't sue me!
It was a beautiful afternoon in the city of Inashtar. There were birds singing in the trees, the temperature was perfect, the sun shone brightly. It was a splendid day, even for guests of the Hungry Mazoku inn. Not the best name for a place meant to attract people, as Zelgadis remarked when the Slayers gang entered the building.
"And it's wrong, too" Xelloss added. "As we are continuously feeding off negative emotions, we are never hungry."
"Thank you, Xelloss" said Lina sarcastically. "I always wanted to know details about your eating habits."
"Anytime, Lina-san. Just ask."
"Just ask? Well then, did we ever mean more to you than a bunch of walking buffets?"
"That's a secret."
"What a surprise that answer was" said Zelgadis apathetically, while Lina was beating up the priest.
Lina stopped and looked at Amelia. "Yes?"
"I refuse to stay at a place that bears the name of Evil!" the princess stated, standing in her usual All Evil Shall Perish-pose.
Lina rolled her eyes. "I regret to tell you this, Amelia, but no local inn is named after Justice."
"Oh, really?" Xelloss got up, having quickly recovered after the sorceress' attack. "So sad."
Lina went to the innkeeper. "We would like to rent some rooms."
The man smiled at her. "You're lucky. I have two rooms left."
"Good, we'll take them." One for the girls, one for the guys, she thought. "By the way, I never thought this was such a crowded city. This is the fifth inn we have visited. None of the others had any rooms we could have stayed in."
"Well, that's because of the ball."
"Ball? What ball?"
"You haven't heard about it? The famous Fashion Night is going to be held in the palace today."
"Really? That's interesting. We'll listen to the story some time, but right now we've got better things to do." She took the keys and handed one of them to Zelgadis and Gourry. The other one she kept to herself.
They sat in the corner of the dining hall, far away from the other guests. Lina and Gourry ordered the entire menu, everything in double portions. Amelia decided to comfort herself with the inn's special offer, while Zelgadis drank some coffee.
When they finished their lunch, they began to discuss their objective.
"So, Xelloss," Lina started, "What do you know about that manuscript?"
"Well, it's not really a manuscript. We are looking for the letters of Lei Magnus."
"Interesting. Do you know where they are kept?"
The mazoku chuckled. "Now, Lina-san, if I knew where they were, we wouldn't have to search for them, would we?"
The sorceress made a face. "Point taken."
"In fact, I've heard they are somewhere in the palace. And they are probably protected by magical shields and traps. We'll see."
"Why don't you simply teleport in and look for them yourself?" Zelgadis didn't say anything else, but his glare showed clearly what he really meant: Why on Earth do you have to use US again?!
"I can't do that. The Astral Plane is blocked."
"It takes an awful lot of energy to do that" Lina remarked.
"Yes. That's why I think we'll have to be careful with the traps as well. That is, of course, if we manage to get in somehow."
"Do you have any ideas?"
Lina sighed. "What do you think, Zel?"
The chimera snorted. "Why would I help this fruitcake?"
Xelloss gave him a beautiful smile. "Because I ask you so nicely?"
"I don't care how nicely you ask, damned mazoku. You nauseate me."
Lina rolled her eyes. "Please, Zel, don't start again. We were arguing about this the entire way, wasn't that enough?"
"Miss Lina is right, Mr. Zelgadis! We must quit hurting each other's feelings, and then, in the name of Justice, we shall triumph!!" Amelia was apparently starting to work herself up into a frenzy about cooperation. "Now, apologize!"
"Now, now, Miss Amelia, there is really no need for that" said Xelloss quickly. He was starting to feel like Zelgadis. Nauseated.
"IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE, APOLOGIZE!" screamed Amelia, while she was shaking the poor chimera.
"O…kay… I… a…polo…gize…"
"Uh, I'm feeling all dizzy…" Xelloss stood up and tried to flee.
Amelia released Zelgadis' neck, seeming to be extremely proud of herself. "Now that you made friends again, we can start working on our plan! Life is wonderful, isn't it?" Xelloss fainted in the background, thus collapsing in the middle of the room with a loud crash.
Everyone stared at the motionless form of the mazoku. Amelia was scared, Lina a little worried, Zel unconcerned, Gourry simply confused. Finally Lina got up to examine him.
"Did she kill him?" asked the chimera in an apathetic voice, sipping his coffee.
"Nope. Just knocked him out."
"So, what do you think we should begin with?" Lina left the priest where he was and sat back on her chair.
"We should examine the palace first. There must be some way in, we just have to find it."
