What's in a Memory?
Disclaimer: For one I'm too young to own Slayers, and second I didn't even start watching it until it was on instant play, on Netflix. So it's not mine.
Lina stared blankly at the book she had borrowed. A month since they had first met Selvin in the inn, and two weeks since they arrived in the city and still she knew very little. Almost nothing. Frustration bubbled within her and she slammed the book shut, rising from the small desk in the room had been given to her. Pacing she ran through what she did know, the plot was ten years old, Callie's Fiance had been kidnapped leading Gourry to some sort of hint that caused him to take the sword and loose his memory. In the same time period Gerard's wife lost her family and trained to get a lead on Xellos.
There was also Xellos.
He was involved this, and all in this same time period he ran around having adventures or causing chaos, and on Beast Master's orders helping them. His place in this made little sense. What was here Beast Master might care about? If it had been the Sword of Light that was long gone and they knew it. But if Xellos had accept a deal... The ear of a ruler might be worth it.
And the murder attempts...
It seemed to her she was the fly in the ointment, the unaccounted for veritable.
Lina smirked, she was very good making things go wrong. She needed more information, and likely the only way to get it was to poke and prod. Another thing she was good at. The thing was she needed to survive to share it. Which fed right into the dilemma that hadn't been solved by her hiding from Gourry.
She hadn't talked to him in more than a day, they both been there at dinner and he had seen her fight with Gerard: something that had been talk of the castle for most of the day, but he had barely seemed to look at her, and when he did it was with shuttered eyes. She couldn't read his face, but she still could see he was angry with her. It was in his shoulders, even as he pretended to listen to Aella, as he waited upon Desdemona, his lack of appetite. The few times she had ever seen him mad it had always been at her, but the brother Callie described was finally here.
He did very well as an Ice Prince.
Worse was his silence was working, the cold stabbed at her in ways that only Phibrizzo had ever managed before. In was shocking how much it hurt, she knew when it came to him she was weak, and soft and everything she had tried to never be. But Gourry had crept right in and some how she didn't, couldn't kick him out. With him she always felt girlish, and soft, early on she resented it, and then she became accustomed to covering it with rough and tumble words. Then she had lost him.
She hadn't said the words aloud since, she refused but it didn't change the fact she knew.
Lina ran a hand over her face, her feet moving without her permission, because Xellos knew that too. Hell he probably knew better than her the depth of her feelings. It was probably only her denial that made it bearable for him, but if his goals ran contrary to hers he wouldn't hesitate to use that knowledge to kill her.
So she should stop hiding from Gourry and apologize, it wouldn't kill her. Likely. Besides she was the one in the wrong and- she was the one in love, not him. Shaking her head, putting her worries to the side for now she left the room and started hunting for Gourry.
Saul, when she saw him was unhelpful and seemed angry with her. It was subtle but the spark in his eyes, was either resentment or fury and she was leaning towards the latter. No one else she had talked to had seen Gourry. It was starting to tick her off, she had hid from him, but what gave him the right to leave the castle or hide from her? What if something happened?
Frustrated she checked first with Gerard and then Selvin, and then she even went through the trouble of looking Aella and Desdemona up. They all were some level of useless, Gerard even had the nerve to comment, that his brother had a habit of disappearing when he was pissed.
She had just barely avoid mentioning she liked to blow stuff up or rob idiots blind when she was mad.
That would not have been helpful.
But not being able to find Gourry was starting to grate on her, she was looking for him and had even been planning on apologizing but instead he has the nerve, the shear gall to avoid her back. She was brought out of her dangerous high dungeon by a hiss: turning she found Kara peeking out from behind a door.
"I knew you'd come back this way Ms. Lina- quickly in here!"
Confused she followed Kara in, something was wrong: Kara was frightened, her gray eyes more blue than before, and she had red-rimmed eyes, like she had been crying in fear. The door shut and Lina in her cursory inspection had noticed it was some unused but large greeting room. Meant for twenty some people maybe more but the real impressive part of it was the views over the garden. It also was basically empty, all the doors shut and locked. If Kara had learned something this was a poor choice for a hiding spot, murdering her could be quick and easy with Xellos' powers.
