|The Pen is Mightier! (penismightier) wrote in chaotic_library,|
@ 2016-12-31 22:05:00
|Entry tags:||gourry gabriev, gourry x lina, het, lina inverse, pg-13, short story, slayers, yuuo, yuuo: slayers, zelgadis|
[Lina Inverse; PG-13] This, I Will Find (Part 2)
Character/Series: Lina Inverse/Gourry Gabriev; Slayers
Notes: Part 2 in the This, I Will Do series. Prompt was 'enchanted spoon' from emilie_burns. Continued from Part 1.
Title: This, I Will Find
Word Count: 12,303 total, 7,407 this part
Summary: They ran back out of the guild with a backwards wave of thanks to the sorcerer, and headed for the northern end of town.
They ran back out of the guild with a backwards wave of thanks to the sorcerer, and headed for the northern end of town. They slowed down to a walk after leaving the city limits. Breakfast was still working its magic on their contented stomachs, they weren't starving past rational thought, it was time to ease up on the energy and plot.
Gourry squinted his eyes as he looked up at the mountain. "I see a lot of rock buildings, I think," he said. "Which one did Zelgadis mean, you think?"
Lina stopped him in his tracks, and climbed up his back to sit on his shoulders and try to get a better look, without 'cheating', if he was going to whine about that. She shielded her eyes from the glare of sunlight off the snow on the higher parts of the mountain, scanning the lower elevations. She spotted the same ruins he did, a large cluster of buildings with a tower lording over it. Up above that, just barely into the snow cap, was the spire the sorcerer mentioned.
Decision made, she put her hands down to rest on Gourry's head, looking down at him. "I'd guess the bigger ones there closer to the foot of the mountain," she said. "It looks like it was a town, compared to the other places I saw up there. We'll check that out first."
"Mm." Gourry reached up and patted her hands. "Down."
She puffed her cheeks out. "Why, am I heavy?"
Gourry let out an explosive and frustrated sigh. "No, but there's trees up ahead, you'll get knocked off, sitting up so high."
Okay, so sometimes she was difficult to work with.
But she saw his point, so she unhooked her legs from around his rib cage and slid down off his back. "Good call." When Gourry didn't start walking when she did, she stopped and looked back at him. "What is it?"
"Uh, speaking of calling..." Gourry trailed off, looking back at the town. "Weren't we gonna talk to Amelia?"
Oh. Oops. "We'll do that after the spoon," she said. "We're already out of town, and this shouldn't take long."
Gourry seemed to accept that and started walking. "Can I ask another question?"
"Just as long as it's not a stupid one."
He shook his head. "I don't think it is... why didn't you let me tell that sorcerer that we're married? I thought we weren't hiding anymore." Gourry sounded pretty hurt, now that the subject was brought up.
Lina didn't like hearing that hurt, and very suddenly wished they hadn't gotten caught up in Zelgadis's message and had contacted Amelia before running off. "Because I want to tell Amelia first," she said. "How do you think she'd feel if she found out through the gossip mill starting instead of from us directly?" She smiled up at Gourry. "I promise, we're not hiding. We'll find this spoon, see if we can't find Zel up here, and then contact her. Then we can say whatever we want, to whoever we want, whenever we want."
That answer satisfied him. "Makes sense," he said. "I kinda wish we'd called her first, though."
"I do too," she said, truly meaning it now that she was thinking about it. "But she'd get impatient if we told her we were coming to Seyruun, and then were late because we chased after endless breakfast." She wasn't wrong on that thought, though, and she knew it.
"All right," he said. "I don't want to upset Amelia either."
They chatted the rest of the way to where the ground got steep, mostly about the various foods they were going to get regenerated over and over again once they found the spoon. Barbecue meatballs! Fried rice! Curry! And sweet, succulent crab! Lina's stomach was debating with her brain about if food was going to be a soon need or not. Her brain said yes, her mouth said yes, her stomach protested against getting overstuffed. They hadn't worked off breakfast yet.
But a bowl of egg drop soup to test the spoon with wouldn't hurt, would it?
"We're gonna be learning how to eat everything with a spoon, aren't we?" Gourry asked as the reached the ruins. The ghost town echoed wind hollowly around them. He cupped his hands around his mouth. "Hello?"
His voice echoed back at them, but not much else.
"I guess Zelgadis must be at some other ruin on the mountain, huh?"
