*Author's Notes: Yes, this is my first Slayers fic and sorry to those who like Gourry and Lina pairing... Gourry's not even in this. (Gomen nasai yo!) Anyway, I'm not sure if it'll be a X/L or a Z/L pairing. By the way, Zel's a normal guy in this, just FYI. Hmm, another FYI: "Sou ka" is usually translated as "I see" while "Sou desu ka" is translated like "Is that right?" I hope that doesn't confuse anyone (I love Japanese)! So, if that hasn't made you declare this fic crap, then by all means please read (and review, if you'd be so kind)!! ^_^
Chapter One: Lina's First Day
A month was too long for Lina Inverse to remember a promise. Too much had happened between the time she had made it; she had collected a large reward for turning in a nefarious band of thieves and spent it all in three days at three different restaurants. She had traveled to Polopi where it was rumored that a dragon was guarding an ancient treasure. That venture only ended up making Lina do more traveling and work than she would have liked to discover it was nothing. Lina had even won a sword-fighting tournament, but the funds gained from that, too, were gone in another of Lina's feasting.
When she had received a letter from Hadin, two days earlier, she immediately remembered what she had carefully forgotten. So, off Lina went to Hadin to talk over the matter to the one she had promised, intending to cut some kind of deal with him. After all, Lina's wasn't just a good fighter; she was a good negotiator as well.
Lina didn't know why, but he always seemed to be the least willing to make things simple. It could all be so simple if he only…
"Listen, it's not as if you need that money I borrowed from you. Another month isn't going to matter to you."
"Sou desu, but you wrote a written promise that within a month, you'd have the five thousand gold pieces for me." He took a sip of his tea calmly.
Lina rubbed the back of her head sheepishly. "Come on, I told you I forgot," she said. "Cut me a little slack, okay?"
"Zan'nen da , but I can't."
"Sure you can!"
"Written contracts are made to be followed."
"Tear it up!"
"If I tear up the contract this time, how will I be sure that you'll return the money in another month or any amount of time?"
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to take drastic measures." He grinned as he set down his teacup on the saucer.
"What...what do you mean?" Lina blinked as he held up the contract and pointed to some small script at the bottom.
"What does it say?"
"It says if you don't have the money to pay me back in a month, I determine the method you must pay me."
"Nani?" Lina said. She snatched the paper from his hands and leaned in close in an attempt to read what it said. Indeed, the words he had spoken were there.
"I took a good month to think of a good way to solve your problem of owing me money…"
Chikusho! Lina thought. I must have been to much in a rush to read the whole thing through! Demo, I had to have that money… Onechan…onechan would have killed me!
"…for a year, the debt will be lifted," he concluded.
"What? What did you say?"
"If you work for me for a year, the debt will be lifted."
"Work…for…you??" Lina repeated, standing up. She raised her fists. "Joudan ja nai yo!"
"I'm quite serious, Lina-san," he said, grasping the handle of the teacup again. "You will do whatever I ask of you until your year is up."
Lina snorted and folded her arms over her chest. "What makes you think that I'll agree to that?"
"We have a contract."
"I don't care."
He brought the teacup to his lips and took a long drink before setting the teacup down again. "Ah, sou ka. Demo, I bet you would care if the police knew about those certain incidents you're responsible for?"
A small sweat drop formed at the side of Lina's head. Instantly several "incidents" that could incriminate her came to mind. However, she merely coughed and forced a smug smile.
"Daijoubu," Lina said. "Even if they lock me up, they can't lock me up for too long. They don't have enough proof to finger me."
"Naru hodo ." His voice grew lower and more menacing, causing Lina to loose a bit of her front. "I guess even if they locked you up for a week, you wouldn't mind the prison food. I hear it's not even fit for animals to eat."
The color drained from Lina's face. To be in confinement was one thing; to be denied the thing most precious to her, good food, was another thing.
Serving him is ludicrous… Demo, nasty food for a week or more…I couldn't stand it!!
Lina let out a frustrated cry and plopped down into her chair again. "All right; you win, Xellos," she said.
Xellos smiled, making Lina feel queasy at the sight of his patronizing expression. "I'm glad that you see it my way," he said.
