(A./N: Hey, it's GP3, and I'm excited about this new story! Yay! Some of my OCs -aka, Zara and Lorelei- are featured in this story, though I think that they're sufficiently introduced so that it won't be too confusing. Things in this story have been changed a little- I tried to imagine what it would be like in the slight future for the Slayers characters (Lina is supposed to be about 23 in this…) so I hope it's not too strange. *hides from flames* I figure that some of the characters have matured a little, though I tried to keep it as in-character as I could. I am a big fan of traditional pairings- so beware of trad couples in this story! Despite any problems it might have, I hope you'll enjoy it!)
1- A Rainy Day...
It was almost evening in a bustling village, and the air was lively despite the chill in the weather and the overcast sky. The only person who didn't seem to be enjoying the surroundings was a particular man.
He was dressed in a dark cloak with a hood that covered his face all the way down to his golden eyes. Underneath it, he wore white pants and tall boots. The man made his way through the village inconspicuously, drawing only a few stares from small children as they walked past. It was not a village on the beaten path, but they were no stranger to visitors, especially the occasional travelling merchant. It was obvious, however, that this man was no merchant. He walked into a small store that sold food, not because he was hungry, but because he was sure that this was the place where he would get the information that he was looking for.
"How can I help you?" A middle-aged woman behind the counter asked. She was kind-looking and greeted the man with a smile. He did not return the favour.
"I was wondering if you could provide me with some information." He said sternly. "Tell me, do you know of a girl by the name of Lina Inverse?"
"Lina... Inverse...?" The woman questioned. "Um... you're talking about Lina? She's a good-looking young thing, red hair, certainly likes food..."
"That's the one." The man replied. "Tell me, what else do you know about her?"
"Well, she's a travelling merchant that passes through here a lot, since she and her family live nearby. She's gotten quite a fantastic reputation- people look forward to her visits. She's friendly, intelligent, a wonderful businesswoman, and has a great aptitude for finding unique and valuable items…"
The man didn't care so much about Lina's reputation. "Her family?" He asked.
"Oh yes. Her husband, Gourry- a very polite young man. He likes food as well."
"Ah, yes. Him." The man said knowingly. He murmured to himself. "So... she married the protector... how predictable..."
"And they have the sweetest little boy- Zara. He looks to be about four years old and just as adorable as he can be!" The woman said. This seemed to take the man by surprise.
"Lina Inverse has a son?" He gasped. His expression quickly changed to a mischievous grin. "Interesting...I could use this to my advantage…"
"If you don't mind me asking, why are you looking for them? Do you have some business with them?" The woman questioned.
"I'm sorry, but unfortunately I can't answer that. Thank you very much for your help, though." He replied, walking back out of the shop into the village. The woman watched him go.
"That was strange... I wonder what that was about..." She murmured. "Did Lina and Gourry get themselves in some sort of trouble? I hope not. They seem like such a nice family. Certainly not the kind to get themselves involved in anything dangerous..."
Not too far away from the village, there was a growing conflict between a young woman and a group of bandits. But, unlike one would expect, it was the girl who was threatening the bandits, not the other way around. The men cowered away from her in fear. Of course, this was no ordinary girl.
It was the infamous bandit killer, Lina Inverse.
"So... what do you say you guys hand over that treasure to me, and maybe I'll let you go this time." Lina grinned mischievously, holding a Fireball threateningly in her hand.
The men were no strangers to tales of Lina's ferocity. Very few bandits opposed Lina Inverse and lived to tell about it.
"W-we surrender!" One of the bandits pleaded. "Just... don't kill us! Please!"
"Yeah!" Another chimed in. "Don't hurt us!"
Lina smirked. "Well, maybe I won't. Say, Zara? Would you like to have the honour of giving these guys a parting gift? How about your best Fireball?"
A little, brown-haired boy who appeared to be about four years old joined Lina. "Really? You want me to?" He asked, his eyes sparkling.
"Have fun." Lina said, gesturing to the bandits, who were beginning to get even more scared. If Lina Inverse had a child, it could not be a good thing. And if she was really training him to be just like her, the way it appeared, then...
The bandits scattered away in fear, and were somewhat relieved to hear Lina yelling after them "...and don't come back!"
Lina turned to the boy beside her. He was looking up at the red-haired sorceress in admiration. Though he only appeared to be about four years old, the knowing look in his eyes betrayed his real age. He was actually seven years old, and his appearance was due to the fact that he was half-monster. Lina didn't care that the boy was only half human. She had taken on the boy as an apprentice/adopted son after his real parents had been killed, and he had never disappointed her.
