Slayers: Alive

Chapter 10

Slayers: Alive

Episode 091: Haste! Fools Rush In

Amelia and Zelgadis had been on top of the wooden clock tower discussing a problematic letter that just arrived from Seyruun, when they heard Filia's tortured voice and rushed to her aid. "Miss Filia!" Amelia fell to her knees next to Filia, looking her over for injuries and hugging her, trying to calm her.

Zelgadis searched the room for anything suspicious, but couldn't find anything. "What happened? Were you attacked? Where did they go?"

"Xellos... Xellos..." Filia's quiet strained voice sobbed into Amelia's shoulder.

"Did they take Mr. Xellos away?" Amelia theorized with worry.

"No, we weren't attacked," Filia choked out. "Xellos... he hates me." The golden dragon tried to calm herself, realizing that she was seriously worrying Amelia and Zelgadis. Filia tried to dry her tears though they would stubbornly keep coming out. "He's gone; he broke up with me and left. He wants to be like before, a real monster, he doesn't want to have feelings for me anymore. He thinks I've done something bad to him, he hates me!"

Amelia tensed, her face becoming enraged. "How could he?" If Xellos was still in the room, he would have gotten a very painful extra strong Pacifist Crush to the face that would have probably broken his nose. "Don't cry Miss Filia, Zelgadis and I will find Mr. Xellos and knock some sense into him," literally, or they would break his bones trying.

"Please don't," Filia begged, her strained throat was still scratchy. "I could have done that myself. His fighting style as a monster involved a lot of speed, teleportation and being able to release his power in an instant. It takes time for him to power up the big spells as a human and though it doesn't show too much, his movements don't flow as easily. He's come far, but he's still not adapted to the same level of skill he had before. I can take him, but I won't. I want him to be with me by choice. If he's truly disgusted with how he has changed, then I need to show him it's not so bad. I need to show him he's still powerful, still capable, still cunning, that he's still himself." Which meant accepting that she was still herself. That she wasn't just caught in a series of exciting events and wishful thinking through fairytale eyes. "Let him take a breather, I'll find him and talk to him after we've both had time to calm down."

xoxox xox xoxox

After a while of crying on Amelia's shoulder, Filia finally calmed down. It was just in time for the arrival of several people. "Miss Filia, are you here?" Sylphiel's voice called out from the first floor of the clock tower.

"Filia, we're back with Val!" Pokota added.

"Coming!" Filia replied, her voice still strained from all the yelling, while Amelia continued to give her a concerned look. "It's okay, I can face this... That stubborn piece of raw garbage just needs to cool his stupid monster pride for a while." Filia got on her feet and began to make her way down the stairs, followed closely by Amelia and Zelgadis.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the first floor of the clock tower, Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis found that not only Sylphiel, Pokota and Val had arrived, but also Jillas, Gravos, Elena and Palou. "How are you boss? We came to help with the wedding preparations!" Jillas cheerfully greeted, though his good mood evaporated as soon as he got a better look at Filia's face. Her features were slightly swollen and her eyes were very red.

"Are you sick?" Gravos tentatively asked. Filia looked more depressed than ill though.

Little Val flew from his previous position perched on Jillas' head, into Filia's arms. He looked up at his mother with a worried look, cooing softly. "I'm okay; I just have a bit of allergy today." Filia forced herself to smile and gave quick glances to Amelia and Zelgadis, begging them silently with her eyes to play along. She didn't want anyone else to worry about her... and declare this Xellos hunting season. "The wedding is still a way off; the preparations are taking longer than expected, so it'll be a while. You're all welcome to enjoy the amusement park attractions of the resort in the mean time."

"Are there roller coasters?" Palou excitedly asked.

"Of course!" Filia assured, albeit there was a huge line to ride them. "Why don't you all go enjoy the rides together?" The suggestion was met with unanimous agreements, though the group was clearly not quite convinced about Filia's allergy excuse.

"I should be getting back to my job now," Sylphiel realized. "It was nice meeting everyone," she smiled at Filia's family that she just met. Val had recognized them as they were making their way through the resort towards the tower and they walked there together from that point on. Before leaving, Sylphiel looked at Filia and smiled, "from what I've heard, you're a good and brave person, Miss Filia. I'm sure your dreams will come true."

Filia smiled back, with the first hint of sincerity. She had been through a lot and something as seemingly simple as stupid stubbornness wasn't going to make her throw away everything she had. "Thank you..."

xoxox xox xoxox

After Sylphiel was gone, Gravos, Jillas, Elena, Palou, Pokota and Val went off to enjoy the amusement park attractions. Filia stayed behind with the excuse of having some things to take care of, insisting that the others should go ahead and have fun. Then she set out to go for a walk and clear her head, assuring Amelia and Zelgadis that she would be fine on her own, that she needed a moment to herself. That left Amelia and Zelgadis alone in the clock tower.

"I hope they work things out," Amelia sighed, remembering that Filia wasn't the only one with a problem. She took Philionel's letter out of her pocket, where she had stuffed it in a hurry when she heard Filia's voice. "Everyone is busy; let's take care of this ourselves. There has to be some way to get by this."

"Are you sure your father can't annul the law?" Zelgadis inquired.

"Technically no," Amelia admitted. "Although he is the acting ruler of Seyruun, this is one of the laws that only the official ruler could change. In other words, my grandfather. But even if he does, due to his fragile state of health, my cousin will surely question the veracity of the change. Grandpa has offered to transfer his title to daddy before, but daddy felt that grandpa should hold the title of king for the rest of his life. To accept the title now for this purpose will also look suspicious. The family name has been stained with the traitorous quests for the throne in the past and it will only cause unrest if false rumors are spread claiming grandpa was pressured. If the timing had been different, it would have been okay, but it's too late for that now."

"So basically, an official act while this issue is fresh in the public eye would have negative repercussions on the royal family reputation," Zelgadis interpreted. "What if there was a loophole in that law? An exception of circumstance or maybe even another law that trumps that one? An argument could be made pointing out that it's obsolete."

"I assume they're already working on that in Seyruun," Amelia mused. "But if daddy has sent me this letter, that means the research and appeals are not going too well. They're most likely keeping this at a private level. As a last resort, we could ask for the support of the people, but that would technically be a revolt."

"A revolt?" Zelgadis was taken by surprise. "How?"

"A person who is not set to inherit the throne attempting to reclaim it, even if it is in the future while the current ruler rightfully continues to watch over the kingdom, is technically a revolt," Amelia explained. "I know the Seyruun army will remain loyal to us, but what about the neighboring countries? Some are allies of Seyruun, but others have had their unjust actions found out and punished by Seyruun. There are rulers that only pretend to have polite diplomatic relations with Seyruun, but would gladly welcome new rulers if presented with the promise of an unfair trade advantage. It might all spiral out of control into a real revolt with outsiders invading to defend the so called rightful heir according to the old law. The casualties would be many and we can't take that risk."

Zelgadis felt like he was running into a brick wall with this problem and it all originated because his engagement to Amelia was known. Wait a minute, that gave him an idea. "We could pretend to break up and come up with an excuse so that it doesn't look suspicious. Things would cool off and then Phil could harmlessly change the law because it wouldn't really be relevant anymore anyway. Then we can keep our relationship a secret for a while until we... you know... eventually get married," Zelgadis blushed. "By then, the whole problem would have blown over and everything could be done legally."

Amelia shook her head. "That won't work. They'll just call it an elaborate long term trick and it'll make things look worse. Besides, I don't want to lie to my people and I don't want to break up for real."

Zelgadis let out a disappointed breath; he should have known a solution wouldn't come so easily. "Yeah, you're right, it was a bad idea."

"But it's good that you thought about it," Amelia tried to cheer him up. "I mean, you're trying to think of something and even if one loophole doesn't work, it might give us ideas about others. Eventually we'll come up with something that does work!"

Zelgadis' face shone with absolute devotion. "Amelia, I don't want you to make any sacrifices for me-"

"Don't you even dare suggest I break up with you!" Amelia interrupted.

"I wasn't going to," Zelgadis continued. "Although I'll always feel that you're too good for me, I love you and I can't leave you. We'll figure out a loophole in all of this. That, or I'll miraculously find out I'm long lost royalty," he joked.

Amelia's face matched the pink tint on Zelgadis as her eyes shone with the light of new hope. "Zel, you're a genius!"

Zelgadis blinked, completely missing the point, "I am?"

"Yes! All you have to do is become royalty!" Amelia exclaimed. "Than we can stay engaged and the law can be changed sometime in the next few years to ensure nothing like this happens in the future. It'll be okay because it wouldn't even be relevant to us anymore, so they can't say we're stealing the throne."

"How does one go about becoming royalty?" Technically, if Zelgadis married Amelia, he would be royalty. The problem was that he needed to be royalty before that could happen. Besides, if becoming royalty was really that simple, there wouldn't be so many people trying to steal Seyruun's throne, they would just get their own.

"There are several possibilities, being adopted by a royal family is one or being given a kingdom for some reason. Starting your own kingdom would take too long and we would need a large portion of land and people to live in it. I'm sure there are a few possible strategies available; maybe Celo will have some information," Amelia suggested. "He doesn't want to talk about the enemy, but this is a whole different topic, so he has no reason to use Xellos' secret line on us."

"Is getting information from a monster really such a great idea?" Zelgadis was not liking where the conversation was going.

"It'll be fine; we just need to take everything he says with a grain of sugar," Amelia smiled with determination.

"Don't you mean with a grain of salt?" Zelgadis suggested.

"That too," Amelia agreed and began to make her way to the tower's study for a pen and paper. "Since I don't know where Celo went, it will be faster to send him a message with a courier monster bird." She found a blank sheet of paper on the desk and a pen, writing a quick message. "Dear Mr. Celo: I would greatly appreciate it if you could suggest a quick way for a person to become royalty. Thanks in advance, Amelia." The note was simple and to the point, there was no need to reveal too much, though no doubt about it, Celo would read between the lines and figure it out. "Swiftly deliver the letters, by the trail of astral feathers!" Jarde arrived and was given the letter to deliver to Celo, disappearing back to the astral side with it. "Now all we have to do is wait for a reply."

The seconds turned into minutes as Zelgadis and Amelia continued discussing the situation, with Zelgadis slowly gaining a better understanding about how things worked for royalty. Eventually, Jarde returned with a written reply from Celo, which was as follows. "Your Highness Princess Amelia: I can only conclude that you wish for your fiance to become a prince due to the technicalities of your kingdom. I would be honored to assist in ensuring your future together with the one you love. I happen to know of a relatively simple way for Mr. Zelgadis to become royalty."

The rather lengthy letter continued. "A long time ago, an anonymous business entity purchased a small private island. However, that island was haunted by a terrible monster and no development could be made on it. The unknown business figure thus decided that getting vengeance on the monster that made the purchase go to waste was more important than the island itself, as no one wished to buy it back anyway. This person offered to transfer the ownership of the island to whoever managed to defeat the beast that guarded it."

"The island is small and uninhabited by anyone other than the monster, but precious peridot gems can be found in its caves." The letter explained. "Due to the monster, mining was made impossible in the past. Many thought it made no difference if there were gems there or not, as they could not be retrieved. Of course, there were attempts to take the gems and attempts to slay the monster, but all of them failed terribly. However, I have a strong feeling that Mr. Zelgadis will triumph. If he does, he will become the new owner of that island and thus its ruler. I could assist in finding workers for the mines who could be called the kingdom's subjects if it is necessary. I have enclosed a map with the location of the island. Good luck, Celo Metallium."

"That was a lot more information than I thought we would get." Amelia commented as she and Zelgadis were finished reading the letter.

"Plus we didn't even need to read between the lines to figure out what the catch is." Zelgadis added, though he wasn't sure if that was good or bad. Obviously the big obstacle was the monster.

"I'm sure we can beat that monster, after all, we've been in tough battles before." Obviously that meant that Amelia was going too, though she would give all the credit to Zelgadis to reclaim the island. After this show of courage and power, there was no way anyone could deny that Zelgadis was a true prince where it counted, on the inside. Besides, he would also be a legal prince too, or rather a king.

They looked at the map that came along in the same envelope as the letter. "The island isn't too far away," Zelgadis noted. "I'm sure we could take a ship there."

"Then what are we waiting for?" Amelia was all fired up for the expedition. "Let's go right away!" She raised her fist in determination, her energy coursing through her. "We will defeat that monster in the name of justice and you will become the king of the island!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia and Zelgadis departed towards the port. It was getting late, but Amelia was too excited to wait for the next day. As they approached the port, they saw Gourry and Lina exiting a beachside restaurant. "Miss Lina, Mr. Gourry!" Amelia greeted them, waving at them and calling loudly with the unique energy that characterized her.

"Hey guys!" Gourry smiled, "are you here to eat? I hope not, because Lina and I kind of cleaned out all their food supplies. But I'm sure there are other restaurants at the resort that have food left."

"We're not here to eat, we're here to take a boat to a near by island so that we can slay the monster terrorizing its precious peridots and Zelgadis can become king!" While Amelia let her mouth run away with her, Zelgadis shook his head frantically, making desperate signals that she should keep this matter a secret from Lina.

"I don't know what that king business is about, but what was that about terrorizing peridots?" The redhead wondered if she misunderstood. Lina knew what peridot gems looked like, but jewels were not sentient beings, they were not alive, they felt no fear and thus they could not be terrorized. Maybe this type of peridot referred to some exotic animal that lived on the island or even the name of a village.

"There's no one living on the island, so the monster has no one to terrorize," Amelia mused. "But a fierce unjust monster will always try to terrorize something, even if it is a lifeless gem!"

Lina smiled from ear to ear while Zelgadis grimaced. "Oh yes, you're absolutely right, Amelia. We can't let some terrible monster abuse those innocent valuable jewels."

Realizing her mistake, Amelia wished she had not gotten so over excited and carried away. "Um... Well... We should get going now."

"Wait a minute!" Making Lina Inverse forget about a treasure was a nearly impossible task to accomplish, especially when she had just filled her stomach and could not be distracted by food. "You might need some help defeating that monster. Oh you don't have to beg, I'll be more than happy to assist!"

"But Miss Lina, Zelgadis needs to defeat the monster and claim ownership of the island as its king or my distant relative will steal the throne!" Amelia tried to reason.

"There's another conspiracy to steal the throne going on? They never give up, do they?" Lina shook her head hopelessly. "What's the deal this time?"

Hoping to get through to Lina, Amelia explained. "I have to marry royalty, so by remaining engaged to someone who isn't a royal, I'm technically forfeiting the throne. We plan to fix that by making Zelgadis the king of the island where the monster is. In order to gain ownership of the island, he must defeat the monster," the princess revealed.

"I see," Lina nodded in understanding. "Well, since it's for a good cause, Zel can have the island. In exchange for my help in defeating the monster, and you know you want it, I'll take a few peridot gems as payment." When it came to Lina taking gems, 'a few' meant as many as she could get her greedy little hands on.

"How kind of you," Zelgadis grumbled, while Amelia gave him an apologetic look. The chimera patted the princess' shoulder to assure her that he wasn't angry at her for her slip up and left his arm there as they walked to the docks.

Dark storm clouds loomed in the horizon, painting with gloomy shades of gray the usually beautiful orange shades of the sun set. It could be seen as a bad omen, but nothing could stop Lina Inverse in her quest for treasure. Zelgadis knew that he couldn't postpone his trip to the island because of a looming storm or else Lina would Dragon Slave the mysterious monster and claim the island and its peridots for herself. The chimera didn't care too much about the peridots really, but he needed to claim that island for himself for Amelia's sake.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 092: Intense! Into The Raging Storm

Amelia, Zelgadis, Lina and Gourry obtained a small ship at the Amor Resort docks and went on their way. They followed the directions on Celo's map, making steady progress towards the small island where a monster resided in caves rich with peridot gems. The sky was filled with dark clouds and it wasn't long before it began to pour, but the group pressed on. Fighting the wind of the storm with wind magic of their own, the brave adventurers pushed the little ship forward towards the small island in the distance.

"We're almost there!" Lina called out from the front of the ship, one foot on the edge of it and the other on the deck. Her cape blew in the wind dramatically behind her as she pointed forward to their intended destination. "Onward to the peridots!" Suddenly the ship rocked violently and Lina stumbled on to the deck.

"Oh, oh," Gourry was looking to the waters below from the side of the ship with a worried expression.

"Is the ship damaged?" Zelgadis urgently inquired.

"Not exactly," Gourry frowned, while Zelgadis gave him a questioning look that requested more information, while wondering what was keeping Gourry from simply revealing what he saw. The blond swordsman glanced at Lina, then back at Zelgadis and Amelia. The princess and the chimera stepped forward, approaching the end of the ship next to Gourry, and the reason for his secrecy became clear to them.

"What are you three looking at?" Lina didn't like this; she had a strong feeling that something was being hidden from her. Well, no one was going to stop her from looking and seeing for herself what the truth of the situation was.

"Miss Lina, maybe you shouldn't look!" Amelia urgently advised, her cape blowing wildly in the wind as she shouted over the noise of crashing lightning in the distance.

"Why not?" Walking past Amelia, Lina approached the edge of the ship, but Gourry blocked her view. "Let me see!" The impatient redhead demanded.

Amelia gasped as she saw something on the other side of the ship opposite to where they stood, "flare arrow!"

By the time Lina turned her head, whatever had been there was gone, thanks to Amelia's attack. Lina only heard the sound of something falling in the water as if it had been knocked off the edge of the ship. "Are we under attack? Why is it such a secret?" The powerful red haired sorceress attempted to make her way to the opposite side of the ship against the wind and rain; she needed to see what this was about.

"Lina!" Gourry wrapped his arms tightly around her, stopping her progress across the ship. "It's okay Lina, I'll keep you safe."

"From what?" Lina demanded to know in exasperation.

"They made it aboard..." Zelgadis pointed out in worry. It wasn't that the foes looked particularly dangerous, but with Lina around, it could be exceptionally troublesome. "Freeze Arrow!"

Lina fought against Gourry's attempts to stop her from looking, until she kicked him painfully, losing her patience. She managed to catch a glimpse of Zelgadis kicking away a block of ice. Encased in the crystalline prison there was the unmistakable figure of a slug. "Slug!" Lina screamed at the top of her lungs. She made a mental note that next time her friends told her not to look, she wouldn't look. She embraced Gourry in a tight hug, burying her face on his chest. "Why are those slugs here? How could they be in the sea? Don't let them get on the ship!"

The wind and the waves continued rocking the ship as the slimy slugs tried to climb aboard. "These are monster slugs!" Amelia realized. She theorized that Celo had something to do with this, probably with the excuse that it was all for the sake of entertaining his guests. "Elmekia Lance!"

The ship continued to rock atop the waves and Lina was starting to get really worried. "Oh no, what if we capsize? We'll fall into slug infested waters! Save me!"

"It's okay Lina, I'll protect you, don't worry," Gourry tried to calm his panicking fiance to no avail. The amounts of slugs trying to make their way aboard the ship continued to increase. Amelia and Zelgadis had dispatched many, but there were even more swimming towards them.

Gourry noticed beyond the sound of the harsh thunder and constant rain that Lina was muttering something against his chest. He tried to make out the words only catching bits and pieces at first. "Twilight... flows... time... power... foes... destroyed... possess..."

The swordsman's eyes widened in realization. He knew those words, he had heard them so many times that he could remember them with relative ease. "No, Lina, don't use the Dragon Slave here!"

Gourry's futile request served as a warning for Amelia and Zelgadis to brace themselves as Lina loudly exclaimed in a panic, "Dragon Slave!" A big explosion followed, annihilating all the monster slugs at the same time that it reduced the ship to scraps.

