Zelgadis lay on his side in silence. He lacked even the energy to curse the soft mattress and pillow that swelled around his heavy form. Briefly he considered turning onto his stomach and letting the feathers smother him. Instead he rolled onto his back and stared at the lifeless ceiling.
He had been so close. Impossibly close. He had held it in his hands . . . And then it was gone.
Zelgadis had traveled to this city because it was renowned for its work with chimeric magic. Not only that, but they had a vast library, something that many towns like this one lacked. The moment Zelgadis had stepped inside he was in heaven. Shelves upon shelves of books on many different subjects. And an entire section devoted to the study of chimeras.
It took three days for him to find it. Something he’d long given up on as a hope for his cure. A Clair Bible manuscript. It had been more than a year since the battles with Gaav and since then Zelgadis had spent much time in the outside world, having only recently returned. He’d never thought he’d see another one of these.
His hands had been shaking as he opened the small book. There, in the very first paragraph were words he’d longed to read. “It is only possible to make an intelligent, speaking chimera if you begin with a human core.” The document went on to detail a spell to do just that and, Zelgadis could only hope, a spell to reverse the process.
He had stared at the paper, reading quickly to learn what he wanted to know. And then two hands had slipped into his field of vision, reaching around from behind him. Zelgadis recognized the gloves and the yellow sleeves instantly. He’d tried to pull away, a scream of protest already forming on his lips. One of the arms closed around the chimera’s body, holding him immobile, while the other hand reached forward to grab the papers. “I’m sorry, Zel-kun,” the cheerful voice whispered in his ear, “but I can’t let you see this.” The papers ignited, quickly becoming engulfed in blue fire.
Zelgadis felt unable to move. He stared at the papers as they quickly turned to ash, not even bothering to drop them, letting his fingertips be scorched as the flames licked at them. He stood that way for some time, pressed tightly to Xellos’ chest, staring at the empty space in front of him. After a while, Xellos had disappeared, but Zelgadis still didn’t move, standing there in shock for hours or seconds, he neither knew nor cared.
Zelgadis suddenly let out a surprisingly upbeat chuckle and rolled onto his side again in the feathery bed. “I’ll just have to go on,” he whispered to no one. “Go back to how things were.”
It had been nearly two months since Xellos had separated from Lina and her gang of misfits. After returning from the outside world, the entire group had more or less split up. Filia set herself up in a nice house, Amelia had returned to her castle, and Zelgadis had gone to continue his quest for a cure. It had been nearly two months since Xellos had seen any of them.
Then the mazoku had gotten word from one of his spies. Zelgadis had entered a city called Grimda. Xellos had recognized the name immediately and actually had to stop and think of why. As soon as he remembered, he was on his way. A displacement of air and Xellos appeared directly behind the chimera.
The mazoku smiled as he remembered it. The look on his face, the way he’d gone completely still, not even breathing. It had been a true treat for Xellos to drink in all that emotional pain. Maybe I should check on him again. It had been a week since then, but knowing the way Zelgadis brooded, he’d probably still be an all you can eat buffet.
Xellos went to work immediately, finally sensing Zelgadis traveling north of Grimda. That’s odd, he’s not going towards a major city if he’s going north. Chasing another lead, perhaps?
Xellos teleported into the mountains several yards ahead of the chimera. He was hidden from sight now, but several more steps and Zelgadis would see him quite clearly. Xellos settled into a comfortable position, pulling his face into its typical grin. The shaman came into view in moments. His traveling mask was up and his hood was pulled so low that even his eyes were nearly invisible in the shadow. He was staring at the ground as he walked, but lifted his gaze, sensing the other man. Without even the slightest hesitation, Zelgadis turned on his heel and began going the opposite direction.
Not deterred at all, Xellos hopped up, floating after the retreating shaman. “Oi! Zel-kun! Ogenki desu ka?” The other man gave no answer and Xellos tried again. “My, what nice weather we’re having.”
The chimera’s only response was to quicken his pace. Xellos frowned slightly, this wasn’t any fun. Surely he could get a reaction out of the shaman. Xellos was right behind him now and in a sudden flash of insight, he wrapped the other in a hug from behind. “C’mon, talk to me!”
Zelgadis hardly even resisted, falling back against the trickster priest, and Xellos froze. Thin! Zelgadis was thin as a rod, he could feel the boy’s ribs, every one of them. In fact, Xellos could hardly believe it, he was fighting back, but was significantly weaker than he was only a week ago.
Slowly, Xellos relaxed his grip and Zelgadis turned to face him even as he took several steps away. “What do you want?” The words were little more than a whisper, but they were filled with hatred, enough emotion for Xellos to take a healthy meal and more.
