Author's Note: Sooooo... Part 6 is here! Fashion Night is now COMPLETE! The story ends with this chapter. ATTENTION! Extreme amount of fluff at the end. Don't say I haven't warned you:)
Now that it's complete, maybe you could write some reviews? Not because I can't live without them, but this is the first romantic story I have ever written and have absolutely no idea of how good or bad it is. So, please review! Of course I'm extremely grateful for the reviews I have already got; they have warmed my heart and helped a lot!:)
Disclaimer... guess where it is ^.~
- o -
An entire week passed and Xelloss still hadn't returned. During that time the rest of the gang stayed in Inashtar because Zelgadis had learnt that Lei Magnus had been in connection with a mage who was famous for creating golems and chimeras. Zelgadis took into his head that the letters were written to that mage, and therefore could contain information about his cure. The chimera got down to work with his usual obsession and searched all the libraries for them. Amelia and Lina tried to help him, but he wasn't too grateful, saying this was his own problem. While the princess didn't budge, Lina finally gave up; she had more than enough things on her mind even without arguments. She still hadn't decided whether the events of the Fashion Night were good or bad, but there wasn't a day when she didn't think of Xelloss or wondered where he could be. She walked a lot alone in the city park, remembering how it had felt to dance with him or the moment in the park when they had almost kissed. She often mused about what could have happened if they hadn't been disturbed and she wasn't sure she wouldn't have liked it. This confused her even more than before. To top it off, she was afraid that he wouldn't come back. The time when she hadn't been able to decide if she had wanted to meet him was over: she wanted to see him again, this was the only thing she was certain about. But, considering how scared he had seemed when he had left, it was possible that he didn't intend to come back at all or if he did, he wasn't going to appear in a couple of months, maybe even years. If that was the case, what could she do? Looking for him was out of the question; she didn't have the slightest idea of where he was currently. And even if she somehow managed to find him, he could teleport to the other side of the world in a minute if he wanted to. The only option was using a summoning spell, but she wasn't an expert at those and she didn't know if it was even possible to summon a mazoku as powerful as him.
She tried to dismiss these thoughts; after all, he had only been gone for a week. Maybe he was still looking for the letters; or if he wasn't, he still must have needed some time to think, just like her. Or maybe he'd got another assignment. She hoped that he'd come back some time, though.
She thought all this over as she was lying in bed in the morning of the eighth day after the ball. After a while she sighed and got up. She took a bath and dressed up before going downstairs to have breakfast. She was surprised to find Zelgadis and Amelia at a table; by this time of the day they were usually already in a library.
"Good morning" she said, sitting down at their table.
"Hi, Lina" said Zelgadis, sipping his coffee.
"Good morning, Miss Lina" came Amelia's voice from behind a huge sandwich. The sorceress sighed and ordered an ordinary breakfast (well, at least for her – the waitress seemed rather astonished by the amount of food).
"Hi there!" Gourry arrived, yawning. "Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah, thanks." Lina smiled: while everyone else was occupied with something, the swordsman had nothing else to do but eat and sleep, which he did with pleasure. While he wasn't usually lazy, he appeared to enjoy this little break in their journeys.
Gourry sat down beside her, right when several waiters arrived with her food. "Great!" he said with a smile, "I'll have the same!" Some of the waiters almost fainted, but one glance from Lina was enough to make them flee to the kitchen.
They ate in relative silence, which meant they didn't talk, only champed, rattled, gulped, sighed, etc. They earned a couple of disapproving frowns from the other guests but everyone knew better than to comment on anything. Lina's legendary temper appeared to be well-known even around here.
"So," began Zelgadis as Lina and Gourry leaned back in their chairs with satisfied sighs, "I'm done with my work here, which means we can leave the city if you want to."
"Really?" Lina glanced at him. "Did you find anything?"
Amelia answered this time. "Unfortunately, no. We couldn't find those letters anywhere." She appeared to be very disappointed.
"And you just give up?" This wasn't like Zelgadis.
The chimera clenched his fists angrily. "We found nothing! Nothing at all! Not even the slightest clue about those letters. Maybe they don't even exist!"
Lina frowned. "I'm quite sure they exist. If they didn't, Xelloss wouldn't be searching for them."
"How do you know? Maybe he was fooled by somebody. Or he could have made up the entire thing!"
"Why would he do such a thing?"
"Don't tell me you know the reason of his every action. As I know him, he could have just been playing one of his damned games with us! He must be laughing somewhere right now."
