Slayers TIME Chapter 3
A Growing Wind
By Mox Jet
About an hour (and four rounds of ale) later, Lina was remembering why she didn't make a habit of drinking. Now, Gourry was a reasonably big guy and Greven must have spent a lot of time the last few years building up his tolerance, so neither of them showed any signs of effect. Lina, however, was realizing that being so small and not having great tolerance was not a great combination. It was a rather new feeling she was experiencing, this spinning wooziness. She could sort of see why Naga used to drink so much. In an odd sense, it was rather fun.
Greven had taken them a few blocks away from the inn to a bar called the Lonely Dragon. It wasn't terribly late for bar goers, the time being only a bit past one, so there were still a number of people in the building. It was not a very well lit room and the tobacco smoke filling the air irritated Lina's lungs. If it didn't take so much concentration, she would have cast Ray Wing to give them a fresh bubble of air, but she didn't think she could manage spells and conversations at the same time in her current state. The group was seated at a red cushioned booth against the left hand wall by the karaoke machine.
She had listened to Greven's stories as intently as she could, her eyes slightly glazed over with the look of intoxication from the alcohol (as opposed to the company). She noted as her old friend gave the waitress a smile and a wink as she brought them another round of drinks (Lina was pretty sure he had acquired her name and address after the third round), though Lina waved off the mug that the tall brunette shoved under her nose. She wasn't smashed. Well, at least she could still speak straight, anyway. She just didn't feel like drinking anymore.
"I left town pretty soon after you did," he had said. "I guess I just got bored, and so me and Kreutz up and left. I think I was about fifteen at the time."
Kreutz was Greven's best friend. The two of them had been pretty much attached at the hip through childhood. Even when she had first met them somewhere around the time she turned seven, they were constantly together. In fact, she was partially surprised that he wasn't with him now.
Their adventures reminded her of her travels with Naga. Greven didn't have any stories about killing high level Mazoku or summoning the Lord of Nightmares, but his adventures were filled with tales of raiding ancient tombs, capturing bad guys, torturing bandits and general good times. It almost made Lina wish she never left that simple "Kill bandits, capture treasure" schedule. Sure, she still found time for it, but the magnitude of her most recent adventures seemed to make such simplicities pale in comparison. By most accounts, Greven was leading the life that she had original intended to lead.
"-and that's where I got these bracers," Greven said, finishing off a story about how he infiltrated an all-female clan of ninjas and stole their most sacred of artifacts, the Archer's Gauntlets of Leech (+2 to skills, 5% life stolen per hit!). He showed them to Gourry and Lina. They looked as if there was a shield attached to the tops of the rounded bracers, creating an interesting layered effect. Runic etchings decorated the surface.
"How did you infiltrate an all female clan of ninjas?" Lina asked with a raised eyebrow, wondering if he had taken to cross dressing without a female traveling companion to push it him too it.
"I did what was needed," he said with a smile. "I mean, hell, my hair's longer than most girls' anyway!"
"A good point," Gourry noted, his long hair often making Lina's attempts at dressing him up in drag easier. Stories of drag immediately brought Lina back to her search for the Claire Bible.
"Oh, that reminds me of this one time we had to get into this all female kingdom called Famille," she said. "Amelia, Martina and I got to dress all the boys we were traveling with up like girls," she laughed. "Zelgadis didn't take to that as well as you did, did he, Gourry?"
"I'd say I just have more practice than him," Gourry said, giving Lina a penetrating glance. "And that's not even my own fault!"
"Who's Zelgadis?" Greven asked.
"A friend of ours," Lina said. "His body was turned into chimera by his former master, Rezo, the Red Priest, and he's been wandering around the world since then looking for a cure."
"He knew Rezo?" Greven asked, taking another swig of ale. "That's even more impressive lately, considering that Rezo's been so allusive these last few years. I even heard he was dead." Lina hiccupped.
"Umm " Lina said, twiddling her thumbs for a moment. "Well, that's 'cause he kind of is."
"Yeah?" Greven asked, leaning over the table. "How do you know?" Lina flushed.
"Well, I guess I'm kind of the one who killed him," she admitted. Greven looked at her seriously for a moment then broke out laughing.