But on the other hand it could a be a trap for her.
On guard, she turned to Kara: Kara was staring at her with big tearful eyes, her hands displayed the agitation she had yet to give voice to. If she had been holding something it would have been torn to shreds very quickly.
The silence drew out and Kara opened her mouth trying to say something, only to close it and shudder, taking deep breaths trying to sooth herself enough to speak sensibly. Clearly whatever was going on she was terrified. "Calm down Kara, take a deep breath and start at the beginning."
Kara took a shaky breath, and then another. "I was- was taking a note to Princess Cecilia. I was coming back and heard something from a room I knew should be empty. I stopped because I thought I knew one of the voices."
Lina nodded trying to hurry her along, a chill creeping across the back of her neck. Kara had information, but she was likely running out of time to share it.
Kara choked a little on her next words. "-they were discussing you and Prince Gourry. The murder attempts- the next one. They were going to get rid of you, you're in their way."
"Way of what?"
"Taking over the kingdom I think." her words were hush with horror; her eyes wide and her shakes starting all over again.
"Who?" Lina reached out, not sure if she was going to shake her or try to support her.
Kara grabbed her wrists, stopping her from touching her. Her eyes were still terrified but she was seemed focused, intent. "They intend to some how control Prince Gourry- but the next time you two are alone they were saying that was the chance to attack. I didn't understand- I don't understand how would Gourry help them if he's dead?"
Lina felt a gasp escape her at the implications. She knew of too many ways to control someone, far far too many. The easiest would be clones- replace Gourry with a controlled clone kill the others... you could have pulled off a coop without the faces on the throne changing. That was bad. Now she was shaking too. "Kara who was in that room?"
Kara shook, letting go of her wrists: Kara then crossed her arms as if to protect herself. Looking away fear present on her face. "I didn't look, I was too scared."
Kara looked at her, eyes ringed with red, lips trembling, her voice seemingly absent. Lina watched her swallow, her eyes closing for a moment to gather strength. Then she spoke in a harsh hiss: "Arian! He was there-"
"Who?" Lina was baffled, she didn't know that name and Kara said it with such venom.
Kara's lips trembled again but she answered. "He was courting me- then he didn't care about me any more. He's Sir Norvin's second."
Lina nodded and prompted her for more, even as her mind raced. Perfect placement. And if he was who she thought wasn't he the one who had call her and Gourry in to the castle? Not to mention if what she guessed about copies was true- it could explain the change of character.
"Bomani was there, and I think he said something about Edzard and if Edzard is in on it so is Ellert and Carlotta almost caught me so I ran but I think they know someone over heard and it can't be that hard to figure out it was me and..." she was hyperventilating.
Touching Kara's shoulder Lina tried to keep up with the stream of names. "Kara slow down I don't know any of these people. Who is who?"
"Bomani, Edzard and Ellert are the chief butlers, Bomani is most senior followed by Edzard and Ellert. Ellert is Edzard's brother and they only answer to Ms. Gina- They manage a lot, shipments to and from the castle, who sleeps where, how many bodies are in the castle. Ms. Carlotta is Ms. Gina's second. When Ms. Gina retires in four months Ms. Carlotta is suppose to take over for her."
In other words perfect spies, and well placed to keep appearances up.
The idea people in the castle had been replaced with copies or dolls was terrifying, everyone: even people who should be in the clear now fell under suspicion because they wouldn't be doing it for their own reasons but their creators.
The scope of what it would take to manage this and go so long without notice-
She was shaking too.
But why did it take so long? why so slow? what could possibly make it worth waiting so long?
"Did you hear anything else? Who gave the orders? Was anyone else in the room? Did you hear how or who would try to kill me and Gourry?"
Kara shook her head, "They were talking about work for some of it, guest placement, then when or where you and Gourry would be likely to be alone. They didn't say how, but I got the feeling they want to avoid a face to face fight. They are scared of you, and the man who was giving the orders thought they were underestimating you."
"Did you catch his name?"
