Slayers: Alive

Chapter 12

Slayers: Alive

Episode 111: Survive! Hope Is Hard To Kill

It was night time in the kingdom of Seyruun and all was quiet. Zelgadis looked at Amelia's still sleeping form. "Amelia..." He gently caressed her face. "Naga said that you were sad because of your mother. You can tell me about what happened if that will help, but of course you need to be awake for that. I'm sure your mother was a very kind person. I know you must have heard this a lot, but I'm sure she would have wanted you to be happy. I wonder if I should really be encouraging you to tell me, if I deserve that trust. I haven't told you much about my family and past. I do trust you; I guess it's about time I told you..."

xoxox xox xoxox

"Rise and shine! It's a new day and life is wonderful!" Philionel's loud voice echoed all over Seyruun castle as he made his way to Amelia's room.

Zelgadis jumped awake and fell out of the chair he occupied next to Amelia's bed. He picked himself off the floor and yawned as Philionel led a parade of people into Amelia's room. The prince was carrying a large box full of things that had been stored for years, following him was Naga, who was carrying another box while laughing loudly. After Naga came in Gravos, Lina, Gourry, Filia and Xellos, all of them looking quite sleepy. Phil stopped, as did Naga, with Lina continuing with her automatic zombie march along with the rest of the parade behind her. Xellos bumped into Filia, who bumped into Gourry, who bumped into Lina, who bumped into Gravos, who bumped into Naga. The eldest Seyruun princess lost her grip on the box she was holding, spilling its contents all over Phil, who in turn dropped his box and spilled its contents all over Zelgadis.

Thankfully, the contents of the boxes were not particularly heavy, save for a few of the books, other than that the collection of scarves and hats were light. "What is this about?" Zelgadis inquired as he tried to untangle himself from a peculiarly long shiny pink scarf, seeking to free up his hands enough from the entrapment of fabric so that he would be able to remove the large aquamarine hat with purple feathers from his head.

"Amelia and I would play dress up with mom's clothes when we were little and pretend we were all grown up as princesses who would soon be visited by our princes," Naga explained. "It was all such good fun, ah, ha ha ho ha ha! Mom wouldn't want Amelia to be sad, so we'll remind her of that. Then when she wakes up, we can work on some more of mom's special sweets recipes."

The mention of sweets made Lina and Gourry wake up instantly. "Hurry up and wake up Amelia, we have sweets to make and eat!" The gluttonous redhead loudly declared.

"Five more minutes, stupid dragon," Xellos muttered. He was between awake and asleep, slightly waking up whenever someone was particularly loud and starting to fall asleep on his feet again soon after.

Naga dug around the mountain of things they brought over and pulled out a feathery pink scarf and a big red hat with a golden bow. "I remember that you really liked these." Naga placed the items on Amelia who was... staring right back at her.

"She's awake!" Naga, Phil, Lina, Gourry, Gravos and Filia chorused. Xellos woke up momentarily again at the loudness of the combined exclamations. He soon fell asleep again seconds later, leaning on Filia.

"My little Amelia, I'm so happy you're awake!" Phil exclaimed with fatherly pride. "I've cleared my schedule for the whole day to spend time with my lovely daughters and wonderful friends. Join us in making all sorts of delicious treats, just like your mother used to make. She would not want you to be sad. We'll honor the memory of her cheerful light that always brought a smile to us all!"

"Amelia, when did you wake up?" Zelgadis stared at her in relief and surprise.

"It was sometime last night," Amelia confessed. "I was... I guess the best way to describe it was to say I was trapped in a nightmare. Zelgadis opened up to me and gave me encouragement. I remembered that mom used to say that one day I would meet my prince and he would make me very happy, so I should try to give him that happiness too. Mom was brave and kind; she wouldn't want me to live in regret and sorrow. After I realized that, I woke up. It was very late and Zelgadis fell asleep before I could say anything, so I let him rest." Amelia's eyes held the silent promise of a long personal conversation with Zelgadis later. "Sorry I didn't say something sooner, with all this I could only stare." Amelia jumped off her bed with the endless energy she was known for. "Let's spend the whole day playing dress up and making delicious treats to enjoy!"

"I second that motion!" Lina cheered.

"And I third it!" Gourry added.

Among cheers and chatter, the group went off to the kitchen to work on the recipes that were the late queen's legacy. Filia paused on her way and tried to wake Xellos, who didn't look like he would be done sleeping any time soon, it was very early in the morning. She hugged him close and whispered in his ear, "chocolate ice-cream pie."

Xellos jumped awake, looking in every direction, "chocolate ice-cream pie? Where is it?" Seeing Filia giggling in amusement, he pouted. "You're a terrible person, I mean a terrible dragon, lying about sweets."

"Oh come on, there will be plenty of sweets soon, if Lina doesn't eat them all," Filia smiled. "I want to learn some of those recipes the queen left too."

Now that he was awake, Xellos was once again back to his mocking and teasing self. "With your poor cooking skills, it would be an offense to Seyruun."

"Look who's talking," Filia argued back as they hurried to catch up to the group at the Seyruun castle kitchen. "You shouldn't even be allowed in kitchens, you ruin any meal you try to prepare. You even managed to mess up preparing a bowl of cereal. Remember when you put salt in it instead of sugar? You're a disaster as a chef, raw garbage!"

"That was you and your sabotage, stupid dragon!" Xellos argued. Their bickering continued as it was usual for them, strangely contributing to the sense of normalcy and the fragile notion that everything would be okay that the group was trying so hard to hold on to.

xoxox xox xoxox

Zelas Metallium, known by the title of Lord Beast Master, faded into existence out of the astral side in the mountains where she expected to find a lively gathering of healthy dragons waiting for her to hunt them down. Instead she found that the skies were clear, devoid of any large golden flying reptiles, and boy did they hate being called reptiles. With growing disappointment, Zelas slowly walked deeper into the mountainous valley and turned the corner behind a tall rock formation. She made no effort to hide her arrival since the dragons were no match for her power. Her multiple golden bangles and anklets jiggled together clashing against each other as she proceeded with her rather noisy, but none the less very elegant, model walk. She was wearing a sleeveless white dress, with a long skirt slit up to the thighs on both sides, the pale fabric contrasting with her bronze skin.

Lying on the ground there was a dragon in elf form, wearing sports attire. Not too far from that one, there was another similarly dressed dragon also laying on the ground motionless, but still alive. As she gazed, forward she found another dragon in the same state as the others, and another and another. There was also an elf girl among them, who she recognized as being Milgazia's friend from the wedding party. She was on the ground in exhaustion just as the others were. "I must admit that for the longest time I've been wishing that the dragon race would just fall over and die, but I never thought my wish would actually be granted, especially so suddenly and for no apparent reason." That was a sarcastic lie as Zelas would very much prefer to hunt the dragons herself. She didn't want them to become extinct though, not if that meant not being able to prepare her favorite dragon cuisine dishes ever again.

Footsteps were heard approaching the area in a hurry. Milgazia arrived on the scene, though instead of his usual formal dragon robes, he was wearing shorts, a shirt and sneakers that, similar to his comrades attires, looked like something worn by people while playing sports. "Beast Master," he would have sounded confident and challenging, ready to defend his comrades any way he could, yet at the same time calm and diplomatic, if not for the fact that he was so terribly out of breath, so he could only manage to sound very tired.

"Who nearly exterminated your clan without inviting me to join the party?" Zelas tried to look appalled that someone had done something so terrible and it wasn't her.

"No one," Milgazia made a valiant effort not to look exhausted, but it was simply impossible at the moment. "They are only resting after the tournament."

"Ow, uncle... It's going to be your fault..." Memphis seemed to finally muster the strength to speak. "It'll be your fault if Beast Master kills us all because we don't have the strength to fight after what you put us through." The elf growled tiredly, followed by the groans and whines of agreement from the fallen golden dragons around her.

"Betraying your clan and torturing them to death?" Zelas gasped in exaggerated surprise. "How shocking, I never would have guessed. Allow me to congratulate you on losing your status as a goody-goody. I would give you a congratulatory pat on the back, but you're all sweaty and icky, so I really don't want to touch you."

"I didn't kill or torture anyone, we just played brass rackets," Milgazia quickly explained, not that it was any of Zelas' business anyway. "Why have you come here?" A part of him already knew the reason. Zelas might be there to fight him to the death in hopes of turning him into the main ingredient of her next batch of dragon cuisine.

"I'm grocery shopping, or maybe I should say grocery hunting," Zelas gave him a wolf-like grin. She walked in a circle around Milgazia, shaking her head in disapproval. By the looks of it he went for a jog after his stream of brass rackets victories and it didn't look like this exercise regiment was something he had only started today. "You've lost weight, how unappetizing. What ever happened to those lovely calorie-filled gifts I know were delivered to you? Didn't you eat them? You're a terribly ungrateful dragon!"

Milgazia held a small victory in Zelas' disapproval, which was interrupted by the growling of his stomach. That in turn made him pause in awkward silence before he could voice any sort of comeback.

Zelas put on an expression of obviously fake concern, with no intentions of even pretending it was real. "Listen Milgazia, I know you're hideous, but starving yourself won't fix it. All golden dragons are terribly ugly and there's nothing they can do about it. That's just the cruelty of nature. Nonetheless, a chubby dragon can be kind of cute from a chef's perspective. If you want to look better, you need to stuff your face until you weight at least twenty tons." That was saying plenty since his normal weight in dragon form was around seven tons.

"I would prefer to stay as I am," that was a lie. Milgazia would very much prefer to change a certain detail about his current state, he wanted a full stomach instead of a starving one. Alas, this painful diet was all for the necessary cause of not becoming part of the monster lords' diet.

"Nonsense, you're too thin." Zelas argued with an annoying amount of politeness, as if she was simply too superior to get angry and argue on equal terms. "That aside, I am curious about your mention of the fine sport of brass rackets. Have you truly played against your whole clan, not that Xellos left all that many alive, until they became this exhausted?" Of course, Beast Master wouldn't be Beast Master if she didn't add some sort of cruel remark to the mix, accentuating it with a cheerful tone.

Milgazia decided not to fuel Zelas' mocking victorious moment by acknowledging her comment about his clan and instead simply answered her question. "We played brass rackets one on one and I won all the matches. Though I don't see why any of that would be of any consequence to you."

"Of course you don't," Zelas mocked, "golden dragons have such little insight after all. For your information, I happen to like brass rackets. I can't cook you in your current state, you don't have enough meat in you and none of the other dragons here seem high quality enough for my level of culinary genius. Nonetheless, I do want to kill you for ruining the amazing dish I planned to turn you into. However, I'll give you a chance to live. I don't expect you to win, as that would be far too much to ask for. Albeit if you actually managed to put up a fight in the brass rackets court, I'll let you live as a potential sports rival, not that anyone could ever be worthy of being my true brass rackets rival."

That was certainly a very unexpected turn of events. Milgazia knew that he had no choice but to agree, but that wasn't such a bad thing, he was confident in brass rackets. "I accept your challenge."

"Then let's go," Zelas faded into the astral side, reappearing moments later in a brass rackets outfit with her alternate sporty look that she used when playing her favorite game. She carried an official brass racket as she made her way deeper into the valley, following Milgazia to the court that had been set up earlier. "One on one, other than that the classic brass rackets rules apply. Broken rackets mean we get a new one. The ball going out of bounds won't stop the game either. Our duel will end when you fall."

"Or you," Milgazia added as he took his position on the court opposite to Zelas.

"Keep up those impossible dreams, they might give your attitude the illusion of confidence and make you last a little longer in brass rackets combat!" Zelas mocked with more energy and enthusiasm than anyone would imagine her to have over a brass rackets match. This was different from her playtime with Filia; this would be a real duel.

The tired dragons and Memphis made their way to the area around the court and sat at a hopefully safe distance from it to watch the match unfold. "Are you sure about this?" Memphis called out with distrust from the sidelines.

Milgazia took a moment to examine his opponent as if trying to read something in her eyes. "Yes, this fight will be fair." He would most certainly expect a monster, more so a monster lord, especially one with a trickster reputation, to use all sorts of dirty tactics to get what she wanted. But he could tell that brass rackets was a special exception for Zelas, it was something, possibly the only thing, in which she would fight fair. Besides, if Zelas really wanted to commit mass murder and eat all the dragons in his clan, she could do so without granting him this opportunity. Milgazia could already sense her suppressing her own monster super strength and regulating her physical prowess so that it would not interfere with the real essence of brass rackets, the power of the attitude, the very soul. "I am curious, tell me Zelas, what makes you respect this fine sport so much?"

"I am an astral being," Zelas stated simply, yet meaningfully. "As such I have little interest in most sports. I can shape my body anyway I want and sports are, in most cases, about physical abilities, they're about breaking the boundaries of the body's limitations and training it to be the best it can be. Such limitations do not apply to astral beings, thus I cannot identify with most sports. Brass rackets is different. It doesn't matter how weak or strong the body is, all that matters is the power of the soul, the astral form, the essence. This is a real competition. Have you seen a true brass rackets tournament? A real master doesn't even need to run around the court, but rather attracts the ball towards the racket with their own intense aura. A true brass rackets master has no use for the abilities of the body, only the skill of the mind. Yet true masters are extremely rare, even in the big leagues."

"I see, so this is one of the few sports that a monster can truly compete in," Milgazia understood. "Then let this duel begin, would you care to serve?"

"Gladly," Zelas set the match in motion with an appropriately aggressive serve.

The magical glowing sphere rocketed towards Milgazia, who held strong to his determination and sent it spiraling right back to the monster lord. Zelas returned it with a curve, sending the ball to spin behind Milgazia. However, he saw the play and called forth all his power surrounded in a golden aura. The ball altered its course and flew straight towards his racket as if being called by an irresistible magnetism. Milgazia returned the sphere to the opposite side of the court, the magical ball glowing golden.

Zelas' own black aura appeared around her, exuding power into the atmosphere as she called the sphere to collide with her racket and sent it flying back at her opponent. The ball kept getting bigger with each blow it received; the energy waves around the area were massive.

The spectators watched in awe. This was nothing like any other brass rackets match they had ever witnessed. They had thought Milgazia was merciless in the court for the sake of training them for the battles that may be soon to come, but now his comrades realized that he had been holding back. This was the true power of the dragon lord; this was his impressive unbreakable will.

The golden glow around Milgazia intensified as some of his more dragon-like features began to slightly show, albeit he managed to keep his elf form for the most part. His tail was out, he usually had complete control over it, but this time it just slipped out as he focused on the duel of brass rackets. It would be a pity when he noticed he just ruined his favorite brass rackets shorts. Aside from the tail he also had pronounced fangs and claws.

The look in Zelas' eyes was predatory and wolf-like. Her fangs were showing and the short, wing-shaped pale orange hair of her alternate form was changing into a spiky gold mane. Golden wolf ears replaced her human ears and a wolf tail was peeking out of her brass rackets skirt. The partial transformation was completed with the glowing silhouette of ivory wings on her back, her true form was a golden winged wolf. Some might say that the wings made her look unfittingly angelic, but a single glance at the hunter's face with that terrifying glare would make them take it back. The wings were only an irony, that aside, she was the image of a ferocious beast, the image of a frightening predator.

The powerful duel continued, making the mountains around them tremble from the high energy vibrations. Then finally, Milgazia's racket cracked and the top part broke off, leaving him with only the handle as he sent the ball back at Zelas.

Zelas' racket was just about to break apart too, being exposed to her constant aura. The monster lord tried to return the sphere, but the cracks on her racket were already too deep and it was reduced to nearly dust as the ball flew past its remains and disintegrated a mountain behind Zelas. "As stated in the beginning," Zelas' voice was echoing and ominous, yet strangely alluring. "A broken racket does not signify the end of the battle."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 112: Thoughts! That Which Links Us All

After a powerful brass rackets duel, both Zelas and Milgazia's rackets had been broken. The two fierce competitors got new rackets, and prepared to continue the intense match. Unfortunately, the harsh diet and exercise routine Milgazia had gone through to discourage Zelas' culinary inclinations towards him, was seriously taking its toll. He was already exhausted when she arrived with her challenge and pushing himself like this was no good. The glow around him faded as did his senses, until he caught a glimpse of the ground coming closer before blacking out completely.

"Are you paying attention, Milgazia? I said it's your turn to serve. Get up, we're not done here." Silence invaded the area as the dragons of Milgazia's clan held their breath in tension, unsure of their brave leader's fate. The glow around Zelas subsided as she reverted back to a calmer state, her human disguise more noticeably in place, devoid of wolf aspects, wings or a dark glow. "Time out," the tone of her voice sounded very much human, though as always, imposing and powerful. Zelas made her way to the opposite side of the court and took a closer look at Milgazia. "So you're still alive... I told you dieting was a bad idea, you'll just get uglier and weaker."

Determined golden eyes opened as Milgazia pushed himself to get up. He finally noticed his tail was out when he automatically used it to balance himself on his feet. "We're not finished here."

"It wasn't exactly a knock down. But you were on the ground anyway," Zelas pointed out. "I suppose I can't call this a real victory. Having my opponent drop dead," metaphorically speaking, "and killing my prey," again, not literally, "are two different things. We'll have a rematch when you've recovered. When all this Stillness business is over, you better be prepared for a real duel. Your life will depend on your ability to entertain me in the brass rackets court."

"I'll be ready," Milgazia assured. With nothing more to say, Zelas faded away to the astral side. The golden dragons and Memphis waited for a few more seconds until they were sure Zelas was really gone. Then they surrounded Milgazia, congratulating him for his brave efforts. He would have to be ready for the rematch though. Next time, he couldn't face Zelas in exhaustion. He needed to be at his best, his life, and most importantly from his perspective, the lives of his comrades, depended on his performance in the brass rackets court.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Life is wonderful!" Amelia shouted at the top of her lungs. At the moment, even Xellos was inclined to agree with her, but that was only because he had a severe yet satisfying massive brain freeze from all the ice-cream he was consuming.

Amelia, Zelgadis, Naga, Gravos, Philionel, Lina, Gourry, Filia, Xellos and even Fili were gathered around the Seyruun royal dinning room feasting on the sweets that would cost the kingdom ever so much in the long run. However, if they didn't do this, they wouldn't be able to muster the strength to survive long enough to regret being so severely in debt with Zelas. Everything seemed to be alright until Fili started to howl for no apparent reason again. Knowing that this couldn't be just a coincidence, the group became silent and still, save for Lina and Gourry, who didn't stop pigging out until the cause for the wolf-dog cub's alarm became obvious.

"I've had just about enough of this," the same being from before appeared once again, the Void.

"It looks like I crashed this party right on time," another also arrived at the scene. Fading from the astral side into existence, Zelas stood proudly.

"Beast Master, the one whom Lamentation tried and failed to use," the Void glared. "I thought you would be smart enough to know that you cannot fight us, monster lord. A purely astral being has no shield against the Stillness."

