Xellos found Lina that morning doing what she did best.
“Fireball!” The bandit ran away, screaming for his life as the sorceress levitated in the air, a maniacal grin on her face as flames exploded from her palms. Xellos admired the destruction Lina had wrought in her daily hobby of bandit-raiding, once green earth scorched and the criminals too slow to escape her wrath now passed out, twitching. The fear seeping through the air was delectable for a mazoku, one of many reasons he often found himself drawn to her, for the pure chaos Lina wrecked everywhere she went.
Even at 20 here she was, wiping sweat off her brow with a grin as she relished in the aftermath of her havoc. Smoke drifting around her, she casually strolled over to the charred remains of what appeared to have once been a tent, retrieving a miraculously unharmed bag. That grin shone along with her eyes as she pulled out gems and coins to stash them in her own satchel. Whilst perhaps half of those gems would be used to haggle, the rest would certainly be welcomed into the little hoard of rare treasures she kept in her ‘base’, where he would find her whenever she took a break from her travels. She rested but never retired from her personal journey and he found an odd excitement in wondering what horrible threat she would recklessly fight next.
She no longer had to face him to register his presence, her voice lilted as he phased behind her. “Hey Xellos, did you come to mooch off me again?”
“Miss Lina!” he breathed with an exaggerated gasp, fist resting against his chest, “I always give you something in exchange for your services, thank you!”
She cocked an eyebrow, smirk on her face as she turned to him. That perpetual cheerful expression was plastered on, his signature smile a constant charade of innocence. She knew what that smile masked, yet she felt oddly tranquil around him. “Oh don’t word it like that, you’ll give someone the wrong idea.” She took a glance at the unconscious bandits and snorted. “Not that any of these lumps can hear it. So, what did you bring for me this time, Xellos?”
Stepping over the outstretched arm of a stirring criminal, he gently kicked the body away before giving the sorceress a half-bow. “I’ll take you home and show you, hmm?”
He extended his hand to her. The first time he had done so after a bandit tryst, she had jokingly called him a gentleman and in a flash they had ended up in the local lake fully-clothed. After throwing her loot to safety they had wrestled and she had to admit she enjoyed it… Only after she extracted a promise from him never to drag her into a lake fully-clothed again. Naturally, the next time they had ended up in a pond.
She took his hand.
“Don’t trick me this time, alright?”
The scenery changed and she found herself in her lounge room, her companion next to her one moment and gone the next. Placing her satchel on her table and igniting her makeshift fireplace with her magic, she was greeted with Xellos sitting in a chair and something next to her satchel that wasn’t there before. She envied that ability of his to teleport, all those scraps she had gotten into as a teenager that sneaky trick would have gotten her out of.
Lina sat down across from him, peering at Xellos’ gift. What a pretty thing it was, a large blue object that looked almost transparent like glass, a dark shadow of something liquidy within it. Her stomach gave a curious rumble as she whispered. “Is this a dragon egg?”
The mazoku chuckled, wagging his finger. “That’s a secret.” She narrowed her eyes as she stared at him and he coughed. “It’s quite clearly a dragon egg, yes. I thought it would make a nice ornament, an addition to your growing treasury hm?”
Lina gazed at the egg with a strange intensity. “I want to eat it.”
Xellos raised an eyebrow. “Now? I wouldn’t advise it, Lina, even a dragon’s egg could make you seriously ill if you don’t prepare it correctly.” He counted on his gloved fingers. “You would need to bury it in the ground for two months to soften the shell, then the poison will need leaching out of the albumen… You’d be waiting three months if you want an edible omelette, Miss Lina.”
“So you want me to show it off then?” Her eyes idly explored the room. “Maybe I could use it as a fancy door-stop… It’d be a waste to hide it away.” The thought clicked in her mind. “Wait… Where did you find this egg?”
“Oh, I found it in a dragon’s nest.” Lina stared at him as he continued to cheerfully say, “The dragon ran as soon as she saw me and she didn’t seem to come back for it so I assumed she didn’t want it.”
She put her hands on her hips and sighed, an exasperated smile on her face. “So you mean she ran for her life and you stole it. That’s pretty fucked up, you know that Xellos?” A quiet laugh left her as she took off a glove and ran her hand over the smooth shell. “Well, you know what they say, it’s the thought that counts. Now, what do I do with you?” she whispered to the egg as she gave it a light knock. What a strong shell it had, she estimated not even a short fall would shatter it.
“How about you decorate it?” Xellos piped up, prompting Lina to look up and cock her brow.
“Pardon?” She blinked as the man vanished then reappeared just as quickly. Several buckets of multi-coloured liquid appeared on the floor beside her, she cautiously ran her finger through the red fluid. Paint. “What exactly are you getting at here?”