Kara shook her head hard, but shook with a new tremor of fear. "But when Arian asked why Highness didn't send him- he laughed and said-"
Lina cut her off knowing exactly who had been speaking. "It's a secret." Her heart had fallen to a new low, past her stomach now it was hanging somewhere down around her ankles. If she had any doubts about how deep Xellos was in, they were now gone. Shit.
"They called their leader Highness?"
Kara nodded. "It's a nick name I heard about from my parents it's-"
Lina was leaning in, completely focused; hope rising that she finally had proof, or a lead, when Kara choked. For a second Lina was confused, than Kara coughed, red splattering from her lips.
Lina felt the blood splatter her face, and throat. It was warm, and Lina felt a chill run down her spine. Looking down she saw the swirl of black sticking out of Kara's chest only an inch away from her own. Then it formed a hand.
Looking up her heart gave a violent thump as she found Xellos standing behind Kara, a big smirk on his face his violet eyes fixed on her. Cold fear froze her solid for a second, but if Xellos was going to kill her he would have killed both her and Kara in that hit. He had made that clear waiting for her look so she could see how close he had gotten. Fierce anger surged, burning out the fear.
Xellos smirk widened into a crazed grin for a moment before he controlled himself, his show of teeth shrinking to a teasing curve of the lips.
"You absolute bastard. You waited until the last moment didn't you!"
Xellos shrugged before dumping Kara off his hand at her feet. The empty thud of the body hitting the floor almost seemed to echo in her ears. Why would Xellos play with her this way? What was his end game? He always had one.
Admittedly he probably was relishing her dark rage, and the fear that seethed underneath.
But he had always controlled himself, focused on the plan he always had. The fact she wasn't dead yet made her wonder just a little if again he was playing her. He always had before. She didn't kid herself however, her own leaning towards dark sorcery meant she likely was delicious when stressed to him. He might just want one last taste before killing her this time.
Xellos was still standing there smirking at her, but his eyes were open so she knew this was going to be a fight. "What are you after this time Xellos?" Lina was relieved her voice didn't shake at all. She had talked to Ruby-eye without a hint of fear, Xellos was weaker on the power scale, but personally she knew damned well Xellos was probably more lethal to someone like her, being that he was so fast. Oh and he knew her, all the other monsters she had ever killed at some point had underestimated her. She might be arrogant but he probably wouldn't give her an opening, and since she wasn't dead: he still wanted something.
"Miss Lina you seem to be operating under some false assumptions."
She laughed a little tossing her head even as cold fear threatened to take over again. "Xellos- Xellos. I'm not dead yet and if you wanted me to be I would. Because you know I am the biggest risk to any Monster and we both know you value that skin of yours very much. So what are you after?"
For a moment, Xellos looked amused. Then he got serious, fear crept back in, sending her heart racing all over again. It made sudden sound of his snapping fingers alarming, but the change in venue made sense.
They were in subspace.
"Don't want to be interrupted then?"
Xellos stood still staring at her for moment before a slow evil smile slid across his face. "Exactly."
The expression on his face terrified her, she had seen it before and she knew damned well it meant murder. But she wasn't going to die that easily. "GOZ VU ROW!"
Xellos practically danced out of the way but she hadn't waited to see if that did it. "GU RU DOOGA!" if this didn't break the pocket space nothing but a Ragna Blade would.
Xellos blinked at her seeming curious. "I've never heard that version before."
Blood pounded through her veins as she only saw the pocket of space shudder, it didn't work. Xellos was too strong. "A friend created it and I might be the only other person who knows how she did it and how it works."
"Interesting..." He vanished.
Slamming a hand down to the ground cast the next spell as fast as she could. It wasn't fast enough, almost but as Gark Ruhard blasted out from her, a foot connected with her back sending her flying across the pocket space.
Landing hard on her stomach she turned it into a roll, then skidding up on her knees she caught sight of Xellos where he was couched across from her. He was steaming about the shoulders and knees showing she had got him. But the alarming part was his grin, it was obscenely big, he looked like he was in a frenzy. Something she had never seen, at least not like this. He had enjoyed pissing Filia off, but never had he looked euphoric about a fight.
"Val Ga Rulm!"
He vanished, and ignoring her shadow creatures she spun. "Balus ROD!"
