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I'm not sure how long it's been since we were all together. I also can't recall for what reason we are now apart. Well, actually I can... but I wanted to make the start of this feel all dramatic and such. Well, now that's out of the window I'll tell you!
It must have been a few years back now, when adventuring was getting kind of old and we just seemed to tire of each other. Although, I have no idea why anyone would tire of the great Lina Inverse! I'm digressing aren't I?
So anyway, there hadn't been any major events for a while and no dramatic overlords attempting to destroy the world so we were basically just looking for excuses to part ways.
The first came in the form of Amelia's (obsessed) father, Prince Philionel El Di Seyruun. My understanding is that he called her home for some mission of justice or other. Of course, Amelia loves her father greatly and upon receiving his request shot out faster than a speeding bullet. Uh, but not before reassuring Zelgadiss that she'd return to him someday to fight for his cause.
Heh. I remember Zel looked a little uncomfortable with that statement.
Anyway, whatever hair brained scheme her Father had, Amelia left us for it. That meant that Me, Gourry and Zelgadiss remained. Oh joy! A jellyfish brain and a hermit. Be prepared for a riot, Lina!
On one leg of our pointless journey, we somehow ended up in Sairaag. Of course here we met up with Sylphiel. I gotta admit, I was grateful of some female company at this point. Even if it did come in the form of a wet blanket.
We sat in a tavern and talked for a while. Well... after stuffing our faces anyhow. What? It'd been a long trip!
It turned out that the people of Sairaag were still trying to nurture their broken village that some crazy sorcerer had destroyed. Ahem. She wanted to enlist us to help, but manual labour isn't really my thing so I politely declined.
Gourry on the other hand, must have seen it as his chance to escape. I mean, I remember him enjoying the rebuild of the Golden Dragon Temple... but he just seemed really enthusiastic at this. Well whatever. One down one to go.
So me and Zel, huh? Interesting. Needless to say it didn't take long for us to have our first... ah... heated discussion?
There was simply no need to use such a rash spell is all I'm saying. He taunted me on my handling of our latest assignment with his annoyingly calm voice.
It got the job done didn't it? I protested angrily.
Indeed. He smirked, And created several new ones.
Oh, bite me! I threw in, intelligently.
He muttered something. I didn't hear what it was but no doubt it was supposed to be an insult.
You have something to say to me? I snapped. I could feel the veins throbbing in my forehead.
Not really. Only that you're quite immature.
Now hold on a second! I think the phrase you're looking for is fun. As in, I don't sit around moping all day because I'm not who I want to be! Rock face! A low blow, but I was mad.
Yeah. See how you like it.
He exhaled calmly. Damn him.
Fine. If that's how you feel. Flat chest. He turned his back to me.
Cause that's mature.
I'll go my separate way then. He resumed his sentence.
I'll admit, I hadn't seen that coming.
If it displeases you so much to be in my moping company, then I'll leave you to have fun on your own. And with a flick of his cape, he did just that.
So with the exception of Zel, we all parted on good terms but for some reason, we just haven't seen each other since. Of course, I don't need anyone hanging around me slowing me down but after a while, travelling alone becomes boring.
I mean sure, I kept myself amused for a fair few years! I did the odd job, hunted a few rare items and such, but I never let anyone journey with me again. I suppose I just didn't want the hassle... I was definitely not afraid of loosing friends again if that's what you're thinking!
Eventually I decided to make a home for myself. Yeah I know, even more boring, but a girl's gotta settle down at some point. There was no way I was going back home! So I had to make my own, somewhere where my name didn't strike too much fear into people's hearts.
I opened up a small magic shop. Yeah, the merchant in me won outright. I get by selling the usual crap at just over the street value. I guess my charm makes people willing to pay more! Occasionally I'll leave the shop for a while to ramble about and collect items.
This wasn't one of those times.
I was busy rearranging the latest batch of
ah.. quality merchandise to make it look more appealing when the bell on the door rang a little just so I knew someone was coming in.
I'll be right there! I hollered, I had my back to the door and was stretching up to the top shelf. Unfortunately I hadn't grown a lot in a few years, I guess some people are just destined to be short.
Well, well... came an eerily familiar voice, Look who finally filled out a little.
I stopped stretching and brought my arms down to my chest.
Of all the people to show up why did it have to be him. There was no mistaking that voice. I froze, for some reason I just couldn't bare to face him nor could I think of anything witty to say.
Keeping your back to me? Surely the least you could do is turn round and acknowledge you have a customer.
He was right. As usual. I took a deep breath, put on my best merchant smile and turned quickly on the spot.
Welcome to Lina's! I grinned goofilly... for some reason I'd felt the need to close my eyes when I smiled. Anything take your fancy?
What was I saying?
Perhaps. He replied. I could tell by his voice he was smiling.
Eventually I forced my eyes open. The man who stood before me was not who I'd expected it to be. Well, it was but.. oh it's complicated!
Zel... I gasped. I couldn't help it. Hand to my mouth and everything. My cheeks burned and I was at a loss for words.
He simply smiled in response.
Zelgadiss was not how I remembered him. He'd obviously been able to find a cure for his.. uh condition? Whatever the case, the man stood before me was no longer made of stone. His face had matured and had done it well! His dark hair looked silky and fell neatly over his one eye and across his shoulders he had tied an old sweatshirt it made him look a little geeky but some how he worked it. His whole character seemed to have changed. He was smiling for one and he looked so confident. I have to admit, I was impressed... and a little flustered.