The mazoku chuckled, brandishing a brush. “I thought it’d be fun, give it the ‘Lina Inverse’ touch, hm?”
She narrowed her eyes, staring at the beautiful egg. “But why would you paint an egg? Where on Earth do you get these ideas, Xellos?”
With that innocent-looking but annoyingly mischievous smile of his, he leaned on the table and rested his cheek on his palm. His cat-like eyes peered into hers and she felt uncomfortable heat begin to creep up her neck. “Don’t you have confidence in your art, Miss Lina? Do you want me to paint it for you?”
Little shit. “Give me the damn brush!”
He did not flinch as it was ripped out of his hands, watching as Lina got to work. Riling her up was just as easy as always.
The table gradually turned multi-coloured as the glass-like blue shell was slowly hidden, Lina having neglected to take the time to paint-proof her furniture before engaging in her current rage-based activity. However that irritation had soon turned into genuine concentration, as he watched each stroke of the brush become more precise. That fixation on her prized masterpiece even as he kept a steady gaze on her was admirable.
What a proud look she had on her face even as her grip fumbled, the previous careless mistakes ignored in favour of creating something weird and beautiful and distinctively Inverse. That cocky happiness fought with his natural aversion to positive energy, yet he pushed down all unease and his eyes remained on her. Her gaze flickered to him and he was rewarded with an embarrassed blush before she returned her eyes to the egg.
“Don’t stare at me like that, don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Not really,” he admitted with a slight hum to his voice. “Things have been quiet, so I guess I’m having a day off, hm?”
Right, from carrying out orders for a demon lord. It would surely only be a matter of time before he involved her in more trouble. Yet here she was painting this damn egg for him.
She gave a quiet sigh, a tired smile on her face as she looked the egg over. Half of it was almost untouched, barring the initial mess she had made before she decided to do what Amelia always suggested to her. Control her emotions, Xellos wouldn’t be so smug if he couldn’t feed off her frustration. “If you really have nothing else to do then, how about you grab another brush and get to work?”
For some reason, he decided to go along with it. Retrieving another brush he slipped his gloves off and put paint to shell. What he was painting, he wasn’t quite sure as he curiously created shapes, feeling amusement as he thought about the poor dragon that had birthed this egg seeing her creation defaced like this. As he etched a tiny heart glancing at Lina he pondered something then dismissed it.
Surely the dragon would have come after him, if that fleeting thought was true.
“So where are you going to put this when you’re done, Lina?”
Leaning back as she admired her masterpiece-in-progress, she grinned. “Well I can’t have a work of art like this hiding, I’ll keep it near the fireplace once it dries.” She winked at him. “You aren’t drawing anything obscene are you? I can’t have a horror prop in my house.”
Xellos took a glimpse at the heart. He would never understand why humans seemed to think it was shaped like this, when the real thing was much uglier. Nor did he particularly want to understand why he painted it. So instead he chuckled and winked back at her. “That’s a secret.”
When Xellos heard the chatter from outside, as the two of them waited for the egg to dry, he knew it was his cue to leave.
“It looks like you have visitors, Lina.”
She peered out the window, a quiet groan leaving her along with a yawn as she frowned. “I told Amelia to tell me when she’s coming, I can’t have a princess in my house when it’s like this.” Despite her words, her motion to her colourful table was idle, spelling it out so clear how little she cared. Only out of respect for her friend did she bother to think about the mess. “I suppose you can’t stick around, eh?”
“I’m afraid not,” he responded sheepishly. Just thinking about it made him feel nauseous. “You know how upset Zelgadis gets when I’m here.” It was not that he feared Amelia and Zelgadis, what a laughable thought that was. Rather, he knew Amelia’s positivity would lead to another hangover.
“Guess you’ll be off then.” Lina sounded disappointed but they both knew she would never admit it. Instead as he stood up she playfully clapped his shoulder then strolled over to the door. “Don’t bother Zel on your way out, okay?”
He pointed at himself, gasping as though the thought was preposterous. “What do you take me for, Miss Lina?”
She crossed her arms, flashing a crooked smile. “Drop it. Thanks for the egg, I suppose you’ll be back for breakfast soon.”
As if he would pass up the chance to feed on that beautiful fear her destruction wrought. Yet he sensed a different kind of emotion as he looked down at her, maybe a brief exposure wouldn’t do him any harm.
His hand gently tugged her shoulder before he pressed their lips together. The heat lingered even as he broke it off, seeing her face turn bright red as though to match her eyes. And as he drank in her embarrassment, he ignored how his cheerful tone seemed to trip on itself. “I’ll see you later, Lina!”
Down the path, Amelia and Zelgadis watched startled as something seemed to fly past them, hearing Lina’s flustered stammering and cursing.
A few more weeks and kisses later, Lina woke up to broken furniture and a tiny dragon.
Xellos was going to be the death of her.