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A Splash of Color

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"You know, I honestly think that I'm fine in what I'm wearing," Zelgadis said, crossing his arms over his chest and sighing. "Lina's the guest of honor anyway, or at least the one Lord Prescott is really interested in, so why does it matter what we wear?"

"It's true that you're just along as my useful items," Lina responded, holding a maroon gown in front of her and twirling, "but he did ask for the entire group, and it's only appropriate that my entourage look as good as I do."

Zel gritted his teeth. "Now wait one minute-"

"Miss Lina is right," Amelia interrupted, her own attention captured by a light green chiffon dress hanging on a rack in front of her. "Maybe not in the way she phrased it, but if we really want to find information on the Sacred Gem of Dryad, Lord Prescott is our best lead."

"And luckily he's already interested in me," Lina added.

"A ball though?" Gourry said. "I guess it could be kind of fun, but why the fanfare?"

"Well he's rich as sin, and you know how rich people are, they like to show it off," Zelgadis said. For a moment, Amelia looked like she was about to object, but then she nodded in agreement. He frowned. "And Lina are you sure it's you he's interested in and not those talismans of yours? He is a gemstone merchant after all."

Lina shrugged. "What's it matter? It's not like I'm going to give him these babies even if he wants them." She patted the demon's blood talisman at the center of her mantle.

"Come on Mister Zelgadis, pick something out," Amelia chirped. "The ball is tonight, after all!"

The clothing store was large, and while most of it was dedicated to women's apparel, their men's section was decently sized and full of what the storekeeper had referred to as 'top designer clothing'. But for Zelgadis, nothing stood out. Gourry had quickly decided on a deep wine colored suit, which, Zelgadis did not point out for fear of her wrath, matched Lina's chosen dress perfectly. Amelia was still debating, but looked to be leaning toward the light green gown.

"I could just stay behind at the inn. I doubt Lord Prescott needs all of us."

He imagined Gourry showing up at the party, dressed in his dapper best with both Lina and Amelia on his arm, and he felt a twinge of jealousy. He quashed it.

"Aw come on, Zel," Gourry said, patting his friend on the shoulder. "You gotta come. Besides, do you want Amelia to have to go alone?"

"Wh-what do you mean?"

"Well I'm going as Lina's bodyguard, of course, so I'm already spoken for as an escort," he said.

Zelgadis bit his lip and glanced over at Amelia. She was smiling, just barely, but he could tell she was trying to hide her disappointment over the idea of going alone. Lina for her part, was doing her best to ignore Gourry's insinuations by pretending to survey the dress she'd chosen.

"If it bugs Amelia that much, she can stay at the inn with me," Zel retorted.

"Mister Zelgadis…"

Lina looked miffed now, much to Zel's concern. "Zel, ugh. Don't tell me this is about your condition again. This town is a huge transportation hub. Plenty of people way weirder than you come through every day. Did you see that beastman at the-"

Zel held up a hand to silence her. "Be quiet Lina. It's got nothing to do with that."

"What is it then?" Amelia ventured.

Zelgadis exhaled and rubbed his forehead, feeling a headache coming on. "I'm not going to get out of this am I?"

"Why would you want to?" Lina shrugged. "Lord Prescott's collection is famous, and he's got enough gems; magical and otherwise, that there's a good chance there might be something there all of us are interested in."

"So you're not just after info on the Sacred Gem of Dryad?"

Lina let out a short laugh. "Well I am after that, but I'm just as interested in seeing what other goodies he might have." She leveled Zelgadis a knowing look. "And I figured you might be as well."

Right for the weak point. First Gourry had softened him up by mentioning Amelia's potential plight, and then Lina had reminded him of the possible magic to be found within Prescott's gem collection. He was truly and utterly ensnared.

"Is there nothing here you like, Mister Zelgadis?" Amelia said. "You seemed okay with going until Lina said you'd have to wear something else."

"Didn't know you were so picky about fashion," Lina snorted. She raked her eyes up and down his current ensemble. "Your clothes are just kind of…" she crinkled her nose, "beige."

"They're practical and resilient," Zel said crisply. "I see no problem with them."

Amelia held up her hands. "No, no you're right they're fine Mister Zelgadis."

