Slayers: Alive

Chapter 13

Slayers: Alive

Episode 121: Fusion! All For A Common Goal

Filia was in the middle of her prayer for the late king of Seyruun when Zelas appeared, walking down the temple's long center hallway where everyone had gathered to pay their respects. Xellos had been making faces at Filia in the front row, trying to get her to lose her concentration and laugh in front of everyone. Lina and Gourry were tasked with the chore of sitting left and right from Xellos to make sure he stayed in his seat and didn't cause any major trouble. With her eyes trained on Zelas with worry, Filia continued reciting her prayers on automatic, while the monster lord walked over to Philionel, who was sitting with his daughters. She whispered something in his ear, which caused the soon to become king crowned prince to jump.

All the attendees of the service gasped as Filia paused her prayers in shock. The golden dragon tried to pick up where she left off but found herself unable to do so. To try to save face as much as possible, given that her worries about what Zelas had set into motion were making her mind go blank, Filia finished off her prayers with the simple and somewhat generic ending of, "may you rest in peace, we shall always honor your memory."

As soon as Filia was done, Philionel didn't waste a single second in making his way to the front of the assembly and beginning a speech of his own, which turned out to be very short. "This unjust enemy that is upon us will not be allowed to destroy our precious world. I'm sure my father would be proud to know that our farewells to him have come accompanied with the determined declaration that victory will be ours!"

Zelas blinked, her face becoming more perplexed with every word that Phil spoke. "That's not right..." She shook her head in disappointment.

"Lord Beast Master?" Xellos inquired in confusion. "Why does Phil sound all excited instead of terribly offended?"

"I don't know," Zelas' expression turned sour. "I was trying to be rude and improper by speaking of the upcoming battle in an interruption of his mourning, but it looks like he's simply too glad that the issue is being addressed to take note of the timing. It doesn't even look like the zombies can bother him now. Such random volatile creatures the humans are."

"Does that mean that the plan you were working on is ready?" Lina inquired urgently.

"Yes," Zelas informed.

"By the way," Philionel added at the end of his speech of heroism, "we're surrounded by zombies, please don't panic, we'll fight them off and continue the service later."

"Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga let out her battle cry, "those zombies won't know what hit them!"

"Let them handle things here, gather around my pawns, for my plan of attack some fusion magic will be needed." Zelas teleported Xellos and Filia away without giving them a chance to react.

xoxox xox xoxox

They were on a mountain top and there were gears, gears and more gears. The gears were made of shiny silvery metal in many different sizes. Some were round, others were oval shaped and some were, strangely enough, squares and triangles. The non-rounded gears flipped from one side to the next, fitting into the shapes around them as they spun in continuous motions. The mountain of gears all seemed to power a strange diamond-like jewel at the top of the contraption. It was on top of a rod protuberant above the multitude of gears. Yet it was not really a diamond, it was something much more magical, a carefully crafted artificial gem. The fine jewel had silvery sparks constantly surrounding it and odd black swirls within it.

"Oh, my stomach," Filia complained as she tried to steady herself.

"Lord Beast Master," Xellos addressed the monster lord with curiosity. "You said you needed fusion magic for this to work." He wondered if he was there to receive his monster power and provide it or to make Filia cooperate. Then Xellos noticed the approaching person who came into view from the other side of the mountain of constantly spinning gears that were making Filia dizzier than she already was. "Milgazia?"

"You can't expect one golden dragon to be enough to provide the lesser half of fusion magic if I'm providing the more important one, so there's two," Zelas calmly stated.

By then Filia had fought with her sickness enough to compose herself somewhat. "What exactly is the plan?" She asked as calmly and neutrally as possible.

"This," Zelas pointed to the device of many gears. "It is the product of much research; Celo has been constantly working on it in secret. With the beam of chaotic light this device will produce fueled by fusion magic, power will be borrowed from the Sea of Chaos and brought to the world. The world will then absorb that chaos and push back the cycle of the Stillness."

"Is that the truth?" Filia asked with great suspicion and uneasiness, while Xellos stood around grinning constantly as he often did.

"I believe it is," Milgazia stated, which took Filia by surprise, though his following explanation justified his theory. "The latest part of the cycle of the Stillness involves the Void. At this point the monsters are also being adversely affected. If the cycle is turned back by empowering the world with chaos, it may be reverted to its previous stage of Lamentation. At that point, although the living creatures of the world that have physical bodies will still be affected as the cycle tries to move forward again, the monsters will be able to recover."

"But that's..." Filia looked back and forth between the quiet Zelas and the serious Milgazia. She wasn't even sure how to phrase her concerns, but she shouldn't have to, it should be obvious.

"A dangerous gamble," Milgazia admitted. "But right now the Stillness is a bigger threat than even the monsters. This must be done; we'll have to deal with the consequences as they come. Besides, if the planet is left as it is, it will die." When it came down to it, it was the difference between a dying planet and a suffering planet. At least a suffering planet still had hope.

"Eternal torture is best," Zelas chirped cheerfully. "Death is far too peaceful and calm, not chaotic."

Filia let out a tired breath, everything was terribly stressful lately. "How is Val?"

"Having fun getting into mischief," Zelas grinned.

Filia had a feeling that she would have both Xellos and Val to drive her insane in the future, but she supposed she would learn to deal with it. Besides, she had educated Val the best she could along with his aunts and uncles during his first few weeks of life, so maybe those lessons would stay with him and he wouldn't turn out to be too mischievous... hopefully. "Alright, let's do this."

"Finally getting down to business? It's about time," Zelas replied with a very Zelas-like comment. "Xellos, I have a spell for you to cast." Zelas materialized a scroll out of the astral side and handed it to Xellos. "This device is powered by a large amount of fusion magic; it is its fuel in a sense. However, what activates it and allows it to call the power of the Sea of Chaos is the force that pushes and pulls fate until it aligns with destiny. Chance, the collective conscious, the force that unknown even to themselves, humans have a natural talent to influence."

The spell turned complex towards the end which was why Zelas choose to have Xellos perform it instead of getting Lina, who was originally human, to do it. In theory, since Xellos was currently a human, he should be able to handle the spell effectively as he had already learned to control his energy as a human since the time when he took magic lessons from Lina. Aside from that, his knowledge of many years as Beast Master's favorite spy would help him better understand the spell.

Xellos examined the scroll, reading over it several times. The last few lines were written in an ancient language that roughly translated into something along the lines of 'pure wild unknown disorder image; powerful motion force, fulfill unexpected.' "I'm ready whenever the stupid dragons are," Xellos grinned mockingly.

Without another word everyone got into position with Zelas standing in the middle in front of the rod culminating in the enchanted diamonds. Milgazia and Filia stood left and right of her ready to cast their part of the fusion magic, allowing the machine to absorb it. Xellos stood completing the square around the rod at the center of the machine across from Zelas, next to the golden dragons. Then the magic began. First Zelas, Filia and Milgazia powered the machine, making the gears spin faster noisily. The beam of light that came from the magical diamond reached beyond the skies further than the eye could see in a mix of gold and black, attempting to establish a sort of connection with the Sea of Chaos in order to call forth its power.

To prevent the world from being absorbed into the Sea of Chaos and created anew, the power would be channeled through the stream of chance with the spell Xellos began to cast. "Between chaos and perceived order, commanding the path beyond borders, with ideas coming closer in distance, shaping illusions into existence, the luck that knows no master, spins towards freedom faster. Endless sea of possibilities, unlock the true abilities, of a world made of your essence, let us see your luminescence! Incorruptus indomitus ignotus incompositus imago, imperiosus impulsum impetus impleo improviso! Chaotic Chance!"

The flow of energy on the golden and black beam of light that went from the diamond to the sky changed direction instead receiving energy of black, silver and gold that came from beyond the sky and towards the world. "That is enough," Zelas announced and the fusion magic spell casters ceased their efforts.

Xellos used the control granted to him by the spell to push the power borrowed from the Sea of Chaos itself into the machine of many gears, which in turn pushed it towards the planet. The gears started spinning nonsensically, sometimes in the opposite motions that the laws of physics dictated they should spin in. The motions turned more rapid and ever changing and Xellos was surrounded by a golden light with black electricity and silver sparks all over him. This was too much...

"Xellos!" Filia tried to approach him and cast her healing magic, but it had no effect as her energy was absorbed by the energy of the Sea of Chaos before it could reach Xellos.

Danger, there was danger, Zelas could sense it as if the machine was about to blow up, but Xellos couldn't move from his position. If he didn't maintain the spell, the world would reset itself, being created anew, and the Stillness would still be around. It would probably keep its memories too, while the living creatures of the world, monsters and dragons included, forgot everything and live their lives anew. They couldn't allow that. Now that the Stillness had already entered the world, even if the world was recreated, it would hold on to it and stay. With its preserved memories the Stillness would have a vast strategic advantage. Zelas refused to lose, any creature that picked a fight with her, even if it was as powerful as the Stillness, had to be destroyed.

Beast Master retreated into the astral side and teleported away, straining her energy to actually reappear in the right place, a safe distance away. She watched the beam of light that came from beyond the skies from afar. She looked at the ground below as the earth itself glowed in random colors. This was definitely too much. The power of the Sea of Chaos was much greater than she had expected. Even if she took precautions and stopped powering the machine when she and the golden dragons still had more to give, even this relatively small amount of energy that was borrowed from the Sea of Chaos was impressive beyond anything Zelas had ever seen.

At the area near the machine of many gears, the mechanisms were overloading and the gears were falling apart. "Filia, we need to retreat!" Milgazia called out urgently as he transformed into a dragon and took flight. He looked back, realizing that Filia wasn't following him. "Filia, get out of there!"

"Go ahead, I'll be right there!" Filia called out in response. She was lying, she planned to stay with Xellos and it was obvious she had no intentions of moving.

Before Milgazia could make it back to Filia and drag her away to safety, the machine of many gears exploded in a bright light, its components disintegrating into silver dust. An orb of light formed over the area, the aftershock of its energy pushing Milgazia back strongly.

When the light finally cleared, a heavy feeling of chaotic energy was left in the air. The earth had ceased its rainbow glow and the land was very much revived. Zelas crossed her arms and huffed. "It wasn't supposed to go this far." The grass, the trees, the land's produce, it was coming back as if it was the beginning of a very fruitful spring. All of this had really thrown off the season with an early chilly winter and now an early spring. The planet was revitalized. "How annoying," Zelas growled.

Beast Master teleported towards were Xellos and Filia lay in a bloody mess in the area where the machine used to be. "Xellos..." He was still alive, but just barely. His hair had changed to white and the injuries of his human body appeared to be beyond repair. There was only one way to preserve him alive now. Zelas was surrounded by black light as she activated the power of the black cone gem on her necklace. She called Xellos soul back into the black jewel, leaving behind the broken shell of his human body. He would still need a physical body as a shield later when the final battle against the Stillness took place, but she could change him when the time came. For the time being, Xellos had to be healed by his monster energy. His essence felt as if it would dissolve, he would need the extra power to stay whole.

Milgazia landed near by and transformed back into his human form. "Filia's injuries are-"

"Your problem," Zelas interrupted. "She may be a traitor in the eyes of many golden dragons, but you're not one to abandon a fellow dragon in need, are you? Not that I care, she has already done her part. If you save her or not, that is your choice. My business here is finished for the time being, farewell." Zelas teleported away, back to Wolf Pack Island to take in the situation, come up with a new strategy, rest, recover and attempt to nurse her general back to health.

"Of course I can't abandon her..." Milgazia muttered under his breath as he casted his most powerful healing spells on Filia. She might have been regarded as a traitor by most dragons and even members of his own clan might disapprove of his actions, but he couldn't let her die. Filia had done more for the golden dragon race than she herself might realize. Years ago, when the ancient dragons were driven to extinction, Milgazia did not participate in that unfair battle. However, he could not stop it, as he was going through a critical battle with his own clan inside the barrier.

Back then, Milgazia moved carefully, having only recently assumed leadership of his clan due to the previous leader falling in battle. He was a thousand years younger and less experienced, but he was very wise and skilled. It was a tragic time of disorder and anarchy among the dragons, making Milgazia's new position as elder difficult to assimilate. He did his best and gained great respect because of it, yet he always wished he could do more. Later traveling with a human friend was also a big eye opener for him. Milgazia was patient, diplomatic, serious, quiet, strong and calculating, but sometimes being a little rash and energetic could yield better results than clinging to caution as strongly as he often did. He learned from humans that one could not put things off for later for too long or the opportunity to do them would be lost.

Filia, who was not even yet born until around five hundred years after the time of the War of the Monster's Fall and was in no way to blame for the past, was the one to try to make up for it. She was the one protecting and raising Val. Although Milgazia was distrusting of the monsters and wasn't particularly happy about Filia's choices, he could respect them and he could respect her efforts to atone in the name of the golden dragons. If anyone wanted to criticize him for choosing to save Filia's life, let them. He would do what he felt was the right thing regardless of what anyone said.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Beast Master might have overdone it a little..." A red haired monster noted as he witnessed the changes on the planet's condition from the outskirts of a village far from the peninsula.

"At least the undead stopped attacking," a girl with black pigtails and priestess-like clothing observed.

"I should report to Beast Master now," Zenki decided.

"This time the seal of my ancestor was broken permanently," Chiaki recalled with a hint of nostalgia. "I know I said you could go where you wanted before and I meant it, but this time, you'd have no reason to return. Are you going to spend all your time serving Beast Master now?"

"I have a lot to catch up on. Besides, there's no reason for me to be here." Zenki walked a few steps away from her, not looking back, then turned around with a grin. "Although I might come back... if I feel like it." He faded away to the astral side.

Left standing on a small hill with her village a short distance away, safe from danger for now, Chiaki smiled. "See you later, Zenki..."

xoxox xox xoxox

The scent of tea was in the air when Filia woke up several days later. She sat up slowly on the bed and examined the unfamiliar setting she was in. It was some sort of cabin with only the very basic of furniture as if it had gone without inhabitants for some time before her arrival. As for said arrival, she couldn't remember it at all. She looked down at her clothing with curiosity. She was wearing a pale aqua color simple dress that began at her shoulders and ended below her knees. It had pale green embroidery around the neckline that hugged the shoulders, the short puffy sleeves that rested above her elbows and the bottom of the skirt.

Filia didn't remember owning such a dress and the design reminded her of the clothing of the elves. She tried to get out of bed, but felt a rush of tired dizziness overtake her and sat back down. She didn't know how she got there or why she was there, but the atmosphere had a calm and familiar quality to it that helped her remain relatively calm. "Hello?" She called out unsure, "is anyone here?"

"I think I heard the boss!" A voice very much like that of Jillas was heard from outside the bedroom. Soon the fox beastman appeared at the door with a relieved smile upon his face. "She's awake!" He cheered.

Gravos soon joined in, entering the room sharing Jillas' relief. There was also someone else with them. It was a little boy with the appearance of a one year old human toddler, the speech capability of a ten year old human and speed and agility well beyond even a fully grown man. The little boy had teal hair, golden eyes and pointy elf-like ears. "Mommy!" Val ran to his mother and hugged her happily. "I'm really glad you're awake!"

"Val?" Filia stared at the child in her arms in disbelief. Her shock was initially interpreted by Jillas and Gravos as being taken by surprise to see Val in his human-like form for the first time. He no longer had the black horn on his head as when he was Valgarv and his hair was less spiky as it originally was. He was a not a combination of monster and dragon, but a pure ancient dragon. Filia gently hugged her son and caressed his hair. She was wearing a golden amethyst ring that she didn't remember owning. With a meaningful look in her eyes that indicated that she was fighting to keep her composure for Val's sake, Filia gently lifted her eyes from Val to Jillas and Gravos. "When did Val hatch? For how long was I asleep?"

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 122: Awakening! Forgotten But Not Gone

A heavy silence hung in the air in the place that was as of yet unknown to Filia. Jillas and Gravos were taken by complete surprise. It looked like Filia was missing more than just her most recent memories if she didn't remember Val hatching. He was still a baby, still tiny in dragon form, though dragons were exceptionally smart and learned to communicate at a very young age.

Before her unusual family could provide Filia with any answers, she spotted a blond man peeking into the room from the open doorway as if not wanting to interrupt. Noticing he had been seen, Milgazia let himself in with a cup full of tea. "This tea is specially made for dragons, it will help you recover." He handed the cup to the surprised Filia.

"Milgazia?" Filia questioned unsure in a quiet tone. By then Val had crawled into the bed next to Filia and fallen asleep with his mother's gentle touch on his hair.

"I think she has amnesia," Gravos shared his theory.

"What's the last thing you remember boss?" Jillas inquired with concern.

"I was at the shop and Val was still an egg... It's blurry, but that's my most recent memory, just another day at the shop." Filia's voice was rising in tension, though she kept the volume low so as to not wake Val. "What happened? Was I in some kind of accident?"

Silence reigned in the room along with heavy discomfort and uneasiness. Finally, while Jillas and Gravos tried to figure out how to handle Filia's amnesia, Milgazia took hold of the situation. "Drink your tea and if you feel well enough to get up, join us at the living room. This explanation may be a long one, but don't worry, you and your family are safe here."

Filia nodded slowly and drank the revitalizing warm liquid. She really, really wanted to know what was going on, but at least she was safe and her family was there with her, so that was a calming notion.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia sat in a living room with two simple wooden seats with blue cushions on them. The cushions on the seats and backrest were fluffy and comfortable, yet all she could do was fidget uncomfortably. Val was sleeping in the small bedroom not too far away. Filia felt uneasy about not keeping her eyes constantly on him at first, but soon reason that if he was safe while she was unconscious, he would be safe now.

"Do you remember the date or an approximate of it?" Milgazia inquired, sitting across from Filia next to Jillas; Gravos and Filia occupying the seats in front of them.

"It's July," Filia replied simply. "The beginning of July, it's a warm summer." Jillas and Gravos wondered if they should just bluntly tell Filia that the current month was December, or find a way to hint at it gently, though they couldn't think of any. Filia's next statement saved them the trouble. "I know Val wasn't due to hatch any time soon during July. It must be several months into the future. Please tell me, what month is it?"

"December," Gravos finally stated.