"All right, let's go!" the sorceress stopped. "But what about Xelloss? He doesn't look like he is about to regain consciousness anytime soon."
Zelgadis shrugged. "Why bother about the fruitcake? Just leave him there. He is big enough to be noticed and not stepped upon."
"We can't just leave someone lying on the floor of the dining hall! Not even a fruitcake." Lina had to admit that she felt concerned about the well-being of the mazoku. He was a friend, after all. An annoying friend, but still a friend. "Besides, what if he wakes up and gets mad? He might even make the food disappear. I can't let that happen."
"You are not serious, are you? Can you really imagine Xelloss being mad?"
Lina laughed. "No, but it must be pretty frightening. Pick him up, Gourry. We'll take him up to one of our rooms."
- o -
They spent the whole afternoon walking around the palace, but to no avail. There were high walls protecting it – that wouldn't have been a problem. The soldiers patrolling on the top of them were, however. They could have broken in anyway, but they would have been immediately noticed, so that was not an option. If they wanted to be able to search for those letters, they had to get in without being discovered.
"It appears like the only way to get in safely would be by finding some excuse" Zelgadis was thinking aloud.
"You're right, Mr. Zelgadis" replied Amelia. "Then we could search for the letters without having to hurt someone."
"Ah" said Gourry intelligently. "But how?"
The chimera shrugged. "I have no idea."
"Wait a minute!" Lina suddenly stopped. "Maybe we could make use of that ball."
"The ball in the palace tonight. The innkeeper told me about it."
"And you forgot about that?!" Zel seemed rather furious. "We wasted the whole afternoon!"
Lina shrugged. "I didn't think it mattered. And I hate balls anyway."
"Why, Miss Lina?" Amelia sighed happily, her eyes all starry. "I've always loved balls! Oh, those beautiful gowns! And I've always been elected as the belle of the ball!"
Lina's face turned all red. "That's because you are the princess of Seyruun! No wonder you were the belle of the ball with your father being the crown prince!" She snorted and turned away.
"What's the matter, Lina?" asked Gourry with wide eyes. Then his face turned serious. He placed his hand on Lina's shoulder. "I see. But never mind that you weren't elected!" He seemed to think for a couple of moments then his face brightened. "It must have been a mistake anyway. I'm sure you can jingle better than anyone!"
Lina stared at him for a few seconds. Then she smacked him on the head fiercely. "JELLYFISH BRAINS!!"
"Hey, what did I do?!" he asked, seemingly confused.
"It's the belle of the ball, not the bell of the ball, you idiot!" Zel and Amelia sweathdropped, finally understanding what the swordsman meant.
"Come on" said the chimera. "Let's go back to the inn and ask the innkeeper for more details about this ball."
- o -
Back at the inn, Lina began to pump the guy for everything he knew about the ball.
"Well, you see, Inashtar is famous for its fashionable clothes. A lot of designers live here and we set the fashion of the continent. Every year, the Fashion Night is held and the designers present their new dresses."
"At the ball in the palace?"
"Yeah. It is a contest as well; the designer whose dress the jury chooses becomes the Fashion King."
"And how can we get in? I mean, where can we buy tickets or something?"
The innkeeper shook his head. "All the tickets have been sold months ago, I'm afraid."
"Crap. I have to get in!"
"Well, if you really want to take part in the event, there is one way left. At 7 o'clock, two hours before the beginning of the ball, every designer has to pick two people who will present his clothes. You see, that's part of the show: ordinary people getting the chance to meet celebrities and become famous. If one of the designers chooses you for that, you get in."
"Anyone can apply?"
"Yes. You just have to be at the Town Square at 7 o'clock."
"Great!" Lina punched in the air. "What time is it?"
"6 o'clock" replied Zelgadis.
"All right, let's go up to our rooms! I have to beauty myself."
The chimera sighed. "Don't you hate balls?"
"Of course I hate them. But come on, Zel! Don't you think the letters of Lei Magnus are worth it?"
"Well… I guess."
With that, they dropped the subject. Lina and Amelia spent more than half an hour bathing, brushing their hair, perfecting their make-up, etc. Meanwhile, Zelgadis was sitting in an armchair, seemingly bored. Gourry was already asleep. Nobody paid attention to Xelloss, who was lying on one of the beds in the same position as they left him, and apparently was still unconscious.
"Hey, guys, we're ready!" shouted Lina, popping in front of them. "Do I look good?" When Gourry simply snorted and turned on his other side, she sweathdropped. "Geez, you could at least look at me. What do you think, Zel?"