"No way!" he exclaimed, still laughing. "You killed Rezo the Red Priest?!" Lina quickly shot across the table and clamped his mouth shut.
"Not intentionally!" she hissed. "Now keep it down before people come to lynch me or something! I didn't want to have to kill him, but he went and resurrected a part of Shabranigdo that was sleeping inside of him. He would have killed us and the rest of the world if we didn't do something!" Greven stopped laughing.
"That was you that killed the resurrected Dark Lord?" he asked seriously. Lina nodded.
"Gourry here can vouch for me," she said, elbowing him in the gut. "Can't ya Gourry?" Gourry looked puzzled for a moment, putting his hand to his chin in thought. Lina shook her head disappointedly. "Actually, never mind. I need to remember that he's not a good source of recovering information." She looked back to Greven. "Just believe me on this one, kay?"
"That's pretty intense, Lina," Greven said, leaning back in the booth. He gave a sarcastic grin. "Then I suppose you're the one who killed Hellmaster Phibrizo and Chaos Dragon Gaav, too?" Lina smiled.
"Well, technically Phibrizo killed Gaav and the Lord of Nightmares killed Hellmaster, so " Greven's jaw dropped.
"The Lord of Nightmares?" he asked. "But the only way that could have happened was if " Greven raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest, giving Lina a look of a concerned parent. "Then you used it, didn't you?" he asked, knowing full well she'd be aware of what he was talking about.
"I might have, once or twice," she said, going back to twiddling her thumbs again. "But I swear I didn't have any choice in the matter!" Greven managed a chuckle.
"You're talking about the Giga Slave, right?" Gourry asked, making sure he was following the exchange.
"Yeah, Gourry," Lina confirmed somberly. "We're talking about the Giga Slave."
"Lina Inverse, you're nuts," Greven announced. Then, with a great smile: "It's good to see you haven't changed at all." Lina also managed to laugh. "Killing Dark Lords and famous priests," Greven continued. "I see you've been a bit more busy than me over the last few years." That was another thing Greven was good at: making light of things.
"I used to do a lot more of the work you've been doing," she admitted. "I was hoping that'd be all I got involved in for a little while. Dealing with big nasty Mazoku takes a lot out of you."
"That's why you're here, I'm assuming," Greven said. Lina nodded.
"I figured the Tournament might be a good step towards my old habits again. I've got to admit, the life of Battle Circuit mage has been enjoyable thus far. It looks like the money's good, and the amenities are great!"
"Yeah, overall, I think it was a good career move on my part," Greven said. "Stomping on bandits does get old after awhile."
"So you beat up on bandits and steal their treasure, too?" Gourry asked him. Greven shrugged.
"Yeah, sure," he admitted. "It's actually fairly common for young adventurers from Zefielia to get their start like that. I mean, Lina's been at it since she was about fourteen. Kreutz and I have been doing it since we were fifteen."
"So, is everyone there as violent as Lina?" Gourry asked. Greven started to answer but was cut off as Gourry was punched in the face and knocked out of the booth. Lina in turned back to Greven and lowered her eyebrows.
"Umm " Greven started to say as Lina gave him a Death Stare. "I don't know, really," he said, coping out. Lina gave him a satisfied nod. "So you're still in the tournament, right?" he asked, changing the subject.
"Yeah," Lina answered. "Semifinals tomorrow afternoon. How about you?"
"Me? Eliminated? Puh-leeze."
"Then do you get to face the Dragon Slaying Slacker next round?" she asked, leaning over the table, now interested in acquiring some info.
"I'm not sure," Greven admitted. "They keep the draws secret. I'll only know when I get out there. Maybe you get to fight him."
"Maybe," Lina mused. "But have you ever fought him before? I mean, you've been on the circuit for a while, right?"
"I haven't been around that long," Greven said. "And even then, I still haven't fought against him. I hear he's pretty good, though. Better, they say, then the infamous bandit killer Lina Inverse, even."
"Well, the nerve of some people!" Lina exclaimed. "Who said that? I want names!" Greven laughed.
"Maybe that was me who said that one, actually," Greven said. An empty beer mug flew his way, the projectile springing from Lina's hands and giving him quite a shock. He yelped and rubbed his head where a bump was already beginning to grow.
