-- Insert standard disclaimer --

Chapter 2:Lina's choice

"If you join hands with the mazoku Lina, your precious friends will be saved."
Lina’s blood froze as Xelloss coldly muttered those words. His eyes were showing and Lina could feel goose bumps forming on her arms. A high ranked mazoku. The Priest, as well as General to the Beast Master. Lina tended to forget how strong he really was, that if he wanted to, he could kill her before she could even mutter the first word in a spell.
"I…" Lina was afraid. He had hold of the Talismans and with out those there was no way she could possibly beat him. The only way she would be able to beat him would be if he let her. But the likely hood of that happening was slim, close to zero.
"I…will….not…become…mazoku." She choked out those words. "I am Lina Inverse, I…will not…become…mazoku." Lina managed. Xelloss just grinned at her refusal.
"Fairly pathetic. You are not ‘Lina Inverse’. You have a look of defeat in your eyes, ‘Lina Inverse’ will never have that look. It is useless for you to think that that name will bring you security now out of all times. A name you threw away. You have no right to use that name ‘Liana’."
Lina’s eye’s grew wide with anger. How dare this mazoku tell her who ‘Lina Inverse’ is. She was tired…but defeat!? Especially to XELLOSS?! Lina flashed him her best glare and pushed him away from her and stood up on the cold floor. She reached out and grabbed his neck.
"I AM LINA INVERSE!!!" She screamed as she throttled him. "Don’t you dare tell me I am not!!!!!!!!" She informed him. "Look, I may have retired from being the best sorceress on the face of this earth but I have not been defeated. ESPECIALLY BY YOU!!!!!!!" She screamed the last part.
Xelloss’s smile broadened and he carressed her cheek. Lina jumped back away from him and looked at him in shock. Then was it that she finally noticed he looked extremely pleased. "…damn you mazoku…" Lina muttered as she noticed that she had just done what the mazoku wanted…she went back to her real self.
"How did it feel Lina Inverse? You seemed to really enjoy what you were doing. Anger did hide some of it but I did see that gleam in your eyes. You enjoy being strong and enjoy it when others agree. You prove your strength by acting superior." He than added almost as a whisper "Which to most you are."
"You’re crazier than I thought if you think I’ll admit to that." Lina muttered. "Damn you…attack me if you want me to be mazoku. Kill me, and then revive me as one. There’s no other way I’ll become mazoku." Lina informed him with a strong glare.
"Hmmm…True." Xelloss muttered. "But then again, what fun is there in just killing you?" Xelloss asked. "Especially when I can really play with you, alive."
"You know better than to think I will agree to becoming mazoku." Lina muttered. "You’re just doing it because it’s an ‘order’ right. To any mazoku the order from a higher one is absolute. Fight me Xelloss…unless you want to disobey the Beast Master."
"You do have a point there." Xelloss muttered and disappeared into the darkness and came out right next to Lina. "But there are other ways of doing things." When Lina noticed where he had moved to she was too late for his fist had already landed in her stomach. "Sorry for being a little rough Lina-san." Xelloss smiled his usual smile. "But I think you may want to see mazoku from a perspective different from that of a humans before you decide."
Upon hearing that Lina’s mind went blank.

The next thing Lina saw was a cherry blossom tree in full bloom. "What the…" She muttered. It wasn’t spring so there was no way a cherry blossom tree could be in full bloom. "It’s autumn. Not spring." Lina muttered. "Xelloss, I know your out there somewhere!! Come out!!" She called to the mazoku but nothing happened. "Damn you…" She cursed and sat down.
"Why do I always attract trouble!?" She groaned. "All I want is to have peace but no one let’s me. I must be cursed, some one had cursed me when I was born!!" She whined. It was weird that she started to whine but it felt good to let it out. "Stupid quests and prophecies, don’t know how to leave a young girl alone."