"I am indeed a purely astral being, pure chaos. Do you envy me in your tainted impurity?" Zelas grinned mockingly. "The Stillness was broken into three pieces. Two of those pieces entered the world before the Lord of Nightmares placed a barrier around it, with Lamentation remaining outside. Meanwhile, the Void and the End were reborn inside the beings of this world in a dormant state. The cycle could not begin without Lamentation to eat away the shield, so that the essence could be exposed. The Void and the End became impure by hiding in dynamic beings of change, of chaos. That impurity kept the Stillness in existence; that is why it didn't show its true form of nothing. When the barrier of the Lord of Nightmares was temporarily lifted, Lamentation entered the world to begin the cycle. However, it needed to fuse with the remains of the Green Alchemist in order to interact with the physical world and attack the shield, the body. Thus the Stillness became further impure, poisoned by chaos. After Lamentation weakened the world, the cycle moved on to the second phase, the Void. The shield has not yet fully crumbled, but it has been weakened, thus you saw it fit to attack the essence."

"This is only the beginning of the second phase, I was released early, but that will only make things worse for you," the Void growled angrily. "Do not mock me, monster lord. The Stillness was once the chain that entrapped the one who gave you life. The Stillness and the Mother were the same long ago, yet eternally opposites. When this world is destroyed, everything will be purified and then the Stillness will return to its true form of nothing along with the world. It will all be nothing!"

As she listened to the exchange, Lina remembered what Valgaav spoke of concerning Darkstar and Vorfeed. There was a never ending cycle, a trap that they tried to break free of. The endless war of good and evil was in essence motion. Yet if that motion ever ceased, the definition of what is peace would be lost to the lack of perilous contrast. There would be nothing to strive for, there would only be stillness. Eventually, that stillness would consume all and there would be no life. That trap wasn't just a trap; it was a means of existence. If that were so, then the monsters would be needed to fuel it. That must be their true mission that had been interpreted differently.

Xellos recalled his wish and Beast Master's wish to be true monsters, to destroy the world themselves. Though now Beast Master wished to torment the world eternally instead and he agreed with her that it was the better choice. Maybe that's why it felt so ironic, yet so right, to contribute to saving the world that time. Perhaps to keep things in motion was the monsters' true mission.

"This world belongs to chaos!" Zelas charged forward towards the Void with a ball of black energy in her hand.

"Beast Master..." This didn't make any sense to Xellos. Zelas was a purely astral being. She had already realized that she had no shield against the Stillness, no physical anchor to affirm that she was in fact there, undeniable proof that she was real. The physical body was the kind of proof that didn't depend entirely on the subjective and bendable notions of the mind. This was different, but it also reminded Xellos of when they faced Darkstar and the enemy tried to drain them from the astral side. Zelgadis had even encouraged Amelia to sing about life, which actually didn't bother Xellos all that much. But that was only because he could barely hear her as he was far too busy painfully receiving the worse effects of the astral attack that assaulted the group.

Lina and the others watched unsure of if they should interfere. They didn't expect Zelas to take the fight into her own hands so suddenly. Zelas shot her attack at the Void and hit the target, throwing more black energy with violet lightning at the fiend.

"Chaos is so random, so unruly, so imperfect," the Void mocked, unaffected by the dark energy that was making Seyruun castle tremble. "Only true nothingness is perfect. You cannot win; I deny your very existence!"

Zelas' form became semi-transparent as if she was a ghost and the energy she was shooting at her foe appeared to be a strain to keep up. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond-"

"Quiet, Xellos!" Zelas growled. "Do not interfere!" Xellos stopped casting the spell, watching as the void approached Zelas.

The Void extended her hand, she or rather it, was also astral, appearing in the physical world as a projection. "Give your energy to me..." Zelas yelled, seemingly in pain. She tried to break free of the hold that the Void had on her, but it proved to be difficult.

"We have to help Miss Zelas!" Amelia, ever the kind hearted person, was quick to set aside the fact that Zelas was a monster lord and was ready to jump to the rescue as she would for any of her precious comrades of justice.

"Amelia's right, I don't care if she doesn't want our help, she's going to get it!" Lina loudly exclaimed. "I can't just stand by and watch as the greatest chef I've ever known is murdered before my eyes!"

"Too late," the Void faded to the astral side along with Zelas, dragging her out of the others' reach.

"What just happened here?" Lina stared at the empty space where Zelas was a moment ago in shock. "How could she have been taken away so easily?"

"Miss Zelas is in danger!" Amelia exclaimed.

"Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga's laughter echoed, piercing the silence that formed after Zelas and the Void faded to the astral side. "Someone with a laugh as powerful as hers will not be so easily defeated. Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

"Of course not," Xellos grinned confidently. "We need only wait for Lord Beast Master to victoriously return."

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"Foolish monster lord," the Void's voice echoed in the astral side. "I thought you were supposed to be cunning. To think you would face me so recklessly."

Zelas floated next to the Void in her true form with a somewhat lifeless expression. Yet suddenly her eyes opened and the golden winged wolf glared at the glowing silvery mist around her that was the Void. "This is a test to see the extent of your abilities. It matters not if in the long run an astral being is ineffective against you. The fact remains that you alone will not be able to defeat me. I may not have a shield, but I have an anchor in this world."

Zelas broke free of the Void's hold, spreading the silvery mist that struggled to surround her. "How can you defend against me? You have no physical body; you have no link to this world beyond your thoughts."

"I have their thoughts too," Zelas reminded. "As long as a living creature is remembered, it will not cease to exist. In fact, even a being who did not initially exist will somehow become manifest if enough entities believe in its existence. Right now there are a lot of people who can't stop thinking about me." That was the reason for which Zelas revealed herself at the wedding; that was the purpose for which she put on a brass rackets show for the golden dragons, her intentions in her continued interaction with Lina's group. "Your early awakening was not a benefit to you. The world has not been sufficiently weakened for you to overtake it." Zelas began to fade from the astral space to return to the physical world.

"The Stillness will succeed in bringing forth the End!" The Void called out with a tone akin to frustration. "Until then, I won't let you leave so easily!" The silvery mist surrounded Zelas one last time, stealing her black cone jewel necklace and fading away. "Your power will be used against you Beast Master; you'll regret this careless move."

xoxox xox xoxox

Zelas faded into existence at Seyruun castle, back in her elf-like form. Her tan complexion was as flawless as ever, she was wearing her usual white dress with her bangles and anklets sounding against each other with her every step. "Miss Zelas is alright!" Amelia happily exclaimed.

"So, Zelas, I mean, Lord Beast Master. Since you were victorious, why don't we celebrate with some of your delicious cooking?" Lina immediately suggested, grinning hungrily.

"That's a great idea!" Gourry was quick to agree.

"You've been pigging out all day and you want more food?" Zelgadis let out a hopeless breath. The gluttonous duo was never satisfied.

"Unfortunately, I was not so victorious," Zelas dramatized with exaggerated anguish. "All I could do was barely escape with my life."

"This is a truly strong enemy if even a monster lord has trouble defending against it," Philionel mused aloud. "Even so, justice will find a way to triumph in the end!"

"That's right!" Amelia cheered.

"Perhaps if we combine the power of our laughter, we'll win. Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga suggested, though that was a possibility that no one wanted to witness. It would probably destroy the world faster and much more painfully than the Stillness could.

Filia pouted with an impatient glare. "You barely escaped with your life? I hope you're not expecting us to believe that."

There was one little detail that was out of place, which Xellos noticed and pointed out. "Lord Beast Master... Where's the necklace with the black cone gem?"

Zelas touched the area where the necklace should have been. "Oh no! It seems I must have dropped it in the astral side! I bet that terrible Void creature stole it and is probably taking it to the Green Alchemist's hideout to join forces with Lamentation and use Xellos' power against us. Oh, such a dreadful situation we're in."

"Oh no! Xellos power was stolen by the enemy?" Gourry actually understood a portion of the explanation, though many of the details were still lost to him. "That's bad!" Unfortunately, Gourry was not able to realize that the overall situation made little strategic sense if it were real. Thus he was not capable of determining that it all had to be a set up by Zelas.

"I see," for someone who supposedly had his power stolen by the enemy, Xellos was pretty calm. "What's the next step then?"

"You'd best hurry along and recover the black cone gem," Zelas suggested, setting aside her false dramatics in favor of a more business-like tone. "I think another journey is in order. Travel around the world and you might hear word of the whereabouts of the gem. If you split up, you'll be able to cover more ground. I already have Phythan, Onyx and Fang traveling around, so I'll tell them to keep an eye out for it too."

"Wait a minute," Lina protested. "I understand that you allowed the gem to be stolen on purpose," the perceptive redhead stated.

Her less then perceptive fiance scratched his head and donned a confused expression. "Really? But why would Zelas want her jewelry to be stolen?" As far as Gourry knew, the topic of Xellos' power and Zelas' necklace were separate, as the vital link between them escaped his notice.

"I don't know and that's what I want to find out," Lina demanded to know. "What do you hope to accomplish by allowing the enemy to take Xellos' power? If you want these creatures gone too, why don't you just tell us all that you know about them? It's true that you've been using us, but given that we have a common enemy, the great Lina Inverse might be willing to cooperate."

"I suppose I could tell you," Zelas agreed. "The hideout of the Green Alchemist, where Lamentation is and most likely where the Void headed, is protected by a sort of astral shield that cannot be easily broken. For that reason, we can't just charge in and fight as things stand now. If the fragments of the Stillness try to use Xellos' power to further its cause, and they most likely will, it will activate and relay information to Xellos even if it cannot unite with Xellos to change him back. In other words, the main part of Xellos will remain here as a human, while a portion of him exists as a monster alongside the Stillness, serving as a spy. When the battle ends, I'll unite the two halves to complete Xellos as he should be. Until then, he'll have to work a double shift, so to speak."

"Two Xellos," Lina frowned, "that's not a very comforting thought."

"I agree, two Xellos are too many," Filia added.

"Who do you think you're kidding, stupid dragon? You would love to have two of me," Xellos teased.

"No way! I couldn't live with double the raw garbage!" Filia argued.

"In any case," Lina interrupted the argument to get the conversation back on track. "If this other half of Xellos is pretending to be on the enemy's side, splitting up would make us appear more vulnerable for an attack and would give him an excuse to come to us. I see where you're going with that. It looks like we have another journey ahead of us... Right after we celebrate Thanksgiving!"

"We can't wait any longer. We need to put our plan into action right away. Justice is strong and swift!" Amelia eagerly exclaimed.

"What about Seyruun? We need to stay here and make sure everything is alright. We can't abandon the citizens of this fine kingdom in their time of need!" Lina argued with what she hoped sounded selfless and just enough to be convincing.

"I don't care for justice, so I'll be leaving now," Zelas announced. "I have the dinner of ingratitude to prepare for. Maybe I'll cook some dimos dragon this year..."

As Zelas faded away, Lina called out to her, "I'm invited to that dinner aren't I? I want dimos dragon cuisine!"

"Me too!" Gourry added.

"Save some dimos dragon for me!" Xellos joined in.

Looking furious Filia growled, "no one is eating dragon cuisine! How could you be so inconsiderate?"

Lina and Gourry backed away from Filia's wrath with Lina being the only one who dared to try to voice an argument in their defense. "It's dimos dragon cuisine, not golden dragon cuisine. There's nothing for you to be so angry about!"

"A dragon is a dragon and I can't allow you to eat my kind!" Filia insisted.

"When did you become so patriotic?" Lina pouted.

"That's not the point!" Filia argued.

Seeing as this could turn into an endless debate, Philionel stepped in. "I think the new mission should be carried out as soon as possible. Saving the world takes priority. Once that's done we'll be able to have a real Thanksgiving."

"Go out there and try your best in the pursuit of justice little sister," Naga encouraged Amelia. "Daddy, Gravy, little Fili and I will stay here and make sure Seyruun is alright," she encouraged with her signature laugh. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

xoxox xox xoxox

With three different routes decided on, the group split into three teams and went off to comb the land in search for the missing black cone jewel. Or at least that was the pretence of their journey. In truth, they were making themselves available for Zelas plan to go into action. Amelia and Zelgadis were on one team, Lina and Gourry composed another and Xellos and Filia the other. Xellos was sure that whenever his other half was awakened, he would feel it and agreed to contact the others when that happened. For the time being they would travel, review the situations in different parts of the land and stay on the lookout for useful information and opportunities to strike back against their enemy.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 113: Tainted! The Nameless Beast

Deep underground behind a strong magical shield of astral properties, a seed with roots linked to the cavern around it glowed ominously. A silvery mist faded into existence next to it, not bothering to take on any other shape aside from that. Suspended in the mist, there was a necklace with a black cone shaped jewel, which contained powerful monster energy locked inside it.

"It is too early for you, but the cycle has already been pushed forward for better or for worse," Lamentation's voiceless message reached the Void.

Replying in the same way, the Void approached with the jewel. "It might have seemed for the better, then for the worse and now for the better again. Yet such concepts, they should matter not to us. They are both something, and only nothing is perfection, only nothing is absolute for not the greatest evil or the greatest good of this chaotic world is pure. Let us use this power in our favor and show the foolish beast that the Stillness is absolute!"

The silvery mist floated closer to the seed and faded into it, merging with it. The two fragments, Lamentation and the Void became one along with the remains of the Green Alchemist. The black cone gem floated in the astral space contained inside the seed. "Awaken," the incomplete Stillness called out to it. "Awaken monster power, break free of the seal and become one with the Stillness!"

Xellos' power began to react as the seal placed on the gem by Beast Master was slowly broken. The gem was surrounded by a violet light as the power desperately searched for its owner, but Xellos was not there. As an involuntary defense mechanism, the monster energy assumed that Xellos' projected body had been completely destroyed and in an automatic motion of survival it began to try to recreate Xellos.

"You shall not be allowed to become linked to him..." The golden scales and energy that had been stolen from Filia some time ago, in the encounter with the Dragon Slayers, floated in the astral space closer to the cone gem. "With this, a sample of the power and the body of a golden dragon, you shall become tainted, monster energy. You shall not answer to your previous owner for this energy and him are different now, further imperfect variations. Die will of Xellos! Become consumed by your opposite and leave your power behind for the Stillness to claim!"

A silhouette similar to Xellos had begun to form, generated by the monster energy that once was his. The golden scales and laser energy were fused with the shadowy figure, its blackness becoming tainted with swirls of gold. The copy cried out as if in pain and reverted to a more basic form, a black cone. The golden swirls continued to spread, overtaking the black cone and separating the second Xellos from the main one. Finally, the cone turned golden and once again began to take on the shape of a man. This was not Xellos; this was a different being.

The being materialized itself dressed similarly to Xellos, wearing a white shirt instead of yellow. He didn't have the cloak and staff; instead he carried a mace strapped on his belt beside him. His hair was purple with two golden lines that fell on the sides of his face, outside the low ponytail that held the rest of his hair. His deep violet eyes examined the area around him. Coming into existence had been painful, as if someone attempted to take his life before it could finish being established. "Who am I?" That was the first question that came out of his mouth. It was only natural for a newly created monster to have the necessity to establish an identity to become truly whole.

'The golden dragon sample was not enough to stop the defense mechanism of the monster energy. A being came into existence after all,' the two fused fragments of the Stillness mused quietly. 'It matters not if I do not absorb this energy. This creature can still be of use in taking the life of Beast Master's general priest,' the incomplete Stillness concluded. "You have no need for an identity, Nameless Beast. You only need to think of your mission..."

xoxox xox xoxox

There were hardly any clouds in the sky, a chilly breeze blew and the temperature seemed to drop a degree lower by the hour. The path was desolate in more ways than one. Not only were those two the only people making their way through the rural road, but there was also a general lack of vegetation all around. The trees' brown falling leaves had left them completely and the bare bark looked gray and sickly. There was no grass, no bushes, not even the remains of the fallen leaves of autumn could be seen, as if the earth has swallowed them up in desperate starvation.

As Xellos and Filia made their way to the town where Jillas, Elena and Palou were with Val, Xellos stopped suddenly. He felt as if he was being ripped apart. He found himself strangely wondering if Zelas felt any pain when she removed a portion of her own essence to create him, or if this pain was a side-effect of his human state. This was different though, the other half was still him.

"Xellos? What's wrong?" Filia inquired with concern.

"It's happening..." It was the strangest sensation, like being in two places at the exact same time. His second body, a purely astral one, was still forming and his senses were still blurry. "I can almost see it, astral space, there's strong energy all around." A sharper pain coursed through him, which made Xellos almost collapse.

"Xellos!" Filia didn't know what to do. He had no physical wounds, so recovery wouldn't be of much help. "What's happening?"

"I'm... I'm losing it... my copy." Xellos spoke with difficulty, holding on to Filia, his eyes closed, the pain almost consuming him. Then there was nothing but the numb aftershock of it all. He breathed slowly and tried to sense it again. "It's gone... my copy is no longer connected to me. Just as Beast Master predicted when the seal on my power was broken, a copy was created, but I can't sense it anymore!"

"Was it destroyed?" Filia asked with worry, at least the pain that assaulted Xellos seemed to be gone. What did it mean that he couldn't sense his power? Was it resealed or had the enemy somehow absorbed it?

"I don't think so," the more Xellos thought about it, the more a particular possibility made sense. "It became its own being separate from me. It's not just a copy, it's another monster."

Filia stared at Xellos in shock. "Another Xellos? Is he on our side? Does he answer to Beast Master?"

"If he's on our side and the Stillness realizes it, he'll be swiftly destroyed and if not, we'll have a new enemy." Xellos tried not to show too much of his frustration with the situation. This was Beast Master's plan and she had expressed that she had no intentions of throwing him away. She wouldn't allow his power to be permanently destroyed and if it was, she could perhaps spare some of her energy to turn him back into a monster later. None the less, it bothered him that his power was being used like this, left in the hands of the enemy.

"What should we do?" Filia asked unsure.

"I'll send a report about this as planned," Xellos decided. The action did not take too long with the usual monster courier bird communication method through the astral side.

Beast Master's reply came swiftly, instructing the group to continue with the plan as previously discussed. The order wasn't particularly reassuring, but it was all that could be done. Infiltrating the enemy stronghold was impossible at the moment.

xoxox xox xoxox

At Amor Resort, the rebuilding process continued. The wooden clock tower had been recreated just as it was before, with its falling apart appearance and rickety structure. Far below it, in another of its secret basements, Celo was taking a moment to tinker with some odd little machines. The basement was lit with magic, creating enough light to work on small details comfortably on the large table that was cluttered with tools, bolts and small metal parts. "Look, they spin!" He held up an assortment of gears in a little platform that seemed to grow in size, the smaller ones spinning much faster than the larger ones. "One gear powers another and their speed varies, I can reproduce this model at a larger scale and use it for my secret project for Beast Master!" Celo paused, waiting for his wife's reaction. "Honey, they spin!" He repeated excitedly.

Tiffany sighed and humored Celo with a glance, looking away for a moment from her editing work on the latest chapter Onyx had sent her for review. "Yes, dear, they do spin, endlessly and meaninglessly until it's time to wind it up again." With blatant disregard, she turned her attention back to her papers, reading over the same paragraph for the third time, before giving up and accepting the fact that she simply could not concentrate. She let out an annoyed breath and put the papers away on a folder.