"Lina, that was harsh," Gourry said, speaking up in poor Greven's defense. Unfortunately, Gourry had forgotten that he was the one over whom Lina had free beating privileges more than anyone else. He was quickly reminded of this fact by a very bony elbow striking him under the ribs. Biting his words, Gourry showed some uncommon intelligence in not reminding her how bony her elbow was, resolving that Greven was now a big enough man to fight his own battles.
"Yeah," Greven agreed, still rubbing his head. "Harsh."
"Serves you right," Lina said, waving a finger.
"You beat on Gourry a lot, don't you?" Greven asked.
"Sometimes," she admitted. "But only when he deserves it or I'm mad or he did something good or, well, you get the idea."
"Not really," Greven admitted.
"Welcome to the club," Gourry said, rubbing his side. "I never get the idea."
"Well, here's an idea," Lina said. "It's getting late and we have matches tomorrow. Perhaps we should make for the inn?"
"No argument here," Gourry said. "This is way past my bed time."
"Whatever suits you guys," Greven said. "I'm all for hitting the sack."
The trio left some money to cover their tab and headed out of the bar, the streets beginning to clear up at this point. Many of the lights had gone out and the stars were a bit clearer than they had been a few hours ago as Greven led the way over the cobblestone paths back to the inn. There too, all the patrons had gone to bed, peacefully sleeping upstairs. As they climbed the stairs and passed Gourry's room, the swordsman gave a tired wave before entering and closing the door. He sometimes had a habit of seeing Lina into her room before he went to bed himself, but seemed either too tired or too absent minded tonight to do that. Greven and Lina turned out to have rooms across the hall from each other, both opening their doors and beginning to move inwards before Greven spoke.
"Now, I gotta ask," he said, turning to her with a grin as she started to
close her door.
"Yeah, what's up?"
"You never got to tell me. Now that he's in bed, who's your boyfriend?" he asked, delivering the question he had waited so patiently to spring. Before he knew what had happened, though, he was met with a door slammed in his face by a rather tired and slightly drunk sorceress. With a shrug, he entered his own room and closed the door behind him, hoping he didn't wake up Kreutz.
Falling to sleep after having a few drinks is normally a very easy thing. In fact, if Lina ever needed a time in which sleep was the most desirable thing, now would probably be it. Forget about the fact that she had already lost precious hours off of her beauty sleep. Forget about the fact that she had nearly been killed twice today. Forget about the fact that one of the few men who she had ever called friend had just reappeared into her life. Forget about all of these things and you had a person who didn't need to try very hard to head to dreamland.
With minutes, Lina was sleeping, again finding herself in a eerily familiar dream state. Once again, the perpetual mist that had surrounded her the night before was back, making seeing beyond a few feet difficult. In the distance, there was a resonance in the air that reminded her of the humming of a fireball right before it blows
She jumped to the left, just in time to avoid being caught up in the explosion. She recovered into a roll, sweeping her cape behind her and quickly glancing around in an attempt to locate her assailant.
"Do I have your attention now?" came a female voice from somewhere in the mist. She spun to its source as the mists parted to reveal the speaker.
"You know, breaking into my dreams isn't the beset way to get my attention!" Lina shouted at the intruder: a tall woman with mid length dark hair. Most of her clothing was concealed by a long black cloak, but Lina could make out the shape of a sword under the cloak.
"For sake of convenience, this will do," the woman said coolly. "And don't even bother trying to fight," she told Lina. "What you see before you is little more than an astral projection. You couldn't actually hurt it if you wanted to." Grimacing, Lina realized that whether or not she was just imagining this, she wouldn't be able to actually attack this woman.
"So what do you want?" Lina asked, standing up cockily as well as her small form could manage. "And am I to believe that you're not just something I dreamed up?"
"I'm just here to give you a warning, Lina," the woman said. "Not to fight."
"Then what's with hurling the fireball at me?" she asked.
"Surly you don't think you can actually die in one of your own dreams, do you? The fireball was, as I said before, just to get your attention." Lina raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"All right, so let's assume for sake of argument that you are a real person who's managed to get into my dream. What are you here to warn me about then?"
"Only that when you awake, you will find that the Princess of this kingdom -one Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun- has been kidnapped. After you get over your initial shock, it would be in your best interest to join the effort to recover her." Lina gave the woman a quixotical look.
