QUESTION! Who Could Love A Man of Stone?
Nepha has fallen in love with Zelgadis!
Lina Inverse here! You know, I’ve been through a lot of trials now, especially after finding Zelgadis to be a true ally and Rezo to be the enemy! Zelgadis and his friends Zolf and Rodimus helped us starting then.QUESTION! Who Could Love A Man of Stone?
Then, we managed to defeat the Dark Lord, who Rezo ressurected in order to heal his sight. Big mistake, seeing as how Shabranigdo was sealed within his own blind eyes.
Rezo was killed, as were Zolf and Rodimus, and Zelgadis went his own way. We met up with Amelia and her dad Prince Philionel, but FINALLY got away from them. Those bounty hunters are still a problem though. . .
Then, we met a princess named Nepha. She’s. . .a little on the weird side.
But now, Zel’s back with us, and things couldn’t be going better!
Running through the forest wasn’t exactly what the young half-cat had on her agenda for the day, but it was all she could do to keep from being caught by her pursuers. At her hip was hilted a sword that had been handed down in her family through countless generations. It was Princess Nepha of Feli, and the sword was the Mystic Blade.
Nepha leapt over a fence with the swiftness and agility of a small cat. Her feisty green eyes flashed as she landed softly and continued to run.
The ground seemed to blend with her soft feet, pushing up, helping her to run. She couldn’t let them get her sword!
Suddenly, she saw a flash. The sudden vision caused her to stop dead in her tracks, her long bushy tail swishing nervously. She then felt the rip of a sword across her back and fell to the ground, now feeling nothing at all. . .
With a startled cry, Zelgadis Graywords fell to his hands and knees, catching his breath in unsteady gasps. Lina Inverse and Gourry Gabriev looked at him in shock.
“What’s wrong?” asked Lina. “You’re acting like someone just stabbed you.”
“As far as my back is concerned, it feels like someone just did!” Zelgadis growled painfully through gritted teeth.
Gourry looked at the chimera confusedly.
“But you’re not bleeding, and there’s no one in this vicinity for miles in any direction,” he stated. “Besides, nothing can pierce your stone skin. Except MY sword, that is.”
Lina wasn’t paying any attention to the conversation of Zelgadis and Gourry. Instead, she heard laughter from the woods...
“C’mon, guys, something’s going on!” she cried. “Nepha could be in trouble!”
She started to run towards the forest. Gourry followed, and Zelgadis pulled himself to his feet, following unsteadily behind.
“Finally!” laughed one man. “Nepha of Feli is ours, and the Mystic Blade as well!”
As he reached down to take the sword from its sheath, he was shocked by a burst of fiery light. Lifting his head, he cried out.
“NOT YOU!” he shouted. “IT’S THAT MAGIC USING, BANDIT KILLING, DRAGON SPOOKING BRAT. . .LINA INVERSE!!”
Gourry finally caught up, sword held in his hands. The men quickly high-tailed it, just as Zelgadis limped up to them. He saw the girl lying on the ground and gasped, eyes growing wide. She was hurt. . .
“Poor Nepha,” Gourry stated, cutting through Zelgadis’s thoughts. “I hope she’s all right.”
“I’m fine. . .” Nepha was pushing up onto her hands and knees. “I cast a healing spell as they brought that sword on me... I’ll be fine within a few minutes.” She sat back on her heels and lifted her head. “Thank you, Lina. Thank you, Gourry.” She saw Zelgadis and her eyes widened, flashing in a cat-like manner as her ears perked. He had been in her vision! “Zelgadis, you. . .”
Zelgadis lifted dark eyes to look at the half-cat.
“What?” he growled. “Something bothering you?”
Nepha quickly shook her head.
“No, no, I just remembered something, it’s nothing, really,” she responded hurriedly.
Zelgadis raised a brow and looked at Lina, speaking softly.
“That’s really odd,” he stated.
Gourry walked over and helped Nepha stand.
“Don’t worry about Zel, he’s just in a weird mood today,” shrugged Gourry. “You feelin’ any better?”
“I’m okay now,” responded Nepha. “And thank you for showing up when you did.”
“No problem,” Lina shrugged. “But why were those men chasing you?”
“They were after the Mystic Blade, which is the sword I carry. Legend has it that it can bring about even greater sorrow than releasing Shabrandigo if in the wrong hands,” Nepha stated solemnly. “Only I can protect it, with the help of the One, of course.”
She had never told them all this.
“The One?” questioned Zelgadis curiously, the pain in his back leaving as the wound on Nepha’s back healed.
“The One is who is to help me protect the sword. But I have yet to find him...” Nepha sighed. She looked down wearily. “I’m starting to doubt if I ever will.”