The chimera carefully examined her. "Well…"
Lina's face turned red. "Don't tell me I did all the preparation in vain" she growled.
"No, no, not at all!" said Zel quickly. "I just haven't ever seen you wearing make-up on. You look a little strange."
"Strange? You mean you think I'm not beautiful?" Lina's voice became threatening.
"NO! I-I think you are beautiful!" The chimera tried to avoid the punishment then he suddenly realized what he just said and turned redder than the tomato soup at lunch. "I mean…"
Zelgadis couldn't even shout before the spell hit him in the face. Gourry fell from his bed as the explosion reached him. Xelloss jumped, cried out and formed a magical shield around himself before fully waking up.
"What happened?" he asked, blinking around. Then, as the smoke cleared up, he found himself face to face with Amelia, who was standing at the door. "AAAARGH!"
"Oh, Miss Lina, why do you always have to do this?!" the princess asked, shaking her head. She looked at her friends: Zelgadis, who was still trying to extinguish his burning clothes; Gourry, who was sitting on the floor, apparently trying to figure out what had happened or at least where he was; Xelloss, who apparently fainted again (although not because of the spell); and Lina, who was standing in the middle of the room, scratching her head and laughing nervously.
"Heh-heh, I guess I overdid it a little" she said.
Zelgadis buried his face in his hands. "Why me?"
"We have no time for this, Miss Lina!" said Amelia. "We have to be at the Town Square at 7!"
"Of course! Is… er… everyone all right?"
"Yeah" said the chimera apathetically. "Wake up the fruitcake, and let's go."
"All right" said Lina. She walked to the bed. "Wake up! Hey, Xel!"
"What do you want?" asked Zelgadis.
"I said Xel, not Zel." Lina blushed.
"Oh." The chimera raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you called him that."
Amelia seemed worried. "Miss Lina, do you really think it's safe to nickname a high-level mazoku?"
Lina turned away to hide her red face and shrugged. "Oh, he won't mind that." In fact, she often called him that in her thoughts, but she never said it out loud. She wondered what he would say if he heard her calling him that.
When she thought her face cooled a bit, she turned back to the bed. She shook the mazoku. "You have slept enough! We've got work to do."
Xelloss' eyes shot open. He yawned, stretched his arms then smiled at the sorceress. "Good morning, Lina-san." Then he closed his eyes again.
"Hey, don't fall asleep!"
The mazoku raised his eyebrow. "I won't fall asleep. I thought you've already got used to me walking with closed eyes half the time." He got up and took his staff that was leant to the wall. "So, where are we going?" He stopped and examined the sorceress. "And why are you wearing make-up?"
"We're going to a ball."
This caught Xelloss off-guard. He opened his eyes and stared at her. "But you aren't wearing a gown" he pointed out after a couple of seconds' hesitation.
"I'll explain it later. We've got to go now, else we'll be late."
- o -
They arrived at the Town Square some minutes before seven. They immediately had to realize that they should have come earlier. There was a huge crowd; they couldn't even see the gates of the palace on the other side of the square.
Lina stamped. "Hey, this is not fair! Those designers won't even notice me!"
"What should we do then, Miss Lina?" asked Amelia. "I don't think we can get any closer."
"Of course we can! RAY-WING!"
"Hey, wait a minute!" shouted Zelgadis as the sorceress flew away. "Oh, brother…" He followed her.
"Wait for me!" Amelia flew after them, with Gourry hanging on her legs.
They created a rather large sensation when they flew to the gates at top speed. Lina stopped and floated above the crowd, looking for an appropriate landing spot. Of course, there wasn't any: the whole square was covered with people, as well as every tree, statue, nearby building, etc.
"And now?" asked Zelgadis when he finally caught up with her.
Lina scratched her head. "Uh, I haven't really thought about that…" The chimera almost fell down.
"Someone, help me!" groaned Amelia when she arrived with the swordsman. "Mr. Gourry is too heavy!"
Zel sighed. "Leave him to me." He took the scared passenger and floated a little higher above the crowd.
"We should land somewhere" said Lina.
"I have no idea."
"Then why don't we stay here?" asked Xelloss, suddenly appearing by Lina's side and scaring her like hell.
"Don't sneak up on me like that!" she screamed, punching in his face. The priest flew a couple of meters then returned like a boomerang, grinning crazily. "Oh, Lina-san, you always react so nicely."
"Shut up, Xel!" cried Lina, "-loss", she added quickly. But not quickly enough.
"Oh, dear" the mazoku said with an even wider grin. "You called me by a nickname! No human has ever done that!"