Xellos caught the summoned whip and yanked, pulling her to her feet and her face into his extended staff. Falling back, stars exploding across her vision she felt the whip dissolve and was left open to the kick he dealt her across the right side. Silently all she could do was send her creatures in as she flew through the air for what felt like forever before she hit the ground with a thump. Dazed she forced herself up in time to see Xellos kill the last of her shadows.
Coughing the spell out she summoned four more shadows. She was bruised all over but Xellos was gonna be on her in a second. Climbing to her feet she swayed in pain but noticed in spite of the apparent brutality her ribs weren't broken, cracked maybe, but the kick could have been a killing blow. He was playing at something, and he didn't want her dead, or he intended to play with her for hours. She supposed it would be foolish to rule that out. "Dolph Strash!"
Xellos gracefully dodged and took the time to taunt her. "Really Miss Lina are you that upset with the idea of killing me? Because from here you don't seem to be trying that hard."
Lina felt a twitch starting, it was moments like this when she wondered where she had gone wrong. What had she done to deserve Xellos? What had she done to deserve being kicked around like ball from one emergency to the next? Shouldn't it be her sister who dealt with this kind of shit? But as far as she knew her sister had never battled a high level monster like Xellos much less demon lord, and she had fought three.
She had never tested what a Dragon Slave would do to subspace.
Xellos was gone in an instant so she twirled and looked for him. Not there, not there. Turning again she saw the staff aimed for her face again, dodging it scraped her ear, and then Xellos was kicking at her left side. Twisting she caught it in her forearm, not that it helped much. She still was forced back for close to five feet in a slide.
Xellos showed she was having an effect on him, but she unfortunately looked far worse. In a war of attrition she would come out the loser without question. So a small dragon slave was sounding more reasonable by the second. Worse case it killed her, and blew straight through the subspace back into the castle killing a number of others including Gourry. But given she failed to break the barrier enough to pull a powerful dragon in, most likely she and Xellos would end up singed and back in the room where they had started. Or there was the middle ground where she killed both herself and Xellos.
The Dragon Slave was also a better choice because if it works or fails she wouldn't be wiped, but one Ragna Blade and she was done, it would leave her helpless before Xellos and he would know it. But she still wasn't dead- he had other plans.
"So Xellos tell me why did you make the pledge with a human?"
Xellos stared at her for a moment his manic grin shifting to pure amusement. "The pledge Miss Lina?"
"Yes. Logically that's best fit based on what I do know." Lina wasted a moment to wish she had her sword because then she could copy Zel and use Astral Vine.
"In Taforashia you were worried about Zanaffar armor, and Rezo all over again. Before that you were obeying Hellmaster even if in following your orders you were also sabotaging him. It looks to me like your master's true goal is that she and her followers: mainly you are the most powerful monsters left in this world. In that helping over throw strong monarchs makes sense. So again Xellos given that this happened years ago what were you promised to make committing to the pledge make sense? You're too high level to waste time searching for desperate souls to use for the sake of power, so were you summoned in particular?"
Xellos just stared at her, looking a little bewildered. Finally he shook his head. "I don't know where you get these ideas Lina because that was a very elaborate story."
Irked she deadpanned back. "You'd think someone a thousand years old would lie better. I might be way off on you and your master's long term goals but I think I nailed the rest of it or you would have laughed better than that Xellos."
His eyebrow twitched, his eyes narrowed and she had a split second to think: 'now I've done it'. Before an impact, far stronger than the ones before hit her left shoulder sending her spinning even as her shoulder broke under the force. Flung across the pocket space she landed badly; breaking at least one of her cracked ribs.
If that was Xellos trying to convince her she was wrong in her suppositions he screwed that up.
A boot kicked her hip rolling her to her back, but she used the moment to copy Amelia: "Elmekia Lance!"
Xellos leaped back but she had him. "BREAK!"
Six or seven of the broken lance hit him, but the damage would be minimal as the spell was weakened because she could only use one arm, and then she broke it further. But it gave her a minute.