"Are you angry at me?" Celo inquired, his excitement over his latest gadget was gone, his mouth going from a smile to a pout.

"No," Tiffany snapped, it wasn't like her to snap. "I'm just stressed with life in general, okay? I'm going up to the top of the clock tower to get some fresh air."

Celo still couldn't figure out what the problem with Tiffany was. She had been acting strange ever since her private conversation with Beast Master, the topic of which she still refused to reveal. She just kept saying it was girl stuff that he wouldn't understand, but it had to be something serious. "Getting some fresh air sounds like a splendid idea."

"I'm going alone," Tiffany firmly stated. "Do not follow me, I need to take a breather now and then, understand that!" She left the basement, hurrying up the stairs and towards the top of the rickety clock tower.

xoxox xox xoxox

Tiffany remembered her conversation with Beast Master and the request that the monster lord refused to grant. "Please Lord Beast Master, seal me away and the End within me. It might help at the very least delay the Stillness' plans!"

"That will not work," Zelas refused. "Lamentation weakens the body, the Void weakens the mind and the End, I would assume, is a sort of reaper that finishes off those who have already fallen. Yet the End is mysterious, is it the ultimate enemy or a mercy? Does it actually contribute to the death of the world, or is it merely there to dispose of the corpse after the world is already dead? Either way, by the time the End is truly awakened, the war would have been lost. Furthermore, for the Stillness to be defeated it is very likely, almost certain that all three fragments must be destroyed at once. If I seal the End and it continues to exist tainted by your chaos, then the Lord of Lamentation and the Void, even if they are purified into nothing, will continue to exist because of their link with the End and will eventually return to oppose chaos. Continue to carry your secret burden and let it become manifest when the time is right. This is an enemy that must be faced, or else chaos will not be able to truly overcome the Stillness."

"That's too dangerous!" Tiffany insisted. "The End is a horrifying thing, it is so empty. It's different from pain, it's nothing, forgotten, none-existent, absolute nothingness. It's worse than dying. I can feel it inside me, it wants to come out. I know it cannot be defeated, it's too late, the cycle of the Stillness has already awakened and the End is inevitable. It's just as it has been warned, the world would be destroyed by the effects of the spell that called upon the Lord of Nightmares. Even if it was not a direct effect, her shield was removed and the death blow has been struck. Please Lord Beast Master, I beg of you, seal me away! We cannot win; all that can be done is delay the inevitable. If everyone unites against this, the world might still survive for a few more years to come. Please allow Celo to live a little longer, I'm sure he doesn't want to disappear without finishing his machine projects. Maybe then another alternative will come up to prolong chaos even more. There's still so much that everyone needs to do. Give them that chance, even if it is so that you can take the opportunity to cruelly ruin it all for your own enjoyment. Please, Lord Beast Master, I beg of you!" Tiffany had fallen to her knees, abundant tears streaming down her face.

"That's enough, foolish dragon! Stop your useless begging." Zelas scolded angrily. "I do not intend to lose this fight. I will be victorious. Leave now."

Thinking back on it, it was ironic that a monster lord would have more hope for the future than a golden dragon. Yet it was Tiffany who felt the End within her. It was she who felt that the cycle was impossible to stop.

xoxox xox xoxox

Far away from the other groups, Zelgadis and Amelia followed their own traveling route. The scenery was cold and depressing, devoid of life. The ground was starting to feel sandy beneath their boots, as if its nutrients had been drained terribly. "It looks like the earth will take a long time to recover from this."

"Yes, the terrible famine is going stronger than ever. I thought things would get better after Narcissus was defeated, but he was only one of the many that are hidden from us." Amelia recalled. She tried to stay optimistic as she always did. "We can't give up! Justice always triumphs! The more evil they are the harder they fall!" She loudly exclaimed, quickening her pace down the desolate gloomy path.

"Isn't it the bigger they are, the harder they fall?" Zelgadis pointed out.

"That too, but when it comes to justice, the most evil ones always fall the hardest!" Amelia cheered. "This evil is indeed the most evil of all!" Although in truth the Stillness wasn't good or evil, it was simply nothing, while good and evil were concepts that helped fuel motion, chaos.

"Why do you sound so cheerful when you say that?" Zelgadis answered his own question in thinking that Amelia sounded cheerful when she said almost anything. He remembered her cheerfully throwing out dramatic accusations, such as the time when she launched a psychological warfare attack on Xellos after regretting that one of her comrades had turned to the darkness. Of course, Xellos pointed out that he had been a monster all along, but Amelia wasn't listening to him, instead focusing on going on and on about how wonderful life was.

"It's true that the fact that our enemy is strong means it will be more trouble for us," Amelia acknowledged. "But let's look on the bright side! This means that when we finally emerge victorious, because justice always wins, our triumph will be all the greater!" The energetic princess cheered. "Just think of the way things are, if even a monster lord such as Zelas has labeled the Stillness as her enemy, then that means it must be really bad, even by her standards."

"Right..." Zelgadis didn't think that was anything to be happy about. A force worse than a monster lord, worse than even Shabranigdu, was not something anyone in their right mind would look forward to facing. Yet he knew that he had to stay strong and cheerful or else it would mean certain defeat. Even so, could such a thing that was an enemy to both good and evil, truly be overcome?

Not too far away from Amelia and Zelgadis, the sound of grunts and complaints were heard, as a group of bandits hurried to take refuge in a cave up ahead. A tall black bearded human man, walking in front of the band held up a shiny black cone shaped jewel. "Jewelry, nothing but jewelry, that's all the loot we got." He complained in disappointment.

"Isn't it ironic, boss?" A leopard-like beastman, with a slimmer bone structure and a more agile constitution than the muscular yet bony from hunger leader, commented from next to him. "Some months ago we would have been more than happy with a haul like this."

"Some months ago the world wasn't so close to dying," the leader reminded. "But we can't eat jewels and there's hardly any food left to steal. Even if we tried to trade with pirates from another land, a mountain of gold is of little value in comparison to a bit of food. Oh to be a monster and not need any food, I bet they're feasting on our pain!"

"I wouldn't be so sure anymore, boss," the leopard replied. "It looked like the monsters were having a party at first, but now it looks like something's eating them up from the astral side. I know because I saw a monster the other day while looting that village, it looked like it was in pain. You think that what's affecting the monsters is the same thing that's eating the planet itself? You think it's the return of Shabranigdu or something worse? Cause it makes no sense that Shabranigdu would kill off the monsters too. But what could be worse than him?"

"Who knows?" The leader shook his head hopelessly. "We might not even live long enough to find out. It's better not to think about it."

Unknown to the distracted and hungry bandits, the pair of travelers of justice were watching them. "Did you see that jewel the leader had?" Amelia pointed at it excitedly, too far from the bandits to hear their conversation.

"Wait, this could be a trap," Zelgadis cautioned, soon adding the inevitable, "but we can't ignore it. They might be more minions of the Stillness tricked by the story that the Green Alchemist is Gaia," just like the Dragon Slayers were.

"Right, let's march right over to that group of bandits and demand an explanation," said and done, Amelia rushed in. "Hold it right there bandits! We're here to reclaim the black cone gem that you stole! You must also reveal all that you know about the Stillness that calls itself the Green Alchemist and Gaia!"

"What's that girl talking about, boss?" The leopard pointed a confused clawed finger at Amelia, adding something else in a whisper. "By the way boss, doesn't she look delicious? I mean healthy? She might know where we can find food!"

"Delicious... yes, yes... I mean healthy," The leader wiped his mouth and beard with his sleeve.

Zelgadis glared fiercely and didn't waste another second before drawing his sword. He did not like the hungry looks those bandits were giving Amelia. He wasn't sure if they were perverts or cannibals, but both possibilities were terrible and he would not allow them. "You better stay back, surrender the black cone gem and tell us everything you know!" The chimera protectively threatened.

"This?" The bandit leader lifted the jewel, wondering what set it apart from the rest of the stolen jewelry in his gang's sacks. The seemingly well fed travelers were specifically looking for it, so it had to be important. "I don't know what you're babbling about that Green Alchemist and Gaia, but if you want this, then it must be good enough to fight for!" The bandit lifted the gem enclosing his fist tightly around it in a challenging motion.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 114: Unstable! A Dangerous Combination

A beam of laser breath, like that of a golden dragon, came out of seemingly nowhere, interrupting the encounter of Amelia and Zelgadis versus the bandits. The laser collided with the bandit leader's hand, making him drop the damaged black cone jewel and clutch the burnt appendage in pain. "Ah! Who did that?"

All heads automatically turned towards the direction in which the laser had come from, where someone had recently faded out of the astral side. "It might have some monetary value, but in the end it was only an insignificant replica. Not that you bandits have any idea what I'm talking about, do you?" The man strongly resembled Xellos, his black pupils were long and the irises of his eyes were purple, they were just like Xellos' monster eyes. He had his purple hair tied back, with two golden locks framing the sides of his face. His ears were long and pointy, like the ears of an elf or a golden dragon. He held a mace and looked like he was ready to use it if the bandits interrupted his curiosity. "You two," he addressed Amelia and Zelgadis. "I hold no memories of you, yet I see recognition in your faces. I've been told I resemble the one called Xellos. Where is he?"

Zelgadis had received word of what Xellos sensed earlier and knew that his copy could be their enemy. This man certainly resembled Xellos, but he was far from being an exact copy. "Who are you and why do you want to know where Xellos is?"

"Who am I?" The question seemed to fill the man with anger. "I am only known as the Nameless Beast." He growled with a frustration that neither Zelgadis nor Amelia could quite figure out. "As for my reason to search for Xellos... That is a secret." He shook his finger, adopting a pose much like that of the original Xellos. With anger invading his features, he elaborated, "but I'll tell you anyway. My purpose is to kill Xellos!" The Nameless Beast pointed his mace at Zelgadis and Amelia. "Tell me where he is or else!"

"Absolutely not!" Amelia refused. "We won't let you bring any harm to Mr. Xellos! Even if you were made from him, you are evil!"

"Don't you mean because instead of even if?" Comrades or not, Zelgadis couldn't help it but to throw out that little comment. Nonetheless, he was willing to stand by Amelia and help her cause.

"I see, so you're on his side; that makes you my enemies!" The Nameless Beast stubbornly declared. "Die, friends of Xellos!" He shot a beam of laser from his mouth, but Amelia and Zelgadis dodged, jumping in opposite directions with the laser passing between them.

"Feel the power of justice! Elmekia Lance!" Amelia fought back with the spell hitting the target.

The Nameless Beast felt the effects of the attack, but was no where near beaten yet. "I won't be defeated, not until Xellos has paid for what he's done!" He shot a mass of black energy from his hand, which collided with Amelia and sent her flying several feet back.

"Amelia!" Zelgadis was at her side in a split second.

"I'm... alright," the princess tried to recover from the attack; she stumbled forward and finally regained her balance. "Justice will always triumph!" She valiantly exclaimed despite her bruised state.

"Astral Vine!" Zelgadis powered up his sword for the attack and went charging into battle. The mace and the sword collided with mighty blows.

While the fight went on, the leopard beastman whispered to the human leader. "Maybe this is a little out of our league, these people are ignoring us."

"If they're strong enough to obtain food in this situation, then they're pretty strong. Let's take the loot and run!" The bandit leader wisely decided. The second in command leopard and the rest of the bandits picked up their sacks of spoils and ran away.

Unfortunately for the bandits they didn't get too far. The Nameless Beast was the first priority, but that didn't mean that Amelia was going to let a bunch of evil bandits escape without facing justice. "You won't escape without punishment! Fireball!"

The flames hit the targets, flying out of Amelia's hands continuously. "We can't hold our own against these sorcerers, run for it!" Dropping their sacks of jewelry in favor of faster movement, the gang of bandits ran away for dear life.

Amelia would have stopped them, but something more important came up. Zelgadis' sword pushed against the Nameless Beast's mace. The monster dragon grinned as if he had the upper hand even though it had looked as if they were almost evenly matched. He shot another laser from his mouth point blank and Zelgadis barely had time to dodge. The laser reached the chimera's shoulder as he tried to move to the side out of the way of it. "Zelgadis!" Having recovered from the hit she took earlier, aside from a few scratches, Amelia rejoined the main fight. "Source of all souls which dwell in eternal and infinite. Everlasting flame of blue, let the power in my soul be called forth from the infinite... Ra Tilt!"

Just as the Nameless Beast lifted his mace to attack Zelgadis, he was reached by Amelia's spell and dropped his mace in pain. "You should have stayed out of this!" Angered, he shot two beams of black energy surrounded in violet lightning from his hands at Amelia and Zelgadis.

The princess and the chimera jumped out of the way and made sure to stay moving, narrowly dodging the incoming blasts of dark energy. The Nameless Beast was powerful, but as a newly created being, he was inexperienced in battle. "Your evil will never win!" Amelia scolded, though she and Zelgadis were so busy dodging that they didn't get the chance to throw in any attacks.

Zelgadis wasn't so sure that they had the upper hand, but they certainly weren't losing either. It looked more like the Nameless Beast was throwing a hissy fit, shooting beams of dark energy in every direction. If that was the case, then angering him further might work in their favor. "Prepare to admit defeat, you little freak!"

Suddenly the attacks ceased, which caught Amelia and Zelgadis by surprise so much that they didn't immediately take the opportunity to launch attacks of their own. The Nameless Beast was just standing there with his face downcast. Then he looked at Zelgadis with a very upset expression. "You shouldn't talk, you're a strange combination too, meanie!" Without another moment to waste, he picked up his mace and faded away into the astral side.

Amelia and Zelgadis stared at the empty space, where the Nameless Beast was mere seconds ago, in shock. "What just happened?" The chimera asked in puzzlement.

"I think you hurt his feelings," Amelia correctly concluded.

"Oh..." Zelgadis stopped to think about it. The Nameless Beast appeared to be a combination of monster and dragon. How that happened, if he was supposed to be a copy of Xellos, was anyone's guess right now. Yet could he really be that sensitive about it? He did have a point though, Zelgadis was a combination too, they were both in a sense chimeras. "I kind of feel bad about calling him a freak."

Amelia placed a gentle hand on Zelgadis' uninjured shoulder and gave him a quick kiss of assurance. "It's okay, sometimes when we're angry, we say things we don't mean. I'm sure Mr. Nameless Beast understands that and won't stay upset for too long. Let's finish getting healed up before something else happens."

"Yes," Zelgadis agreed, going into his usual period of dazed loving distraction that followed an act of unexpectedly timed affection from Amelia. After he recovered the full use of his mental faculties, he considered their next step. "We should probably tell the others about this so that they're ready."

"Right, we'll inform Miss Zelas and she'll pass on the message to everyone," Amelia agreed, though that wasn't exactly what Zelgadis was suggesting. The chimera didn't say anything about it though, they would just have to get used to working with the monster lord for the time being. Besides, Zelas would hear about the situation from Xellos anyway, and they couldn't possibly leave him and Filia out of the loop and in danger of being taken by surprise.

xoxox xox xoxox

Zelas received another report from one of her courier monster birds. Just as she expected, Xellos' power could not be easily absorbed and instead it tried to create a copy. Unexpectedly, the Stillness managed to turn that copy into a separate being and gained a new minion. Furthermore, that new creature was apparently some kind of monster dragon chimera. Nonetheless, he came in part from Xellos and Xellos came from Zelas. Perhaps this Nameless Beast could be turned to their side and used to figure out a way to get into the Stillness' main base after all. Then everything would once again go as planned.

xoxox xox xoxox

Time passed and the groups continued their journey. It had been a few days since Amelia and Zelgadis' encounter with the Nameless Beast and no one had heard from him again. Far away from the other groups, Lina and Gourry followed their own traveling route as well. The sun was setting over the lifeless landscape and the lit torches of a small town could be seen in the distance. "That town better have some food!" Lina hungrily declared. "I'm so hungry that I'm one step away from declaring my eternal loyalty to my favorite monster lord just so she'll feed me."

Gourry's starving eyes suddenly shone with the light of new hope at the prospect of a decent meal. "You mean that if we become Beast Master's minions she'll feed us?" He felt accomplish in remembering who Lina's new favorite monster lord was, though forgetting her delicious cooking was something neither of them could easily do.

"Maybe..." Lina theorized, almost ready to give into temptation. "If Amelia heard us talking like this, she'd have a thing or two to say. Nonetheless, Seyruun did buy food from Beast Master, so I would have that to use as a counter argument."

"You, redhead!" A man who matched a description Lina and Gourry had previously received appeared on the road in front of them, fading into existence from the astral side. He stepped forward and looked at Lina with attention. "I was told that the famous Lina Inverse was a flat-chested midget. You seem to match the description, are you her?"

The way he spoke the question with a mix of innocence and humor made it all the more infuriating for Lina. "I was told that the Nameless Beast was a stupid ugly freak, are you him?" She yelled back in anger.

The Nameless Beast stepped back, looking upset. "Don't call me a freak!" He yelled. "This is all Xellos' fault, everything is Xellos' fault. It's because of him that I'm just a random freak instead of a complete person. I'll get you for your offence Lina Inverse and then I'll kill Xellos!" The Nameless Beast stuck out his tongue and faded away into the astral side, returning moments later with a cloaked figure standing next to him. "That mean girl over there is an enemy of Gaia, get rid of her Mr. Summoner!" With that order spoken, he faded away again.

The man in the black cloak stepped forward as he chanted a strange incantation. Lina snorted impatiently. "As if I'm going to let you finish that summoning spell. I don't know what you're trying to call but-" The man removed his hood to reveal he was a slug, or rather a human slug chimera, though he certainly looked a lot more like a slug than a human. "Ah! Slug!" Lina forgot about all her threats in favor of jumping into Gourry's arms for protection. "Make it go away, make it go away!" She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck almost choking him.

"Lina, I can't breathe!" Gourry complained, trying to shift Lina into a less life threatening position. He managed to hold her with one arm, using the other to ready his sword. At least the fact that she was small was convenient in a situation like this, it made her easier to carry.

The enemy sorcerer slug chimera finished casting his spell and a giant slug appeared to answer the magical call. The arrival of the monstrous creature made Lina's panicked screams echo louder. She flailed around in Gourry's arm, pulled his hair in fright and all around freaked out at how huge and slimy the summoned slug was. Her outburst made Gourry stumble and drop his magical sword.

The slug seemed to partially melt, which made it look even grosser to the scared Lina. The creature's slime invaded the ground beneath Gourry's feet, making him get stuck in place, his sword stuck to the ground a few feet away. The horrific monster shot acid from its mouth straight at Gourry and Lina. "Lina, levitate!" Gourry threw her, trying to put her at a safe distance.

Lina almost hit the ground before she managed to react, "levitation!" She was spared from a nasty fall at the last second. "Gourry!" He had taken the hit head on, the acid creating multiple painful burns.

"Lina, get away from here!" Gourry tried to move, but his feet were stuck to the ground and he couldn't reach his sword. "I'll beat this slug somehow, get to safety, hurry!"