Lina sighed. Zelgadis seemed to really have given up. She doubted that he thought the thing about Xelloss seriously, though; or if he did, he hated the mazoku even more than she had assumed. She personally didn't think he made up the whole thing. Xelloss liked jokes and games, that was for sure – but why would he have left without telling them it was just a joke? That wasn't like him. Not to mention that he never wasted so much time and effort on a simple joke.
"So, are we going then?" asked Gourry.
"That's too bad. I like it here."
"And what's our next destination?" asked Amelia.
Zelgadis shrugged. "Doesn't matter to me."
Lina suddenly got an idea. "Why not travel to Ralfagg?"
The chimera frowned. "Do you want to summon something?" Ralfagg had the greatest collection of books about summoning.
"Maybe. I'm still gathering information." And if Xelloss doesn't want to show up, I'll make him do it. She smiled.
- o -
They left the city and began their long journey to the west. They were traveling across a gentle countryside with small forests and streams, the sun shone brightly. All in all, they had an excellent day without bandits or lesser demons attacking to ruin it. At noon they stopped at a meadow beside a stream. After having lunch they lay on their backs and just rested for a while. Gourry fell asleep after about five minutes and they decided to leave him alone. Lina slowly became sleepy as well.
"My, my, what a pleasant sight we have here!"
The sorceress' eyes flew wide open. She knew that voice very well. "Xelloss!" she shouted, jumping up. There he was, staff, cloak, purple hair, stupid grin, everything that made him so well-recognizable. He came back! She almost embraced him but suddenly became nervous and embarrassed. What if he just showed up because he had another 'task' for them, and not because he wanted to see her again?
Zelgadis grabbed him and lifted him by his shirt. Xelloss raised an eyebrow. "Nice to see you too, Zelgadis."
"Where are the letters??!"
"Don't play with me! The letters we were looking for!"
"Oh. THOSE letters." Xelloss smiled and glanced at Lina.
"Did you find them?"
Xelloss chuckled. "Of course I did. But you won't see them if you don't play nice." He threatened the chimera with his index finger.
"Why you…" Zelgadis' eyes practically glowed.
Lina sighed and put her hand on his arm. "Let him go."
The chimera snorted but released the priest. "So?"
"Why are you suddenly so interested in them?"
"BECAUSE I WANT TO FIND MY CURE!" Zelgadis apparently was beginning to lose his temper.
"No need to shout, I'm right here." Xelloss pulled out an envelope from his pocket, still smiling. "I doubt you'll find anything about that in it, though."
"There's only one?" asked Lina, sounding disappointed.
"No, there are quite a few. But I don't think you'll need more than one." The sorceress suddenly started to have a bad feeling about this.
Zelgadis ripped the envelope open and drew out the letter. "Uhhh, what's this smell?"
Gourry, who woke up to the voices, sniffed. "It reminds me of something."
Everyone looked at him. "Of what?"
The swordsman shrugged. "Dunno."
Lina smacked him on the head. "Speak again when you actually remember, jellyfish-brains!"
Zelgadis lifted the paper, his face like he'd just found the Holy Grail. It must be a great catharsis for him, thought Lina. Xelloss was quietly grinning to himself.
The chimera began to read the letter. Then his expression suddenly changed. The dreamy smile disappeared, his eyes widened so much that Lina was afraid they might even fall out. He made a noise, something between a groan and a scream, and generally seemed like he was drowning.
"What's the matter, Mr. Zelgadis?" asked Amelia, peeking over his shoulder. As she looked at the letter, she sighed with stars in her eyes. "Oh, how beautiful!" Lina slightly frowned.
Gasping, Zelgadis held the letter like he was dealing with an exceptionally dangerous tarantula. "This… this…" he appeared to be out of air "This is a LOVE LETTER!"
"WHAT??!!" Lina stared at him.
Gourry snapped his fingers. "Got it! Patchouli!"
Xelloss burst out laughing. "Dear Ruby-Eye, you should see your face!"
Both Lina and Zelgadis looked at him. If gazes had been able to kill, the priest would surely have been kicked into oblivion at the very spot. But they weren't, so he had to wait until Lina reached him.
Which happened in seconds. But before she could have got down to really beating him, he simply disappeared with a grin.
- o -
Some hours later, when they were finally able to wake up Zelgadis, who, after laughing hysterically for about ten minutes, simply fainted, they continued their journey. Lina was dragging behind, deep in thought. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't figure out how she stood with the priest now. She had expected their relationship to change after what happened (or almost happened), but now it seemed like he was still as distant as ever. All masks in place, no show of real emotions, and especially no blushing. It was quite obvious that he had reached a conclusion about his feelings during the week before, and it seemed like he had decided to leave everything as it had been before the ball. She realized that this felt much worse than his little joke with those love letters.