"Lina... did I do a good job?" He asked timidly.
"Did you do a good job? What kind of question is that?" Lina exclaimed. "You always do a good job!"
"Oh... well... I was just wondering..." Zara replied, avoiding eye contact with Lina. She looked down at the boy in incredulity.
"Hey now!" Lina yelled. "No apprentice of mine is going to have self-esteem issues! Come here!" She picked up Zara and spun him around dotingly. "You! Were! Wonderful!"
Zara laughed, happy to receive praise and affection from the person he most admired. Lina then dropped him, gently, but abruptly back to the ground. "Now don't make me do that again, alright? Have some confidence."
Zara nodded. "Right!"
"Yeah! I think you did a great job too!"
Zara and Lina turned around to greet the tall, blonde swordsman. Gourry smiled back at them. "Say, Lina, I've been wondering something. When are you going to stop chasing bandits and focus on your real job?"
"Idiot!" Lina yelled, whacking him with a slipper. "Chasing bandits is my job! The whole travelling merchant thing is just a cover-up and an excuse to travel around. You know how I get when I'm cooped up in one place for too long!"
"Yeah, I know! But our house is a pretty nice place... speaking of which, doesn't look like it's going to rain?" Gourry mentioned.
"And how long have you noticed this?" Lina asked.
"Um... a few minutes..."
"Come on then, let's get home before we start to get rained on. It's already pretty cold, and I want to get home as soon as possible. It's dinnertime." Lina said, gesturing for her family to follow her.
"Right! We're coming!" Gourry agreed, following after her.
"Yeah! I'll cook dinner!" Zara exclaimed. Lina grinned. Zara had taken lessons from a professional chef, so everything he cooked was practically gourmet. And best of all, Zara fed mostly on positive emotions the way a normal monster would feed off negative ones, so he never ate much anyway.
Of course, this only made Lina think of Zara's friend, Lorelei. Lorelei was Zara's best friend, although Lina hated her- she was a monster, not to mention Xellos' partner-in-crime. Because of her, Zara's normally delicious food had a bad habit of exploding at random times… and no doubt she'd be waiting for them when they got home. Locking your house was not effective when you had friends that were monsters.
Gourry and Zara were now ahead of Lina, chatting and talking to each other happily. Lina smiled at them. She had decided that Gourry and Zara were the two best things that had ever happened to her. Gourry might not have been all that bright, but he was kind and devoted, and Lina loved him more than anyone she had ever met. Zara was sweet and attached to Lina so much that they were practically inseparable, and Lina certainly couldn't be prouder of how hard he always worked. He had come such a long way from the poor, lonely child that she and Gourry had rescued from a group of thieves... could it really have been four and a half years ago? So much had happened...
Lina always seemed to be able to find something to complain about, but the truth was that she loved her life the way it was now. Sometimes she was Lina Inverse, the infamous bandit killer. Sometimes she was Lina Inverse Gabriev, the brilliant travelling merchant. And most of the time, when it was just her, Gourry, and Zara, she was just Lina. She decided that she liked being just Lina the best of all her personas. She could easily get upset and whack someone with a slipper for no apparent reason and yell at people at the top of her lungs if she wanted to- all things that she couldn't even think to do when acting as a merchant. She could also show some affection, even if it was just a little bit, to the people that she cared so much about- something that the bandit killer would never think of doing.
She felt the light sensation of rain, and looked up at the sky. It wasn't raining very hard- in fact it was more like mist than rain. All this thinking had reminded Lina of something else. She had a secret wish that everything could stay the way it was forever. Of course, this was a foolish wish. No matter how slow it was, Zara would eventually get older- and so would everyone else. Things always changed, sometimes faster than others. But she could always stay with her childish wish.
But what if something were to happen?
She didn't know how or why, but Lina suddenly felt an insane sense of foreboding. She tried to shake it off, but there was still the sense in the back of her mind that something wasn't quite right. As if on cue to Lina's thoughts, the sky decided to stop simply misting rain and dump its entire contents on them at once.
"Ack! Rain! Quickly you guys! Run!" Lina called, chasing after her family, her troubles momentarily forgotten.
"We're coming!" Gourry yelled after her as he and Zara followed.