Just before the flash of light invaded his vision completely, Gourry thought he saw a little calico kitten and wondered how it managed to stow away on the ship unnoticed until that moment. He hoped the kitten somehow survived this, though he wasn't too worried. He had heard that cats have nine lives.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, at the Amor Resort island... "Stop following me!" Xellos growled for what felt like the millionth time, but his angry plea fell upon metaphorically deaf stubborn pointy ears. He thought he should have left the resort sooner instead of hanging around idly in hopes of becoming better prepared to face Beast Master in the cool, calm, collected and cheerful manner that he was expected to. Because of his delay in escaping from the premises, Filia caught up to him and kept following him around like a particularly stubborn lost puppy, or more so like a very obsessed stalker.

Thunder echoed following the crash of lightning, as if the skies were being cued to release the vast supply of water that was accumulated in the thick gray clouds above. It was already night as Xellos made his way past the dark plastic forest and back to the lopsided wooden clock tower. The creaking old structure gained an especially creepy atmosphere during the stormy night. It didn't look like anyone was there at the moment. The others were probably off staying in the nicer hotels of the resort while Celo and Tiffany took care of the resort's business.

Xellos made his way up the stairs of the deserted tower, the wood creaking under his feet with every step and then under Filia's. She was still adamantly following him like a second shadow and didn't look like she was going to stop any time soon, if ever. "There are plenty of rooms in this tower." Xellos indicated that he wanted to be left alone, though he had stopped expecting Filia to comply with his wishes long ago.

The stubborn golden dragon merely crossed her arms and glared in a sign of determination as she followed Xellos into his room. Exasperated, he tossed his cloak aside, kicked off his shoes and allowed himself to fall face first on the bed, burying his face in the pillow. He heard Filia take a seat on the chair next to the bed, secretly relief that she wasn't trying to cuddle him like she used to do, that would just make things more complicated and he would never manage to complete a clean break.

Loud thunder echoed again, with Filia jumping a little. "Are you afraid of thunder, stupid dragon?"

"No," Filia denied it, though she certainly wasn't happy with the creepy atmosphere. The room was completely dark if not for the flashes of lightning that illuminated it every now and then without warning, the light invading the enclosed space from the closed glass window against wish the raindrops crashed like bullets. Val was with his uncles and aunts, Jillas, Gravos and the others would take good care of him. Filia just hoped that the storm wasn't scaring him.

A long and tense silence invaded the room as the storm raged on outside. Xellos tried to sleep, but found himself unable to do so, feeling Filia's eyes somehow piercing the darkness to stare at him. Then she spoke, "I've been thinking I've changed a lot, but the truth is that I haven't. I've become more open minded, but I'm only seeing what has been there all along. I'm not a different person; I simply know things now that I didn't know before. I still like flowers and the smell of spring. I still like arts and crafts, especially making and decorating vases from scratch. I still like pink, though I guess I've also taken a liking to purple. I have made new friends and my family has grown, but my wish is still to create many good memories with them. I still hope for everyone in the world to be happy."

"You're a stupid, stubborn and cliche dragon, I already knew that," Xellos retorted, unable to ignore Filia completely.

"You haven't changed much either," Filia continued her main argument. "You're still stubborn, sarcastic, mocking, tricky, mischievous and all around annoying. You're also powerful, cunning, adaptive and perceptive."

"I'll have to agree with most of that," Xellos admitted, wondering where Filia was going on with all of this. Her argument seemed to carry a deeper meaning than just a description.

"My point is that you haven't changed. You're still the same infuriating monster that you've always been on the inside," Filia emphasized.

"So what?" Xellos turned over on his side to look at Filia, his voice no longer muffled by having his face on the pillow. "Where you expecting me to change and turn into a romantic prince charming? Too bad, because that's not happening. Not that it matters anyway, because we're not together anymore."

"I don't want you to change," Filia confessed. "I know I yell at you and let my temper go wild at times. I'm sorry if that gets on your nerves."

"It does, but it's actually kind of fun," Xellos admitted. "It's chaotic and I enjoy chaos. You're a time bomb waiting to explode, I like that." He mentally kicked himself seconds later for admitting it. He wasn't supposed to be thinking about how fun Filia was, he was supposed to be thinking about how to convince her that he didn't want her around.

"Your chaos is fun too. I guess teasing each other is part of who we are." Filia smiled, feeling as if she was finally making progress. She thought she could address the issue more directly now. "When you said you hated who you've become, it made me wonder if I should hate who I've become too. It may seem that I'm being too accepting in certain aspects, but those are not things that I'm doing now, they're things I never had a say in from the beginning. Things that I would have had to allow to pass anyway. You haven't changed either; you're still the same trickster. I'm not expecting you to change nor do I want you to. I just don't understand what the big liability is. If you could just point it out specifically I'll give it some real thought, because right now I don't get it."

Filia was ruining what little progress Xellos had made in getting her out of danger and he didn't like it. He sat up, glaring at her impatiently, "just drop it."

"No!" Filia stubbornly continued. "What was it that you could do before that you can't do now? Run around causing trouble? When you get your powers back you could just teleport away and cause all the trouble you want, I won't be able to stop you. I'll probably yell at you for it, but I won't leave you. If Beast Master gives you an order that I really don't like, I'll accept the fact that you have to do it. I'll probably yell about it anyway, but I won't hold it personally against you." Filia had stood up from her chair, pacing around the room as she threw out her heartfelt arguments.

Xellos got up and walked a few steps towards the door. "Accept it Filia, you have no choice."

"Don't run away, you cowardly piece of garbage!" Filia shouted, her face was red with angry frustration. "Why don't you face me and tell me the truth? Whatever it is your feeling, you should have enough experience with emotions by now to at least have a clue, so tell me. Why do you hate me? What exactly is the cause? What's the big and terrible liability in all this? I'm not asking you to give up anything for my sake! What do you think you're losing?"

Xellos turned around to face Filia, his violet eyes serious and piercing. "Your life."

"What?" The golden dragon was taken aback by his reply, though she could tell he was finally being open with her. "What do you mean?"

"You're no longer useful to me, Filia. Being with you is no longer a matter of life or death to me," Xellos reminded. "Why should I, the general priest of Lord Beast Master want to be anywhere near a golden dragon if I have a different choice?" Filia frowned, Xellos sounded like he was going around in circles with cheap ambiguous excuses again. Then he elaborated and everything became clear. "I shouldn't want to be with you, it's a mistake, a defect, it must be and will be corrected with your death. Don't you see? I've been ordered to kill you before, but back then I still needed the cure for my curse. You were still useful to me, so you were spared. Why would you be spared now?"

Filia's eyes grew wide in shock, her expression horrified. "Beast Master ordered you to kill me?"

"Not yet," Xellos ascertained, "but it might happen soon and I will not be able to defy her orders. If I do, she'll just kill you herself much more painfully. She'll make your end much more excruciating than a quick death at my hands." He looked into her terrified blue eyes. "I don't know exactly what's going on, but I think I really am being trained. It's probably related to this mysterious enemy going by the alias of the Green Alchemist, pretending he's connected to the Mother of All Things. I have to let you go, Filia. I have to endure it, get over it and return to my master's side ready and strong enough to fight for her cause. If I can't do that on my own, I'll be pushed to it."

A flood of tears was already escaping Filia's eyes when she threw herself into Xellos' arms. "It's not fair..." Was Tiffany warning her before?

Filia remembered Tiffany's words clearly. 'Regardless of what happens, whether you spend millennia together or if the world doesn't last long enough to see another spring, never forget the intensity of what you feel.' If the world ends... was that a metaphor? Did she mean the end of their time together?

'She was telling me to treasure the memories,' Filia interpreted. 'Maybe a monster and a dragon being together isn't impossible, but if that monster is both the general and the priest of a monster lord, its different. Xellos was created to serve Zelas, to be her right hand, her main minion. That was his original purpose, the cause of his very existence. Denying that would be denying his existence.'

"Don't cry, stupid dragon. Being your weak and pathetic self won't change anything." Filia slowly became silent while Xellos continued holding her and caressing her hair. She appeared to be lost in thought. "Just let go, forget about me. I'll forget about you right away. In fact, I can't wait to forget. Who needs a stupid crybaby like you?"

Filia had stopped crying, instead looking at Xellos with sorrowful eyes. "I won't forget..."

"You have Val to keep you busy. My lessons were left incomplete, but he was a fast learner. He'll get into mischief and keep you entertained," Xellos reminded.

"Val..." Filia knew she had to take care of him. She trusted her family to care for him, but it was best for him to have another dragon around while growing up. Even if she was a golden dragon and he was an ancient dragon, they were both still dragons and had certain things in common. She couldn't do something reckless, not with Val counting on her. Besides, she knew Xellos wouldn't be happy if she did something stupid and got herself killed either. She couldn't let her temper run wild when it came to Beast Master, the monster lord was far too dangerous.

"Starting tomorrow, we'll go our separate ways," Xellos decided. He could give her just a little while longer to get her frustration off her chest as much as possible and say anything that she wanted to say.

Filia nodded bitterly, "I understand..."

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina's massive Dragon Slave had blown up the monster slugs and the ship along with its crew. The sorceress, the swordsman, the agent of justice and the chimera, were all thrown in different directions by the force of the impact. The ocean was disturbed in a massive tidal wave that formed a tall column of water and carried them away. When Amelia woke up, she had been washed ashore on the island they were heading towards. The massive storm had calmed as if the tempest itself coward before Lina Inverse's mighty Dragon Slave.

The princess sat up in the sandy beach and examined her surroundings. She didn't see any signs of the ship or any of her friends near by. "Zelgadis! Miss Lina! Mr. Gourry!" Amelia called out loudly several times, but received no replies. She looked into the distance at the now peaceful ocean with only light waves moving the waters. There was no one floating there as far as she could see, which wasn't very far since it was night time. Maybe they had made it to the island, she certainly hoped so.

She walked further along the beach side with an orb of light in her hand, until she spotted something in the sand. She brushed off some of the sand and realized it was a head. It was Zelgadis' head and with that realization she screamed at the top of her lungs. "No! Zelgadis was decapitated! Ah!"

"Amelia!" Zelgadis woke up suddenly, to the very loud and panicked voice of Amelia. He found that it was very difficult to move, soon realizing that the reason for that was that he was berried neck deep in the sand. "I'm not dead, just buried!"

Amelia let out a breath of relief. "I'm so glad," she began to help dig Zelgadis out, until he was finally free. "Now we just need to find Miss Lina and Mr. Gourry. Do you think they've gone deeper into the center of the island?" Amelia glanced past the palm trees into the unknown darkness.

"Probably," Zelgadis theorized. "If Lina made it to this island, she would go straight to the gems. If we head towards the mines, we should run into her and probably Gourry too." Thus Amelia and Zelgadis set out to explore the island and locate their missing companions.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 093: Amusing! It's All Fun And Games

As they ventured further into the island, Amelia and Zelgadis found a volcano in the island's center with a cave at its base. Amelia took a peek inside and saw the glitter of gems affixed to the cavern walls. She wondered if this was the monster's lair. The cave was eerie yet beautiful, so it seemed fitting to be the hideout of a cunning villain. It was a tempting and inviting deadly trap. What if the beast had found her friends already? What if the creature was devouring them? "This is it! This is the beast's lair! Let us storm inside and rescue our comrades!"

Zelgadis soon realized that Amelia was in justice speech mode, which meant there was no stopping her. He wasn't even taken by surprise when she dashed into the cave and was prepared to take off after her. Just as he rushed after Amelia, Zelgadis thought he saw a kitten a short way outside of the cave. He had no time to do a double take before he sped up his pace to keep up with Amelia's dash of justice.

Amelia continued running deep into the mines with Zelgadis close after her. She arrived at a larger chamber with peridots all over the walls and thought she saw a kitten hidden in the shadows. She held the orb of light towards it, but it was gone. 'It was probably just my imagination,' the princess quietly concluded. She stepped forward to examine the apparent dead end. "How could this not be the monster's lair? Is there another cave or maybe a secret passage?"

"There could be traps," Zelgadis warned as he hurried to stay close to Amelia. He saw a hint of movement in the darkness, but before he could perceive what it was, there was a flash of light and it was gone, dispelling the orb of light in the process, then there was darkness.

A little dizzy, Amelia stumbled forward, steadying herself with the wall. Her hand accidentally touched a hidden switch and the wall parted left and right, revealing a tunnel with stairs and torches attached to the walls, lighting the way. With the area once again illuminated, Amelia noticed something very peculiar, she saw herself standing before the passage. "Is that me?" She tried to speak, but it came out as Zelgadis' voice.

Hearing his own voice, Zelgadis looked at the source and saw himself. "Who are you? Where's Amelia?" His hands, which were much softer than he remembered, flew to his mouth as he realized that his voice was Amelia's voice. He looked at the human hands, the feminine but strong human hands, the wrists adorned with pink and purple bracelets with blue gems. He ran one of those hands through his hair, which wasn't his hair at all.

"Um... Zelgadis?" The image of Zelgadis spoke unsure, with Amelia's soul within the body.

"Yes," Zelgadis replied from Amelia's body, the situation finally sinking in beyond the confusion. "We're switched!"

"It must have been that light!" Amelia concluded in Zelgadis' voice. "I knew it; there is an evil villain here who is trying to confuse us. You can't escape justice!" Once again taking off in a dash of justice, Amelia, still in Zelgadis' body, ran down the stairs to face the culprit, who seemed to be beckoning them to the battle field below.

"Amelia, wait!" Zelgadis was quick to follow her, although it looked to him like he was following himself. "There are probably more traps there!" The downward tunnel of stairs led to a stone bridge, apparently formed from the cave itself, suspended over boiling lava. The fact that it was ever so conveniently placed made Zelgadis think that some magic was involved in its formation.

A small boulder flew towards Amelia, who was quick to move Zelgadis' body out of the way, though the action seemed to happen slower than she was used to moving. Zelgadis body was heavier, limiting her agility, though the increased defense made it so that dodging wasn't really necessary sometimes. "Watch out!"

In a split second Zelgadis saw the boulder coming right towards Amelia's body like a cannon ball, but he wasn't even sure how to react, to move or to try to withstand the hit. Caught off guard, he could only move back in an automatic reflex. The next thing he knew, Zelgadis saw the bolder through Amelia's eyes, harmlessly passing above her body. It was only seconds later as he tried to get her body to an upright position again that he realized he had made it bend backwards. Fortunately, Amelia's back wasn't in any pain as far as Zelgadis could perceive. "Your body is pretty flexible..." He couldn't help it but to comment.

"Oh yes, daddy likes to limbo in family reunions, I'm pretty good at it." Zelgadis face smiled with a very Amelia style smile. Then the source of the thrown boulder made its appearance. It was a stone golem monster made of redish brown rocks. It was currently running heavily across the narrow stone bridge above the lava. "The monster!"

"Elmekia Lance!" Zelgadis shot out a lance of light from Amelia's hands. Unfortunately, the stone golem jumped, higher and further than anyone would guess it could, and dodged the hit. The creature landed angrily right in front of Amelia.

Given the sudden close proximity of the enemy, Amelia didn't have time to cast a spell and did the first thing that came to mind. "Pacifist Crush!" Guided by Amelia's technique, Zelgadis' stony fist collided harshly with the golem, shattering it on impact, its broken pieces falling to the lava below. "That's it? He wasn't very strong, maybe Celo was mistaken and there's more than one monster."

"Probably," Zelgadis agreed. "I don't think that golem was the one who switched us. Although that cat looked suspicious."

"A cat?" Amelia inquired, they were both still stuck in each other's bodies.

"I saw a calico kitten just outside the mines," Zelgadis recalled.

"Now that you mention it, I thought I saw a kitten before that flash of light that switched us." Amelia began to think of a theory and she remembered who that kitten reminded her of. "Do you think it was Zelas in disguise?"

"Very likely," Zelgadis agreed, with a troublesome thought occurring to him. "If Zelas is the monster that guards this island, then we don't stand a chance. Celo tricked us." The angry, frustrated and bitter look Zelgadis had, didn't fit Amelia's face at all.

"I guess there's no choice but to keep going now. We'll have to ask Zelas to switch us back..." Amelia mused aloud.

"I think we're better off figuring this out on our own," Zelgadis warned.

Just as they were discussing the possible ways to deal with the situation, the mysterious kitten made another appearance. She approached across the bridge and meowed, as if calling them to follow. Then she ran back across the bridge to the opposite side and disappeared into a dark narrow tunnel at the other end of the bridge.

"If Zelas wants us to follow her..." Amelia began.

"Then we have no choice," Zelgadis grumbled.

The switch chimera and princess made their way across the bridge, fully expecting it to fall apart, but it didn't. They arrived at the next chamber expecting Zelas to be there, but she wasn't, or at least they couldn't see her. She was probably hidden somewhere in the astral side near by, watching them and mocking them. As they waited for something to happen, a black orb appeared before them. The sphere rolled towards them all of a sudden, causing Amelia and Zelgadis to jump left and right to dodge it. The black ball crashed into the narrow tunnel, but it was too small for it to roll inside it, so it stopped, stuck at the entrance to the tunnel.

"Elmekia Lance!" Amelia and Zelgadis acted quickly, taking the opportunity to attack. They launched simultaneous spells at the black sphere monster while it was stuck in the tunnel, but it faded into the astral side before the spells could hit.

The fierce black sphere reappeared, spinning in mid air and throwing a multitude of smaller black balls that bounced around all over the cave as if it was a crazy game of dodge ball. Amelia and Zelgadis struggled to avoid the hits but they were inevitably reached by the many bouncing black balls and knocked painfully to the ground. Yet strangely, they weren't injured beyond a few scratches, which were mostly on Amelia's body. Zelgadis looked at the scratches, it made him so angry, he was in her body, so he had to keep it safe, he couldn't expose her soft human body to the same dangers that his chimera body could withstand. That was it, this had to end. "Amelia, my sword!"

Amelia took Zelgadis' sword out of its sheath. "Here it is!" She had not really been using it, since she wasn't experienced with blades. Besides, Zelgadis' solid fists made for a very powerful Pacifist Crush anyway.

Zelgadis took his sword, glad to find that he could still wield it easily in Amelia's body. The strength probably came from the exercise from the Pacifist Crushes that the faces of the foolish bandits that got in her way received from Amelia. "Astral Vine! Time to fight back!" With his sword powered up, Zelgadis charged forward, slicing away at the bouncing black balls that got within the reach of the sharp blade, taking advantage of Amelia's agility.

"Yes, we can do this! Justice will triumph!" Amelia joined the fight, making good use of Zelgadis defense to close in on the enemy. "That's the original one!" Amelia signaled towards the largest black ball.

"Ready!" Zelgadis approached from the opposite side.

Together they assaulted the monster with perfectly synchronized simultaneous spells. "Ra Tilt!" For good measure, before the monster had the chance to recover they attacked again, "Ra Tilt!"

The black ball stopped bouncing, falling to the cave ground and spinning in place as if dizzy from the hit. Its form changed and it became a twin tailed monster fox with large fangs that Amelia and Zelgadis both recognized. Weakened from the attacks, Fang shook his head to clear it and changed into his somewhat human form. The only difference was that he had fox ears and a single fox tail, shorter than the two huge tails he had as a monster. Other than that he looked like a human with black hair and silvery eyes. "You guys are really good at dodge ball. It looks like I have no choice but to admit your victory."

"Fang? You're the monster that terrorized this island? You're the one who devoured all the people who came here in a quest to win the island or mine the peridots?" Amelia requested an explanation.