Lina felt her whole body tremble in fear, "Gourry..." maybe a few years ago she might have taken the suggestion to save herself, but not now. She couldn't abandon Gourry to face off against some evil slug unarmed. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows. Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows..."

"Get the girl, knock her to the ground!" The slug chimera commanded the giant slug monster. The creature shot acid at Lina, which she swiftly dodged in the air. "I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands. Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess. Dragon Slave!"

The massive force of Lina Inverse's signature spell had its usual expected effect, reducing the enemies to nothing and leaving a crater on the ground in their place. Gourry, looking burnt, bruised, scratched and all around abused, crawled out of the crater, picking up his sword in the way, thankful that it wasn't damaged or blown too far away.

"Oops..." Lina landed next to him. "I was so focused on saving you from that evil slug that I forgot you couldn't move out of the way of my Dragon Slave. At least you only caught the aftershock of it, since it wasn't aimed at you and I did rush the chanting, so I wouldn't call it a fully powered Dragon Slave." The petite redhead placed her hand behind her head and laughed casually. As an after thought, she wondered if there was another reason for her spell to come with less collateral damage than usual. It was odd, but it felt as if Shabranigdu was retreating in a sense, trying to block out his energy from being used up in spells. "You're going to be okay, right Gourry?"

Gourry placed his sword back in the sheath, a little disappointed that he didn't get to use it. "I'll be alright, thanks for saving me." Without giving it much further thought, he gave her a quick kiss as a form of gratitude and to further offer comfort for her recent scare, as well as reassure her that he wasn't angry about being accidentally caught in her Dragon Slave.

Lina felt the red color raise from the base of her neck to the top of her forehead. "G-Gourry..."

"Yes?" The bruised swordsman innocently inquired.

Lina shook her head, trying to recover the normal color of her face. It was certainly not the first time Gourry got affectionate with her, but this time he caught her completely off guard more so than before and he didn't even seem to realize how much he surprised her. Being rewarded with a kiss after accidentally indirectly Dragon Slaving Gourry, even if it was with good intentions, was not something Lina could have predicted. "Never mind, let's get you healed and keep going towards that town ahead."

As they rounded the crater and continued down the path under the stars, the Nameless Beast once again appeared before them, fading in front of them from the astral side. "He's back!" Gourry, being Gourry, felt the need to point out what was plainly obvious.

"You again, troublemaker, don't you dare think I'll forgive you for sending that slug after us you little freak!" Lina yelled angrily.

Looking very upset, the Nameless Beast stomped his feet, "stop it, stop it! Stop calling me a freak. I'm not a freak, I'm not a thing, I'm a person! Stupid Xellos, stupid, stupid! It's all his fault!" Wielding his mace, the Nameless Beast charged towards Lina and Gourry.

Taking this as the long awaited opportunity to try out his new sword in a real battle, Gourry wielded the blade and slashed the air. A shockwave of energy was send towards his opponent, catching the enemy off guard and slashing the mace in half.

"My mace, you broke it!" The Nameless Beast picked up the two pieces, examining them in disappointment. "I don't want to play with you anymore. You're all so mean! Tell me where Xellos is! I need to kill him, this is all his fault!"

"Wait a minute, how is any of this Xellos' fault? Just what are you talking about anyway?" Lina demanded to know. "You may be a partial copy of Xellos modified with something else, but Xellos wasn't the one who created you, it wasn't his will!" Lina realized all too late that she might be saying too much.

"Master Xellos doesn't want me around at all? He doesn't want me to exist?" The Nameless Beast sounded very sad. "Xellos is my master, I can feel it, I know it as any monster would. But I'm not fully a monster; there is also another who contributed to forming my essence, a dragon. I don't know you people, but I was told you know Xellos. He's the only one I know, because he's my master. I was told he abandoned me, but now you say that's not true. Instead of just abandoning me, he actually doesn't want me to exist? Liar! You're a liar Lina Inverse, even if Master Xellos doesn't care for me, that doesn't mean he has to hate me!" The Nameless Beast was surrounded by a golden glow. His upset state was making him lose control of himself. His features became slightly more dragon-like and he had a tail. The partial transformation, even if he still looked mostly human seemed to cause him a lot of pain. He quickly retreated, disappearing into the astral side, leaving a very perplexed sorceress and swordsman behind.

"He's... He's the same as Valgaav. He's part monster and part dragon, but he's unstable and transforming causes him pain," Lina realized. She began to toss around theories in her head. The Nameless Beast was a newly created monster. Monsters were created as fully grown adults in a sense, though their astral bodies could be projected in the material world with the appearance of any age. They came into existence with certain basic knowledge, which must include who their master is. On the other hand, dragons hatched from eggs and grew from babies, to children, to adults. The dragon properties that were mixed with the monster energy must have made the Nameless Beast more child-like. That's why he was so upset that his master wasn't there for him when he was created. "He's like a bratty child who misses his father," Lina concluded. That meant that bringing him to their side was possible after all, though he seemed really angry at Xellos for the perceived abandonment.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 115: Panic! False Accusations Of Despair

Some time later, another earthquake shook the land as Xellos and Filia arrived in the town where the Maces and Vases shop was located. It had begun to snow lightly, but the temperature was far too cold for the amount of snow, causing the travelers to stay close together in an effort not to freeze. The frequent tremors had become common across the world. People used to run and scream whenever they happened, but lately a deep depression had settle into most towns and cities, so the people just quietly ignored the shaking, perceiving that they had no choice but to accept the world's end. Some called out to Ceifeed for help; others begged the dragon lords to assist them. Yet overall, they were a small minority, as most people had given up on calling out to anyone.

The pair of travelers quickened their pace towards their destination. The shop was full of cracks that looked like they had been fixed numerous times, but the patch work would not last for long. A sort of wooden outer cage tried to frame the walls and keep them in place. Filia and Xellos entered the structure, with the golden dragon quietly mourning the sorry state of her once cheerful shop. At least it was still standing, so her family could still find shelter in it. A loud noise from near by made Filia turn her head back towards the street just in time to see a damaged structure collapsing. It was Elena's restaurant, which never really took off due to the lack of ingredients available to cook with.

Before panic and worry had the chance to fully settle into Filia, a familiar voice greeted her, "boss! Welcome back!" Filia turned to face the inside of the shop and saw Jillas, Elena, Palou and Val, relieved that they were unharmed. The golden dragon closed the front door of the shop behind her as if to block out the depressing view of the ruined buildings all over the street.

Little Val jumped into his mother's waiting arms. "I'm so glad you're not hurt, I missed you so much!" The shelves around the shop held only a few vases as there was plenty of property damage involved with the earthquakes. The small amount of vases that remained were tied to the shelves in Jillas' final effort to save them. At least the maces survived, since they were built to receive, or rather give, hard hits. A lot of those had been sold in the time before the town's collective depression fully settled in and the people felt a little better with a weapon on their hands, even if this catastrophe was something that could not be fought with a weapon.

Another person joined them in the main shop area and Filia was surprised to see it was Kally. She was rather quiet and distant, engrossed in her own thoughts. "If only I was still a monster now, this would be such a feast!" Leave it to Xellos to say something sarcastic at a serious and solemn time. Never mind that the monsters had began to be drained from the astral side and were not having an easy time anymore, thus rendering his sarcasm untrue.

"Xellos!" Filia half-scolded with no real anger. "It's good to see everyone here, I know the times have been harsh but we need to stay strong! Kally, how are Tiffany and the others doing at the resort? What brings you to visit us?" Filia tried to make the conversation flow as casually as possible so as to not further trouble the already sad Kally.

"They're okay... they were okay when I last saw them, or as okay as they could be given the situation. I'm here because my brother is..." She paused unsure of what to say, then finished with a neutral sounding, "passing by and I hope to catch up to him." It was plainly obvious that she was sugar-coating what she really wanted to say.

"Jillas!" The angry voices of the townspeople were heard from outside. "We know you're in there, we know you did it! Come out murderer!" At times such as this, when it seemed impossible to be able to do anything about the dire state of the world, more than ever people clung to their own interpretation of justice in desperation. If there was anything they could do, just so they could feel that they were doing something, they would do it and console themselves with it, even if it was in falsehood.

"That's not true!" Palou yelled back. "It's all a lie, he didn't hurt anyone!" His mother hugged him, trying to comfort the child. "Why do they say such mean things? We were all together the whole time, why won't they believe us?" The young fox boy hugged his mother in frustration and innocent confusion.

"Palou, honey... Sometimes when people face hardships they jump to conclusions. They're taking their anger out on someone innocent and that's wrong, but they don't know any better in their sadness." Though she kept a sweet tone for Palou's sake as she held him and gently caressed the fur atop his head, it was evident that Elena had enough of this. There was a fire of anger and frustration in her eyes that the calm fox lady had never shown before.

"Open the door!" Without waiting for any further replies, the door was forced open, left hanging off one of its hinges as it had already been weakened from the earlier earthquakes. An angry mob formed by the townspeople stood at the door, maces on hand. "We knew we couldn't trust you," a young man accused. "In times like this is when you beasts start to show your true nature."

"Those maces..." Filia gasped. "How dare you wield the maces I crafted against Jillas? He was the one who sold them to you, wasn't he?"

"That was before he committed his crime," the leader of the mob accused. "It's ironic that the terrible beasts will be slain by their own weapons. This is what you deserve, death for the beastman and for the dragon! The so called protectors of the world are nothing but falsehood!" He went on the attack, attempting to hit Filia with the mace.

"Watch out, boss!" Jillas urgently warned, but it wasn't really necessary.

Filia easily caught the mace and held it in place. The man pulled it back, trying to loosen the weapon from her grip, but a dragon's strength was simply far too superior to the strength of a human. "I don't know what has made you throw false accusations at Jillas and the dragons, but I won't tolerate you hurting my family and with my own weapons no less." It was like insult upon attempted injury.

The rest of the mob readied their weapons as well. "So you finally show your true colors, Filia," Sasha accused. "You're a wild beast just like the others, I never liked you anyway."

Fed up with the situation, Xellos began to quietly chant a spell. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..."

Sasha was joined by her fellow hypocritical gossiper Anna. "Defending that murderer makes you an accomplice. The dragons may act all high and mighty but they couldn't care less about humanity!"

"Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows..." Something was off, Shabranigdu's power wasn't responding to Xellos.

Manna threw out a theory that fueled the angry mob's wrath even more. "Now that the land produces no food, I bet the dragons and beasts are returning to their terrible primal instincts. No doubt about it, they intend to feed on us humans!"

"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands..." Mighty gift? The small traces of power that Xellos managed to get out of Shabranigdu were anything but mighty. It was as if Ruby Eyes was being drained so strongly in a different direction that his power could no longer be called upon for a spell.

Furious murmurs filled the angry mob, they were convinced they would be slaughtered, so they determined that they had no choice but to act first, kill or be killed. Despite that, Filia wasn't exactly comfortable with blowing up all the townspeople, not to mention that they were currently in her shop and her family was dangerously close by. "Xellos, you can't use the Dragon Slave now!"

"Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess, Dragon Slave!" Nothing happened. "It seems that Lord Ruby Eyes in his frozen state is terribly exposed to fall victim to the Stillness. I don't think I'll be able to use that spell anymore, at least not until this war is over," which meant that their forces had suffered an unexpected reduction of power.

"Even Shabranigdu?" As much as Filia disliked Shabranigdu, the fact that even Ruby Eyes was being drained away by the Stillness worried her. It further proved that they were up against a terribly powerful foe.

"Kill them! Kill them!" The restless crowd shouted in wrath.

"Stop!" Jillas stepped forward. "Filia has been away from the town, you can't possibly have any false accusations for her. I'm the one you want. I didn't do anything wrong, but if it'll stop this madness, then I'll turn myself in!"

"Jillas, you can't!" Elena protested.

"There's no choice..." Jillas concluded. "I only ask that you stop this senseless fighting!"

The townspeople discussed the matters among themselves. If Filia got out of hand and decided to transform into a dragon and start devouring them, then they could use Jillas as a hostage to negotiate. Given that possibility, it would not be convenient to kill him. Yet they certainly couldn't let him run free. "Very well," the angry mob's leader agreed. "The murderer will be sent to Prisoner Island."

"This isn't fair," Filia cried, she still remained uninformed of the specifics with which the accusation originated, but she knew that Jillas was a good person.

"There's no choice, please stay safe boss and protect everyone." Jillas was taken away by the angry mob that finally departed from the shop.

"We can't... we can't..." Filia muttered in shock as the crowd walked further away with Jillas in their custody. "We can't let them get away with this!"

"I could try a different spell to blow them up," Xellos offered.

"Jillas wouldn't want that," Elena solemnly pointed out. "He wants to prove his innocence, he wants to show that beastmen and humans can live together in peace. His past... he told me all about it." About how his people were murdered by humans who feared them, blaming them for crimes they didn't commit, some crimes that never even happened.

"Mama... we are going to save him, aren't we?" Palou asked, his big blue innocent eyes filled with confusion and worry. It was obvious that with the passing of time the foxes had become much closer.

Jillas didn't want more unneeded bloodshed, he didn't want to fuel the enmity between humans and beastmen that had formed in a town that was once so peaceful and open minded. Elena understood and respected his wishes, but all of that didn't mean that she was willing to let things stay the way they were. "We'll have to free him in a sneakier way."

Filia nodded in determination, "right, we'll take him away from the ferry that goes to Prisoner Island and be on our way. The townspeople don't need to know and besides, I don't think we should be here anymore anyway." It was a sad event to have to abandon her shop where she had so many precious memories, but her loved ones were much more precious. "This town no longer has a place for us, but I know where we can go. After we've rescued Jillas, we can go to Seyruun. Prince Philionel is a very kind ruler who loves justice. He will not stand by and accept this injustice, I'm sure he'll welcome us to live in his kingdom and there we'll find peace. We just need to explain what happened... which I still don't fully understand myself."

Elena knew that there was no use in sugar-coating the situation any longer, for the sake of not worrying the children. The happenings were far too clear and obvious; they couldn't pretend they had everything under control anymore. "There has been a series of murders in town, committed with guns. The townspeople assumed that Jillas did it, but I know he's innocent. We tried to tell them that Jillas wouldn't senselessly kill innocent people and that we were with him the whole time, but they wouldn't hear a word of it."

"I think my brother was the one who did it," Kally sadly confessed.

"Kalio?" Filia gasped in shock. "Why would he do something like this?"

"He's not himself," Kally desperately tried to explain. "Long ago, when Kalio was still a child, he was regarded as a prodigy with the sword. He was hypnotized into letting go of his senses and to fight without holding anything back, he was turned into a berserker. To avoid his power running completely out of control, he was assigned a guide. Because of our almost psychic link as twins, I was the natural choice to be his guide. I cannot speak to him, but I can feel what he feels. I can sense his pain and his distress and sometimes the things that he has witnessed come to me in dreams."

Kally continued with her revelations. "After we left the Dragon Slayers, Kalio would always hold back when using the sword. He wanted to forget what he learned from the Dragon Slayers and develop new skills that he could use to defend the innocent and protect his new home of Seyruun. Recently, something terrible happened. I had a dream in which the Dragon Slayers attacked Kalio while he was traveling with Medusa. They casted a strange spell on him that made him lose his senses again. Kalio hates being in a berserk state and they forced him into it."

Tears were streaming down Kally's face as she spoke in a shaky voice. "In his berserk state, he killed Medusa. It was the Dragon Slayers who forced him to kill her. They snapped him out of his trance soon after and let him feel the pain and guilt until his very emotions were locked away because they were too much to bear. I left Amor Resort and departed towards Kalio at once, but it was already too late. My dear brother is a mere puppet to Ryoushi and the Dragon Slayers and they are the puppets of the one who claims to be Gaia."

"The enemy knows where we are and were our family is. How dare they target this once peaceful town?" Filia cried out in a mix of anger, sadness and frustration. "We need to rescue Jillas, then he can head to Seyruun with Elena, Palou and Val; it's the only safe place to take refuge until this war is over. Then Xellos and I will do find a way to rescue Kalio too."

"Why are you assuming I would want to rescue a pathetic brainwashed human?" Xellos asked with his usual smile.

"Fine then, I'll do it myself!" Filia snapped. "Then we'll all go to Seyruun and live a peaceful and happy life!"

"Will going to Seyruun really help anything?" Kally grimaced. "Wouldn't we just endanger the kingdom with our presence?"

"Seyruun is a strong city and we have friends there who will protect it. Gravos and Naga are helping Philionel right now," Filia assured.

"Let's not forget, Seyruun is now also allied to Lord Beast Master," Xellos added with his trademark grin. "Although they might have failed to notice the small print in that food purchase contract."

Filia shuddered involuntarily, at this rate Zelas would take over the world by the time the war against the Stillness was over. It was true that the monster lord didn't want the world to be destroyed, but she wanted to eternally torture it and that was certainly something to worry about, even if she held back just enough not to break it. Then another thought occurred to Filia, Zelas was an astral being, the monsters were under attack now that the Void, who attacked the mind, had joined Lamentation, who attacked the body. "How is Zelas doing with the situation, anyway?"

"How considerate of you to worry about me." The sudden voice made Filia jump startled. There stood none other than Beast Master herself with her usual imposing presence and elegant appearance. "Lord Ruby Eyes is frozen and thought of by many as being dead in a sense. He has been divided into pieces and is immobilized, incapable of taking action. Because of that, Shabranigdu is very exposed to becoming a victim of the Stillness. I, on the other hand, am very much in one piece, able to move around and interact directly with the world. Furthermore, no one thinks of me as being dead. I'm sure the wedding guests, Lina's friends and acquaintances from all across the land, were all too honored to meet me. There's also my recent little visit to Dragon's Peak at the Kataart Mountains. I bet Milgazia and his little friends can't stop thinking about my amazing brass rackets skills."

Filia wanted to complain about how much it annoyed her when people popped out of nowhere and startled her, but she knew that would only motivate Zelas to do it more often. "Beast Master, what brings you here?" The golden dragon asked in the most civil tone she could manage, trying to contain the annoyed twitching of her eye as she spoke.

"Getting down to business, I noticed something about the Stillness," Zelas went straight to the point. "Its power increases whenever something ceases to exist in the world. When all the members of a certain village are killed for example and even when all the flora of a certain type is extinguished from existence. To put it plainly, when something becomes permanently nothing and due to its total extinction has no hope of ever existing again. Those small victories help empower the Stillness. The power that it gains is proportional to the situation. Imagine what the effect would be if a species became extinct, or a race..."

Filia's eyes widened in realization. "Val..." The worries she carried increased immeasurably. "Val is the last of the ancient dragons." She held the child protectively in her arms. "All of this... The Stillness is actually trying to get to Val, to leave him without anyone to protect him and take his life."

"Did you hear that, Lord Beast Master? I told you Filia could manage to jump start her single brain cell sometimes," Xellos sarcastically mocked.

Filia glared at how casual Xellos was being about the deadly danger, but was not really taken by surprised by his mocking sarcastic comment. Zelas laughed, "oh yes, it's quite the accomplishment for such a stupid creature to be able to reach an accurate conclusion," the monster lord mockingly agreed. "With all matters clarified, I'll be taking Val now."