He knew it too, that smug...
So, you're still alone after all these years? He smirked.
Cut me to the core why don't you.
Your powers of observation are astounding as ever. I forced a smile. It felt strangely good to be bantering with someone again.
No sign of Gourry? He asked tentatively.
N-no. I admitted.. though I'm not quite sure why I stammered.
He smiled again. For some reason when he did that my heart felt funny. You know when you've been running for a while and it just throbs hard? It was like that.
That makes things a little easier. He admitted as if to himself, then proceeded to sit on one of my tables.
Hey! Watch the merchandise! I yelled instinctively moving closer to make sure he hadn't sat on anything.
Stop smiling at me!
Are you happy, Lina? He asked.
Wha- I spluttered and my cheeks burnt harder, What sort of question is that? I quickly busied myself with removing the merchandise from around his... rear.
Oh, I don't know. He took his eyes off me thank God and looked towards the ceiling, though I suspected he wasn't really that interested in my rafters. I just never imagined the great Lina Inverse to settle for peddling worthless junk in a dead beat town.
It's not junk! I protested, cradling my treasures in my arms, You just don't know the real value of things! All you were ever concerned about was yourself and making sure you got back to the way you were! Uh, apparently I had a lot of pent up anger, it goes on... You just threw people aside as if they were junk because they weren't what you were looking for! You didn't give a damn how they felt!!
I must've gotten carried away because I failed to notice one of my items slip from my grasp until it shattered on the floor at my feet.
Oh no! I exclaimed and began scooping up the pieces. A pointless exercise as there were too many to put it back together, but at least I got to avoid his face.
For a few seconds my vision blurred and I couldn't see where the pieces were, then something fell from my eyes and I could see again. There were two wet patches on the floor in front of me and I realised I was crying. I felt my whole body shake. How embarrassing, I couldn't stop it.
I heard him get to his feet. I hoped he'd leave, let me go back to my sad pathetic life of a lonely merchant. But, was that really what I wanted? Was the reason I'd gotten so upset was perhaps because he'd reminded me of what I'd lost?
I forced my eyes closed to try and stop my tears from flowing. You know when something is going very wrong and you just wish for the ground to open up and swallow you? This was one of those times. I could make it happen too. Just one little spell...
Or maybe I didn't need a spell. Suddenly there was no ground beneath me, I could feel my arms and legs dangling! I snapped my eyes open and saw the floor was a few feet away from me completely whole I might add. It was then I noticed the pressure of someone's arms holding my waist. I looked into the eyes of my captor. It was Zel of course, no-one else was there.
Hey! I protested and began to squirm, What do you think you're doing?!?
It was a rhetorical question I suppose. What I should have said was put me the hell down! but I was curious.
I guess Zel knows me pretty well because he put me down, standing me up right in front of him. He didn't let go though, he moved his hands to my upper arms and held me in place. I guess he was afraid I might Dragon Slave him or something. I might have too if I weren't in my own shop.
So there we were, stood facing each other. I was glaring, my face burning but it seemed my tears had stopped thank goodness! Zel was.. well he's always been pretty hard to read. I couldn't tell whether he was mad, hurt or just concerned. Probably a mixture of all three considering the way I'd yelled at him.
Come to think of it, I had been pretty harsh. With that realization I'd felt my expression soften and I avoided his eyes.
You're right, He began, I jerked my head round to look at him again, I did throw people aside.
I felt my face burn harder with guilt. I hadn't meant to be so abrupt. I'll never know what made me fly off the handle like that, but I seemed to have touched a nerve.
It was the only way I could cope. He admitted, I never felt like I could be good enough for anyone the way I was. This time it was his turn to avoid my eyes. Sounds pretty pathetic doesn't it?
I didn't answer.
I thought... He went on.. was he aware he was monologuing? I thought that if I could get myself back to how I was... I thought that it'd be easier. He sighed... or was it a laugh, I couldn't tell. It's not. He admitted. And now here we are. Locked in the same petty argument from years ago. Does it make a difference to you that I'm normal now?
I wasn't sure what he meant. I cocked my head to one side and smiled awkwardly.
You're Zel. I added helpfully. You were Zel before! But, I'll admit... my cheeks reddened a little, You're a bit more of a looker now... but you weren't that bad before! I spoke quickly to cover up what I'd said, I mean, you obsessed over finding a cure and you spent a lot of time being abrupt with people, but I never thought you needed it all that badly. You could be fun when you wanted to be and you could be down right annoying too and - - oh God someone stop me!
A sound like laughter was coming from him. He lifted his face and smiled. Wow. I wish he'd stop that. It does things to me!
So that's how it was? He relaxed a little.
Without warning he pulled my body to his and pinned me there. I felt his one hand on the back of my head and the other round my waist. Was he aware he was holding me so tightly? And for what reason? And... more importantly, why wasn't I objecting?
Instead I relaxed. I placed my tired head gratefully on his shoulder and breathed him in. I could feel his heart beat against mine and they almost matched. I wasn't sure what was happening, but it felt good.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and he eventually pulled me off him. We seemed to be soul searching in each others eyes. Neither one of us could look away. It was blindingly obvious that this was perfectly natural and seemed foolishness that we hadn't noticed it before.
I was thinking... He began, that smile back on his face. Now that my purpose for travelling has become obsolete... Do you need help running your shop?
Momentarily, I was stunned. Then I smiled and took his hand, I'll show you around. I said calmly and lead him into the back.