"That black sphere was my original form. I was fused with a fox to become a monster fox. I wasn't used to it and chewed on everything, so Lord Beast Master let me have this island. She offered to give it away to anyone who could defeat me, so that foolish greedy humans would come here seeking riches. That gave me plenty of chew toys to play with," Fang explained with a grin that fit his name very well. "Eventually I got used to my new form as a monster fox and stopped chewing on the furniture, so my master allowed me to go back home. Isn't she the greatest master ever?" Fang wagged his tail with an expression of loyal admiration upon his face.

Amelia felt her, or rather Zelgadis' eye twitch in indignation. "People are not chew toys, using them as such is unjust!"

"It's fun!" Fang cheerfully declared, as if that justified everything. "Anyway, I don't really need chew toys as often as I used to. I haven't been to this island for a while, but my master told me someone was coming to play with me, so I came right away. You guys won the game of dodge ball, so the island is yours now. Have fun with it, I think I'll go home now and take a nap." Fang faded away into the astral side, teleporting back to Zelas' home base.

"That takes care of the island situation," Zelgadis noted, still in Amelia's body. "But we're still switched."

"Don't worry, I'm sure we'll eventually get back to normal," Amelia encouraged. "And if we don't, then it's not so bad, we can live like this as long as we're together with justice on our side. I'll take care of your body and you take care of mine."

"Take care of it?" Zelgadis mused on the concept. That meant that he would have to regularly feed and exercise this body, which was easy enough. But it also meant that he would eventually have to change its clothes and bathe it, which made Zelgadis, or rather Amelia's face turn red.

Amelia blinked in Zelgadis body. "Is something wrong?"

Zelgadis quickly shook his borrowed head. "No, it's nothing."

Another wall suddenly moved aside to reveal yet another secret passage. Fortunately, no rampaging monster came from it, only a greedy redhead and her loyal blond companion. "Amelia, Zel! It's good to see you're okay," Lina greeted with her cape over her shoulder, fashioned into a sort of makeshift sack that looked quite full, no doubt with gems. "Can I borrow your cloaks? I need to carry some things back and mine is full."

Behind Lina, Gourry carried a large amount of jewels in a big bundle in his arms. He occasionally dropped some and picking them up turned out to be quite a challenge without dropping others. Given that Lina was being her bossy greedy self and Gourry was following her around with his usual adorably dumb smile, Amelia and Zelgadis concluded that those two were still in their normal bodies.

Before the dilemma of the switch could be expressed, a sudden earthquake shook the island with more force than any of the previous recent earthquakes. Gourry dropped most of the peridots he was carrying and rushed to pick them up, dropping more in the process. Lina was taken by surprise, her improvised sack coming open. "My jewels!"

A suspicious light came from the tunnel that led to the stone bridge over the lava. Horrified, Zelgadis, who Lina and Gourry perceived as being Amelia since it was her body, realized that the light was approaching magma. "The volcano is erupting!"

"Oh no! Save the peridots!" Lina shouted in agony.

"Forget the peridots, run Miss Lina!" The breath was knocked out of Lina as Zelgadis, who was actually Amelia on the inside, dragged her away in their hasty escape through the tunnel from which Lina and Gourry had arrived.

"The lava is chasing us!" Gourry exclaimed, seeing the approaching magma being pushed through the tunnels by the active volcano's pressure.

"Ray Wing!" Amelia called out, still in Zelgadis body, encasing everyone in a shield of wind that considerably sped up their emergency exit.

xoxox xox xoxox

The group rushed out of the mines and towards the beach with Lina complaining about her lost treasure all the way. As sparks and ashes rained down on them, Zelgadis and Amelia took turns using Ray Wing until they could go on no further and fell exhausted into the sea. Gourry, who was relatively well rested by comparison, took it upon himself to keep his companions afloat, though it was especially difficult when it came to Zelgadis' body.

"My peridots, my precious peridots, they're ruined!" Lina cried out in agony.

"Cheer up Miss Lina, all that matters is that we made it out of there alive." Amelia smiled through Zelgadis' face.

Lina blinked in confusion. "Why are you so cheerful Zel? It's almost like you're Amelia."

"I am Amelia," she admitted, in Zelgadis' voice.

"I'm confused," Gourry announced, while he struggled to stay afloat and help his exhausted companions do the same.

"So am I, but we better have this discussion on the shore," Lina decided. "Zelas Gort!" A group of jellyfish amassed themselves together into a sort of moving island that carried the group back to the Amor Resort beach.

xoxox xox xoxox

The stars and the moon shone brightly in the sky. What had begun as a stormy night had eventually turned clear and peaceful. At the beach, Lina gazed longingly into the distance and lamented the loss of her precious gems one last time. Gourry placed his hand on her shoulder, trying to cheer her up, as he extended his other hand in front of her, his fingers enclosing something. "This was all I could save, sorry." He gave her a rather large peridot.

Lina greedily snatched the peridot and considered complaining about why he didn't save more, but the truth of the matter was that Lina had dropped all the gems she was carrying, so she was really in no position to complain. Besides, Gourry had that puppy look on his face, like a pet waiting for the praise and approval of his master. "Thanks Gourry," Lina finally whispered. She added with a light blush in a hushed voice that only he could hear. "I'll keep my promise when we get back to the inn."

Gourry looked confused for a moment. He had forgotten all about any promises. He tried hard to remember until it finally came to mind after a vast mental effort. He smiled, after such a swim, a nice massage would feel great.

Clearing her throat and willing her blush to disappear, Lina proceeded to address the confusion concerning Amelia and Zelgadis. "You can start explaining any time now."

"The good news is that we managed to beat the monster that guarded the island in its own game of dodge ball." Amelia began to explain, speaking through Zelgadis' body. Seeing Lina's perplexed expression, she elaborated. "The monster turned out to be Fang, he's pretty strong, it took simultaneous Ra Tilts from Zelgadis and I to beat him and he was obviously holding back because he knew us. After that, he admitted our victory and let us have the island. Now all that's left is for Zelgadis to take care of the paper work. I hope Zelas doesn't cause any trouble with that, but somehow, I don't think she will, she's already done plenty with this switch."

Further clarifying the situation, Zelgadis added from Amelia's body. "I'm Zelgadis, she's Amelia, we're kind of stuck like this."

Lina blinked in surprise, once, twice and three times, while Gourry scratched his head in perplexity. Then the red haired sorceress burst out in an uncontrollable fit of laughter. "Ha ha ha, you say Zelas is responsible for this? He he he, I knew she had to be a trickster, ha ha ha. Xellos had to get it from somewhere after all, hee hee."

Zelgadis crossed his arms over his chest in indignation, promptly uncrossing them again when he realized this was not his chest at all. "It's not funny!"

"Yes it is!" Lina giggled. "It doesn't sound too serious though. I'm sure you'll be able to find a spell to fix it, or maybe it'll just wear off. Maybe Celo will have a clue, although I wouldn't suggest trusting him. You should probably ask Xellos instead."

"How is Xellos more trustworthy than Celo?" Zelgadis inquired in exasperation.

"He's not," Lina admitted. "But as long as he's stuck in human form, he can't escape into the astral side. All you have to do is lower his guard with some chocolate ice-cream pie, sneak up on him and force him to speak. While you're at it, you should also get some chocolate ice-cream pie for me as a reward for giving you such a great idea and to console me for the loss of my jewels, even after I worked so hard to earn them."

"You blew up the ship and didn't help fight the monster," Zelgadis argued.

"I still tried to help and it's the thought that counts!" Lina retorted. When it came to treasure and food, she had a counter argument for everything.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 094: Contrast! A Bad And Good Day For Justice

Seeing as it was late and they were tired, Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis retired to one of the many inns of the resort. Lina did keep her promise, much to Gourry's delight, both of them taking a moment to relax even if they knew the chaos that had surrounded their group as of late was nearing its climax.

When the sun peeked out from the horizon, its light invading through the window, Filia's uneasy slumber was interrupted at the clock tower. She moved slightly, still very sleepy. In the morning Xellos would leave, she didn't want the morning to come and didn't fall asleep until it was very late. Unable to find anyone next to her, the tired golden dragon opened her eyes and confirmed that she was indeed alone. "You stupid piece of raw garbage! Why didn't you wake me up before leaving?" She reproached bitterly for no one but herself to hear. She wanted to go back to sleep and not get up for a very long time, but she couldn't fall asleep again.

Not in the mood to lay in bed staring at the ceiling, Filia got up. She tried to assimilate the fact that the chaotic relationship she had built with Xellos over the past few months was over. She bit her lip and told herself not to cry. Xellos was originally and truly a monster, she knew and accepted that fact. She knew being with him came with risks, mortal risks, that much was made clear to her during her first encounter with Zelas. All of that felt so far away now and she didn't know how she was supposed to simply let go. How could she learn to put the past to rest and be strong for those who needed her? For her friends, for her family, for her son... Maybe it was best for Val to remain in the care of his uncles and aunts for a while longer, at least until Filia didn't feel like she would burst out crying at the drop of a hat.

xoxox xox xoxox

A couple of hours later, Filia found herself stirring a bowl of cereal with a spoon, taking tiny bites now and then, not really caring how long it took her to finish her breakfast. She had remained by herself in the wooden clock tower. Those who didn't know of her recent breakup might have assumed she had ran off somewhere with Xellos and was having fun.

Amelia wasn't one of those misinformed people and she felt the need to check on Filia and make sure she was alright. Thus the princess made her way to the lopsided wooden clock tower to see if Filia was still there. "Miss Filia?"

What Filia heard was Zelgadis voice as it was his body and consequently his vocal cords. "In the kitchen!" The golden dragon called out as calmly as possible.

Soon, a person who was Zelgadis on the outside and Amelia on the inside entered the kitchen. The chimera with he princess' soul sat down across the table from Filia with a look of support upon the usually serious face. "How are you feeling Miss Filia? Have you fixed things with Mr. Xellos?"

"Sort of," Filia wasn't even sure how to explain it. Peculiarly, she didn't think Zelgadis would know what to say to her in this situation. She assumed that he would think that the best course of action was to give her some space and that it would be Amelia who would come by to try to talk to her. She wasn't sure she could tell Amelia about Beast Master though. What if the justice loving princess tried to do something about the unfair separation? That would bring certain doom. Yet impulsive as she could be, Filia knew that Amelia was smarter than that, she would stand down if Filia explained the reasons why a confrontation was a very bad idea.

"Sort of?" Amelia gently questioned, from Zelgadis' body. "You can tell me about it if you want. I just thought talking about it woman to woman might help."

Filia blinked, she had perceived from the start that there was something odd about Zelgadis' behavior and now she knew for certain that there was. "Woman to woman?" She questioned in confusion.

"Oh, sorry, I should have pointed it out from the start," Amelia apologized. "I'm Amelia, Zelgadis and I switched bodies. We think Zelas is behind it; maybe it's her idea of a practical joke."

Filia's anger shone through clearly on her face. "Who does Zelas think she is, toying with everyone's lives like this?"

"A very powerful monster lord, I guess," Amelia replied with a resigned yet hopeful sigh. "We won't give up though, I'm sure we'll figure out a way to get back to normal." Getting back to the main topic of the conversation, Amelia pressed on. "Have you spoken to Mr. Xellos?"

"Yes," Filia confessed. "We're breaking up, it's over."

Amelia gasped in shock. "How can that be? So suddenly..."

"Beast Master doesn't want us to be together." Filia angrily confessed, her level of frustration was immeasurable.

"That's not fair!" Amelia slammed Zelgadis' fist on the table, forgetting that it was like using a hammer and punching through it as a result. "Oops..." She pulled the stony fist out. "Sorry about that, I keep breaking things."

"Adapting must have been difficult for both of you." Filia observed, trying to change the subject.

"A little, but not too much. I can't climb trees anymore, the branches would break, but my Pacifist Crush is more effective than ever. Zelgadis keeps climbing trees and bending at all angles, I think he's amused by it." Not willing to let the topic of Filia's predicament drop so easily, Amelia brought it up again. "Maybe there's a way to convince Zelas to let you and Mr. Xellos be together. She made an exception for Mr. Celo after all."

"Celo isn't her general priest," Filia reminded. "Listen, Amelia," she felt odd calling the apparent Zelgadis that. "I think it's best to just leave things as they are. If we take too many risks, Zelas will kill us. She has already come close to it before." Zelgadis' surprised eyes showed that Amelia, who was behind the expression, wanted more information. "Remember when we went back to my shop and there was that battle in town? Afterwards, when Xellos and I were missing for a while, we ran into Beast Master and she almost forced Xellos to kill me, but changed her mind at the last moment. I think that was a warning. Xellos had to leave, he had to cut all ties with me. He didn't have a choice, that's why I don't blame him. If there is a way to safely convince Zelas to allow us to be together again, Xellos will find it. If not then... Then I'll just have to accept the way things are."

A long and tense silence passed, during which Amelia didn't even know what to say. Filia had already formed a plan, the only plan she could make. This was not a matter of choice and picking a fight with Zelas was a big no. It was just so unfair it was tremendously infuriating. Then a familiar voice shattered the silence as heavy steps made the rickety structure of the wooden clock tower shake. "Amelia? Is this the right place? Are you here?" The steps got closer as the person searched for anyone inhabiting the tower. "The door was open..."

"Daddy!" Amelia called out, though it sounded quite different than usual because she was in Zelgadis' body.

The tall figure of prince Philionel appeared at the kitchen's entrance to find his future son and law and that nice golden dragon lady who was a friend of his daughter. Without thinking Amelia greeted her father with a hug as she usually would. Thankfully, Philionel was a mountain of muscle, thus he wasn't crushed when Amelia guided Zelgadis' body to him in a tackle hug. Albeit he certainly wasn't expecting such a warm greeting from the usually quiet Zelgadis, Philionel happily returned the embrace. "It's good to see you too, my boy! And congratulations to Miss Filia, I'm looking forward to the wedding!"

Filia stared into her half eaten bowl of cereal. How could she tell everyone who had gathered at the resort to attend her wedding that it was cancelled? "It's still a way off," she forced herself to smile. "The preparations are taking longer than expected." Filia knew she should just come out with the truth and say that the wedding was cancelled, but she simply couldn't get herself to do so.

"Are you feeling quite alright, Miss Filia?" Phil inquired with fatherly concern.

"Yes, I'm fine, just a little nervous, that's all. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night; maybe I still need a little more." Filia picked up her cereal bowl and excused herself. "I'm sure that you have a lot to talk about." She pushed her smile to appear to be as real as possible for Phil. "I'll see you later."

"Ah yes, do get some rest Miss Filia. Being a little nervous is only natural, but don't worry, everything will turn out perfect in the wedding," Philionel encouraged.

"Yeah, I'm sure things will work out," as she left, Filia gave Amelia a quick glance that spoke louder than words. Amelia nodded in response, she would keep things as they were for the time being, she understood. Filia was trying her hardest to stay calm and face the situation. It wouldn't do her any good if people overloaded her with questions and concerns even if they were well intended.

After Filia returned to her room in the clock tower, Zelgadis arrived in Amelia's body. "Phil, I thought I saw you around here."

Philionel tilted his head in confusion, "Phil? Not daddy? Is something wrong? Even your fiance is calling me daddy now. Here I thought I would have to ask him a million times before he got used to calling me dad, let alone daddy. And where's my hug?"

"I take it you haven't told him?" Zelgadis theorized, interrupted by Phil suddenly picking him up and spinning him around in a display of fatherly affection.

"Actually daddy, I'm Amelia," the princess in the chimera's body pointed out, watching as her father put down a dizzy looking Amelia, who was actually Zelgadis.

"Oh, I get it!" Phil's thunderous laughter echoed. "You're playing a game, pretending to be each other. That's so cute!"

"It's not a game" Zelgadis dizzily clarified.

"We're actually switched," Amelia added. "Speaking of which, we should find Celo and see if he knows how to switch us back. Trickster or not, I'm not in the mood to put up with practical jokes. It's a sad day for justice, I have a thing or two to say to Celo about that too." Taking the matter of Filia and Xellos directly to Beast Master was far too dangerous, but pestering her minions about it was a whole different story. "While we take care of that, you should enjoy the rides of the resort." Amelia smiled at her father, through Zelgadis' face.

"Are you sure you don't need help?" Phil offered.

"Don't worry; we can take care of things." Amelia assured. "You've been working very hard; you need to take a little vacation."

"Alright, I trust your judgment... There's just one more thing I need to ask about." Philionel's face was understanding, yet at the same time it demanded sincerity. "Are you sure you didn't switch bodies on purpose?"

"No," Amelia replied, taken by surprise with the question.

"Why would we?" Zelgadis added.

"It's just that this would solve the problem with the throne. You got my letter, didn't you?" Receiving unanimous nods from Amelia and Zelgadis, Phil continued. "If we could prove that you really are switched and this isn't just an act, then you're technically both in line for the throne. One has the soul of the princess and the other has the physical body, thus the royal blood as a direct descendant. It's only natural to reconcile the split ruler by uniting the two parts in marriage."

"We already took care of that," Zelgadis pulled out some official looking documents from Amelia's cloak. "These documents officially identify me as the prince of a near by island. Since I'm technically royalty now, even if it's just a deserted island with nothing but cooling lava on it, shouldn't that be enough?" Zelgadis handed over the papers with his and several other official looking signatures and seals.

"This is perfect, it will do just fine! Private islands are the in thing among royals these days!" A great relief washed over Phil's features. "I'll take care of submitting these documents right away. Good luck getting switched back, don't forget to tell me all about it as soon as you make some progress." Taking another look at the documents, Phil continued to smile. "This is a good sign; it means that things will improve. Justice might suffer bad days now and then, but there's always a new day to look forward to and justice will always recover and triumph!"

With her eyes, or rather Zelgadis' eyes, shining in admiration, Amelia cheered along with her father, "justice will always win!"

xoxox xox xoxox

While Philionel took care of the official documents concerning Zelgadis' status as a prince and the future of the throne of Seyruun, Amelia and Zelgadis went on their way to locate Celo. Doing so was not hard at all, as if he wanted to be found. In fact, the human monster chimera was the one who approached them as they made their way down the main street of the resort, near the cupid decorated fountain. "Good morning," Celo greeted Amelia and Zelgadis with a polite respectful smile as if he had no idea about their predicament. Yet the knowing, cunning and mischievous look in his eyes indicated that he knew exactly what was going on.

"Good morning yourself," Zelgadis snapped, in a very un-Amelia way. "I take it you already know about our little problem?"

"I am informed, Mr. Zelgadis," Celo confirmed.

Amelia pointed Zelgadis' finger accusingly at Celo. "In the name of justice, I demand that you switch us back!"

"As you wish," Celo replied with the same calm, polite and annoyingly respectful smile that he always had.

Amelia and Zelgadis stared at him suspiciously until Amelia commented unsure. "Justice always triumphs in the end."

"I beg to differ," the keen look in Celo's eyes hinted that there was a much deeper meaning to his words than what could be literally perceived. "The end would hardly do anyone any justice. It is the everlasting journey which will bring trials in which justice will shine for its glory or shine for its absence. In both cases, it will be a very present topic, whether they speak of great justice or the great lack of it. Consequently, injustice will also flourish in those conversations and events. The end is empty, the end knows no justice or heroism and it knows no injustice or villainy, it knows nothing. If one were to triumph the other would perish. A hero cannot exist without a villain. It's the villain that creates the hero. Without the villains of the world there would be no inspiration and people's hearts would die having nothing to strive for, justice would not exist."