“We’ll be happy to help you find him,” Lina said with a smile. “Anything we can do, we’ll be happy to do it.” She thought a moment. “Is that the reason you came with us?”
“Somewhat,” Nepha smiled in return. “And thank you, very much.”
As the three talked, Zelgadis folded his arms over his chest and frowned. He knew that Nepha had noticed something, and for once, it wasn’t the fact he was a chimera. She already knew that. What could it have been?
“We were so close! Had Lina Inverse and her accomplices not shown up, we would have Nepha AND the Mystic Blade!” growled Ralfo, leader of the group that had attacked Nepha. “Mystic Blade, Golem Slayer. We will have it.”
One man lifted his head as he heard ‘Golem Slayer.’
“Sir, isn’t one of Lina’s accomplices part golem?” he questioned.
Ralfo grinned devilishly.
“I suppose,” he chuckled, “that Zelgadis will be the first to taste Mystic Blade. Won’t he?”
As the group walked through the dark woods, Zelgadis lagged behind, watching the rhythmic swishing of Nepha’s tail. He sighed deeply and lowered his eyes again, becoming lost in his thoughts.
*The girl seems to believe that she truly knows me, or knew someone like me, and wants so much for me to help her. Oh, but I’ve heard of the Mystic Blade. It’s also called Golem Slayer. I’m part golem. That sword is the only thing aside from the Sword of Light that can cut through my stone skin. What if she was lying? What if she was only here for the purpose to kill me. . .and others like me?*
Zelgadis was snapped out of his thoughts as Lina’s hand shot out in front of him. He stopped and looked down, shocked to see a sheer 50 foot drop.
“Wouldn’t wanna see you shatter, Zel,” Lina grinned. “So, how’re we gonna get out of this one?”
Nepha sat down on the ledge and looked out over it.
“Hey!” she exclaimed happily. “There’s a village in this valley! We can stop here for food, water, and a good rest!”
Zelgadis tried not to, but he couldn’t hold back a smile. She seemed so bright, so happy. He didn’t want to, that was true, but he couldn’t hold back the tugging at the corners of his mouth. Nepha shot back a quick grin at him, then looked back out over the valley.
Without warning, Nepha was blasted back from where she was sitting. She landed on her feet several yards behind the group, which scrambled back to meet her. The men from before were climbing up the side of the cliff! The four drew their swords. In that instant, Zelgadis quickly moved to the other side, avoiding being too close to the Mystic Blade.
“ATTACK!” yelled Ralfo.
The two groups went into a feverish battle. About halfway through, Nepha was knocked down, dazing the half-feline. Ralfo grabbed the sword from the sheath on her hip and examined the jewel encrusted hilt. Suddenly angered, Zelgadis lunged at him, sword held high above his head for a quick downward slice.
He felt a searing pain in his stomach, stopping in his tracks. The Mystic Blade was shoved through his midsection. He glanced down, appalled to see that for the first time, he was bleeding. A lot.
“Hahahahahahaha!” laughed Ralfo. “You shall die, golem.”
Zelgadis crumpled to his knees, coughing. He had never felt pain like this. At about that time, Nepha leapt at Ralfo, grabbing the sword out of his hand and knocking him down.
“You leave him alone!” she hissed.
Extending her claws, she raked them across Ralfo’s face, causing him to stumble backwards.
“Retreat, men!” he cried. “Retreat!”
The opposite group quickly ran off into the woods as Nepha, a sick feeling in her stomach, dropped to her knees next to Zelgadis.
“Oh, no,” groaned Lina. “What happened?”
“They used the Mystic Blade on him,” whispered Nepha, shaking her head as she pressed her soft hand against the wound. “He’s bleeding to death, we have to do something!”
It shocked Gourry to see that someone actually cared what happened to Zelgadis. He had always seemed so cold and bitter, and the fact that Nepha was making such a fuss was shocking.
“We can cast a healing spell,” Lina suggested. “Both of us. That should be powerful enough.”
“But, your black magic could seriously contradict his shamanistic and poison him,” Nepha said shakily. “He could die.”
“You’ve got a good point,” Lina agreed, nodding slightly. “You’re a shamanist, though, right?” Nepha nodded. “Well, you put YOUR hand over the wound, and I’ll put my hand over yours. Maybe that’ll help.”
As the two began encanting the spell, Nepha and Lina both closed their eyes. Since they had both been deciding, Zelgadis had gone unconscious and was lying in the grass on his back. Once they had finished, they both pulled their hands back. Nepha was shaking as she looked at her palm, on which was blood of a rich dark red color, almost black.
“Talk about luck,” Lina sighed, watching the labored rise and fall of her comrade’s chest as he breathed. “I’m pretty sure he’ll be all right.”