"Is it because I was trained by the Cefied Knight that you do this to me? You know I don’t want it!! Lord of Nightmares, why don’t you leave me alone." She complained. "What did I do to displease you…no, please don’t answer that question." She muttered. "All I want is happiness and peace, is that so much to ask?"
Lina lay down on the grass and looked up at the cherry blossom tree. The petals falling made it look like pink snow. "They look nice in the day light…but better in the night." Lina muttered and turned to her side. She closed her eyes and a picture of someone appeared in her mind. Long blond hair, a smiling face, blue eyes that showed the innocence of a child as well as the hardness of an adult. "Gaury…" She muttered. "Gau…ry…" Tears fell on their own accord, she would never see that face again, she would never hear him call her name again, never, never, NEVER.
"Oh…lords…what did I do to deserve this torment… Please…make me forget him, please… Oh please." Lina cried silently willing the images to disappear.

Weak. That was the word that appeared in Xelloss’s mind now. The girl that had the strength to defeat most mazoku if she wished was crying like a lost child.
"Humans are weak, there for inferrior creatures." He muttered the saying he had heard so many other mazoku say. Indeed, most, if not all humans were weak and inferrior to mazoku, he believed so himself. All except for one.
She had the power to be equal, if not superior to most mazoku, yet she chose not to be so. Yet even then she held a spirit of supiriority in her. "You really should stop trying to pretend Lina-chan." Xelloss muttered. "You have so much ahead of you…power to conquer, and destroy all that you wish. Don’t deny it Lina…you can’t deny it." Xelloss frowned.
"You still cry over that swords man. You wish no harm on him…" Suddenly a gleam appeared in his eye. "I really should spare you all the pain this way is causing." He smiled and teleported to the special place on the Astral Plane he had created for her.
"Hello Lina-san." He greeted her. Lina sprang up and wiped her tears and cursed under her breath. "Did the cherry blossoms not satisfy you?"
"There leaves on this tree are suppose to be changing color and falling this time of the year, not be in full bloom with flowers." Lina bit off each word. "It’s autumn for crying out loud, not spring."
"Oh, I thought all humans preferred the warm spring to the cold autumn air." Xelloss acted to be surprised.
"Well…generally speaking they do." Lina admitted. "Any way, where’s this place?"
"A special section of the Astral Plane that I created for you Lina-san. Do you not like it?"
"No." Xelloss pretended to act hurt at her statement.
"After all that trouble I went through you don’t like it?"
"Quit it Xelloss…I’m not in the mood for this." Lina groaned and put her hands at her temple. "Sheesh, why doesn’t the lord at least bless me with good guys." She complained. "Any way, you’re wrong if thinking that keeping me in the Astral Plane is going to change my mind."
"Oh, I most certainly won’t think such a thing. If I thought keeping you prisoner would change your mind than that will be rude to you. Ne?" He smiled and Lina felt like killing him. "Actually there was something I wanted to show you."
"What?! Get on with it?" Xelloss smiled at her demand.
"Since you are so eager to see it." He pointed his staff to the cherry blossom tree and than the world around them turned into a place with mirrors. "Look in any one of these mirrors that you wish, they will show you the same thing." Xelloss than disappeared and left Lina all alone.
Lina sighed and ruffled her hair. "I’ll guess I’ll have to play this game of yours for awhile. Damn it, I have a magic lesson to teach tomorrow so you better take me home early so I can get some beauty sleep!!" She called to him, knowing he would hear her.
"Okay…what’s in these mirrors…" Lina looked into one of them and nearly fainted.
"Gaury!!" She screamed as she saw her old partner walk through a forest. "Oh Gaury…" She muttered. She longed to teleport next to him and laugh like before, to talk like before. To have him make his stupid jokes. "Gaury…Gaury…I miss you…I miss you soo much." She blurted out her true feelings.
Of course there was no way he could hear her so that may be why she blurted them out. He was alive, that was all the reassurance Lina needed. She leaned against the mirror and was surprised at how cold the surface was. Her face than turned into a frown as she remembered who created this place.