"That's right, it's a beautiful spring," Jillas added.

"Spring?" Filia questioned in confusion, spring wasn't supposed to come in December.

"A lot has happened," Milgazia breathed, "I'll go over the general facts of the happenings of the world, then Jillas and Gravos can answer your more personal questions." Filia nodded and listened as Milgazia narrated. "This is a difficult to believe story, but right now we are at a moment of peace," he assured before diving into the less pleasant aspects of the tale. "A terrible enemy known as the Stillness attempted to end the world by killing the planet itself, causing starvation and destroying people's will to live, consuming even the monsters. Lina Inverse and several of her traveling companions, yourself included, were involved in discovering the secrecy behind the force that assaulted the world and fighting its minions. Recently, we were able to fight back."

It was obvious that Filia had a lot of questions to ask, which was only natural. Milgazia finished his general summary of the happenings. "The planet has been revitalized by borrowing power from the Sea of Chaos and recovered significantly. For now, the danger is being held back, the enemy has retreated. You were part of the process of borrowing power from the Sea of Chaos. The power was greater than any of us expected and you were injured."

Filia took a moment to absorb all the information. "What about the others? Was anyone else hurt?" She asked with worry.

"You're always worrying about others, you have such a kind heart, boss!" Jillas exclaimed.

In a more informative way, Gravos answered the question with reassurance. "Lina and the others are fine; they're all in Seyruun right now."

"That's right; we came to keep an eye on you here. We figured it was best for you to stay here until you recovered since there are dragon doctors around," Jillas explained.

"Um... Where is here?" Filia inquired.

"Dragon's Peak in the Kataart Mountains," Milgazia replied. "This is an empty mountain cabin used when guests come to visit. You may remain here for as long as you wish."

Filia's eyes widened in shock, worry making its way to her features. "I'm in the middle of golden dragon territory? But I... I'm..." She paused, trying to calm herself. Jillas and Gravos were comfortable with their current location and Val had been kept safe while she was in a sort of coma, so it had to be okay.

"This is my clan, you are welcomed here regardless of what the others say," Milgazia firmly stated, as if he had personally made certain of it.

Filia nodded and managed to stutter a quiet "thank you..."

Frowning in worry, Jillas fidgeted as he wondered why Filia had not inquired about Xellos, then it all made sense. She didn't ask about him because she didn't remember they were married. Her relationship with him last summer wasn't the best. He would occasionally visit the Maces and Vases shop and drive her to the brink of insanity before she managed to chase him out with random property damage along the way... to her own property. The fox beastman glanced at Gravos, then looked at the ring on Filia's hand.

"Say... do you remember anything about Xellos?" Gravos curiously inquired.

"Xellos? That annoyance?" Filia huffed. Then she thought about what Milgazia mentioned. "Was he there too when we borrowed power from the Sea of Chaos?" The notion confused her as much as the thought of the world being in danger again, even after the Darkstar incident had ended. It was hard to swallow, but at least as far as her interpretation of the revelations went, they were winning. She never imagined how many losses had happened and how bad the damage had been... and it wasn't over.

"Yes," Gravos confirmed, not adding that they were as of yet not informed about his current state. All they knew was the information Milgazia had brought based on what he witnessed, which Gravos thought Filia had the right to know. "He was... injured. Zelas took him away, to heal him, I suppose." It was a theory, but it seemed likely enough to share. As for Solex, his current state was also unknown, for entirely different reasons, but Filia wouldn't know who he was anyway.

"I see," Filia wasn't one to wish serious injuries on anyone, although she often tried to inflict vengeful pain on Xellos. She assumed that, being purely astral as she thought he was, Xellos' injury couldn't be anything life threatening. In fact, he deserved it. "Well, at least maybe now he'll stay away for a while longer. I'm sure he deserves whatever injuries he got."

Gravos looked at Jillas; Jillas looked back at him, then at Milgazia, with Gravos following the motion. Milgazia slightly shook his head discretely and stood up. "Another cup of medicinal tea will be good for you right now. Jillas, Gravos, would you come help me prepare it? You know Filia's taste in tea quite well."

Jillas and Gravos quickly agreed and excused themselves following Milgazia. Filia let them go without protest, though she felt annoyed at their exit. Milgazia couldn't possibly need both Jillas and Gravos' feedback to make dragon healing tea. Besides, the first cup tasted just fine, making it obvious that he must have added some sugar, or a lot of sugar, to make it less bitter. She knew they were talking behind her back, probably discussing how to inform her of what she forgot as gently as possible. Filia tried to tell herself they meant well and she was probably better off getting the full story gently. She sighed and fingered the ring on her left hand, which had been cleaned and returned to her. She would get a full grip on her current situation soon enough, she would make certain of it.

xoxox xox xoxox

Milgazia got more of the already prepared tea and poured a new cup. The action didn't take more than a few seconds as Jillas and Gravos shifted unsure. "Do you think it's a good idea to tell her about Xellos right now? Filia didn't appear to be too fond of him." Which was perfectly fine in Milgazia's opinion, but he was determined not to meddle in Filia's life beyond a little help here and there. Her personal affairs... er... personal matters not limited to affairs, were her personal choices to make.

Jillas and Gravos silently consulted each other remembering the dangerously destructive temper tantrums Filia threw at Xellos in the past. "Bad idea," they unanimously agreed. Not only would Filia be shocked to realize she was married to the monster she could only remember feeling extreme dislike for, albeit admittedly she didn't really hate anyone, but also she might not believe it. The joke, if she assumed it was a joke, would be in bad taste and certainly not to her liking. They really didn't want to upset Filia; they wanted to make her recovery process as gentle and calm as possible... at least until Xellos returned to drive her insane. Unfortunately, she might not find his annoyance as endearing as it had become before she lost her memories.

"I agree," Milgazia stated neutrally.

"We'll talk to Val and try to make it so he doesn't give anything away," Jillas offered.

"That's a good idea and do keep an eye on him when he wakes up from his nap," Milgazia emphasized. "I might have forgiven his recent mischief, but the other golden dragons around here might not. They won't get violent about it, but they'll be upset." The reason they would hold back was mostly because of Milgazia's warning, which included politely requesting open mindedness, patience and compassion, then ending his speech with something along the lines of a very serious sounding, 'anyone who causes unneeded trouble will answer to me.' Milgazia was usually very polite, proper and not aggressive, but someone who had found himself in the middle of the War of the Monster's Fall and lived to tell the tale was not someone anyone wanted to see angry.

As for Val's mischief, it varied day by day; at least he didn't pull the same prank twice after being told not to do it. Milgazia was his preferred target recently. He had gotten a face-full of toast, butter side of course, when Val tried to initiate a food fight while having breakfast with Jillas, Gravos, Milgazia and Memphis. The previous night Val had managed to sneak into Milgazia's home and doodle on his face while he was sleeping. Which led to a pissed off looking doodle-faced Milgazia making his way to the guest cabin in his pajamas with an amused looking pajama clad Val in his arms. It didn't help that Val fell asleep on the way back which let to Milgazia quietly depositing him on his bed without even waking Jillas and Gravos and making a mental note to point out the boy's mischief to his caretakers in the morning. It was something that Milgazia would have done if he had not been interrupted by that flying piece of toast colliding with his face.

xoxox xox xoxox

Assuring Milgazia that they would take better care of Val and keep him out of trouble, Jillas and Gravos returned to Filia's side at the living room with her tea. Milgazia excused himself and went on his way, leaving Filia to privately bring up her questions to Jillas and Gravos, or at least, that's what he assumed she would do. However, things went a little differently.

After Filia was done with her tea, she made an unexpected request. "Do you mind if I take a walk by myself to clear my head?" The tea had made her feel a lot better and her previous dizziness was gone. "Then we can talk some more about what I missed, or rather, what I can't remember."

"Okay, boss," Jillas agreed. "But first, let me get you the dish Memphis delivered earlier in case you woke up today, she said it was nutritious."

"Alright," Filia agreed to having a meal before going out. She'd have to ask about who this Memphis was so she could give her thanks later.

xoxox xox xoxox

After getting some food in her stomach, Filia felt much better. Actually eating was different from being sustained with healing spells over the past few days. She would still get the needed energy, being directly transferred into her system rather than waiting for her body to process it from food, but it still felt good to replenish her nutrients in a tasty way. It fully sunk in that she was in Dragon's Peak when she caught sight of the other golden dragons in the area. There were also a few dimos dragons there as well. She felt their critical eyes on her, but no one dared to approach her, not while she was under their leader's protection.

"Filia!" A cheerful looking elf woman with pale green, near-blond long hair approached her without the cautious apprehension of the others. "Feeling better?"

"Yes..." Her apparent familiarity hinted to Filia that either she had met the elf before, or she was a friend of Milgazia who had met and befriended her family during their stay at Dragon's Peak. "I'm sorry, but my memories are... kind of missing right now. Have we met before?"

"Oh yes, I'm Memphis Linesword, we met at the wedding." The elf replied, though Filia had no idea what wedding she was talking about.

"I see," Filia would feel a little dumb, if not rude, asking whose wedding Memphis was talking about. She would never guess it was her own. Then she remembered that Memphis happened to be the name of the person who cooked for her. "You left some food for me at the cabin, didn't you? Thank you, it was delicious."

"You're welcome!" Memphis chirped, "I've been saving a portion for you every day, but you were never awake. I'm glad you actually got to eat it this time. Do you like the dress?"

"This is your dress?" Filia realized, "I thought the design reminded me of elves. Thank you for this too... Um... Did you change me?"

Memphis nodded, "I did, the clothes you had on were raggedy and soaked in blood when Milgazia brought you here. It was a big mess, for a second I thought you were dead. Milgazia drained away all his energy trying to heal you and was pretty tired afterwards. I cleaned you up and dressed you, but don't worry, I didn't let any boys peek at you."

"Oh, that's good to know, I'm very grateful," Filia spoke softly while her mind ran ahead of her full speed. Milgazia saved her life at the risk of the disapproval of his own clan. She was in Dragon's Peak with Val and her family, the world had been in grave danger and though she had been told that the enemy retreated, no one had said the mysterious enemy was defeated. All she knew was that they called it the Stillness, but she knew little else about it.

"You don't have to be so formal," Memphis encouraged. "We're all comrades of chaos after all!"

'Of chaos?' Filia quietly mused, but took it as a simple expression and nothing more. "And justice?" She added.

"That's right!" Memphis cheered.

She was still terribly confused, but at least Filia was starting to relax, so she would be ready for another round of questions with Jillas and Gravos soon.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Val had woken up from his nap and was having a snack with Jillas and Gravos; he really liked those cookies Milgazia had brought over recently. They tasted especially good to dragons. It was a pity that the box was almost empty.

"Val, we need to talk to you about something important," Jillas began.

With a cookie in his mouth, Val's big and innocent golden eyes silently focused on his uncles. Seeing that he was paying attention, Gravos continued. "Your mom has a bit of amnesia right now."

Val frowned, "is mommy sick? I thought she was all better now."

"She is," Gravos assured, "amnesia means she can't remember some things. It's best to let her remember at her own pace, so let's not tell her about certain things, okay?"

Val didn't fully understand, but if his uncles were telling him to keep a secret, then it had to be because it was what was best. He was a good secret keeper, he could do this. "Okay, what do I need to keep a secret?"

"Everything about your father, grandmother... er... aunt Zelas," because the monster lord thought 'granny' made her sound too old. "And everything about your brother," Jillas explained.

"When is Solex coming back?" The mention of him brought up Val's question. "It would be fun if Palou, Solex and I could all play together."

"I'm sure that will happen," Jillas smiled.

"Yes, you just need to be patient," Gravos added. Solex was rather unstable when he was taken away by Zelas while Filia was still in a coma. Apparently, Beast Master intended to try to stabilize his energy so as to not lose a minion, but could she, had she? Honestly, Jillas and Gravos were starting to worry. It was troublesome when Zelas was around, but when she wasn't around, those who knew her couldn't help it but to wonder what she was doing and what consequences it could bring.

Val nodded, "okay..."

xoxox xox xoxox

A short while later, Filia returned to the guest cabin with a basket of ingredients given to her by Memphis. She found Val entertaining himself with a sketchbook and crayons. Jillas and Gravos both held letters as they sat in the living room. "I'm back," she announced more cheerfully than before. So what if she was confused, her family and friends were alright, her son was happy and it was a lovely afternoon. She would have a long talk with Jillas and Gravos that evening and afterwards she planned to go to Seyruun to see everyone. By then she expected to be able to understand what plan of action should be taken against the Stillness and what manner of being the Stillness was. After the world was out of danger, than she could go back to her shop, or so she thought.

Filia was greeted by welcomes from Jillas, Gravos and Val. She curiously inquired about the letters they held, learning that they were from Elena and Palou, and from Naga respectively. Jillas had mentioned Elena and Palou before, though Filia held no memories about a person called Naga. She seemed to be important to Gravos, so she would like to meet her. "Why don't you take some time off and write back to them?" Filia suggested. "Memphis gave me all this food, so I thought I could make dinner for everyone. Val, would you like to help me prepare it?"

"Yes, mommy!" Val cheerfully agreed, putting away his crayons in their box neatly and closing the sketch book. He set the items in a corner of the wooden coffee table in the middle of the living room.

Filia smiled, Val was such a well behaved child who never got into any mischief, or at least that's what she thought. She had not heard anything about how Val had been playing mischievous tricks on Milgazia.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 123: Secret! For Us To Know

While Jillas and Gravos found some quiet spots to sit down and write letters out in the calm afternoon breeze, Filia and Val were busily making dinner. She had caught Val trying to add hot sauce to the work in progress, but luckily stopped him every time. She thought nothing of it; he was only trying to help. Some knocking was heard from the door to the small cabin and Val volunteered to go see who it was.

With Filia tending to dinner in the kitchen, Val peeked out the front window and found Milgazia in front of the closed door to the cabin. Rather than opening it, Val rushed to the little utility closet and found a bucket. He hurried out the door, towards the small well that was behind the cabin and changed to his dragon form. He picked up the bucket, which was bigger than him now and dove into the well. He fetched some water and flapped his wings wildly to get himself out of the well. He set the full bucket on the ground and changed back into an elf-like toddler.

Picking up the bucket with both hands, Val hurried back inside through the back door and peeked out the window again. It looked like Milgazia was about to assume that the cabin was empty, as he had received no answer. The older dragon turned to leave. Val hurried to open the door a little as soon as Milgazia was looking away and changing back into his dragon form; he picked up the bucket and placed it on top of the door.

"Who was at the door?" Filia called from the kitchen, seeing as Val was taking longer than expected.

Milgazia thought he heard something and looked back at the cabin. He found that the door was partially open and curiously made his way over. He looked inside and saw Val back in his elf form. The boy appeared to be contemplating something. Since the door was already partially open, Milgazia resolved to let himself in. By the law of gravity, the bucket that was precariously balanced on top of the door flipped and fell towards the area directly below it, which happened to be on a crash course with Milgazia's head. Needless to say, Milgazia was not amused.

At that very moment, Filia had arrived on the scene to see why Val wasn't answering her, and witness the event of the falling bucket of water as if it was in slow motion. Her eyes widened, her jaw dropped and she froze in place.

Milgazia removed the bucket from his head looking very much pissed off. He had been forgiving long enough; someone had to put a stop to Val's mischief. "Val," the golden dragon elder almost growled.

Val knew he was in trouble, he had never seen Milgazia look that angry. He shifted uncomfortably and looked at the floor, "yes, uncle Milgazia?"

"I'm so sorry!" Filia burst out all of a sudden, having finally found her voice.

Milgazia raised his hand in a sign of silence, indicating that he would rather handle this himself. "You've been misbehaving a lot recently and that's not good."

Before Filia could stutter out another apology, she was left in frozen silence again. Val had been misbehaving? Had not Jillas and Gravos been keeping an eye on him? Besides, Filia was missing a few months of memories, but she had apparently only actually been asleep for a few days. Had she not properly educated Val during the time she couldn't remember?

Val shifted uncomfortably some more. "I don't mean to be bad."

"What have your uncles Jillas and Gravos told you about things like this?" Milgazia reminded, still keeping a firm tone that was, Filia had to admit, kind of scary.

"They said I should not throw food at you to try to start a food fight, or sneak into your house and doodle on your face when you're sleeping, or put dog food and hot sauce into your food, or crawl under the table and tie cans to your feet, or put butter in front of your house's door so you'll slip when you come out, or put bugs in your cloak, or spray ketchup on your clothes, or put purple dye in your shampoo," Val recited.

Now that it was mentioned, Filia observed that the roots of Milgazia's hair looked more golden than the paler blond of the rest of his hair. That was probably a result of bleaching off the purple dye. Poor Filia was in absolute shock. Val was a terrible mischief maker that would make Xellos proud, though she wasn't sure why Xellos came to mind, probably because of the mention of purple hair. "I'm so terribly sorry!" Filia finally found her voice again to exclaim another mortified apology.

Having been reminded of all his most recent perils, Milgazia was too angry to hear Filia as he continued scolding Val. "So now you put a bucket on top of the door? That's bad too!"

Val pouted, his eyes becoming watery with tears. "I don't want to be bad. Tricks are supposed to be fun." At least that was what his father, aunty Zelas and uncle Fang had taught him. "You always look so serious, uncle Milgazia. I thought that this would cheer you up; I only wanted to make you happy because I think you're really cool. Are you mad at me? You don't like me anymore?"

'Don't give in... Val needs to be disciplined... Don't give in...' Milgazia chanted in his head to no avail. He couldn't do this; he'd had to be heartless not to think that, when explained in such a way, Val's mischief was kind of sweet. Val looked like he was going to cry, and really, Milgazia didn't want to see that. He knelt down to Val's eye level and gently ruffled the boy's hair. "It's okay, I'm not mad at you. It's just that I don't like pranks, but I still like you. Please don't play any more tricks on me, okay?"

"Okay," Val agreed. "Sorry I bothered you, uncle Milgazia."

"It's alright," Milgazia smiled. He then whispered something so that only Val could hear it. "You should save your tricks for your father and tell me all about it later." Milgazia was sure he would have an awesome time hearing about Xellos being terrorized by a child, it would be priceless just punishment.