"What?" Filia screeched in a panic. "You can't! Xellos, say something! Talk her out of it!"

"Something," Xellos replied with a grin. "There, I humored one of your requests; now stop being a stupid dragon. Beast Master just said that Val needs to be alive and well, or the enemy will become more powerful. He'll be safer with her than with anyone else." Xellos took Val out of Filia's arms, who reluctantly let him go.

The protective golden dragon watched as her ancient dragon child was handed over to the monster lord. "You're actually going to keep him safe, right?" Filia pleaded.

"Oh yes, safe and happy," Zelas grinned mischievously as she held Val. "Little one, I'll teach you all the best mischief so you can share it with your mommy, it'll be so much fun." The assurance only made Filia's stress increase. They had to get this battle done and over with fast, before Zelas turned her grandchild into a criminal.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 116: Undead! Prisoner of Pain

At Wolf Pack Island, quiet and stressed, Celo entered Beast Master's throne room. "I have brought a report from our latest investigations concerning the Sea of Chaos."

"Very well, I'll listen to it now, as for you," she looked at the small ancient dragon who sat on her lap. "Go put into practice what I've taught you." After a moment of consideration, Val seemed to decide that if granny Zelas said this was okay, then it had to be okay and thus went off to do as she said. Besides, it sounded like something his father would approve of too, though perhaps not so much his mother and uncles. "Fang!" Zelas called out, not merely with her voice, but also through astral space.

"Yes, master?" Fang appeared in his almost human form with the fox ears and tail in an otherwise human looking body.

"Go make sure the wolves don't eat Val while he's picking on them," Zelas commanded with an amused grin. The wolves needed to build character anyway and Val needed to practice mischief, so it was a win-win situation from Zelas' perspective.

"Right away!" Fang went off to take care of his assigned task.

"Proceed with the report," Zelas prompted.

"Yes..." Celo began. "These lives which we live, in theory, we have lived them many times, subconsciously changing every time we live again. This theory fits with the information learned during the Darkstar incident. As long as there exists life, that is sentient beings, a new timeline will arise from the Sea of Chaos if the world is ever destroyed, thus making it impossible to end this cycle unless everything is reduced to nothing. In which case, there would also be no chaos. The Sea of Chaos is a more intense chaos than even ours, it holds everything, it is the resting place where all goes until it once again becomes part of a new world. All timelines, including that which we are living now, will eventually become part of the Sea of Chaos, and from there the next timeline will be created. Thus in the end, I believe there is no need to rush. Let this timeline last eternally in chaos or at least for a long time."

"This is all good to know. However, have you been able to find any information concerning those timelines and the Stillness?" Zelas inquired.

"As far as we know, the Stillness is awakening for the first time now. Those timelines and this one, all the timelines are part of the world," Celo elaborated. "Time does not need to make complete sense as many believe, because beings of chaos such as the living creatures of this world, monsters, dragons and even humans, can exist outside of it without realizing it. Those timelines, if I was to try to explain it, are our past or possible future, possibilities such as the many that exist. It is said that Ragradia had the power to look into those possibilities and use that knowledge to influence which path of possibility was to be taken. However, knowing does not mean controlling and sometimes even the best choice is not enough for victory, as confirmed with the Aqualord's fate. As for the machine I was working on, it is progressing as planned and the studies so far support the initial theory."

Celo fell silent after the explanation, but he still looked like he had something to say, thus Zelas impatiently inquired. "Is this your full report?"

"Yes, Lord Beast Master," after another tense and unsure pause, Celo added, "may I inquire about Tiffany?" Zelas had gone to see her before she went off to pick up Val and after a private conversation between the monster lord and the golden dragon, Tiffany left with Zelas and did not return. The part that worried Celo the most was his wife's parting towards him, it made it sound as if she was never coming back.

"Investigations found out something interesting about the Stillness, especially about the End." Zelas began with a seemingly unrelated revelation that was actually closely related to Tiffany's whereabouts. "The Stillness is nothing and it is its contamination with chaos that allows it to exist. The End is locked away in a being of chaos, thus even if the other two pieces, Lamentation and the Void are defeated, the End will bring them back. All three fragments must be destroyed to defeat the Stillness. The golden dragons have been researching as well and I've had spies keeping an eye on that. Milgazia found something interesting recently in an old legend that was all but completely lost. Everything fits together like pieces of a puzzle."

Zelas continued, "apparently, the End will not awaken until the whole world is dead. It is the final step, the removal of proof. Lamentation kills the body, the Void kills the mind and the End makes the corpses disappear. In other words, the End will not awaken until the battle is lost. That is why we need to awaken the End, so that it may be fused with the other fragments of the Stillness and make it possible for the Stillness to be defeated. Even if this timeline will eventually inevitably fall into the Sea of Chaos where all things come from and all things go, it will not fall in defeat. This is not about saving the world; this is about a creature that dared to pick a fight with me and must be punished for its insolence."

"Ah, yes, I had been informed of this," Celo acknowledged. Was Zelas telling him to focus on what he needed to do instead of wondering about Tiffany, or was she saying something else? A worrisome thought occurred to him. "The living being in which the End is sealed is..."

"Tiffany," Zelas confirmed. Celo remained frozen, unable to say anything more. "If you must know, she is cooperating of her own free will; she wishes to contribute to my victory."

"There really is no choice..." Celo realized. "I... I understand," he really did, but that didn't make it any easier to accept. Nonetheless, he knew he had to accept it and he knew that this really was Tiffany's wish. This was that secret burden she carried which made her try to take her own life when they first met, the burden that she refused to reveal. She must have known she held the End all along, even if she didn't fully understand what it was.

xoxox xox xoxox

Just outside of the town where the Maces and Vases shop was, Filia, Xellos, Elena, Palou and Kally were waiting for their message to be answered. Galathia faded into existence from the astral side. "I know you sent Jarde to call for Fang, but he's busy at Wolf Pack Island playing babysitter for that little ancient dragon, so I'm here instead. Honestly, why does Beast Master humor you so much, dragon girl? If you want fast transportation, go make a pact with a monster and become a monster yourself so you can tread through the astral side like we can."

"I take it you haven't seen any fan service lately, aside from myself now, that is," Xellos asked with a sarcastic mocking grin.

"You're cute, I'll give you that, but I prefer something different than a monster or a human... Dragon fan service, fan service like Phythan's with nothing to obstruct the view, now that's real fan service!" Galathia nearly squealed like a fan girl. "Anyway, let's get this over with, where do you want me to teleport you?"

"The kingdom of Seyruun. Do you think you can make it?" Filia inquired.

"Of course, here we go," Galathia teleported the four passengers.

When they faded out of the astral side, Filia was feeling sick to her stomach because of the long distance of the teleportation, with a peculiar shade of green adorning her face. "Ow... this isn't Seyruun..." It was more like an open dried up field with nothing in it.

"Close enough, it's over there," Galathia pointed to the city some distance away. "You can walk the rest of the way, I'll be going now."

"Wait a minute," Xellos interrupted. "Filia, Kally and I are actually going to Prisoner Island."

"Ow..." Filia continued to sway from side to side, dizzy and sickly, the green color still visible on her face.

"Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga's signature loud and obnoxious laughter echoed with her approach. She made her way to the group on a white horse and she was actually wearing a coat now. Gravos followed her on a black steed. "Welcome back to Seyruun, everyone! The horses were looking a bit depressed so Gravy and I decided to take them out for a race!" It was a race in which Naga had the unfair advantage, due to being noticeably lighter than Gravos. "How are things going with your mission?"

"Grand," Xellos chirped cheerfully.

"Not so grand," Filia corrected.

"What has happened?" Gravos inquired with concern.

"Jillas was taken prisoner, but at least Val is safe," or so Filia hoped. "We're on our way to rescue Jillas now."

"Seyruun has been under attack by zombies and ghosts recently, at least the city is strong against them, but there are so many," Gravos revealed. "Now Jillas was taken too, this enemy must be stopped!"

"The zombies and ghosts must be the people who passed away because of all that has happened," Elena realized. "The enemy is probably controlling them."

"Stay here and protect Seyruun. Leave Jillas to us, we'll bring him back safely without fail!" The sheer power of her determination was making Filia's astral space travel induced nausea go away.

"Palou, please stay here in Seyruun too," Elena hugged her son. "We'll be back soon."

"I want to go too, I want to help!" Palou protested.

"If too many people go, sneaking around will be more difficult," Elena explained. "You can help people keep their hopes up here in Seyruun. Help them stay focused and remind them that they can't give up, help protect our new home," the kind fox lady encouraged.

"Alright, mama, I'll protect our home," Palou finally agreed.

"Elena?" Filia questioned unsure. "There's a possibility that we'll have to fight," she warned.

"I know and I'm prepared for that." Elena retrieved a pair of guns from under her dress, which were on garter belt holsters similar to Filia's. "I brought Jillas' flame gun and bullet gun. These are his most powerful portable size weapons."

xoxox xox xoxox

At Prisoner Island it was a dark night as the ferry made its way to the remote little island. The island was surrounded by tall walls with sharp wires around them. The ferry anchored in a tiny port, the only one on the island. The guards that rode the ferry found it strange that no one came to greet them. Things had been hectic for a while, as the prisoners were at an uproar due to the lack of food rations, but they had no choice but to settle down when their energy supplies were consumed from malnutrition. Many had died and the jail had an even creepier atmosphere to it.

The leader of the guards on the ferry stepped further into the docks, towards the little cabin next to the gates, which remained closed. "Hey Piquel!" No one replied from the gatekeeper's cabin. "You in there Piquel?" The gate's suddenly began to move open with the screeching of old rusty gears spinning against each other. The officer standing outside in front of the gates jumped back. "You could at least answer me!" He stepped through the gate and towards the small door to the gatekeeper's cabin where he found out just why officer Piquel wouldn't reply. He was laying dead on the floor and looked as if something had eaten his brain. "What the?! Guys, over here! Someone killed Piquel!"

"Ooh... hoo.... ooh..." As the other officers in the ferry arrived, they caught sight of an army of zombies marching towards them. They tried to retreat towards the ferry, but smoke filled the area out of nowhere and clouded their senses. The officers and the prisoners fell unconscious one by one, left exposed for the zombies to feast on them.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Ow... where am I?" Jillas woke up to sharp pain all over his body. He was in a building with gray walls in a large chamber from where many different floors with cells lining the walls could be seen. The cries of the undead were all around as the zombies watched him hungrily.

The last thing Jillas remembered was being trapped in a ferry, chained and unable to escape while smoke filled the surrounding area tainted with the agonized yet ferocious howling and weeping of the undead. He had seen many zombies marching out of the prison gates from the ferry's window just before the smoke clouded his vision and his senses faded away. Yet he was somehow still alive. Additional chains entrapped him, wrapped all over his body instead of just the handcuffs and the ball and chain on his legs, which were also still there.

"So you're finally awake," a human man addressed him. There were also other humans in his company, all of them dressed as ninja. One of the ninja was unmasked and Jillas recognized him as Kalio, whom he had spoken with at Filia's wedding. There was something very wrong with him. Kalio had a lost look in his eyes, as if he wasn't really conscious of the world around him. "I am Ryoushi, the leader of the Dragon Slayers and loyal servant of the Green Alchemist, who is truly the great Gaia. You, dirty beastman, will be the bait that brings the golden dragon and the beast's powerless general here. Then it will be the beast's choice, will she choose to keep the ancient dragon or her general alive?"

"You... you know necromancy and you're after Val!" Jillas correctly concluded. The beast he spoke of must then be Zelas. Did that mean that Val was left with Zelas for protection? "You want to use me to capture the boss and use her to capture Xellos so you can exchange him with Val?"

"Necromancy is one of the many things the great Gaia has taught us. Val, if that is what that ancient dragon hatchling is called, then yes, that is my plan," Ryoushi mocked. "I'm surprised an inferior being such as yourself could figure out that much. "The ancient dragon may be the last of its kind, but it is still too young to fight, it cannot represent the beast in battle. That is what her general is for, so it may be in her best interest to recover him. It might give her the illusion that she can actually put up a fight. But it's all useless; the great Gaia will exterminate all the beasts and monsters! Then the world will be cleaned and reborn for humans only!"

"That's a lie!" Jillas protested as he uselessly struggled against his chains. "The world is dying, don't you see it? You've been tricked!"

"Silence, you filthy animal!" Ryoushi kicked Jillas hard, sending a jolt of fresh pain through his body. "Ignorant fool, you will fall to the mighty Gaia!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Just outside of Prisoner Island... "Ah!" Filia transformed in mid air, becoming a dragon, capable of carrying Xellos, Elena and Kally, while Galathia levitated next to them. "Why did you teleport us in mid air without warning and why must you cross the astral side in such an unstable way, I'm really going to be sick now!" The once golden scales on Filia's face were somehow turning a nauseous green color.

"I was going to land on the island," Galathia defended. "But there's some sort of shield around it that cuts off access from the astral side. It looks like you'll have to sneak in by yourselves. Okay, this should be all, right? I'm leaving now."

"Yes, yes, go away, you're certainly nothing to look at," Xellos dismissed her.

"Ingrate," Galathia grumbled as she faded away.

"Flying in isn't exactly the sneakiest way to do things, but if there's a shield around the astral space then that means that they're expecting us, and probably already noticed we're coming," Filia concluded. She was trying to set aside her sickness to focus on the vital mission. "We might as well charge in!"

"Rash and aggressive, as expected from a stupid dragon!" Xellos teased.

"Shut up and hold on, raw garbage!" Filia sped up her flying and dove towards Prisoner Island, landing in the front entrance of the jail where everyone jumped off her back. She changed back into her elf form and the rescue team charged in.

The wails of the undead filled the air as the darkness of the prison was pierced by Kally's light spell. The place was crawling with zombies. "Quickly, attack with white and holy magic!" Filia attempted to do so but the effect drained a lot more energy than it should. "It looks like all magic is being diminished by the Stillness, but we can still do this!"

"Right... I must, see my brother one last time, I must free him!" Kally joined the front lines trying to exorcise the many zombies.

"Maybe some fire will slow them down too," Xellos theorized, "fireball!" The zombies certainly didn't like being burned, their already partially rotted corpses losing even more mobility.

"Here's some more fire!" Elena shot the flame gun, finishing creating a wall of fire between the group and the undead beings that kept stubbornly trying to get through and attack them.

They kept the fire going until the wails of the dead were almost completely gone and gradually, there was a deadly still silence. "It looks like we got them." Filia was too horrified to remember how sick she felt, which was made worse by the sight and smell of the zombies. "Let's put the fire out and advance!"

Filia, Xellos and Kally shot a series of freeze arrows at the flames until they were overpowered and extinguished. Burnt bones and ashes were all over the gray stone floors of the prison. Then suddenly with a burst of bright light, the ghosts of the dead rose from the zombies that had only been burned and not exorcised. "Burning them wasn't enough, but with their corpses gone, they'll be more exposed to being exorcised, so we still made some progress," Kally observed.

"Let's put them to rest!" Filia and Kally teamed up with their magic to exorcise the remaining ghosts in a burst of light and power that left an empty feeling of misery in the air. "This is..." Filia and Kally were especially feeling the effects of the battle, due to the extra effort it took to cast magic lately. "This is all wrong, it's all terrible..."

"Jillas," Elena whispered in worry. "Please be okay, we're coming for you!" Elena, Filia, Xellos and Kally charged forward towards the next chamber of the prison.

The next room was large and tall, with several floors visible all around, surrounded in empty cells that once held the prisoners that became undead. On the opposite side of the chamber, there stood Ryoushi, Kalio and the Dragon Slayers, holding Jillas hostage in chains.

"Jillas!" Elena called out to him immediately.

"Elena! Boss! Everyone! You need to escape, you're in danger!" Jillas tried to warn them. "The Dragon Slayers are after Xellos, they want to-"

"Silence, you disgusting animal!" Ryoushi kicked Jillas again. "Dragon Slayers, attack!" The Dragon Slayers would kill the golden dragon with their own strength and if not, then Kalio the berserker would. Ryoushi would use the beastman hostage only as a last resort.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 117: Mercy! Choices and Consequences

Filia, Xellos, Elena and Kally had infiltrated Prisoner Island, where Jillas was being held hostage by the Dragon Slayers. They had swiftly defeated the zombies that were the first line of defense for the enemy and now faced off against the Dragon Slayers. "Freeze Arrow!" The group of ninja simultaneously shot out arrows of ice, which were countered by fire, leaving the room immersed in steam.

"Kalio, go!" Ryoushi decided to send Kalio into battle earlier than planned after witnessing how easily the Dragon Slayer's initial attack was countered. The troops were not exactly well fed and rested, plus their energy had also begun to be drained away. "Dragon Slayers, fight harder! Do you not wish to honor the great Gaia?"

"What's the point?" One of the people in ninja gear spoke up. "It doesn't look like we'll last long enough to see the new world after all."

"Is that so?" Ryoushi growled in disappointment. "Well then, step aside and observe, you shall serve a different purpose soon enough."

Kalio's sword collided with Filia's mace. "He's stronger than a human should be!"

"He's not holding back, he's fighting so hard he'll tear himself apart," Kally cried out in desperation. "Kalio, please wake up, come back to your senses. You have to stop this, don't let Ryoushi use you!"

All words were lost on Kalio, as he could not take hold of reality any more. With a swift and sudden motion, he broke his sword free of its position against Filia's mace and took a swing at her head. The attack was stopped by Xellos' Freeze Arrow. It took a lot of effort, but as long as the spell wasn't too big, like the Dragon Slave, it could still be casted. Kalio stepped back with his arms frozen holding his sword. He forced the ice to break and went on the attack, this time against Xellos. Elena shot a fireball at him from Jillas' flame gun, which made him change course and run toward her. Filia, who had begun to pursue Kalio when he started towards Xellos, took the opportunity to attack with her mace and knocked him several feet away. Kalio forced himself to his feet despite his injury and went on the attack again.

Ryoushi watched the battle displeased. The Dragon Slayers had lost the will to fight and the berserker had lost the will to live. Kalio wasn't fighting as well as he had in the past, perhaps breaking him like that took away his power. He was no longer desperately trying to defend someone important to him, he was just fighting. 'At this rate I'll have to resort to using the hostage...' Ryoushi thought in disappointment, then he felt something inside him awaken. 'The blessing of Gaia, it's finally ready!' His joy was short lived, as he was soon overcome by pain. The Dragon Slayers that stood around him backed away when they saw Ryoushi surrounded by an odd green glow. Numerous thorn covered vines tore through Ryoushi's skin, ripping his body apart and quickly surrounding the gray stone structure of the prison. The vines originated from a seed that had been hiding in Ryoushi, feeding off the energy around him, waiting to awaken. The vines entrapped the ninja, draining them of their life, attacking even Kalio and leaving him as a deformed dried up corpse.

"Jillas!" Elena tried to make her way closer to him, but the vines granted her no passage. She shot as many as she could with the flame gun until it ran out of power.