Amelia gasped as she gave Celo's paradoxical words some further thought. Justice was born to defend against injustice and without injustice; the concept of justice would never have come into existence. Maybe there would be peace, but then again, it really wouldn't be peace. What is peace if not a comparison to chaos? To be at peace was to rest, to rest from chaos, but without something to rest from, it would all be the same. Even Amelia had to admit that sometimes the need for adventure consumed her and she had to go around spreading justice. Yet if justice had an absolute victory, it would cease to exist. There would be no adventures. There would be no epic heroes. There would be no inspiration, no excitement, nothing to look forward to.

"I never thought of it that way," Amelia admitted. "I know this might seem crazy, especially coming from me, but maybe a healthy amount of chaos is necessary in our lives. It's what inspires us and makes us improve. It's just like with the barrier. Because of the adversities that occurred in the lands inside the barrier, our magic was able to develop and grow. We discovered many things and adventures happened."

"Yes," Celo's smile grew as his point was understood, though the true deeper meaning behind it still remained hidden. "When it comes down to it, it's necessity created by adversity that led to most discoveries. Otherwise, people would be laying around idly in caves to this day. Or even more likely, an extreme lack of motivation from severe boredom would have sucked away their will to live, leading to the extinction of all living creatures."

"Okay, we get it, a little bit of mayhem can be healthy every now and then," Zelgadis admitted. "But too much of it is just plain frustrating. Pushing to strive is one thing, but pushing for a hopeless surrender is different."

"That is very true, but hope is very hard to break, so as long as antagonists exist, life will flourish," Celo concluded. "In a sense, we monsters keep the spirit alive by presenting adversities to strive against. Maybe that is the reason why we were made to feed on negative emotions, so that for the sake of our survival we would seek chaos and at the same time save the world from perishing in idle depression. After all, accomplishments cannot exist without trials to conquer and happiness is unidentifiable without an opposite contrast. Eternal discord is true balance, chaos is life and absolute peace without adversity is death." Giving the words one more moment to sink in, Celo continued on to the next order of business. "About the cure to your switch, it is not a difficult task to perform at all. Follow my instructions and I will provide all that is necessary."

Amelia and Zelgadis knew that Celo was a trickster who was not trustworthy in the least. They also knew that he was their best bet at getting back to normal and if Zelas truly wished for them to remain that way, she would make it so anyway. Thus they listened to Celo and were given the surprising cure to their switch, which was certainly not what they were expecting. None the less, they ventured out to fulfill the task that was set before them, even if it was indeed a mortal risk. Hopefully, Lina would understand.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Xellos had returned to the elusive Wolf Pack Island, the headquarters and personal place of residence of Lord Beast Master Zelas Metallium. Wolf Pack Island was a place that could not normally be reached through the physical plane, though its location was a relatively well known legend. Ships would pass by claiming they saw it in the distance, while others sailed over it supposed exact location and found nothing. It was hidden by an astral shield and appeared only when Beast Master willed it to become visible in the physical world by removing the shield.

The island received its name with a good reason, as there were many packs of wolves there along with an abundance of rare wild beasts that served to feed them. Even so, despite the wolves constantly hunting for prey, there always seemed to be plenty of wild animals around, all of which, big and small, were rather aggressive. Some were just regular, though unusually fierce, animals and some were animals possessed by lesser monsters as their means to reach out of the astral side and interact with the physical world.

Others of the creatures that inhabited Wolf Pack Island were mutated animals resulting of various experiments, most of which were surprisingly conducted by the hands of humans, before Zelas decided to claim the results for herself. The initial few creatures eventually multiplied, the mutations becoming stranger with each generation, making the beings exposed to the aura of aggression that covered the island truly fierce.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 095: Tricky! The Queen Of Masterminds

Lina and Gourry were walking down the main street of Amor Resort, looking for a restaurant to assault for breakfast. Unknown to them, Amelia and Zelgadis were watching them, hidden behind the silly heart themed decorations that were all over the place, following them with the quietude of ninjas. Allowing their targets to move a little further away, but still keeping them in sight, Amelia, who was still stuck in Zelgadis' body, expressed her doubt. "I feel really bad about this."

"Think of it this way," Zelgadis, who was still stuck in Amelia's body, tried to make the situation look better, though he might have pointed out that it was worse then it seemed. "If we don't do this, something worse might happen. Zelas has decided to annoy us and we'll have to deal with that as best we can."

"So in a way, we're saving Miss Lina?" Amelia tried to shift her perspective to make her actions feel less terrible.

"Exactly, we could be saving her life for all we know." Zelgadis agreed.

"Okay... here goes," Amelia rushed out of her hiding place behind a cupid statue before Lina and Gourry got further away. She approached the pair as they examined a restaurant from the door with hungry faces apparently deciding that it was exactly what they were looking for. "Miss Lina, urgent news from Luna!"

"What? Luna? Where?" Lina immediately panicked, jumping into Gourry's arms in her fright. "Where is she? Is she angry at me? What did I do this time?"

"Luna was furious," Zelgadis lied. "She said she had to teach you a lesson and that things might get ugly."

"We tried to talk her out of it," Amelia continued with dramatic acting. "We managed to calm her down for the most part. She said that if you made up for all your wrong doings, that she would forgive you. We wouldn't want a terrible fate to befall you, so we came up with some good deeds you could do."

"What good deeds? What do I have to do to escape Luna's wrath?" Lina jumped out of Gourry's arms and shook Zelgadis' shoulders, though it was actually Amelia who was there on the inside. "Tell me!"

"Here's a list," Zelgadis conveniently provided, with Lina immediately snatching away the list out of Amelia's hand.

"Number one on the list is doing laundry," Lina read aloud. "I suppose doing chores for people can be classified as a good deed. There's also doing the dishes, cleaning the floor, watering the garden... I'm on it!" Lina had never been so energetic about doing chores before, but to her, this was a matter of life and death, or a fate worse than death, a punishment from Luna.

"I can help," Gourry offered, as Lina's loyal companion, good friend and future husband.

"Don't," surprisingly, Lina refused. "I might be tempted to dump all the chores on you and get into trouble with Luna," she admitted, shuddering at the thought of what having trouble with Luna might translate into. "This is something that I need to do on my own."

xoxox xox xoxox

The creatures of Wolf Pack Island recognized Xellos upon his arrival. They growled threateningly, mainly because they growled at everything except Beast Master herself, but none of them dared to attack him. A few of the wolves circled him as he made his way to a cave, but tempting as the human flesh was, they would not defy Beast Master by attacking Xellos. Inside the cave, Xellos reached a large set of golden doors, which opened for him automatically, revealing the entrance to Zelas' underground palace.

Xellos ventured inside, walking down the familiar hallways at a confident pace that was more a show than it was real. He was mentally exhausted and though he had a real physical body, rather than a physical body generated by his own astral energy, he found that it presented no benefit against mental exhaustion. Even if he wasn't purely astral anymore, being overloaded with too many events outside of his control caused a very annoying strain. Yet at the same time he found himself strangely relaxed. It was the notion of accepting defeat, the rest that came with the end of the struggle. Everything appeared to be far away as he remembered the many other times when he walked down those elegant hallways before. He remembered the exquisite decorations of ivory and gold that he never took the time to really notice before. Maybe this was what some would call nostalgia.

After a long walk, Xellos finally arrived in front of the large doors that led to Beast Master's throne room, which did not automatically open for him. Zelas' energy was all over the island, her influence clear. She knew he was there but these doors he would have to open the hard way. Thus after much pushing and pulling, Xellos managed to get through the heavy golden doors.

"Ah, Xellos, you've returned," Zelas feigned surprise. She sat comfortably upon a fluffy crimson cushion atop a golden throne. "You were not to return until your curse was broken, this means...?"

"That I know I'm cured," Xellos confirmed.

"I see, but look at you; you seem somewhat out of breath. Are you feeling quite alright?" Zelas grinned mockingly.

"Peachy," Xellos grinned back, trying to look as if he didn't just make a big effort, simply to get through a set of ridiculously heavy doors, which he used to effortlessly pass through via the astral side without even having to open them before.

"What of your dragon pet?" Zelas calmly inquired.

"I dumped her," the squinty eyes grin of Xellos' face was obviously forced, a fact which did not go unnoticed by Zelas.

"Why is that? Did she refuse to fetch the newspaper or did she chew up your favorite pair of shoes?" Zelas continued talking as if this was all just a casual conversation of every day small town pleasantries.

"I'm sure she would have refused to fetch the newspaper if I asked her to," Xellos replied, still following the little game Beast Master had going on.

"How dreadful, that dragon didn't know her place," Zelas leaned back on her throne, twisting a strand of pale hair between her fingers. The long pupils of her silver eyes stared right into Xellos' amethyst orbs, capturing his gaze in place. His pupils were round for now, reflecting the world around them through human eyes. "What is your true reason for this?" Though Zelas still smiled mockingly, her eyes were demanding and authoritative.

Xellos' grin dissolved inevitably, his expression serious yet determined. "To serve you, it is what I was made for after all. I need no distractions."

"But you want them," Zelas interrupted.

"It serves no purpose," Xellos replied with a barely perceptible hint of bitterness.

"Except research," Zelas mused, her expression relaxing into a less imposing and more inquisitive look. "Then there is the last ancient dragon, I have no plans for him, but I rather have resources that I never use than to let someone else have them. If you were simply trying to serve me, wouldn't you have considered all this?"

Xellos stared into the silver eyes of Beast Master, it was as if she was looking into his very soul. "I was... trying to save her," he confessed. When it came down to it, he could withhold no secrets from Zelas, not for very long anyway. "If I am being trained to face an enemy that I know little about and enduring difficulties will make me stronger, then..."

"Then if I order you to kill her, you must," Zelas finished for him.

"Yes," Xellos forced the heavy syllable out.

"Well, I'm glad that's clear, however, I don't remember issuing such a command," Zelas' expression feigned innocent ignorance. "Fear alone is simply not enough, I want respect, admiration. Even something as dreadful as gratitude is something that I crave for sometimes. I'm a terribly greedy woman, I suppose. I once heard someone say, something interesting, I forget who said it," she lied, "it was probably some unimportant creature. The saying went: 'pushing to strive is one thing, but pushing for a hopeless surrender is different.' It referred to the human race and other similar races, it basically means, don't break your toys if you want to play with them again."

"Meaning?" Xellos dared to inquire, with a million thoughts running through his head.

"I am a monster, but also a beast. I selfishly seek my own benefit, yet I surround myself with the members of my pack, expecting their loyalty and preventing their demise in return, not only by my hand, but by the hand of any. My followers are rarely ruined, in the worse case scenario they simply lose the power to interact with the material world for a time. Numbers, strategy, ultimate victory, is there such a thing? For a true hunter, it is the chase that is more trilling then the capture." Zelas paused, noting that Xellos looked thoughtful and confused. He was usually quick to follow what she meant to say between the lines, but this time she couldn't blame him if he didn't. The truth was... unexpected. "Which do you prefer? Chaos or destruction?"

"Chaos," Xellos didn't doubt his answer for a second. "Destruction is empty and boring in the end, but chaos brings more chaos, more fun. Chaos never ends, destruction ends it. Destruction is simple and maybe even merciful; it's almost peaceful when it's all over."

"I agree," Zelas smiled in such a joyous way that it took Xellos by surprise. It was as if she had come to terms with something that had been bothering her for some time. "If by coincidence anyone should inquire about my choice concerning the truth, say that I am undecided and leave the matter at that. If no one brings it up, seek no further information." Zelas ran her fingers over the smooth surface of the black cone gem that was on her necklace. "I cannot return this to you yet, but the time is near."

Xellos took in all the information, trying to look beyond it. What was that truth that Zelas spoke of? "This whole thing was a set up, wasn't it? With the dare I mean."

"Yes," Zelas admitted. "The world was condemned, but not necessarily to end. Rather its fate was to be decided by a choice that could turn the tides and possibly, but not necessarily, destroy everything. My choice, thus far is chaos, which means that Lina Inverse and I might have a common enemy. One who is an enemy even to the dragons; albeit they believe it is an ally. But it is too early to discuss this. For the time being, you are to remain here on this island. When and if your dragon pet loyally comes for you at her own stupid risk, you may leave and proceed with everything as if there were no interruptions. Whether you marry your pet or not will be up to you. I wouldn't mind further mocking the dragons, but it doesn't matter to me either way as long as you keep an eye on the ancient dragon, just in case."

"A test of loyalty..." Xellos concluded. He could usually count on Filia to do something rash, but this time she was holding back for Val's sake, thinking that staying away was the best choice. Given all of that, she had no reason to barge into Wolf Pack Island if she thought her continued involvement was futile, suicidal and most of all, potentially dangerous for Val. Yet there was something off, this wasn't a misinterpretation, it was a set up. "Did you purposely do all this? Did you set things up for me, even this... misunderstanding?"

"You're a work in process, Xellos. Much research has gone into this arrangement, though it was an emergency which cause me to put it into action now. Your astral self is your mind, removing the peculiarities of a monster will give the mind more freedom in a sense, while being held safe inside a human shell. That contradiction will build up chaos, longing for more, striving to accomplish, you should be stronger when you are a monster again. You should be able to resist what is normally harmful to a monster, because you have incorporated it into yourself, by integrating these experiences into your mind, it'll all be part of your astral self," Zelas explained, purposely being a little ambiguous and mysterious.

"I see... so a part of Celo's research was for me?" Xellos concluded.

"A part of it, yes and also Fang," Zelas confirmed. "Celo was made half human, he gain the advantage of many abilities and defenses, though it was at the cost of a monster power reduction. Overall, with the proper strategy, it was still in a sense a success and it helped significantly fuel the research. Fang was more carefully crafted with the results of Celo's research. He kept his power after becoming a chimera, but instead lost his aggressive instinct, albeit he can still fight fiercely when ordered to. So as to not diminish your power or make you lose your cunning malice, I gave you the experience without the permanent genetics. What you've learned will remain with you alongside your full power. This is all a theory of course, but even though I ran out of time to make a full test, I am confident it will work. Now then, I will take no more questions. There's a show I must see, I'm certain that it's getting good right about now." Without any further explanations, Zelas disappeared into the astral side, eagerly teleporting away to a place where amusement awaited.

xoxox xox xoxox

Random articles of clothing rained from the skies in a soapy mess. Combining a whirlwind with soap and water to do a massive amount of laundry all at once was not a good idea if the tornado was the size of a three story building. As Lina felt the spell slipping out of her control, she tried to tame the wind with more wind and it all turned into a raging storm. She couldn't help it, she had to get things done fast to escape the wrath of Luna and it made her nervous. Never mind that she wasn't even sure about what specific thing had apparently ticked off her sister. When it came to Luna, it was best to please her without question, or Lina feared that might be the last question of her life.

A little kitten peeked out from behind a pile of debris that was once part of a laundry service building. All that talking to Xellos made her miss part of the show already. This was another reminder as to why she preferred chaos; it was indeed, very fun. She intended to make her choice known to Celo eventually, but not yet. Let him keep trying to get his point across, that eternally torturing the world was better than destroying it. It was a pity that she missed the first act of the show.

"Oh no! I messed up! Luna's gonna be so mad at me!" Lina panicked as she took in the sight of the huge mess before her, caused by her.

"It's not so bad," Gourry tried to cheer her up, yet he had to pause and do a double take because not even he had enough optimism to smile at this. "Okay, yeah, maybe it is bad. But you've survived all sorts of battles, Luna can't be that scary!"

"Luna is that scary!" Lina screamed at the top of her lungs in a desperate panic. "She's even scarier than slugs!" For Lina Inverse to say someone was scarier than slugs, that person had to truly terrify her.

"I'm sure this can be fixed..." Amelia suggested unsure. She was of course, still stuck in Zelgadis body.

Zelgadis, who was in turn stuck in Amelia's body, was starting to think that this little operation was about to backfire. Celo had provided a set of chores that needed to be taken care of around the resort, insisting that Lina Inverse had to be made to do them by trickery. He assured that someone would be watching to make sure they didn't try to use the safer approach of bribery instead of the terrible risk of trying to trick Lina Inverse. The trick was successful, but the chores were a mess.

What Zelgadis and Amelia didn't realize was that things were going exactly the way Celo wanted them to go. He needed to gift all this mayhem to Beast Master so that she would favor chaos to destruction when it came to choosing what reaction she would have towards the truth that was revealed to her.

After Lina freaked out for a while longer and eventually realized that she wasn't getting anywhere by running around in panicked circles, she proceeded to check the list of chores again. "Doing the dishes is next, this time, I won't mess up!"

xoxox xox xoxox

"Miss Lina, should you really be eating right now?" Amelia asked in the somewhat shy tone she used when it came to trying to reason with Lina, though it was all in Zelgadis' voice.

"I'm eating and working at the same time, the food helps me concentrate!" Lina argued as she opened her mouth again, it was the signal for Gourry to feed her. The redhead still insisted that she needed to do this on her own; she was still in Luna-panic mode and would not permit even her fiance to help her with the chores. He could, however, provide her with a snack. "Gourry, don't eat it!"

"I was just tasting it," the bitten cookie that Gourry claimed to be only tasting and not eating, though tasting was a part of eating, was finished by Lina. The panicked redhead nearly bit Gourry's finger in the process of eating a cookie from his hand again. It all had to be done this way because her hands were soapy and occupied washing the dishes.

There she stood, Lina Inverse, sorceress extraordinaire, wearing an apron and rubber gloves, immersed in the task of doing dishes, while Gourry fed her cookies. At least if she was constantly fed, she would somehow muster the patience not to try to speed the chores with magic and end up breaking something, or some things, like the entire supply of dishes in the restaurant's kitchen, where she was currently stationed.

A small kitten peeked out from the supply cabinet at Lina's feet below the sink. This was getting boring. It was technically not her job to create the chaos in this situation; she was there to witness it. None the less, Zelas decided that it would be okay to give the chain of events a little push to set things in motion, but only because she really liked chaos. Thus she gave that little push, literally. The mischievous monster lord, in the guise of a kitten, jumped on the countertop where Lina was piling up the dishes as she finished washing them.

Zelgadis opened his mouth, or rather Amelia's mouth, but paused before any sound could come out of it. That cat was Zelas, it had to be her. Was she messing up the chores of the resort that belonged to one of her own monsters? Was she messing up their chance to be cured? Then again, Zelas was Celo's boss, so rather than worrying about making a deal with him, it came as a higher priority to worry about how to deal with her.

The kitten grinned in a way that only a cat from a fairytale would do. Then she gave the tall pile of dishes on the counter a little push with her tail. The tower of ivory porcelain became instantly out of balance, rapidly falling like an avalanche as Lina instinctively jumped back.

Stunned, Lina looked from the dishes to the counter where a kitten sat. Recognition invaded her face as she remembered the incident that occurred at Seyruun which involved a ghost, a crazy chase and Zelas. That time, Zelas had shocked everyone when she jumped out of Filia's hat in the shape of a kitten. "You," Lina's voice was low and threatening. "Beast Master..." her teeth were clenched and her aura was full of angry sparks as she glowed, calling forth all her magic.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 096: Ferocious! The Cunning Wolf's Den

The fear of Luna had pushed Lina to the brink of insanity. When her chance to win back Luna's good favor was taken away by Zelas, Lina's wrath knew no reason. It didn't matter if Zelas was a monster lord who could kill her on the spot. Lina had faced monster lords and lived to tell the tale before, without the scars of mental trauma. Luna was another story; Lina had an absolute fear of her that she didn't feel towards anything or anyone else, not even Zelas.

"Lina, don't pick a fight!" Zelgadis urged, but his plea fell upon deaf ears.

"Miss Lina, you can't win against Miss Zelas!" Amelia insisted.

"They're right Lina. All of this is very confusing, but you can't pick a fight with a monster lord just because her pet got into mischief!" Gourry had forgotten about Zelas' alternate kitten form, not surprising given the usual span of his memory, which only went beyond its limits in a few rare occasions. Instead, he concluded that Zelas came into the conversation so suddenly because the kitten belonged to her.