Lina gathered her cape around her a bit. They weren't far up the mountain, but the air was still decidedly colder than where they'd been down in the 'new' town of Cakerat. New was relative, of course, since the current incarnation of the Sorcerer's Guild was a few hundred years old, and the one in town was clearly built on that model. Which meant the building that housed the town's original guild had to be older than that. Which possibly meant lost information. That was probably what Zelgadis was after. Lina made mental note to ask him about it. She'd look herself, but she really did want to get a hold of Amelia before she went stomping around cold mountains, looking for obscure texts that might not exist anymore.
Besides, it'd bore Gourry to tears, and Lina didn't want him to be bored any more than she wanted to put up with him being bored.
"Probably," she agreed with Gourry's assessment of where their sometimes travel companion would be. "We'll try to track him after we find the spoon."
"I thought you needed a spell to follow?" he asked, rubbing his arms. Lina wished they had warmer clothes, especially Gourry. She at least had her cape.
She was, in another thought, impressed that he remembered that much. "I do," she said. "Good catch. But I was talking about the old fashioned way. I can't just follow random magic, like the kind used to create Zelgadis. He doesn't exactly leave a scent trail I'm familiar with."
"Magic has smells now?"
"Jellyfish. I wasn't being literal." Lina shook her head and started nosing around the buildings. They were all in relatively decent shape, being made entirely of stone. Some of the buildings were carved into the mountain itself, giving them a longer-lasting foundation to rest on. The call of the guild whispered in her ear again, but she ignored it. A bored Gourry was an annoying Gourry. And that spoon was more important.
They wandered around for a good half hour, hearing and seeing nothing but cold wind and empty stone buildings. There wasn't anything to indicate any spoon existed, much less an enchanted one.
Lina finally got sick of it and kicked an outside wall of a house with the flat part of her foot. Avoid the toes getting smashed, after all. "This place is empty!" she yelled, her voice bouncing around the stone constructs of the abandoned city. "We've looked everywhere!"
"We didn't check that big building in the center," Gourry pointed out.
"Augh." Lina gripped her hair in frustration. "I know, but that's the guild, I think."
Gourry looked massively confused. "But that's where the magic stuff would be, isn't it?"
With an impatient sigh, Lina decided to tell Gourry how dangerous that place might be. Sure, the spoon was probably there, but ancient texts, new magic to study, et cetera, et cetera. She had a feeling that all he really heard was "Magic stuff, blah blah blah, you'll be bored, blah blah blah, more magic stuff." One of these days, she was going to say something about magic that didn't just make his brain shut down in self-defense.
"Wouldn't Zelgadis have already been there?" he asked in a moment of brilliance. "If he's still after that cure, he's probably already gotten those. Couldn't you just borrow them from him after we find the spoon?"
Lina's delicate eyebrows turned downward in a frown. "He never keeps anything that's not useful for that. But fine. I want that spoon too. And off this mountain."
Just because Gourry was right didn't mean he needed to look smug about it. She wanted to kick him. "It's cold," he agreed. "Maybe we should've kept those cloaks we had when we were helping Filia."
Ah, those wonderful fur-lined cloaks. He was right again. Two for two, but this thought she agreed wholeheartedly with, leaving the urge to kick his shins behind. "We'll start keeping warm clothes in our packs," she said. They never had before, but there weren't many cold places in the inner world, and when traveling, pack as lightly as possible. But there was always the chance of valuable treasure in cold areas, and freezing to death while looking for it made that treasure lose a bit of charm.
Food, Lina. Endless food. Keep focused.
As Lina had predicted, the building that rose above the town was the guild. There was evidence that there had been books there at one point, along with some stone tablets in a far older form of the common language than she could read. She recognized the magic circles, though. Some were new to her, but there was no mistaking a magic circle with a doodle. There were a few of those, but on at least a half dozen of the tablets, the weaker scribbles evolved into far more confidently carved magic arrays.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), most of the circles weren't anything she hadn't seen elsewhere. In fact, a lot of them were foundation spells, simple things that she learned as a child. The ones she didn't recognize, however, made no sense to her, as she couldn't read the text that went with them. And being stone, she wasn't about to try carting them around.
She set aside a couple tablets she'd been looking at and looked over her shoulder at Gourry. "Any luck?"
Gourry closed a book he was looking at. Since when did he start looking at the literary treasure first? "I can't read any of this," he said. "And the pages keep falling apart."
She walked over to him and looked at the scant handful of books left on the shelf in front of him. "Why were you looking at those?"