"Best interest how?" Lina asked, her hands on her hips.
"Would you like the attacks against you to stop?" the woman asked with a thin smile. Lina narrowed her eyes.
"Oh, I get it," she said smugly. "Blackmail. Fine then. First off, that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. What makes you so sure that you or well, whatever you are, can capture the Princess and push me around because of it?"
"I'm just the messenger," she said, raising her hands in protest. Such an action threw back some of her cloak allowing Lina to make out the black plate mail she was wearing beneath. It was void of specific markings.
"Which leads me to second point," Lina said menacingly. "Which is that I'm quite the fan of shooting the messenger." She started gathering (or maybe just dreaming) some energy into her hand. "And since you're in my dream, whatever I say goes "
"You've been warned," the woman said, beginning to turn away and walk back into the mist. After a few steps, she paused. "And by the way, my name is Rani. Remember it for when we meet in person some day, Lina Inverse." She then continued walking, but Lina was already hot on her trail.
"Elmekia Lance!" Lina screamed, hurling a green spike of astral energy at the woman, but no sooner had she disappeared back into the mist than the Elmekia Lance had also disappeared, not seeming to have damaged anything. Lina slumped to the ground and shook her head.
"Dammit," she said. "Gods, what's wrong with me? Am I losing my mind?" Suddenly, she was presented with a very familiar feeling. A low rumbling emerged from the distance and energies begin to swell up around her. After a moment, she knew what it was; that battle between that Mazoku and the Dragon was going on again. Just like before, her dream camera began to pan around to show her the image.
"Oh, well no way I'm sticking around for this again!" she said. "And, since this is my dream, I official say it's over. You hear me? It's over. It's over!
"It's over!" she screamed, but now she was awake and back in her room. Her forehead gleaned with sweat as she looked around for any new intruders. To her surprise, she found that the sun was already shining through the curtains. Wiping off her face, she threw the covers off and climbed languidly out of bed.
Too weird, she thought to herself.
Running through her morning routine, a bit more quickly than usual today, she dressed herself and made her way downstairs. There, Gourry was already sitting at a table with Greven and a large man with short jet black hair. He wore a green cloak over a silver cuirass.
"Morning, Lina," Gourry called in his usual cheeriness. Lina walked up to the table full of men.
"Kreutz!" she exclaimed, jaunting over to the table. The big man rose up and caught the girl as she barraged into him.
"Lina, it's good to see you," he said in a deep voice that seemed to match his body. "How have you been? Please, have a seat. Would you like some tea? I was just about to pour the second round."
"Yeah, sounds great," Lina said, sitting at the remaining empty seat.
"So how'd you sleep?" Greven asked her, taking a sip from his cup as Kreutz began refill everyone's tea.
"Oddly," she admitted. "Very oddly. I've been having these strange dreams, as of late and I really can't come up with a valid explanation for them " She paused and gave a glance around the table, shaking off a creepy feeling that had followed her to the table. "But anyways, Kreutz, how have you been? You didn't get to hang out with us last night and I wanna hear."
"Oh, I've been very well, thanks," Kreutz said. "I suppose Greven already told you all about our travels, lately."
"Yeah, he told us a bit," Lina said. "Sounds like you've been having some good adventures."
"We get around," he answered. "Tea?" he asked as he moved the pot over her cup. She nodded, also waving a waiter over to order food. With much enthusiasm, she ordered the breakfast special for eight (with a side of homefries) and turned her attention back to her companions.
"So did you ever finish your schooling?" she asked him.
"At the Healers Guild?" Kreutz asked. Lina nodded. The large man let out a smile. "Oh yeah. I'm an official Paladin of the Zefelian House," he said proudly.
"Paladin?" Gourry asked, lost as usual.
"It's like a holy knight," Lina explained. "It means that Kreutz is skilled in a lot of white magic as well as being skilled with weapons. He's kinda like Sylphiel, but still a little different. Do you follow?"
"I see..." Gourry said, taking a sip of his tea. "So, is that why this tea tastes so good?" he asked with a smile, pointing to the cup. Everyone immediately tumbled off of their chairs, spilling tea everywhere.
"Gourry, what does the tea have to do with anything?!" Lina asked, climbing her way back up to the table."
