Author's Note: This takes place after Next, but before Try, and is inspired by the picture of Lina and Gourry standing on a broken pillar in front of a huge moon. For some reason, I've always associated that picture with "Midnight Blue" the ending song from the Slayers Motion Picture.
Author's Note 2: This is a slightly revised version in preparation for the soon-to-be-posted Ch. 14.
"Give me all ten items on the lunch-special menu!"
"I'll have the same!"
The waiter stared in shock at the young red-haired girl and her large blond companion.
"Hurry it up, buddy, I'm starving!" the red-head glared menacingly.
The waiter quickly bowed out of the dining room and dashed over to the kitchen. Anything to get away from that look! She seemed cute and innocent at first glance, but her expression had clearly suggested that if she didn't receive her order soon, he wouldn't live to regret it!
While waiting for their food to arrive, Lina Inverse, the beautiful sorcery genius glanced over at her traveling companion. "So, Gourry, where do you want to go next?" She really didn't expect an answer, just a casual, "Haven't even thought about it". Lina only asked as a courtesy. Gourry never had any plans, but Lina had already decided what they would do next. She had come across a passage suggesting that an obscure magical artifact was in this locality. Her sources called it the "Essence of Burundi," which made it sound like some cheap perfume, but apparently it was supposed to be a pair of earrings that could store spells. The "Essence of Burundi" seemed to be similar to the Reefler that she and Gourry had once found because it stored spells for later use. The only difference was that the Reefler could only be activated by someone who didn't cast the stored spell, whereas the Essence could only be used by the original caster. It didn't surprise Lina that the Essence had been developed by a female sorceress, and she thought it might come in handy for "that time of the month," especially if the rumors were true and the item could store multiple spells. She had already mapped out their route in her mind. But instead of the casual response Lina expected, Gourry ducked his head down and took a deep breath. His reaction was so unexpected, Lina wasn't quite sure how to respond. However, just as Gourry began to say something, three waiters appeared, groaning under the weight of large trays bearing enough food to feed a family of ten for a week.
"Food!" Lina exclaimed and began to eat with gusto. Gourry joined in, and the strange . . . conversation, for lack of a better term, was forgotten.
Several entrees later, Lina leaned back with a satisfied sigh. "Oh man, was that great! Now for desert!"
Gourry made a sound of agreement, but it was clear his attention was elsewhere, which earned him the sorceress's full focus. "Gourry, what's up? You're acting kind of weird."
"Lina, you know how you asked me where I want to go next?"
Lina just nodded, not sure how to react.
"Well, I've been thinking . . ." Gourry paused, but before Lina had a chance to make a crack about him "thinking", he continued in a rush, "and I think we should go back to Sairaag."
Lina felt her stomach drop out, an interesting feat, considering how much she had stuffed into it only moments before. Sairaag was one of the last places she wanted to go, ever. Not only had the place been destroyed . . . twice . . . that was the place where Hellmaster Phibrizzo had taken Gourry, had forced him to fight against her, and had nearly killed him. She still had nightmares of Phibrizzo sealing Gourry in that crystal and the first cracks that would have meant Gourry's death. Sairaag was also the home of a certain shrine-maiden. Lina liked Sylphiel, but the way she stared at Gourry set Lina's teeth on edge for some reason. No. Sairaag was definitely not a place she wanted to revisit. In order to cover up the trepidation she felt at Gourry's suggestion, Lina deliberately misinterpreted him.
"Well, I did have something in mind, but I suppose we could visit Seyruun instead . . . . We haven't seen Amelia and Phil in a while, and Seyruun does have that great soft-serve ice cream. Speaking of which," she said, "can we get that desert cart over here mister?" The last was directed at the waiter who had originally taken their order. He stood there for a few moments trying to process the information that the two people at this particular table had just polished off twenty servings of food between the two of them, and the small red-head wanted more. His bemused expression quickly changed to terrified when Lina started glaring at him again, and he quickly retreated to the kitchen.
"Man, the service in this place is really low caliber," Lina started to complain when Gourry interrupted her.
"Lina, I didn't say Seyruun. I said Sairaag. I think we should go back to Sairaag."
Lina tried not to show it, but she was really starting to panic. "Why Sairaag?"
"Well, I just can't shake the feeling that I left something important there." Gourry said.
Lina felt a cold hand grip her heart. What could Gourry have left behind in Sairaag that was so important, that not only did he feel like he needed to go and retrieve it, but he also remembered that he needed it?
Lina looked up at Gourry, and tried to summon a light note. "So, you've been thinking that you need to go back to Sairaag and retrieve this important thing?" She gave him a mock-evil look. "Well, unless you're planning on giving me the Sword of Light, I'll just have to come along!" What Lina hoped is that Gourry would forget all about his important thing in Sairaag if she distracted him with a debate over the ownership of his family heirloom.
