The MMMCCXXIV Mazoku Ball

By nightelfcrawler

Warnings: Mild language

Okay so... in chatting with an rp partner, we ended up discovering that we had been a part of the same fandoms some 10+ years ago. She ran a website that hosted some of my old fics... which made me drag out some old dvds that I'd saved my webpages on... and lo and behold, I found these old fics hanging around still and decided heck why not bring them back. So here they are, a trip down memory lane! These were written in the late 90's and early 2000's when I went by too many psudonyms to remember. I actually forgot who I was until I physically saw the fics listed and went 'oh crap I remember those!'. Ahh memories.

Be warned... these were my first attempts at writing and are likely riddled with grammar, spelling and other noted errors. I've read through them, blushed furiously that I used to write like this, and decided to put them up anyway as-is with no revisions. So please enjoy, but don't bother correcting or whining, they shall be ignored!

Lina sighed and threw the letter down on the table. "Well damn..." she swore softly leaning back in the chair and staring out the balcony window. It was a perfect day. The sun was out sparkling brightly across the ocean, the birds soaring over the glittering waves, and the peaceful sound of the ocean crashing on the rocks.

Footsteps echoed in the hallway, and a tall blonde man stepped out in his birthday suit, rubbing a towel over his wet hair. "Lina? What's wrong?"

She gazed over at her handsome husband, smiling secretly to herself and admiring his strong body as he wrapped his strong arms around her. "Oh,
I just got a letter."

He peered over and picked up the crisp piece of paper and stared at it blankly, not being able to read the fancy scrawled writing. "What is this?"

"An invitation."

He glanced down into her ruby eyes. "For what?"

She sighed and glanced at the crisp piece of paper, handwritten in dark crimson ink... Too dark to look like ink... And tied in a purpled velvet ribbon stamped with a gold seal. It was an expensive decoration,
and very elaborate. "For a... special ceremony and celebration in a month."

"Oh, that's great!" He said enthusiastically. "I love parties." He kissed her sweetly on the cheek and she smiled, leaning back into him casually. It was the third year of their marriage, and things had been ceaselessly calm... A perfect calm, ordinary life. Lina was enjoying it to the fullest, a new twist that she'd grown to like. They had settled in a small apartment on the beach in the port outside of Sailuune. That way, they could visit their close friends and still be close to the action. However, it was given that life had been far too quiet lately.
No battles, no adventures, nothing to do.

She picked up the paper again, staring at it with some confusion. It wasn't just them, but Amelia and Zelgadis were invited as well. And they were supposed to dress cordially.

There was only one problem.

It was on Wolf Pack Island.

Now it wasn't the fact that she and her friends would be surrounded by thousands of Mazoku in the center of one of their strongholds, but that she didn't know who the invitation had come from. They hadn't seen Xelloss in over three years. He'd disappeared after their adventures ended, and had never been seen again. They would occasionally hear rumors that the Trickster Priest was up and about around the world, but never would they see him again.

She sighed and leaned back in thought as Gourry came out of the bedroom wearing his pants now and seated himself beside her kissing her lightly as he did so. "So are we going?"

She glanced up. "I don't know... Do you want to attend?"

He shrugged. "If there's free food..."

Lina stood up. "Come on, lets go tell the others then."

Within half an hour, they were at the gates to Sailuune and walking into the palace. They were immediately received and led into the receiving room, where they seated themselves and waited. It wasn't long before the sound of running feet filled the room, and Lina was tackled. "Miss Lina!" Amelia exclaimed hugging the shorter sorceress to her. "Hello!"

Lina smiled and hugged Amelia back, rather jealous at how much of a beautiful young woman she'd changed into. "Good to see you too Amelia,
how are things going?"

Amelia blushed as someone else walked into the room. It was a handsome young man with soft purple hair, stony skin, and kind eyes. Lina smiled at him. "You're looking well your highness."

He laughed nervously and rubbed the back of his head as Amelia slid an arm around his waist. "Oh Miss Lina, you know how shy he is when you call him that!"

Gourry just whacked the man on the back. "You look good Zel."

Zel smiled. "And you two look happy." He winked at Lina. "Healthy too."

Lina's face turned bright red, and her hand rested unconsciously on her abdomen where a small life lay barely started there. "Yes, we're doing quite well." She said softly as Gourry drew her close with a warm smile.
"And how about you two? There going to be any princes or princesses in store for Sailuune?"

Amelia and Zel's faces turned bright red. "Honestly Miss Lina." Amelia stammered glancing shyly away.

Zel just tried to hide his embarrassment, but squeezed Amelia's hand with his own. "Maybe." He said gently.

"Ahem, moving on!" Amelia said quickly glancing at the two with a bright smile. "So what do we owe the honor of this visit?"

Lina pulled the paper out of her satchel. "Well, Gourry and I got this announcement."

Zel took it, and he and Amelia looked over it. Once they'd finished, Zel let out a low whistle. "Is this for real?"

Lina nodded seriously. "It appears to be genuine."

Amelia frowned. "Do you suppose it was Mr. Xelloss who invited us Miss Lina?"

Lina scratched her head. "I don't know... We haven't heard for him in so long..." She shrugged. "But who else would invite us to the Mazoku Ball?"

"Huh?" Gourry asked scratching his head. "What's the Mazoku Ball?"

Lina whacked him hard on the head. "You Jelly-fish brain! It's an annual get together of all the Mazoku. I've heard that it happens once every 5 years. It's a formal dance, high social elite party, and reunion. It's something that if you're lucky, you get invited to. Only the high level monsters, those with status, or those with strong power get formal invitations, but everyone is invited to join, they just have to camp out on the island instead of stay in the suites."

Gourry scratched his head. "How do you know about this Lina?"

She shrugged. "Xelloss told me about it once when he was bored." She glanced at the invitation. "And this is a formal invitation... We've been cordially invited to be guests there."

Zel frowned with suspicion. "Why would they invite us? We're not Mazoku."

Lina shrugged. "That's what confuses me. As far as I understand, no other races have ever been allowed there." She frowned. "I think the Ryuzoku have one of these too... Same rules apply."

Amelia stared at the letter again. "So... What are we going to do?"

"Well, Gourry and I have decided to go. It's a special invitation, and if they'd wanted to kill us, they could have done so at any other time,
so it's likely not a trap."

Zel and Amelia exchanged glances. They weren't sure about the invitation. "It's probably another of Xelloss' tricks." Mumbled Zel looking disgruntled.

"Maybe, but whatever the case, it's an adventure that we can't turn down." Lina said merrily. "So we'll make preparations and set off soon enough."

Zel sighed. "Well, we can't let you go there by yourselves." He said with some resignation.

Amelia smiled. "That's right! In the name of Truth and Justice, we shall accompany you to the center of all that is evil in the world!"

Everyone sweatdropped at that, and Gourry leaned forward to whisper in Zel's ear. "How do you live with her?"

Zel just rolled his eyes and smartly remained silent as Amelia threw them a very dangerous glance.