Struggling to her knees and then her feet: forcing magic to build in her broken arm's hand with her good hovering over it she started the chant. Quietly. Xellos was on his knees a good ten or fifteen feet away and she didn't want to alert him. She was building it but she was trying to find a balance between strong enough to wreck the bubble she was trapped in but not so much it would expand out into the castle as well.
Xellos was standing, she pushed herself to finish the spell: "-the you and I possess- Dragon Slave!"
There was a split second where her damaged arm screamed at her as she forced it to support the spell as she threw it at Xellos, in that moment she saw Xellos' surprise, no shock even. She could see he had never thought for a moment she would use this in such a confined space.
And then she crouched putting up a barrier in hopes she hadn't just blown herself straight to hell.
Then the spell erupted. Red hot magic washed over her, putting enormous strain on her shield. The air in the subspace pocket heated to an unbearable degree. This explained why no one still alive did shit like this.
Then she heard under the ferocious roar of her spell the unmistakable sound of the bubble cracking.
Fear surged. Had she misjudged? Her barrier was starting to crack the magic seeping through. The spell hit the height of it strength; the voracious magic licked at her trying to consume her, but she paid it no heed. Her attention focused on the subspace pocket.
Parts of it were falling and she could see the dying flames of the spell escaping but the bubble didn't completely collapse- why? Then she realized, Xellos didn't want and possibly couldn't allow so much damage to the castle so she was forcing him to exert absurd amounts of energy to control the spell. Well guess that answered some of what she had wondered about Xellos' actual level on the monster scale.
The Dragon slave fell to just embers and the bubble crumbled. That also caused the collapse of her shield. The last wash of heat singed the contents of the room, and all the windows shattered. Meaning if people hadn't noticed before now something was happening they knew now.
Falling to her knees she notice her placement in the room had barely changed, Kara's body was at her back but she had only turned around. That subspace pocket had been the most powerful she had ever seen.
Relief collided with the pain the seized her body. Adrenaline was only good for so long. Trying to push past the surge of tears she looked around the room searching for Xellos. The bubble wouldn't have contained so much of the spell without him controlling it so she knew he wasn't dead. Hurting and probably pissed yeah, dead? she wasn't that lucky.
She found him slumped again the far wall. He looked crispy, black leaking in a few places, his eyes were wide with shock but a mad grin curled his lips as he seemed to shake, almost gasping for air. Then she could hear the chuckles escaping him.
He was staring at her, and she could see he was as relieved as she was to still be alive.
Not too many would have survived that, she never would have dared had Xellos taken anyone else alive in there with them, but some how both of them were still alive. A laugh escaped her as she stared back, the pain that stabbed at her ribs stopped another laugh. But a silly smirk escaped. That had been insanely stupid. She was never doing that again.
Then the relief faded as shouts came from the corridor outside, and she could see Xellos shifting back to business even if she had made him bleed. His smooth movements sent a lance of envy shooting through her. She was half crippled and there was no way she going to move any where near that fast.
She hadn't done him enough damage.
Struggling to her feet Lina could feel herself swaying even as she tried to hold her chest still, her arm and shoulder were a deep burning throb and her ribs sent white hot shocks into her. Xellos was smiling rather nastily at her and she knew he was drawing on her pain to give him the upper hand.
"That Lina was incredibly stupid."
Curling her lips in a mock smile back she wanted to shrug, but settled on sarcasm. "What's the matter Xellos? Did that hurt? My bad."
The doors on either end of the room were flung open, Lina wanted to look back and see who was behind her but didn't dare look away from Xellos. The men piling in behind Xellos were guardsmen, Sir Norvin being the second man to enter the room.
Sir Norvin was focused on the men behind her, informing her that likely at least Gerard was in the room. Then a voice she hadn't expect came from behind her.
Gourry was here. The surge in her heart rate and her own surprise worked against her, she twitched forgetting about her mangled shoulder. Xellos didn't miss a beat, crossing the room in that instant to spear her through her bad shoulder with a dagger she had either missed or he had only just pulled.
A half scream escaped as the knife slid against broken bones, but she focused that pain. Reaching out to touch him with the first thing that came to mind. She didn't even need the words.