"Well, you said he was kind of like Sylphiel, and Sylphiel was always such a good cook, so I figured that "
"Jellyfish Brains!" she shouted, slamming him over the head, causing him to drop his tea as well.
"It's a hobby of mine," Kreutz said, casually going about refilling everyone's freshly emptied cups. "I suppose in a sense, knowing about healing herbs and tea leaves are sort of, vaguely, almost distantly related," he conceded, trying to give Gourry the benefit of the doubt.
"You know, Lina," Greven said. "Kreutz and I were just talking about how you look exactly the same as you did three years ago." Lina grinned.
"Yeah, well I guess I'm just resistant to the toils of aging," she said, tossing her hair back and smiling. Thinking about the comment for a moment, though, she quickly realized the hidden implications. In an instant, the sorceress was out of her seat and on Greven's back, strangling him from behind.
"Wait! Are you saying I haven't grown at all in three years!?" she demanded.
Greven, quickly losing air flow, started to choke out a defense.
"Ah! I didn't mean anything by it! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" he declared. After a few more moments of pitiless strangling, she let the blonde man go, returning to her seat.
"Whatever," she said, realizing that if Greven's match time hadn't changed, he should be at the arena by now. "Say, why aren't you fighting yet, Grev?" she asked. "I thought you had a match this morning."
"Oh, wow, that's right," Kreutz said. "I guess you haven't heard!"
"Heard what?" Lina asked. Greven decided to fill her in.
"The Princess Amelia's been kidnapped," Greven said, somewhat dimly. "All the day's fights have been indefinitely postponed." Lina winced and her heart skipped a beat.
"Kidnapped?" she asked, needing reassurance.
"Yeah," Greven confirmed.
"They want all the competitors to join in the search for her," Gourry said, filling in what he remembered from earlier.
"Greven and I are going to join the hunt," Kreutz said. Lina still looked vapid.
"Lina, what's wrong?" Gourry asked.
"It's just that " she started to say. She shook it off. "Well, nothing. It's not anything. Don't worry about it."
"Will you join the party to recover the princess?" Gourry asked.
"Amelia " Lina said. "I dunno, Gourry. I mean, I don't really want any trouble and even though Amelia is a friend I guess that "
"Prince Phillionel is offering a huge cash reward," Greven interjected with a grin. Lina's eyes immediately regained their life and her face lit up.
"Well in that case, how can I abandon my dear friend and former traveling partner, Amelia!?" she questioned, leaping onto her chair and pointing to the sky for dramatic effect. "She's far too young to have to endure such terrible treatment! Nay, I say it would be a travesty for all living souls everywhere for us NOT to combat this terrible evil that has over flown our peaceful land!"
"Same 'ole Lina," Greven and Kreutz said in unison.
"We'll help Greven and Kreutz rescue her, then?" Gourry said with a hopeful smile. Lina climbed down from her chair and took a seat again.
"So we're working with them now?" Lina asked, her mind considering the things that the woman named Rani had said in her dreams.
"It'll give us a chance to catch up," Kreutz said.
"I proposed it to Gourry here before you woke up," Greven said, still grinning. "It'll be just like old times, right?"
"Yeah, I suppose " she said a bit hesitantly, taking a sip of tea. "Well, so much for my vacation. I guess its adventure time again."
"Yeah, and it only took fifteen thousand words," Greven said.
"What?" Lina asked.
"Nothing," he responded, also sipping from his tea. "Don't worry about it."
"Greven, you lost me," Lina admitted. Her old friend gave a shrug.
"Basically, it'll be good to be on the road with you, Lina."
"So will we go to the meeting for all of those interested in the reward?" Kreutz asked.
"Yeah, yeah, we're going." Lina said. As she said this, the waiter reappeared from the kitchen with a platter full of goodies. Lina took her silverware into hand and started bouncing up and down. "Or at any rate, we'll go after I eat!"
Somewhere far enough away so that our generally aware band of heroes couldn't see, someone was watching their motions with the utmost interest. He may have been sitting in a tree or he may have just been hanging up in the rafters. Either way, he could always just teleport away if someone started to look towards him. Such was one of the abilities of a Mazoku.
So who was this mysterious Mazoku watching Lina and her cohorts? Ah, ah, ah now that is a secret.
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