Not far away, in a large royal palace, a young maid was rushing through the halls, intently searching for someone. "Excuse me, have you seen the prince?" She called to an older maid that had just finished one of her tasks. "The princess wanted to see him."
The older maid thought for a moment. "I haven't seen him lately, but he's often out practicing his swordfighting. Perhaps we should check the courtyard?"
"Are you kidding? It's freezing cold and pouring rain out there." The younger maid replied.
"Well... this is the prince we're talking about." The other maid responded.
"Right. Of course. I forgot."
Out in the courtyard, a young man was practicing his swordfighting against a wooden target. His moves were fast and his technique was incredible. Despite the gloomy weather, he was completely wrapped up in his training.
Though he was wearing a hooded cloak, the rain had soaked through it and was dampening his hair. The normally fair complexion of his face was flushed from the physical exertion of training, while his bare fingers that were clutching the hilt of the sword were nearly white from the cold. His sharp hearing picked out the sound of people approaching him from behind.
"Um... your highness..." The younger maid approached him warily. The prince turned around, shooting an irritated glare at the person who had interrupted his training.
"What do you want?" He asked coldly.
"Um... well... your presence has been requested-"
"Tell them I'm busy." He sighed, turning back to his training.
"Er... well... the princess sent me out to find you... and she said that she wouldn't take no for an answer..."
At the mention of the princess, the young man's expression softened. He sighed and put his sword down. "Fine..." he replied. "I suppose I'll go see what she wants..."
"Thank you, your highness. She will be very pleased." The older maid nodded, and the young man left the two standing in the cold rain.
"He's quite scary." The younger maid observed.
"But he's usually so polite." The older maid added. "I wonder what's wrong with him. He hasn't been this upset in quite some time."
"Well, the princess was wondering the same thing. That's the reason that she called for him. If anyone can figure out what's wrong with him, she can."
"Indeed." The older maid nodded.
"Aah! Stupid rain! I'm totally soaked!" Lina groaned as she opened the door and entered the large house.
"Me too! I never realised that rain could start up that quickly!" Gourry agreed.
"Hey you guys, welcome ba- oh wow! What the heck happened to you?" A small, pink-haired monster with large yellow wings was sitting on the couch, looking at the group peculiarly.
"Um, it's called rain and it gets you WET!" Lina fumed. Lorelei was the last person that she wanted to deal with at the moment.
"I can see that." Lorelei replied, giving Lina a look that asked 'who do you think I am, your husband?' The little monster walked over to her friend. "Oh, Zara! Are you alright?"
"Yeah! I'm fine!" Zara laughed. "It's amazing how fast a rainstorm can start up!"
"Well you're soaking wet! Here, let me get you a towel or something!" Lorelei exclaimed, running her fingers through the boy's unruly brown hair.
"I was gonna do that!" Lina fumed.
"Well I volunteered first!" Lorelei shot back.
"Hey! Hey!" Gourry got between the two, breaking up a potential fight. "Zara, Lorelei, you two get dried off and go into the kitchen to start dinner, okay?"
"Okay!" Zara replied, rushing toward the kitchen with his best friend following him.
Lina had taken off her waterlogged cape and sat down on the couch, trying to dry her hair. Gourry sat down beside her with the same problem.
"I swear," she murmured. "that little monster is going to be the death of me."
"Hey," Gourry grinned, putting his on her head and messing with her hair playfully. "We've fought Dark Lords and a whole bunch of other crazy stuff. If one little monster is the worst thing we have to worry about, I'd say that we're pretty well off, wouldn't you?"
Lina laughed, throwing her arms around him. "Haven't I ever told you that it creeps me out when you're smart like that?" she asked.
"No... oh, wait. Have you? I don't remember." Gourry responded. Lina thought for a moment that he was just pretending to be clueless to humour her, but the look on his face told her that he really didn't remember.
"Oh Gourry..." she sighed, smiling and kissing him lightly on the cheek.. "Don't ever change, okay?"
"Um, okay." Gourry replied. "I wasn't really planning to...so I guess I won't..."
"It's okay! Nothing broke!" Zara called from the kitchen.
Lina groaned and stood up. "Alright, what did you guys blow up this time?" She walked angrily toward the kitchen with Gourry following her. Lina never liked it when her dinner exploded on her.
Lina had been awfully quiet over dinner, and Gourry was starting to get worried about her. It was late and they were getting ready for bed, but Lina wasn't as talkative as she normally was. She didn't even respond to his funny stories.