Lina narrowed her amber eyes, resisting her urge to take his teacup and dump its contents on his head. You might have won for today, Xellos, but Lina Inverse is one girl that always ends up on top.
Being at the beck and call of the richest man in Hadin, Xellos Metallium, was the worst experience Lina could have (next to eating horrible food). Xellos lacked any servants to maintain his rather large house, yet it was as clean as if he did. That, among other little facts about the man gave him the nickname of the "Mysterious Millionaire." Where did Xellos get all of his money from? No one, but he knew the answer, but the rumor was that Xellos worked for some superior that paid him well.
Lina, as well as anyone who knew of Xellos, had a pretty good idea that Xellos were up to no good. Why else would he keep his occupation secret? Obviously it wasn't an embarrassing job. Lina had know Xellos for a few years and wouldn't exactly call him "humble."
Lina entered one of the many rooms Xellos owned and closed the door behind her. "There's gotta be something in the house I can use against Xellos," she murmured to herself. She went to a large oak desk and began searching through it.
Letters and other documents were stored in there, all neatly organized by subject, date, and importance. Lina was a bit amazed by the extent Xellos kept that area tidy. If Lina had ever chose to own a house, her letters would be as easy to find as two identical snowflakes. She browsed through a stack of papers that had been bonded by a string to discover they were merely records of furniture Xellos had purchased. Lina sighed and replaced them. She frowned, wondering where Xellos kept his contracts. Her instinct told her the contract she had signed with him wasn't the only one he possessed. Surely, Lina would get her hands on one that had illegal contents within it. Or, perhaps, she could find evidence of something Xellos had stolen.
Lina opened a drawer full of envelopes sealed with a red stamp just before she heard steps in the hallway. She muttered a curse, hurriedly closed the drawer, and slowly exited the room. Xellos nearly ran into her as she left.
"Ah, Lina-san," Xellos said, "I was just looking for you. I had hoped you hadn't left while I was gone."
"Hmph," Lina said, putting her hands on her hips. "Where would I go? I live her now, don't I?"
"Well, you don't have to say that with so much contempt. I think I own a very nice home, don't you think?"
"Well, you don't have to make that cocky smile all the time." She ignored his question.
Xellos's expression turned to that of innocent ignorance. "Cocky smile?" he said.
Lina balled a fist at her side. "You have something else for me to do?" she said calmly despite her physical signs of aggression. "I've done everything you said since you left. I removed the weeds from your garden, hung up the twenty paintings in your art gallery, put fresh wood in all of the wood bins by your fireplaces, set all the clocks in the house to the same time, and put your news rugs in the appropriate rooms."
"Wonderful," Xellos said, same smile she claimed he had made popping up again. "Lina-san, you truly are amazing. I didn't expect you to have even half of that done when I returned."
I had to make sure I had time to snoop around, Lina thought then said, "Well, you're talking to Lina Inverse here. There's little that's above my capabilities."
The "cocky smile Lina claimed Xellos to have slid into what Lina liked to call the "sinister" smile. "Wakatta ," he said.
Ignoring the twinge of unease she experienced, Lina stood with the same cool appearance. "Ne, Xellos," she said.
The sinister look disappeared as fast as it had came. "Hai?"
"These tasks you asked me to do… How would you get them done if I weren't here to do them? Surely you don't do them yourself."
"So…do you have some maid or something that comes in?"
"Hmm, well, you see…"
Xellos extended his index finger and opened his violet eye. "Sore wa himitsu desu."
Lina drew in a breath. "I should have guessed you would say that," she said. She composed herself enough to ask him again of her duties. "So, what do I have to do next?"
"Oh, nothing much," Xellos said, waving his hand.
"Nothing much, huh?"
Lina lowered her eyelids. "What is it?"
"I want you to attend a certain party."
"Ah, sore wa himitsu desu!"
"Xellos!" Lina barked, taking a step closer to him. "I'm not going to some strange party without knowing the purpose!"
"Hmm, sou desu ka?" Xellos said, putting a finger to his chin.
"Demo, Lina-san," Xellos reminded her, "you don't have any right to refuse me. You are obligated to do whatever I ask, questions answered or unanswered."
Lina's face turned red and she moved further up so that she were in Xellos's face. "Okay, then tell me this: " she relented, "if this is so important, how come you aren't going to this party?"