Val nodded with a plotting grin and a mischievous glint in his eyes. By then Filia had calmed down significantly and no longer felt as if she was a step away from going into cardiac arrest. She was still terribly shocked at all the mischief Val had caused, but found some consolation in the fact that it was all well intended and it looked like Milgazia had forgiven him.

"You wanted this, didn't you?" Milgazia pulled out a blue yoyo from his dragon robes' pocket and gave it to Val.

"It's just like that toy I saw before, the yoyo!" Val recalled.

xoxox xox xoxox

Some time earlier, Milgazia stood on top of a mountain peak observing the dragons of his clan going about their business in the valley below. Val curiously approached. He knew that uncle Milgazia was a good person, but he was so serious it made the young ancient dragon feel uneasy. Val looked at the dragons in the valley, he got the feeling they didn't like him very much, as they tended to avoid him and generally stay away from him. He spotted a young golden dragon, only a few decades old, playing with an unusual toy. The sphere appeared to be made of wood and it spun on a string as it went up and down. That toy looked like it would be fun to play with.

"Do you like yoyos?" Milgazia's inquiry got Val out of his transfixed gaze on the spinning toy.

"Yoyo?" Val asked with curiosity and a bit of lingering shyness. "Is that what that spinning toy on the string is called, uncle Milgazia?"

"That's right," Milgazia replied. "I used to have one of those when I was little," he recalled.

"Yoyo..." Val mused aloud, "it looks like fun."

xoxox xox xoxox

"You can keep it, it's for you," Milgazia voiced.

Val's face brightened, the tears that previously threatened to fall were completely gone now. "Thank you, uncle Milgazia!" Val tackled Milgazia in a hug, then went to show his new toy to Filia. "Look mommy, uncle Milgazia gave me a present!"

Filia smiled radiantly and ruffled Val's hair. "that's a very nice yoyo."

xoxox xox xoxox

In a dark underground laboratory at Wolf Pack Island, Celo was working on a machine that was surrounded by gears. It seemed to be his favorite way to power his contraptions, even if the mechanisms were built for entirely different purposes. In the middle of the gears, which were not as many as in the machine used to call for the power of the Sea of Chaos, there was a glass orb and inside it was Solex. He had become increasingly unstable with the passing of time and he was close to falling appart.

"We're beings of chaos," Zelas spoke, while Celo occupied himself in recalibrating the magical machine. "We draw chaos towards us and it is because we absorb it that a certain amount of perceived order can exist in between. Yet the components of your chaos were only hastily placed together and should they come undone, you'll dissolved, your chaos being absorbed into the world, fusion child."

Solex, who was in his young child form, looked up at Zelas from inside the glass. "Is this really the limit of my usefulness, master Zelas? I wish to exist for much longer."

"Though your power is not much now, it was expected to grow. Yet it seems you won't last that long," Zelas voiced. "It's a pity," she admitted. "You are my minion's minion and therefore my minion. You would have been an interesting minion to have. The world was not supposed to recover to this point. I'll have to cause an extra amount of trouble to correct the miscalculation," she eyed Celo dangerously.

The monster human chimera finished tuning the machine and bowed. "I once again give you my deepest apologies, Lord Beast Master," he spoke in his usual very respectful tone of voice. "It was because of my miscalculation that a great good has been brought upon the world. I shouldn't have underestimated the amazing and unpredictable power of the Sea of Chaos. My only concern had been the world being absorbed by the vastness of the Sea of Chaos. I did not expect for it to be restored to this point."

"A terrible miscalculation indeed," Zelas glared. Though Celo was still a useful minion overall, so she had decided to keep him around, to keep him alive. Besides, it was her miscalculation too. "About Solex," she moved on to the topic at hand. "Is there a possibility to keep him alive? If he falls apart, he will be ruined, gone forever from this timeline as far as we know."

"There is a way, but it is round about and risky," Celo admitted. "This machine cannot keep him stable for too long, yet if his soul was placed into a new vessel, a stable vessel; that would be enough. However, the vessel must be similar to his peculiar nature or the soul will not be able to reside in it."

"A stable vessel..." Zelas mused. "Valgarv wasn't exactly stable, but he wasn't about to come apart either. A dragon with monster energy inside... Creating such a vessel is not a simple task. I wonder if it will be more trouble than it's worth. Then again," Zelas grinned as she further thought about it. "Xellos' pet, Filia, is quite fond of the child of fusion. She will go to great lengths to save him, no doubt about it. I heard she has been staying with Milgazia's clan lately. Xellos' pet will do the work for me and my little minion will return. Iago!"

A red monster parrot appeared out of the astral side. It was the same one who was present when Rezo was summoned before. "Yes, Lord Beast Master? Do you have a valuable treasure for me to take care of for you?"

"As if I would trust you with such a task," Zelas chuckled mockingly. "Go tell everyone to get ready. That information recovered from Rezo's old abandoned laboratory about a certain special type of jar during our earlier investigations will come in handy after all."

xoxox xox xoxox

While her minions made the needed preparations, Zelas teleported to Xellos' room and observed the shape lying on the bed among purple cushions. It was a black cone as big as a man, which used to have a few cracks on it, albeit they had faded away over the past few days. He was a monster again, but he had been damaged in a dangerous way. The spell he casted probably caused an adverse reaction because he wasn't originally a human. It was another terrible miscalculation, albeit this one was completely Zelas' own, not that she would ever admit to making a mistake.

Beast Master tried again to awaken Xellos, calling him with her energy. This time the result was much better than in previous occasions, as she actually got a reaction from him. Slowly, Xellos took on his human-like shape, his hair now purple, as he was truly a monster. He remained still on his bed, without even the simulation of a breathing rhythm, though he was very much alive. "Xellos..." there was no reply. "Xellos..." still there came no answer. "Wake up, brat boy!"

Xellos immediately sat up, as if bouncing off an imaginary spring. "I'm awake!" Strangely enough, he didn't remember going to sleep in the first place. "Lord Beast Master?"

"Well, it looks like you're alright after all," Zelas observed him critically; his energy was okay at least. "It took you long enough to recover from that little accident."

"Accident?" Xellos asked in confusion. "I was in an accident? Last thing I remember I was on my way to follow your orders and choose dare. Am I late?"

Zelas raised a suspicious eyebrow at Xellos. "That was last summer, back in July."

"You mean it's not July now?" Xellos inquired in confusion, "or even summer?" What in the world could be strong enough to knock him out? Let alone for such a long time.

"We're in the spring time, it's December now," Zelas stated somewhat exasperated. As if she didn't have enough to deal with already, now she had to add an amnesiac general priest to the list. Perhaps his pet dragon had amnesia too, since she was so close to him when the explosion happened and was also injured. That would explain why she had not showed up looking for a way to enter Wolf Pack Island and fuss about her dear husband.

Xellos blinked in confusion. He knew it was best never to question Beast Master, her word was his law. Yet he couldn't help himself and before he could stop it, his mouth ran away with him as he inquired, "spring is in December?"

"For now," Zelas replied. "A lot has happened and the world nearly ended. Yet unfortunately, it was not by my hand. Albeit I have decided I would much rather torture the world eternally or at least for as long as possible. After all, if I return it to the Sea of Chaos, it will simply be reborn all over again and it might actually turn out more peaceful the next time around. Death is too merciful, chaos is best. Either way, about the seasons, they'll probably fall back into place in a couple of years."

So the world nearly ended and he didn't remember any of this? Xellos was very disappointed. "Lord Beast Master..." There was a distinct tone of complaining displeasure in his voice.

"Alright, alright, I'll fill you in on what you missed, you don't need to whine at me like a puppy," Zelas mocked. She would tell him the story of the past few months, but she would edit certain things out and let Xellos figure them out on his own. For the time being, it was best to keep things relatively simple.

xoxox xox xoxox

The world felt as if it was at a stand still. The miraculous recovery of the land brought a great relief to those who survived, yet they could not soon forget the many losses they had all experienced, as the death toll had been frighteningly high. Yet for now, there was no immediate danger and also no immediate solution to the problem. The Stillness had retreated, hidden itself away and for the time being not even the spell that should grant access to its hideout was working. Attacking with the energy of the Sea of Chaos had been needed to weaken an otherwise impossible to beat enemy, but now that it was done, forcing it to come out for the final fight would not be easy. For the time being, everyone could only prepare, research and try to be ready for the return of the Stillness' attack. Thus the masses continued mostly living in ignorance and for those who knew the truth of the situation, they were living in uncertainty.

Filia couldn't help it but to stare at the buildings under construction as she made her way down the street in Seyruun. She had spent several more days at Dragon's Peak before finally deciding to return to her shop, albeit she wanted to visit Seyruun first. She was very grateful to Milgazia and Memphis and she let them know. Yet Filia knew that the other dragons were not comfortable with her and Val there. They had not been openly hostile, but they were generally avoidant, afraid. It would take a long time for them to become accustomed to her and Val. Filia thought it was an effort worth pursuing, but the time wasn't right.

She hoped to return to visit Dragon's Peak in the future when Val was old enough to understand the complexity of the situation enough to not feel hurt every time someone looked at him with fear. That was not how Filia wanted him to grow up, but if possible, when he was older, if he so wanted it, perhaps he could find a way to make peace. Maybe by then Milgazia would have been able to reassure his clan during a time that wasn't filled with danger and uncertainty and it would make things run much more smoothly.

"Is our town like this too?" Filia inquired in worry, finally breaking the silence that reigned supreme among her, Val, Jillas and Gravos. Being told about the state of the world was vastly different from witnessing it.

"Yes," Gravos replied with uneasiness. Filia had not yet been told she was no longer welcomed in that town. At least they were safe in Seyruun.

"I hope everyone is alright," Filia voiced. "I'm especially worried about Hanna. She won't be able to handle repairs of this magnitude at her age and she has no children to help her. Although, I suppose Manna, Anna and Sasha's families are probably taking care of her."

Jillas and Gravos remained silent for a long moment. Filia didn't remember Hanna's betrayal or her true identity as Venus. She thought of the Venus from the true yet incomplete story she was told as a whole different person. The solemn silence left Filia thinking that they were hiding something from her. Even when they told her many stories about the battles that took place, there were many details that were omitted, the details that were difficult to explain. There were no lies, but there were many blanks that led to convenient misinterpretations that sounded more logical than the full truths would have.

The quiet was interrupted by obnoxious laughter as a woman in a very revealing outfit approached them. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Over here, Gravy, everyone!"

"Gravy?" Filia questioned unsure under her breath. She turned her puzzled look towards Gravos who was... blushing? "You know this woman?"

"Naga is..." Gravos trailed off into silence, not sure about how to explain it. It was sort of a long distance relationship since Naga was constantly traveling, but they wrote to each other often.

"Epona!" Naga took both of Filia's hands in hers. "I heard about your terrible case of amnesia. Don't you worry, if you laugh with all your heart, I'm sure that the memories will start flowing back in no time! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

Filia felt her eye twitch, "My name is Filia," she pointed out through gritted teeth.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 124: Suspicious! For You To Find Out

"They're here!" A little fox boy rushed down the Seyruun street to meet the group cheerfully. "Are you feeling better aunty Filia?"

"Yes, thank you..." Filia replied with a smile, feeling herself calm down a little. She recognized the boy as Palou from Jillas' stories. That meant that his mother, Elena, was probably near by. Filia was let down the street by Naga, who insisted she had something to show her. The golden dragon was still confused about what was going on, but she tried to stay as calm as she could manage, then maybe people would stop sugar coating everything and tell her about the details she suspected they omitted. She found the strength to remain positive seeing how happy Val looked as he showed Palou the yoyo Milgazia had given him. It looked like the two boys were already great friends.

Turning the corner to a street near the castle gates, Filia spotted a lovely two story building that had already been fully restored and looked as if it was only recently painted. The colors presented beautiful pastel shades, relaxing sky blue walls and glass display windows lined in golden colored frames. The second floor even had a cute little balcony with vases peeking out between the thin golden colored bars of the railing, easily seen but secured from falling. Filia recognized the vases as some of the ones Amelia had purchased some time ago. They contained lovely pink flowers that appeared to have been recently added. The glass displays on the top floor also featured more vases on one side and maces on the other, all of them crafted by Filia. The maces were supposed to belong to the Seyruun army, though Amelia temporarily confiscated them.

"Miss Filia!" Amelia jumped off the small balcony, joining the others on the street below. "It's good to see you again! What do you think of the new shop? I put up some of my vases up there as samples so people can start looking forward to when it officially opens. Then you can put up your new merchandise and I can put those back in the castle. I added some of the maces from the army we got from your old shop too."

"New shop?" Filia blinked in confusion. Apparently there was more than she imagined that Jillas and Gravos neglected to tell her.

"Yes, oh that's right, I guess you wouldn't remember with your amnesia and all, but you had decided to move here to Seyruun." The princess cheerfully pointed at the second story of the building. "That's your brand new shop up there. The shelves inside are empty, but there are supplies and materials ready for use, so you can get creative and start filling up the shop shelves."

"Wow," was the only thing Filia could manage to voice at first. So she had sold her old shop and moved to Seyruun? That was her logical conclusion at least. "You set everything up for me? Thank you." Although that did leave an unanswered question about what happened to the old merchandise, but Filia assumed that it was probably too troublesome to move everything and she had some kind of massive closing sale. She decided not to complain to Jillas and Gravos about not mentioning the new shop; they probably just wanted to surprise her. "The first floor is a bakery?" Filia curiously peeked at the glass displays with fresh bred, cakes, cookies and other baked goodies ready to be sold.

"Yes," Amelia smiled, taking in the bakery's scents. "Elena runs a bakery on the first floor; her business is already off to a great start."

Elena was Palou's mother and if she ran a business so close to Filia's, that meant that she was now living in Seyruun too, rather than simply being there for a visit. That would explain why Palou and Val were so close. It made Filia glad to know the boys would be able to play together often, since they lived in the same city. Plus Seyruun was a strong and safe city; it was really a good place to raise Val. Then there was also the advantage of being close to her good friend Amelia with whom she occasionally exchanged letters in the past.

Naga had already taken Gravos inside to share a strawberry cake with him while Filia and Amelia talked. Val and Palou were happily snacking on some chocolate chip cookies. Elena was talking with Jillas, who had gone inside. They both welcomed Amelia and Filia as they went in. However, they couldn't talk for a long time as they were interrupted by the voice of an impatient Lina Inverse.

"Filia! Jillas! Gravos! Val! Elena! Palou! Amelia! Naga!" The redhead sorceress shouted at the top of her lungs. "What's taking you so long? It's bad enough that Phil made us wait until Filia's group came back, now you're all going to make us wait even more? I want to start eating!" Gourry was, predictably, following Lina as usual.

"Oh, don't be so impatient, Miss Lina," Amelia tried to calm her. "Let's not forget that this banquet is to honor the efforts of all those who participated in the battle that has truly not yet ended. Even though not everyone will be able to attend..." Solex, Xellos and Zelas, along with a few others, would most likely be absent. That would make things simpler, but at the same time, Amelia wished that everyone could be there. She had also learned about what happened to Kally, Kalio and Medusa, which saddened her. Yet she was always ready to persevere and try to make the world better for the sake of those who still remained.

"But Amelia, the table is set, the triple banquet is ready to start and we're hungry," Gourry whined.

"I might as well start with the appetizers," Lina took a step towards the bakery, but Jillas stood in her path.

"I swore to protect these shops and I'll keep my word!" The fox stood unflinching despite facing the deadly danger that was a hungry Lina Inverse.

"We better go to the castle's banquet hall before things get out of hand," Amelia suggested. "You can get a tour of the shop later, Miss Filia." Thus the group went on their way to Seyruun castle.

The remainder of the day was spent feasting on a triple banquet that went on late into the night. Everyone knew to keep certain details about the past few months a secret so as to not shock Filia too much. No one really wanted to have to deal with a dragon form temper tantrum if she was terribly offended by the notion of being married to a monster, while not being able to remember first hand what brought about such a plot twist in her life. Filia had a good time, though she still felt like something was missing, but decided not to question it too much. The feeling of missing something was only natural given her amnesia, and the missing details would surely fall into place soon enough.

xoxox xox xoxox

A time of rest and recovery was upon the world and there was a lot to be repaired. The Stillness could not be reached and it remained inactive for the time being. Everyone went on with their lives all across the land. Amor Resort was repaired just enough to be somewhat functional. Martina, Zangulus and Sylphiel continued working there. They were joined by Phythan and Onyx, doing various tasks around the resort. Celo continued his job as manager and Tiffany completed her training in preparation for the eventual battle against the Stillness. Her appearance had vastly changed because of her chimera condition, but she was otherwise well enough.

Pokota and his family returned to Taforashia, along with some helpers and supplies from Seyruun to rebuild. Xellos and Solex were still recovering at Wolf Pack Island as far as anyone knew and Zelas had been quiet lately. Fang also remained at Wolf Pack Island, he missed playing with Val, but since the danger of the Stillness using the death of the last ancient dragon to empower itself was, for the time being, not an issue, there was no real necessity to keep Val hidden. At least Fang could still play with Fili and the wolves.

Philionel became the official king of Seyruun. The coronation was held as soon as things settled down in the city. His royal duties were the same as before, since he had been the acting king for a while. Amelia stayed in Seyruun to finish overseeing the city's full recovery and Zelgadis remained by her side. After Lina and Gourry feasted in the many recipes that Seyruun had to offer, they went off on another journey to hunt down treasures and apprehend bandits, to pass the time until new information about the Stillness came. Maybe they would hear something useful on the road.

Filia settled into her new life in Seyruun and soon filled her shop with new products. It was fun setting up the vases and maces and polishing them with the scents of the bakery in the first floor in the air. Gravos and Jillas were still helping as always, now assisting both Filia and Elena's businesses. Naga had left on another trip around the world after attending her father's coronation when Seyruun had become stable. She had promised to write regularly. Palou and Val would always play together, enjoying the time of relative peace, as peace could only exist if it was relative. Overall, Filia mused that aside from the looming danger of the Stillness, her life was good, yet there was something missing.

xoxox xox xoxox

At Wolf Pack Island, Zelas sat on her throne, contemplating the flier in her hands. The world had survived the apocalypse as far as most people knew. Of course, the danger was very much still present, but they assumed it was over. With heavy losses and much mourning over lost love ones, the people of the world united to try to do something that would lift their spirits. They intended to accomplish such a purpose in friendly competition in the form of a world wide brass rackets tournament.