"I thought maybe they'd say where the spoon is," he said. He looked down at her. "Isn't that what you were doing?"
Oops. "Kinda," she said. "Mostly confirming where we were." Well, that'd been the original reason she started looking at those tablets. So kinda. She tossed up a light spell, peering through open doorways that didn't benefit from light coming through the front doorway. "Looks like we head in farther."
The back rooms were a maze that caused them some consternation and a slight argument here and there about which way to go.
"Can't you track a spell on the spoon or something?" he asked after she stepped on his toes for trying the 'eenie meenie miney moe' method. "Sylphiel did in that place that never stopped going down."
Lina clenched her fists. "Yes, and I've already said I can't track magic I'm not familiar with. Sylphiel's a white mage, and a damn powerful one," she growled. "If I could do that, you think I wouldn't have done it already?"
Gourry lifted his hands in self-defense. "I didn't know that was because of white magic," he said in a placating tone. Then he lowered his arms, putting one hand on her shoulder. "Why are you so upset?" he asked. "You were in a great mood earlier."
Take a breath. In. Out. Gourry was right, and she was taking her cold-and-poor-nerves-induced bad mood out on him. It wasn't fair of her. Lina wasn't always fair, she could own up to that, but for heaven's sake, that was her husband. They were well past the days when her frustration with his lack of understanding of magic made her get up in a snit. He knew enough to normally follow along with what was going on, even if the 'how' part went in one ear and right out the other.
Suitably calmed down, or at least feeling up for apologizing instead of whining, she patted his hand. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm cold and you know I hate feeling uncomfortable."
Gourry shook his head. "And yet you love traveling the road. That doesn't afford many luxuries."
Moving to let Gourry's hand drop off her shoulder, Lina shrugged in an exaggerated manner. "Ah, but that's fun," she said. "This isn't so much." Then she stopped. Why wasn't this fun? Other than the cold, this sort of exploring and adventuring was her sort of thing. It could just be her woman's intuition that was blaring at her that this wasn't going to be fun and games, but it didn't make sense that it wouldn't. The place was empty, what sort of threat would hassle them there?
Gourry must've heard the cautiousness in her voice, because he walked with muted steps up next to her again, and started looking around. "You see something?"
She shook her head. "No," she said, lowering her voice as she strained her hearing for anything that might explain why the hairs on the back of her neck were standing on edge. "I don't hear anything, either. But something's up here." With sight and sound eliminated as the causes, she relied on her next sense, starting to pay more attention to the smell of the place. She hadn't really noticed before, intent on the spoon, but she was most definitely smelling something off in that place, and it might've explained her discomfort more than the cold did. "Smell that?"
Gourry lifted his head a bit and his nose started twitching from taking big sniffs in. This his body language shifted, just a bit, tensing in a way that only someone really familiar with him would catch. "Troll."
Yes, there it was. What had her on edge. "I think you're right," she said.
"No wonder you're prickly," Gourry said.
Lina cast him a side-eyed look. "I am not prickly," she said. "My nerves are just pulled tight." Trolls were not a huge deal for them, but if there were enough of them, even the Inverse-Gabriev couple might get overwhelmed. Not that they didn't have perfectly good solutions, but not really anything that didn't risk dropping the building down on them.
Now that she knew there was potential danger down the halls, she found it prudent to leave bread crumbs to follow back out if they had to move fast. "Let's backtrack a bit," she said. "I want to leave a scent trail for us to follow." Then she shot him a look. "And don't even take that literally."
He looked back over his shoulder at the hall they'd come down. "So you're going to use spells you can follow?"
She nodded, walking to the doorway. "It's less likely to go out than a candle or get wiped off like a picture would."
Gourry turned in a slow circle, eyes intent on the darkness in the halls in front of them. Keeping watch for trouble, if Lina wasn't mistaken. Cover the sorceress's back while she casts the spells that weren't being used to fight. Familiar routine.
"So this is something you can track, right?" Gourry asked. "Without being like Sylphiel?"
Lina didn't answer right away, intent on her spell. "That's right," she said, moving back down the hall. "Keep up. And yes, I can track this, these are my own spells. It's possible I could track Zelgadis this way if it was an emergency, since I've been around him so much, but the spoon's out, because I don't have any idea what that spell is."
Gourry obeyed the 'keep up' part, but only physically. "So you know the spell on Zelgadis?"
