Lina never quite understood why Gourry was always so bothered about her tendencies to slip out in the middle of the night - until he decided to follow her.
Author's Note: This one takes place after the 15th novel and makes vague mentions back to some of the earlier novels - mainly the second and sixth novels. There's also lots of spoilers for the Gourry side-story, "The Things He Sees Beyond the Point of His Sword," originally published in the 21st Slayers Special novel.
Story #4: "Everything You Ever Wished For"
The small fires that dotted the remains of the bandit camp looked like twinkling bits of candlelight from where Lina stood. She drew in a deep breath of clean air and slowly exhaled, right before she broke into a wicked grin. It felt good to be the bandit killer again and do what she does best. She laced her fingers together, immensely pleased with herself. All it took was one little Sleeping spell shot through the wall into Gourry's room and...
Uh oh. Lina slowly turned to see her annoyed partner and guardian leaning against a nearby tree, giving her the best glare that he could muster. When Gourry chose to be pissed, he could pull it off quite well. And right now, he appeared to be very pissed.
There wasn't many options for her to take at this point. She could either sass him, which would simply escalate into an argument that would quickly wake the rest of the countryside that she hadn't shaken out of their beds with her combination of fireball and Mega Brando spells, or she could utilize the power of cute to her advantage and use that to sway Gourry.
Lina opted for cute. But the moment she blinked big, puppy-dog eyes at him, he simply scowled in return.
"I'm not falling for it this time," he said tersely.
Okay. Well, argument it is. Lina held her arms akimbo and shot him a glare that matched his scowl. "What's got your underwear in a bunch anyhow? And why the hell are you up in the middle of the night? I swore I heard you sawing logs in your room."
"I was until I heard you drop your shoulder guards on the floor. Lina, we've been traveling together for more than three years now. You don't get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom very often. You don't think I don't know you by now?"
Lina sighed and plopped on the ground with a sulk. She should had known the old Sleeping through the wall routine wouldn't work. It hardly ever did with Gourry. The one time she had managed to slip past him and go bandit hunting, Amelia had followed her instead - proclaiming it to be a mission for the sake of justice.
"You know, you're weird," she informed Gourry. "We loot bandit camps all during the day and you have no problem with it. As soon as it gets dark, you become worse than my parents. I know you're not fond of my raiding bandit camps..."
He merely lifted an eyebrow.
"Okay, so you don't care very much for it at all," she hastily amended. "That hasn't stopped you before."
Gourry sank onto his haunches and all of a sudden, to Lina, he seemed to be very tired. She frowned at him and quickly did the mental calculations. She was 18 and he once mentioned he was seven years older than her, which would put him at 25. The last three years of their lives had been very rough on them both, but even so, he looked worn.
"It's not the bandit thing," he said. "Some of it is, but... Just don't do it again, okay?"
Whoa, something's off here. Lina chewed on her bottom lip and held up a finger. "Clarification. Not rob another bandit camp, or sneak out after dark without telling you?"
"Sneak out after dark without telling me."
He slid all the way to the ground and stared at her. This little mystery intrigued Lina to the point where she shoved her newly acquired treasure into her cloak and shifted so she sat with her legs folded beneath her. It looked like he was trying to debate against telling her something or not. Her heart began to do funny, odd flips inside her chest.
Gourry gazed up at the stars, hands loosely dangling over his knees. "Right before I met you, I almost threw away the Sword of Light."
"You what?" Lina shot to her feet and growled. "I swear to Ceiphied, if you had done such a thing..."
"I didn't!" He hastily added. "Do you think we'd be where we are today if I had?"
"No." Lina relaxed slightly. "But still that was...the most jellyfish of jellyfish moments you've ever had. Giving up the Sword of Light. What were you thinking?"
She half-expected him to give her some silly answer, like he had nearly traded it away for some food. Instead, he glanced away from her, a mixture of emotions crossing his face. "I had my reasons," he said softly.
This was starting to get deep. "What stopped you?" she asked just as quietly.
Gourry looked almost half-ashamed and muttered something about not wanting to be a third-class swordsman. Lina quirked an eyebrow in response. She had never considered Gourry to be any less than first-class. He quite possibly was the best swordsman in their world, with only her sister as Knight of Ceiphied beating him out. Considering that they were on their way to her hometown in Zefielia, she would have a chance to gauge them side by side very soon.
"Anyhow," he continued, "I met a fisherman...or a merchant. I'm not quite sure what he was, but he was a merchant. He was quite pushy." Come to think of it, he reminds me of Lina, Gourry thought to himself, the comparison coming quite unexpectedly. "He talked me out of it."
"Really. He gave you a talk about not being a third-class swordsman and that suddenly changed your attitude?"
"No. We fought some Mazoku together. For a merchant, he was pretty good. He knew that offensive spell that kills a Mazoku spirit and said his youngest daughter taught it to him. His eldest daughter taught him how to channel his will into a fishing rod to make it a weapon."
Lina sucked in a deep breath, instantly alert. He couldn't have met... "Gourry, are you sure about that? Your memory isn't exactly the most dependable thing, you know."
"I remember this!" he shot back at her. "He never gave me his name, but I remember what happened and how he got me to consider using the Sword of Light to do something."
"To do what?"
"To do something...anything with my sword. To make a difference with it. Shortly after that, I met you."
She filled in the blanks. So you decided to make a positive change by saving me after I was surrounded by bandits and we've been together ever since. Still, his description of the man he encountered sounded like only one other person Lina had known in her life. It was strange that she would know of this man, after all there were many people in the world. But not many had two daughters that would teach him how to channel his will into an object and an offensive spell against Mazoku. Her lips curled into a half-smile. She was willing to place a large wager that Gourry was going to be meeting that man again very soon.
She scooted over next to him. "That didn't answer my question. Why do you not want me sneaking around at night?"
Gourry gave her an exasperated look. "You can do what you like. Stopping you is like trying to stop a runaway wagon."
She glared at him. "Hey..."
"It's the truth. Just tell me first, all right? That way I won't think you've run off and left me behind."
So that's it. Lina got on her knees and quickly bopped him on his head. "You jellyfish! Of course I'm not going to ditch you! Do you think after all we've gone through that I'm going to leave you behind?"
He laughed, then laid his hand on her head, ruffling her hair slightly. "Well..."
"Idiot." But she was laughing.
Impulsively, Gourry wrapped dropped his arm so it wrapped around her shoulder and was happy when she didn't pull away from the embrace. His encounter with the man had made him think about what he really wanted at that point in his life. He had wanted to make a difference in someone's life, to use the Sword of Light to help save someone. The first person he had stumbled across had been so feisty, so confident that he was quite sure his skills weren't needed there.
But, he couldn't walk away. Maybe he could make a difference, even for this young woman who didn't see to need it. So he stayed and gained his best friend, partner, and now the person he cared for most. He had made a difference in her life, but she had made an even bigger change in his. She'd given his life meaning. His hold on her tightened. Lina was everything he'd ever wished for.