"Right." Lina said putting her fist in her hand. "Then why don't we plan to leave in one week. That'll give us plenty of time to find out how to get there..." Everyone sweatdropped at that.

"Doesn't it give directions?" Amelia asked peering at the letter again.
"You'd think they would."

"Amelia..." Lina said putting a hand to her head. "Wolf Pack Island is out in the middle of nowhere, not on any maps, and it's assumed all Mazoku know where it is... So of course they wouldn't need directions."


"So how are we going to find out?" Zel asked quietly. "It's not like any Mazoku would willingly tell us where it is..."

Lina sat in thought for some time. "Well..." She was stumped. There wasn't anyone they could ask. She sighed in frustration. "Well, we'll think on it ne? When do we eat?"

Lina tossed and turned in her bed sweating heavily. The wind blew the gauzy curtains across the window as the warm breeze wafted in, and she sat up gasping for breath suddenly. Her eyes were wide, and she glanced to the side to see Gourry snoring loudly sprawled out in the bed. She clutched the blankets to her as she sat up, and sat in the darkness. "I know..." She murmured. "Thank you L-sama..." She whispered quietly.
"Thank you."

"You WHAT?" Zel said out loud standing up and slamming his hands down on the table.

"I said, I talked to L-sama in my dreams last night." Lina replied again calmly taking another sip of her tea.

Zel and Amelia just stared at her. "You don't just say things like that casually Lina." Zel said in a softer voice this time. "You just don't do it."

Lina shrugged. "Well, whatever." She set her cup down then stood up slamming her fist down. "We leave tomorrow."

Everyone blinked at her rather blankly. "Huh?" Gourry said with his mouth half full.

"We leave tomorrow. A guide will arrive to show us the way."

They glanced at each other and shrugged. "Ok, fine, so what do we need to bring?" Zel asked.

"Well, nice clothes... very nice. It's a formal affair. It lasts a week apparently, and there's lots of social affairs to do. And we were recommended to bring some sort of gift..." Lina mused thoughtfully.

"Gift?" Zel asked suspiciously. "What sort of gift?"

Lina shook her head. "Dunno... apparently there's a special event going on at the end of the week. That's what the gift is for." She sighed. "I don't know what kind... maybe treasure or something..."

"How about a pitcher of blood." Zel mumbled to himself. Amelia elbowed him, having heard that.

"Come on dear." She murmured to him glaring angrily.

He sweatdropped and shut up.

Lina shrugged. "I'll pull something up." She stood up. "Well then!
Amelia, care to go shopping with me?"


The sun rose brightly the next morning, to find a group of four with a suitcase each, standing on the balcony overlooking the vast expanse of Sailuune. It was time.

Lina paced back and forth uncomfortably. They were all dressed nicely,
not in their super fancy clothes, but not in fighting or casual attire either. Lina wore a simple blue dress that showed off her bright fiery hair, loose and gauzy, but practical. It was slightly reminiscent of the dress Zel had worn back in Famile. Amelia wore a simple royal gown, a light shade of violet to enhance her hair, and a white rose stuck in her hair behind her ear. Gourry was wearing a nice cream silk shirt and royal blue pants with high black leather boots, and looked quite dashing with the Hikari no Ken strapped to his belt. Zelgadis wore a nice suit of gray, with low black boots that flopped slightly to the side. A loose dark forest green cloak was fastened at his shoulders with the pin symbolizing the King of Sailuune.

They waited patiently, the soft wind blowing gently around and playing with their hair as they waited. They didn't have long to wait. There was a slight shimmer on the balcony, and then a form stood there lightly on the railing. It was a slender young woman with chin length deep purple hair blowing loosely in the breeze. She wore a tight black dress that glittered brightly in the sunlight, with a loose gauze attached to it that rippled like silk. She had high spiked heels, and a single deep blood red gem hung at her throat surrounded by glittering diamonds. Her deep amethyst eyes glittered down at them, and it sent shivers down their backs as they recognized the features on her. She smiled lightly and bowed gracefully. "Lina Inverse and company I presume?"

Lina shook free from her trance at staring at the woman and stepped forward. "That's right. I'm Lina, and this is Gourry and Queen Amelia and King Zelgadis of Sailuune."

The woman stepped off of the railing lightly and walked to them, then shook hands politely. "Xiluuna Metallium." She answered politely.

Lina did a double take. "What? Are you related to Xelloss Metallium by any chance?" She asked carefully noting the striking resemblance between the woman and the Trickster Priest.

Xiluuna smiled lightly. "Yes. He's my father." She smiled lightly at their varied reactions of shock. "He said you'd be surprised to find out." She raised a slender eyebrow in amusement. "Anyhow, we mustn't waste time here." She glanced down at their luggage. "Are you ready to depart?"

They nodded. "Yes, we're ready." Lina answered quickly.

Xiluuna nodded and they suddenly found themselves faced with an enormous black dragon that held a grace and beauty that they'd never seen before.
The dragon turned it's head to them, and it's amethyst eyes glittered.
/Climb abroad then humans / Xiluuna's voice echoed inside of their heads.

All of them looked like they had qualms about mounting the creature, but Lina climbed aboard quickly and then Gourry threw the luggage up to her while the rest climbed up. Having no place to put the luggage, Lina conveniently stored it in a subdemensional pocket of hers.

Once they were settled, Xiluuna's voice rang through their heads again.
/Hang on tightly then. This will be very fast for you./ And with that note, they found themselves plunging down towards the emerald green grass. Amelia shrieked and closed her eyes, and even Lina held her breath as they barely swooped up towards the sky, coming far too close to the ground for her comfort. Then they were shooting up through the clouds and skimming faster than their stomachs or breaths could keep up with. It was an exhilarating feeling though for Lina, as she felt the wind rush by faster than she'd ever flown by herself. Amazingly enough though, they seemed to be protected by the dragon's own bulk from the wind, and so Amelia and Lina's hair remained perfectly in place, and their clothes didn't rumple from the wind. Once they'd gotten used to the high speed travel, they took the time to admire the view. All around them was a vast expanse of clouds, though Lina had specifically remembered it had been a clear day when they'd departed the ground. She could only come to the conclusion that perhaps they were illusions to ensure that they didn't learn the route to Wolf Pack Island.

Eventually, Lina grew bored, so struck up a question to the dragon.
"So... how is Xelloss nowadays?"

Xiluuna's voice came back slightly amused. /Same as ever I suppose. /He's been kept busy recently /

Lina nodded. "He hadn't paid us a visit at all..."

The dragon shrugged slightly. /He had more important things to handle. /

Lina sighed in frustration. Ask a Mazoku, that's the answer you will get. "So... why were we invited to the Mazoku Ball?"