Resist the urge to sigh, Lina. He's trying, and he's not too far off. "No, not really," she said. "Here, lemme try an analogy. You're good with swords. You know the types of swords you use, you can recognize them easily, right?"
Good, he was following. "Say you're around someone an awful lot. You don't know specifics about his sword, it's not a kind you've ever seen before, but you'd recognize it when you saw it, because you're around him so much. That's like the spell that turned Zelgadis into a chimera for me. I can recognize it as his, even though I don't really understand the specifics. But the spoon is like getting told 'there's a sword' there, with no clue as to what kind. I can't track something I don't know what it is, but if it's something familiar, I have a chance of finding Zelgadis using magic. I might not be able to, though, as the magic that formed him was pretty thorough and it's hard to notice it. I've never tried honing in on him that way."
Another spell at another doorway.
She looked at him. "Does that make sense?"
He nodded with a grin. "Yeah. I followed that pretty good. You're good at making things make sense."
Lina puffed her chest out. "I do my best."
"You're getting better."
Her posture deflated, even as indignation took over her voice. "What does that mean?"
Gourry shrugged. "You didn't always know how to make it make sense to me."
"Well, that's true," she said. "But I also didn't know you as well as I do now." She finished her last spell. "Okay, that's it. Let's get back to that crossroads and see if I we can figure out which way to go."
While she took the light spell back 'into' her hand to guide the way rather than just look over her shoulder, Gourry took up the rear, his left hand holding his sword sheath just under the hilt of the sword itself. She knew that sword as ready to come out at a second's notice. "Should we got towards the trolls, or away?"
Good question. Lina frowned, looking down each of the three halls that branched off, debating. "It depends on if they're guarding the spoon," she said. "A spoon that just generates endless food wouldn't be something that someone else would set a guardian on. That's a waste of resources."
"What if they're using it to eat?" Gourry asked.
"That seems more likely," she agreed. "So I guess let's go after the troll smell." She wrinkled her nose. "This spoon better be fantastic for this."
"Endless food," Gourry said.
Lina's stomach still wasn't ready to start growling, but her brain refocused her priorities. No troll was gonna stop her from getting that spoon. She just wished they didn't stink so bad.
After some investigation, they decided that the smell was stronger from the right branch. Lina left a marking spell, then they headed down the way. They searched for another ten minutes, following all sorts of weird turns, before Lina was forced to stop as something hit her square in the brain. "Gourry, these hallways are almost all curved," she said, looking back at the slightly glowing marker behind them.
Gourry's answer was to do a lap around the latest crossroads, nose twitching and head tilted to aim his ear down each hall in turn. "It's kinda weird," he said. "But I think we're going in the right direction."
"We are," Lina agreed. "But I think we'll wanna be careful. These halls are routed around a magic circle." She held up the light to the path that they were about to go down. "The spoon's gotta be in the middle. Whatever this array did at some point, its magic is going to be concentrated at the center."
"Can we follow that safer than the troll smell? It's pretty awful."
No disagreement there. "Maybe." She reached into one of her cape's pockets and pulled out some paper and a writing utensil. Ignoring the cold floor, she sat down and started sketching, drawing the lines of the array they'd gone through already. It was far from complete, but Lina could see radials leading inwards that would pattern out to bring them to the center, unless the array was completely nonsensical. It'd also be shorter than following the terrible smell of troll around the outside circles.
She stood and oriented her 'map' to their position, holding one finger out and turning to point down the hall that was the closest radial. "We'll go that way," she said. "Unless these guys were really out there with their magic, that should lead towards the center."
"Are we sure it's in the middle?" Gourry asked, taking up position just off her back to the right as she headed down the hall.
"Enchantings work better when they're done in a circle," she said. "They're not always necessary, especially for the smaller stuff, but at least doing it the first time, you should use one. I'm working on the assumption that there's only the one." She checked her map, then turned left down another hall. The troll smell wasn't getting any better; in fact, it was getting worse. "It may be a bad assumption, but there has to be at least one original that might've been left in the enchanting area as a prototype. That's a good place to start."
Gourry made a noise of acknowledgment that sounded distracted, which meant that nothing she said had parsed. If he weren't her Jellyfish Brains, she'd toss him off a cliff.
And here came the questions. Lina bit on her tongue. She loved the man dearly, but really, if he'd just paid attention... "Yeah?"
"The smell's getting worse," he said, face contorted into a statement of distaste to match his statement and the tone in his voice that sounded like too much more of the smell, and his stomach might hate that spoon more than he'd ever hated silverware.