Amelia dragged behind as well, picking up her pace. "What's the matter, Miss Lina?"
The sorceress looked at her. Amelia knew about what had happened: after seeing Lina so embarrassed, she hadn't left her alone till she had told her about it. The princess had turned out to be a very good audience and she had slowly poured out her heart to her. She decided to share her problem again.
She sighed. "I don't know what to do now, Amelia."
"You mean now that Mr…"
"Yes, Amelia." Lina gave her an angry look. She had asked her not to tell the guys about this and they were walking right in front of them.
Amelia glanced at Gourry and Zel. "Oh. I see."
"I have no idea of what he wants now!" Lina seemed desperate. She lowered her voice. "He disappears for a week and then he acts like nothing happened!" She was more confused than ever. If only she was more experienced in this… but something told her she couldn't possibly have enough experience to deal with Xelloss.
"Well, I think you should talk to him" said Amelia. "If you don't, you will never know."
"How? He disappeared again. And even if he comes back, I don't remember words or questions ever getting me anywhere with him."
"If he wants something, he'll come back and you can at least try."
"But what if he doesn't want anything? Crap, I don't even know if I want it!"
"You wanted him to come back, didn't you? That means you want it."
"Yes, but… I don't know. Everything's so complicated with him."
"That's normal Miss Lina, Life is always complicated with men." Amelia sighed. "I think you're afraid of this."
"Of course I'm afraid! He isn't even human."
"I don't think that matters in this case. From what you've told me it's quite clear that he likes you. Maybe he's afraid as well. Have you thought about that?"
The sorceress stared at her. "That's ridiculous."
"Why?" The princess looked back at her. "I don't know much about him, Miss Lina; I don't think any of us do. But one thing I know is that he's an excellent actor. If he wants to hide his emotions, he can do it. And I'm quite sure he doesn't want you to see him so vulnerable again."
Lina bit her lip. "But why would he be afraid? He's always so self-confident…"
Amelia laughed. "Why are you afraid?" She smiled at the sorceress. "It takes courage to let somebody close to you, Miss Lina. If you do, that person can hurt you. It's natural that you're afraid if you don't know his intentions. But remember: he doesn't know your intentions either. If you think about this, it's not so surprising that he doesn't want to let you close."
Lina stared at the ground. She hadn't thought about this. Was it possible that Amelia was right?
"I don't want to interfere or decide instead of you" continued the princess "but I think you should make the first step. Show him that you are worthy of his trust and he'll trust you. Maybe not immediately, but in some time he will. Don't let him get away so easily!"
Lina groaned. Why can't this be easy? Why does my first romantic affair have to be with a mazoku?!
"Of course you can't do this if you're not sure of yourself. But you won't be happy if you don't dare to fight for it. Think this over and I think you'll find out what you really want."
Lina sighed and gave the princess a small smile. "Thank you, Amelia. You were very helpful."
The younger girl smiled back at her. "I hope I was."
While Amelia went back to the guys, the sorceress buried herself in her thoughts again. She would never have thought that the princess could be so much help: she threw light upon things she had never thought about. It was disturbing how much more Amelia knew about these things than her, despite her younger age. But she felt far less confused now than before. The complicated set of problems, uncertainty and fear had been reduced to one question: Do I want him or not?
She hesitated. If he had been human, the answer would have been a crystal-clear yes. But he wasn't; he was one of the most evil creatures in the world. The way he usually acted didn't change what he was. Or did it? She bit her lip. She thought the theory of mazoku not being capable of feeling emotions had already been proved false; but would he really be able to love her? And, what's equally important, would he be allowed to love her? She knew he had his orders; what if he only left again because it was forbidden for him to be with her?
She had to talk to him. If he doesn't want to show up, she'll find a way to force him. She sighed; Ralfagg was still at least a hundred miles away. Unfortunately, there was more than enough time for her to change her mind before they could talk.
- o -
At sunset they stopped at a clearing. After having dinner, Lina lay quietly in her tent. During the afternoon she had reached a conclusion: if Xelloss was allowed to date her, she was willing to. Crap, not only willing to! She wanted to go out with him! She would even fight for him if necessary. But despite Amelia's logical arguments, she was still afraid that he didn't have the same opinion and would only laugh at her if she told him about her feelings.