/You are to be special guests of honor. I don't know the details myself,
it seems not too many do actually. / Her head twisted back to eye them.
/But consider yourselves lucky. No human has ever attended the ball before, and no human has ever set foot on Wolf Pack Island and left alive. You are to be the exceptions to this rule. /

They thought about that for a long time, then fell into silence as they sped forward. They continued on in silence, not discussing anything among themselves or speaking with Xiluuna. After what seemed to be hours, they began descending. They all peered over her sides as they burst through the clouds, and what lay beneath them practically took their breaths away. A large island lay beneath them, a single volcano rising out of the middle of it, but it was surrounded by turquoise water glistening brightly, palm trees waved on the beaches, which contained pure black sand. They sped over the island, and they could feel the dark power radiating about it. They glanced up, and above them flew many Mazoku of many shapes, sizes and forms. Xiluuna sped them up the side of the volcano, and they dipped down into the center of it. There nestled in the dormant crater, was the most elaborate elegant mansion they'd ever seen. It overlooked the ocean since half of the volcano's cone was missing, and a large glistening sapphire blue lake spread out extensively before the mansion. There were tents, structures, banners,
and lots of people... in Mazoku and human and other forms milling around below. The mansion was huge. It was a large black thing, with many colored pennants flying from towers. It glistened in the light, and they all felt a shiver run down their spine at the sight of it. This was one of the highest points of evil in the world...

Xiluuna landed in a spacious clearing, and they climbed off, then she shifted back to her human form. They still felt a strange feeling as they gazed on the Trickster Priest's daughter. She looked exactly like a female version of himself. She smiled lightly, and gestured, and they followed her towards the palace. They entered, and saw there were many Mazoku milling around, some in human form, some not, but all dressed elegantly. They gave the newcomers curious gazes, but didn't pay them much heed. Xiluuna led the group past the main entryway, and down a long elaborately decorated corridor. Blood red velvet carpet decorated it,
and mahogany wood adorned the walls and ceiling, while old fashioned lamps flickered and dimly lit the hallway. Xiluuna stopped before a door and opened it, then stepped in. They followed her, and found themselves in an elaborate suite. It was luxurious and spacious, and adorned with riches, comforts, and elaborate decorations. "This is your room for the week." Xiluuna said simply. "There are two bedrooms, a large bath, and food for you." She watched them as they glanced around. "Please enjoy yourselves, feel free to roam wherever you like. Everyone here behaves civilly with each other, all differences aside. No one will bother or attack you. If something is started, it is dealt with harshly, so keep that in mind yourselves." She warned holding a slender finger up in warning. They had a feeling they wouldn't like the consequences, though she didn't tell them what they may be. "The formal festivities begin tonight at 8 in the main dining hall." She bowed slightly. "I shall take my leave then." She turned to go, and Lina smiled and waved at her.
"Thank you so much for your help Xiluuna!"

The Mazoku girl looked back at them with some surprise, then smiled back at them and nodded. "Of course." And with that she gently closed the door behind her as she exited.

They unpacked and looked around. It was a very luxurious apartment, and they were amazed at the treatment they were receiving. It was very top class... Lina couldn't help but wonder what they were up to... They all finished unpacking, and Lina stretched. "I'm going to mingle." She announced, and received stares from the others. "What? Might as well be sociable." She replied.

Zel shot her an incredulous look but shrugged. "I think you're nuts Lina, but go ahead."

Gourry yawned. "I'm going to take a nap."

Amelia snuggled up with her husband. "I'll stay with you dear." She murmured and he smiled and stroked her hair.

Lina nodded and strode out of the room, down the hall, and out the front dais into the bright sunlight. She paused to glance around. There were many many Mazoku spread out across the grounds, most of them in humanoid forms all dressed nicely. By the edge of the large reflective pool was a refreshment table with beverages and some snacks. Lina headed over there first, and glanced at it. There were many delicacies there, from escargot to chocolate, and she threw a glance at the large punch bowl filled with a deep crimson substance. She took a guess to what it was and nearly lost her appetite as she saw several Mazoku accepting it with morbid smiles. She took some wine however, and then a pastry, and stepped over to the edge of the reflective pool sipping it slowly,
enjoying the rich taste. She glanced to the side to see a young woman standing there staring out as well and stepped next to her. "Hi there."
She offered a hand out. "Quite a beautiful place here, ne?"

The woman glanced over, her light blue long hair blowing gently in the breeze. Her eyes were a deep sea color, and her ears were strange webbed fringes. She wore a sparkling blue gown that looked like splashed sea foam on the rocks of the ocean. "Yes... I suppose it is." She said in a smoothing voice. "They have spruced the place up for this event I noticed."

Lina glanced around. "Well, this is my first time here, so I wouldn't really recognize that... But it sure looks great."

The woman glanced curiously at her. "First time? Well then," She shook Lina's hand warmly. "I'm sure you're in for a treat. The celebration and festivities are not to be forgotten."

Lina smiled. "I'm Lina." She introduced herself.

"Kai." She said in a gentle quiet voice. "You are human aren't you..."
She said curiously.

Lina nodded scratching the back of her head. "Yeah... Got invited here,
though I'm not sure why."

She looked impressed. "I believe you're the first human to attend then!"
She shook her head. "Quite an impressive act, Lina-san."

Lina was very honored by Kai's actions towards her. She was still polite even though Lina had disclosed she was human. Most Mazoku were scornful,
or at least treated them like lower beings. Yet, Kai treated her as an equal. She smiled warmly. "So... Where are you from in general?"

"The Demon Sea." Kai replied.

Lina nodded, not knowing where that was, so not pressing the issue. "An ocean Mazoku huh?" She smiled. "That must be different than anything I've lived through..." She mused.

"I imagine it would. I've never spent an extended period of time on the land, these get together are the only times where I do so." She sipped her glass, filled with some water but it had kelp floating in it.

Lina nodded. "I see." She sipped her wine and looked out among the milling Mazoku. "So what sort of things are going to happen here?" She asked curiously.

Kai smiled lightly. "Well, the ceremonies open up tonight with each Dark Lord speaking their piece, and some summaries of events, available positions, news, and then general information and get together introductions to those new." She sipped her drink calmly.

Lina scratched her head puzzled suddenly by something. "Wait... ALL the Dark Lords?" She blinked. "But... Some were destroyed."

"Well, they can't speak now can they." Came the calm reply.

Lina smiled in amusement. Since she had been involved in defeated Shabaranigudo, Hellmaster, and Gaav she knew that there were only a few Dark Lords left over. "Maybe that's why I've been invited.." She mused aloud.

"Oh? Why is that?" Kai asked curiously.

"Well... I erm." She grinned. "I'm the one who destroyed Shabaranigudo and Hellmaster, and I helped in defeating Gaav."

Kai looked impressed. "YOU did that Lina-san?" She asked looking very taken aback.

Lina nodded. "Yeah... with some help from L-sama and my friends."

Kai looked thoughtful. "My my my. Such a celebrity." She smiled. "Well then, I'd better not get on your bad side then."

They both laughed. "Yeah..." Lina said chuckling.

They stood there for some time, thinking their own thoughts, then a loud voice boomed out from the palace. "The dinner is about to start. Please make your way to the Dining Hall."

Kai and Lina both disposed of their glasses and started towards the door. They shook hands again. "It's been a pleasure." Lina said brightly.