"Believe me, I noticed," she said. Deciding that enough was enough, she covered her nose and mouth to keep the putrid air out. "I think we can expect a fight up ahead." She immediately started running through her list of spells for one that wouldn't involve an explosion or fire. That much foul air, it might ignite and flash fry the entire building.
Which would be interesting to see, but not from in the middle of the puddle of melted rock that'd get left behind.
Maybe she could Ray Wing them out.
"Good chance to test out my new sword," he said, voice a nasally drawl. A look back at him confirmed that he had his nose pinched in response to the stench. Despite that, though, his statement seemed to please him.
She smiled under her hand. "I might just throw you at the trolls and hold you to that vow you took."
Gourry looked at her in annoyance. "You just want to be lazy."
"I am not!" she said. "When have you ever known me to actually be lazy in a fight, huh? I want to see that thing in action. And we're deep in a rocky tomb, do you want me to blow it up with us still in it?"
Somehow, Gourry managed to look more upset than the smell already had him. "No," he said. "What about-"
"I don't have much else that I can guarantee I'll have the room to work without getting in between your sword and a troll's throat." There wasn't a lot of point in giving him the idea of tossing her at the trolls to put them to sleep if the area turned out too small to safely pull that off. Best he be braced to do it by himself.
That, and she really wanted to see the sword doing whatever it was that Luna made it do.
Gourry sighed. "Just keep the place well-lit for me."
"No problem!" It was nice when life was easy.
By the time they were heading down what Lina hoped was the final hall, the air had taken on a property of physical slime that made Lina want to dump herself and Gourry head first into a hot, sudsy tub, and most definitely not for any pleasure beyond feeling clean again. "This is more than trolls," she said, feeling like she wanted to gag on the air let into her mouth by talking.
Gourry didn't make any particular verbal agreement beyond a pinched-sounding 'mm-hmm', but he did move to stand next to her, his free hand on his sword's hilt. He looked ready to chance the nasty stench to pull it out and fight. Foul-fogged air or not, she might have to pull out a spell. She wished she knew Astral Vine, she could make her sword more useful.
Good gods, what was that smell?!
Her silent question was answered when they entered a circular room that spanned roughly fifty feet in diameter. The size alone wasn't enough to be remarkable, not for an old guild laid out in a magic circle. What was remarkable, however, was the fact that all but about ten feet of that fifty feet dropped into a giant pit that gurgled. More accurately, it was a vile, 'trash on fire' black liquid inside it that gurgled. If Lina had to guess, and she worried that she might have to for safety's sake, it ran down as far as the room stretched. The liquid was the obvious source of the smell, and it had such a corporeal presence that her consitution failed her and she turned and doubled over, emptying her no-longer-wanted breakfast all over the floor.
Gourry sounded on the verge of joining her in the puke pile when he said "Lina, what is that stuff?"
She coughed and gagged, spat a couple times, then forced herself upright and inched towards the edge of the pit. "I have no idea," she said weakly, then took a step back. "I don't like leaving a treasure hunt empty-handed, but I don't think an enchanted spoon is worth navigating around that. And don't even mention the food it generates right now."
'Food' seemed to be the magic word to trigger Gourry's own stomach to empty its contents out next to her former breakfast.
Past the noise of vomit spewing at a prodigious rate, Lina's sensitive hearing picked up on a sound out of place. Something was coming, and it sounded like heavy footsteps, which meant whatever was heading their way, it was big. Probably a troll. Not wanting to be forced into a confrontation so close to the edge of a pit of compost and death, Lina grabbed Gourry's arm and, ignoring his shaky yelp of protest, pulled him down around the corner.
"Sorry," she said, voice low, not quite at a whisper, but close.
Gourry took in a shuddering breath before spitting once, then banished the ill posture into one of readiness. "Hear something?"
She nodded, peeking around the corner. A troll came trudging out from another hall across the pit from the Inverse-Gabriev pair's hiding spot. The troll was dragging something, something big. They stayed silent, watching as the troll yanked something silver out of its cargo, then tossed the half-rotted corpse of something - Lina didn't want to know what - into the pit. It splashed and gurgled and Lina nearly puked again. She managed to hold her stomach in submission.
The silver object, something that looked like a dinner knife with a wide base, glowed, then another hunk of dead meat spawned around it. The troll looked oddly troubled by the presence of fresh food, though Lina could hardly blame it, standing so close to the hole containing a liquid of decomposing intestines and fiery hate. Then the troll turned and headed back down the hall it'd come from, dragging the corpse the silver had generated behind it.