"Lina," Gourry looked her in the eye, and she knew that he knew what she was trying to do. Lina bit her lip and looked down.
"I'm not feeling too good right now Gourry. I think something I ate is disagreeing with me. I'm going up to my room to lay down for a bit."
"Sure, Lina. I hope you feel better in the morning. I want to get an early start. It's a long journey to Sairaag from here."
Lina walked slowly out of the dining room, not even noticing a timid waiter emerging from the kitchen pushing a well-stocked desert cart. As she climbed the stairs to her room, her mind was whirling. She did not want to go to Sairaag, under any circumstances. The memories there were too painful. Lina closed her door and locked it, going through the motions automatically, while in her mind she recalled another inn, where she awoke from a dream of Gourry, only to find herself in a reality where he had been stripped away from her. It was that moment when she realized how important he was to her, and how much she counted on his continued presence, and his vow to protect her for the rest of his life. Lina went over to her bed and sat down on it, and tried to shake herself out of the gloomy turn her mind had taken. He'll probably forget in the morning, the jellyfish brain. Then we'll continue on, chasing down bandits for their loot and sampling all the great restaurants! But somehow, Lina didn't think Gourry would forget. From his reaction to her simple question, and the fact that he still remembered it after lunch, it would seem that Gourry had been thinking about returning to Sairaag for quite some time. And when Gourry got something in his head, he tended not to forget it. It was just getting it into his head that was the problem!
Recalling the look he had given her down in the dining hall, Lina felt her face flush and a warmth in the pit of her stomach. Although one of her first thoughts had been that Gourry wanted to go to Sairaag for Sylphiel, upon reflection, she knew that wasn't the case. She knew that Sylphiel was attracted to Gourry (how could anyone not know that!), but Gourry had chosen to stay with Lina when they had gone their separate ways, even though Sylphiel had asked Gourry to help her rebuild Sairaag. Gourry may be dense, but Lina honestly didn't think that he would see no problem with having a relationship with Sylphiel, while continuing to be her protector. It just didn't ring true. But if it wasn't to see Sylphiel, then what could Gourry possibly want to return to Sairaag for? It made her blood run cold just to think about returning there, because all she could see was a mob of zombies chasing after her, a young child dead at the end of her dagger, and Gourry encased in a crystal that shattered into a thousand pieces.
The next morning, when Lina went downstairs Gourry was waiting.
"Feeling better, Lina? I went ahead and ordered breakfast."
Lina took a look at the heaps of pancakes, sausage and eggs, fruit, and fresh muffins and eased into her chair. She poured herself a large mug of orange juice and was just about to slice into a towering stack of pancakes when she noticed that Gourry wasn't eating. "Aren't you gonna eat?" Lina gestured to the food in front of her with her fork.
"I got up early and already ate. Go ahead, Lina, or the food'll get cold."
Lina set about polishing off the prodigious amount of food on the table, but it just wasn't the same without Gourry fighting her for choice morsels. She paused mid-bite and noticed he was drinking a cup of coffee. She had a flash-back to that breakfast when they were deciding to go to Sairaag, and when the food arrived, without thinking she had threatened Gourry, who of course wasn't there. She looked up at him with a troubled expression on her face. "Gourry, are you sure that you need to go to Sairaag? Are you sure you're not confused? You know the place is still a ruin. Maybe we should go to Seyruun instead and visit Amelia."
Gourry refused to meet her eyes. His shoulders slumped, but then he squared them and turned to face her. "Lina . . . I'm not sure why, but I need to go to Sairaag . . . and I want you to come with me. There's something there that I need to do, something I need to find."
"What if I don't want to go to Sairaag. I mean, there are no good restaurants there anymore, and the whole area's been cleared out, so probably no bandits to shake down either. Isn't it a waste of our time to go there now?" Lina tried not to let him see how desperately she wanted to avoid Sairaag.
"If you don't want to go, we don't have to." He paused for a moment. "But, Lina, I need to go. Please." Gourry's eyes, usually clear and sunny, were clouded. He looked confused, but determined as well. Lina was tempted to tell him that they weren't going, and that was that, but she could tell that this was important for him. Something inside her whispered that perhaps it was important for her as well, to return to Sairaag and exorcise the ghosts that had been haunting her.
"Alright, Gourry, we'll go to Sairaag. But if we run out of money because there are no bandits to beat up, we might have to hock the Sword of Light for food!"
Gourry grinned at her, seemingly relieved that she had agreed to make the trip. "I don't think we'll have to worry. There's always fish!"