Most of the lands of the peninsula, which was once inside the barrier, had united to conduct two massive elimination rounds. The two competitions slightly modified the rules of classic brass rackets, making the matches to be played one on one. Each competition was exclusively for men and women respectively. The purpose was to find the strongest team to form the two halves of the classic male and female brass rackets team that would compete in the world wide tournament, which would follow the sport's classic rules.

Zelas was all too eager to both enjoy the event and make a big mess of it. She could use this opportunity to further prepare for the eventual battle against the Stillness. She would be even more closely linked to the world and in less danger due to her condition of being purely astral if there were that many more people who couldn't stop thinking about her. She would climb the ranks in disguise and reveal herself as Beast Master at the world wide tournament, turning the event into chaotic pandemonium. It was a win-win situation in every way, she would have fun, she would have a feast, she would rain on the world's false parade and she would become stronger.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few days later, Milgazia made his way through Dragon's Peak, walking to his house, a few golden dragons scurrying out of the way of his path. It was not that they feared or disliked their trusted leader, but rather that they wished they had been kinder to his guests. Just as Milgazia assured, no harm had come from allowing Filia and Val to live among them for a few days, but that didn't seem to sink in until they were gone. That left several of the Water Clan dragons wishing they had shown Milgazia more support when it was really needed. Some just didn't feel like facing him just yet, he wasn't angry, but they were regretful. Admittedly, a few were also glad that the so called traitor and her ancient dragon child were gone, but disagreement was something that could be found on almost any group of any kind.

Memphis was in front of Milgazia's mountain cabin, trying to towel dry an energetic looking Justice, but the pale yellow husky wouldn't sit still. "Oh fine, you can go play now. Just don't get dirty!" She released him and stood to greet Milgazia. She was dripping wet as it is the fate of anyone trying to bathe a dog. "Hey, I wanted to show you this." From her pocket, the elf retrieved a very wet flier.

Milgazia received the paper, first taking the time to thank Memphis for getting Justice all cleaned up, then examining the flier with curiosity. The ink was blurred and difficult to read, but from what he could perceive, the flier was advertising the upcoming world wide brass rackets tournament. It also invited the general public to sign up for the men and women's competitions in hopes of earning a spot on what was advertised to be the ultimate classic brass rackets team. Milgazia had a pretty good idea about why Memphis would bring this up, thus he inquired. "Are the rumors true? Has Zelas entered in disguise?"

Memphis herself had infiltrated the women's elimination tournament and found that Zelas was indeed participating. She had an alternate sporty look, with short orange hair and blue eyes, going by the alias of Yuna Wolf. "Yes, she hasn't even shown her full skill yet, though she managed to best me at the court," Memphis pouted.

"Zelas wasn't happy with how the energy borrowed from the Sea of Chaos restored the world to better conditions than she calculated," Milgazia reminded. "I was expecting her to try to take back some of that, so to speak. She must be plotting to cause trouble, no doubt about it," he concluded.

"What can we do?" Memphis asked, she knew that a direct confrontation during one of the brass rackets competitions would bring many innocent by-stander casualties and was thus out of the question.

"This situation must be handled carefully," Milgazia voiced. "Finding out what exactly Zelas is plotting will be vital to getting the situation under control. They are still taking late entries in the elimination rounds, aren't they?"

"Yes..." A look of realization soon overcame Memphis' features.

"Zelas will surely win the women's tournament. In order to keep an eye on her, I'll have to win the men's tournament and become her brass rackets partner." Milgazia knew that it was easier said than done, but he was determined not to allow Zelas to take back the progress that the world had made. She wanted to torture the world more so than kill it, but that was a pretty bad fate in itself and Milgazia needed to make sure the pain didn't get too far out of hand. After all, character building and extreme torture were two entirely different things and he would rather the world have a healthy amount of the former, rather than an excessive amount of the latter.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Filia hummed as she polished a large base at her new shop at Seyruun. A peculiar feeling invaded her senses as a certain monster general priest teleported into the shop. She turned her glaring eyes on him, not showing any outward signs of the fact that she had been secretly wondering if he was really okay. He was an evil monster who deserved to be injured, but if it was the apocalypse itself which had been, at least temporarily, adverted, then the mysterious injury in question could be potentially dangerous, perhaps even mortal. She didn't want him dead; she was not the kind of person to wish death on anyone. Feeling a secret burst of relief only in the privacy of her mind, Filia's suspicious voice spoke the name of her uninvited guest, "Xellos!"

"It's been a while, did you miss me?" Xellos inquired in the same mocking tone that characterized him. He was a monster again and Filia held no memories of him ever being anything else.

"Why would I miss your annoyance?" Filia pouted and glared, setting aside the vase she had been polishing before she acted on the very tempting possibility of throwing it at Xellos' face. "Why have you come to bother me?" She placed her hands on her hips and gave Xellos a suspicious look, secretly hoping he didn't bring up any subjects that she was not fully informed about. Sure, it might give her a chance to obtain more information from him, but she didn't want to confess her amnesia. Xellos would surely find a way to tease her and annoy her about it and the missing memories by themselves were annoying enough as it was.

"Comfort food," Xellos confessed with more truthfulness than Filia could ever guess, though his tone was just as cheerful as ever.

"I'm not going to feed you!" Filia snapped. "If you're hungry, go buy something from the bakery downstairs and don't cause any trouble!" She felt an odd sense of familiarity in the activity of arguing with Xellos that was almost reassuring.

"I might get some cake later, but it's not that kind of food that I'm looking for right now." Xellos explained, still grinning in mockery. "Besides, you're already feeding me."

Wrath... What he wanted was wrath and Filia realized it. She gritted her teeth and mentally counted to ten hoping to calm her anger. She didn't want to feed Xellos. 'Life is wonderful and living is great,' Filia mentally chanted and when it didn't work fast enough, she tried to reason with herself. 'This isn't so bad; he hasn't done anything really bad yet. Maybe he's not fully recovered from his mysterious injury. Maybe he'll go away soon. Maybe I can just ignore him, this really isn't so bad. I have a nice shop in a great city. I'm surrounded by friends and family, Val is happy and I'm happy too. An insignificant detail such as Xellos won't annoy me. I won't let him get to me.'

Xellos frowned as he felt Filia calm down into peaceful bliss. It didn't bother him as much as it should, but he still wanted her anger, he needed to eat something delicious the monster way after the terrible shock he received. Said shock was not about the near apocalypse that the world had gone through or about his missing memories. It was a shock far greater than the surprises he had received by all other events he witnessed in his life put together. It was a great and terrible shock indeed and he could really use some of Filia's delicious emotional nutrients as comfort food right now. "If I didn't know any better I would say you're happy to see me."

Filia smiled, determined not to let Xellos win. "I heard you were pitifully injured and I felt so terribly sorry for you." Xellos was prideful and Filia knew it. Albeit he could accept assistance, if the situation so demanded it, pity was a whole different story. Surely he would hate it.

"Oh really?" Xellos felt his eye twitch involuntarily before he quickly composed himself. "I'm sure you're terribly frustrated over the fact that I'm all better now. Your wish of my death will not be granted any time soon, cruel dragon."

Filia frowned, that wasn't exactly the kind of counter argument she wanted to hear, not that she wanted to hear any counter arguments at all. "I don't wish death on you, or on anyone."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 125: Exposed! The Truth Must Be Faced

Grinning teasingly, Xellos focused on the present activity of annoying Filia after finally having been able to go visit her at her new shop in Seyruun. He was feeling better already. "So you don't wish death on anyone? Not even the Stillness?" Xellos threw out the possibility.

"That's different! I want that fiend gone, but that's only because for as long as it exists, it will try to kill us all!" Filia strongly argued. "That thing is not really a person, it can't change its ways," that's what Filia had concluded based on what she was told. "It took so many innocent lives," many more than she could remember.

"Yes, I would say about a third, maybe even half, of the world's total population," Xellos stated in a sugar covered happy tone.

Filia's eyes widened. She didn't intend to bring up the subject of the events of the past few months to keep her amnesia a secret from Xellos, but now that he had brought it up she was thirsty for more information. She wanted to know the kind of truths that Xellos would bluntly state with that inappropriate cheerful tone of his. The kind of harsh truths that her friends knew she wouldn't like to hear, but needed to face. "You're not exaggerating?"

"Not at all, Seyruun is in grand conditions in comparison to most other places," Xellos informed. "I take it you haven't had time to go around? Of course not, it's not like you care. In fact, you probably didn't even notice the supplies Seyruun has been sending around, because the lives of so many are just not important to you."

Filia ignored Xellos' teasing. His extreme critiques didn't bother her anymore, she knew better than to take them to heart. Yet the facts where still harshly present. More than ever, she felt the need to check on the town where she used to live. She had assumed that it was recovering just as Seyruun was, but that might not be the case. Had Jillas and Gravos even had time to visit while taking care of Val and her during her coma of several days at Dragon's Peak? Without another word, Filia walked past Xellos and headed downstairs.

"Walking away in the middle of a conversation and ignoring your guest? How rude!" Xellos exclaimed with exaggerated offence. "I'm not surprised though, you are a dragon and dragons are barbaric brutes with no manners what so ever."

Still ignoring Xellos, much to his annoyance, as he followed her, much to her annoyance, Filia made it to the bakery downstairs. She arrived on time to see Gravos returning from delivering a large heavy base that the buyer couldn't quite carry alone. "Gravos, could you mind the shop for me for a while? I need to go out for... maybe a few days."

Gravos was about to agree, at first assuming that Filia was going out for a few minutes or hours at most, but when she said days it took him by surprise. "Days?"

They wanted to be gentle with her, that much was clear. Maybe a disaster had happened in their old home town which was the real reason that led to their move to Seyruun. Filia didn't want to push her family into reliving the situation and knew they were just trying to protect her by keeping it quiet, which were all the more reasons to go on her own. "It's nothing, I'm just..." She couldn't tell the truth, but she didn't want to lie.

Xellos wrapped his arm around Filia's shoulders, annoyingly pulling her close to him. "We're going out on a romantic get away for a few days." He grinned with his most sarcastic squinty eyes smile.

Before Filia could harshly slap his arm away and yell a few insults at Xellos, Gravos nodded with a smile. Perhaps Filia's memories were coming back if she apparently had remembered that she no longer disliked Xellos. "Alright, have fun and don't worry about the shop and Val. We'll take care of everything." With his well wishes stated, Gravos merrily made his way up the stairs to the vases and maces shop.

Filia stood in frozen shock, her mouth slightly agape. "He believed it..." she concluded in horror. How could Gravos sound so sincere? He didn't sound like he was joking at all and surely he knew better than to make this kind of terrible joke anyway. Then again, it was worse that he would actually think it was true. Didn't he know Filia better than that?

"Your stupidity must be rubbing off on him." Xellos stated as a matter of fact with some surprise of his own. He didn't think Gravos was this gullible.

Pushing herself out of her shock, Filia removed Xellos' arm from around her shoulders and went off to say her remaining farewells before leaving. Xellos stood next to her in every occasion and no one question why Filia was apparently going somewhere with him, though she was hoping he wouldn't follow her. The way they were all so calm around Xellos unnerved Filia, but she figured it was all a result of the stress from the recent dangers.

xoxox xox xoxox

After a long flight, during which Xellos attempted to hop on Filia's back several times, promptly causing her to spin wildly in mid air to throw him off, and a few rest stops along the way, Filia finally arrived at her previous place of residence. The location was terribly run down and the locals were not happy to see her. "Dragon!" They screamed as she landed, though Filia was more focused on finding a suitable pile of debris behind which she could transform into her smaller shape. Her mind was also occupied by the concern of Xellos peeking at her.

In short, by the time Filia was back in her elf form, she noticed too late that she was surrounded by an angry mob. "Everyone?" She stared at them unsure. "What's going on?"

"Why have you come back, dragon?" Someone in the crowd asked in a very accusing tone. "Are you here to try to devour us in revenge for burning the remains of your old shop? You're not welcomed here, not you or your beast friends!"

Filia stepped back in shock. She was unable to find her voice seeing the townspeople like that. "It's true, it is her!" Sasha approached the angry mob, pointing at Filia.

"That horrible dragon is back!" Anna dramatized.

"Go away you wild creature!" Manna shouted angrily. "You're nothing but trouble!"

"No doubt about it, those tree chimera we had attacking the town earlier were looking for her," Sasha accused. "Because of her bringing danger to our peaceful town so many people died, including Hanna who was always so kind to Filia. She's such an ingrate!"

"Yeah and it was her friend that leveled the mountains just outside of town, they're so violent!" Anna added.

"It's no wonder the beasts she kept with her turned out to be horrible murderers, one just had to look at them to know!" Manna yelled.

"Oh yes, she does make weapons for a living," Sasha agreed. "Then when the zombies attacked right before the end of the apocalypse, she was nowhere to be found, the coward."

Filia's eyes were filled with tears; she didn't understand any of this. She had heard about Lina blowing up a mountain when she was attacked by monsters while looking for some spicy herbs, but she didn't think anyone cared all that much. Filia had heard about the tree snake chimeras and Venus, thinking of her as a whole different person from Hanna, whom she thought was still alive. She had not been told about the visit to Beast Master's Spa in the astral side. She didn't know Venus and her forces had apparently been after her, though in truth they were actually hunting for Xellos that time.

Hanna was dead? Many of the townspeople were dead? She had put them in danger? Jillas and Gravos' reputations were ruined because of her? This was her fault? They hated her, the whole town hated her. Filia was paralyzed. She couldn't speak, she couldn't' move, she couldn't even feel the abundant tears flowing from her eyes. The angry mob was going to attack her with murderous intent, blaming her unrightfully for all that had gone wrong and she just stood there like a rag doll.

"Are you going to move, stupid dragon?" As he voice the question with an obvious negative unspoken answer, Xellos teleported Filia away.

The distance of the teleportation was short, so Filia didn't get a harsh wave of sickness because of it, but she was already feeling terribly sick because of what happened in the ruins of town. She could see the town far away as she stood in a valley that was once a mountain. She was still speechless, still motionless, still trapped in deep sorrow.

"Honestly, I prefer wrath, but I suppose this will have to do," Xellos teased, hoping to get some kind of reaction from Filia. He stood directly in her line of vision and leaned close to her face with a big smile. "I thank you for the meal."

Filia felt herself tremble with the pain of the hardships she had forgotten and still could not remember, which only made it worse. "They hate me," she sobbed. "They hate Jillas and Gravos too. They even hate Lina. Why did this turn out so wrong? Why did innocent people have to get involved in my problem, in my fight? Hanna... I cared for her like a mother and she's gone!" Filia's voice increased in volume until she was all out wailing.

"You really are pathetic, stupid dragon," Xellos criticized unhelpfully. "You knew there was a harsh discovery waiting for you here," though she expected something different, "but you still came anyway. If you couldn't face the truth why didn't you just remain in ignorant bliss like the pathetic fool you are?" This was annoying, Filia's sorrow had a particularly bitter quality to it, he wanted wrath, delicious wrath to feast on, not this overrated monster dish.

Filia sniffled; Jillas and Gravos were only trying to spare her from reliving the pain. She was upset at them for hiding this, but she could hardly blame them. They probably thought she would fall apart and they were sadly right. She took in big deep breaths and tried to calm down. She was happy up until the point when she got the urge to return to that town. If that idiot Xellos hadn't shown up and brought up the subject of the world wide losses, she wouldn't have gotten that sudden impulse to take off.

Stupid Xellos, it was all his fault, everything was his fault! Just as for the townspeople everything was her fault. She shook her head. Xellos was a horrible monster, but he had plenty of real facts to get blamed for, thus Filia decided that she did not want to blame him for something that was actually not his fault. He didn't know she had amnesia and as much as she hated to admit it, he was doing her a favor by indirectly making her discover what she had been unknowingly ignoring.

Filia had decided after her discovery of the ancient dragons' fate that she wouldn't hide from the truth, even when it was difficult to face. She dried her tears and let out one last sorrowful breath, before taking in some fresh air with intentions of speaking. Her words were interrupted before they could even form on her lips as the angry mob from town approached in the distance. The group was now larger with more people having joined the dragon hunt. Filia hurried away, desperately looking for a hiding place to transform.

"Isn't it faster to fly?" Xellos sarcastically inquired as he hurried after Filia. She had managed to make herself calm down noticeably and stop crying. He wondered what she was thinking of to have achieved that effect.

"I would fly if you would look away!" The angry mob was still pretty far, and Filia was getting further away from them. From that distance they wouldn't be able to see much if she transformed. Yet Xellos was right there, annoyingly floating next to her as she ran.

"You want me to look away so you can transform with some privacy?" Xellos inquired the obvious with a look of false innocence.

"Yes!" Filia shouted. She knew all too well that he would not grant her request.

"How very considerate of you," Xellos sarcastically replied, grinning in amusement. "It's about time you started minding your manners, but you don't need to worry about me. You've already transformed in my presence before and I've already seen every gruesome detail. If the sight of your horrendous body didn't traumatize me then, it won't traumatize me now." Filia's wrath had returned full force and Xellos was very much enjoying it. This tasted so much better than plain old sorrow.

Filia's face turned scarlet in embarrassment and anger. Her blood felt like it was boiling. "Xellos!" In a fit of rage, she transformed and tried to hit Xellos. She punched, she kicked, she swung her tail around and even bashed her head into the ground in an attempt to crush him. He took off higher into the skies laughing merrily and Filia was quick to give pursuit. She shot one laser beam after another trying to at least partially decimate the horrible annoyance. It was true that she didn't really want him dead, but she wanted to cause him pain, horrible terrible pain.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia's later return to her shop at Seyruun was filled with exhaustion, both physical and emotional. Unfortunately for her, she was unable to injure Xellos. She greeted everyone, making her return known, then she went straight upstairs to her room in the back of the second floor. She took a bath and lay down on her soft and inviting bed for a nap. She would have a long talk with Jillas and Gravos as soon as she cleared her head a little.