Nepha looked sadly at Zelgadis, feeling terribly responsible for him nearly being killed. She lowered her eyes and sighed.
“We’ll just camp here for tonight,” stated Gourry. “Then, we can head down into the valley.”
Later that night, as Lina and Gourry slept, Nepha was wide awake, watching over Zelgadis. The wound was healing slowly. She sighed and hugged her knees against her chest, sniffing softly, lying her head on her knees. She had almost dozed off when she heard a soft, deep voice speak.
“Nepha? What in the... ohhhhh... I’ve never felt such pain in all my life...”
Nepha lifted her head. Zelgadis was coming to, his dark eyes focused on her. He tried to sit up, but Nepha gently pushed him back.
“No way,” she said softly. “You’re still too weak.”
Zelgadis smiled weakly.
“Never thought someone would be telling ME I was too weak,” he chuckled. “You think it’s your fault, don’t you?” Nepha lowered her eyes, not looking at him. Zelgadis narrowed his own eyes. “Nepha?”
“Had I not come with you, they never would’ve been able to get ahold of Mystic Blade and hurt you so badly,” she responded. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Zelgadis stated. “It’s not your fault. You... you were just trying to find help.”
“But you got hurt in MY quest,” Nepha sobbed silently. She picked up his hand, her own paw-like hands soft, yet shaking. “I didn’t mean for it to happen, honest.”
“I know that,” responded the part golem, giving Nepha’s hand a gentle, comforting squeeze. “You never meant anyone harm.” He forced himself to sit up and, after making sure no one was looking, hugged Nepha comfortingly. “And don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”
Lina lifted her head wearily. She had heard the conversation and was examining it. She frowned inwardly, seeing Nepha curled up and shaking against Zelgadis’s chest, and the part golem hugging her, trying to comfort her, head down and eyes closed.
With a worried sigh, she laid her head back down and went back to sleep.
The group was up bright and early the next morning, heading down a gentle incline into the valley.
After a fine dinner and some explaining from Nepha, the group decided to explore. . .
Later, Nepha was sitting out by the river that ran behind the village, scrubbing fervently at the dark blood that had dried on the blade.
“Mystic Blade...” she mumbled. “Golem Slayer... Why must you also be called Golem Slayer? Why must you be made to where you can kill the one I love?” She sighed. “The metal used in your creation has long since gone ‘extinct,’ so to speak. It has never been found again, and enough was only found to make you. Aside from the legendary sword of light, you are the only sword that can slice through a golem’s stone.” She looked at the blood that remained on the blade. “You carry the blood of Zelgadis, Mystic Blade. But don’t be proud, because that’s the only taste you’ll ever get.”
What she didn’t know was that from behind one of the houses, Zelgadis was watching her, deep blue eyes flashing sympathetically. She cared. . .
“What’re you doing, stone-face?”
Zelgadis made a perfect about-face to look down at Lina, who was looking up at him with mischievious red eyes.
“I’m thinking,” he growled in return.
“Zelgadis, give it a _rest_. I don’t know _where_ your head is, but I don’t see how you’d think you could offer her anything. Nepha needs to marry. . .to love. . .one of her own kind. Besides, golems aren’t capable of loving.”
Zelgadis watched as Lina walked away. He wasn’t sure if that had been sarcasm, but he didn’t appreciate it. His eyes were ablaze with anger at what she had said.
He whirled around again, a sneer on his face that would knock down the bravest man. It was Nepha standing there. Her eyes grew wide and she almost jumped back a clear foot.
“I... I’m sorry...” she quickly blurted. “I didn’t mean to startle you... I...”
“Whoa, whoa, it’s okay,” Zelgadis quickly countered. “I was just snappy. Lina got me a little mad.”
Nepha nodded a little.
“Why... why do you let her push you around like that?” she asked quietly. “Don’t you care?”
“You have to be capable of loving to be capable of caring.” He paused. “Lina said it herself.” He was suddenly realizing a fact as cold and hard as his own stone skin. “Golems aren’t capable of loving.”
He had answered her question indirectly. Nepha’s soft features tightened as she suddenly looked even more sympathetic than usual.
“That’s _not_ true, Zelgadis Graywords, and you know it!!” she snapped. “Besides, you _are_ part human.”
"And what makes _you_ so sure I can?” Zelgadis growled out. “Love, I mean.”
“Because _I_ love _you_,” responded Nepha softly, shocking the chimera with her words. "And I _really_ hoped you felt the same!”
“You... honestly love me...” Zelgadis murmured, “and believe I’m capable of loving you back?”
“Yes,” Nepha whispered, “I do.”
Zelgadis lowered his head for a moment, his eyes closing softly. When he looked back up at Nepha, he seemed oddly calmer, gentler.