Xellos was flung back by the Elmekia Lance, the dagger going with him. She staggered almost going down only for a strong arm to go around her waist stopping her fall.
Xellos shifted sitting up from the chair he had been flung back on. He laugh slashed groaned but looked back up at her with a cheeky smirk. "That was fun Lina, I had wondered how you'd manage if it was just us two." he winked and then vanished before the swords came crashing down on him.
Lina went limp with relief, then the affect of putting all her weight on her ribs kicked in and white lights flashed before her eyes. Stumbling she forced her legs to take more of her weight so she could breath at least a little.
"Lina you alright?"
Lina groaned. This was not how she pictured starting her conversation with Gourry. "No I'm not squid brain."
Sir Norvin and one of the half dozen guys across the room who were alternating between staring around the wrecked room and staring at her, snorted.
Ignoring them Lina pulled away from Gourry, her good hand went to her bloody shoulder. It came back red and she frowned at it. Xellos could have killed her. But instead he stabbed her with some knife. That's not his style. That was when she realized the most likely reason for him to have stabbed her like that. "SHIT!"
"What's the matter Lina? How bad is it?"
Turning she refocused, finally looking at Gourry. She wasn't surprised to see his tiny wince. She had to look a mess, a huge bruise on one cheek, splattered with blood, dripping more blood and her left arm hanging limply clearly broken. Oh and probably scorched.
Half a dozen guards stood behind Gourry one of them being Harvard- at least Gourry hadn't been alone while she avoided him. But then she saw another face she knew. The guard who had called them back to the castle. Focusing on him she saw it in the eyes, he knew she knew. "Arian right?"
He smiled and turned his sword on himself. The men around him yelled and jumped in surprise but she watched feeling numb as the copy died to keep his maker's secrets. Gourry turned back to her from where he had stepped to protect her from Arian. "What was that?"
She looked down at the body who's leg Gourry was standing over. Sad she couldn't help but remember the pain in Kara's voice when she said Arian's name. Kara never knew her lover had been dead for months. She didn't know a copy had taken his place. Closing her eyes for a moment Lina then looked up to find Gourry watching her with concern. "That was my clue dying."
Lina didn't know how long Xellos had hovered listening and watching but no one else would know exactly how much she had learned from Kara if she kept her frick'ning mouth shut. She could watch the others Kara named, learn more there if she didn't give away too much.
"What happened Lina?" Gerard entered the room, looking large and in charge, never mind all the action was over.
"Murder. That's what happened Gerard. Excuse me. I want to get cleaned up."
Walking straight past him she ignored Gerard's question, Gourry put him off with a few words, and then she heard his tiny scuffs on the carpet as he caught up to her as she walked passed the curious and gawking servants. At least he had the sense to keep quiet, in this mood she might fireball him wether or not he asked good questions and made sense.
Pain pulsed in time with her heart beat and rage pounded at her temples. She hated feeling helpless. Xellos could have finished her any point, but hadn't. He teased her about holding back, but he had been just as much.
"Ah, Lina where are you going? The healer's are this way." Gourry had kept a soft tone to his voice, remembering well enough that when she was like this stuff tended to be blown up or strangled.
Turning her head enough to look at him hurt, but she did it barely remembering to keep her voice down. "I'm not going to the healers. The only person I would let heal me would be our favorite justice fighter or the bone head with her."
Then she turned her head back to center and she started walking again. Pain beat at her in waves, each breath was a new spike through her, and each time her feet touched the floor it reverberated up her body into her shoulder. But she wasn't going to be weak. How many people would still be alive after that suicidal bid with the Dragon slave? She had been damned near the center of it and she was only singed.
The she came to a halt, the hall at an end.
"Lina would you like some help?"
Lina wanted to yell and scream, no she did not want help. But staring up the stairs that would lead to hall that lead to her room she knew doing it on her own would risk a fall and if she fell she would faint and if she fainted Gourry might take to her to the healers anyway, and then she would unconscious and vulnerable. And he would be alone.
Gourry waited a moment and then in the same way he always had said. "But you'll accept it anyway."