"That troll has the spoon," she declared, standing up.
Gourry joined her, knees a bit wobbly before getting his feet under him proper. "That's what that was? It's generating troll food."
"It's gotta be," she said. Her stomach threatened again when she finally put two and two together to realize that "that hole's filled with the food they don't eat."
"So it's liquid meat?"
"Let's not really think on that," she said. "Next question, do we go after that spoon still, or get out of here?"
"Is it only going to make that stuff?"
Gourry raised a good point with that question.
Lina tried her best to consider that, but the smell and the knowledge of what was in that pit was making it hard to concentrate. "It regenerates endless food," she said, choking on the word 'food'. "Let's not chance it. Go, we're getting out of here."
Gourry didn't argue with her decision, probably didn't want to, so he turned, then promptly stepped back into her. Before she could even protest almost getting knocked off her feet, Gourry had grabbed her shoulder and spun her around until she was face-to-belly with a club-wielding troll.
Oh come on. First she lost her breakfast, then lost her hopes at a magic spoon, and now she can't even leave peacefully?
Gourry didn't have room to draw his sword without potentially hitting her, as was obvious by him trying to push her out of the way. She ducked under his reach and cast a Bom Di Wind at the troll's feet. The spell shoved the troll down the hall and onto his back, laying prone. That wasn't going to last, not with the troll's regeneration, but it gave them an opening.
"Gourry, take it!"
"Thanks!" Gourry was rushing at the troll even as he said that, sword properly drawn. The troll sat up, rubbing its head, but didn't get a chance to even raise its club before Gourry's sword pierced through flesh and bone, right between the troll's eyes.
Since neither of them were sure how the Sword of Ceipheed worked, it wasn't just Lina who stumbled back as the troll simply popped out of existence, nothing but air and stone left where he'd sat. Gourry stared at his sword. "Whatever your sister did to this, it's handy."
Lina walked over to him. "A sword that renders things out of existence," she said in awe, looking at the sword. She placed a hand over Gourry's, making contact with the dragon-covered hilt. "I didn't think Ceipheed had those powers. That seems like something you'd have to go to the Lord of Nightmares to get."
Gourry looked at her. "Luna said that it was blessed by Ceipheed though, didn't she?"
"She did," Lina said, dropping her hand. "Nobody's ever been able to call on the Lord of Nighmares before me. I don't understand." She blew out a huff of air, then promptly regretted the following intake. She covered her nose and mouth again. "Whatever Ceipheed did to it, it's good for us. Come on, let's get out of here before more trolls-" She cut herself off as heavy footsteps once again reached her ears, this time several of them, and coming from ahead of them. "Why does this feel familiar to me?"
Gourry had been halfway to resheathing his sword when the sounds of the trolls interrupted Lina's line of thought. He held it at the ready again. "I think this happens to us a lot," he answered. "Think they're far enough away for us to get out of this hall before they corner us?"
Lina drew her sword. She could use more direct spells if she had to, and she'd found that a Mono Volt paired up with a stab from her sword did a fine job killing trolls. It was certainly safer than chancing knocking the building down on top of them, and as she'd predicted, she didn't have the room to get up at the trolls' heads to pop a reverse healing spell on them. "I don't know. Let's hurry, we might get out of this unscathed."
"Just run, Gourry."
No further questions were asked, the two of them taking off at a sprint, turning the nearest corner with an inner sigh of relief and thinking they'd dodged trouble for once.
Too bad those trolls they heard were coming at them from the hall they just turned down.
They stopped in their tracks, Lina looking behind them.
"Can we go back?" Gourry asked, holding ready while the trolls broke into a lumbering run at them.
Lina didn't have her makeshift map, but her fabulous memory came to her rescue. "I don't think so, that other hallway should lead to a dead end." A grim smile crossed her face. "Guess we fight our way out." She held out her hand like she was about to cast a spell. She knew Gourry wouldn't realize she wasn't. "Gourry, go!"
Gourry took a step, then stopped and gave her a dirty look. "Every time, Lina."
"I was- oops!"
The trolls had been moving faster than either Lina or Gourry had noticed in their sweet nothings, and both were forced to bend over backwards under a club swing.
Seriously, why did trolls always use clubs?
Better than sharp and pointies, she supposed.