Xellos showed up again at the bakery for a tangible snack and happily sat at one of the outdoor tables recently added to the establishment enjoying the sweet treat. He was not expecting Jillas to approach him with a most peculiar conversation. "Did you tell her everything?" The fox beastman asked with curious concern. He wondered if Filia's memories were really returning or if Xellos somehow convinced her to go out with him even if she didn't sound so fond of him not long ago.

"Everything?" Xellos questioned, preceding the action of taking another bite of his delicious chocolate ice-cream pie.

"You know, about what the boss doesn't remember because of her amnesia." Jillas explain in what was, from his point of view, a very clear way. He assumed that Xellos remembered everything that had transpired leading up to the unusual wedding and beyond.

"Oh, that," Xellos pretended he wasn't partially in the dark too. Beast Master had only given him the basic summary after all. At least Xellos wasn't the only one with amnesia, though Jillas obviously didn't know about that detail and assumed Filia was the only one missing some memories. "I only told her about a few details about the general state of the world, nothing too shocking. Oh yes, and she also knows the people of her old home town hate her. That's where she wanted to go."

The fox paled, though it wasn't really noticeable under his fur. He stared at Xellos' ever present grin as he ate his sweet chocolaty snack. "The town..." Filia had looked terribly tired when she returned, but not as emotionally distraught as he would imagine her to be after such a horrible discovery. He assumed that Xellos must have consoled her. "I suppose she had to know eventually. Thanks for being there for her."

Xellos had to pause, mouth open, a portion of chocolate on the tip of his spoon, waiting to be eaten. He put down the silverware on the plate next to the remaining chocolaty treat, the piece it carried still untouched. Apparently Gravos wasn't he only gullible one. It seemed that Jillas had also gotten it in his head that Xellos was in some kind of romantic relationship with Filia. The thought of relationships made Xellos remember his earlier near mortal shock and it made the thought seem terribly wrong. He was wasting a golden opportunity to tease and embarrass Filia, but given the peculiar circumstances concerning Beast Master, it just didn't seem funny anymore. Thus he clarified, "we're not really dating. I only wanted to see Filia's reaction if I told Gravos we were."

Jillas blinked in realization. Then that could only mean that Filia's amnesia was still going strong. Xellos knew about it, everyone in the group knew about it, so someone must have gotten him up to speed even before Jillas mentioned it. Xellos was probably trying not to shock Filia too much by keeping their status as a legally married couple a secret from her. "I see... Maybe it's better this way." Because in her current mental state, Filia would probably demand a divorce... while throwing a very dangerous hissy fit.

"Agreed," Xellos simply stated, still trying to push the thoughts of the shock out of his head. After feasting on Filia's wrath, feasting on some sweets and staying away from Wolf Pack Island for the duration of Filia's trip to and from her previous home town, Xellos felt a bit better. He was still in shock, but his mind was clear enough to actually do something about it. He couldn't directly take action, Beast Master would be most displeased, but maybe if he could indirectly influence the other side, everything would work out.

Xellos needed a pawn, someone to use in order to influence 'him.' If it happened to be a dragon that would make things easier. Maybe Filia... Nah, she wouldn't be so easily tricked, not to this magnitude at least. Then again, Xellos was certain that Filia would find the terrible discovery just as offensive as he did. He wouldn't need to manipulate her at all, because if she knew, she would willingly help set things right. Rather than a pawn, she would be his teammate. Of course, that would involve actually confessing the terrible thing that had occurred, which he assumed begun at some point while he was unconscious for several days. That would be terribly embarrassing.

Nonetheless, if Xellos didn't do anything to right this terrible wrong, sooner or later, the mortifying fact would be known by many more people than just Filia. It was difficult waking up with missing memories to a world that was insane. Maybe that chaotic energy that was fed to the planet had some kind of side effect or something, because the occurrence was certainly crazy. Thus it was decided. Xellos would confess the catastrophe to Filia and she would volunteer to influence 'him.' Then finally the world would be set right side up again. Xellos liked chaos, but not this kind of beyond nonsensical ridiculous chaos. Albeit he should probably let Filia cool off for a while longer first.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 126: Shock! Celebrity Couple

Sitting on the roof of Filia's shop as the sun rose over the horizon to a new day, Xellos contemplated the moment when he found out about the shock. He had just recovered at the time and was walking down the hall at Beast Master's palace in Wolf Pack Island, minding his own business. He heard Zelas talking to Galathia as they made their way through a different hallway and stood at the corner hidden from view, listening to a portion of their conversation, cut off and out of context.

"That's the full report from the monster rumor mill." Galathia finished with a tale that Xellos didn't quite catch. She was in fact talking about him and Filia. "Some are oddly amused, some are surprised and some simply don't believe it. However, other than those who have actually seen visual proof of the matter, many seem to think it's all some crazy rumor."

"I suppose it is hard to believe," Beast Master agreed. "A monster and a golden dragon together..."

Xellos was both surprised and curious. Who was Beast Master talking about? What golden dragon? What monster?

"If it was a low rank monster, maybe even a middle ranked monster, or a monster chimera, then it wouldn't be so shocking," Galathia mused aloud. "But in this case, given the rank..."

Xellos deduced that the monster in this odd involvement with a golden dragon was of a high rank. Maybe a general or a priest? Perhaps even a monster lord? That certainly narrowed down the possibilities.

Galathia's next statement made dread start to build up in the pit of Xellos metaphorical astral stomach. "Many have been thinking of your recent behavior as suspicious, but I of course, completely understand."

It didn't make this sound any better for Xellos when he remembered that Galathia was one of the more lustful monsters around, albeit her literally petrifying face didn't make things easy for her. Thus Xellos couldn't help it but to deduce, taking both the information and the informant into consideration, that a monster of a particularly high rank apparently had the hots for a golden dragon... ew.

"I'm sure you do," Zelas stated dismissively, moving on to an entirely different topic with little verbal indication. Away from Xellos' view however, she had pulled out of the astral side a black golden lined agenda written in red ink, making it clear to Galathia that she was moving on to a different subject as she turned the pages looking through her notes. "Milgazia should be here soon."

The dragon elder of the Water Clan had the audacity, not to mention the skill, to win the men's brass rackets elimination tournament and become the partner of the winner of the women's elimination tournament, Yuna Wolf. Such a name was the secret identity with which Zelas was entering the competition. Milgazia was going by something along the lines of Angel Dragon, the first part most likely to annoy Zelas and the second due to the fact that the most obvious disguises were the hardest to see through.

The tournament only allowed humans and elves to enter, reasoning that the elves were similar enough to humans. Monsters were obviously not allowed to compete. The league claimed that beastmen, dragons and other such beings would have an unfair advantage because of their physical strength, never mind that it was a weak excuse given the fact that brass rackets was more about the strength of the mind. The point was that they would not be allowed to enter. Of course, no one would think that a dragon entering incognito would actually call himself Mr. Dragon. As for monsters, they were labeled as evil, blamed for the almost apocalypse, even if they were also adversely affected during its worse stage, and banned from competing.

Zelas was very tempted to send Milgazia to an early grave, or better yet, to her oven, but she decided to let him be for the time being. It's not like he could stop her from causing chaotic mayhem by revealing her identity at the upcoming world wide tournament. He would probably be pushed into revealing his true nature as a dragon and that would cause more confusion and chaos. Perhaps having Milgazia as a brass rackets partner wasn't such a terrible thing after all.

After having reached that conclusion, Zelas decided to follow up with her plans, undergoing some brass rackets training to make sure she put up a believable act on all the public appearances and exhibition matches she would have to go through before the official tournament took place. She couldn't show her true power, she had to run around the court and make the matches look close, as they would be for an ordinary human. Milgazia was, naturally, expected to practice along with her.

Their coach and advisor, Wizer Freion, who was taking a break from his detective and police work for the time being, thought the odd pair had a long way to go. If he knew about the real identities of Yuna Wolf and Angel Dragon at the moment was anyone's guess. Maybe he had no idea, if he suspected something, he didn't show it. Although there was also the possibility that he was just playing along, feigning ignorance.

Wizer often remarked that though Yuna and Angel were impressively skilled on their own, their team work was so bad it made amateurs look like champions. He insisted that if they didn't work together, they would be each other's downfall in the official tournament, not to mention they'll embarrass themselves in exhibition matches and interviews to the point that they might not even make it to the tournament. He suggested practicing together until they began to feel comfortable with each other and learned to tune their movements to each other.

Miss Wolf and Mr. Dragon had in turn assured Wizer that they would practice together privately and tell him all about how it went later, this was to avoid having to put up an act more than absolutely necessary.

"Have fun playing with him!" Galathia replied to Zelas' comment about Milgazia's time of arrival being close by in a completely non-lustful way with only innocent mischief.

However, this was Galathia and she was known for being kind of a pervert, so Xellos took her comment the wrong way and questioned her sanity in speaking to Beast Master in such a way. His horror was still growing, pulsating like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode if the terrible theory actually turned out to be true.

Zelas on the other hand, took Galathia's comment exactly as it was intended and assured, "I will." Which meant that she intended to annoy Milgazia while they practiced brass rackets.

Zelas and Galathia's voices faded out of Xellos' hearing range as he fell back against the wall and slid down to the floor with his back resting on it. Zelas and Milgazia? No, absolutely not, that was completely and totally insane. Xellos refused to believe it, it was so crazy it wasn't even funny. He paced around in denial for some time, until he could no longer contain the need to rush after Beast Master and ask her to clarify the situation.

When Xellos teleported near by, the first thing that Zelas noticed was that he looked rather disturbed. "Lord Beast Master, may I ask you a question?"

Zelas had been making her way through the long hallways of her palace towards the surface of the island at a luxurious pace, having just parted ways with Galathia. Curious about what had Xellos in such an alarmed state of discomfort, she agreed. "You just did, but you may ask another."

"With all due respect," Xellos hoped that he had misinterpreted what he heard and he also hoped that he didn't get punished for asking something so preposterous. But he needed to know, he needed to put his terrible doubts to rest. "What is your relationship with Milgazia?"

A look of realization overtook Zelas' face. "Ah, so you've heard." She expected Xellos to be a little upset that Milgazia was the one playing brass rackets with her instead of him. "To put it simply, he is my partner for LIFE." To make it complicated, people cannot actually hear capital letters being spoken. Yet Zelas assumed that if Xellos was inquiring about her brass rackets partner, than he must know that LIFE meant League of International Fellowship on Earth, which was the name of the committee sponsoring the upcoming world wide brass rackets tournament.

Xellos twitched as Zelas mused that he was taking this harder than she expected. "Seriously?" He stuttered, silently begging for it to not be true, after all, 'partner for life,' without the capital letters, was just a politically correct way to say lover.

"Yes, for that reason, you must not kill him. Also you can expect to see him at Wolf Pack Island every now and then." Taking note of the look in Xellos eyes as if he had died ten times over, Zelas waved her hand dismissively and chuckled. "Don't be such a baby, Xellos. You're still my favorite minion," she teased. "Now go away, Milgazia and I need to be alone," so they could concentrate on their brass rackets strategizing and practice acting like humans on the court.

"Alone?" Xellos twitched some more as Zelas continued her path down the hallway, leaving him standing there to twitch away his sanity. Maybe the world had not survived the apocalypse after all, maybe this was it. At least that's what it felt like to him, it was simply too horribly wrong.

Shocked and appalled, Xellos went to spy on Beast Master outside of the palace, as soon as he composed himself enough to walk more than two steps without shuddering. In the surface of Wolf Pack Island, Xellos noticed the addition of a brass rackets court. Zelas was there, with her alternate sporty look in a brass rackets outfit. Milgazia was also wearing sports attire and they seemed to be talking, but Xellos was too far away to hear them. If he got too close, even if he managed not to be spotted, they would sense him and the suspicious proximity would make it impossible for him to pretend he just happened to be passing by.

Out of Xellos' hearing range, Zelas approached Milgazia and looked at his ears. She had seen them pointy and elf-like and she had seen them rounded and human-like. As far as the tournament went, Mr. Angel Dragon was supposed to be a human. Even if elves were allowed to compete, humans were generally favored by the LIFE committee. "Do you think you can keep your ears like this?" She curiously moved his hair away from them with the tip of her finger, tilting her head slightly to the side to have a better look at his ears. "Not to mention keeping your tail out of sight?"

"I can," Milgazia assured. "Pointy ears are a sign of a slightly incomplete human transformation, though sometimes dragons allow them as a show of solidarity for the elves."

Xellos' pet, as Zelas referred to Filia, was younger, thus less experienced in changing into a human, which was probably why she never got rid of the pointy ears. Plus her tail apparently popped out without her consent rather often. "I see, well then, let's get down to business." Zelas knew Milgazia was doing this to keep an eye on her and she was making fun of him by allowing it.

While the conversation between the golden dragon elder and the monster lord took place, Xellos watched part of the scene in mute, due to the distance. From his angle, they appeared to be standing closer to each other than they actually were, as it was difficult to calculate the distance of two bodies one behind the other from so far away. She reached over to... take his face in her hand? Xellos turned away at that point and refused to watch any further. If they were going to kiss, which couldn't be further from the realm of possibilities, he really didn't want to witness it.

The painstakingly frustrated and truthfully horrified purple haired monster teleported to his chambers before he could witness the fact that his crazy theory was very wrong. He buried his face in a purple pillow and screamed into it, trying to let out his tensions in a very non-astral way. His pet, whom he didn't remember adopting or naming but had been told was called Fili Algar Metallium, jumped on the bed next to him and tried to comfort her master.

Xellos petted Fili's soft fur. The little wolf-dog cub reminded him of Filia with her light blond fur and blue eyes. That's just what he needed right now, to clear his head by indulging in what a monster would call a good meal and Filia was just the one who could provide it. He needed her delicious wrath to feast on, he wanted some comfort food to get over the shock of the horror he just learned about and start thinking of a way to fix it.

xoxox xox xoxox

Thus that brings us back to the present with the sun rising over the horizon, announcing the start of another day in the kingdom of Seyruun. Upon hearing some sounds coming from the living area below, Xellos realized that Filia was already awake. He teleported inside and waited for her in front of the stairs as she made her way across the area, towards the kitchen, which was located downstairs.

The kitchen was spacious and comfortable, being equipped to handle the daily needs of a bakery and it was also the place where personal meals were prepared. Filia would cook something to add to Elena's delicious freshly baked bred that the golden dragon could already smell was being prepared. Then the whole family would sit down to have breakfast together. At least that was Filia's plan until she found Xellos blocking her path to the stairs. "Xellos!" She greeted him in the usual fashion of angrily spitting out his name like venom.

"Filia," Xellos grinned in response in the same annoyingly mocking fashion he always did with an infuriating overly cheerful mask.

"What do you want so early in the morning, raw garbage?" Filia had her hands on her hips, glaring daggers.

"I have a business proposition to make," Xellos began to explain. "I must ask that you suppress your violent barbaric instincts for a moment and hear me out. I assure you that you'll see my point and will willingly participate of this alliance as soon as I've stated my case."

"Alliance?" Filia huffed. "Why in the world would I willingly be your ally?"

"Dragons and monsters don't really belong together, do they?" Xellos sounded like he was continuing the argument with Filia, but he was in fact beginning to state his case. People were easier to convince when they didn't know they were being convinced. He had thought up some good arguments while he waited for morning so he could talk to Filia without ruining his chances of obtaining her willing cooperation by interrupting her slumber in the middle of the night. Dragons were especially cranky when they didn't get enough sleep, Xellos assumed. Although it also stood to reason that any creature lacking in rest would be cranky.

"No, they don't," Filia agreed suspiciously. She fully expected Xellos to say something about how dragons were too uncivilized and unrefined to understand monsters or some equally ridiculous argument. Yet the sarcastic remark she was expecting never came.

Instead Xellos continued his argument, moving forward quickly since Filia appeared to be so responsive this morning. She had not even shouted her latest statement towards him. "It is unnatural and wrong for a dragon and a monster to be together. Maybe they can be acquaintances, maybe even allies if they have a common goal or a common enemy. But they can never, ever, under no circumstances be a couple. Right?"

On the previous evening, Filia had a talk with Jillas and Gravos. They told her about the less pleasant side of the things she had missed and she managed to stay composed, albeit she still felt a dull ache in her heart. Xellos was still being omitted from the conversation though. Jillas and Gravos agreed that it was best to give him time to make Filia come around slowly so that the revelation didn't appear to be horrible to her. Besides, if despite their constant quarrels they got together once, they could go through the process all over again and end up happy a second time. Thus assuming Xellos was taking care of business in his own way in the romance department, they decided to give him some space.

Filia blinked in confusion, her defenses disarmed by the sheer oddity of Xellos' argument about how monsters and dragons couldn't be a couple. "Right... Monsters don't love. They don't feel any sort of attraction, not towards other monsters and certainly not towards dragons. Because monsters can't be attracted to anything..."

"That's not exactly right, but that's beyond the point," Xellos voiced in passing, before going back to his main argument. "The point is that-"

"What do you mean that's not exactly right?" Filia interrupted.

"Interrupting people is rude, stupid dragon," Xellos pointed out with a cheerful smile that didn't quite match the statement.

"Answer me, raw garbage." Still feeling emotional, Filia was not in the mood for trickery.

Letting out an annoyed breath, Xellos explained in a matter of fact, rushed tone, so as to not delay the more important matters too much. "Monsters can feed on lust," it was simple, precise and concise factual information.

"Oh," Filia blushed and she expected Xellos to tease her, but he didn't. In fact, he looked rather uncomfortable himself. "Xellos?" She curiously prompted.

"Anyway, as I was saying, it is completely nonsensical for monsters and dragons to be romantically involved," Xellos emphasized. He really didn't want to think about the possibility of Zelas feeding off a certain golden dragon elder's.. l... l... 'life is wonderful!' Xellos mentally shouted at himself, flinching as he did.

"Yes, we agree on that much..." Filia nodded unsure. She shifted uncomfortably, feeling rather awkward with the subject at hand. Strangely, Xellos looked like he was suffering from discomfort himself, though not for the same reasons as Filia. "Um... are you alright?"