"As for me." Kai responded shaking her hand lightly. "I'm sure we'll see more of each other as the week goes by Lina-san." And they both separated and went on their separate ways.

Lina made her way back to the room, and gathered the others, then they all went following the other guests towards the dining hall. As they entered, they had to wait in line with all the other guests, and felt very uncomfortable amidst many Mazoku. Once they reached the head of the line, they saw Xiluuna there. She smiled at them welcomingly. "Hello Lina-san, minna-tachi." She glanced down at the long list she had in her hands. "You are seated at table two." She nodded to an usher, who gestured and began walking down the carpeted steps into the grandiose room. They followed him, and found themselves seated right in the front row of seats, and they glanced at their places, with the other guests who were seated at their table. There were 8 places set at each round table, and the other four guests rose as they approached and offered their hands. Lina didn't recognize any of them, but had the feeling they were fairly high up on the Mazoku ranks since they were at the front table rows. They all seated themselves, and glanced around. There were close to hundreds of tables in the huge room, and there was a raised stage with a podium and elaborate decorations set about. The other table to their left had a few guests whom she recognized. Kai was seated at table one next to a dignified looking man, and a woman lounged on the complete opposite side of the table from them, smoking and drinking a large glass of wine. Two men dressed similar to the man sat at his side,
and a woman dressed similar as well. To Kai's right sat a man and a woman who looked similar to her, with blue hair and wearing coral colors.

Lina suddenly felt shivers run down her spine as she realized that table one was most likely the highest ranks...that meant that...

Her thoughts were cut off as the MC stepped onto the stage and held a glass up and began tapping a fork against it. The bustle and hubbub of the crowd died, and he set the glass down. "Welcome everyone to the MMMCCXXIV Mazoku Ball." There was polite clapping which filled the hall with a tumult of sound. Once the sounds had died down, the MC nodded and continued. "As always, we shall open with an introduction from each of the Mazoku Lords. Unfortunately, The High Lord and two other Dark Lords are no longer with us." There was low whispers and murmurs of pity and regret, some grinning and saying all the better. Lina wanted to sink into her seat. "So we shall begin with Dynast Grausherra."

There was polite clapping, and the tall dark haired young man from table one stood up and walked up to the dais and smiled coldly out across the audience. "Greetings, I see several familiar faces. It's good to be back as always." He cleared his throat. "Well, It is an honor to be here again, especially this year. Nothing of consequence has happened in my realm in the past five years, we've had a great number of recruits however." There was clapping and slight cheering. "Which is always welcome." He nodded looking across the rows of Mazoku with cold eyes.
"So I wish you all the best of time here, and a toast." He held up his blood filled cup and many others did as well. Lina and the other humans raised their water, since they had turned down the blood, and joined the toast, then the Dynast took his seat.

The MC came back up. "Thank you Ha-ou. Next, The Deep Sea Dolphin."

Polite clapping followed, and Lina bit her lip and caught her breath sharply as she watched Kai stand and ascend the dais. She gazed out across the tables, and smiled quietly. "Greetings again friends. As always, it's too dry here for my taste, but the company is hospitable."
She glanced down and Lina realized as their eyes met that she was smiling at her. "It has been quite a day from the start, I have had the pleasure of meeting many old acquaintances, and new alike. This year is bound to be special in my eyes, there are bound to be many changes made by the end of the week." She paused and then nodded curtly. "May all of you drink your fill of pain." She stepped down as more clapping met her speech, and Lina felt slightly faint.

The MC stepped back up and nodded with a feral smile. "Thank you Kai-ou.
I'm sure we all shall drink our bellies full of the richness this week."
There was hearty agreement. "And next, Greater Beast Zelas Metallium."

As the woman rose holding her long cigarette holder and walking flauntingly, Lina's thoughts snapped back to a certain priest that they'd not seen yet. This was beginning to concern her... He should be here, given that the other generals and priests, assuming that's who they were, were in attendance. Her eyes watched the Beastmaster as she leaned casually on the podium. "Hi." She said casually taking another puff on her cigarette. "Full house yet again I see." She grinned showing a pair of long fangs. "Well, hope it's a blast for everyone. All this social formality stuff makes me sick, but then I guess sacrifices must be made. Have fun, don't mess my place up too much." She stalked back down to her seat, and polite clapping awarded her speech.

The MC stepped up again and glanced at the paper in his hand. "Now we shall hear from a very special guest... One who was invited her due to her involvement in the destruction of the High Lord, and Hellmaster and Chaos Dragon Gaav."

Lina tensed, and the others eyes fell on her. She wanted to shrink down into the ground now... if there was one thing that she despised, it was giving formal speeches in front of large audiences. Goofing off,
shouting, getting lots of peoples attention, no problem. Giving speeches however... especially in front of practically all the Mazoku in the world.

"Miss Lina Inverse." The MC finished.

There was clapping, and Lina slowly rose, and walked slowly up to the podium. Her stomach was churning. What would she say? 'Hey, it was fun killing your bosses?' She nervously stood up behind the podium and gazed out at all the slitted eyes gazing unblinking up at her. She swallowed,
and took a deep breath. "It's... a very big honor to be here..." She began, her voice shaking slightly. She cleared her throat and tried to steady her nerves. "I've been told that no other humans have ever been invited here... so I guess I'm very honored to be the first." She realized she was repeating herself, and cleared her mind and continued trying to be calm. "I know that there must be hostility among you towards me, and yet I decided to come anyway, since I wouldn't have been invited for no reason. So here I am, myself and three human friends,
surrounded by all of you, hundreds of Mazoku, not knowing what the least to expect." She paused then realized she knew exactly what to say anyway. "So... It's an honor to meet all of you, and I hope my experience here will be one of the most memorable points in my life."
And with that she stepped down. There was a moment of silence, then the hall erupted in loud voluminous clapping. She paused on the stairwell down, and glanced around realizing that a few of the Mazoku were standing clapping heartily in a standing ovation. Many still were seated, but none bore her a hostile glare. She sighed in relief as she seated herself down at the table.

Zel leaned over. "That was impressive."

"Yes Miss Lina!" Amelia said with wide eyes. "I'd have been muted. I could never have stood up there like that and talked the way you did!"

Lina blushed slightly. "I was scared stiff to tell you the truth."

"Who wouldn't be." Zel added with a raised eyebrow.

Gourry squeezed her shoulder. "You did great." And he leaned forward to kiss her on the lips passionately.

Lina blushed and kissed him back gently, and felt her fears begin to qualm.

The MC had taken his stand again. "All right. Now on to the meal. Music shall be played for your enjoyment, please enjoy yourselves." And with that the waiters began to pull their carts out and serve everyone while a full orchestra began playing dramatic triumphant tunes. The meal went without incident, and they even made small talk with the Mazoku at their table. It turned out they were higher powered ones working their way up to being priests and generals to the Dark Lords. Apparently, as the others learned, the other vacant positions created by the death of the three lords would be filled by other Mazoku by L-sama herself. It would be announced on the final day who got the lucky positions.