"SHUT UP!!" At this moment, the sound of trumpets could be heard and the gates of the palace opened. Soldiers appeared and forced the crowd to retreat a couple of meters. Some other people came after them, dressed in black tuxedoes. After a couple of moments Lina realized that they had to be the designers. She noted gladly that there were dozens of them. At least one of them will surely notice the most beautiful and talented sorceress in the world!
The designers took in the air, each casting a levitation spell. Smart, the sorceress thought. Instead of trying to work themselves through the huge crowd, they looked for the perfect persons to present their dresses by floating above them. She descended a couple of meters to be at their eye-level. Xelloss followed her, while Zelgadis and Amelia were trying to calm down Gourry, who apparently was still afraid of flying.
"Quit whining, Gourry!" shouted Lina. "Show your best face, I'll need you as my partner to get in!" She slightly blushed at the thought of them going together to a ball. It's just a way to get in the palace, she thought to herself, not a date, or anything... Still, it seemed an awfully lot like a date.
A man came flying towards her. Oh, he surely wants me to present the dress he had designed… then Lina realized he didn't wear a tuxedo but a tunic and leather armor. He obviously was one of the palace guards. "Excuse me, Miss" he said politely. "I'm afraid I must ask you and your companions to leave the airspace of the Town Square."
"What?!" the man slightly frowned at her definitely impolite answer.
"I'm sorry, but this is the rule" he explained. "Only the guards and the designers are allowed to fly. Since you are neither, you have to land somewhere."
"Of course" answered Lina, folding her arms on her chest "Now show me a place where I could do that. I can't just land on people's head you know."
"I'm sure there is plenty of room nearby the square."
"Yeah, that's where we came from. And we definitely won't go back. We have to get to the ball!" instead of waiting for an answer, she took Gourry and flew towards the palace, waving in the direction of the nearest designer. "Hey! Don't we look good together? Well, we would look even better in the clothes you've designed, so choose us!"
"Wait a minute!" shouted the soldier helplessly. Nobody was paying attention to him. The designer raised his eyebrow. "Sorry", he said. "I'm not looking for your type."
"Oh, come on! I know we are the perfect people to present those clothes!"
The designer shook his head. "Like I said, no."
"Lina-san" said Xelloss, floating to her side "Don't you think you are a little too aggressive? There are other designers around as well."
Lina sighed. "All right."
"Miss, I ask you again to wait for the designers on the ground."
Lina turned around to face the soldier. "And I tell you again that…" She blinked, seeing that she wasn't facing just him, but an entire squadron. "Where did they come from??"
Instead of answering, they targeted her with their spears. "All right, all right!" she shouted, almost dropping Gourry. "I don't want trouble!"
"Of course not" said Xelloss with a smile "but it always finds you."
"Shut up!" Lina didn't know just how many times she had already told him to do that, but apparently to no avail. She just got him to smile at her, which was even worse because for some reason she always blushed. She cursed herself countless times for reacting just like he wanted her to, but couldn't stop it.
"Hey, wait a minute!" someone shouted. The guards stopped and looked at the newcomer, who flew right to Lina and her friends. He appeared to be a designer, which immediately caught the sorceress' attention. He floated in front of Lina with a wide grin on his face. "Perfect, just perfect!" he said happily. He clapped his hands. "I'll take them!"
"Really?" There were stars in Lina's eyes. She certainly wasn't the belle of the ball yet, but this guy picked her out of hundreds, if not thousands of people! She immediately forgot how much she hated balls. "Did you hear that, Gourry?"
"Oh no, not him" the designer said with a smile. "You come, Miss, and you, Sir." With that he grabbed Lina and Xelloss.
"WHAT??" Lina gasped "I'm not with him!"
"Well, this evening you will be." The designer stopped and looked at them. "Such amazing colors! You look beautiful together!"
"Huh?" Lina began to turn redder and redder. They, looking beautiful together?! This guy is insane! "But I'm with… "
"Of course we'll go with you!" said Xelloss with a grin. "We've always dreamed about getting in the famous Fashion Night!" He took Lina's arm who now really dropped Gourry in surprise. While the swordsman crashed in the crowd with a yelp, she stared at the priest.
"Come on, we don't have time for this!" said the designer, motioning in the direction of the gate. "You have to try those clothes on!"
"Of course!" Xelloss followed him to the gates and took the dumbfounded Lina with him.
"What should we do now, Mr. Zelgadis?" asked Amelia when they disappeared inside the palace.
The chimera sighed. "First, get Gourry. Then wait for them, I guess." So, they took the unconscious swordsman and flew to the edge of the square.