"Perfectly fine," he grinned, while Filia stared at him, not with anger, but with concern. She noticed his change in behavior and it confused her. He let out a tired breath; there was no use in going in circles. Filia would know about Zelas and Milgazia soon anyway, so he might as well come out with it.

Yet before Xellos could speak any further, Filia interrupted with an unexpected question. "What's your favorite monster food?"

"Monster food?" Xellos curiously inquired. "As in my favorite negative emotion to consume?" Filia nodded. "It's wrath," Xellos truthfully replied without pausing to think about it.

"And your least favorite?" Filia tried to stop herself from looking away shyly. This was silly; it was none of her business. Besides, she should have guessed wrath was his favorite.

Xellos considered the question for a moment, "I find the flavor of sorrow to be the least pleasant, it's either overly bitter or kind of shallow, lacking in taste. Fear is pretty good, but wrath is still my favorite. Wrath is... kind of like high quality barbecued meat with a great secret sauce."

"Oh," Filia was more interested in the conversation than she thought she should be. Somehow, when she thought that Xellos was just trying to sustain himself by annoying her, it sounded less horrible, albeit it was still very much wrong. Although it was almost, but not quite, excusable if it was out of necessity. "Can't you monsters feed on something pleasant to the one giving it?"

Xellos paused and gave that question some thought too. He was allowing himself this little distraction only because Filia's curiosity amused him. He would have to tease her about it later. "Yes, actually," and now he was back down that road again.

"Really?" The light of undue hope shone in Filia's eyes. "If you must constantly feed on me, why can't you feed on that instead?"

"Such a direct offer," Xellos feigned shock, focusing on teasing Filia.

"What do you mean?" Filia didn't like the way Xellos' grin grew.

Xellos opened one eye, making it look like he was winking, sort of. "You're offering me your lust."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 127: Discussions! Fortune Cookie Wisdom

As it always happened, it didn't take long for Xellos to annoy Filia into raising the volume of her voice. "That's not it!" Filia yelled, quickly covering her mouth to avoid waking Val and Palou. "You know that's not what I mean, raw garbage." Surprisingly it was Filia who got the conversation back on track, only because she wanted to get away from the embarrassing topic of her nonexistent attraction towards Xellos. "What were you saying about business?"

Right, it was time to go out with it. "I want you to talk some sense into Milgazia."

That took Filia by surprise. "What do you mean?"

"I know this sounds crazy and believe me it is, but the truth of the matter is that Zelas and Milgazia are... well... a couple," Xellos painfully push the words out with a clear look of intense disgust on his face.

"Excuse me?" Filia blinked.

"You heard me," Xellos insisted. "I'm not repeating such a nasty thing."

"Calumny!" Towards both sides, ironically. "I should wash your mouth with soap!" Filia reproached in the same tone Amelia used for her justice speeches.

"I'm tempted to let you," Xellos considered, quickly dismissing the silly thought. "I wouldn't say such terrible things about Beast Master if it wasn't true. You know I wouldn't, don't you?"

"I suppose..." Filia mused. "Then that means..." Her eyes widened as her expression turned shocked. "It's true?" She finished in an almost fearful whisper of disbelief.

Xellos nodded solemnly. "Beast Master won't listen to me. I can't argue with her about this, but maybe you can bring up a convincing argument to Milgazia. This is bad for both of us. I know you're not really involved with the golden dragons anymore, but I heard rumors that you've been to Dragon's Peak recently, so you must have spoken to Milgazia."

"Yes..." Filia admitted. Being open minded about Val was one thing, but being open minded about nonsensical inappropriate relationships with high ranking monsters was crossing the line. "You're honestly not lying about this?" Filia knew he wasn't, this was too much, even for Xellos. "Alright, I'll talk to Milgazia and try to give him some advice, I'll head out today."

Good, now Xellos only had to wait for Milgazia to realize how stupid he was being, breakup with Zelas and possibly end up as the main ingredient of her next batch of dragon cuisine. This was turning out better than Xellos expected. Now that it was all said and done, he was actually glad he went to Filia with his problem.

xoxox xox xoxox

This time, Filia told her family where she was going, albeit she didn't say why she was going to see Milgazia and everyone assumed it was a simple social visit. Filia began to address the difficult subject over a cup of tea, she and Milgazia were inside his house, alone, where no one could overhear their conversation. "I've been thinking..." Filia shifted uncomfortably and fell into silence, staring at her tea.

"Yes?" Milgazia gently prompted her to continue after a long silence, but it wasn't working. "Filia, it's alright, you can be honest. Say whatever is on your mind, I won't take it badly. Don't be afraid to be direct. Honesty is the best way to say things."

Filia nodded and took a deep breath. "Alright, here goes. I've been thinking about dragons and monsters and how different they are. To put it directly, no offense, with all due respect..." After much stuttering and stumbling over her words, Filia finally let it out. "I don't think a romantic relationship between a monster and a dragon could work out!"

"I see," though he was surprised by Filia's outburst, ever the diplomat, Milgazia took it in stride. "I admit I agree with you. Although it is important to respect each individual's decisions. Every person has the right to be the architect of their own future." Naturally, Milgazia assumed that Filia was talking about herself, going to him as a fellow golden dragon for advice. He didn't know if her memories were back or not, but she had to be informed about her marriage to Xellos if she was talking about this.

"Yes, I can agree with that too," Filia admitted, feeling like she wasn't going anywhere with this. "It's just that... well... making things work out..." She fell into another long and uncomfortable silence.

"If it is that uncomfortable, there's always divorce," Milgazia suggested as gently as he could. "But that's a very personal decision, as is marriage. It is important to be careful about who you hold on to and even more careful about who you let go."

Filia's jaw dropped. Milgazia was thinking about marrying Zelas already? "That's fast, don't you think?"

"Excuse me," Milgazia apologized, interpreting Filia's surprise as if it were offense. He didn't want to make her feel pressured when she had come looking for support and he did want to offer her friendship. "Maybe it would be best to move slowly and see how things work out before making a choice. Considering every possibility is a vital part of careful decision making."

"Yes," Filia paused, realizing what she was agreeing to. "I mean no! The choice should be obvious. I mean really."

Diplomacy was one thing, but romantic advice was a whole different challenge. Milgazia wasn't sure what to say that didn't sound biased. "Sometimes the obvious turns out to be a mistake and the real answer is revealed later."

Filia tried to come up with a counter argument but she couldn't. Why did Milgazia have to sound ever so wise, cool, calm and collected? He didn't sound like someone who was being manipulated by inappropriate desires towards a monster lord. At that point Filia blushed and lowered her face to stare at her tea.

"Filia?" She still obviously liked Xellos, or so Milgazia assumed. "Follow your heart; I've heard that's the best advice."

"Yes..." Filia nodded and that was the end of her mission. She couldn't do this; Milgazia had a counter argument for everything and that made her go in circles. He was like a less obnoxious and more diplomatic version of Xellos in that she couldn't argue with either of them. Then again, they really weren't similar and they would probably both be offended if she said they were. The rest of Filia's short visit to Dragon's Peak went by uneventfully.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few days later, Filia was at her shop at Seyruun one fine afternoon when Xellos showed up unexpectedly. "Filia..." He said in an overly sweet sing-song tone through unfitting gritted teeth right in Filia's ear, making her drop the vase she was holding. "I thought we had a deal."

"Don't sneak up on me!" Filia snapped as she began to clean up the broken vase. "I tried, I really did." This wasn't a complete surprise, she expected Xellos to show up to criticize her incompetence in persuading Milgazia to join the sane side of the world. She just didn't know when he would come. It figured his timing would be just right to make her drop something breakable. "Milgazia has a counter argument for everything and I don't mean smart-aleck comebacks like yours." Why did she ever think of comparing them before? "I mean deep wise sounding stuff that could be written in a fortune cookie."

"If you can't argue with a fortune cookie you really are stupid," Xellos grumbled in annoyance. "So much for our alliance."

"It's not over," Filia threw the broken pieces of the shattered vase into the trashcan. "First of all, you're paying for the broken base, and second, we're going to sit down and strategize. We have a common goal to achieve, to make Zelas and Milgazia breakup as quickly and quietly as possible. After all, it would be bad for both their reputations if their relationship was known."

Not commenting on the part about the vase, Xellos grinned mischievously and extended his hand. "Partners?"

To his surprise, Filia actually shook Xellos' hand, "partners." Thus a new alliance was formed, by two peculiar partners in crime with a single goal in mind, to make Zelas and Milgazia breakup. If only they knew that in reality their relationship was professional with slight hostility and not at all romantic. But alas, they didn't know and they were about to go well out of their way for the sake of righting a wrong that didn't even exist... which made it all the more difficult to correct.

xoxox xox xoxox

That morning, Xellos ended up having breakfast with Filia and her family. Val knew they were still playing that odd game about not telling Filia about certain people, so he refrained from calling Xellos, dad, daddy, father or any other such variations in Filia's presence. Nonetheless, the little ancient dragon was very happy to see his father again and celebrated by sharing his tricks with him. Although, Val was so excited over the return of his dad, that he didn't even bother being sneaky.

That led to Xellos with a face full of toast, butter side of course. Which in turn led to Filia attempting to scold Val for trying to create a food fight and failing to sound scolding because she was laughing so much. From that point on, breakfast went on without incident, except for Val's yoyo colliding with Xellos' forehead every now and then. Xellos had a thing or two to say about Filia's parenting skills every time Val misbehaved and Filia always tried to scold Val between giggles, which wasn't very effective. If it was Xellos he was annoying, maybe she could let it pass.

xoxox xox xoxox

After breakfast was done, Xellos and Filia headed over to Seyruun castle, as Filia insisted that Amelia's romantic novel expertise could be very useful in the process of strategizing. They agreed that the couple in question would be kept a secret because really, the less people knew about them the better.

"I don't know if Val is really fond of me or really dislikes me," Xellos mused aloud as he and Filia made their way past the castle gates. The guards already knew them and no one tried to stop them from freely exploring the royal residence.

"I don't think Val actually dislikes anyone," Filia truthfully replied. "He just gets a little mischievous now and then. You should have seen what he did to Milgazia."

"I'm curious," Xellos grinned, encouraging Filia to share the story. He really wanted to hear about Milgazia's misery right now.

"Val played a whole bunch of pranks on him," Filia frowned, remembering her shock at finding out her son was misbehaving so much. "Everything from doodling on his face, to sabotaging his shampoo and even the classic water bucket on top of the door and more! But it all worked out in the end and Milgazia even gave Val a yoyo. I'm telling you, that dragon has the patience of a saint to put up with all that."

"So that's where Val got that yoyo," Xellos grumbled, though another detail also caught his attention. "Milgazia forgave all of that?"

"Yes," Filia nodded.

"I see..." That meant that Xellos playing the role of the impossibly bratty step-son and bombarding Milgazia with a multitude of pranks would not work to make him breakup with Zelas. It was a pity, because that sounded like a pretty good plan, but if Milgazia forgave everything, then it wasn't worth the risk of annoying Zelas with the interference. That was one more plan down the drain, so Xellos really hoped that Filia could use Amelia's information to come up with a good strategy.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia arrived at Amelia's room, the door was closed and odd noises could be heard from inside. "Almost there!" That was Zelgadis' voice and he was out of breath.

"Don't stop!" That was Amelia's voice and she was also panting.

"What are they doing?" Filia thought aloud before she could stop herself.

"Isn't it obvious?" Xellos replied with more than Filia wanted to hear. "Spring is early and apparently so is mating season."

Filia's face turned scarlet. "I think we should leave them alone."

Xellos considered it, "maybe..." But he was not the most considerate person around. "Or maybe we should let them know that we're here and we know what they're doing. I can imagine their embarrassed red faces." He grinned in mischievous amusement.

"That's mean!" Filia scolded.

More suspicious noises came from beyond the closed door to the princess' room. "Let's try this, you go on that side and I'll go on this one," a breathless Zelgadis.

"Wait..." Amelia panted. "I have a better idea, let's both go on top."

Xellos blinked, "both on top?"

"That's... well... um..." Filia stuttered.

"How is that even possible?" Xellos inquired to no one in particular.

"I don't know," Filia admitted. "I guess we're still pretty innocent by comparison, aren't we?"

"It's a sad day when a monster is more innocent than a human." Xellos frowned and after a pause he knocked on the door.

"Xellos! Don't interrupt them!" Filia tried to stop him, but it was too late.

"That's it!" Zelgadis let out a breath of tired satisfaction.

"Yes..." Amelia sighed happily. "Thank you so much Zel!"

"You're very welcome," Zelgadis replied with a love-struck smile that neither Xellos nor Filia could see from behind the door, but somehow knew it was there.

"I thought I heard someone at the door, come in!" Amelia called out. Xellos and Filia looked at each other, then Xellos bravely opened the door. Filia was ready to cover her face with her hands, but instead she stared. There were Zelgadis and Amelia sitting on top of a large tightly packed suitcase. "Miss Filia, Mr. Xellos, hi!" Amelia cheerfully greeted. "Oh my, I'm still a little out of breath. That was quite a work out."

"Tell me about it," Zelgadis breathed. "I thought we would never get this suitcase to stay closed."

"It's because of all the diplomatic stops daddy asked us to make when we go on our trip in a few days. We'll need formal clothes for the occasions and those take up a lot of room," Amelia explained. Turning back to her visitors, she inquired with a smile, "would you like some tea?"

Both Xellos and Filia nodded and joined Amelia and Zelgadis around a table. Xellos discretely leaned close to Filia and whispered so that only she could hear. "Your mind is in the gutter."

"You thought the same thing," Filia snapped under her breath, blushing bright red.

Amelia sighed happily as she served the tea. Filia's memories were gone, but Xellos was, according to her interpretation, trying his best to win her heart again. It was so cute how he whispered sweet nothings in her ear that made her face turn such a lovely rosy color. From Amelia's point of view, the odd pair was making wonderful progress in getting back together. "By the way, Mr. Xellos, it's good to see you're back in good health. Life is wonderful, isn't it?" His hair was purple, he was a monster, but he should have developed a resistance to positive feelings. Of course, that only meant something if he actually believed he had it. "You know what they say; true perseverance shall always bear fruit!" It was secret encouragement for his apparent progress with Filia.

"Wonderful," Xellos replied with heavy sarcasm. "Absolutely wonderful." All else aside, he tried to focus on the difficult explanation at hand.

xoxox xox xoxox

"I refuse!" Amelia's voice echoed through Seyruun castle in righteous fury after Xellos had shared his story. The princess crossed her arms over her chest and pouted. "You should be ashamed of yourselves!" She scolded adamantly. Filia had just requested use of her knowledge in helping breakup a couple, without saying who the couple was of course. Amelia had in turn reacted with extreme indignation. "How dare you interfere with true love? Don't you know they love each other? The caring looks in their eyes, the calm and peaceful strolls hand in hand through the park, the passion put into every kiss! They should be free to let the world know that they're in love!" Amelia was now standing on her chair, her right hand raised, pointing towards the ceiling in a heroic pose. Never mind that she had no idea who the couple was.

After a moment of silence, Amelia got down from her chair and sat down again. Filia was shocked, Zelgadis was okay, Amelia was appalled and Xellos was muttering something under his breath. "Is he chanting a spell?" Zelgadis asked suspiciously.

Filia curiously leaned towards the purple haired monster, trying to hear what he was so quietly whispering. "No..." She finally replied, surprised by what she heard. "He's saying that life is wonderful."

"Really?" Zelgadis blinked while Amelia's pout turned into an encouraging smile. "Hey Xellos, did you turn into a masochist all of a sudden or are you just immune now?" The chimera inquired.

Ceasing his chanting, Xellos replied, "I'm not a masochist. I'm just trying to create a distraction from a terribly horrifying mental image brought about by a certain someone's speech." After the cheerful explanation, he observed with a touch of perplexity, "although, it doesn't sting as much as it should. Maybe I have gotten stronger somehow."

Amelia's eyes shone with great joy, "even if you're a monster, you can still enjoy the positive things in life. Life really is wonderful!"

Filia sighed hopelessly, "I don't think they're going to understand unless we tell them the specifics."

"We can't," Xellos refused. "Too many people know about this already."

"How many?" Filia curiously inquired.

"You, me, the pair at the center of the problem, obviously, and a few monsters." Xellos gave it some thought and found that he didn't like the possibility of many people already being aware of the circumstances. At least he reasoned that the lack of uproar in the monster and dragon races meant that not too many people knew, or at least the higher ups didn't.

"What's two more? I trust them," Filia encouraged. She wasn't going to break her promise of keeping the secret, so it was up to Xellos to decide.

After some consideration, Xellos finally agreed. "If it'll be helpful in this... But if Lina comes by we can't tell her, she'll blackmail me for food."

"I agree," Filia nodded, while Amelia and Zelgadis remained in the dark about the peculiarities of their conversation.

"I don't think it's such a great idea to tell Zelgadis either." The purple haired monster eyed the chimera suspiciously.

"Zelgadis can keep a secret," Amelia insisted. Her curiosity for the secret was growing more and more by the second.

"Of course I can," Zelgadis assured.

Xellos remained silent and unsure for a while longer, before deciding to be daring and get the vital piece of information out in the open. "Zelas and Milgazia are dating."

A vast silence invaded Amelia's chambers. The princess and the chimera stared in quietude for a long moment, until Amelia's capability of speech returned to her and she exclaimed happily, "that's wonderful!"

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 128: Development! The Procedures Of Forbidden Love

Filia twitched, musing that she should have guessed Amelia would look at the positive side with a very potent metaphorical magnifying glass. Xellos' reaction was far less quiet than Filia's as he snapped, "it's not wonderful! It's terrible! A monster lord and a dragon elder? That's insane!" Zelgadis opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it and closed it again. Though no sounds escaped the chimera, the action did not go unnoticed by Xellos. "Got something to say?" He demanded, feeling like an idiot for letting Zelgadis in on this terribly mortifying piece of information.