"None of the clothes here are like that," Zel began. "I suppose I can't expect resiliency considering that they're formal, but everything is so brightly colored! Where's the browns, tans, blacks, colors like that?" he finished, exasperation clear in his voice.

Eyes widening in bewilderment, Amelia stepped closer to Zelgadis. "This is a high fashion store," she explained. "Neutrals aren't in style right now. Color is all the rage."

"Oh." Of course Amelia would be knowledgeable about fashion, of course she would.

Her lips parted and her eyebrows lowered in concern. "Do you need help picking something out, Mister Zelgadis?"

Zel sighed, and his cheeks took on a reddish tint. "Look, it's just this. I- uh-"

He went quiet, and his blush deepened.

"Mister Zelgadis?"

"I'm going to clash with most of these colors, aren't I?"

Silence. For just a moment, until a bout of almost hysterical laughter broke it. Lina was holding her stomach and keeling over, her eyes clenched shut as she nearly collapsed at what she thought to be the hilarity of the situation.

Gourry for his part took her shoulders and leaned down to chastise her. "Lina, come on."

Amelia was frozen, her eyes wide as she stared straight at Zelgadis. He could tell that a part of her wanted to laugh, but knowing Amelia, she'd feel awful doing so. Instead she just smiled and let out a chipper, if fake sounding, "Oh! I'm sure you'd look great in lots of colors Mister Zelgadis."

"Yeah, blue goes with tons of things," Gourry added, patting Zel on the shoulder.

"Like?"

Lina had stopped laughing and was ready to contribute to the conversation. "Well umm- red?" she offered.

Zel crinkled his nose. "I think not. Red isn't exactly a color I've had great experience with."

"Of course. Oops." Lina scratched her cheek, sheepish. It really was difficult to think of colors that would go well with his… condition.

"Blue?" Gourry said.

Zelgadis huffed. "Obviously, Gourry."

Amelia was glancing downward, her expression pensive. "Mister Zelgadis," she finally said, "what about- err… green?"

Right. She'd been glancing down at her own dress, the light green number she'd picked out earlier.

"Amelia…"

"I don't mean this shade!" she clarified. "Something a little darker, like a forest or a spruce tree or-" She interrupted herself by grabbing his hand, pulling him toward the men's section before he had time to fight back (not that it would have been easy; the girl had the strength of ten oxen).

"This one."

Amelia let go of his hand and gestured toward a suit on display. It was, Zelgadis thought, one of the finest items in the store. Deep green slacks and a crisply cut suit jacket were accented by silver buttons and a light green puff tie.

She was smiling, beaming even, like she'd picked out the best garment possible. It… could work, Zelgadis thought.

His eyes bugged when he saw the price.

"Um, it's all very nice Amelia but… I think it's a little bit out of my price range."

At that Amelia's smile turned impish, and she stepped closer to Zelgadis, leaning her face up to whisper in his ear. "Since you are technically still on Saillune's payroll, I'll pay for it. Don't dare tell Lina though." She pulled away, and her cheeks were dusted light pink. Zel knew his were the same.

"That's not necessary Amelia. I'll find something cheaper that-"

"Clashes?" she interrupted, and her tone was challenging, even a bit devious.

Zelgadis grumbled. "Fine. But it might not even fit!"

"Oh no worries." Amelia waved him off. "I can tell by looking at it that it isn't too small, and if it's too large I can get a rush tailoring job on it."

Sometimes Zelgadis forgot how wealthy his companion really was, but he was more than reminded now.

"Very well."

Amelia grinned and grabbed the suit off the rack, skipping to the dressing room with Zelgadis in tow. "I'll wait outside, but let me know if you need any help with the tie or—"

"Amelia, I'm fine," Zelgadis said, and there was a lightness in his voice as he closed the dressing room door behind him.

"Do those two realize how much they're going to match?" Gourry wondered out loud as he watched their exchange.

Lina barked out a laugh. "Probably not. We'll have to tease them about it later."

"Well I think it's nice," Gourry said.

"A little goofy though," Lina said, and then glanced surreptitiously from her dress to Gourry's suit. She let out an awkward laugh. "But—just a little tiny bit goofy, not like way goofy or anything."

Gourry just smiled.