Lina thought this through, and nodded realizing that it was logical.
After all the meal had finished, the MC made his appearance again. "That brings an end to tonight's dinner festivities. There shall be an evening activity...tonight's game shall be a deathmatch poker game, only the most dedicated entries please, held in the Drowning room." Lina and her friends flinched visibly at the name of the room. How typical of a Mazoku mansion. "So good night for you all, please enjoy your stay." And the others began to get up and move about.

Lina stood and stretched, and the others did as well. Amelia was yawning, and Zel looked tired. "I think we're going to retire for tonight." He said and smiled at Lina and Gourry. "What are you two going to do?"

Gourry glanced at Lina and she looked around. "I think I'm going to stay here for a bit. I want to ask a question to a few people." Gourry nodded and indicated he'd accompany her.

"Ok." Zel said. "Goodnight then you two."

"G'night Miss Lina." Yawned Amelia. And with that the two headed back to the room.

Lina glanced over to table one and then stepped over to it approaching the Beastmaster. The woman turned when she noticed Lina standing there.
"Ah! The famous Lina Inverse! Well at last we meet in person." She shook her hand still holding her cigarette. "Xelloss has told me quite a bit about you."

Lina smiled in response. "I'm sure... It's a pleasure to meet you as well." She straightened up and tried to hold her breath as the Beastmaster blew a puff of smoke directly in her face. "Which brings me to a question I've been meaning to ask you... Where is Xelloss? We haven't seen him in years."

Zelas smirked. "Ah, well he's been rather busy as of late." She shrugged. "I've been having him work on another assignment."

Lina nodded. "So that's where he is now?"

"Yep. Actually, he should still be here. I think I had him doing research in the library. If you go there, you might see him." She pointed in the direction, and Lina nodded in thanks and walked off with Gourry at her heels towards the library.

They followed the dim corridor all the way to the end, where rich mahogany doors stood at the end of the hall by large windows overlooking the beach. The doors were slightly propped open, and Lina stuck her head in curiously. Sitting at a table with a glowing globe above his head,
scribbling away on a piece of paper with a quill pen, perched on a stool with piles of books around him nearly as tall as he was, sat Xelloss bent over the table, hunched and scribbling furiously. Lina and Gourry watched him silently for a while. He had changed quiet a bit since they'd last seen him. His hair was longer, about midway to his waist,
pulled back in a loose tie. His face looked the same as ever, though his eyes were open as he wrote. He wore a loose black silk shirt and matching pants with silver trim along the sleeve cuffs and the neckline.
High boots went up his calf made out of leather, and a long silver chain hung about his neck with a deep blood red stone in it.

Lina slowly stepped into the room with Gourry behind her, not hiding their noise.

He didn't pause writing. "I'm busy, come back later." He said not slowing in his work.

Lina cleared her throat. "Well, sure if that's what you'd want Xelloss..."

He stopped, and glanced up at them, his eyes looking startled. "Lina!"
He said quietly in surprise. "What in hell are you doing here?"

She grinned. "Nice new image Xelloss." He glanced halfheartedly down at his attire and smiled lightly still with his eyes open seriously. "It looks very... Dark on you. Fits you." She walked forward and they stood facing each other.

He nodded. "You two look well." He smirked and a shadow of the Trickster returned to his solemn face. "And very content with each other." He winked at Gourry. "Is she satisfying?"

Gourry blinked blankly, but Lina fumed and smacked his head in irritation. "You haven't changed much after all."

He rubbed his head, and smirked. The whole time though he'd been serious not using his slitted smiling eyes. Lina wondered why. "Yes, well some things never change." He sat back down on the stool. "So what are you two doing here? I seriously doubt you came all this way just to pay me a visit."

Lina smiled. "Maybe." Then she laughed. "Actually, we were invited to the Mazoku Ball..."

He blinked in surprise, his amethyst eyes wide. "Really?" He blinked then suddenly looked bitter. "Well, good for you."

She frowned noticing his behavior. "Why are you stuck up here instead of downstairs with everyone else?"

He turned back to the table and began to write again. "I've got work to do." He mumbled.

She stared at his back in confusion. "Work? Zelas is making you work?"


She blinked and suddenly thought how unfair that was. All the Mazoku were supposed to be in attendance if they could come, and Zelas was purposely having her high General and Priest working instead of attending. That made Lina very angry and upset. She really could care less, but it was unfair. "That's not right!" She did a double take.
"Kami-sama, I'm beginning to sound like Amelia..."

Xelloss chuckled dryly and turned back to them. "Yes..." He shook his head with his eyes closed sadly. "It doesn't matter. I never enjoyed the parties anyway."

Lina sensed the lie in his words. "BS." She snapped and he looked up at her with amusement. "You hate this and we know it."

He shrugged. "Perhaps, but it's my mistress' will, so I don't despute or complain about it Lina." He said firmly, his eyes locked on hers.

She stared back unwaveringly at him, then sighed. "Yeah." She glanced around at the library. The books were stacked high to the ceiling in their shelves, and she couldn't see all the way to the top. "So..." She looked back down at him. He was leaning casually back watching them solemnly. "We met your daughter." She grinned at him. He smirked lightly and closed his eyes. "When'd this happen?"

He chuckled dryly. "It's not like humans Lina." He said coolly. "I created her from a part of myself to help me out. She's my second in command, so to speak."

Lina nodded slowly. "I see."

He laid the quill down. "I created her to aid me in my work here, and it has been greatly lessened with her helping." He glanced up at Lina.
"She's very loyal."

Lina shrugged. "She's a lot like you."


There were footsteps from outside then, and they all glanced at the door to see Zelas walk in still puffing away. "Oh, hello there Lina." She walked up to the table and leaned over Xelloss' shoulder. "Hmmm...
slacking off?" She inquired piercing him with a sharp gaze.

He visibly flinched and sighed. "No ma'm." he began writing again wordlessly, and she turned back to the humans. "Well, it's been quite a day for you two. Why don't you go relax and enjoy the spas. They are delightful to soak in." She grinned coldly at them, and Lina got the hint.

"Right, thank you." She said politely bowing. "It was good seeing you again Xelloss." She said throwing one last glance at the back of his head, and she thought she saw him slightly turn his head sideways and throw her a small smile behind Zelas' back. She took Gourry's arm and departed with him back to their room.

Later that night, Lina found herself unable to sleep. She sighed and tossed and turned restlessly, and eventually ended up sitting up in bed,
and staring at Gourry who was snoring away peacefully. She smiled to herself, then slid out of bed and slipped out onto the balcony. It was a warm night, the tropical air blowing lightly and lifting the gauze curtains lightly into the room. She sat on the railing looking out across the dark expanse of the ocean, her thoughts as tumultuous as the waves. She couldn't get her mind off of Xelloss. He'd seemed miserable... Stuffed in that library, not being able to attend the ceremonies, and it seemed to her that he'd been there for some time.
Zelas treated him so... so much like she had him in an iron cuff.
Granted, she was his mistress and he would do anything, even die for her, but still... if Zelas thought so highly of him to make him both her priest and general, then why coop him up doing paper work?