"...and that's when I figured out that I had completely forgotten the punch line!" Gourry laughed, finishing a story that he was telling. He looked up. Lina was sitting on the bed, looking as though she was lost in thought. He sat down beside her. "Hey, Lina? What are you worried about?"
Lina looked up at him in surprise. "What do you mean? What makes you think that I'm worried about something?"
"Because," Gourry explained. "you're only this quiet to me if you're angry with me about something, or if you're worried about something. And since I'm pretty sure that you're not angry, you must be worried about something. What is it?"
Lina shook her head. Gourry's logic never ceased to amaze her. She sometimes wondered how smart he would be if his memory wasn't so terrible.
"I'm just... anxious, I guess."
"Anxious? About what?" Gourry pressed curiously.
"Well... I don't really know." She admitted. "I just have this odd feeling that something is going to happen... something really bad..."
Gourry looked at Lina with an expression of concern. "Something really bad? Okay, now you've got me worried too. Is it something like we've fought before? Something really powerful like that?"
"I don't know." Lina sighed. She fell backwards onto the bed in frustration. "I don't know what's going to happen, I just think that something is, and it's killing me!"
"Well..." Gourry said, leaning over her, smiling. "I'm not exactly sure what it is that's causing you to feel scared like this, but I think I know what could make you feel better!"
Lina sat up slightly. "And what is that?" She questioned.
"How about a nice warm cup of hot cocoa?"
Lina fell back onto the bed again, laughing. "You think hot chocolate fixes everything, don't you?"
"It helps." Gourry defended. "Come on, don't tell me you don't want any? I know that my Lina would never pass up hot chocolate!"
Lina grinned. "It does sound good right now... especially considering how cold it's gotten. Yeah, some hot chocolate would be nice."
"Got it!" Gourry leaped up. "Two hot chocolates, coming right up! I'll go make some, you just stay here and rest, okay?"
"Uh... okay." Lina replied. 'Stay here and rest?' Gourry made it sound like she was sick or something. He left, and Lina fell back onto the bed again. She felt exhausted, yet it also felt as if she would never be able to get to sleep. She had this terrible feeling that something wasn't quite right... that something was going to happen...
A flash of light outside, followed by a distant rumble of thunder alerted Lina to the weather. She got up and pressed her finger against the windowpane, recoiling slightly at the coldness of it. It was much too cold for normal thunderstorms, she thought. Although...
Something quickly caught her eye. It was in the other window- she walked around to other side of the bed and looked at it. It was a window that opened in the middle, and there was a piece of paper stuck between the two doors. Lina pulled the window open, and a blast of cold air hit her, blowing the paper into her hand. She closed the window with much difficulty, forgetting to latch it shut for the moment.
"What the heck is this? A letter of some kind?" She wondered out loud. But who would leave a letter in our window like that instead of mailing it- not to mention that it's a second-story window. I wonder...
Lina carefully unfolded the slightly damp paper. At first, she thought that the rain had smudged the ink, but found that the handwriting was simply bunched up together, as if whoever had written it had been in quite a hurry. She didn't recognise the messy scrawl, but quickly caught on to the sender of the letter in a second.
I apologise for the messy handwriting, but I do not have very much time. I'm writing this to ask you for a favour- please take care of Lorelei for me. Don't worry, the situation is hopefully only temporary. I understand that you are not very fond of her, so I do plan to pay you back for this when/if I return. Please, send my greetings to her.
Xellos... Lina thought, seeing the initials at the bottom of the paper. 'If I return? What does he mean by 'if?' Does it have anything to do with the beginning, 'I do not have much time?'
Lina stood next to the window, reading the letter over and over. It was short and cordial, but there was an undertone of exigency to it. There was a mention of not having much time- not much time before what? It never stated. Did it mean... not much time, period? Lina shook her head. It couldn't be. Though, Xellos went on to say that the situation was 'hopefully' temporary. Only hopefully? That didn't sound very promising. And of course there was the 'when/if' statement that caught Lina's attention.
If he returned.
There was apparently so much uncertainty that it could be phrased as 'if.'
"Xellos... what's happening?" Lina murmured. This letter couldn't have anything to do with her premonitions, could it? It couldn't... right?
But if something was powerful enough to make Xellos fear for his life enough to ask a human to care for his young companion... Could it be the danger that Lina had sensed...?