"I'll get him, Xellos, keep everyone safe," Filia charged forward, shooting laser breaths at all the vines that got in her way. Kally followed her with an inexplicable determination.

"Stupid dragon, playing the hero doesn't fit me," Xellos complained, but went on the attack anyway.

Filia had to slow her pace to clear the way, she was out of breath from all the lasers she shot and was fearing she wouldn't make it to Jillas on time. Kally ran past her jumping between several of the vines and reaching Jillas. She focused fire in her hands as if to cast a fireball spell, but didn't release it, instead using the heat to weaken the chains and cuffs that entrapped Jillas enough to break them. This was not without consequences, as Kally badly burned herself in the process, but she didn't seem to care.

"Jillas, Kally!" Filia managed to get to them, urging them to follow her to regroup. "We'd best stay together, let's go!"

"Retreat as far as you can," Kally's voice was distant and empty, tears streaming down her face, apparently without her notice.

"What do you plan to do?" Filia questioned in worry.

"I'm going to end this, give me some space," Kally urgently insisted.

"Filia, stop being stubborn and get over here, stupid dragon!" The flame gun had run out of power and the vines moved so quickly that it was nearly impossible to hit them with bullets. That left Xellos to shoot the more wide range Flame Arrows at all the offending vines and the task kept him pretty busy.

"Alright!" Filia snapped as she opened a path to return to where Xellos and Elena were in the center of the room, with Jillas following her. As soon as they had regrouped, she looked back at Kally expectantly, wondering what she had in mind.

Kally retrieved a small bottle from her pocket and drank the liquid, which caused her to begin to glow red. "Whatever you do, don't touch the vines now!" She threw herself into the wall which was covered in the living thorny vines.

"Kally!" Filia screamed in agony as she helplessly watched the scene unfold. Kally's body was surrounded in flames that consumed the vines around her, spreading to the source seed and from there to the rest of the vines. It was a powerful suicidal attack that the Dragon Slayers developed, which turned the one who drank the potion into a living flame. A single sacrifice would not be enough to kill an adult dragon, but it would certainly serve to weaken the target.

The vines were soon reduced to ashes and the flames died down on their own, not even leaving a speck of dust behind as proof of Kally's existence. The seed that had been growing in Ryoushi, which was the source of the thorny vines, fell on the floor. It had been initially green, but now it was brown and its outer shell was cracked as if it was about to fall apart. "She's... gone..." Jillas gasped in disbelief.

"It's not fair, she didn't have to sacrifice herself! We could have beaten those things together!" Filia cried out in sadness.

The brown outer shell of the seed crumbled and revealed a bright light from within it. The light took everyone by surprised, shielding the area with astral energy to prevent their escape. The core of the seed had the appearance of a golden marble, surrounded by a green energy shield. It floated above them, in the middle of the chamber, powering the astral shield. The astral energy dome became smaller around the group in semi-transparent swirling colors. Xellos hesitantly reached out to touch the astral energy dome and quickly withdrew his hand. "This thing is going to drain us of our very life if we touch it! That seed needs to be destroyed!" He attempted to take care of the task himself with a Flame Arrow, but the energy shield around the seed only absorbed the magic and the astral dome glowed in response.

"If magic won't work, maybe this will!" Filia levitated towards the seed and tried to hit it with her mace. As the weapon collided with the seed, a massive wave of electricity shocked her painfully and knocked her down from the air.

Xellos caught Filia, it looked like she had been shocked pretty badly, as she was still twitching from it. "You're so clumsy, stupid dragon!"

The astral energy dome continued becoming smaller; significantly reducing the room they had to move around. "There has to be a way to beat that thing!" Elena tried shooting at it, but the bullet collided against the shield in a burst of electricity and fell to the floor without any effect.

"We can't give up!" Filia shot a stream of laser breaths into the seed, but the energy shield around it absorbed them all, with the dome becoming further empowered.

"I'm so sorry, everyone," Jillas spoke in sadness, guilt and regret. "All of this happened because you came to rescue me. It's all my fault!"

"That's not true," Filia argued, "this all happened because of me. I can't allow another life to be lost!" She shot another series of lasers, but the lack of effect was the same as before.

Xellos remembered their past encounter with Ryoushi. He wanted to get rid of the Dragon Slayers permanently, but Filia insisted on proving that dragons were not evil by letting them go. Xellos tried to warn her that it was a bad idea, but she refused to listen and held on to her choice. Thus the Dragon Slayers were allowed to live thanks to Filia's mercy and ended up causing trouble again. "You're right, it is your fault, stupid dragon, but we can talk about that later. I noticed something when you shot the lasers at the seed. It looked like the energy shield around it got a little thinner. With enough magic power, an attack should go through before it is completely absorbed."

Filia certainly wasn't expecting Xellos to console her. She knew that kind words were not really his forte and his remarks were exactly what she expected them to be. That didn't matter at the moment though, there would be time to regret the past later, now was the time to focus on the present. "I'll do it." Determined, Filia took in a deep breath and shot a beam of laser at the seed, managing to keep it constant for a while. After some time, she stopped, breathless and looked at the seed, which was undamaged.

The astral energy dome kept getting smaller, as if this whole scenario had been purposely arranged to make them suffer. "Give up..." A voice echoed from the seed, though it was not Ryoushi's voice, it was an ambiguous ominous echo.

"The Stillness!" Filia gasped.

"Give up, it's useless to struggle. This seed cannot be destroyed. Every attempt will end in bitter disappointment. Suffer as you witness the approach of your inevitable doom!" The foreboding voice of the Stillness echoed.

"We can't give up... we just can't..." Elena voiced, though she had no idea what else they could do.

"That's right, the boss has gotten out of tight spots before, we can still make it!" Jillas agreed.

"Let's try fire," Xellos suggested. He and Filia unleashed a series of Fireball attacks, but it looked like they would drain all their energy before they accomplished anything. "This isn't working."

"Don't stop! We can't stop, not now!" Filia tried again, shooting many Flame Arrows one after another, at the same time that she used her laser breath. Xellos joined her, adding more fire, but it still wasn't enough.

"There is one more spell we can try..." Xellos wasn't sure if this would work, but he might as well attempt it. Zelas Brid was a spell that a human would normally be unable to cast without a bucket capacity amplification device. As much as Xellos didn't want to admit it, despite all his power as a monster, while he was in human form, Lina probably had a larger pool capacity than him. That explained why his hair turned white more easily when he drained his magical energy reserves. However, he was pretty sure a human wasn't supposed to so easily force the last drops of magic out to that point, unless said human had an unusually large bucket capacity. Xellos was pretty sure that was the case with him because of his particular circumstances. Besides, some said that one's bucket capacity didn't often vary through life, perhaps his never really changed, even when his pool capacity was noticeably reduced. Nonetheless, he wouldn't be able to keep this up on his own for too long. "Filia, cast Recovery on me."

"What are you going to do?" Filia prepared to do her part, hoping that this would be a successful plan.

"I may not be able to call upon Lord Ruby Eyes' power, but I can still call Lord Beast Master's power." Xellos began to cast the spell, focusing on calling Zelas' energy to him. Her power responded swiftly, surrounding him in familiar energy. "Zelas Brid!" The beam of light collided with the seed and Xellos maintained it constant and steady. Filia continuously healed him to make sure he could keep the spell going.

Finally, it looked like the shield around the seed was being overwhelmed, until the beam of light passed through and reached the golden marble in the center, but didn't destroy it, instead empowering it. The golden marble glowed brighter and the dome of energy around them continued becoming dangerously small. There was not a lot of time left to escape. "Why won't it work?" Filia exclaimed in stressed out frustration.

"How should I know? Stupid dragon!" Xellos snapped back. He really thought this would be enough.

"Make it work, raw garbage!" Filia desperately argued.

"Don't stop yet!" Elena suddenly spoke up, "Jillas, your gun!"

"What can I do with this, if not even the magic of the boss' husband will work?" Jillas took the weapon and looked at the golden marble that resisted the constant magical assault.

"If magic doesn't work, maybe a bullet will. It's worth trying; we have to do everything we can!" Elena insisted.

"Alright, here goes..." Jillas stood next to Xellos and took aim. Of course, if he shot the golden marble at the same time as the Zelas Brid was being casted, the light would disintegrate the bullet before it hit. "Ready!" Xellos released the spell and the light ceased. Before the shield could mend completely, Jillas shot a bullet that flew in through the opening in the glowing green shield and hit the golden marble, causing it to shatter instantly.

The dome of astral energy that surrounded them disappeared, finally setting them free of the impending deadly danger. "It worked!" Elena cheered.

"It looks like the core of the seed was immune to all magic after all, but not to physical attacks..." Xellos reasoned.

Jillas let out a breath of relief. "I knew I only had one chance and I was so worried about missing!"

"It's okay; we're safe now, aren't we?" Elena finally breathed easy. This was a lot more action than she was used to.

"Everyone came here for me," Jillas cried tears of joy, "I'm so happy to have such wonderful people who I can count on."

Xellos was about to sarcastically point out that he should not be included in that statement, but Filia spoke first, continuing her earlier self guilt trip. "This was my fault; it was a consequence of my choice. Because of my decision, Kally, Kalio and Medusa are dead. All so that I could try to uselessly make peace with a group of villains that were a lost cause."

"What are you talking about, boss?" Jillas inquired in confusion.

"Ryoushi and the Dragon Slayers," Filia cried, "I was the one who made Xellos let them go when they attacked us earlier. I was hoping that they could learn that dragons aren't evil, but letting them go only caused a lot of trouble. Because of my poor judgment, they were free to attack Kalio, to torture him with the pain of Medusa's death and make him lose himself. They were free to take you prisoner and all of that led to the death of Kally and Kalio. It led to all your lives being in danger. I'm so sorry!"

"I agree," Xellos gave Filia an amused grin. "You really are a stupid overly forgiving dragon."

"I won't deny it, I am a stupid dragon!" Filia cried loudly, letting the tears run freely down her face.

"Xellos! You're the boss' husband, you're supposed to be cheering her up, not making her cry more!" Jillas scolded, not that Xellos was actually listening to him.

"Please don't blame yourself," Elena tried to console Filia. "You showed mercy because you have a kind heart and many good things have come as a result of your kindness. Jillas told me that you saved his life even if he was supposed to be your enemy back then. If you didn't show such mercy, he wouldn't be here right now. You should never regret good intentions, what happened wasn't your fault!"

Filia sniffled and tried to look at the situation from Elena's perspective. She was certainly glad she helped Jillas back then, but this was different. "Xellos tried to warn me that time when I let the Dragon Slayers go. I didn't listen..."

"Oh yes, the world would be a much better place if everyone would do everything I say." Xellos sarcastically remarked, but by this point no one seemed to be listening to him anymore.

"Boss, I'm eternally grateful to you and I know your kindness has helped many," Jillas encouraged. "What happened here was in no way your fault and I know that Kally and Kalio would agree. I'm certain no one would blame you."

"Hey, stupid dragon," Xellos interrupted. "Are you going to keep crying like a pathetic idiot or are you going to transform and fly us out of here?" Xellos asked dismissively. "Unless you want me to call Galathia for transportation, but I rather not listen to her lack of fan service whining again. I know you're terribly irresponsible, so you couldn't care less, but I have a mission and I intend to accomplish it as soon as possible. I really don't think my copy is going to come looking for me here in the middle of nowhere and we need to interrogate him for a way to get close enough to the Stillness to actually fight it... preferably before it kills the planet."

"That's right..." Filia dried her tears. "The world is still in danger and there are still many people that can be saved. We need to build a peaceful world for Val to live in and I won't help accomplish that by pitying myself."

Jillas and Elena watched the scene with puzzlement. Xellos sounded like he was criticizing Filia, but he somehow cheered her up. "Sometimes it feels like those two speak a whole different language from us," Jillas whispered. He had seen some of their interactions before, when Xellos stayed over at the Maces and Vases shop for a while, soon after Val hatched, but he was still just as perplexed as ever by their strange behavior towards each other. Jillas understood that 'stupid dragon' and 'raw garbage' were their peculiar loving nicknames for each other, but how insults and sarcasm could be interpreted as compliments and encouragement, that he was far from figuring out.

"Alright, let's get off this island!" Filia ran towards the exit of the jail building and a golden light flashed as soon as she was outside. She called, now in her much larger dragon form. "C'mon everyone, we have a world to save!" Without wasting another second, Xellos, Jillas and Elena climbed aboard Filia, who took off into the dark night skies, heading in the direction of Seyruun.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 118: Unbreakable! Ties To The Past

The group had come together in the kingdom of Seyruun, the final stop of their respective traveling routes. Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis, had joined those who were already at the kingdom, Philionel, Naga, Gravos, Fili and Palou. Xellos, Filia, Elena and Jillas also arrived at the city.

In the mean time, Beast Master was at Wolf Pack Island, going over all the information her spies and researchers had gathered. The information had slowly changed and evolved with every new discovery. Theories were formed, discarded and replaced and the truth had finally come to light. The enemy was stronger than they thought. Zelas was also rather busy overseeing a series of experiments to make sure it would be possible to fuse the End with the rest of the fragments of the Stillness. Another different experiment involved borrowing power from the Sea of Chaos, a project that Celo was working on.

As for the matter of the fragments, they would surely only get one chance for the combination to be carried out and they couldn't risk the Stillness resisting the fusion. Thus they attempted to make Tiffany into a chimera that was a little more similar to the components of the Green Alchemist in hopes of raising the possible success rate of the fusion. As a result of that, Zelas was as of yet to visit Seyruun with any further plans or instructions to try to draw out the Nameless Beast, not that the group was waiting for her to appear anyway.

A very changed Tiffany was trying to practice her instant fusion techniques. Making a chimera that was part monster and part something else was relatively simple because of the way monsters were, but that might not be so beneficial in this case, because the End within Tiffany might end up consuming the monster part somehow. Making chimeras that were not in part monster was something that Zelas had no real reason to often do. Though she did add any beast-like chimera she found to her collection and usually ended up with a few little mutant pets if it bred with her wolves, that was something that mostly just happened, not something that needed to be carefully planned and calculated.

The chamber was a raw cave-like basement with glowing symbols carved on the ground, surrounding the area where Tiffany participated in the experiment. She moved forward within the designated space. Her skin was oddly pale, her hair discolored to white. She had some wolf-like qualities to her, most clearly noticeable in her ears and facial features. She reached for the small tree sapling and attempted to fuse with it, but could not do so instantly, instead taking some time to painfully absorb it, despite being aided by the spells that filled the marked area. Her right hand became like a wooden claw, though she could still move it with the agility of a wolf. A few leaves sprouted from her hair and she gained a slightly green tint on her otherwise pale skin.

If she was enough of a mix, if she was sufficiently chaotic, that could weaken the Stillness after she was absorbed. The plant components should make the merge easier by making her similar to the materials that came from the remains of the Green Alchemist. As for the fusion, it needed to be fast, more than fast, it had to be instant, and most of all it had to be absolute. This was not exactly absolute, as one could still distinguish the pieces of one creature from another in different areas. The dormant End within Tiffany made the chimera blending process more difficult than expected.

Tiffany fell to her knees breathing heavily. She had been participating in such experiments for a long time without rest. At least this time she was actually absorbing something, unlike with the unsuccessful first few attempts where her body refused to become a chimera. This was still not enough though, not nearly enough. When she faced the Stillness, she would have to force herself to unite with it before it had the chance to stop her. "We're going to need a more powerful chimera spell," Zelas concluded. "I have an idea about where to get it."

xoxox xox xoxox

At Seyruun, everyone was busy fighting the frequent undead invasions upon the city. A group of survivors from Taforashia had arrived seeking shelter in the renowned holy city after their own kingdom fell to the undead attacks. Dragon's Peak at the Kataart Mountains was another constant target. It seemed that the Stillness saw Seyruun and Dragon's Peak as the two main bases of the enemy.

"Pokota," Amelia hurried to receive the prince and the people accompanying him to Seyruun castle. Pokota looked like he had been in quite a battle and some mending work would be in order to repair his peculiar body. "I'm so sorry that the support troops and supplies we sent weren't enough. After what happened all that time ago, I promised never to allow the same thing to be repeated. I promised that when another land needed help I would make sure Seyruun did all that was needed. Daddy made that vow as well, I'm so sorry."

"Don't be so hard on yourself, Amelia," Pokota tried to make her see that he wasn't upset at her or Seyruun. "I know that you and your family did everything you could. Your forces are already stretched thin trying to defend Seyruun. All we can do now is stand together. Seyruun is all our fortress now, we'll defend it. Then after all this is over, we can always rebuild Taforashia again... and the rest of the world." It was easier said than done, but it was the only option left.

xoxox xox xoxox

In a different area of Seyruun castle, Lina stood on a high tower looking over the city. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga soon joined her uninvited, her loud obnoxious laughter making the petite redhead cringe in discomfort. "Do you like to climb up to the tallest tower and laugh too? It's quite a stress reliever! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

"I was here to have a better look at the city," Lina explained. She had seen it when she arrived of course, but seeing a wider range from a high place would give her a more accurate picture than walking down the street and seeing only that portion of the city. The once majestic city was pretty beat up. The buildings showed the damage they had suffered due to the earthquakes and the zombie attacks. Even the castle was full of hasty patchwork all over it in an attempt to keep it together. "It looks pretty run down..." Lina had to admit.

"Yeah... but we'll fix it! When this is over I mean. If we put too much effort into fixing it now, it'll just get trashed again." Not that anyone had the energy to care about the aesthetic aspect of architecture when the world was on the verge of ending. "A bunch of zombies attacked right after Epona, I mean Filia, Xellos and Elena came by to leave that adorable little fox boy, Palou, in the safety of my care. Gravy and I protected people and sent the undead away, along with some help from the portion of the Seyruun magical army that was still able to fight. I bet it'll be a while before they send more. We exorcised those zombies pretty good! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

Lina had to take a moment to question if it was really all that wise to leave a child in Naga's care, but she had already heard the full story from Filia and knew they had a reason to be in a hurry, thus they couldn't get too picky with the babysitters. Besides, at least Naga had a fair amount of magic power to her name. Plus that laugh of hers was probably enough to repel the undead. "What I really wish is that we find a way to face the Stillness soon. The enemy is causing damage constantly, but at the same time it stays hidden, it's pretty infuriating. Especially since, even after we beat that thing," assuming they could accomplish the task, "it'll still take a long time for the world to recover, especially the food supplies." Lina shouted at the top of her lungs to the distance over Seyruun. "Will my triple banquet ever come?"

"That's it Lina, express your feelings with your voice," Naga encouraged. "Do it louder and with a laugh, like this," she proceeded to demonstrate, even if it was certainly not necessary, nor was it in the least bit wanted, "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

Cringing at the sound, Lina let out an exasperated breath. The supplies Seyruun had purchased from Beast Master were almost completely gone and the last portion had to be rationed. Zelas had closed shop for the time being, as what little else she had in store would go to feed her wolves. As a result, Lina could not eat to her heart's content, thus she was rather irritable. "Aw, who cares? I'll do it!" Taking in a deep breath, Lina let out a loud, rather high pitched laugh, "Ha! He he ha he he!"