Glaring at him she nodded and tried to think of a way that wouldn't make her faint anyway. Then he stepped up behind her as if to sweep her off her feet like he normally carried her. "Stop Gourry. I have broken ribs."
She could see from the corner of her eye that he was irritated by that news. His shoulders stiffened and his jaw clenched. But as always his hands never clenched. A quirk she had puzzled over before. When he was holding a sword and angry he would tighten his grip on his sword, but empty handed and he never made fists. Now it made more sense, he was a prince, he couldn't have a ton of obvious tells.
Thinking a moment more she realized that there was no way around it, she was too bruised up, it would hurt no matter what. "Be careful about my back and lower ribs, and pick me up right side in."
He nodded and shifted so when he bent down to pick her up she could hold on with her right arm. Holding her breath helped- a bit, white sparkles flashed in her eyes with hints of pick and yellow but she didn't faint. It also stopped any moans or groans of pain.
Then he was carrying her quickly up the stairs. He was doing his best to keep it smooth and she appreciated it: but it didn't change that his thumb on her back was pressing into the bottom of the boot print on her back, or that her hip was tender and his belt was rubbing uncomfortably. She did her best to stay limp and keep from doing more than wincing. But nothing about this was comfortable.
To her surprise they reached the top of the stairs but Gourry didn't set her down, instead continuing on to her room. "Gourry- honestly, I can walk!"
"Yeah, at the pace of a snail."
"What did you say?" Lina heard her voice edge towards a growl.
"I could tell you were hurt more than just the broken arm and stab wound. But I didn't know how bad just that you were moving stiffly and you only walk that way when hurt and trying to hide it. What all happened?"
For a moment she was going to yell, what she was going to yell she wasn't sure but she was gonna scream, only when she tried to take a deep breath her ribs stabbed her all over again. The air she had tried to gather escaped her teeth in a hiss and Gourry just cocked an eyebrow at her, the corner of his lips twitched like he was going to smirk, but he stilled it and asked. "I know you fought Xellos, but how did it start?"
Lina stared at him, it was a sincere question, and Gourry was talking to her again. Lina let her anger and frustration die back. Closing her eyes she sighed. "Gourry get me to my room, and hurry out, when you're back with them, then we'll talk."
She didn't need to open her eyes to see the worry cloud his face, it was exactly how she felt. Xellos and whoever he was working for had her blood. Everything could just get worse from here.
Especially if like copy Rezo her copy decided to prove she was stronger. Admitted Lina might be wrong but if it was a real copy that was unlikely. She enjoyed a fight, heck she might go so far to say she loved fighting, but unless her copy was forced to forget Gourry it was unlikely she would risk him getting caught up in that fight. However- her copy killing her so she could replace her... that was possible.
But she was speculating, she didn't know enough, it was possible she was wrong and rather than copies they were dolls. But that didn't seem likely as Arian had bled. It was possible he had joined of his own free will and hadn't been replaced- however she didn't believe it.
At least as of this moment she had four others to watch.
Unless Xellos had been there the whole time. But what was he after?
What did Xellos actually want? It had been a thought that had troubled her more than once, his actions at least regarding her were some what counter intuitive. Was it more Xellos and Beast Master wanted to bring Chaos to the world through their own efforts? Xellos on Beast Master's orders had saved a lot of people, and hell at one point the whole world. That was a very strange action to take, but he had done more than that. He had fought other monsters, even Shabranigdu to protect her.
In this light suddenly everything about her life and interactions with the Monster race seemed that much more alarming. What was it Gaav's people had said? Something about watching her from the moment she born.
Why? Why would they do that? Why not her sister?
And Xellos had held back a lot less than normal he had enjoyed that fight, even said as much, but not once had he made a killing strike- why not?
"Ah Lina a little help?"
Opening her eyes Lina found they had arrived at her room, but Gourry couldn't hold her and open the door. Carefully using her bad arm she reached down and turned the door knob, with the door open Gourry carried her in before gently setting her down on the bed. Holding back a groan Lina forced herself to focus on Gourry. He was looking at her thoughtfully.
He opened his mouth to say something only to reconsider. She watched him think, even if he was colder, so much was the same. "Are you sure you don't want one of the castle healers, it would be quicker."