Unable to sleep, she got up and left her tent. Gourry, who was currently on watch, glanced at her. "Hey, Lina! I didn't know you were up!" His face suddenly became worried. "Is everything okay? You were acting a little strange lately."
Lina blinked. The swordsman maybe wasn't the brightest person she had ever met, but he was very perceptive. "Yeah, everything's all right. I've just got a little too much on my mind, I guess." She flashed a smile at him.
Gourry smiled back. "Well, if you want to talk about it, I'm always here!"
"No, thanks. I think I'm going for a walk."
"Okay, but be careful. There can be beasts in the forest."
Lina rolled her eyes. "I can defend myself, Gourry."
As she left the camp, she didn't notice the pair of amethyst eyes watching her from a tree. Xelloss sighed quietly. The previous week he'd had plenty of time to think over what had happened. He wasn't so scared now, even though some of his embarrassment had returned when he had seen her again. But unfortunately he couldn't read her thoughts and her emotions were too complicated to be useful, so he wasn't certain how she would react to his plan. Well, there was no turning-back now. He disappeared.
Lina was wondering aimlessly for a while, until she came to a moonlit clearing. She frowned; there was something in the grass. She stepped closer.
It was an envelope; quite similar to the one Xelloss gave to Zelgadis. She picked it up. "Hey, Xelloss, you dropped one!" she shouted into the night, but she was becoming excited. Maybe he was really somewhere around here?
She glanced at the envelope and bit her lip. It wouldn't hurt to take a look at it… maybe it would even give her ideas about what to say when she meets him. Gathering information always pays off. Smiling at the memory, she opened the envelope and drew out the letter. She began to read it.
It was a poem, and a quite good one. She wouldn't have thought that Lei Magnus (if he really was the author) was such a good poet. After a couple of minutes she arrived to the last verse – and her eyes suddenly widened. This wasn't Lei Magnus' letter. Can it be that…
"Do you like it?" she jerked up her head at the voice. Xelloss was standing beside a tree, his face in shadow. Her heart immediately started to pound.
He stepped out into the moonlight with an unreadable expression on his face. Lina gulped. It had been easy to decide what she wanted when she had been alone, but now that he was here as well…
"It's nice" she answered, her voice shaking. "Is it one of Lei Magnus' letters?"
There was a small smile on his lips. "No."
"I thought so." I should tell him now. But how? I can't just ask him if he wants to go out with me… Xelloss was apparently waiting for her to say something. "Zel's quite angry, you know. Why did you trick us?" Uh. That was lame. I should have said something else.
For a moment he looked surprised; it seemed like this wasn't what he had been expecting. She couldn't blame him; she wouldn't have expected it either. But he regained composure as quickly as always. "That's my nature, Lina." He apparently decided not to use the '-san' anymore. "You should decide whether you like it or not."
Of course I like it. I like everything about you. But she didn't dare to say anything.
He came closer; he was only a couple of steps away now. His face remained calm, but his mind was racing. Why doesn't she say anything? Is there still hope? Her emotions showed that she was just as nervous as him. Well, at least she felt something. Now or never…
"So" he began, stepping even closer "I'm going to a festival at the next city and… I was wondering if you would like to come with me." That's it; he said it out. It was up to her now. And he didn't know if he would survive a 'no'.
She stared at him incredulously. "Are you… asking me out for a date?" her voice was merely a whisper.
"If I am?"
"Then I… I…" She looked into his eyes. They were open, staring at her with all their astonishing beauty. She already felt the same magic as a week before, the world reducing to the two of them… she barely noticed her own lips move. "Yes."
He smiled; it was like a rock had been removed from his shoulders. "We could dance" he whispered, bending down.
She looked up at him, biting her lip. "That would be great."
And a moment later he was kissing her, and he was so gentle and so passionate at the same time, and she felt like she was melting, and… dear Cephied, what a first kiss this was. She slowly stopped thinking as he wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her closer to him, deepening the kiss. She let the letter fall on the ground and she wrapped her own arms around his neck. She didn't have the slightest idea of how long this lasted and to tell the truth, she didn't care. She gasped as they finally stopped, hanging on to him like she was drowning. He looked at her and felt like his every dream came true at the same moment as she smiled at him.
"So" she said, her lips brushing against his, setting all his senses on fire "You want to tell me your secrets?"
He smiled, caressing her silky hair. "Maybe." Then he kissed her again and teleported them away from the clearing, leaving nothing there but the letter, lying in the grass. It was folded up, leaving only the last verse visible.
Today I will return to you
and stay with you forever.
I want to whisper privately to you
the secrets that I have hidden…