She sighed and leaned against the wall closing her eyes. "Damn..." She admitted it to herself now, since they'd traveled so much together, been through so much, and known each other for some time, she'd become attached to the Mazoku as a friend. Even if she said she hated him, and she sure didn't trust him, she did care about his well being. He was a friend, however odd it may seem.

"You look profoundly in thought." Came a soft voice from beside her.

She nearly fell off the railing in shock. Leaning against the wall in the shadows, was the object of her thoughts. "Xelloss!" She sighed and righted herself, pulling her robe closer around herself. "Don't scare me like that."

He smirked and stepped out of the shadows to join her at the railing.
"But it's so fun to see your face Lina-san." He grinned insolently at her, and she hit him on the arm with an annoyed look.

"So, she let you off?"

He shrugged. "I'm on a short break yes."

She sighed. "How can you stand that Xelloss? I'd hate to be cooped up like you are."

He didn't reply, but stared across the ocean with a wistful look. "You get used to it."

She glanced at him. "You've changed a lot Xelloss..." She stated quietly. "What's happened to you?"

He turned his amethyst eyes to her, and they glittered brightly in the moon's illumination. "What makes you say that?"

"You're too serious."

He didn't answer, but he did turn his head away and close his eyes in thought. "Yes... I've become more so in the past few years." He shrugged. "I guess it's the equivalent of human depression."

She glanced over at him. "You're miserable."

He didn't answer.

She sighed. "Xelloss..." Her gaze shifted back to the ocean. "Have you ever tried to talk to her about it?"

He shook his head. "I can't do that Lina. She's my mistress. I do what she orders without question."

She frowned. "Yeah, but this isn't like you to do desk-work." She frowned. "I mean, she made you BOTH her priest and general, so you must be worth a lot to her, and she does this?"

He turned his gaze up to the moon shining down on the sea brightly.
"It's like the old saying goes... 'Face thy life without fear, and thou shalt live long. Face life with true desires and thou shalt attain glory and happiness. Face life with doubts and hesitation, and thou shalt die young'"

Lina frowned at him. "Who said that?"

"I did."

She stared at him. "You?"

His head lowered slightly. "Yes... "

She frowned. "That hardly sounds like something you'd say... plus,
that's an old saying."

"I have been around for a while Lina."

She nodded slowly. "I figured... but how long have you lived Xelloss?"

He was silent for a long time, then spoke. "About 2000 years. I lost count a while ago."

She stared at him. "You were human before you were a Mazoku weren't you...?"

He nodded wordlessly, closing his eyes in thought. "That was a very long time ago Lina-chan."

She gazed at him thoughtfully. "I think there's still part of you that's human buried deep inside still though..." She said quietly. "If there wasn't, you wouldn't be so glad to see us."

He glanced at her, his eyes looking reflectively sad for a moment, then misting over. "Perhaps... But I can never go back to that, if that's what you're eluding to Lina-san."

She shook her head. "No. I didn't think you could. I'm just saying,
you're more down to earth and in contact with humans and humanity in general than anyone else I've met... On the Mazoku side anyway."

He smiled slightly. "I'm not sure if I should thank you or scold you..."

She smiled to herself. That was a good a thanks as Xelloss managed.
"Yeah, well don't strain yourself."

He smirked lightly and they stared out across the ocean wordlessly for several long minutes. Then he straightened. "I'd best be getting back to work now." He turned back to her and took her hand in his own and kissed it with a gentle flourish. "Thank you for your company."

She blushed slightly. "You're a smoothie Xel." She said yanking her hand from his. "Don't work too hard now."

He smirked, and vanished into the darkness.

Everywhere... it was astounding. Lina stood at the awning and stared down into the ballroom with slightly shimmery eyes. It was one of the most beautiful scenes she'd seen in her life before... all the Mazoku were dressed in their best. The women wore stunning evening gowns, the men fine suits, silks, and coats. It looked like a formal dance at an Emperor's court. She glanced up at her dashing husband, and he smiled down at her with bright blue eyes, and offered his arm politely. She curtsied and accepted it, and they walked down the stairs into the ballroom. Gourry wore a fine silk blue shirt with a white coat, and black pants. Lina wore a glistening dark royal blue dress that hugged her body tightly (though she'd made sure to stuff sufficiently) and had a long slit up the side of her leg. It made her flaming hair stand out strongly in contrast, and she wore a sparkling sapphire and diamond necklace that had been a wedding present from Prince Phil. Her hair was curled and piled in fiery ringlets down the side of her face, bouncing slightly with each step.

Zel and Amelia followed them into the room, dressed in their finery as well, and equally admiring the scene. They all approached the dance floor, and Gourry turned to Lina and bowed formally. "May I have this dance M'lady?"

Lina smiled and took his arm. "Of course my gentleman." And they clasped hands and swept themselves into the swirling rhythm of dancers to the elevating music that soared through the room. As they swept across the floor like a bird flying over the low water of the ocean, Lina felt her heart beating wildly to the passioned music and mood of the surrounding dancers. She gazed up longingly into Gourry's eyes, and he returned the gaze, and they once again felt that tingling sensation that hung with them every moment of their lives, every heartbeat, every breath...

All the dancers performed their best, a never-ending sweep of beauty and grace. Eventually, the humans tired, and retired to a table to the side,
watching the flow of the moving dancers with smiles on their faces. "You know..." Lina stated taking a sip of wine. "I never thought that the Mazoku would be like this among themselves... they're so civilized and...normal."

The others nodded in agreement. "Yes... Though I'm sure it'll change when we go back home." Zel said thoughtfully, sweeping some of his hair out of his face. "For now, we are at peace with them, and they are at peace with each other, but once we all leave this island, we're at war once again."

Amelia sighed. "It's so odd..." Her voice trailed off as she glanced up, having been admiring the chandeliers, but a movement caught her eye,
and she saw high above them on a balcony, a figure was leaning watching the scene below. "Miss Lina? Isn't that..." She trailed off, pointing up at the figure.

The others glanced up, following Amelia's finger, and saw the figure there. "Yeah.." Lina said quietly. "Wonder what he's doing..." She frowned as they gazed up at him, each thinking their own thoughts. Lina suddenly stood up.

"Where are you going?" Gourry asked.

"Going to go talk to him." She said. "It's ok, you can stay here."

They watched after her with some confusion on their faces, but didn't say anything as she exited the room. She made her way up the nearest stairs, and found her way after a few wrong turns to the balcony where he still stood there watching the dance below. She stopped at the entry of the balcony, hesitating. He didn't seem to be aware of her prescience, but as she moved forward, he turned his head to look at her.
"Hi." She said softly coming up beside him and looking down at the swirling melding of people below. "You look really lonely up here by yourself."

He shrugged. "If you say so."

She sighed in frustration. "Come on Xelloss... we both know you're playing games here." She glanced down and saw her friends glancing up at them. She waved, and they waved back. "Why don't you ask her if you can join them?"

He shook his head. "No... I can't."