Xellos squinted at the shaman, trying to get a good look at his eyes. The hood was in the way, so he reached out to lower it. Zelgadis batted his hand away and stepped further back, growling beneath his mask. Xellos’ mouth made a little ‘o’ of surprise. “Come now, Zel-kun, it’s just me!”
Zelgadis settled low in a fighting stance, hand poised to draw his sword. “Keep away from me, monster!”
Xellos frowned a little. “You’re tired, Zel-kun. You can’t fight, you’ve no strength.”
“Strength enough to deal with you!” Xellos barely waited for him to finish before darting forward. He caught the shaman’s hand in his own, preventing him from drawing his sword, and pulled away both mask and hood before the other could react.
Suddenly the two were at an impasse, neither moving at all. Zelgadis was staring, eyes wide with surprise and something akin to fear. Xellos was staring for another reason. The chimera’s eyes and cheeks were sunken. He was pale as a ghost. It was almost as if . . . “When was the last time you’ve eaten?”
The words seemed to snap Zelgadis out of his shock and he pulled away violently. “What do you care?”
“Why, of course I care about my favorite chimera in the world!”
Zelgadis was still for a moment before he growled again, sounding more like a caged beast than a human. “This is your fault,” he ground out. Something in Xellos’ mind switched and he was instantly on the defensive, though there was no visible change in his posture. Zelgadis’ breaths were shallow now and he was glaring with a hatred beyond anything Xellos had seen him display before. “It’s your fault I’m still like this!”
Zelgadis leapt forward, both hands wrapping tightly around his foe’s neck. Xellos made no attempt to dodge or avoid the attack. His hands wrapped around his attacker’s wrists seemingly on instinct, but he looked perfectly calm. In fact, he slowly opened his eyes and his lips turned up in a very small grin. “You cannot kill me like this, Zel-kun, you know that.” The words came out slightly choked, but otherwise perfectly normal.
Zelgadis’ eyes darted back and forth for a moment, obviously trying to think of some way to turn this situation to his advantage. He locked eyes with Xellos, none of the hatred gone from his gaze. “Then I will use every astral spell I know and pour them directly into your body. Even you couldn’t survive that.”
Xellos’ smile grew slightly. “That is true. But do you think you could get even one of them off before I stop you?”
For another moment, Zelgadis was still, deciding what to do. Then his eyes narrowed and he drew breath. “Ra –“ He didn’t even see Xellos move. Zelgadis fell to his knees, coughing and sputtering on whatever it was the mazoku had shoved into his mouth. Zelgadis stared at the offending object where it had fallen to the ground. It was a dinner roll. Confused – and still coughing – the shaman looked up at Xellos.
The priest's smile reached its normal happiness level and his eyes shut again. “You need to eat, Zelgadis,” he said cheerfully.
Zel’s eyes slipped closed and he looked as though he were in pain. “Leave me alone.” All the fight seemed to drain out of the shaman and he struggled back to his feet. Brushing past the mazoku, he continued his trek north. “Just leave me alone.”
The smile disappeared from Xellos’ face. He opened his eyes again, watching the chimera retreat. His entire countenance was nothing but serious as he followed his companion’s progress.
It was several minutes before Zelgadis stopped walking. He didn’t turn, but hung his head. “Why are you following me, Xellos?”
“That is a secret!”
“Why are you following me!?” This time, the mazoku gave no answer. Zelgadis had pulled his mask and hood back on, so when he spun around, Xellos was met with nothing but eyes. Wide, pleading eyes with so much emotion, Xellos couldn’t hope to sort through it all. “What do you want!?”
To know what that feeling is. To understand those eyes. To know why it’s affecting me like this. The monster’s mind was ready with answers, but Xellos remained silent. He kept his face serious and simply stared at Zelgadis with slightly open eyes. The chimera closed his own eyes again and Xellos could see the little muscles around them twitching. “You’ve made your point. I can’t fight you.” Zelgadis sounded choked, his throat tight as he contained his emotions. “I realize I’m an easy meal for you, I can’t change that.” Xellos’ eyes widened slightly in shock. To be perfectly honest, he had forgotten the original purpose of his visit to the angsty chimera. “I don’t want to know you’re there. If you’re going to follow me, I can’t stop you. But I don’t want to know.”
Xellos stared for a moment more before he replied, “Very well,” and disappeared from sight. Zelgadis opened his eyes and saw nothing. Rather than relief, the chimera seemed to deflate a little more before he continued walking. Xellos, now invisible to the other, followed step for step, making no noise that could not be mistaken for the chimera’s own.