"Okay Xelloss, I’m really, really, REALLY wondering about the catch right now so tell me what it is and I can leave?" She called out.
"But what’s the fun in that?" A voice said from the dark. Lina grimaced at his tone.
"So I can go home, get some sleep and be able to keep my promise I made to this kid and so I can earn money so I won’t starve." Lina thought she had kept her cool very well considering she was trying to nagotiate with a mazoku, Xelloss thought she sounded like she needed some rest.
"There doesn’t seem to be anything fun about that…" Xelloss pointed out.
"The end result is I can eat, there for I look forward to it." Lina replied.
"Oh, understandable." Xelloss said cheerfully. "By the way, do you know why that swordsman is in the forest?"
"HOW would I even know?" Lina asked in an exasperated tone. "I haven’t seen him in…what a year?" Lina shrugged.
"He’s searching for you." Xelloss stated clearly. "Whenever he hears of a bunch of robbers he demands to know if a ‘flat-chested, fire-ball throwing red headed sorceress’."
Lina’s hand was in a fist and she was mumbling that she was going to get Gaury if she ever saw him. She than sighed and leaned against one of the mirrors. "Why is he searching for ‘Lina Inverse’? She’s dead."
"Didn’t you just say that you were Lina Inverse?" Xelloss, or rather his voice chuckled. Lina glared at the darkness.
"I’m suppose to be dead to everyone but me." She replied.
"Back to the question, why is he looking for her?"
"He doesn’t believe you’re dead." Xelloss stated matter of factly. "He wishes to see you alive and well. He can’t imagine that you are dead. He believes that if he travels long enough he will some day bump into you."
"Kurage…" Lina muttered. "I’ll never appear in front of him. He has Shilfiel, I’m a fragment of his past…why can’t he accept that."
"Ah, but Lina-chan, can you accept that? I just heard you say you missed him." Lina glared at the darkness again.
"It’s rude to eavesdrop you know."
"I’m a mazoku." The voice cheerfully replied.
"Does that justify everything you do?" Lina demanded.
"Yes it does."
"I’ll never understand mazoku…that’s why it’s a wise idea that I don’t be one." Lina informed him.
"I think it’s the perfect reason you should become one. You’ll be able to understand them. Besides, you will stop being prejudice if you become one."
"I never really thought myself as prejudice"
"Let’s see… you say ‘villain’s have no rights’, and Lina, truthfully have you ever felt sorry when you killed a mazoku? Even in self-defense?"
Lina kept her mouth shut since she didn’t have a come back to that one. It was true, she was prejudice in that way. True, she had never felt sorry for a mazoku when she killed it.
"See, it’s true. Remember the time when you demanded to know why I killed someone just to get the Clearbible?" Lina nodded at his question. "Same reason. I don’t see human’s as an object that is worth my sympathy to them" Except for one. He silently added. "The same way you view mazoku."
"You’re right Xelloss…I’ll give you that much."
"Thank you Lina-san."
"But…I’m still not going to become mazoku." Lina stated. "You know that I don’t want to, and can’t become anything but human. I was born human…and I want to die human." Lina looked straight at darkness, somewhere in that darkness he was there. "I’ll not hide or run anymore. I don’t want to become mazoku, even if it would save Amelia and Zel’s life. This has something to do with me myself."
"…you really haven’t changed Lina-san. But I don’t think there is a need for you to give me your answer so quickly. You know that if you are alive, and not only I but my master also knows you are alive, word would soon reach a lot of people who wish to kill you. One’s who won’t hesitate to take the swords man hostage."
With that Lina was back in her room of the inn. "In a week, I’ll be back to hear your decision. Good bye Lina-san." Xelloss’s voice echoed in her mind.

The next day Lina sighed as she walked back to the inn from Rown’s house. The magic lesson had gone smoothly with out any mishaps. The lunch that Mrs. Burgh had prepared was delicious. The sun shone brightly and was the perfect day to practice ‘Aqua Create’. Yes, it had been a good day.