"She ruined my chance to show Luna I'm behaving!" Lina screamed with an absolute raging fury. Nothing is worse than Luna's anger, not even a monster lord! You'll pay for this, Zelas Metallium!" In her state of panicked fury, Lina didn't even reason that using black magic on a monster lord was not very effective. She only acted automatically and summoned her usual temper tantrum spell. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows!"

"Stop!" Zelgadis protested to no avail.

"Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows!" Lina furiously continued.

"Miss Lina, you mustn't do this! Mr. Gourry, please stop her!" Amelia pleaded.

"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands!" It didn't look like Lina had any intentions of stopping. "Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess!" At a loss for what to do, Gourry kissed Lina, hoping that it would distract her from her rage. Much to his surprise, she actually kissed him back, more fiercely than ever before. But she suddenly parted from him and shouted out "Dragon Slave!" Then she pressed her lips against Gourry's again, blinded by her mix of panic and wrath.

A brilliant flash of light invaded their vision, but they felt no pain despite being right in the middle of the out of control Dragon Slave and having no time to run for cover. Lina was still desperately clinging to Gourry, while he could do nothing more than respond to her unexpected affections. Amelia and Zelgadis saw the ruins of the restaurant, not a single dish, or piece of furniture, or wall for that matter, was left unbroken. Then it was all gone, the scene before them disappeared and was replaced by something else.

xoxox xox xoxox

At Zelas' secret palace in Wolf Pack Island, Xellos was in his room, staring up at the near-black dark purple ceiling, surrounded by walls of a lighter purple and a plush purple carpet on the floor. The room was a place to keep things more so than a place to reside, as Xellos was often traveling around on errands for Beast Master. There was a large bed that served mostly as a decoration because he needed no sleep as a monster, albeit it was actually being used as a place to rest at the moment. It was big and soft, covered in purple sheets with a multitude of purple pillows. Yet despite how nice and comfy it was, Xellos couldn't get to sleep. He had dispelled the lighting and the whole chamber was shrouded in darkness. Even so, he glanced at the many book shelves and mentally went over the titles of the tomes housed in them, wondering if he should try reading a little to pass the time.

Xellos sat up and created a new orb of light that floated above his head, illuminating the room. He was only there for very short periods of time to drop something off or get something he had previously put away, usually a rare magic book. His stomach growled loudly, reminding him that he had a human body to feed and that's when a troubling thought invaded Xellos to sit alongside the troubling thought of Filia acting rationally and not rushing into danger for a seemingly hopeless cause, thus failing the test of loyalty set up by Beast Master. What in the world was he supposed to eat?

Zelas had no food supplies that Xellos knew of, aside from what she kept in her private kitchen that he was banned from entering. He ruined it one too many times with his volatile culinary experiments and Zelas insisted that the place never smelled right again. Yet there were wolves on the island, actual wolves of flesh and bones that needed real food to survive. They probably hunted the animals on the island's surface, so what was stopping him from doing the same? Just because Filia always said he was a disaster in the kitchen, it didn't need to be true. Hot sauce pranks aside, he could be a decent, maybe even a good, cook, perhaps even a great cook if he really tried. Or at least that's what Xellos thought; albeit he would soon find out that he was terribly mistaken.

Xellos glanced at the small wolf cub he had very recently decided to keep as a pet. "We're going up to the surface of the island to hunt down some groceries." The little wolf eagerly followed him.

xoxox xox xoxox

When the colors of the world around Amelia, Zelgadis, Lina and Gourry, stopped spinning, they found themselves in an elegant palace of ivory and gold. There stood Zelas in her elf-like form. This time her hair was a pale orange at the crown, fading to blond and finally to silvery white. Her eyes were silver, with long pupils that reflected amusement. Her sleeveless dress held its usual style in a pale pink-peach fabric that accentuated her tan, the long skirt slit on either side up to her thighs. She was wearing jewelry as usual, long chains twisting around her arms fading from yellow gold to white gold. "Your chaotic feelings are so delicious, I had to bring some home to share." Zelas grinned her mocking little grin that reminded Lina of Xellos.

"Home?" Amelia questioned in worry. "Do you mean your headquarters?"

"Yes, you may call this place that," Zelas smiled in anticipation waiting for the amusing reaction that was no doubt soon to come.

Zelgadis' eyes shone with Amelia's determination as she went on with her justice speech. "We have infiltrated the stronghold of evil and now we shall bring justice to it!"

"Infiltrated?" Zelas questioned curiously.

"Kind of..." Amelia conceded.

"I really don't think this is a very good time to be fighting for justice." Zelgadis tried to inject some logical thinking into the situation. "This is the lair of a monster lord, we can't win. We're in a terrible situation here."

"We're in a perfect situation here!" Lina exclaimed, taking everyone by surprise.

"Poor Miss Lina," Amelia frowned through Zelgadis' features, assuming that the extreme fear and anger had made poor Lina lose her mind. The princess felt terribly guilty about it.

"This is Beast Master's lair; Luna will never come looking for me here!" Lina finally breathed easy. Sure she had been angry at Zelas for putting her in the path towards the receiving end of Luna's wrath, but if Zelas provided protection from Luna, then Lina could forgive her. Besides, Lina was starting to come back to her senses and remembering that if she made Zelas truly angry, she would be dead.

"If you wish to stay here, you'll have to work for it." Zelas warned with a cunningly plotting look. "I'll tell my monsters not to harm you, but you must do your job well."

"Fine," Lina knew she had no choice but to agree. Greed aside, she also knew that asking for a monetary reward was probably pushing her luck too far. Besides, there was no better reward than being safe from Luna anyway. "What do we have to do?" Since this set of chores wasn't going to be done for a sort of redemption, then there was no reason why Lina shouldn't try to dump the work, or at least part of it, on everyone else.

"Take care of the young wolves. The many of the adults are off terrorizing human villages and the cubs need to be fed." Zelas explained, particularly enjoying the indignation coming from Amelia. "Basically, all you need to do is baby-sit a bunch of puppies, easy, right?"

"Nothing's ever easy when it comes to a Metallium," Lina ascertained. "Nonetheless, you can leave the cubs to us."

"How cooperative. Oh and by the way, here," Zelas snapped her finger but no obvious changes occurred. "The cubs are in the inner yard just down this hallway. You'd best not wander around, I cannot guarantee your safety if you do." Zelas disappeared, leaving a heavy feeling of foreboding behind.

A short moment of silence passed as a mischievous grin invaded Lina's face. "I wonder what kind of treasures and magical devices there are here?"

"Miss Lina!" Amelia scolded, realizing that her voice was indeed her own. She looked at Zelgadis, seeing him from her own perspective now.

At the same time, the same realization reached Zelgadis, "we're cured!"

"Yes!" Amelia cheered. "Maybe Zelas isn't so bad after all, at least she changed us back." 'There might be hope to convince her to agree to Xellos and Filia's wedding after all!' Amelia mused.

Zelgadis' relief was short lived, as his mind came up with a disturbing theory. "What if the only reason Zelas changed us back was because she has something much more troublesome in store for us?" Interrupting his own line of speech, Zelgadis turned his head suddenly, which was actually his own head now, to gaze behind the group, to where Lina was trying to tiptoe away down the opposite end of the hallway. "Gourry, I think Lina is tired, why don't you carry her? Keep her out of trouble while you're at it." The chimera helpfully suggested.

"Sure!" smiling as if he had no idea how dangerous that place was, and he probably didn't, Gourry picked up Lina.

"Put me down! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! I want the treasures! I need them!" Lina struggled and tried to break free of Gourry's grasp.

It was true that Gourry wasn't exactly an expert on the current happenings, or an expert on anything aside from swordsmanship, eating and Lina, but even so, he was still human. He still had a natural survival instinct that pushed his normal capabilities past their limit in cases of emergency. Thus, after much careful deliberation, Gourry reached several conclusions. "This place belongs to Zelas," he made his opening statement by reciting the obvious. "Zelas is a monster lord, she's strong and dangerous. The treasure here belongs to Zelas too. It's a bad idea to steal from someone strong and dangerous."

"Or from anyone at all," Amelia corrected. "It's unjust to steal, but I do agree with Mr. Gourry in that this time it's a particularly bad idea. This robbery would be much worse than any other robbery, not because Zelas doesn't deserve it, but because she would kill us."

Lina crossed her arms and pouted, still in Gourry's arms. "Fine, fine, I'll behave!"

xoxox xox xoxox

"Aw, you're so cute!" Amelia squealed for what felt like the millionth time. She found it hard to believe that those adorable little wolf cubs that were still so small they had to be fed milk in a bottle would one day be terrorizing random human, and likely also elf, villages. The chamber containing the inner yard was large and spacious with various forms of vegetation that were not plastic present there, consisting mostly of beautiful poisonous flowers. This was Zelas' place, so it was fitting.

"I can't believe we're doing this," Zelgadis frowned as he pried another little wolf cub off his arm. "Why do I get stuck with the ones that are teething?"

"Because your skin is the most durable out of all of us." Lina pointed out as a matter of fact. She too, like Amelia and Gourry, was cradling a wolf cub in her arms, feeding it with a bottle. The wolves were all young cubs, they were not all newborns, though most of them were. They came in all imaginable shades of gray and brown; black, white, red-ish, yellow-ish and so on.

The door to the inner yard was suddenly opened with a familiar person making his way in. Xellos had to pause and stare at the scene before him. "What are you doing here?" He wasn't sure if he should be glad or worried. Then again, if this was some sort of insane mission to 'rescue' him devised by Filia, why would her 'troops' be sitting around taking care of the wolf cubs instead of sneaking around trying to find him?

"We're babysitting, what's it look like?" Lina pointed out. She was quickly being tired out by the chores. Sure, the pups were kind of cute, but there were so many of them wanting her attention at the same time that it was starting to get on her nerves.

"Is there a reason for that?" Xellos inquired curiously.

"Zelas is protecting Lina from Luna," Gourry pointed out with a smile. He was proud of himself for being able to remember what was going on and accurately explain it.

Lina shuddered at the reminder, "let's not talk about Luna. Maybe if I lay low here for a while, she'll forget about me... I hope."

"Mr. Xellos..." Amelia wasn't going to reveal more than those around her already knew out of respect for Filia, but she had to have at least a silent conversation with Xellos about the situation. "Have you spoken to Miss Filia lately?" The princess hinted.

"Not really," Xellos admitted with a hint of something in his eyes. Amelia thought it was hope, but it was so well hidden she wasn't even sure. "Did she come along with you and stupidly wondered off?"

"No," Amelia replied somewhat flatly. "Miss Filia isn't here."

"I see..." A hint of disappointment escaped him. Xellos wondered just how much the group knew about his situation with Filia. Amelia seemed to be informed, but her relative silence as if wanting to communicate without revealing a secret made him conclude that the others were not necessarily fully informed about the latest happenings of his personal life. Not that it was any of their business anyway, but even Xellos had grown used to being in nosy company.

"Are you here to help take care of the wolf cubs?" Lina being Lina, was eager to recruit another person to dump work on. The more people were working as a team, the less she would have to do herself.

"What's in the tray?" Zelgadis suspiciously inquired, eyeing the covered tray that Xellos held. "Something you cooked?" He inferred from the fact that Xellos was wearing a pink apron with a picture of a little yellow chick on the front and a bandana of matching colors to keep his hair out of the way.

"Yes, I was going to prepare a meal for myself, but I don't have much of an appetite so I tried to give the food to my pet." Xellos looked around until he spotted his little pet shyly peeking into the inner yard chamber from the door. The little wolf cub had yellow fur that was lighter around her face, chest and stomach and bright blue eyes. She looked like she was waiting to take cover for some reason. "The little ingrate didn't want it, so I told her I was giving the food to her siblings and cousins instead. There's no use in letting a masterpiece go to waste. Now that you're here, maybe you can have some too." Xellos' hand hovered over the rounded metal cover that kept the contents of the plate in his hands hidden from view.

"No thanks," Amelia tried to sound as polite as possible.

"I'm not hungry either," Zelgadis agreed.

"Same here," Lina refused as well. She had a huge appetite, but she knew that if worse came to worst, starving was a much more pleasant option than attempting to stomach Xellos' cooking.

"I'll have some," Gourry stupidly volunteered himself. He didn't really understand why Lina would refuse food, but he was about to realize her reasons when Xellos revealed his dish. The scent that invaded the atmosphere was terribly unpleasant at best.

The dish appeared to be some kind of steak, although were it came from was anyone's guess. It was part burned and part raw with a foul scent all around it. Mutants were rather hard to cook, but Xellos thought he did pretty well for this being his first time making a roasted mutant animal steak. Honestly, he couldn't even tell what the mutant most resembled.

"On second thought, I'm not really hungry after all." Gourry quickly changed his mind, unable to resist the urge to cover his nose. The wolf cubs around them, that had an acute sense of smell, began to whine and cover their noses with their little paws. Some darted away further into the inner yard, while others hid behind their caretakers, giving them little shoves with their tiny paws, indicating that they should do something about this.

"Fireball!" Lina blasted the so called steak with a well aimed fireball that left Xellos holding a plate of ashes instead. The little wolf cubs gratefully gathered around their red haired savior, licking her and cuddling her.

The former monster frowned. "That was very rude of you, Lina."

"It was wrose of you to try to cook. Your cooking skills are an offense to food!" Lina scolded. "Besides, what was that thing supposed to be anyway? Some kind of roasted meat? It looked like it came from some kind of mutant creature!"

"It did come from a mutant creature," Xellos confirmed. "Don't you know that mutated creatures are considered delicacies in some countries?" Xellos guessed that they must have been brought directly inside if they had no chance to have a look around the surface of the island and notice the abundance of weird beasts.

Lina twisted her nose to the side in disgust. "Not in the country where I was born." At least she hoped not.

Since the danger was apparently gone, the little wolf that accompanied Xellos walked past the door to the inner yard and went to sit by his side. Having a better look at her, since she wasn't hiding in the hallway anymore, the group noticed that the little wolf had a purple bow around her neck and another smaller pink bow tied around the end of her tail. Before anyone could comment that Xellos' pet reminded them of Filia, or inquire about her name, another person entered the inner yard.

The new arrival walked a few steps inside the large chamber, standing there looking dangerously imposing. Her hair of deep purplish-crimson created a sinister shadow over her eyes as she threateningly voice one name. "Lina..."

Lina's face grew pale, her eyes wide, her mouth ajar. Her whole body trembled. "Lu... Lu... Lu..." This wasn't supposed to happen; she was supposed to be safe there. Where was Zelas when she was needed? "Luna!" Lina screamed at the top of her lungs as she took off in a mad dash further into the inner yard. She spotted another door on the opposite end of it and hurried towards it. She wasn't supposed to be wondering around, but nothing in the lair of a monster lord could possibly be scarier than Luna in Lina's opinion. "Zelas!" She screamed in a panic. "Help! You're supposed to be protecting me! Where are you? Zelas!"

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 097: Crafty! The Trickster of Tricksters

Upon seeing the mirror image of Luna, Lina had ran off in a panic, all through Zelas' palace. The so called Luna changed back into the appearance of Zelas, proving that it had been a trick to scare Lina. Amelia frowned in disapproval. "Miss Zelas!" She spoke in her most scolding voice, ignoring Zelgadis, who was trying to get her to calm down. "You've been picking on us too much. You've caused stress for everyone, you've terrified Miss Lina." Never mind that Amelia had also terrified Lina along with Zelgadis with their Luna lies. Amelia reconciled with her conscience by concluding that it was all directly or indirectly Zelas' fault. "The worse of all you did was that you interfered with true love!"

Xellos had a strong foreboding feeling that Amelia was talking about him and Filia. He immediately joined Zelgadis in an effort to make her stop, but it all proved to be fruitless.

"For what purpose?" Amelia demanded to know. Zelgadis was seriously close to just grabbing her and holding his hand over her mouth. It would be for her own good anyway. "Why?" Amelia continued her dramatic declaration, pointing her accusing finger of justice at Zelas. "Why have you done this? What benefit do you get from all this suffering?"

"A good meal," Zelas stated simply in a matter of fact sort of tone, unfazed by Amelia's audacity. "That's why I sent Lina on a panicked run, her fear that borders insanity will be a good treat for my monsters. I need to keep them well fed for what's to come."

Throwing caution to the wind, Zelgadis dared to ask. "What is to come?"

"It is far too early to share that information." Zelas grinned mockingly with the joy of someone who knows a secret that everyone wants to know. "Now I must go tend to another guest." Leaving the group thirsty for answers, Zelas disappeared.

Gourry didn't really know what was going on. He lost track around the time Luna randomly showed up and was deep in confusion by the time she turned into Zelas. He still wasn't sure who had been addressing them. Zelas who had been disguised as Luna, or Luna who disguised herself as Zelas? Never mind that a person of at the very least average intelligence, would reason that the transformations to so easily change her appearance fitted the astral nature of a monster, thus making it a logical conclusion that the one who had been there was Zelas. Confused and clueless as he was, Gourry at least knew that there was one thing he needed to do. "I'm going to find Lina." Without further ado, he ran off in the general direction she had dashed off in.

"I don't think Lina is in mortal danger if Zelas only intends to have her monsters feed on her fear," Zelgadis theorized. "Nonetheless, it's obvious that something big is happening behind the scenes and I want to know what it is." Zelgadis gave Xellos a critical glare.

Xellos only grinned in return, "that is a secret."

"I'm not going to take that line for an answer this time!" Zelgadis warned.

"It's the only answer I have," Xellos truthfully replied, though to Zelgadis and Amelia it might have looked like stubborn annoyance.

Amelia sighed hopelessly, "forget it; he's not going to tell us." Then her mood underwent a dramatic change and she was optimistic and energetic again. "It doesn't matter, because justice is ready for anything!" Except maybe a panicked Lina Inverse. "We better go help Mr. Gourry find Lina before she starts shooting Dragon Slaves at random around here."

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia Ul Copt was a golden dragon whose clan had been wiped out during an incident involving a threat from another world, Dark Star Dagradigdu. Since then, following the discovery of the fate of the ancient dragon race, she had virtually no contact with other golden dragons. Or at least no golden dragons that were still a true part of the race's main group. She was an unusual one, she admitted to herself as she coughed madly and came to an ungraceful landing among thick black fog that she desperately hoped wasn't poisonous. Well, she didn't feel like she was dying, though a heavy air of malice hung in the atmosphere.

Filia didn't bother turning into an elf. If she ran into trouble, and she expected to, she would be better off fighting in dragon form. 'So this is Wolf Pack Island,' she mused. A pack of wolves, some seemingly regular wolves and others wolves possessed by monsters, soon surrounded her, growling threateningly, baring their claws and fangs. Filia bared her claws and fangs right back roaring like one of those wild ferocious dragons in fairytales. "I'm here to speak with your leader, let me through!"

The beasts looked unsure. Filia noted that aside from the wolves and the monster wolves, there were also several unidentifiable animals, possibly chimeras. They appeared to be having a conversation among themselves with their growls, until they finally reached a consensus and stood aside. Filia was taken by surprise; she had been prepared for a massive struggle, expecting to be granted a word with Beast Master when she was barely alive. She hurried through the path they opened for her, standing left and right of her as if guiding her. Filia reached a cave with a set of doors inside it. The doors opened by themselves and she went in.

The inside of the place was dark at first, then strange blue fire lamps were lit one by one through a specific set of hallways, the others left in darkness. The halls of carved gold decorating ivory marble were large and spacious enough for Filia to walk through in dragon form with ease. In fact, five golden dragons could walk in arm in arm without bumping into the walls left and right, not that any golden dragons at all should be traversing those halls. The ceiling was three times as tall as Filia, with diamond chandeliers holding glass orbs that served as lamps to light the way with their blue flames.