"But I am," Xellos said. He grinned at the confusion on Lina's face. "Lina-san, you shouldn't fight so much. Save your strength for the party."
"Why should I do that?"
"Just be a good girl and do what I tell you, Lina-chan." He leaned in close and gave her a peck on her cheek.
"He-hey!" Lina said, flushing. She swung at him, missing terribly.
Xellos walked past her, waving a hand above his head. "Meet me in the third study in a few minutes, and I'll give you a few more details."
Lina placed a hand on her cheek, glaring at Xellos's retreating back. Who…who does he think he is?? she thought. She made an aggravated sound. Mou! There's no way I'm going to be able to tolerate Xellos for much longer!
Lina, though reluctant to follow Xellos's orders, headed in the direction opposite of Xellos. She hated to think of it as such, but she the room she entered was technically hers. Well, at any rate she used the room. It was certainty nicer than most places she stayed at during her travels, but Lina didn't enjoy it regardless. It was owned by Xellos just like everything else in the house. Just like…herself.
Lina shook her head over and over again. "Chiga! " she told herself. "Xellos doesn't own me. No one will ever own Lina Inverse!" She began going through a bag she had brought with her. Not that she was concerned about looking good, but she was decided to change her clothes. Surely Xellos would have told her if it were formal, so she went for something she'd be comfortable in; she had gotten dirty in Xellos's garden.
Lina changed into her normal outfit of a yellow shirt and black pants. She replaced her round earrings and black headband. As she got ready, she had a flash of Xellos saying "save your strength for the party." Lina glared in empty space as if he were there saying it again.
What the hell is that supposed to mean? she wondered. Knowing Xellos it has to have a secret meaning.
"Xellos-me," Lina muttered. She went out of the room and traveled slowly down the hall where she knew Xellos would be waiting.
Lina held a hand to her head as she stood just short of the gates where the invitations were collected. Xellos had given her an invitation, allowing her access to the party, yet the whole thing seemed fishy. Xellos was not to accompany her; she was to go in alone. Once inside she was to have "fun." Lina doubted this "fun" and doubted Xellos would ever attend the party. The fact that some of the attending people were vaguely familiar to Lina didn't build her confidence in Xellos. What was the importance of Lina being there?
The number of people decreased at the gate, so Lina chose that moment to enter the establishment. It was an nice-sized house (yet smaller than Xellos's) and worth mentioning. The man at the gate blinked at her when she approached and looked her up and down.
"You were invited to this party?" he asked.
"Why else would I be here?" Lina snapped. "Here." She flicked her invitation to him.
"Hmm…I guess you check out," he said. He opened the gates for her. "Have a good time."
"Hmph," Lina said as she walked past him. She remained with her cocky attitude for about ten seconds. As she neared the door of the house, she began to feel uneasy again.
What is this strange feeling? she silently asked herself. Am I just paranoid or is it a valid emotion?
Lina entered the house, was ushered to a dining hall where the other guests were, and examined her surroundings. She felt several eyes upon her as she stepped further in the room, but she did her best to ignore that. The room became silent, but Lina calmly poured herself a cup of punch as if nothing were out of the ordinary.
Lina brought her cup from her lips and eyed a man with a scar along his face addressing her from the middle of the room. "Hmm?"
"We were warned you'd crash our party!" the scarred one said. Others around him made knowing glances.
"Dare ?" Lina said, setting her cup down on the table.
The man chuckled. "So, you've forgotten us, huh?" he said. "Do you remember stealing a valuable bracelet from a pack of thieves a year ago?"
Lina blinked and rubbed her cheek with her index finger. "Eto…let me see…a year ago…" she mused.
"Hmm…" Lina said, frowning in concentration. She remained like this for a full minute before smiling sheepishly. "Gomen, doesn't ring a bell!"
All but the scarred man fell over in disbelief. The man, however, form a bead of at the side of his head.
"Doesn't matter," the man said. The others rose from the floor. "We, the Vultures, will pay you back for ruining our plan!" His words were followed by a cheer of agreement.
"What are yo talking about?" Lina said, tossing her hair back coolly. "Doesn't seem to me that you're doing badly at all."