Even then thought kept on intruding in Lina’s mind. She was extra nervous for no reason in particular and had attempted to cover it up by pretending that she didn’t get a good nights’ sleep. Which was true, she didn’t.
Lina closed the door to her room of the inn and picked up the talisman. Seven years since she bought the set, it had helped her, served it’s purpose greatly…but than…it was also her link to him, Xelloss. The mazoku that was capable of killing her, and had countless occasions to do so but never did. It was an order of course, to let her live, otherwise Lina was sure he would have killed her.
"I don’t know WHY ‘I’ have to endure through all these painful experiences." She complained out loud. "The Lord of Nightmares either loves me or hates me." She concluded. She finally thought she had found peace. She could give up her own wish to be happy with Gaury if it were for Gaury’s life, she was willing to fall in love again if she had ever gotten over Gaury.
"Damn Gaury, if you could forget me that would have made my life a lot easier. Now because you still wish to believe I’m alive you’re being used as a tool for Xelloss to drag me into the mazoku. Give up on me." She muttered, fully aware that he couldn’t hear her no matter what she wished. "You have Shilfiel…" She whispered. "Forget me…please…I care to much about you to let you continue on like this…but you know better than any one that I can’t be mazoku."
Lina’s chest tightened at the thought of Gaury. What Xelloss said was true, most who sought to kill her would not think twice of taking Gaury as a hostage. Of course Gaury could defend himself against most problems…but what if a strong mazoku got a hold of him? With out the sword of light there was no way he could win.
"I guess the Lord of Nightmares does hate me." Lina grumbled and laid down on her bed. "All I ask for if peace and boom, I end up having a trickster appear and ask me to join the mazoku. I guess I’ll never get peace." Lina decided and sighed.
"Damn it Gaury!! It’s all your fault I got involved with the mazoku!! If you hadn’t but in on my business with those robbers I would have sold that damn relic Zelgadiss was looking for and would have lived happily ever after. Okay, so the world would have been destroyed by Shablaniguduu, but Neechan could easily stop that. Sailarg most likely wouldn’t have been destroyed so Shilfiel will still have her family. Okay, so maybe Phil-san would have been assasinated by Kanzel but at the least Phiblizo wouldn’t have plotted on destroying the world and Chaos Dragon would be alive, which means Valgarv wouldn’t have massacred the gold dragons so Filia would have been happy, and then Sheela will still be alive…as well as Phiblizo….okay, so it may not be the best thing but…I need to stop talking to myself." She shook her head when she had gotten that far.
Lina walked over to the window sill and looked out. "But if it weren’t for him, I guess I never would’ve met Zel or Amelia. Heck, or even Martina, Zangulus, Vrumugun, the bringer of my current problem Xelloss, or Filia. Life would’ve been no fun then…" She admitted. "I of course could’ve lived happily with out Amelia, Martina, Zangulus, Vrumugun, Xelloss though….Well…Amelia did progress as the years went by, despite her draw backs. I guess Martina, although she reminds me too much of Naga wasn’t that bad. Zangulus and Vrummugun, I guess the days I were running from them weren’t that bad." A slight smile played on Lina’s lips.
"Xelloss…ka." She muttered the name. "The trickster that is set out to ruin my life…weren’t they all though, set out some what to do that. Martina was, Zel was at first, Zangulus, Vrummugun, heck even Filia for bringing Neechan’s letter… I guess…even like that he’s company…better than none. Oh well, it could be worse, I could have Naga attempting to convert me into her kind." Lina muttered. "I wonder what happened to her."
"I don’t want to know." Lina drew that conclusion and looked at the sun setting. The deep, blue-violet sky appearing as the sky turned the same color as her hair. The sunset reminded her of herself and Xelloss. The blue-violet dark, coming after the firing red sun. Lina chuckled, she still had a week left for her. She will decide in a week.
"Weren’t you always good at trying to find a light in any situation Lina Inverse…well…find a light in this one, and a way to out smart Xelloss in his own game."