She scowled. "Why not?"

"Because he's not allowed to is why." Came the familiar voice of the Beastmaster.

They glanced aside to see her walk up from the stairwell. "Xelloss...I am disappointed."

Xelloss looked mortified, and he immediately bowed before her. "I apologize Mistress."

She scowled angrily, and threw Lina a glare. "For this you shall be punished." She crossed her arms. "Get up."

He slowly stood and kept his eyes focused on the ground. Lina felt an inner rage building up inside of her. She knew the Beastmaster and her servant would feed off of it, so she quenched it inside of her before it could bubble out.

"Come with me, both of you." Zelas commanded turning and striding down the stairs.

Xelloss followed dutifully after her, and Lina brought up the rear,
anxiety fluttering around her stomach. She'd been told that she wouldn't be harmed here, but she was in the nest of the hornets so to speak...anger them, and they sting.

They emerged at the entrance of the ballroom, and Zelas turned and faced them. "You wanted to join the festivities? Well, here's your chance."
She snatched his chin and yanked it up sharply.

From inside, Lina could see Zel, Amelia, and Gourry peering anxiously at them, worried looks on their faces. Lina glanced at them, saying in her glance for them to stay put.

Zelas smirked slightly. "So." She looked him up and down. "Hmmm I suppose your appearance is presentable." She glanced back into the room,
and noted that the MC was standing up on the stage waiting for the music to stop to begin announcements. "You wanted to be in the party. You get to be in the party." She walked down into the room, and he and Lina followed. She stopped at the table where the other humans waited, and took a chair and seated herself. They both joined them, and glanced nervously at each other. Zel was glaring at Xelloss with a murderous gaze, and Amelia was staring at him, trying to figure him out as usual.
But this time, the Trickster didn't hide anything. The look of what he was thinking, and feeling, was written plainly on his face.

The music had stopped and everyone was taking seats, and standing to the side calming and quieting down. The MC nodded, then spoke up loudly.
"Well, now the moment where the peak of our ceremonies come to a point."
He stood to the side and went down on one knee. "Mazoku gents and ladies... I present to you, the King that shines like gold on the sea of Chaos... The Lord of Nightmares."

Almost instantaneously, all the Mazoku were down on their knees, bowing in respect. Lina and her companions followed suit, and watched the stage with their breaths held. There was a bright gold and black glow from that area suddenly, and then light and dark poured out at once. Then, a vague shape began to form in the image of a young woman, and the light dimmed until it was just a slight glow around the individual. It was a tall slender young woman wearing a golden dress down to the floor, gauze pouring down from it. Her face held youth and age all at once, and her golden eyes looked out serenely across the kneeling Mazoku and humans.
Her long golden hair tumbled down onto her bare shoulders, and glistened in the faint light. /GREETINGS, MAZOKU / Came the reply that boomed in all their heads, both musically and atonally. /YOU MAY RISE / They did,
but remained sitting or standing in respect. /MANY CHANGES HAVE OCCURRED IN CHAOS. THERE MUST BE AN EQUALITY BALANCE IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN THE UNIVERSAL ORDER. / Everyone listened completely, not speaking or moving as the Creator spoke. /FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS... TWO NEW DARK LORDS MUST BE CHOSEN. / Her gaze slid across the attendees. /SYLARA SUNRA AND IIDO MU STEP FORWARD. / The two individuals named did so without hesitation or any outward reaction of showing their excitement of being chosen to become Dark Lords. As they knelt before her, she touched their foreheads, and a black power flooded through them and enveloped them.
When she pulled back, there were two new Dark Lords. /LORD OF WAR AND STRATUS MASTER / L-sama boomed indicating their new titles, they bowed and faded back into the crowd.

L-sama's gaze flew over the Five Mazoku Lords. /NOW, A LEADER SHALL BE CHOSEN FOR YOU. / Her gaze landed on the man with the dark hair.

L-sama's gaze swept over the whole audience. /FINALLY, THE HIGH DARK LORD TO REPLACE RUBY-EYED SHABARANIGUDO. /

Everyone's breath seemed to be held. Who would be so powerful as to merit such a title? Lina had thought that it would have been one of the Dark Lords, but apparently that wasn't the case.


Lina heard a startled gasp from beside her, and glanced over in shock,
along with the rest of their company to stare at Xelloss, who was standing there with wide eyes, and a pale face. Zelas was staring at him as well, her mouth open in shock.

/XELLOSS METALLIUM... STEP FORWARD / The Creator's voice boomed out again.

Taking one halting step, then slowly walking down the parting rows of Mazoku before him, Xelloss strode slowly towards the front lines with a rather stunned look on his face. Everyone's breath in the hall was held... every Mazoku had heard of the Beastmaster's legendary servant,
but none had expected he would have been promoted to the High Dark Lord... one of L-sama's four trusted Mazoku servants... Least of all, Xelloss himself.

He reached the front, and went down on one knee before her, bowing his head with his eyes closed. /XELLOSS METALLIUM, YOU HAVE SERVED YOUR MISTRESS LONG AND LOYALLY, AND HAVE GAINED MY ATTENTION THROUGH YOUR ASSOCIATIONS WITH THE HUMAN LINA INVERSE. / Lina's breath caught slightly. She was also well known since she had housed L-sama's form once, and been able to emerge from being consumed. /THEREFORE, YOU ARE THE TRICKSTER DARK LORD. YOUR CONTROL OF THIS WORLD'S DARKNESS SHALL BE USED THROUGH YOUR ABILITY TO CONTAIN MAGIC. / L-sama touched Xelloss'
forehead, and the entire room suddenly darkened brilliantly,
intensifying around him. It was as if a black hole were sucking all life, magic, and energy from them. Then, it ended slowly, and L-sama removed her hand from his head. /THAT IS ALL. I SHALL REAPPEAR IN FIVE YEARS FOR THE NEXT GATHERING. / And with that, L-sama faded from existence in a bright golden streak of light that spun up into the heavens.

It was deathly silent for a long time, then slowly murmurs and movements began to shift around as everyone broke out of their trances. Lina and the others exchanged wide eyed glances. "Damn..." Zel muttered. "Now we're up against HIM!"

Lina chuckled quietly and shook her head. "I think he's a surprised as anyone."

Sure enough, they all glanced over to see Xelloss slowly raising to his feet, the lesser Mazoku keeping a good five feet's distance from him. He turned about, and they saw that there was deep blackened gold band around his head with a rich purple stone that seemed to have an inner light contained inside of it right in the center, resembling a crown.
Essentially, Xelloss was now the ruler of the Mazoku.

The Dark Lords were bowing around him, and shaking his hand congratulating him. He nodded, seeming a bit out of it still. Lina and the others tried to make their way up to congratulate him, but since there were too many others wishing to do the same, they couldn't get through. Eventually, they gave up and headed back to their rooms for the night... reflecting on the seemingly impossible event that Xelloss was now the ruler of all evil in the world.

As Lina lay in bed and began drifting off to sleep she couldn't help but think that Martina would be thrilled.