Just then, a large clap of thunder sounded as lightning flashed overhead. A gust of wind burst through the unlatched window, bringing a gush of frigid rain in onto the sorceress who was knocked over from the force of the wind. Weakly, she rose and somehow managed to push the window shut again.
Lina had been slightly upset before, but being freezing and soaked, clutching the drenched letter that was staining her hands with ink was the final straw. She collapsed onto the now wet carpet beside the weather, shaking from the cold, and from fear.
"Hey Lina~!" Gourry chimed as he opened the door. "I brought the hot choc- LINA!" He gasped and nearly dropped the tray he was carrying. Placing it on the desk quickly, he rushed over to where Lina was sitting, looking frightened and miserable. "L-Lina! What in the world happened?"
"Gourry..." She murmured. "We've lived here for how long? Almost two years? And I haven't realised until now that if you don't latch the windows, they'll open by themselves..." She collapsed in his arms, still trembling.
"Lina..." he gasped, sensing that there was much more wrong than just being wet from opening the window. "You... uh, you should probably get dried off..." He got up, placing her carefully on the bed. "I'll get you a towel."
"I can get it-"
"No, Lina. You can stay right there. Drink your hot chocolate- hopefully it'll warm you up." Gourry instructed. Lina simply nodded. The only time he was ever that stern with her was when he was concerned for her safety- even in trivial situations such as an occasional illness. She didn't mind it that much. It showed how much he cared about her, and that made her happy. But now all she could think about was how worried she was. If Xellos was in danger, then she could be in danger... or Zara... or Gourry...
"Lina? I told you to drink your hot chocolate. If you don't it'll get cold and then it won't be hot chocolate anymore. It'll be... just chocolate..." Gourry said, good-naturedly, in an attempt to raise her dampened spirits- literally. He placed a towel around her shoulders and sat next to her with his own cup of cocoa.
Lina wasn't really in the mood for anything edible, but she knew that it would make Gourry happy and acquiesced. In just a few seconds, she did feel warmer, especially when Gourry put his arm around her comfortingly. "Feel better now?" He asked.
"Just... a bit..." She murmured.
"So, tell me what's got you down. It can't just be the rain." Gourry said after a few minutes.
Lina sighed, knowing that it was useless to keep these kinds of secrets from Gourry. "I... got a letter." She replied.
"A letter? From who?"
"Uh... from Xellos."
"Xellos, huh?" Gourry asked, frowning slightly. If he hadn't been so sure of the monster's infatuation with a certain dragon, he might have been slightly concerned about Xellos sending letters to Lina. "What did he want?"
"Oh, just the usual. To get us all riled up." Lina replied. "He also asked if we could look after Lorelei for a while."
"But you hate Lorelei." Gourry pointed out.
"I know, and Xellos knows it too. But he did say that he'd pay me back when, or if, he returns."
"If?" Gourry asked, pointing out the piece of information that Lina knew he would notice.
"Yeah, he said 'if.' He also said that he didn't have much time, whatever that means..." Lina said, a look of concern spreading over her face.
"You're not worried about him, are you?" Gourry asked.
"What, about Xellos? He can take care of himself! You know I don't give a darn for that stupid monster!" Lina spat. "Especially when he thinks that he can just come and dump that kid of his here at our house! I don't care how close she and Zara are-"
"Then what's bothering you?" Gourry interrupted.
"I'm just worried about the same thing I was worried about before..." Lina said. "Only now there's more credibility. After all, what could threaten Xellos so much that he'd doubt his own ability to return unharmed?" Lina was quiet for a moment, trying to figure out why this upset her so much. "I... I guess I'm just really scared. I've fought Dark Lords and who-knows-what-else before, but I guess... now I'm so happy with things the way they are... oh Gourry! I don't want anything bad to happen! But I feel so stupid for being so scared! I mean, I'm Lina Inverse the bandit killer, after all!"
"Yeah, that's true." Gourry said, pulling Lina closer to him with his arms around her. "But you're also just Lina. And Lina can be as scared as she wants to be."
Lina hadn't realised how tired she really was until she began to drift to sleep in Gourry's arms. "Thank you." She whispered. Maybe all this worrying was over nothing.
Then again, maybe it wasn't.
(A/N: So, what do you think? Like? Hate? Think it's too OOC? Your comments would be greatly appreciated! My previous stories have been very sporadically updated, so I have decided to attempt a schedule, sort of. I'm going to try updating on Fridays, to see how that works out.)