Finally, Filia arrived at a set of golden double doors. She concluded that she was supposed to go inside and slightly opened one of the doors. "Excuse me..." she called shyly as she peeked inside.

"Come in, I don't have to help you with the door, do I?" Beast Master was sitting upon her throne, well aware of the fact that Filia had arrived. That didn't take a very long time at all.

"No thanks," Filia gulped; this was it, the moment of truth. She opened one of the double doors sufficiently for her smaller form to pass through. Then she stepped back behind it and changed back into an elf. She was ready to fight Zelas' minions if she had to, but not Zelas. Filia knew she couldn't win, so she might as well make it obvious that she wasn't there to pick a fight. She entered to the sound of her nervously beating heart. She had thought of many things she could use as arguments for Zelas to allow Xellos certain liberties. She had thought of reasons as to why it could be beneficial, but all those arguments were gone. Filia's mind was suddenly left in a total blank; she could barely remember her own name. She stopped in front of Zelas' throne, her face pale, her hands fidgeting with her cloak, her tail tracing small circles on the floor behind her. "Um..."

Zelas raised an eyebrow and waited a few more seconds, than finally let out a clear and melodious, yet absolutely mocking and superior laugh. "Is that all you have to say? How very eloquent."

"Um..." Filia dumbly stuttered again. She took a deep breath and shook her head slightly. "Xellos," this wasn't working, she couldn't think.

"You're here to see Xellos, like the stupidly loyal little pet you are. Yes, that much is obvious. But have you really come without a plan?" Zelas inquired in amusement.

"I'm here to speak with you," Filia tried to gather her bearings and push her mental capabilities to function.

"Very well then, bark, I mean speak," Zelas grinned from ear to ear.

Filia was too nervous to even get angry at the barking comment. "I think... I think..." Her gaze was on the floor as she fidgeted nervously.

"You do?" Zelas feigned an exaggerated shock before her expression turned doubtful. "Are you sure about that? Right now it doesn't look like you have such an ability."

Trying not to let Zelas get to her, Filia attempted to push her rehearsed speech forward. There was something about strategizing, something about research, something about spying, something about cover-ups, something about information, something about allies, something about tactical advantages, something about pride, something about cunning, something about loyalty, something about strength, something about power, something about magic. Yet at the same time there was absolutely nothing about anything and Filia had to admit she lost all the somethings that she had thought of before. She took a deep breath and began again. "I'm sorry; I had a whole speech prepared for you." She slowly lifted her eyes from the floor to look at the monster lord she was addressing.

"Let me guess, it fell out through the holes in your hollow head?" Zelas teased.

Not even trying to come up with a retort, Filia continued. "I had a lot to say about why it was beneficial for you to allow Xellos a certain degree of freedom. He's very loyal to you and not only because you hold his life in your hands. He admires you truly, I know he does. I suppose, I tried to see what I could come up with that you would find beneficial. In the end, I guess you would want a general priest that serves you properly, that's what you created him for after all. If you think I'm bad for that cause, maybe even bad for him, then I suppose it's only logical that I'm out of the picture. But I think Xellos was happy and he was still eager to serve you. He actually missed working for you, I know he did. He didn't want to disappoint you. For you to let him go, it was worse than for you to simply eliminate him. I didn't understand it and maybe I still don't, but he respects and admired you so much and... and..."

"Are you here to state the obvious?" Zelas interrupted.

Filia had no idea when the first tear escaped her, but she noticed then that she was crying. She tried to calm herself enough to speak clearly once again, throwing out a desperate hasty plan. "Lord Beast Master, do you think you could find some room for one extra golden dragon intern?"

"No," Zelas refused. "One is more than enough to make a mockery of your race. Phythan is stupid and naive. His idiocy mocks the golden dragons, perhaps even more so because he so strongly believes he's doing the right thing. It's all very amusing."

"What can I do then?" Filia desperately asked.

"Why did you come here, dragon? Did you miss Xellos that much? Do you not have others in your life that hold an important place?" Zelas' silver eyes were piercing.

"Yes," Filia's blue eyes were becoming full of fear. "I do not wish for harm to come to them. I was stupid to come here, but I thought that if I spoke to you I could come up with a reason for an arrangement that could benefit you and..."

"And you too?" Zelas laughed as if the notion was simply too ridiculous. "That's doubtful."

Filia lowered her head. "Then I apologize for wasting your time. I'll try to come up with something better to say, I'll write it down so I don't forget it next time."

"Who is to say that you'll leave here alive?" Zelas predatory look would scare anyone to an inch of death.

Filia couldn't take her frightened eyes off Zelas' intense gaze. "You..." she stuttered.

"A correct answer," Zelas agreed, leaning back on her throne, with a rather dismissive expression taking over her delicate yet fierce features. "In the end, everything is as it should be, but I do not believe this detour was in vain. Truths were reinforced and benefits were enjoyed." Filia could only stare blankly. She didn't know what Zelas was talking about, but it didn't look like she was going to attack any time soon.

Then the echo of a screaming voice was heard through the long hallways calling out for help, for Zelas help apparently. Lina Inverse, the sorceress extraordinaire, the extreme glutton, the bandit killer, the dragon spooker, the slug fearer, the Luna-phobic, dashed into the throne room through the slightly parted large golden doors. "Help! Zelas! Save me!" The panicked redhead ran hastily towards the throne, where the monster lord regally sat, and dived behind it. She peeked out from behind the golden throne, thankful that Luna had not caught up with her yet. "She's coming after me, Luna is here, she's coming after me! Don't let her get me, don't let her get me!"

Filia's jaw dropped. "Lina?" She exclaimed in shock.

"Lina? Where did you go? Are you in here?" Another person entered the throne room, this time a tall man with long blond hair. "There you are," Gourry Gabriev, the swordsman extraordinaire, the extreme glutton, the tremendous idiot, the Lina fan boy, smiled at the event of finding his fiance. He had long forgotten why Lina was running away in the first place, but he caught up to her, so it didn't matter anymore anyway.

Filia's surprise continued to grow, "Gourry?"

"Here they are! Oh and Miss Filia is here too!" Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, the loyal agent of justice, the adventure loving princess, the justice speech giver, the hyperactive sorceress, arrived at the throne room. She was being followed by Zelgadis Graywords, the chimera who was unaware of his own coolness, the skilled swordsman sorcerer, the prince of an all but useless island covered in cooling lava, the one who was hard on the outside and lovably soft on the inside.

"Amelia and Zelgadis too? Or is it Zelgadis and Amelia?" Filia wondered what in the world was going on. Why was everyone there? She had not told anyone where she was going, they weren't supposed to know. Did they secretly see her snooping around Celo's library to learn about Wolf Pack Island?

"We switched back to normal." Zelgadis replied, though at the moment their past predicament paled in comparison to the deadly mayhem that would ensue if Zelas anger was provoked.

"I'm here too," yet another person entered the throne room. Xellos Metallium, the annoying trickster, the infuriating manipulator, the vexing spy, the obnoxious secret keeper, the monster that was currently stuck as a human, the favorite minion of Beast Master, the cunning general priest, the chocolate ice-cream pie fan boy, had arrived to the surprise of finding a familiar golden dragon.

Filia Ul Copt, the temperamental golden dragon, the good intentioned drama queen, the artistic vase and mace maker, the kind hearted time bomb waiting to explode, turned towards the door to see her ex-fiance walk in. "Xellos..."

"Good, good, you're all here; you can all protect me from Luna." Lina feverishly demanded. "Maybe if you team up against her, I'll come out of this unscratched!"

Zelas got up from her throne and took a few steps around it. She calmly turned around to face Lina and transformed into the mirror image of Luna Inverse, the sister of the bandit killer dragon spooker, the knight of Ceifeed, the mysterious waitress, the fearsome sorceress. Lina screamed at the top of her lungs for several minutes, leaving everyone's ears ringing, until Zelas changed back. Zelas Metallium, the master of beasts, the queen of masterminds, the cunning wild wolf, the keen monster lord, the trickster of tricksters, grinned with satisfaction. "Such delicious absolute despair!"

The pieces finally fell into place for Lina. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped, her face holding the expression of shock for a few seconds. Then her teeth were clenched, her face was darkened by fury and her whole body was trembling with wrath. "You tricked me," she spoke in a low and threatening tone. "Zelas Metallium, you'll pay for this!"

"Oh look, the little girl is throwing a temper tantrum," Zelas laughed. "Xellos, it looks like our guests could use some fresh air and a little stress reliever. Why don't you take them back to the resort now?"

"Gladly," Xellos grinned. "Gourry, grab Lina and lets go!"

"Right!" Gourry picked up the protesting Lina, who desperately tried to break free with full intentions of trying to rip Zelas apart with her bare hands. It was a suicidal attempt, but in her fury, Lina didn't care, she just wanted revenge.

"Filia, I know you're too lazy to be of any use most of the time, but we need to get Lina out of here before she makes a mess. Now is a good time to conquer your laziness and cooperate by flying us out." Xellos suggested with an amused cheerful grin.

Filia didn't know what was going on or why Xellos was so casually suggesting that they leave, apparently including himself in the group. She didn't understand why Zelas wasn't simply destroying everyone. She didn't understand why they were apparently being allowed to make their escape. In short, Filia didn't understand anything. That must be how Gourry felt all the time, she honestly pitied him. Without further ado, in the middle of the confusion and rush, Filia transformed and the group climbed on her back.

Gourry was carrying a temper tantrum throwing Lina, who was struggling and screaming at the top of her lungs. Amelia and Zelgadis just wanted to put as much distance as possible between them and Zelas, resolving that there would be time to ask questions and sort things out later, when they're lives were not in such impending danger to be abruptly extinguished. Xellos picked up his wolf cub pet and climbed aboard at the lead, kicking Filia lightly, teasingly, on the side, "giddy up, stupid dragon!"

"I'm not a horse!" Filia argued, but took off full speed anyway. She flew through the long gold and ivory hallways, trying to remember the path she took on the way there as the whole place seemed to be illuminated now. Finally reaching the doors that led to the cave, which in turn let out to the surface of the island, she didn't slow down. It looked as if she was going to crash, but at the last moment, the doors opened, allowing Filia safe passage.

As soon as she was outside, Filia headed straight up, trying to get away from the heavy miasma that covered Wolf Pack Island before she coughed out a lung. After a few more seconds of desperate fast flying, the skies began to clear out as Wolf Pack Island was left behind in the distance. Slowing down to a more comfortable pace, Filia glided through the skies, heading back towards the lopsided wooden clock tower at Amor Resort. Once there, she expected to get some answers and maybe even a little bit of hope for the near future.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 098: Return! The Final Countdown

Filia safely landed at Amor Resort, near the lopsided wooden clock tower, with her passengers getting off. Lina was a little calmer, though Gourry still kept his arm wrapped firmly around her waist to make sure she didn't try to return to Wolf Pack Island. This time remembering not to transform in a hurry, Filia ducked behind some plastic trees and changed back into her elf form. "Okay, I'm ready for a lot of explanations right now," the golden dragon impatiently requested.

"I think we all are," Zelgadis agreed and with that, all eyes landed on Xellos.

"Me? What makes you think I have the answer to everything?" Xellos innocently inquired. "It's true that I'm a genius, but not even a genius can know something if no information is available about it."

"Don't stall!" Filia stomped her foot impatiently. "Just tell us what you know, you piece of raw garbage!" She had dried her tears around the time everyone started showing up at Zelas' throne room and visually calmed down during the flight back to the resort. Yet on the inside, Filia's emotions were still in turmoil.

"Is that any way to speak to your fiance? You're so mean." Xellos feigned offense, just like when he used to playfully criticize Filia, just like when they were together. "Keep that up and I won't marry you."

Filia paused, her confused and shocked mind taking a moment longer to process the information. Xellos was acting as if things were back to normal between them, as if their breakup never happened. Her shock turned to hope that she feared would be crushed, but couldn't help it but to hold on to. "You mean... you'll marry me?"

"Possibly," Xellos looked thoughtful. "I'm not sure, I might change my mind. After all, you're terribly stupid and I'm a genius, we're so mismatched."

That sarcastic playful mockery was the Xellos Filia was used to. That could only mean that he really did find a way to convince Zelas to allow them to be together. Things would be back to normal for them, or as normal as it could get for a dragon and a monster that flirted by bickering. In another emotional outburst, Filia jumped on Xellos, giving him a bone crushing hug. The wolf cub he was holding jumped out of his arms to the safety of the ground next to her master's feet, so as to not be crushed along with him. The little cub tugged on the end of Filia's dress, trying to pry her off of Xellos, whose face had began to turn blue. Realizing she was suffocating him, Filia finally released Xellos.

Xellos took in a big breath of much needed oxygen. Being a human who was with a dragon was certainly not easy, especially if the dragon was temperamental, moody and emotional. "It's okay, Fili, the stupid dragon wasn't actually trying to kill me, she's just a clumsy brute."

The little wolf cub whimpered lightly and observed Filia with curious eyes. "Fili," Filia knelt on the ground next to the cub, which had yellow fur and blue eyes with long pupils. She slowly extended her hand, which the cub sniffed before allowing Filia to pet her. Filia adjusted the purple bow on the little wolf's neck and the pink ribbon on her tail, which had become a little disheveled with the strong wind of the fast flight. "Her name is Fili?" The whole group had left their questions for later, waiting to see how Filia would react to this.

"Yes," Xellos confirmed. "Her full name is Fili Algar Metallium, she's my replacement pet and she's way smarter than you. She listens to me like a good pet and even fetches things when I tell her to."

Filia made a long pause, occupying herself in petting the wolf cub while she did. Xellos waited for her to call him raw garbage and complain about being compared to a pet, but she took him by surprise again by giving him another bone crushing hug, along with a loving kiss. "That's so sweet!"

"Huh?" Xellos blinked in confusion. Sweet? What was so sweet about making a mockery of her name by using it for a pet? "You're weird," Xellos concluded.

Amelia was smiling from ear to ear. She was so happy that apparently Xellos and Filia were back together that she couldn't contain the need to cheer, "justice!" At the top of her lungs, raising her fist in the air. She wasn't sure how things were resolved, but she was certainly glad they were. The princess assumed that Filia's presence in Wolf Pack Island had something to do with it. She thought that a heartfelt conversation between the would be mother and daughter in laws was responsible for convincing Zelas to change her mind. Her theory couldn't be further from the truth, but in Amelia's optimistic justice loving mind, it was possible.

"Welcome back everyone!" Phythan approach towards the group from the direction of the lopsided wooden clock tower, which called their attention towards the building. Onyx peeked out from a window on the third floor before returning to whatever she was doing. Apparently it involved writing something on a desk next to the window; she was possibly outlining a story for Phythan to draw. "I was waiting to give you this," Phythan was carrying a sword in a fancy sheath, which he handed over to Gourry. "You're a very skilled swordsman Mr. Gourry, so I'll give this to you. I'm sure you'll put it to better use than I can."

"A new sword for me? Thank you!" Gourry happily received the gift, curiously taking the sword out of its sheath. "Glass?" He observed the blade in surprise. It looked like it was made of glass, but it had some considerable weight to it.

"It's made from my horn. I had a portion of it cut off. It's much smaller now, so it doesn't make me feel all out of balance when I transform. My headaches are also gone." Phythan smiled, relieved that the ordeal with the horn was over.

"A sword made of dragon horn, this sounds pretty cool!" Gourry happily exclaimed.

"It sounds valuable too," Lina eyed the sword greedily. Her temper tantrum had passed, but she still wanted a sort of consolation gift. At least she knew that Luna wasn't after her. "Do you have one of those for me?"

"Only one was made, sorry," Phythan replied, feeling kind of nervous with Lina's greedy eyes fixed on him.

"Don't you have a little bit of horn left that you can give me?" Lina took a step forward toward Phythan.

"Not really, I kind of want to keep what's left of it," Phythan nervously took a step back.

"Don't pick on him," Filia scolded defensively.

"I wasn't picking on anyone, it's just not fair that Gourry gets a gift and I don't." Lina pouted and crossed her arms.

Gourry swung the glass-like sword, which was definitely much stronger than any actual glass could ever be. He slashed the plastic tree in front of him effortlessly and several others behind it, causing them to fall in a domino effect. "How did that happen?"

"It's a special sword," Phythan grinned proudly. "Take a look at the hilt."

Gourry observed the sword's golden handle. At the part where it united with the glowing glass blade there was the silhouette of a wolf standing on two legs, with wings stretched out left and right on its back serving as part of the blade's handle. "That reminds me of the amulet Onyx used to have," Lina pointed out, while Gourry gave her a puzzled look. "You know; that amulet that she used to cast magic while her true power was sealed."

Gourry blinked without a clue, "who's Onyx?"

Lina slapped her forehead in frustration. "Never mind, the point is that the winged wolf is the symbol of Beast Master. She owes me for all the trouble she caused. I nearly had a heart attack back there! I should be the one to get this rare and expensive looking sword."

"Okay," Gourry agreed to everyone's shock.

Lina's jaw dropped, "are you serious? You'll give it to me?"

"I wouldn't be a very good husband if I didn't share my things. I'll give it to you when we get married. But I'll also ask to borrow it, like all the time, okay?" Gourry requested, which didn't really change the situation much.

Lina blushed at the mention of Gourry as her husband. "Okay, you can borrow it all the time. We've been looking for a good sword for you anyway, so you should use it." Technically Lina would own the sword eventually, though Gourry would be the one using it all the time, so he would be more so the sword's owner than her. None the less, having the treasure somehow to her name, Lina was satisfied.

Getting back into the topic of the sword, Gourry inquired something important. "How come the trees behind this tree were cut too?"

"Because of the astral echo of the slash," Phythan uselessly explain, since Gourry didn't understand a single word of it. Nonetheless, the rest of the group was certainly interested in hearing more about it and, unlike Gourry, they could actually follow the explanation. "This is a rare type of dragon horn; it's very sharp and can cut through just about anything. Similarly to how laser breath works, the attack isn't limited to the physical side, it also affects the astral side. The hilt of the sword is infused with monster energy, Beast Master's energy to be specific. It boosts the power of the sword, gives it a fusion magic effect and causes an echo of the slash that can reach targets beyond the physical reach of the sword via the astral side."

While most of the group was fascinated, Gourry was only confused. "What does that mean?"

"Basically," Phythan tried to simplify the explanation to make it as clear as possible for Gourry. "The harder you swing the sword the further you'll cut."

"Oh, I get it!" Gourry's face lit up in understanding. He wondered why Phythan didn't just say that from the beginning.

Moving on to the next subject, Phythan reminded. "Everything is almost ready for the wedding. Tifa asked me to remind you to visit the atelier today to make sure all the clothes fit properly.

"I can't wait for the wedding banquet!" Lina cheered happily.

"I wonder what kind of dress Miss Zelas will design for Miss Filia." Amelia mused aloud, while petting little Fili.

The spoken thought served as a frightening reminder for Filia. Apparently the wedding was on again and she was happy about that, but now she had her dress to worry about. Xellos had a big mischievous, amused and mocking grin plastered on his face. "So Zelas is designing your dress? I can't wait to see it."

"You'll have to wait until the wedding," Amelia pointed out. "The groom is not supposed to see the bride's dress until then."