"Get her!!" the man who was obviously the leader said.
Lina grinned as men began approaching her with swords and other weapons. "He, this is almost unexpected," she said.
Lina grabbed the ladle from the punch bowl to punch bowl to block an incoming strike to her left. She was about to get attacked from behind, but she rolled out of the way, under the table, making her attackers accidentally strike a few of their members. As she came from the other side of the table, a few sword swipes almost took off her head, but she was just fast enough to evade the blade. Using brute force and her ladle, she managed to push through the group that was now advancing towards her and begin to run off. Just as she predicted, the Vultures followed her in suit, allowing Lina a little more advantage.
"Don't let her get away!" she heard the Vulture leader call from behind her.
Lina smirked and shook her head. These guys are obviously two bit, she thought, leading them through the back exit of the house. Didn't they even think to close me in before attacking? Hmph, no wonder I beat them before… Demo, this can't be a coincidence. It's all planned a little too well…
Xellos entered the dining hall, viewing the empty room. "Ara, ara," he said, displaying his sinister grin. "Now where did everyone go?" He turned his grin upon the chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling.
Lina dusted off her hands and cracked her back. "Guess the party's over," she said. "Zan'nen da, I didn't get anything to eat. Oh, well." She put a hand to her face. "Hmm, what should I do now?"
"Hmm?" Lina glared down at the pile of men she had disposed of. Apparently one just didn't want to give up. She smirked and walked over to the man struggling to lift his head from the ground.
"Onore… Li…na… In…verse…"
"Ah, gomen," Lina said, "did I forget to put you to sleep?" Lina kicked him firmly in the jaw, causing his head to jerk up before it fell limp to the ground. "O-ya-su-mi."
Lina grinned at her finished job and started off for Xellos's, figuring her obligation to Xellos was finished. She had moved maybe a good foot before she heard a voice calling her name. Lina stopped and turned back to see Xellos approaching her.
"Lina-san!" Xellos cried again, waving his hand as if she couldn't see him.
"Xellos?" Lina was only puzzled at his sight for a few seconds; rage overtook her quickly. "Xellos!! What's the meaning of this??"
Xellos carefully stepped over the unconscious people in order to stand by Lina.
"What do you mean?" he asked with his innocent look.
"Don't play dumb with me! This whole party was a setup!"
"Setup?" Xellos put a hand to his chin as if thinking, and then dropped it as he smiled. "I guess that's one way of putting it."
"Why did you do it?"
"Hmm…sore wa himitsu desu."
"'Sore wa himitsu desu…'" Lina mimicked. She grabbed Xellos by his collar and pulled him close to her face. "What's wrong with you?? Don't you ever give a straight answer??"
"Mochiron!" Xellos said. "It's just that I can't tell you why I had to set you up."
"Where have you been anyway?" Lina demanded. "Hiding in the shadows until I finished beating up these guys?"
"Well, um… I had some business to take care of," Xellos said, waving his hand to indicate it was nothing. "When I finished, I came looking for you."
Lina threw him upon the ground. "Ow…" he said, looking up at her as if he were hurt. "Doushita no, Lina-san?"
"You wanna know what's wrong?? What's wrong is working for you! It's only been one day, Xellos--one day!"
"Sou yo," Xellos agreed, standing up and dusting himself off. "It's only been one day. It will get easier in time."
"No!" Lina said. "I've had it! I can't take it anymore!"
"Lina-san, wouldn't you like to go back to my place and eat?" Xellos suggested. He began walking down the path that lead to the direction of his house.
"No, I would--"
"Or maybe you'd like to try some of the prison food," Xellos interrupted. He never slowed a step.
Lina's mouth shut on its own. She may have wanted to scream at Xellos some more, but the mention of terrible food made her stomach take control of her body. A wave of nausea passed over her at the thought of "prison food." Lina followed Xellos with a face of half disgust and half fury.
"Prison food…" she muttered while Xellos babbled on about what they could eat for dinner, "the only thing that competes with you, Xellos, for my disgust."
To be continued...
 "It's too bad"
 "I see"
 "I understand"
 "That's wrong"
 "Who are you?"
 "Of course"
* Uh... I'll try to use less Japanese next time if that's aggravating... ^_^