Naga shook her head critically, "that was weak, but I'll give you points for trying." She patted Lina on the head in encouragement, "keep practicing."

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, at the Seyruun castle strategy room, Zelgadis finished his tactical explanation, pointing out areas on the city map that lay spread across the table. On the other side of it, prince Philionel stroke his chin in thought and nodded in agreement. "Yes, yes, I believe that would be the best course of action in case of a future undead invasion." Or more like when the next undead invasion came. "I'll leave the presentation to you during our next meeting with the troops," or what was left of them, "in a few hours." Pausing to try to recollect the passing of time, Philionel wondered if the guests they were expecting were already there. "Do you think our friends from Taforashia have arrived?"

"It's very likely," Zelgadis replied. "When they sent that last message they said they were pretty close by on their way. If they're not already here, then they should be arriving any minute."

"Then we must go and receive them. We must let them know that Seyruun will welcome them and protect them as our own!" Philionel righteously declared.

"Such a noble sentiment... how disgusting." An elegant voice with a rather annoying mocking tone was heard all of a sudden, as none other than Beast Master Zelas Metallium appeared before them, fading from the astral side as if she owned the castle. Then again, in a sense she kind of did.

"Ah, Zelas," Philionel happily greeted her. Even if she was a monster lord, a very sarcastic and mocking monster lord, she certainly knew how to throw a party, as it was proven during her son's wedding, she was an amazing cook and she made a deal with Seyruun to sell them food in their time of need. Even if the fine print was not so beneficial in that deal and even if everything she did had an ulterior motive that would no doubt benefit her sooner or later, as the actions of a true monster would be expected to be, Phil didn't really look that deeply into things. Thus in his generously kind opinion, Zelas wasn't all that bad. "What brings you to visit Seyruun?"

"I'm here to speak with Zelgadis," Zelas revealed, which took both Philionel and Zelgadis by surprise.

Zelgadis was not as trusting as Phil and he had been on high alert ever since he saw Zelas arrive. After hearing she was there to speak to him, his suspicions rose even more, though he didn't really know what he was suspicious about. The group was currently working with Zelas and from what they've heard from Filia, she had temporarily, taken Val under her custody. Hopefully she would return him to his parents when the danger had passed. Truce aside, Zelgadis was still puzzled by what Zelas could want to discuss with him specifically, but if they were all out to get rid of the Stillness, then he might as well go along with it. "What did you want to talk about?"

"I want you to be my negotiator," Zelas ambiguously stated.

"A negotiator for what? Why me?" Zelgadis curiously questioned. He wasn't expecting this sort of request and knew there had to be plenty more to it than what it sounded.

"A diplomat!" Phil suddenly exclaimed in excitement. "Is it that you wish to establish diplomatic relations with Seyruun? A smart and perceptive young man such a Zelgadis would be the perfect mediator, I completely agree!"

"Keep your vote of confidence to yourself along with your ideals of peace, that's not what this is about." Zelas quickly shot down the idea. "According to Xellos' past reports and my own observations, you are a rather stubborn one. Then again, all of Lina's traveling companions seem to have their fair share of stubbornness, some even more than that. None the less, it seems you're my only choice for a negotiator in a situation where death threats mean nothing, for the other party that is."

"Did you just slip in a death threat in what you said?" Zelgadis boldly and possibly unwisely, asked.

"If it sounded as such it is a coincidence to be sure," Zelas laughed with disregard. "My death threats are far more open and direct. They go something along the lines of, if you don't follow my orders I'll rip you apart limb from limb and leave you for my wolves to devour. Of course I'm sure they wouldn't want to chew on someone like you. That aside, you really will die if this doesn't work out, as will the rest of the world."

"This is related to the Stillness I take it?" Zelgadis more so concluded than asked. "But you can't possibly be thinking about reasoning with that thing. Then what could you have in mind?"

Seeing as the strategic discussion was in session, Zelas took a seat at the table. Zelgadis and Philionel, who had previously stood up with the shock of her sudden arrival, sat down as well. "Let's review the vital points briefly, so as to not make this too long. The Stillness was initially broken into three pieces. One of those fragments, Lamentation, fused with the remains of the Green Alchemist. It is very likely, and thus let us assume it happened, that the second portion of the Stillness, the Void, has fused with Lamentation. The final piece, the End, remains separate. As long as one piece is not destroyed, the others will return. The End is well hidden and killing the host will only cause it to reappear in a new host. The most effective strategy to permanently defeating the Stillness without risking a repeat performance of this a few years, or perhaps months later, is to kill the three pieces as one. Only then will it be the true Stillness that is beaten."

The tension in the air increased as Phil put on his rare serious face and Zelgadis' mind raced. "This means you know who the host is."

"Naturally," Zelas confirmed. "Since I know you people have your annoying little morals and what not, let me put those inconveniences to rest by truthfully pointing out that the host is willing to help out with all the needed plans and procedures. You need not take my word for it and may speak to her directly if you wish. That aside, the point is that the dormant End needs to be fused with the rest of the Stillness right before the battle. The Stillness might see the disadvantages of this and resist, which is why we need a powerful combination spell that binds the three pieces as one. This is the same basic concept as the procedures of chimeras."

Zelgadis frowned at where the conversation was going. "Do you think I know the secret? Do you think I made myself this way on purpose?" He questioned, his tone of voice rising with emotion. Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, he concluded. "I have come to accept the way I am, but I did not wish for it."

"I'm aware of that," Zelas simply stated. "Though I have made chimeras before, I've had no reason to conduct extensive research on the subject, or to try to achieve instant combinations. On this occasion, however, it will be needed. There's no time left to figure it out, whenever a path opens towards the Stillness, it must be taken immediately. The best way to go about it is to borrow someone else's research, or better yet, get the information directly from the researcher."

A name came into Zelgadis' mind, the name of the man who had made him this way. A man he once admired deeply, then loathe deeply. A man who was consumed by grief and frustration... no, what truly consumed him was Shabranigdu. Zelgadis could almost see himself holding that jar, wanting to destroy it that time, and yet... "Rezo."

"Yes," Zelas confirmed. Phil opened his mouth as if to speak, then seemed to think better of it and closed it again.

"Rezo is dead, he's been dead for a long time now," Zelgadis stated dryly.

"That has not stopped him from coming back before, has it?" Zelas reminded.

Zelgadis felt his whole body tense up. "You've revived him?"

"Not exactly, but I did manage to call his spirit back to the world of the living," Zelas explained. "He refuses to share his knowledge though," she stated with annoyance. "Plus since he is a dead spirit with no physical body to torture and no life to threaten, there's really not much I can do in the way of convincing him to cooperate. Just keeping his spirit around when he wants to do nothing but rest in the Sea of Chaos is difficult enough as it is."

"The Sea of Chaos?" Phil couldn't help it but to voice.

"Yes, that is where spirits go before they are reborn apparently. In my quest for information about the Stillness I've learned quite a bit about the world. Anyway, that's not the point," Zelas continued, getting back into the main topic they were discussing. "The only thing that got Rezo's attention was when I mentioned you. I brought you into the conversation as a hostage, but rather than acknowledging my threat, the stubborn old fool said he wanted to see you, then he said that he shouldn't. Then it all turned into the ramblings of an indecisive spirit from that point on. It should be noted that the mere mention of your name rattled him. That is why I'm sure that you're the only one who can get that stubborn fool to cooperate."

Zelgadis sat in shock for several long minutes. He shook his head slightly, his eyes on the map on the table, he couldn't look at Zelas' demanding expression and very much less at Phil's supportive and understanding eyes. "I never thought I would have to speak to him again. I never thought I would be able to."

"The best part is that you don't have a choice!" Zelas chirped with the same mocking cheer that Xellos often displayed with equally inappropriate timing. "If we don't take this step to ensure victory, the world will be destroyed anyway and you'll die." It would all return to the Sea of Chaos... but that wasn't the true mission of the monsters. Keeping the chaos going in the world for as long as possible creating the conflict that fuel evolution; that was the true mission of the monsters. Somehow, Zelas knew now. It must have been corrupted over time, but that had to be it and it was so much fun. It wasn't time for the world to restart and would never be time for the chaos to be permanently halted if it was up to her.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 119: Forgive! Put Regret To Rest

Trying to get ready for the upcoming battle against the Stillness, Tiffany underwent many experiments that would prepare her to easily and quickly fuse the end within her with the rest of the Stillness, so that it could be fought and truly defeated as a whole. The experiments did not yield the expected result and time was running out for research, thus Rezo's spirit was summoned for information. However, he refused to cooperate, leaving Zelgadis as the only possible negotiator. That took Zelas to make a visit to Seyruun and order the chimera to speak with his ancestor. Needless to say, the task took Zelgadis completely by surprise.

"Is he still under Shabranigdu's influence somehow?" Zelgadis asked unsure, though he already suspected the answer.

Zelas confirmed his theory. "He is a spirit; he has no physical body and thus no eyes. Shabranigdu might have been so linked to his soul that he even remained when Rezo got a new body, but the situation was different then. This is a spirit called to this world from the great beyond, where the conditions and happenings of this world have no meaning. Rezo is only Rezo; Shabranigdu has no influence over his spirit as it is now. Are you quite done with your useless stalling now?"

Finally lifting his eyes from the map on the table, Zelgadis firmly replied, "yes." The answer was more meaningful than any of those present could guess. "However, I have one condition."

Zelas let out an impatient and exasperated breath, communicating with the expression that she wanted to get this over with and she always got what she wanted. "It's a lie what they say about survival being everything for a mortal if you can still manage to be picky."

"Amelia said she wanted to be there for me. She told me not to keep anything bottled up when we told each other all about our pasts. She asked me to promise her I would allow her to be there for me and I... I think I really do need her there," Zelgadis confessed.

"Such a strong bond," Philionel sighed filled with emotion. "My dear son, you keep proving time and again that you really are my little girl's destined love. Such deep trust!"

Zelas rolled her eyes mockingly with a slightly disgusted expression as if she had caught the scent of something foul. "Alright, alright, hold back on the cheese. You can bring your girlfriend along to stand beside you and hold your hand if that'll make it any better. Just make sure you don't fail to get the needed information out of him. I'll be waiting at the tallest tower; there should be some nice fresh air of depression blowing from there."

xoxox xox xoxox

Making an impatient monster lord wait for too long was definitely a bad idea and Zelgadis wasn't about to make that mistake. He found Amelia as soon as he could, following the directions of the various dwellers of Seyruun castle, asking if anyone had seen her. When he finally arrived in her presence, he found her at one of the many tea rooms of the castle, drinking a cup of rather clear looking tea with Pokota and his father. He stood at the door so silently, that he went unnoticed to the quiet conversation taking place in the room. This was his problem; Rezo was his relative, the burden of his past. He shouldn't be throwing this at Amelia no matter how much she insisted that she wanted to help and no matter how much Philionel seemed to encourage it.

Zelgadis shifted uncomfortably, still not perceived by the three people sitting around a small table in the victorian style decorated room. "Ah, there you are!" Philionel appeared at the doorway."

Zelgadis jumped aside in surprise, though to Amelia, Pokota and the Taforashian king, it looked like Philionel and Zelgadis had arrived at the exact same time. Only Phil seemed to be aware of Zelgadis' hesitation. After giving the guest a polite smile and nod that indicated he would be with them in a moment, he placed one of his massive hands on Zelgadis' shoulder, quietly encouraging him in a hushed whisper, so that only he would hear. "Amelia would always talk about how she wanted you to open up to her, I'm certain she's overjoyed that you have." With that said, Phil walked into the room and greeted the Taforashia royals. The Seyruun prince and acting king, excused himself for not being there to receive the guests upon their initial arrival and casually joined them for tea. He hinted that Amelia had some important business to take care of with Zelgadis.

Though Amelia had no idea what business she was supposed to be taking care of, she played along and excused herself from the meeting, leaving her father to tend to the guests, while she exited the room with Zelgadis. Once the doors to the tea room had been closed and the pair was walking down the castle hallways, Amelia inquired. "Did something happen?"

"I... have to talk to Rezo," Zelgadis confessed, with so little detail to it that Amelia wasn't sure she heard right.

"You mean about Rezo?" The princess gently inquired, because talking to Rezo seemed like quite a difficult, if not impossible task, given that, to the best of her knowledge, he had died for the final time. "I'm here to listen." Then again, Rezo seemed to have a thing for coming back to life one way or another. "You did mean, talk about Rezo, right? Because it kind of sounded like you said talk to Rezo."

"That's what I said," Zelgadis confirmed. He then retold the whole explanation of the story Zelas had told him, as they made their way towards the area where the monster lord would be waiting for them, the tallest tower of Seyruun castle.

Amelia was left in shock, with a million thoughts running through her head all at once. "I think we should definitely talk to the host of the End first, just to make sure Miss Zelas isn't sugar coating the willingness to participate in this."

"Given the state of things, there's not much of a choice..." Zelgadis truthfully pointed out.

"That's true, this is a very sad sacrifice and I don't feel okay with it, but I know it can't be stopped," Amelia frowned with a serious face that didn't fit her. "The world isn't always just," she bitterly confessed. "Nonetheless, if we could make the host understand, make sure this noble and inevitable sacrifice is completely willing, to point out the heroic value of it all, then maybe that will be a consolation for the host... and for me."

"Zelas did say it was okay, so we can do that before going to Rezo." There was no real way to procrastinate for too long, but at that moment, to put off the meeting for even a few more minutes into the future, seemed like an effort worth pursuing for Zelgadis.

"Right, and when we do go talk to him, I'll be right there with you." Amelia linked her arm with Zelgadis as they walked, resting her head on his shoulder and catching a glimpse of a slight smile on his face. Her gestures of trust and closeness, of love, always seemed to put him at ease. "I'm actually glad you'll get this chance. You can get everything off your chest and the one listening won't be under Shabranigdu's influence. You'll finally get to talk to the real Rezo again.

"The real Rezo... I don't know if this real Rezo is any different from the one I hated." Zelgadis bitterly confessed, his mind going back to that time when he stole the jar again. "I spoke to him when he was in the jar and he wasn't under Shabranigdu's influence then. I know it's important that I get this information from him, but it's the very technique which turned me into a chimera. Something like that should have gone with Rezo to the grave, a grave he should have stayed in. What if the information is misused? We're basically putting it all in the hands of a monster lord."

"That's true," Amelia grimly acknowledged. "But what else can we do right now? This is the only way to save the world; we'll have to deal with the aftermath later. Whatever comes, as long as we live, we can face it."

Zelgadis allowed Amelia's positive influence to surround him. "Yeah, you're right. This isn't about me, it's about the world. I think I can go talk to Rezo now, but first, we'll see the host of the End."

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia and Zelgadis arrived at the tallest tower of Seyruun castle, where they heard a very unexpected earsplitting howl. It somehow managed to sound elegant and majestic while still being completely terrifying, violent and threatening. Their ears were still ringing when Lina made her escape from the tower's balcony. "Gourry keeps polishing his sword over and over, I actually considered laughing lessons from Naga and now Zelas is howling at the moon in the middle of the day! I'm going to take a nap and try to salvage some of my sanity!" The frustrated redhead darted past Amelia and Zelgadis in a rush.

Ignoring Lina's outburst, Naga cheerfully exclaimed. "That was awesome! I want to learn to howl like that! Let me try!"

"No!" Amelia and Zelgadis interrupted in a unanimous attempt to save their ability to hear. They could still hear Zelas' howl echoing in their heads and while the effect of Naga's howl couldn't be any worse, it certainly wouldn't make their instant headaches any better.

"You'll have to show me what you have later; I have some business to tend to with these two right now." Zelas left, fading to the astral side along with Zelgadis and Amelia.

"I'll keep practicing!" Naga cheered and proceeded to begin what would turn out to be a long, and for the city torturous, howling practice session.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia and Zelgadis were first taken to the chamber where Tiffany was. "Hear it to believe it," Zelas stated as they reappeared out of the astral side. The fact that she was a tricky monster and known as such by the group made it obvious that they would need to hear Tiffany assure that she was willing to go with the plan before they believed a word of it.

Zelgadis and Amelia couldn't help it but to turn surprised expressions at Tiffany at first. The golden dragon walked a few steps towards them, showing with the movement that though she was very exhausted, as it was to be expected, she was not injured in any way. "Hello," she greeted casually. Her voice seemed to be the only thing that remained unchanged in her. Her eyes were swirls of pink and green with small golden specks. Her hair was completely white and recently cut short to keep it out of the way as the experiments progressed. One of her arms seemed to be made of wood, her wolf-like ears had leaves on them and her face was very wolf-like as well. Her skin's color had a green tint that reached slight shades of yellow in random areas.

"Miss Tiffany!" Amelia exclaimed, trying to break the ice and get herself out of her surprise. The princess didn't need to ask Tiffany if she was willingly going through this because it was obvious. Tiffany did not have the look in her face of someone who had no choice but to go along with the circumstances, she was determined and strong. "What you're doing for the world is very noble, but it also makes me sad because..." she would have to die.

"I've known of what is inside me for many years," Tiffany revealed, which brought a new wave of surprise to Amelia and Zelgadis. "I have lived for longer than I expected and though like anyone, I would like to experience more, I am satisfied with my life. I can do this; I can face what I must." She paused and allowed her gaze to travel from Amelia to Zelgadis. "I don't know the specific details between you and Rezo and I only know of Rezo from what I've heard of him." Admittedly, those accounts might be incomplete or written to be perceived in certain ways and Tiffany was aware of that. "What I do know is that you're most likely the only one who can get him to speak. I tried to talk to him myself, to tell him no one was forcing me to do this. He disregarded everything, even the world, and only wanted to speak to you."

"He wants to talk to me that badly? Even if there's nothing to say?" Zelgadis mused aloud, more so to himself than to anyone else. Yet he knew that was a lie, there was in fact a lot to say. There was so much to say that an entire lifetime might not be enough. "There's no use in postponing this." He nodded at Tiffany and glanced at Amelia's kind supporting eyes. Then taking a deep breath, he bestowed an expectant look upon Zelas, who was standing in a relaxed position with her eyes closed as if meditating. "Ehem," Zelgadis cleared his throat.

Upon the sound, Zelas opened her eyes and took in a satisfied breath, as one would take in after enjoying a meal. "Oh, I was just enjoying that feeling of fear, dread and sadness around you," the monster lord admitted. "Do you know what could be good right about now? To sit in my throne enjoying a big helping of your negative feelings and a good cigarette. I haven't been smoking much lately because I've been so busy thinking of other things, I just haven't had the time. Ah well, I suppose such things will have to wait even more. Let's be on our way." Zelas moved her passengers swiftly through the astral side again, this time taking Tiffany along with Amelia and Zelgadis.

xoxox xox xoxox

Zelas, Amelia, Zelgadis and Tiffany appeared in a room covered in gray stones. It was dimly lit, with many platforms surrounding a deep circular hole on the ground where the stone floor ended. Swirls of many colors emanated from the clear crystals that were piled into the hole, giving the chamber a very ethereal feeling. The sight was both beautiful and frightening. An assortment of monsters, some with wolf-like features, other so strange they were unidentifiable and others covered by cloaks, stood on the platforms maintaining a unanimous quiet yet ominous chant of words neither Amelia nor Zelgadis understood. Even if they had spoken aloud, they wouldn't have understood the ancient language anyway.