"Is that so?" Xellos continued grinning in amusement as Filia's worry grew. She was imagining all sorts of terrible dresses that not even Naga would wear. "Then let's get this show on the road, my curiosity is killing me."

xoxox xox xoxox

Over the course of the next few days, the final preparations for the wedding were finished and all the guests showed up. The ceremony would take place in just a few hours and Filia was stressing, running around making sure everything was ready. It was true that if Zelas wanted to ruin the event, she could, but Filia would be terribly disappointed if the occasion was ruined by a cause other than Zelas, a cause that could have been avoided.

There was also the matter of the dress to consider. Filia had not seen it yet and she had not spoken to Zelas since her visit to Wolf Pack Island. Maybe the monster lord would say something about forgetting the dress because it was so unimportant, at least Filia hoped that happened. Then she would have the perfect excuse to wear her backup dress, which she actually liked, instead of whatever monstrosity of a dress Zelas could come up with.

"Is everyone ready?" The bride to be asked Amelia and Lina for what probably was the millionth time.

"Yes, we're ready," Amelia and Lina chorused yet again.

"Where's Tiffany?" Filia inquired impatiently.

"I'm right here, sweet Filia." Tiffany entered the atelier, already in her bridesmaid dress, standing next to Amelia and Lina, who were wearing matching gowns. "I just had a little something to take care of first, but it's all done now." There was a hint of mischief in Tiffany's eyes that reminded Filia of Xellos and Zelas. Perhaps Celo was rubbing off on her; he was one of Beast Master's tricky monsters too.

"Okay," Filia took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. She had already taken all the damage control and contingency measures that she possibly could. Now all that was left to do was hope that Beast Master was feeling merciful, if such a mood could even exist in her. She allowed her eyes to wonder across the atelier, a spacious place with sewing machines, needles, threads and various rolls of fine fabric all over the place. The walls were decorated with scrolls featuring various color palettes to serve as inspiration for those who worked there, a contrast to the plain white tiles that covered the floor, the place they looked to when they needed to rest their eyes from the bright and varied colors on the walls.

The sound of sizzling electricity was heard coming from the door, along with a complaint in Xellos' voice. "Who electrified the door?"

"I did!" A female voice from behind the door replied. "This is a place to create amazing sexy designs. I suspect that men might have set foot on my atelier while I was out recently. I can't have something like that happening, no man must see my designs until they are fully completed to their maximum splendor!"

"So you design clown bikinis?" Xellos inquired with a tone of sarcastic mockery that was so very Xellos.

Annoyed, the female voice retorted. "I am the great Marty, world famous fashion designer! How could you not know this?" She paused with a rather suspicious "hmm..." left hanging on the sound waves. "Although, I could forgive you if you serve as the model for my new line of men's clothing. It will be fabulous!"

The next sound that followed from behind the closed door was laughter, which lasted several seconds until Xellos stopped and spoke, with exaggerated surprise. "What? You weren't joking just now?"

With her curiosity getting the best of her, Filia decided to open the door. Being female, she was not electrocuted by it. This Marty person reminded her of Naga in regards to her style of clothing. However, there were far more colors involved in her skimpy outfit. Xellos was right; it really did look like she was wearing a clown bikini.

Marty was wearing a bra consisting of blue and yellow stars. Her bikini bottom was a bright shade of pink with little blue stars. Her knee high Boots were yellow with blue stars over the knees. She had a pair of fingerless gloves that were pink with yellow stars on the back of the hands. Her lipstick was the same bright pink, with blue eyes shadow over her eyes and yellow star earrings. Her yellow hair was long with a few blue and pink dyed strands. There was a short cape attached to her shoulder straps, blue on the back and yellow on the inverse side with yellow and pink stars on the back and blue and pink stars on the other side. "Of course I wasn't joking!" The strange woman pulled out a rolled up piece of paper from a pocket on her cape and stretched it out for all those present to see.

The paper contained a sketch of a man, who was not meant to resemble anyone in particular, just a generic model. Only the clothing was colored, while the man's line art was left unfinished with no detailed features added in. The unfortunate caricature was wearing a rather short tiger print loincloth with a tail attached to the back of the garment, leopard print boots and fuzzy arm bands like a lion's mane, along with a necklace decorated with fake fangs. "It's my Wild Cat series' main design; it's called the Wild Feline Trio!" Marty proudly declared. "It will soon be distributed in the lovely boutiques of Amor Resort. To announce the grand arrival of my new Wild Cat line, there will be a grand fashion show and I'm running a little short on models. Consider yourself very fortunate that your gorgeous eyes have inspired me to offer you the honor of being the first of many to wear this in front of hundreds, no, thousands of people!"

There was a silent dramatic and suspenseful pause, then Xellos, Filia, along with Lina and Amelia who gathered near the door, took a moment to laugh at Marty and her ridiculous drawing. Filia and Amelia didn't want to be mean, but they couldn't help it. Xellos made a mental note to keep his eyes squinty all the time, not just most of the time, especially around strange women, and they didn't come much stranger than this one.

Tiffany was there as well, though she held in her laughter as best she could. "They are all overjoyed!" Tiffany loudly exclaimed, excusing the others. "Your designs are as amazing as ever, Marty, you're an absolute genius!"

Filia, Amelia, Lina and even Xellos couldn't help it but to give Tiffany strange looks, as if she had gone insane. "I knew you would love them." Marty smiled proudly.

"Well, we're done with the atelier now, so it's all yours. Don't worry about the models, I can get you some. My cousin Phythan has no modesty and will wear any sort of skimpy rag if you tell him it's for the sake of justice, er I mean, he's very open to new fashion and will wear your fabulous designs if you tell him it's for the sake of justice, you know, fashion justice. Plus his eyes are kind of a similar color as Xellos'."

"If he's as hot as this guy, that would be awesome!" Marty happily accepted the offer.

"I could also ask Fang to participate," Tiffany suggested. "He has cute silver eyes and a black fox tail and ears. He'll do just about anything if you scratch him behind the ears just right."

"Oh, he sounds like he would look great with this design; I call it the Wild Beast Tamer!" Marty pulled out another extreme design from her little cape. The sketch featured the same generic male figure as the previous one, with only the outfit being detailed, though it was not as colorful as the previous one. The outfit consisted mainly of black belts with silver buckles. The man in the sketch was wearing two thick belts over each other in the shape of an X, diagonally with the top of the belts on the waist and the other end on the thighs, just barely covering what had to be covered. He had belt anklets, wrist bands and armbands, matching a belt collar around his neck.

"Wonderful, I'll let them know to be ready for an audition. We must go now, see you later Marty!" Tiffany happily went on her way, beckoning her guests to follow.

As Lina, Amelia, Filia, Tiffany and Xellos made their way down the stairs, Marty pause and looked at Lina. "Have I seen you before?"

"I'm sure we've never met!" Lina hurried down the stairs away from Marty's view. In truth, the redhead remembered the atelier golem battle of Marty and Naga versus Tatjana and herself all too well, but she rather not bring that up ever again.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 099: Surprise! I'm On The Guest List

Filia was feeling extremely nervous as she went down the stairs away from the atelier and into the boutique below. After seeing Marty's designs and her outfit, she was starting to fear that the dress Zelas expected her to wear for the wedding would be much, much, worse. "Filia, sweetie," the bride to be snapped out of her worried daze when Tiffany called her for the third time, though it was only the first time Filia actually noticed. "Are you feeling alright?"

Filia forced a nervous smile, "great!" The exclamation came out slightly out of breath from the force of the stress it carried.

"Aw, how cute, I was nervous before my wedding too," Tiffany giggled. "You better go get into your dress now. I think I saw Zelas browsing around the boutique; she was probably waiting for you to give you the dress. You should go talk to her."

"The dress... right..." Shaking with every fearful step, Filia moved out of sight among the many boutique displays.

Lina brought up a question that had been bothering her since she saw Marty. "Why do you sell Marty's designs at the resort? Does anyone actually buy them?"

"Oh yes, they sell quite well!" Tiffany happily exclaimed. "Honeymooners love that kind of thing."

"Okay, that's enough information," Lina quickly took back her question.

"Well, we should be on our way," Tiffany announced with a smile. "Xellos, you'd best go change into your tuxedo, Zelas should come get you soon. She said something about throwing away the groom."

"You mean giving away?" Wasn't that the bride's role? Ah well, this wasn't a conventional wedding anyway. "I'll make sure not to keep her waiting." Thus the group went on their way, Xellos to get into his tuxedo and the bridesmaids off to the temple where the guests were.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia was having a bit of trouble locating Zelas. She asked the shop keeper at the boutique and was told that the lady matching that description had already left. Apparently, most of the human employees of the resort were unaware of Zelas' status as the boss of their boss. Thus Filia made her way down the main street of Amor Resort, searching for her would be mother in law. Her fear of the wedding dress of doom that awaited her grew with every step, but Filia knew that avoiding this was not an option, if anything, it could only make matters worse.

While searching among the crowds, Filia saw someone that she recognized. His golden hair made him stand out in the crowd. She had seen him briefly shortly after the fall of the barrier, just barely exchanging a short introduction. It was only politeness, she was only there to greet her father's guest and serve some tea before leaving them to discuss their business. Nonetheless, she knew who he was and his position. "Milgazia," the name escaped Filia in a terrified whisper. It wasn't that she assumed that he was there to pick a fight, the leader of the remnant dragons who served Aqua Lord Ragradia had to be smarter than that. He couldn't be there to interfere, but he was there and that reminded Filia of many things.

Filia might have forgiven Xellos, but was it okay? She might not be directly involved with the golden dragons anymore, but she was still a golden dragon and she couldn't let go of that. She had to admit that despite it all, she still held a high esteem and respect for the part of her race that had been her family growing up and for her family's friends, which included Milgazia. Her father had always spoken highly of him. Filia froze in place unable to say or do anything. It looked like Milgazia was turning around, he would see her, he would see her for sure. What would he say? Filia didn't want to imagine it. So many golden dragons were killed; the War of the Monsters' Fall was especially harsh on the dragons of the water clan.

Suddenly, just as Milgazia turned around, someone pulled Filia behind a big heart shaped plastic bush with mint green leaves and hot pink roses. A tan hand, with perfectly manicured shiny silver nails with little diamonds on them, covered her mouth to stop her from making a sound. "Shh," Zelas made the universal sign for silence with her other hand, holding her index finger over her crimson lips.

Filia, who still looked like a kicked puppy, nodded her head, indicating that she would be quiet and Zelas released her with a warning look in her predatory silver eyes. While this was happening, Milgazia walked by. He paused in front of the bush, glancing at it suspiciously, then went on his way again. After Milgazia was gone, Filia let out a breath she didn't even realize she had been holding. Zelas was hiding her monster power, just barely projecting herself in the physical world, while her true self remained mostly on the astral side. Filia looked towards Milgazia, who was walking further away, then back to Zelas with a questioning look in her eyes.

"We're going to follow him," Zelas decided as she picked up one side of the large white pot adorned with red hearts containing the silly fake bush.

"Why?" Filia automatically grabbed the other end of the pot and moved along with Zelas, using the plastic shrubbery as a shield to stay hidden from view.

"Because I want to know what he intends to do, stupid." Zelas replied in her most mocking tone, while keeping her voice in a quiet whisper. "I rarely do any spying myself, I haven't followed anyone in secret in many years," Zelas admitted.

"Of course," Filia frowned. "You have minions to do this for you."

"Yes, but since I'm here, I might as well stretch my legs and do a little spying myself. It might be amusing." It was obvious that Zelas didn't consider Milgazia to be a threat in the least. Why would she, if she could so easily end his existence?

Filia remained quiet. She wasn't sure what to say to all of this. She had no idea why Milgazia was there and wondered if Zelas had a clue. "Do you suspect why he's here?"

"I don't suspect, I know." Zelas whispered in a superior tone.

Filia waited for the revelation that never came, thus she prompted. "Why?"

Zelas' answer was simple and to the point, but it filled Filia with even more confusion. "Because I sent him an invitation to the wedding."

"You did?" Filia almost failed to keep her voice's volume in check, her hand automatically covering her mouth while Zelas gave her another warning glare. "Sorry," Filia whispered in a barely audible tone. "Why did you send Milgazia an invitation?"

"Because the side of the temple designated for the bride's guests was too empty, given that all your relatives are dead." Zelas smiled sweetly as if she was doing something very considerate.

Filia frowned, anger and sorrow invading her eyes. Most of her relatives were dead because of Darkstar, but some were killed in the War of the Monsters Fall along with many other golden dragons. "Did you enjoy the War of the Monsters Fall?"

Zelas raised a curious and amused eyebrow. "Talk about random topic shifts. Your brain, if it's even there, must have a leak. I'll dignify you with an answer anyway. Yes, it was quite an enjoyable time. Xellos had lots of fun too, he was such a messy little beast, but not much else can be expected from a newborn monster. He's gotten much neater over time."

Filia's frown became more prominent; she threw caution to the wind and bitterly whispered, "I hate you."

"I know you do," Zelas grinned. "I can taste it and it is delicious, yet the flavor isn't pure. Is that the benefit of the doubt? How disturbing," the monster lord wrinkled her nose in distaste.

"Xellos respects you a lot, he truly admires you. You were created by Shabranigdu, much like Xellos was created by you. I suppose it makes sense that you would want to do his bidding, but..." Filia wasn't even sure where she was going with this, she felt like she was speaking at random. "He's been torn apart, the pieces have been sealed. You don't have to listen to Ruby Eyes anymore; you can do whatever you want."

"What makes you think I wouldn't have already noticed the obvious?" Zelas glanced at Milgazia, who had stopped in front of an ice-cream booth. He received a vanilla ice-cream cone with heart shaped chocolate chips from the vendor and sat down at a heart decorated bench to eat it. Zelas assumed that even bitter dragons on business got hungry. It didn't look like he was moving for the time being.

"My point is that you don't have to return the world to chaos if you don't want to." Filia finished her argument even if she thought it was useless.

"Can you really call emptiness chaotic? Chaos, unrest, disarray, turmoil, hysteria, it's all in the eye of the beholder. We are all chaos and the end is nothingness," Zelas revealed. "It's sad when everything you thought you knew turns out to be a lie, but at the same time it's deliciously chaotic. It opens up a world of new possibilities that most would fear sooner than appreciate. To win is to lose and to struggle is to win. A true victory has no aftermath. The aftermath is a loss, because a true victory never ends."

Filia stared at the monster lord that was hiding behind a plastic bush with her. This was not exactly the best setting, and certainly not the ideal company, to have anything resembling a deep conversation. Yet Filia felt as if she had just been told something meaningful, something vital, something that was too deep to be easily understood. "What do you mean?" The anger was overwhelmed with deep confusion and concern for the world as a whole.

"Look, some ditz is trying to flirt with Milgazia." Zelas pointed out, changing the subject and ignoring Filia's look that pleaded for more information. "He's on the move, coward, running away like that. Even if golden dragons are so pathetically weak, a single laser breath would have been enough to kill that human, or just regular golden dragon bad breath."

Filia decided not to reply. She wasn't going to amuse Zelas with an argument. Instead, she picked up her side of the pot that held the plastic bush and moved it along with Zelas to follow Milgazia. He stopped again, this time to speak with an elf woman in armor. "I can't help it but to think someone is watching me. I feel like the fake bushes are following me. Anyway, have you seen anything suspicious, Memphis?"

"They're not following you, those weird fake bushes are just all over the place," the elf woman, called Memphis, replied. Zelas, who was well informed in the happenings of the world, recognized her as Milgazia's apprentice. "Maybe it's the people here that are staring at you, like that girl from a few minutes ago," she grinned. "Anyway, I didn't see any waiting ambushes or anything."

"I thought as much," Milgazia concluded, ignoring the comment about the girl. "If Beast Master wanted to pick a fight, she could bring it to our home."

"Then this means we can safely conclude that the wedding invitation for our clan was not part of an ambush. As if we'd fall for that anyway," Memphis huffed. "It was all probably just a bad joke, Zelas' way of rubbing the wedding on our faces, something about corrupting the golden dragon race, like the invitation said."

Filia felt her heart sink as she listened. Milgazia shook his head in disagreement. "I don't think it's that simple, though the golden dragons have been driven to make mistakes in the past, I think this is different. If Zelas' intentions were only mockery, she could have done that without inviting me to the wedding. Her message to me with that invitation wasn't 'I'm corrupting your race' it was 'I know of the secret.' Don't you see? She's trying to tell me that she knows the truth about the balance needed to maintain chaos in an eternal struggle. Although I would only understand the message between the lines if I knew the truth too."

Memphis sighed hopelessly. "Does that change anything? I doubt most monsters would hold back because of the truth. On the other hand, it is also a truth of hardships."

"Everyone pushing and pulling towards their own side is what keeps the world going. It may seem like we got the worse end of this, but the monsters will be affected too." Milgazia continued speaking of things that Filia didn't understand.

"If they believed," Memphis corrected.

"Yes, but I doubt they will. Maybe it's even best if they don't know." Milgazia paused, giving his next few words some extra thought. "Maybe it's also best if the golden dragons, elves, humans and creatures of this world don't know either, for now at least, until they're ready."

"It does bring a lot of self questioning, doesn't it?" Sighing tiredly, Memphis brought up an important point. "Beast Master may know, but what has she decided upon?"

"Maybe I'll find out today," Milgazia concluded.

Memphis gasped. "You don't mean?"

"I was invited," Milgazia looked determined. He pulled out a golden pocket watch. "It's almost time; I'd best go get changed and ready for the event. Are you coming?"

"Of course I'm going!" Memphis assured.

Milgazia and Memphis began to walk away. Filia automatically picked up the pot with the fake heart shaped bush, but put it down again when she realized Zelas didn't look like she intended to move. Apparently she heard all that she needed to hear. "By the way, did you remember to buy a present?" Milgazia inquired as he and Memphis got lost among the crowds.

"You mean a wedding gift?" Memphis looked surprised. "You weren't just joking about that?"

"It would be rude to show up empty handed." Milgazia pointed out, and that was the last bit of conversation that reached Filia's ears from her current position.

"Interesting," Zelas mused aloud. "This makes things a bit easier, but at the same time, there's also that to deal with..."

"That?" Filia questioned. "What's going on?"

"Nothing for you to worry your ugly little head over," Zelas grinned with mocking superiority. "Now let's get you into your dress and try to make you look somewhat decent for the wedding." A brick of dread settled into the pit of Filia's stomach.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia couldn't retrace her steps even if she tried. She knew she was at Amor Resort, but how she got to that particular building was a mystery to her. All she did was follow Zelas, dragging her feet. Filia's sense of place in the world didn't recover until she saw her bridesmaids near by, along with the guys, who were already dressed up in tuxedos. Xellos was there too, dressed as a groom should be, passing the time by throwing sarcastic comments around that annoyed Zelgadis and flew over Gourry's head. The murmurs of many voices beyond the opposite wall told of a gathered crowd, which Filia concluded were the guests.

Filia finally realized that she was in a structure attached to the back of the temple where the wedding would take place, performed by Sylphiel and made official by the authority of Seyruun royalty. She went over to Xellos, who seemed to be perfectly calm, as if this was just another ordinary day, while Filia was a nervous wreck. "Is everything ready?" She asked, barely finding her voice. "Where are the rings?" She remembered she had not seen the wedding bands yet and those were usually present at weddings, unless of course, Zelas happened to decide they were unnecessary.

Xellos attributed Filia's nerves to the approaching ceremony and didn't think there was anything more to it than that. At least until he saw that lost look in her eyes that screamed of guilt. She didn't seem to want to directly address what was bothering her at the moment though. "The best man has them."

Filia nodded automatically, then paused, glancing around for anyone in the back room holding wedding rings. "Where's the best man?" She stopped again, coming to another realization. "Who is the best man?"

From the lamp above their heads, little Val flew down from his perch and landed on Filia's shoulder as Xellos replied to her question by pointing at the small dragon and stating what had become obvious, "there."