“In that case, Nepha, you’re right. I have, I do, and I always will,” he stated. He let out a deep breath. “Are you happy now?”
“Yes... and thank you,” Nepha said softly. “Thank you so _very_ much, Zelgadis.”
“No, Nepha,” Zelgadis responded with a smile, lifting her face to look at him by placing a hand beneath her chin. “Thank _you_.”
The next day, the group was once again traveling through the woods. The area was quiet, and it didn’t seem like anything would happen.
Then, more of Ralfo’s men leapt out of the foliage.
“Oh, go figure,” groaned Lina.
Zelgadis stepped protectively in front of Nepha, blue eyes flashing devilishly. He raised a hand.
“Let’s go,” he snarled. He closed his eyes. “Earth below me, submit to my will!” he cried. His cape blew back as the power gathered, the wind blowing wildly around him. He placed the palm of his hand against the ground. “STONE SPIKER!”
Spikes made of pure stone shot out of the ground, taking out some of the men, but not all of them.
“Source of all power, crimson fire burning bright, let thy power gather in my hand,” Lina stated, a glowing orb forming between her hands. “FIREBALL!”
She threw the fireball and took out a few more of Ralfo’s goons, but they just kept coming.
Nepha drew Mystic Blade, pure white ears pressed flat against her head, tail bristled. She aimed her sword at them.
“ELMEKIA LANCE!” she yelled.
The sword fired the spell easily, and several more were taken down.
By now, things seemed hopeless. Ralfo seemed to have an endless number of allies, and they weren’t stopping.
Suddenly, one of them grabbed Nepha and took Mystic Blade from her hand. Holding her back, he pressed the blade lightly against her throat.
“One false move and this kitty loses her last life,” he growled.
Zelgadis’s eyes almost seemed to flash red, angered. He clenched the sword tighter in his hand. If he used any spell at all, he would hurt Nepha. Suddenly, Gourry leapt at the man, pulling Nepha away.
“NOW, ZELGADIS!” he yelled.
Zelgadis put his hands together, closing his eyes. Wind picked up around him and only him.
“Ye who travel on the astral plane, passing eternally between the nexus. Aid my power and obey my will!” he uttered. He lifted his head. His eyes were an even darker blue than usual, almost glowing. He used both hands to throw an amazing wave of power at the remaining bunch of Ralfo’s men. “SPIRIT WAVE!”
At the same time he cast the spell, the man who had been holding Nepha hostage threw Mystic Blade at Zelgadis.
There was a brilliant flash of light, then silence. . .
Zelgadis awoke to feel Nepha’s soft hand against the side of his face. He opened his eyes, meeting her brilliant green eyes as he did. She looked happy to see he was awake.
“Why is it. . .whenever we meet. . .I wind up bleeding?” questioned Zelgadis weakly, half-smiling.
Nepha smiled a little back at him. Lina and Gourry were standing to the other side.
“Well, that healing spell isn’t as powerful, but after you used Spirit Wave, I couldn’t risk using a really powerful spell on you,” Lina shrugged. “Even though it was for healing, too much magic at once could’ve killed you. You know how it is with the black arts and shamanism.”
Zelgadis nodded. Lina and Gourry walked away, talking about something or other. Nepha turned back to Zelgadis, her hand resting against his shoulder.
“You’re lucky,” she said softly. “The sword _almost_ pierced your heart.”
Zelgadis lifted his hand and grabbed Nepha’s wrist, gently moving her palm to lay against his chest, where she could faintly feel the rhythmic beat of his heart beneath the stone skin.
“I’m not so sure it didn’t,” he responded.
Nepha’s eyes were glittering faintly. Zelgadis smiled softly at her, obvious pain in his eyes. Nepha knew that since this had started, she had leaned down and he had sat up a little. Their faces were only inches apart.
Zelgadis swallowed hard. This was it, do or die time. He leaned forward and pressed his lips against Nepha’s, shocking the half-Felinic.
*I can’t believe I finally got the guts to do this. . .* he thought. *But. . .it isn’t that bad.*
*Finally!* Nepha thought, partially smiling. *Could it be possible that. . .he’s the One?!*
When the two pulled back, they both laughed a little, happily. Nepha had never yet seen Zelgadis laugh, so this made her feel better that maybe he was coming out of that shell he had hidden in.
Well, maybe things will move a little easier from here on out. It’s weird though that Nepha should fall for ol’ Zel. . . Sigh. . .oh, well. Weird things happen I guess. You know, I’ve had a funny feeling lately. You think Rezo is really dead? I dunno, but we’ll have to wait until the next story to figure anything else out! I’m outta here!
To Be Continued!
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