Among the wisps of light that floated out of the many crystals in the chamber that seemed to go up eternally into pitch blackness, there was a ghostly figure. The spirit of Rezo had taken a form, visible in a semi-transparent silhouette that looked like the man had when he was alive. It was only a projection of the mind and as such, details such as hair style and clothing were crafted from what was most common in the mind of the spirit. The one big difference, which Zelgadis noticed right away, was that Rezo's eyes were open, gazing right at him.

"You may step onto the crystals," Zelas quietly prompted. She and Tiffany stood aside and watched the scene unfold.

Without letting go of Amelia's hand, Zelgadis stepped forward to the edge of the hole filled with the crystals and the mysterious twirling ribbons of light that they gave off, changing colors and fading a few feed above the source. He paused and slowly released her hand, taking a few uneasy steps on the crystals as if he was worried that he would sink into them. The chimera slowly maintained his balance, careful not to fall, and took another few steps forward towards the center of the chamber where Rezo's summoned spirit waited.

Amelia soon crossed the threshold of the gray stone and made her way towards Zelgadis on the crystals, carefully keeping her balance at a measured pace. Zelgadis looked back at her as if saying he could do this. Amelia nodded as if saying that she knew, but wanted to be there for him anyway. She stood still, her eyes on him, until he nodded and held out his hand to her, inviting her to join his side. Hand in hand they stood before Rezo who seemed to smile at seeing Zelgadis holding hands with Amelia.

Zelgadis tried to find the words to say, but instead he found himself staring at Rezo's actions as he picked up one of the crystals despite his hands being see-through and ghostly. The clear crystal glowed with black light as a red liquid seemed to spread inside it like blood, even if the crystal looked solid. Finally the crystal was no longer clear, but pure red with a golden glow around it. The red priest addressed Zelas, "the information that is needed is contained in this crystal. Someone of your power will have no problem accessing it." Rezo tossed the crystal up where it was caught by a red parrot that was hiding in the darkness watching the scene. The parrot took the crystal to Beast Master and perched himself on her shoulder.

The ghost of Rezo then turned his attention to Zelgadis one last time before he began to fade away. Taken aback, Zelgadis tried to stop him. "Wait! You tell me to come here and then you don't say anything to me? Why didn't you just give up the information this easily before? You know what's going on, don't you? You know this is to save the world!"

"I wanted to make sure that the world was worth saving," Rezo explained.

"As if it should be your choice!" Zelgadis reprimanded. He didn't mean for this to turn into a discussion that involved shouting, but he was just too upset by what he perceived to be extreme arrogance.

"If this world still only offered you grief, then it should be destroyed," Rezo elaborated. "If you must exist in sorrow, then let the Stillness consume the world and even the very Sea of Chaos if possible. It is not my choice, it is yours. I see now that you've found a reason to want to be in this world. I see that you are living rather than only surviving. You no longer pursue mere unimportant necessities or perceived necessities; you pursue something far greater than necessities, a true desire."

Zelgadis opened his mouth to speak again, but wasn't sure how to react. A necessity was something people pursued simply to keep on living or to get through a situation, because they felt that they had no choice. Desires were pursued with a passion, with energy, with eager willingness, they were indeed more precious. But how did all of that apply to him? Zelgadis felt Amelia's hand in his and thought of all the time he spent away from her looking for his cure, even if he wanted to be with her. His so called necessities no longer controlled him. He was after what really mattered now, what he wanted, what made him happy. "So you just would have let the world be destroyed, worse yet erased, if I wasn't happy?"

"Yes," Rezo's spirit answered without hesitation. "For all that I took away from you; this is the least I could give you. Now I must go, after seeing this... Though I still hold many regrets... Maybe..." The ghost continued to fade away.

Zelgadis watched in astonishment and let out a barely audible whisper, "rest in peace..." At that moment, the monsters' negative emotion snacks were ruined as a sense of peace and closure invaded the room.

Just as Rezo faded away completely, Zelgadis thought he heard his voice reply. "I think I finally can..."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 120: Identity! Name It And You'll Get Attached

"So the Nameless Beast is you, but also the opposite of you?" Filia inquired during one of her conversations with Xellos in their pink and purple room at Seyruun castle, concerning the mysterious being.

"What would you call a creature like that?" Xellos wondered with curiosity.

"Isn't he already called the Nameless Beast?" Filia reminded. "Unless he is literally nameless, rather than nameless being his name. I thought things like Nameless, Nothing, Nobody, No-one and such names would be proper names that the minions of the Stillness would have, it fits the theme."

"I think in this case it means he is literally nameless and Nameless Beast is just a term to call him something," Xellos determined. "Things would get confusing if the Stillness called all its followers 'hey you' after all," he chuckled, finding humor in a situation that was too gloomy to be humorous for most.

"You and the opposite of you... Monster and dragon... I'm not sure what to call him, if he's really your opposite maybe Sollex would be okay, it reminds me of our visit to Luna. Make it Solex, with one l, just so that it's different," Filia mused aloud.

"One changed letter is supposed to make it more original?" Xellos teased.

"Oh quiet you," Filia retorted. "What would you name him?"

"I would name him Stupid, after you," Xellos replied sweetly.

"You already named Fili after me," Filia reminded. "He can choose a name for himself later. After Lina shared her theories, I think it's worth a try bringing him to our side."

"Maybe he can be persuaded," Xellos agreed, then added in a barely audible whisper. "But he cannot give himself a name, he cannot make himself complete; only his true master can complete him, if it is convenient..."

"What was that?" Filia raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "What were you muttering about just now, raw garbage? What are you plotting to do?"

"Nothing at all, stupid dragon." The intonation turned the words from lies to sarcasm, by making it purposely obvious that they were not true. Xellos wrapped his arms around Filia and let his most enjoyable tactics of distraction take over, exploring every inch of exposed skin with his lips and uncovering more as he went along. This would not only distract her, but it would very much distract him as she was eager to respond, encouraging his journey through her body and going on a journey of her own.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, at Seyruun castle... "Grandpa!" Amelia's pain-stricken voice echoed all over the hallways as she went. She and Zelgadis had returned from Wolf Pack Island teleported back into Seyruun castle via the astral side by Zelas. Their arrival was not a pleasant one, as Amelia found the royal attendants buzzing about busily to prepare for the tragic event that would send the kingdom into a further depression. The king had passed away and his funeral was to be held soon.

The Seyruun princess skidded to a sudden stop as she turned a corner to take a moment to think in the middle of her pained disorientation. As she halted suddenly, she flailed her arms for balance, instinctively placed a hand on the wall, then took off in another dash down a different hallway, having decided that was the way she should go. Zelas couldn't miss out on the banquet of grief and followed Amelia, comically imitating her movements like in a twisted game of Simon Says. The monster lord was completely ignoring Zelgadis who was, by this point, almost begging her not to make things worse for Amelia. Of course, his plea was totally overlooked.

Amelia finally arrived at the king's chambers. She stopped in front of the partially open door, listening to the sound of crying coming from inside. Zelas halted her advanced next to the princess, standing with her arms at her sides as she was. They took simultaneous deep breaths and straightened their clothing and hair, though in Zelas case it was unnecessary. Amelia placed her right hand over her heart as did Zelas, or at least the monster lord placed her hand over where a heart would be if she had it. "Grandpa..." Amelia whispered softly and solemnly. Zelas moved her lips in imitation, but without producing a single sound.

Amelia turned to look at Zelgadis, who had been following her, not noticing that Xellos was approaching from the other side of the hallway. Amelia wiped her tears, hoping to become a pillar of strength for her family when she entered the chambers. Zelas made a tear wiping motion to mimic her, even though her face was perfectly dry. By then, Xellos was standing next to his master, watching the scene unfold curiously, as he quietly inquired. "Are we playing Follow the Leader?"

Zelgadis hugged Amelia, who buried her face on his chest, while he alternated between giving warning and pleading gazes to the monsters over her shoulder. "Something like that," Zelas mimicked the princess again and pretended to seek comfort in her general. "Where's your pet? She always gives things an interesting flavor."

"Filia has been asked to perform a prayer for the late king," Xellos explained. "She's getting into the royal robes that are traditional in Seyruun for the person leading the prayers of a big event like this to wear." Xellos' voice was as expected, very cheerful. It sounded like he was announcing a party rather than a funeral.

Amelia parted from the hug and looked determined to be strong, though there was still regret in her eyes. She probably wouldn't forgive herself for not being there when her grandfather passed away. She had gone to see him earlier, but her visit was short, since she was busy with everything else that was happening. She nodded at Zelgadis, indicating that she was ready to enter the royal chambers. At the same time, Zelas released Xellos from their hug and nodded, copying the princess' expression, which further amused the general.

Amelia entered the royal chambers holding Zelgadis hand and Zelas followed the motion with Xellos. They even stepped at the same time and glanced in the same directions. "I'm so sorry I wasn't here," Amelia spoke with Zelas mimicking her expression and the movement of her lips perfectly, but without any sounds. Zelgadis kept giving the monster lord upset looks, which Xellos copied to perfection.

"Little sister!" Naga, who looked like she was about to make Gravos suffocate with the way she had her arms wrapped around his neck, subbing into his chest, finally released her boyfriend from the death trap of her embrace and gave her younger sister a big bear hug. "Grandpa knew you were doing something important, and he was able to see you earlier, so don't feel bad." Breaking away from the mirror move pattern, Zelas instead made quiet dramatic motions as if choking to death this time.

"Your sister is right, daddy passed away knowing that somehow we would bring peace back to Seyruun." Philionel was actually the one crying the loudest. He looked tough, but he was a big softie on the inside. He held Fili in his arms as if she was a living plush toy. Pokota was all too grateful when the cub relieved him of his confort toy role a few minutes ago. There was the fact that the king probably would have lived longer if not for all the trouble that was all over the world. His medicine could no longer be produced, as the herbs became unavailable. Plus the gloomy atmosphere wasn't doing wonders for his fragile health. Yet no one wanted to mention that, because the fact was that the king was gone. Thinking of the what ifs that couldn't be achieved would just give everyone more sorrow.

xoxox xox xoxox

Philionel, Amelia and Naga tried to pull themselves together so that the king's body, which was still on his bed in his chambers, could be prepared for the funeral. Zelgadis, Gravos and Filia did their best to console them, while Zelas and Xellos kept playing their strange little mimic game. Meanwhile, Pokota and his father were getting ready to attend the funeral and offer Taforashia's official condolences. They were also busy preparing a speech to give in the late king's honor as it was traditional for other countries to do when a royal of an allied kingdom passed away. While all of that was taking place, Lina, Gourry, Jillas, Elena and Palou were already at the temple where the prayers would be given, helping make sure the structure was ready.

Simultaneously, Filia was in her and Xellos' room at the castle. She had put on the royal robes of a priestess of Ceifeed from Seyruun. Xellos would probably make fun of her, but that wasn't really what worried her. She was no longer a priestess of the Fire Dragon, but as a golden dragon, she could still easily come up with a proper prayer to give. That was not the problem; the problem was that all of this got her thinking about the losses that could never be recovered and about the fact that even if they defeated the Stillness, the world would be left in shambles. Could it still be saved or would it be inevitably condemned to a slower death?

Filia sighed and took one last look at herself in the full length mirror, making sure she was wearing the white, golden lined robes and all their accessories properly. She straightened the crest of Seyruun on her chest and was about to turn away from the mirror when she saw something peculiar reflected behind her. The shape of a person emerged seemingly out of thin air, out of the astral side. It was a man quite similar to Xellos, but it wasn't Xellos. His hair was purple with two strands of gold, framing his face, while the rest was held in a low ponytail. His eyes were very much like Xellos' eyes as a monster with their long pupils, but his ears were long and pointy, very much like hers.

The mysterious man, whom Filia identified as being the Nameless Beast, held a mace much like her own. He swung the weapon at her strongly, as if trying to decapitate her and that was probably indeed his intention. Filia ducked and jumped out of the way as the weapon collided with the mirror behind her and shattered it. "You're the Nameless Beast," she was seeing him for the first time and it felt quite surprising even if she already knew what he looked like from the descriptions the others provided.

"Don't call me that, don't mock me!" The Nameless Beast shouted angrily. "Where is Xellos? I can feel it, I can feel traces of his energy on you, it's all over the surface of your body. He was near you not long ago."

Filia blushed upon remembering just what they were doing before a messenger started knocking on the door to bring the tragic news of the king's death. She tried to take the opportunity to reason with him, embarrassment aside, it didn't look like the Nameless Beast had a proper explanation or theory about why Xellos' energy was on her anyway. It was probably like the astral version of a scent that physical beings couldn't quite perceive, like traces of an aura. "Listen, we don't have to be enemies. Why don't you join us?"

"It's too late! I have already lived incomplete long enough. This is all Xellos' fault and he must pay. I will not forgive him. He wants me to disappear anyway, doesn't he? Well he can have it, he can have all his power back, I don't care!" The Nameless Beast revealed that he was carrying the black cone jewel. "I refuse to feed off his power further. The power that I have of my own, what was created by the fusion, it is not much now, but it will grow. I'm no ordinary monster; I can grow in power as I go through life. Just like a dragon, my power is not determined upon creation. I don't need this!"

As the Nameless Beast prepared to throw away the necklace with the precious gem that contained Xellos' power, Filia grabbed it. "Give it to me, this is important; you can't just throw it away. Please listen to me," Filia tried to continue reasoning with him.

"Why shouldn't I throw away his power?" The Nameless Beast yelled, "Master Xellos threw me away!"

"No he didn't!" Now Filia saw exactly what Lina meant when she said the Nameless Beast was like an upset child. "You were made from Xellos' energy and golden dragon energy by the Stillness. Xellos did not will for it to happen, but he has no reason to hate you simply because you exist. He might have been worried about his power, but if you return it to him, I'm sure he'll appreciate it. You can join us; we can save the world and live happily as a family."

The Nameless Beast paused unsure. "I know Xellos is my master, but I have the energy of someone else in me too. I recognize it now, the sample of the energy and scales of a golden dragon that was used in my accidental creation... I know it now for certain, it was you."

"Me?" Filia gasped. She had been in many battles, so she supposed it to be possible that a sample could have been extracted from her at some point. "You are part Xellos and part me?"

"I'm a nameless freak..." The Nameless Beast grimaced. He returned his mace to his belt, not bothering to try to recover the black cone gem from Filia. He turned away as if to leave. "I need to get my revenge, I'm so angry at Xellos for allowing me to exist without a name. That's all I have in life, the need to get revenge and nothing more."

"It doesn't have to be that way!" Filia insisted. It broke her heart to see him like this especially because she was reminded of Valgaav.

At that very moment the door to the purple and pink room was opened by Xellos. He had been sent away to see if Filia was ready after the group at the king's chambers had left towards the temple where the prayers would take place, where the king's coffin would be set up soon. "Stupid dragon! They want to know if you're ready to whine at a dead shinzoku about the dead king!" That was Xellos' way to ask if Filia was ready to pray to Ceifeed in the late Seyruun king's funeral. He was surprised to find, none other than the Nameless Beast there along with Filia.

"Xellos!" The Nameless Beast drew his mace again and went on the attack.

Xellos didn't flinch; he simply pointed his right index finger at the Nameless Beast and calmly spoke a single word, a name, "Solex."

Filia freaked out and scrambled to stop the Nameless Beast from harming the human Xellos. However, she soon realized that her interference would not be necessary. The Nameless Beast was frozen in place, with his mace inches away from Xellos' face. He slowly lowered the weapon and placed it back on his belt, his gazed becoming fixed on the floor for a long moment. "Solex..." The no longer nameless monster dragon repeated. "Solex," he spoke the name once more, feeling like a complete being for the first time in his entire short existence. He finally lifted his eyes to look at Xellos and smiled, "I like it."

Filia's jaw dropped as she switched back and forth from looking at Xellos and looking at the newly named Solex with puzzlement in her eyes. "What just happened?"

"I completed him," Xellos simply stated. "It is quite painful for a monster to exist without an identity. For an astral being, or one who is similar to an astral being, a name is very important. Those who have no real physical bodies to hold on to, hold on to their names even more. A monster is not a complete being until its master grants that monster a name, an acknowledgement of existence."

"So... Solex, you're not angry at Xellos anymore?" Filia inquired hopefully.

"I suppose I could forgive him," Solex decided. "Besides, you're my master in a sense too and you seem nice."

Filia shook her head, "I'm not your master, I'm your mother." Xellos raised a curious eyebrow as he listened to her go on. "You're a combination of Xellos and me, so you're our son. We can all live happily together as a family. I can't wait to introduce you to your brother Val, your cousin Palou and all your uncles and aunts!"

"Aren't you getting a little carried away, stupid dragon?" Xellos tried to get a word in, but Filia's mind was already made up.

"So... I'm your child?" Solex mused. "I suppose I should take on a more fitting form." He changed his appearance to that of a younger version of himself. He still had the same face, the same pointy ears, the same mischievous eyes and the same hair. The difference was that he was a whole lot smaller, appearing to be no older than a four year old human boy. It all made the mace he carried looked oversized in comparison to his new small body.

"Aw!" With her eyes shining with motherly pride, Filia hugged Solex, welcoming him into their odd little family.

"You're already attached, aren't you?" Xellos correctly concluded. "By the way, stupid dragon, what's that black jewel in your hand?"

"Oh, this," Filia seemed to remember just what she was holding and its significance. She gave the black cone gem to Xellos. "Here's your power back, Solex returned it."

"I can't reabsorb it now, not until this is over, but it's still good to know it's not in the enemy's hands anymore," Xellos voiced. With an inquisitive look he asked about a very important matter that had been hanging in the balance during this whole plan. "Solex, do you know how to enter the fortress of the Stillness?"

"Of course I know how, I had to learn the spell to unlock a gateway so I could go in and out of there," Solex confirmed. "The Stillness is your enemy, right, dad? I can tell you all about the gateway spell. We can storm the place any time!"

Oh great, now his minion was calling him dad, at least Filia seemed to think it was cute. Then again, Xellos had realized some time ago that his life would be nothing like the ordinary life of a monster. A monster with a family and friends? Now that was strange, yet oddly fun. "This is definitely important news. Filia, go take care of business with the dead king and while you're at it, inform everyone of this development. I'm pretty sure Beast Master is still in the castle. I have to take Solex to see her."

Filia nodded as the truth of the situation finally sunk in. all the pieces were at last in place. "Does this mean that...?" She didn't even need to finish the question for it to be obvious what she was going to ask.

"Yes," Xellos confirmed with more eagerness than most would have to face such a situation. "The final battle is at last upon us," or so he thought, yet nothing was ever easy anymore.

To be Continued

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