The little ancient dragon had a pair of chewed up wedding bands in his mouth. "Val, sweetie, give the rings to mommy." Val spat out the rings, but his miniscule yet strong jaws and tiny yet sharp growing fangs, had already twisted the valuable gold into something unidentifiable. The purer the gold the softer it was. "Can somebody fix these?" She held out the mashed up rings, giving Xellos a quick glare as soon as she noticed his amused look. He must have known Val would chew up the wedding bands.

"Don't worry, Miss Filia, we'll take care of everything," Amelia graciously offered, taking the near shapeless gold from Filia's hands.

"Enough stalling, your dress is in there," Zelas pointed at an adjacent door which led to a smaller changing room. Filia took a deep breath and bravely marched towards the door, mentally prepared to see something horrifying behind it. While Filia was changing, Zelas waved her hand in the air dismissively. "Finish the last few preparations and take your places everyone. I'm going to change into my dress," never mind that she could do so instantly is she so wished it. "Xellos, I'll see you at the entrance to throw you away or whatever you call that strange tradition that I'll have to take care of in Bazard's place because he's so very dead." Zelas knew all too well that Filia could hear her just fine through the thin door of the changing room. With that final mocking comment in place, she faded to the astral side.

Meanwhile, inside the adjacent small room, Filia found herself staring at the dress she was supposed to wear. It was dark purple, but she should have seen that coming since Zelas did mention it. She examined it carefully and found that it was in perfect conditions and did not look like it would fall apart, or itch, or otherwise malfunction. She ran her fingers on the soft fabric, this was too easy and she was very suspicious. With as much courage as she could muster, Filia began to put on the dress, trying to figure out what the catch was. The answer soon arrived.

Despite the dress being strapless, Filia wasn't worried that it would fall off; it was far too tight for that. What she was worried about was being able to breathe while wearing it. Her back was bare, the top only covering the front, ending below her shoulders. How in the world could a bareback dress hug her torso so closely was beyond the laws of physics. Perhaps the fabric was enchanted to be form fitting, or form squishing. The skirt finally became loose at the hips, flowing to the floor in a way that made Filia worry she would trip over it, or be somehow made to trip over it.

Straining not to asphyxiate, Filia exited the changing room and found that only Zelas was left there, in her pretty diamond covered white gown, because she just had to be the center of attention. The monster lord's hair was also completely silver now and elegantly shiny. "Isn't this dress a little too tight?" Filia inquired in the most inoffensive tone she could push her voice into.

"Nah, you're just fat," Zelas chirped with an infuriating amount of cheer. Filia felt her eye twitch. Xellos was definitely his mother's son, or monster lord's minion or whatever. Filia hated when the similarities between them shone through, it made it feel nonsensical to be so in love with Xellos and detest Zelas so strongly, but what was she supposed to do? Let it all go? She couldn't, not after seeing Milgazia again and being reminded of her race's suffering.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 100: Acceptance! Reconciling With The Past

Filia probably shouldn't be doing this and she knew it, but she had to. They could wait a little longer to start with the wedding. She was probably being rude to the guests that were gathered at the temple, but she had to get this off her chest. Thus she stayed still while a whirlwind encased her and played along having her hair all done up. Two strands fell on the sides of her face, the left one purple. If Filia had been paying attention, she would have taken a moment to hope the dye was temporary, but she wasn't paying attention.

Filia looked at the reflection in the diamond decorated hand mirror Zelas had held up out of nowhere, not even glancing at the mocking look in the monster's eyes. "You're still as hideous as ever, but there's nothing more that can be done about that. Go on now; take your place next to the altar for the ceremony of golden dragon corruption and humiliation... I mean, for this lovely wedding." Without any further teasing, as if it wasn't enough already, Zelas disappeared into the astral side, leaving Filia alone with her plotting and planning.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the entrance to the temple, Xellos was waiting for Zelas as instructed. She peeked over to the side of the temple and called Xellos over. "Look at that, your bride is running away with another man." Zelas sounded amused and not really serious.

"My loyal little pet wouldn't do that," Xellos joked back.

"Oh, but she is doing it, come see." Zelas hid herself at the edge of the temple's front, looking past the corner to the area at its side as she whispered.

"I'm sure that's not what it is," Xellos peeked around the corner and found nothing. "Especially because Filia isn't even there," he finished.

Zelas stood upright with a victoriously playful expression. "I made you look."

"I fell for it, my bad," Xellos admitted in the same playful joking tone.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia nervously fingered her jewelry of gold with amethysts. The expensive looking bracelets and arm bands were extravagant, like something Zelas would wear. Actually, the dress was Zelas style too, elegant yet showy, prone to making heads turn. Filia looked around the back room one last time, almost fearing that Zelas would pop out of nowhere with another cruelly sarcastic comment to deliver. When that didn't happen, the golden dragon climbed out the window and went around the temple.

Filia made her way around the side of the temple, keeping her head low, away from the view of the golden lined glass windows. She occasionally peeked in cautiously through the windows, searching for a specific guest. Sylphiel was dressed in the formal robes of a priestess, the white and gold outfit accentuated by two brooches side by side on her chest. One was the royal crest of Seyruun and the other was the crest of the Metallium family. Sylphiel looked like she was trying to pretend not to notice that second crest, but was admirably putting up with having to wear it.

Lina, Amelia, Elena and Tiffany were standing to the side of the altar in their bridesmaids dresses. Amelia was holding Val, making sure he didn't chew up the repaired wedding bands. One side of the temple was filled with people that Filia mostly did not recognize. Celo and Galathia were there along with many other monsters and monster chimeras. Some were disguising themselves as humans and others appearing in a variety of grotesque monstrous forms. That had to be the side designated for the friends of the groom. The side for the friends of the bride held her new family and mostly humans with a few beastmen here and there.

Martina, Zangulus, Philionel and Naga were all present, father and daughter sitting next to each other. That placed Naga in the middle between Phil and Gravos, who sat by her side at the front of the temple. It looked like he was having a conversation with an amused yet analytical Phil and looking more nervous than Filia ever remembered seeing Gravos get. As for Naga, she was laughing obnoxiously, leaving her boyfriend and father to converse while she was slightly turned around, chattering with Martina, who sat at the row behind her. Martina was also laughing obnoxiously, which was probably why the area was not occupied by anyone else aside from those who had their reasons to have to stick around near Naga and Martina.

Jillas and Palou had moved back to try to put some distance between their ears and the sources of the painful sound waves. Fili, Xellos' pet wolf cub sat next to Palou, who was entertained in quietly playing with her. Near by were Phythan, Onyx and Fang, the monster fox retaining his almost human form sitting on Filia's side of the temple, possibly to balance it out, since there were so many monsters on the other side. Zelas probably advertised this event to them as some sort of comedy show. Naturally, Zelgadis and Gourry were there as well. Other people present in the bride's side of the temple were Kally, Kalio, Medusa and Pokota, along with several others that Filia didn't recognize. Those others included friends and relatives of Amelia and Pokota, plus a few people Lina and her traveling companions had encountered in their travels. Lina's family was absent, since Luna was a knight of Ceifeed and Zelas probably wouldn't want her there. Thus Lina conveniently forgot to suggest their names for the guest list when Tiffany had inquired about it.

Some of the guests that Filia didn't recognize included Wizer Freion, Ruuma, Marlene, Jeffrey Mailstar, siblings Laia and Huey Einburg. The formal clothing designer Tatjana Dayward was looking quite uncomfortable as she exchanged dagger filled glares with the risque outfit designer Marty Lenford. Marty was feeling particularly confident while she alternated between glaring back at Tatjana and conversing with her stylish new friends; Sirene Fitzmeier and her husband Alphonse. Both of them claimed to be personal acquaintances of Naga the White Serpent, whom Marty positively had to have a word with at the reception in hopes of inviting her to join her team of models at the upcoming fashion show. Sirene and Alphonse also received invitations to the fashion show.

There was also a man with dark purple and blond hair, whose glowing green eyes gave away his status as a monster. He was sitting alongside a human woman with short blond hair and brown eyes. Another odd pair of tall monster and petite human sat in the same row as them. The monster had red hair that had a darker, near-black color at the roots and eyes in a similar color to Lina's. Next to him there was a woman with black hair in pigtails, who held a smaller monster in her arms with the appearance of a pink bunny-like creature.

Filia didn't know them, but she assumed that Xellos must know the monsters at least, they appeared to be of a high rank, lieutenants perhaps. They were actually pretty well known in distant regions of the world outside of the peninsula. Neuro, the monster who liked to feed on evil intentions and became involved in clarifying murder cases for that purpose, along with his human companion, Yako, who had a personal case she was trying to solve. Zenki, the monster who had been captured by a human sorcerer and trapped during the time of the War of the Monster's Fall. Years later, he was released by the sorcerer's descendant, Chiaki, to use his power to defend her village.

Filia peeked into one of the windows near the front entrance of the temple, which was further away from the altar at the other end. There she spotted the person she was looking for. Milgazia was sitting there alongside an elf woman. Just like the other guests, both were dressed up in attire fit to attend a formal event. Filia lightly opened the window, thankful that Milgazia was conveniently sitting near it. "Mr. Milgazia..." She whispered.

Filia didn't have to call too much, since Milgazia was already alert to his surroundings. He approached the window. "You're..." He had to pause in surprise when he realized who was at the window. "Filia Ul Copt," Milgazia whispered, trying not to gain the attention of the other guests.

"Can I talk to you? Somewhere else I mean," Filia requested.

"Yes, I wanted to speak with you too," Milgazia admitted. He glanced back at Memphis and nodded in assurance. "I'll be back in a little while."

"Okay," Memphis agreed unsure, but made no motion to follow Milgazia as he jumped out the window.

Unnoticed by Filia, Tiffany moved from her position alongside Amelia, Lina and Elena. She approached Sylphiel and whispered something to her ear, causing her to nod in understanding. Sylphiel left her position in front of the altar and retreated to the back room of the temple without a word. The strange occurrence left the other bridesmaids wondering what that was about, while Tiffany made her way towards the rows of guests. She approached Zangulus and whispered something to him, then left towards the back room where Sylphiel had gone earlier.

Zangulus tapped Martina on the shoulder for several minutes until she finally paid attention to him. He knew it would have been useless to try to strain his voice to be heard over the combined chatter of Martina and Naga. He whispered something to Martina, who nodded and bid Naga farewell for the time being, as something had come up that she needed to take care of. A few seconds passed and Naga's curiosity got the best of her, thus she ran off to see what kind of business Martina and Zangulus could have in the back room.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Xellos, come see," Zelas once again was leaning over the corner, though this time it was the other side of the temple. "Your bride is running away with another man, for real this time!"

Xellos wasn't sure why Zelas was in such a playful mood, but it was certainly better than an angry mood. Nonetheless, he wouldn't be tricked again. "I'm not falling for the same trick twice."

"It's true this time, come see," Zelas voiced quietly with amuse urgency. "Milgazia just jumped out the window. He's talking to Filia. I think they're running off somewhere. Maybe she's looking to have one last fling with a member of her own species before she ties herself down to a monster. Or maybe she intends to marry him instead of you."

Xellos' amused grin became more genuine at being called a monster. It filled him with a strange sense of pride that Zelas still acknowledged him as such, despite his current human condition. "Really now, you tricked me once but you can't expect the exact same trick to work twice in a row." Maybe Zelas was just stalling so that the guests would get all impatient and annoyed. Judging by the murmurs of the many different voices coming from inside the large temple, the atmosphere was already tense with all the monsters there.

"I order you to come look immediately," Zelas commanded, her amusement never leaving her voice and face.

"Alright," Xellos agreed, approaching the corner of the temple. "But I'm only looking because it's a direct order, not because I'm falling for the same trick again." As soon as he looked past the corner to the temple's side, he saw Filia running off with Milgazia. They turned the corner at the other end of the white building and disappeared behind the temple. "I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation for this." He insisted with an annoyed pout.

"Such as your Filia being a dirty little cheat?" Zelas cheerfully suggested as if it was the most amusing thing she had heard all day.

"Such as my Filia being kidnapped, she's such a damsel sometimes." That was an obvious lie and Xellos knew it. Even if Milgazia did decide to kidnap Filia, which Xellos seriously doubted was the case, she wouldn't be stolen away without a fight. As for the fight, if she had been defending herself, the temple would have been demolished in a barrage of lasers by now. The fact that no destruction had taken place could only mean that Filia was not being taken against her will. But the question still stood about what business she could possibly have with Milgazia.

"So she's being kidnapped," Zelas chuckled. "How troublesome, are you going to save her?"

"I suppose so," Xellos put as much laziness and complaint into his tone as he could, as if this was all a big drag. He took a few steps in Filia's general direction before turning back for a moment with a thumbs up. "I like the dress you made for Filia." He could imagine the dress was driving Filia crazy with how it hugged her torso so tightly. The slit on the side of the skirt was a nice touch that annoyed Filia even more; she had been trying to hold it closed as she walked.

"I thought you would," Zelas grinned, knowing full well how annoyed Filia was with the dress. Golden dragon vexation was delicious. "Xellos," Zelas detained him for a moment longer. "If you're going to follow them, it must be done properly."

"Properly?" Xellos questioned with a hint of impatience.

"Yes," Zelas went down the white marble steps of the fancy temple and picked up a potted bush that was on the side of the street in front of it. It had mint green leaves and hot pink roses, all of which were made of plastic. The pot was white with red heart decorations on it. "Let's go."

"Okay..." Xellos hid behind the fake heart shaped bush and turned the corner to the back of the temple along with Zelas. They spotted Milgazia and Filia sitting on a bench in a cute little patio behind the temple. The bench was of course decorated with hearts to fit the excessively romantic theme of the resort. "Why are we spying like this?" Xellos silently inquired.

"This is how I spied on Milgazia with Filia earlier and it was fun." Zelas replied in a whisper.

Xellos feigned hurt, with a hint of real surprise surfacing over his features. "You went spying with Filia and didn't bring me along?" He pouted in an exaggerated way.

"Don't be a baby; just think of it as a girls day out, except it was a whole lot less than a day." Zelas quietly explained. "Next time you want to tag along with the girls when we're spying, I'll invite you. Just make sure you wear a pretty dress."

"I'll remember that," Xellos joked. Though he rather not wear any dresses if it could be helped, he unlike Gourry and Zelgadis, wouldn't present any complaints if it was for whatever reason necessary. Then they quieted down and listened to the conversation between the two golden dragons.

xoxox xox xoxox

Catching a hint of movement from the corner of his eyes, Milgazia looked back. Filia gazed at the spot he was looking at in puzzlement. "What is it?" She inquired.

"Was that bush there a second ago?" Milgazia pointed it out.

Filia blinked, tilting her head to the side slightly. "Of course it was there, those bushes are all over the place."

"Right," Milgazia nodded. Maybe he was being a little too paranoid. He might have looked into it, but because the feeling of being watched had been with him for so long, he was learning to disregard it. He didn't sense any violent intentions from the bush anyway. "What were you trying to tell me?"

"About that..." Filia tried to organize her thoughts into words, which turned out to be a very challenging task. "I just wanted to say that I'm aware of the past. I mean, I know what happened. Obviously I know, what golden dragon doesn't know, right? What I mean is that I disapprove; I strongly disapprove, a lot. It was terrible, and I know that, and I agree that it was awful. You believe me, don't you?"

"Filia," Milgazia's interruption brought Filia's rambles to a pause. "This wedding, be honest, are you going through with this of your free will? If you're being pressured in any way, you can tell me. I'll help, but don't worry, I won't act rashly."

"I'm doing this willingly," Filia assured. "I know that I am in many ways surrounded by danger and I'm sure you already know about the delicate situation concerning Val." Filia paused to gather her thoughts as Milgazia quietly nodded in understanding. "Even with all of that I assure you, no one is forcing me into this. I love Xellos and I... even if I shouldn't I do. Even if I should feel terribly guilty somehow I don't. The past makes me sad, but the present makes me happy. Does that even make any sense? Am I a shameless terrible dragon who has been corrupted?"

"What would you do if I disapproved of this union?" Milgazia curiously inquired.

"I'll go through with it anyway," Filia answered without a second thought, her face full of determination. "I'm not looking for approval; I just needed to tell a golden dragon about my feelings on all of this, a real golden dragon who is still an active part of dragon society. I'm not hoping for any encouragement or kind words that I do not deserve. I just wanted to say this, to get it off my chest. I know it may seem like I shunned the golden dragons when I found out about the ancient dragons and after my clan was wiped out, but in the end I'm still a golden dragon and I should be, I am, proud of that. In short, I just wanted to tell you that the golden dragons do matter to me, even if we may have our disagreements. The golden dragon race is important to me, it'll always be important to me and I'll always be a part of it. I might have denied that in the past, but I take it back. I'm a golden dragon even if other golden dragons may not consider me as such."

"That is enough," Milgazia gently assured, recalling something that happened relatively not too long ago. "When I met Xellos again after over a thousand years, I was angry at him. He came looking for the Claire Bible along with Lina Inverse and her friends. He even threatened to harm the golden dragons again. I was frustrated and worried, but after seeing how they interacted with Xellos in such a carefree way, I realized that we weren't in any danger. There was something about Lina and her friends that made me think they would not be so easily disregarded. It wasn't a matter of sheer power and though they might have been being used, it wasn't only usefulness either."

Milgazia continued, "I suppose there are some people in the world that are so peculiar not even monsters wish to destroy them, people that they would much rather observe. In the grander scheme of things it only makes the truth easier to believe, despite it being so..." Milgazia left the sentence hanging and moved on to something else. "Nonetheless, no one should lower their guard around a monster." He finished in a more neutral manner. "All else aside, its only natural to chase after what your heart tells you, regardless of if it might not make perfect sense right away. Your influence may be for the best."

Filia was feeling both relieved and puzzled. She was glad that Milgazia didn't reprimand her. She would love Xellos all the same, but it was still a big weight off her shoulders. She was also curious about this truth that Milgazia hinted at. Zelas was aware of it as well, but what was it? "Honestly, I don't really have any influence. There's nothing I can do to change Zelas' mind if she decides to go on the attack."

"The best kind of influence is the kind that requires no trying, the things that just happen on their own. Every creature in the world is influencing every other creature without even knowing it," Milgazia assured.

Filia closed her eyes, drying the emotion filled tears she didn't realize she had shed. "Thank you, I'm glad I could speak to you like this."

Milgazia handed Filia a white golden lined handkerchief. "I am too. I should return to the temple now and I believe you have a wedding to get ready for."

"Right, I'll be ready in a moment!" Filia smiled.

As Milgazia left, he gave one of the heart shaped plastic potted bushes a suspicious look, then continued on his way. As soon as Milgazia was gone, Xellos jumped out from behind the bush, startling Filia. As a result, she was caught off guard and had no time to present any resistance when Xellos snatched away the handkerchief and burned it.

"I was using that!" Filia indignantly protested.

"No amount of wiping your face will make you any less ugly," Zelas mocked. "The mirror doesn't lie." The amused monster lord pulled out an elegant diamond decorated hand mirror out of astral space and handed it to Filia.

Filia's eyes had been lined with black and decorated with dark purple eye shadow, which accentuated her clear blue orbs and long eyelashes. Her eyes looked stunningly beautiful before. Now her crimson lips were still glossy, but her eye makeup, which was not water resistant at all, had been completely ruined. She had black and purple lines running down her face in a big mess that Milgazia was too much of a gentleman to directly point out. This certainly explained why he thought she needed a handkerchief, which she would have certainly ruined with black and purple stains if Xellos hadn't ruined it by turning it into ashes first.

To be Continued

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