"Well," Zelgadis calmly began. "It is alarming, given their positions," he stated truthfully. "But it is their choice in the end and we'll all have to accept it. They're a lot more experienced than all of us; they've been through a lot in their long lives. Don't you think that they must already be aware of the risks of their relationship? I don't think we should interfere. Just let them be, I'm sure they'll figure out a way to work things out."

That was not the kind of verbal vengeance Xellos expected from Zelgadis. Wasn't the chimera supposed to hate him? He did last time Xellos checked, which was before the time period that was missing from his memories. Then why did Zelgadis look so supportive, so positive? "Amelia is rubbing off on you," Xellos finally concluded. Zelgadis was supposed to be gloomy and bitter, but he wasn't. Yeah, the world was going insane alright.

"Zelgadis is right, we should let them work things out," Amelia smiled from ear to ear. "No offense Mr. Xellos, but maybe you shouldn't meddle, this is their personal business."

"They're a monster lord and a golden dragon elder!" Xellos insisted on his main argument. "Of course it's my business. I'm Beast Master's only general and priest, I'm her top ranking ally, this is my duty!" Xellos defended.

Another moment of silence passed after the strong argument until finally, Amelia reached across the table and took both of Xellos' hands in hers. "Mr. Xellos, don't worry, I understand completely now. I promise I will do all that I can to help you."

"You will?" Xellos was taken by surprise. He was starting to think he wouldn't be able to reason with Amelia at all.

"Of course I will," Amelia assured. "After all, I went through this myself too!" She started down the path of memory lane, though her story was still quite different from Xellos' situation. "After mom passed away, daddy never really showed any interest in other women, but women showed an interest in him, since he was a prince and all. Instead of letting him handle the situation I thought it was my duty to protect him and swiftly dispatched all his potential dates with fists and fire. Looking back on it, I wish I hadn't. Maybe most of them were just mean ladies trying to take advantage of daddy's status, but some of them might have actually been nice. It wouldn't be a bad thing for daddy to have a companion, I'm sure mom would understand."

By then Xellos was really dreading the comparison as he slipped his hands out of Amelia's. "It's not the same thing!" He firmly argued.

"You're right, it's not," Amelia admitted, to the relief of Xellos, though it was short lived given her next statement. "It's not the same thing because back then I was a little girl, I didn't know any better. But I think that by monster standards, or any standards for that matter, being over a thousand years old means being a grown up and that means you should have the maturity to deal with this, Mr. Xellos. Miss Zelas must have gone through difficult times as a single mom-"

Interrupting, Xellos argued. "Monsters are born from their master's energy, if you call a minion a child, then all monsters are single parents."

Ignoring the argument Amelia continued. "No matter how old you get, I'm sure Zelas will always see you as her precious little boy, but right now she needs your support. She has the right to have some romance in her life too! I'm sure she'll still care for you as much as always. You're not losing a mother, you're gaining a father!"

Xellos was twitching and he looked rather pained. Filia thought about the fact that monsters were purely astral beings and psychological warfare had an acute effect on them. As twitchy and pained as he was looking, it made Filia think that all of this was actually painful to him in more ways than one. Well he certainly had to be deeply disturbed by Amelia's final statement about gaining a father, because Xellos was once again singing the life is wonderful song under his breath in a desperate effort to either distract himself, or knock himself out. He would do anything to stop the scary thought process going through his aching head.

Filia sighed hopelessly. Maybe telling Amelia about this was a bad idea after all. She was far too optimistic to understand the horrors of the situation. As for Zelgadis, well he was probably just agreeing with Amelia. "Let's give Xellos some time for everything to sink in, okay? I'll make sure to give him lots of... emotional support." Filia offered in an effort to end the conversation that was becoming so painful for Xellos. "Can you at least lend us your knowledge in figuring out how far along their relationship is, so that we know how serious this is?"

"Sure," Amelia smiled. "As long as no sabotage takes place, I'm all too happy to help. Let's see now..." The princess paused, going over a list in her head. "I think it's fairly easy to conclude that the type of love they share is forbidden love. It is one of the most intense types of love there is, as it becomes stronger with each conquered obstacle, although it is also one of the most difficult to deal with. As for the stage it is in... Forbidden love tends to go through different stages such as hatred, dislike, attraction, confrontation, acceptance, understanding and closure. Because of the strong emotions involved through the process of the development of the forbidden love, all the stages are full of passion."

By this point, Xellos was resting his aching head atop his folded arms on the table. Telling Amelia about this was a very bad idea, this is what he got for listening to the advice of a stupid dragon. Albeit said dragon looked like she was sincerely regretful for his suffering, if the fact that she was patting him on the back in a supportive fashion was any indication.

Blissfully ignorant of the true intensity of Xellos' predicament, Amelia continued with her explanation. "First, there's hatred. At this stage, the potential couple has their first meeting and it's not a pleasant one. Right away they antagonize each other and possibly drive everyone around them insane with their fights. As they continue to interact with each other, that hatred simmers down to dislike, that is the second stage. They still have adverse feelings towards each other, but they learn to tolerate each other. Then comes the third stage, attraction. After the hatred has been conquered, mere dislike doesn't stand a chance against the power of growing attraction. They start to see the better side of each other and begin to realize they enjoy each other's company. The attraction stage can be interpreted by many as a friendship, though it has deeper underlying feelings that, at that point, the couple may not be aware of themselves."

The whole thing about hatred turning into dislike, which could be interpreted as growing tolerance, reminded Filia of Xellos and herself during the whole Darkstar ordeal. Of course, that was as far as it went, because she was in no way attracted to a monster, goodness no, that was both unnatural and terrible, a sinful catastrophe.

"I think it's fair to say that the couple in question has already gone through those stages and experienced the forth as well, the confrontation," Amelia theorized. "Unable to contain their feelings any longer, the couple acknowledges them. This does not always happen at the same pace for both of them. Sometimes one manages to deal with the situation sooner than the other and that one must continue to guide the process along. Yet being aware of feelings doesn't mean they'll be immediately accepted. The confrontation stage often involves a stubborn state of denial that must be slowly broken, leaving no doubts of the fact that love is growing between them and there's no stopping it!"

After pausing for breath, Amelia went on. "The fifth stage is acceptance. Shows of affection often begin to appear during the confrontation stage even if the feelings are not fully sorted out. It is very difficult to wait because of all the accumulated passion. That often leads to heartache as a full acceptance has not yet been reached. Then finally, once the facts are accepted and a compromise is reached, that's when the really deep development beyond the passion truly begins. The stage of understanding, I suppose you could say is the test of disenchantment. The illusion of new love fades away to give way to either heartbreak or true love. They see each other for what they are and they are able to accept each other with all their differences and faults."

If Amelia had to take a guess, though she wouldn't voice it, she would conclude that the stage of understanding for Xellos and Filia truly began after they got together again following their difficult break up after leaving Seyruun. That time in the town where they fought Narcissus and most likely during their strange trip to the past, they had progressed considerably. It was a pity that Filia didn't remember it, but Amelia had heard from Jillas that Xellos was working hard to try to charm Filia all over again, even if he was obviously a little distracted by his family situation at the moment.

"Finally, there's closure," Amelia finished her explanation. "The couple's bond has conquered all the hardest challenges of forbidden love and they have formed a stable relationship. I don't think Miss Zelas and Mr. Milgazia are quite at this stage yet. Given their high ranks and vast political influence, I don't think they'll be able to go all the way through the process this quietly. It's hard to say without more information, but I think they might still be at the stage of confrontation. They're allowing their mutual passion to show, but they still need to get to know each other better to fully accept each other. The stage of confrontation is usually characterized by passionate love scenes in novels."

Xellos was starting to pale and Filia was really becoming concerned for him. As far as psychological attacks went, this was stronger than all the life praising melodies in the world. The golden dragon smiled casually. "Thank you very much for all your help," she voiced politely. "This has all been very insightful and we appreciate it. I think I'm going to... um... take Xellos out for cake to help him relax and get used to the idea of having someone new in his family." After goodbyes were exchanged, Filia and Xellos made a swift retreat out of Amelia's room and out of Seyruun castle, not stopping until they were out of the castle gates.

xoxox xox xoxox

Walking through the streets of Seyruun, Xellos tried to clear his head and recover. He honestly didn't want to think of Beast Master as a character in a romance novel, especially with Milgazia as the other protagonist. He made his way down the street in silence next to Filia until finally, he spoke, "chocolate, a la mode."

"Pardon?" Filia questioned curiously, not quite understanding what his words had to do with anything.

"My cake," Xellos reminded. "The cake you offered to get me, remember?"

"Oh..." Filia did remember saying something along those lines while making excuses to retreat. He should be thanking her for getting him out of there when he was obviously in pain and too stubborn, or prideful, or both, to go on the retreat of his own accord. "Fine, let's go to Elena's bakery, we'll be able to find some good cake there. Afterwards, we can confirm if what Amelia theorized is accurate. The confrontation stage of forbidden love would be the perfect time to go on the attack. We cannot allow them to reach acceptance, it's for their own good."

Filia's statement caught Xellos attention as he inquired. "What do you mean confirm?"

"The signs should be clear," Filia stated as a matter of fact. "With the information Amelia gave us, we can interpret our observations much more accurately and come up with a better plan of action. Of course, before we can interpret anything, we need to actually observe."

"You want to spy on Zelas and Milgazia?" Xellos concluded. "What a naughty dragon."

"It's for a good cause!" Filia defended. "Besides, we shouldn't start with something as direct as espionage. Let's observe their environment first. I was at Milgazia's house not long ago and I didn't see anything out of place. However, Milgazia might be purposely trying to hide all indications of his relationship at this point, so as to avoid a confrontation with his clan. Zelas would probably be able to act more freely in her home, right?"

"No one dares to enter her chambers at Wolf Pack Island without permission," Xellos confirmed.

"Then that's where we need to go," Filia decided. She couldn't believe she was actually planning to snoop around a monster lord's room, but it had to be done. It was all for the sake of restoring order to the world and ending that insane forbidden love before things got out of hand.

"I'm not sure if you're very stupid or very suicidal," Xellos mused aloud. "But I suppose we'll need a proper investigation if we are to take effective action." Knowledge was important, awareness, accuracy, it was all a part of being a spy and Xellos had plenty of experience in that department. There was a certain trill to it that he had not felt in a long time. He was doing something he knew he shouldn't do, something he could get into trouble for, but if he had the skills to do it without getting caught, then everything would work out. He grinned in anticipation, his terrible mood giving way to the delight of misbehavior.

"Milgazia and Zelas like to play brass rackets together," Xellos informed. "Their matches get pretty intense sometimes. If we do the spying while they're playing, Zelas should be distracted enough not to sense our presence in her chambers. We'll have to be very careful though. It's bad enough that I'm sneaking you into Wolf Pack Island without permission, but I'm also sneaking you into Zelas' room. If we get caught we'll probably both be dead, or at least you'll be dead and I'll be agonizing for the next few months."

"Then we can't get caught," Filia agreed. She felt a certain thrill in all of this. She didn't want to admit it, but this was pretty exciting, like those novels about secret agents.

xoxox xox xoxox

After Xellos got his cake, the purple haired monster and the golden dragon, headed out to Wolf Pack Island. Just as Xellos thought, the brass rackets match between Zelas and Milgazia was going strong. They snuck into the palace that gave Filia a feeling of deja vu, even though she couldn't actually remember being there before. They had not teleported directly to the island, thus Filia had some time to get over her teleportation sickness as they traveled the rest of the way there.

"We'll have to sneak into Zelas' chambers on foot," Xellos had explained. "I'll have to keep my energy hidden and not use my power so that I don't get Zelas attention; that means no teleporting while we're here."

"Understood," Filia nodded with excited determination. She waited as Xellos peeked down the hallway discreetly and saw that the coast was clear. They advanced swiftly but quietly, avoiding being seen by anyone as they made their way through the massive, elegant maze that was Zelas' palace, towards the forbidden territory of the monster lord's private chambers.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia quietly made their way through Zelas' palace at Wolf Pack Island with the daring intentions of investigating her personal chambers. Footsteps were heard approaching, but teleporting was out of the question, as it would make Xellos' energy and thus his current location, far too obvious. Once Zelas noticed him, she would surely notice the presence of a golden dragon other than Milgazia too. That would mean big trouble for Xellos and Filia. While Filia remained frozen in place, Xellos tried to look for a way out of this predicament. He spotted it in the shape of a near invisible compartment on the wall, which he swiftly opened pushing Filia inside, then going in himself and closing it.

Filia found herself face first against an assortment of cleaning supplies with Xellos pressed against her back behind her. One of his hands held the compartment closed behind him, just in case, while the other rested on the edge of the shelves on the opposite side of the supply closet, next to Filia's shoulder. Xellos felt a tug on the closet door, but kept a firm grip on it from the inside, while a lesser monster on clean up duty grumbled about how long it could possibly take to house train wolf cubs. The lesser monster in question kept pulling at the door that blended in with the wall to no avail, obviously no match for the strength of a much higher ranked monster.

Xellos assumed this would just be a matter of waiting for the weak monster to give up and try to obtain the needed cleaning supplies elsewhere, but it seemed that things would not be so easy. Life was never easy really, especially not lately. Xellos noticed that Filia was face to face with a feather duster, making odd expressions as if trying to contain a sneeze. Her features contorted in discomfort as she fought a losing battle against the tickle in her nose.

Finally, it happened, "achoo!" Along with the loud sneeze, Filia's concentration gave way and her tail popped out without her consent. The appendage stretched out suddenly, passing between Xellos' legs, as he was directly behind her, and colliding with the door, almost making Xellos lose his grip on it.

A moment of awkward silence passed as the world stood still and the lesser monster out at the hall wondered if it was wise to continue trying to open that particular supply closet. Then finally, Xellos felt the need to point something out, "Filia, your tail is touching-"

"I know where my tail is!" Filia grumbled with a scarlet face.

"You're such a naughty dragon," Xellos teased.

Growling something inaudible and most likely insulting, Filia tried to turn herself around to move her tail away from where it should not be. With some difficulty, she managed to do it, noticing even more just how close she and Xellos were. She wanted to reach for her mace and hit him, but she knew that would only cause them to be discovered and who knows what that would lead to.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 129: Detectives! Close Calls And Clandestine Investigations

After a seemingly eternal minute, the lesser monster on clean up duty at Wolf Pack Island decided to give up and walk to the next utility closet for supplies. As the footsteps faded in the distance, Xellos cautiously opened the door and went out, followed by Filia, who released a breath of relief. "That was close."

"In more ways than one," Xellos reminded in his most teasing tone.

Filia glared with her face still crimson in embarrassment. "That was an accident and you know it!"

"Oh, I'm not so sure..." Xellos feigned offense. "I think that can be classified as sexual harassment."

"Shut up, raw garbage!" Filia snapped as she hurried down the hallway.

Realizing that provoking a temper tantrum in this situation was a very dangerous idea, Xellos hurried after her. "Don't forget where we are, stupid dragon! We can't get caught, keep your temper in check!"

Filia stopped, mentally counted to ten and tried her best to be less furious. "It would be easier if you weren't purposely making me angry."

"You have no sense of humor," Xellos critiqued.

Filia pouted and huffed. "Fine, I'll try to have more of a sense of humor then." Maybe if she teased him back the next time he tried to tease her, he wouldn't find it amusing anymore and would stop. Of course, she would have to keep her temper in check and a semi-clear head in order to test that theory, which wasn't easy. The pair of detectives of relationship sabotage continued on their way towards Zelas' room in silence.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Chaos, one of Zelas' wolves and the mother of Fili and her siblings, had stolen Milgazia's sports bag while he was busy playing brass rackets. Zelas didn't want her chewing on her things and Xellos didn't want her chewing on his things, but no one had said anything about chewing on that dragon's things. Chaos took the prize to her master's room and shook it in her mouth. The bag came open and with the movement, its contents, which included a spare brass rackets uniform, became spilled all over the room.

Amused, Chaos dropped the bag and picked up a shoe, she rolled on the bed making a wrinkled mess of the once perfectly laid out black silk sheets until she rolled off it and chewed on the shoe some more, before tossing it under the bed. A peculiar scent invaded the wolf's sensitive nose, it was a golden dragon, but this one was a female. Chaos let herself out of the room and made her way down the hall.

xoxox xox xoxox

Hearing the approach of someone else, Xellos and Filia ducked behind a corner and Xellos cautiously peeked out. He saw a large black wolf with golden eyes heading towards them and walked out of his hiding place. Interpreting that there was no danger, Filia followed him. "Hey Chaos," he petted the large wolf, who went up on her hind legs and licked his face. "You're going to be quiet and pretend you didn't see us, okay? That's a good girl."

With the possible crisis of having a wolf howling an alarm adverted, Chaos went quietly on her way doing as she was told, while Xellos and Filia continued towards the forbidden chambers.

They finally arrived in front of the double doors that led to Zelas' room, noticing that the golden doors were slightly parted. Xellos said that no one dared to go in there without permission anyway, so Filia didn't find the lack of lock surprising. The monster and dragon carefully made their way in. Filia felt her feet sink into the plush carpet. There was a lot of black in the room with golden details that stood out. The decor reminded her of the Lord of Nightmares, the gold that shone upon the Sea of Chaos. It made Filia wonder if that's where Zelas got the inspiration to design her room.

The chambers were very spacious with a very high ceiling, a colossal sitting room, then the bedroom further in, though the bed was more so a decoration than anything else since Zelas didn't need sleep and rarely indulged in it. There were shelves lined with magic tomes that looked valuable and rare, reaching up endlessly into the ceiling that seemed to depict outer space. There were diamond chandeliers impressively glowing with magical light and there were... dragons? Filia raised her hand to point at the dragon statues because she simply couldn't find her voice at the moment.

"They're dissected," Xellos stated as a matter of fact. "Trophies from the War of the Monster's Fall. That one over there..." He pointed at a majestic golden dragon with an intricate assortment of horns upon his head like an impressive crown. "He was the elder of the Aqualord's clan before Milgazia took over."

"You... you did this," Filia stuttered. She told herself not to cry, but she knew her eyes were watering.