"Gourry at this point no one, not even me can be trusted."
Gourry blinked at her, confused and then she could see him ignoring her. "I'm serious Gourry. Trust no one."
He scowled at her. "What's got you so paranoid?"
Rolling her eyes she couldn't help the sigh, it hurt and she felt tears burn her eyes but she tried to stay focused. Then she noticed the open door. "Close the door."
Gourry turned and quickly shut it before coming back over to hover above her.
"You dumbass, Xellos attacked me and the only thing he took was blood- Why do you think he did that?"
For a second he blinked blankly, his eyes distant, and she could see him spacing out in the way he had with the memory spell on him. Alarmed she sat up, only to flinch and end up clutching her middle a whine escaping her.
"Hey you okay?" Gourry sounded alarmed.
It took a moment but when she was in control again and she looked up the blank expression was gone and he was back to looking at her with that vaguely guilty, worry. "Are you okay? you spaced for a second."
He nodded, his face smoothed back out but she could see he was still focused on her and her injuries. "So I repeat my question, why do you think Xellos took my blood?"
This time Gourry's thinking face came out and he looked towards the ceiling. Then he looked at her shocked, making her feel her daft idiot had returned for a second. Then he said what she was thinking. "Copies. You think whoever is behind this can make copies."
Grimly she nodded. "I think they are making copies."
Horror colored his expression and his wide eyes showed he too could see the potential size of the task. So she pointed him at the thing he could control. "That is why I want you to give me a word or a sign I can do so you know I'm not a copy. If you pick it now she- copy me won't know and you have a guarantee."
"Gourry in this case that is the only thing we can do."
"But how do we know there won't be a copy me who knows it too?" Gourry used that intense voice that might as well have been him shouting.
"We don't know that they have hair or blood from you, we know they have mine."
Gourry scowled and screwed his face up like he was going to argue, but she cut him off. "Gourry, please- pick something and go."
He froze and stared at her for a moment, it seem to stretch into minutes because all the frustration in his face faded, and something sad appeared. Then he blinked looking away, breaking the moment and the silence. "What would you suggest?"
"Something that meant something to you but that I wasn't present for."
Gourry was back to frowning, probably the biggest change to her, before he had seemed so light-hearted, never a serious or dark thought in his head, well not never, but rarely. Now he either looked blank or he was frowning. She was the one who hadn't trusted him in the courtyard, but surely he could understand part of it. His presence was different, he changed. How could she not look at him and see a stranger?
"Do you want a question or a phrase?"
"Which do you think would work better?" Lina blinked as Gourry twitched, but then she realized why. Before she never would have seriously expected him to remember a password, and if she had tried to give him one she wouldn't have let him pick much less ask which he preferred.
Gourry shook it off and then fixed her with a serious stare. "Before I met you, about a week before: I was thinking of throwing the Sword in the ocean. I was depressed by the world I had seen since I left home and thought I couldn't come home, but then I met a man. He was fishing and made conversation with me while I debated throwing it overboard. He then suggest I keep it because it would be a shame if I met someone or something worth protecting and didn't have the sword to use any more. Then I met you."
Lina stared at Gourry something in her warming, her heart was pounding again, and she could feel a blush staring to creep up her cheeks. The story explained a bit about Gourry as she first met him, and it wasn't news he considered himself her protector, but something about the way he told the story made her mouth go dry.
Gourry stared at her and she felt trapped by the intensity in that look, it wasn't the first time he had flustered her like this, but this time she knew he wasn't going to break it with some stupid comment and Amelia and Zel weren't near to break it either. If she was going to keep this out of dangerous territory she was going to have to break it herself.
But in that instant Gourry looked away, toward her window, "I'll be back with Amelia and Zel. If I doubt your identity I'll ask about that story."
Startled she nodded and then she remembered. "They're staying at Green Lizard."
Gourry gave a short nod and slipped from the room, the door clicked closed behind him and Lina let all the aborted tension run out of her. Slumping back on the bed she promptly regretted it. Pain seized control of her body and she resisted the urge to rock as she tried to breath through it. Xellos had really worked her over.