Gourry sliced upwards through a club, the chunk of wood splintering into pieces that voided themselves out of the fabric of reality. Lina ducked under his arms and stabbed the troll who just got disarmed in the gut. Gourry took that as intended, turning his attention to the next troll that was in their path. The troll who was standing with Lina's sword in his belly didn't seem particularly disturbed by the sword's presence after its initial shock was over.
He didn't like the Mono Volt she cast into the metal blade, though.
Without a good way for Lina to be able to take the crowd down at once with explosives, she and Gourry were finding themselves seriously overwhelmed. They'd taken down a dozen with Gourry's superior swordplay and Lina's smaller contribution of spells, but another dozen were already moving to replace their fallen comrades. She cast another Bom Di Wind to give them breathing room.
"This would be easier if we weren't trapped in a damn cave!" she yelled in frustration.
"Where are they all coming from?" Gourry asked, probably not expecting an answer.
Lina gave him one anyway. "The depths of hell," she snapped. "I don't know! This place must be a clan house or something."
From the other side of the hoard came a familiar voice. "Holy wind, wind which flows gently across the land, let all things be filled with your pure breath!"
Zelgadis. Thank the gods.
The Van Rehl spell spidered up the hallway, capturing trolls in its icy grips. The trolls froze in place, literally in this case.
"Zel!" Lina called happily, sheathing her sword. "You are a lifesaver."
Zelgadis stepped out between two frozen trolls. "I heard Gourry's voice on the mountain earlier, I figured you'd be here," he said. "Good thing I decided to find you."
Gourry knocked on one of the ice sculpture trolls, creating cracks along the ice. "Yup, they're pretty frozen."
Anyone else, and Zelgadis might've replied with a raised eyebrow and perhaps a caustic remark to such a display of simplicity, but he was almost as accustomed to Gourry as Lina was. "That's the idea of the spell," he said with what passed for a smile with him, then looked at Lina. "You found the spoon?"
Lina put a hand over her stomach. "Kinda. Were you here earlier?" When Zelgadis didn't answer, tilting his head to the side, Lina started to repeat herself, wondering if Zelgadis had seriously lost his mind. He hadn't, holding his hand out to shush her. "What?"
"I hear more trolls," he said. "We'll talk outside."
Lina didn't hear any trolls, but she knew they were around, and Zelgadis's hearing was a bit better than hers. She was going to take his word on the matter. She took over handling the Lighting spell needed to see their way back from Zelgadis. Normally in front, Lina decided it was best to let Zel lead the way, relying on his senses to get them past the worst of the infestation. She let Gourry focus on guarding their rear, and put her attention on puzzling out Gourry's new sword.
Why not? She had two big, strong men to take care of the details, why not take the opportunity to pour her thoughts over something that might be useful later? Let them do the work.
But for all that freedom, the lingering smell of that pit of hate and regret haunted her all the way out of the building, so she didn't get much in the way of ideas on how that worked beyond "Ceipheed makes bad things go away." Which wasn't up to her normal standards in herself.
Even though the cold mountain air that hit them outside was fresh and clean, Lina still felt like that smell from the building had taken solid form and was stuck to her skin. She just felt cold and slimy instead of stifled and slimy. So she had no problem taking Zelgadis and Gourry's assessments that they needed to be farther away from the guild building before they stopped and considered themselves safe to talk.
Both Lina and Gourry pointed out the weather as a deterrent to stopping at all until they were in the more pleasant valley. Lina tossed in a suggestion of stopping at a bath house in town and just taking another day in the town to recover their appetites. Even Zelgadis agreed to that.
"There wasn't much of anything of interest at some of the other ruins," he said. "And that makes the second time I was in that building. I think a bath and clean clothes are both required."
"Did you find the source of that smell?" Lina asked, rubbing furiously at her left arm. "Gods, I can still smell that."
"I did," Zelgadis said. "I wasn't sure what it was, but I decided I didn't want to know."
Gourry looked over Lina's head at Zelgadis, who was on Lina's other side. "I didn't know that meat could turn into liquid, but the trolls were dumping dead food there."
Zelgadis blinked in rapid-fire confusion. "Dead food? Isn't all food technically dead?"
Lina shook her head. "No, dead food is food that's gone bad. The trolls had the spoon. Whatever they couldn't eat before the meat spoiled got dumped into that pit, I guess. We saw one do that, then another carcass of what looked like a cow spawned around the cup part of the spoon. The troll didn't look happy about it." She made a face. "Taking that spoon would mean we're dragging a dead cow by it all over the place, or else leaving it for some innocent idiot to find and take and get stuck with it."
