Sometimes, in order to save everyone, sacrifices have to be made. But, it doesn't get any easier to make them.
Notes: This story takes place at the beginning of episode 23 of Slayers TRY. During the actual scene, Lina and Gourry are standing together and they don't say anything until right before Amelia and Zel join them. This takes place in the few moments leading up to the first shot of Lina kneeling.
Story #7: "Snow Falling on Corpses"
The wind whipped and tugged at her cloak, stinging her cheeks as if someone was throwing little needles against them. Shock, bone deep, settled as she surveyed the remains of the battlefield and the slaughter of dozens of golden dragons - the last of those who worshipped Flarelord in the lands beyond the Mazoku barrier.
She turned to the last of them, the one who had caused all of the trouble to begin with - Almayce. Lina knelt before him, trying to think through everything - through the Overworlders slaughter of the golden dragons, the retrieval of the final Darkstar weapon and Xelloss subsequently snatching it away from her.
It would be so easy to blame everything on Almayce. His appearance in their world had been the catalyst that sparked this entire mission. It wasn't fair though. Everyone had their own role to play in this mess, including her own sister for making her take this on her shoulders.
Someone shifted next to her, blocking some of the window. She didn't need to look up to realize it was Gourry. She could smell him. It wasn't in a bad way, just a combination of sweat, the oil he used to keep his armor and sword in shape and his own scent. She took a deep breath and felt her own nerves start to settle slightly.
In the distance, she heard sniffling. Amelia, she realized. Tears clogged her own throat, but for some reason, she didn't think she had the ability to cry. When Hellmaster Phibrizzo revived the citzens of Sairaag to do his bidding, she'd been stunned. When she, Sylphiel and Zangulus saw them trapped in the same crystal that Gourry and the others would later be imprisoned in, she'd been horrified. When she thought she had killed a child, she had screamed and cried.
Now, she just felt numb.
She closed her eyes and tried to wipe the scene from her vision, but couldn't. It seemed like it was burned onto the back of her eyelids.
"Did I fail?"
Gourry startled and glanced down at her. He heard the regret and the guilt in her voice and shifted closer to her. "No," he replied quietly. "You didn't do anything wrong."
"Is this what you felt, when you were a mercenary?" She kept her focus on Almayce's corpse and the snow that had fallen on it and the other remains surrounding them. "Did you ever look at a battlefield of bodies and just feel dead inside?"
Yes, he replied to himself. He had. When he did, he'd been stunned and ashamed that he lost his ability to simply care. People had lost their lives, including his comrades. Wasn't he suppose to feel some compassion for the fallen? They had relatives who would mourn their loss.
But even this was different. Gourry didn't pay much attention to his education, but he knew of the term "genocide" and what it implied. When the truth of what happened between the golden and Ancient dragons were revealed, it had been used. It was one thing being on a common battlefield. It was another to see an entire race be wiped out.
"How many are left?" he asked. "Golden dragons, that is?"
"As far as I know, only Milgasia's tribe. And they were greatly reduced during the Kouma Sensou. Of course, there could be more on there, but in this part of the world...only Filia is left."
Lina wanted to smash the ground as hard as she could. She wanted to destroy something - Xelloss specifically. She wanted to wrap her hands around his neck and strangle the life out of him for refusing to accept the help offered and for causing all of this.
In the distance, she heard Amelia chanting a spell. As her magic spread out, the corpses turned to stone and blended in with the scenery. Eventually, they would become part of the landscape and not many would remember what happened.
"This has happened too many times," she said in a soft voice. "Xelloss destroying most of the golden dragons during the Kouma Sensou and then the golden dragons destroying the Ancient Dragons. Now this. I couldn't do anything to stop him, Gourry. I just stood there!"
"What were you suppose to do?" He demanded, frustrated himself. "Get yourself killed? Lina, they were outnumbered and so were we. He'd turn on us in a heartbeat and then what would happen?"
She didn't say anything, because he was right.
"That one we talked to, the one Amelia tried to heal," Gourry continued, "he said he had a duty to the Elder and to his temple to get this job done, even if he died trying. He's a soldier, Lina. He knew the risks going in."
She startled and looked up at him, then back at Almayce. She couldn't say anything to refute it because she had said the same thing herself. She knew the risks in taking in Shabranigdu, Copy Rezo and Zanaffar, Mazenda, Seigram, Gaav and Philbrizzo. She knew the risks she was taking every time she lifted her arms to cast a Giga Slave. In many ways, these golden dragons were no different from herself.
"We are going to get those weapons and beat him," Lina said with such utter conviction that Gourry nodded in agreement immediately.
Her gaze shifted to the sky. "But even when we do, I've still failed Filia and her people. I was suppose to keep this from happening. I've caused my fair share of destruction, but I never wanted this. It's like watching Copy Rezo destroy Sairaag all over again. Why did this have to happen?"
Gourry frowned as he mulled things over. "Well, I look at it this way - that Copy Rezo guy would had still destroyed Sairaag even if we hadn't been there. Valgaav would had wanted to kill the golden dragons, even if we hadn't been here. The only thing we can do now is to finish what we came to do."
Resolve boosted, Lina leveled her eyes with his. "Then that's what we're going to do."