Most of the guests were leaving. It was the end of the week, and all the festivities were over, which meant back to the real work. Lina and her friends were dressed in their normal outfits for the first time that week, and had their luggage packed in storage space somewhere in the recesses of Lina's cloak. They were gathered out front, shaking hands with some Mazoku and taking their last looks around when a familiar voice chirped up. "Leaving so soon? I'm offended!"

They turned to see Xelloss smiling like his normal self again. He wore the same outfit, and the strange circlet on his forehead seemed to give him a more regal look. He opened his eyes and they glittered at them.
"After all, once you leave you may not come back."

Lina smiled lightly. "It was nice while it lasted, but being around hundreds of Mazoku is slightly hard on the nerves you know."

He chuckled softly. "I imagine." He then turned serious. "Actually... I wanted to ask you something Lina." His eyes glittered at her seriously.
"In private preferably."

She glanced up at him warily but nodded and walked off with him leaving the others. They walked calmly around the edge of the reflective pool,
and Lina crossed her arms as they walked. "So what do you wanna talk about Xelloss?"

He was silent for a while, then stopped and looked at her evenly. "I know your feelings about the Mazoku, and understand them. Yet, I still pose this question to you." She waited with her arms crossed and a stoic expression on her face. "I offer you the opportunity to become one of my vassals."

She blinked in astonishment. One of his vassals? She stared at him, and his amethyst eyes stared back unblinkingly at her. "You mean..." She said quietly."

He nodded. "Yes."

She took a big breath and closed her eyes in thought. He was offering her the chance of a lifetime... enormous power... high rank...
and his favor... yet... She looked up at him. "I would have to become Mazoku wouldn't I?" He nodded. "Then the answer is no." She said firmly. "I appreciate your offer, and am honored, but it's not something I could do."

He nodded in understanding. "I figured as much." He smiled lightly at her. "Then let me offer you one more thing." He held his hand out and a glowing black ball appeared in it, sparkling with purple electricity.
"Take this."

She stared at it suspiciously. "What is it?"

"A gift."

She glared up at him. "Knowing you, I won't accept anything without knowing what it is, and what the consequences are."

He smiled lightly. "I guessed as much." He winked at her. "Well Lina-san, what this is: sore wa himitsu desu." He winked at her, caught her look and smirked. "It's a gift Lina-san, no tricks, nothing negative. It will not harm you or any of your companions, nor cause them any grief." He nodded at her. "It's my extension of gratitude for you.
You got me this position, I owe you."

She looked at him, and caught his honesty, and nodded holding out a hand. The black ball floated into her hand and then faded into it. She felt a strong wash of power, but didn't understand it. But he was right,
it didn't feel threatening or wrong. She looked up at him. "Thanks..."

He nodded. "Sayonara Lina-san, till we meet again."

She shook his hand. "Good luck, High Dark Lord." She said with a wink to him.

He returned her smirk, and winked. "You haven't gotten rid of me yet,
Lina Inverse." And with that he vanished.

She made her way back to the others, and they immediately questioned her, but she just shrugged and said she'd explain later, and they made their way towards their transportation home.

It was a month later when they were all gathered for Amelia's birthday party, that it happened. Amelia was just about to blown out the candles on top of her cake, and was closing her eyes and taking her breath, when Lina felt a buildup of power inside of herself. The instant Amelia blew the candles out, it left her, and she was left staring bemused in confusion. The others caught her look, and stared at her. "Daijoubu Miss- Lina?" Amelia asked worriedly.

Lina blinked slowly. "I'm not sure..." She said quietly. "I felt an odd buildup of power just before you blew out the candles, then it was gone after you did so..." She looked up confused at Amelia. "Did you do anything unusual?"

Amelia shook her head. "I just made my birthday wish..." She said frowning slightly.

Lina suddenly jerked. /"Well Lina-san, what this is: sore wa himitsu desu. It's a gift Lina-san, no tricks, nothing negative. It will not harm you or any of your companions, nor cause them any grief." / She looked slowly up at Amelia. "Just out of curiosity, what did you wish?"
She asked slowly.

Amelia cocked her head to the side. "Just that Zel could turn back to a human like he wants."

As if to response to that, a sudden crackling of energy surrounded the room, and everyone's eyes snapped to Zel who was the center of the energy. He stood up looking freaked out, and lifted his hands out to stare at the black energy that was encircling his body... everyone stared in horror. "Zel!" Amelia cried out and tried to rush to him, but Lina held her back.

"Hold on! Let's watch!" She said with apprehension in her voice.

Before their eyes, the black energy seemed to cling to him, and he made motions as if to wipe it off, but it seemed to cling to him and pass through his fingers. Then, there was a flash of light, and they were left rubbing their eyes which held stars from the brilliant flash. When their eyes cleared, they were rooted wide open to Zel.

He was rubbing his eyes himself, mumbling something in a low voice, and apparently hadn't noticed the change, but it was painstakingly obvious to the others. "Z...Zel?" Amelia whispered, her eyes wide and adoring.

He glanced up. "What the hell was that?"

Amelia threw herself into his arms, and he looked slightly surprised,
then wrapped his arms back around her, smiling quietly. "It's ok, I'm fine..." His voice died off as he caught sight of his hand stroking Amelia's head. He froze, his eyes got very wide, and his breath caught.

Her eyes danced up happily at him. "You got... my birthday wish to you..."

He was staring open mouthed, speechless at his human flesh.

Lina smiled. "Sou ka... that was the gift then.." She murmured.

"Huh?" Gourry asked.

"Xelloss." Lina explained. "When we were about to leave he pulled me aside, remember? Well, he offered me a chance to be one of his servants,
with all the power and benefits. I turned him down, so he gave me a gift, but wouldn't tell me what it was."

They all looked at her with wide eyes. "So...What was it then? The power to turn Zel back into a human?" Amelia whispered quietly.

"Not exactly." Came an echoing voice from above them. Al their eyes jerked up to see Xelloss sitting on the chandelier above them, grinning down. "It's more general than that."

"Xelloss!" Zel shouted glaring up at him. "What did you do to me?"

He looked hurt. "Why Zel, I thought you wanted to be human."

He glared at him. "Well yeah, but there's got to be a catch to this." He replied suspiciously.

Xelloss shook his head. "No catch this time. It's a gift as I said. What it is, is this:" He put his index finger on the side of his nose and winked. "It is a one wish granter per person."

They blinked. "One wish?" Lina asked curiously. "You mean... each of us get one wish granted."

"That's right." The High Dark Lord nodded with a grin.

They looked at each other. "No catch?"

"Absolutely no catch." He paused. "Oh, wait there is one limitation."

Their eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What would that be?" Lina asked.

Xelloss smiled wider. "It has to be something the person receiving the wish truly wants in their heart." He nodded. "Nothing silly like a treasure chest." They exchanged glances with each other, and Xelloss stood up still clinging to the chandelier. "Well then! Good wishing to you!" And with that he vanished.

The others glanced at each other, and broke out into wide smiles. "This calls for some celebration." Amelia said brightly.