"Oh." Zelgadis's nose crinkled. "That vile stuff was liquid cow?"
"Makes that smell sticking on you that much more horrible, doesn't it?"
"And a bath that much more appealing," he agreed. "I apologize for steering you wrong with that."
Lina waved it off. "Ah, don't worry about it. That smell aside, it was a fun side trip. You know the Inverse-Gabriev couple are always up for new things."
There, now to see if Zelgadis caught on to that use of names.
"You are," Zelgadis said, then actually stopped in his tracks to look at them suspiciously. He didn't say it, but his face sure did.
Lina couldn't help the wide grin on her face, even past the lingering scent of death hanging on her clothes. Gourry looked just as doofy as she probably did. "You heard that right, buddy," she said. "And it means exactly what you think it means this time."
"She decided to make an honest man out of me," Gourry said and almost earned a heel to the toes for it. But oh, who cared, she was finally getting to tell her friends that she and Gourry were an Official Married Couple.
Their news actually got Zelgadis's jaw to hang open. "How- how long ago? You weren't out of our company that long."
Lina and Gourry exchanged a look. "We got married a month ago," Lina said. "My sister performed the ceremony at my home. But uh." She rubbed the back of her head to look like she was at least attempting to feel guilty. "We've been together since after Martina's wedding. We just were being dumb and decided to pretend otherwise."
Zelgadis crossed his arms. "Well, you certainly did a good job at deceiving all of us."
Okay, yeah, hurt feelings. Lina probably should've expected that.
"We got worried after that stupid kid," Gourry said with a special level of hatred spat out with the words 'stupid kid', the only name he could give to Phibrizzo that he could pronounce and didn't mind using in mixed company. Then he shrugged, tone softening. "Anything that scares Lina enough to want to hide something good is something I'm okay with being scared of too."
Lina shot him a dirty look. "Don't put that all on my shoulders."
"I'm not," he said in what was a successful attempt at assuring her, with that gentle strength in his tone that she so admired about him. "I was scared too. I just figured I wasn't being dumb for it when you were too."
"Phibrizzo is a good enough reason for me," Zelgadis said. "If it were me in your position, I would be tempted to set up a bunker somewhere and hide my wife from the whole world. The fact that you two still went out and faced the world is better than what I would've done." Then he took in a deep breath and shook his head with a smile. "Good grief, you two. You're probably on your way to Seyruun to con a big wedding out of Amelia, aren't you?"
"That's ri- hey." Lina shot him a sour look. "I am not 'conning' anything. You know she wouldn't let us get away with turning it down, even if we wanted to." Then she sniffed in indignation. "In fact, we'd gone to the guild in town to call Amelia to let her know before just showing up on her doorstep when we got your note."
"And you promptly forgot about calling her to go chasing the spoon."
There was another exchange of looks between Lina and Gourry, this time both of them sheepish. "Uh, yeah," Lina said. "But we'll do that after we clean up." She sniffed her glove and recoiled. "I am not dragging that place around longer than I need to."
"But we really are calling her this time, right?" Gourry looked at her for confirmation.
"This time, we are," she said. She pointed at Zelgadis. "He won't let us forget."
Zelgadis held his hands up. "So Miss Inverse ha- excuse me, Missus Inverse-Gabriev, has commanded. I don't know a soul that can argue with her successfully."
"I can sometimes," Gourry said, sporting a face-hurting smile to match Lina's.
Oh, that name was lovely to hear. That's right, world, that Jellyfish is hers and she wasn't sharing.
One corner of Zelgadis's lips twitched upwards in an exasperated half-smile. "You'd be the only one then. She had to find her match at some point."
Lina raised her hand to take her turn at speaking. "Not to interrupt, as fun as it is talking about how awesome Gourry and I are, I want a bath and a clean change of clothing, and we have a friend to call with the news."
Gourry swept his arms to the side. "After you, Missus Inverse-Gabriev."
There was that face-breaking smile again. Her cheeks were gonna start hurting if she wasn't careful about that. "Someone knows which side his bread is buttered," she said, tossing her hair and walking on in front.
"It means you know to be nice to me because I'm nice in return," she said. "Now hurry up." The road was calling her to stomp on bandits, take down villains, and look for treasure, all on her way to the altar.
That's right, world. Here comes Lina Inverse-Gabriev. Keep up.