"Yes," Xellos admitted, "gifts for Beast Master." Before Filia went crazy with her mace in the worse place possible, Xellos tried to distract her attention towards something else. "Look at this!" He hurried to the coffee table in the middle of the sitting room. It looked like it was made of pure gold decorated with diamonds. On top of it, there was a black vase with shiny golden paint and diamond-like rhinestones decorating it in swirling patterns. "I gave this to Beast Master too."

"A vase I made?" Filia stuttered, trying to stop her tears. "It's so mockingly ironic..."

"It was my Christmas present last year," Xellos continued trying to distract her from a ferocious hissy fit. "Christmas is just around the corner now. I wonder what I should get her this year?" He wrapped his arm around Filia's shoulders and pulled her close, the side of his face against hers. "Such soft skin, your pretty golden scales are nice and smooth too, aren't they? Maybe I can turn you into a dragon skin purse; Beast Master has been hinting that she wants one." Filia still looked like she was on the verge of a breakdown and to top it all up, now Xellos' face was wet with her tears from having pressed his cheek against hers, which didn't even get a reaction from her anyway. So much for distractions. "C'mon, stupid dragon, it's a little late to mourn their deaths, don't you think? Besides, it's not like you didn't know about the results of the war before."

Filia had made herself a promise not to fall apart, to be strong and to face hardships in stride. Yet she didn't expect her resolution to be so harshly tested so soon. Getting back into the subject at hand, Filia stated with certainty. "Milgazia has never been to this room. If he had seen this, then he wouldn't still be with Zelas. If he saw it, it would be over for sure."

"He already knows about how the war went too," Xellos reasoned. "He was there after all."

"The past can't be left behind like this," Filia motioned towards the dissected dragons. "It's obvious that Zelas isn't serious about Milgazia, otherwise she would have removed them from here."

Xellos felt a wave of relief wash over him. Of course Zelas wasn't serious. Maybe the unusually early spring time just went to her head, though he really didn't want to think about that either. The point was, that after she was done playing with Milgazia, she would probably kill him and everything would be right in Xellos' life again, the insanity would end. "I guess you have a point," Xellos was about to call the investigation done, but he paused as he spotted something.

The suspicious item was peeking out from under the luxurious curtains that separated the sitting room from the bedroom area. Xellos approached and picked up the thing. It was a white headband very much like those that athletes wore while playing sports. It smelled like dragon, like a male golden dragon to be specific. Like a moth to a flame Xellos peeked into the bedroom and immediately wish he hadn't. He stumbled back in shock as if he had seen something terrifying.

Filia dried her tears and approached Xellos to investigate his unusual reaction. She looked into the bedroom beyond the soft curtains and found a most disturbing sight. Shocked beyond words, she stepped inside. There was a shirt lying on the floor near by. She looked at it, examining it without touching it so as to not disturb anything in the room. Her unmistakable conclusion was that the shirt did not belong to Zelas, it was not the right size at all and it was obviously men's clothing.

Filia ventured deeper into the bedroom, closer to the bed. She found some shorts that matched the shirt completing the sports outfit on the floor not too far away. Her eyes traveled from the discarded article of clothing towards the messy black silk bed sheets. There were black golden and white cushions messily occupying a portion of the bed, while others were on the floor next to it. Her mind conjured up scenes that she did not want to imagine as she fought with herself to decide if she should be angry, disappointed or pitying Milgazia.

Finally shattering the long silence, Xellos voiced softly, "I think I'm going to be sick."

"Me too," Filia agreed. How could Milgazia do this? He must have seen the dissected dragons on his way to the bedroom and he still did this? It was terrible. Yet he had been so kind to her and Val, Filia couldn't think of Milgazia as a bad person. They did say that love could blind people and twist their judgment. She had to save him; she didn't want Milgazia to go through what she went through being regarded as a traitor. He had worked too hard over the years to keep the Water Clan together after the fall of the Aqualord. She couldn't allow him to throw it all away now in a fit of nonsensical passion. His clan needed him, the dragon race needed him; she had to save him.

Footsteps were heard as a lesser monster entered Beast Master's personal chambers. It was true that no one would dare to invade Zelas' room without permission, but it wasn't really trespassing for someone who was given permission for the purpose of performing basic cleaning duties.

"I thought you said no one would come here," Filia whispered. "Is that Zelas on her way? Her energy still feels like it's on the surface of the island."

"That's certainly not Zelas," Xellos confirmed. "It's the cleaning monster. Let's hide!" They dashed into Zelas' closet, which was, unlike the utility closet in the hall, very spacious.

Filia looked around the walk-in closet that was like another room. "Why does Zelas need so many clothes, she can materialize herself wearing whatever she wants anyway."

"Inspiration, I suppose," Xellos theorized. Filia made her way deeper into the massive closet towards the shoe section where she gasped and pointed at a pair of black boots with a feathery trim on top. "What is it? Do you want them? Too bad, because you can't have them. I know Zelas owns a ridiculous amount of clothes and shoes, but she'll notice that something is missing if you take anything."

"Those boots are made of ancient dragon skin!" Filia angrily exclaimed, with Xellos rushing over to cover her mouth.

"Do you want to get us killed?" He half growled in her ear.

Filia shook her head and Xellos released her. Frowning, she spoke in a much quieter volume. "Just how many dragon trophies does Zelas keep around here?"

"Plenty, Beast Master has been collecting trophies since before the war," Xellos admitted. "This is a monster lord's room; you can't expect it to be pink and frilly like your room is," he reasoned.

Frowning in disapproval, Filia questioned quietly but fiercely. "What's your room like?"

"Purple," Xellos stated as a matter of fact.

"I want to see it," Filia demanded. "Take me to your room."

"Isn't this going a bit fast?" Xellos teased.

The meaning of his words went over Filia's head in the middle of her rage and she once again demanded. "Take me to your room now!" She considered stomping her foot for emphasis, or better yet, hitting Xellos on the head with her mace, but both possibilities were dangerously noisy.

"I don't think I'm quite ready for that," Xellos teased. "Would you settle down if I just give you a kiss?"

Realization invaded Filia's features along with a bright red blush. "You know I didn't mean it like that!" She growled, the volume of her voice rising dangerously.

"Do you, perchance, come from a family of kamikaze?" Xellos inquired in a warning tone.

This time Filia caught the meaning of his words right away and quieted down. "As soon as that cleaning monster is gone, you're showing me your room." Filia growled threateningly. "And I mean that in a completely innocent and non-perverted way," she quickly added.

"Fine, fine," Xellos agreed at last. "If it means that much to you... stalker."

xoxox xox xoxox

After waiting for the cleaning monster to go away, Xellos and Filia emerged from the large closet and snuck out of Zelas' room, noting that the bed had been tidied up and the clothing that was scattered around was gone, probably taken away to be washed. They snuck out without incident and made it to Xellos room, which was, as he had said, purple. Filia looked around critically, "where are your dragon trophies?"

"I don't have any," Xellos informed. "Beast Master kept them all. It's okay though. Dragons are ugly; I don't want any dragon statues in my room anyway."

The room in question was quite large, though certainly smaller than Zelas. Filia's exploration was interrupted by a wolf-like puppy approaching her wagging her tail. Xellos found it odd, as he held no memories of Fili ever meeting Filia. "Hi there," Filia petted the little cub. "Aw, she's so cute," she took note of the fact that the pale yellow cub had a purple ribbon around her neck and a smaller pink one on her tail. Such a little cutie was the last thing she expected to find in Xellos' room.

"Her name is Fili Algar Metallium," Xellos stated.

"Fili?" Filia questioned in surprise. "Fili A.?"

"Yes," Xellos didn't remember why he named her such, as it had apparently been his idea. He did notice, wondering if it was a coincidence or not, that her middle name had the forth letter of the names Zelas, Amelia, Zelgadis, Lina and Gourry. As for her first name, it sounded a lot like Filia's name. Xellos reasoned he must have named the pup that as a joke. He wondered if Filia would get mad at him for naming her like that. He waited for the rage that never came.

"You actually named her after me?" The golden dragon held the little cub in her arms. "That... well... it's"

"Terribly offensive?" Xellos suggested.

"Actually... it's kind of sweet," Filia confessed with a slightly rosy tone on her face.

Xellos blinked in confusion, where was his delicious wrath? "You're weird," he concluded.

Filia made a soft 'hmp' sound, though it didn't really carry any reproach. "So are you," she countered. Letting out a somewhat tired breath that carried the pressure of the day's strain, she concluded. "I guess we can call our investigation of Zelas' room done." She didn't want to go back in there. "I'll talk to Milgazia again; maybe I'll be able to reason with him if I try harder."

"Right, don't let his fortune cookie wisdom distract you from your mission," Xellos teased.

Although Xellos was joking and teasing as usual, Filia took the advice seriously. Poor Milgazia must have been brainwashed or something and she had to save him. With renewed determination, Filia put Fili down and smiled at her. "It was nice meeting you Fili." The resolute golden dragon headed towards the door. "Let's sneak out of Wolf Pack Island."

"Aren't you going to snoop around my room, roll around on my bed, cuddle my pillows and smell my shoes like a stalker?" Xellos inquired with a mocking teasing grin.

Filia glared, "I'm not a stalker!" She snapped. "Besides, who would want to smell your shoes? They probably stink of raw garbage!"

Thus Xellos and Filia snuck out of Wolf Pack Island, thankfully without incident. They were still determined to set things right and dissolve Zelas and Milgazia's nonexistent relationship, though they might end up getting a little distracted by the holidays, after all, Christmas shopping is a very time consuming activity.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Xellos concluded that it didn't matter how many times he called Filia a stupid dragon. The fact of the matter was that this time he had to admit that she had outsmarted him by a lot. There she was, happily humming a cheerful tune as she gift-wrapped a vase and handed it to her customer on Christmas Eve. He had seen the Christmas tree that she shared with the fox family, which was overflowing with presents. Xellos on the other hand, still had not obtained the thing that Beast Master had been hinting she wanted, a dragon skin purse. He had gone out and slain a white dragon, carefully removing and cleaning her hide. Zelas had caught him in the act, but humored him by pretending she didn't see the big dead dragon in the middle of her garden.

The problem was that the purse had not yet been crafted and it had to be done by tomorrow. Minions were supposed to give their masters presents; it was the way Christmas worked for monsters. At least Xellos didn't have that many people to shop for, since he was the second in command of Beast Master's forces, next to Beast Master herself. The lesser monsters were in real trouble, trying to find gifts for all their superiors. Even so, Xellos knew he couldn't just pop into Filia's shop, hastily pick a vase and pretend it was the perfect present again this year. Beast Master humored him last year, but this time she had clearly hinted at what she wanted, so he knew he better get it.

It wasn't that Xellos was careless enough to forget to commission a major fashion designer to craft the purse. He had gone to see Marty Lenford a few days ago with a big roll of white dragon hide and explained that he wanted her to design a purse, crafting it from the material. It was true that the woman looked like a clown in a bikini, but she was still a famous fashion designer. Unfortunately, the purse turned out to be a disappointment.

The dragon hide was purposely ripped, showing the red fabric inside the purse, with red paint dripping all over the white scales. The design of the purse reminded Xellos of the mess he made in the garden trying to skin the white dragon he had hunted. It didn't matter that he was a purely astral being, he still spent a good five hours scrubbing himself clean in the bathroom, convinced that he still smelled like bloody dead dragon.

The whole ordeal left Xellos at quite the predicament. The designer purse he had wasn't good enough for Beast Master and he knew it. He had been contemplating such thoughts as he walked down the streets of Seyruun with the purse in hand.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 130: Holidays! The Peril Of Last Minute Shoppers

Lina was back in Seyruun for the holidays along with Gourry. She spotted Xellos walking down the street and had to make a peculiar observation, "nice purse." The redhead giggled. "How come you're carrying two purses today?"

Realizing that Lina was referring to his bag, Xellos defended, "this is not a purse," he pointed at the bag, then held up the purse, "and this is not my purse. It was supposed to be for Beast Master, but it's too crude, it lacks in elegance."

Lina observed the purse; the theme seemed to be bloody murder. The design fit a monster lord, she mused, but at the same time it didn't quite fit Zelas' elegance. Then again, a really strong beast didn't go around coated in blood; a skilled hunter was neater than that. "I see what you mean. By the way, what's that material it's made of? It looks scaly, strong and shiny."

"It's white dragon hide," Xellos stated dismissively.

Lina grinned greedily. "Since you've already decided that the purse isn't good enough for Beast Master, why don't you just give it to me?"

"I didn't know you liked purses," Gourry observed.

"I'm not going to carry that thing around; I'm going to sell it!" Lina happily explained as if the purse was already hers. "It's made of dragon hide; that has to be expensive!"

Xellos observed the purse once more, he intended to get a replacement for it anyway and he already had a plan. "Alright, you can have it as a Christmas present on one condition."

"What's the condition?" Lina questioned suspiciously.

"Would you run an errand for me at Zephilia?" Xellos innocently inquired, trying to make it sound as easy as possible.

"Zephilia, that's my home town..." A terrible realization suddenly overcame Lina. "Luna! Oh no! I thought I was done with my Christmas shopping, but I completely forgot about Luna. I kept putting off getting her present because nothing seemed like the perfect gift and I never actually got anything. Why did I have to be so picky? I should have just gotten the first thing I thought of! I have no time for errands now; I can't risk making Luna mad. But it is Christmas, so I'll accept your present anyway." Lina snatched away the white dragon hide purse from Xellos and ran off. "I have to go now. I have some very important last minute shopping to do!"

"Lina, wait for me!" Gourry dashed after her.

"Hurry up Gourry; this is a matter of life or death!" Lina called out as she disappeared down the street.

"There goes the purse..." Xellos didn't give chase. He didn't need that purse anyway and he did have another plan in regards to obtaining a better designer purse to gift Zelas.

xoxox xox xoxox

After his run in with Lina, Xellos made his way to Filia's shop and waited for her to acknowledge his presence. The place was so busy that even little Val was playing shop keeper. Leaving her family to tend to the rowdy last minute shoppers, Filia pulled Xellos aside to the little balcony. "I really don't have time to deal with you right now, it's Christmas Eve and I'm very busy. If you're going to ask about how things went with Milgazia, don't, because I haven't had time to speak to him again yet."

"Actually, I was just going to ask you to accompany me on some errands," Xellos innocently asked.

Filia didn't believe it was that simple for a second, "what are you plotting, raw garbage?"

Xellos considered saying that it was a secret, but that would only make Filia more stubborn and he didn't have time to deal with that. Thus he reasoned that it was better to come out with the honest truth. "I need to get a present for Beast Master and I want you to come with me."

"You want me to help you shop?" Filia remembered what Xellos said about Zelas wanting a dragon skin purse. Although she wouldn't put it past the monster lord, she thought he must have been joking about that. After all, he wouldn't ask her to help him with something like that. Filia never considered the possibility of Xellos making truth of his threat to turn her into a purse. She had never been afraid of him and she certainly wasn't going to start fearing him now.

"I already know what I'm buying, I just want you to come with me," Xellos explained.

Filia's suspicion grew. "Why?"

With no more time to waste going in circles, Xellos was direct. "The item I'm buying is a custom made purse I'm commissioning from the formal fashion designer Tatjana Dayward. After the near end of the world, Tatjana's previous atelier was destroyed. She recently established her new business in Zephilia, the hometown of Lina Inverse and her sister Luna Inverse, who happens to be the Knight of Ceifeed. Naturally, she's not too fond of monsters. I need to speak to Tatjana without interruptions and she needs to be able to focus on crafting the designer purse I intend to give Zelas. So you see, if I go to Zephilia on my own, Luna will notice and there might be a fight. That will waste precious time, discourage Tatjana from doing business with me and the materials for the purse might be damaged in the battle."

With a critical glare, Filia demanded to know, "do those materials include golden dragon skin?"

"No," Xellos truthfully replied.

"I see..." Filia thought about it. If Tatjana, a human, was crafting the purse, then maybe the materials were normal after all. Then again, those high profile fashion designers were known to use peculiar materials at times, yet Tatjana was so formal. She wouldn't use dragon skin, would she?

Xellos' interrupted Filia's voice with a very important point. "It is better for the whole world if Beast Master is not disappointed." He stated a valid fact. "Besides, it won't help our mission if whatever Milgazia gets her as a present doesn't have proper competition. It might help us progress in getting them away from each other if his gift is not her favorite."

Filia acknowledged all the arguments with a nod. "I understand... So basically, all I need to do is escort you in and out of Zephilia to reassure Luna that you're just there for some last minute shopping and won't cause any trouble."

"That's the basic idea," Xellos confirmed. "Shall we go then?"

"I really hate long distance teleportation, but I guess there's no choice." After letting her shop helpers know she had to leave for a while, Filia joined Xellos and he teleported them away.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia reappeared in the outskirts of Zephilia rather than directly in town, so as to not alarm the Knight of Ceifeed if she sensed him too suddenly. While Filia took a moment to compose herself, Xellos disappeared again, making a short trip to his room at Wolf Pack Island to pick up some materials. Once that was done, Xellos reappeared with a big roll of white dragon hide, properly concealed from Filia's view.

While Filia eyed the parcel suspiciously, Xellos decided it was a fine time for a distraction. "Why don't you go say hi to Luna while I talk to Tatjana?"

Filia considered it for a moment and figured that, given the delicate situation he was in, Xellos wouldn't risk making a mess of things. "Alright, just make sure to stay out of trouble." She went on her way to the cafe where Luna worked as a waitress, leaving Xellos to take care of business.

With Filia gone, Xellos entered the boutique, on the second floor of which the atelier was located. There were several outfits, purses and accessories on display which were barely visible among the many people doing their wild last minute shopping. The owner of the place was trying to keep her business running as smoothly as possible with the help of several shop keepers. The prices of her products were very high, but that was how it worked for major designer brands.

"Miss Dayward, may I have a moment of your time?" Xellos uncovered the white dragon hide slightly to make sure that Tatjana could have a small peek at it.

Intrigued by the material, Tatjana agreed and led Xellos to the back room. "Please, come this way." The back room was quieter than the front of the store, which was buzzing with unruly shopping activity. "That material you carry..." Tatjana eyed the covered parcel curiously.

"It's white dragon hide," Xellos removed the parcel's cover and allowed Tatjana to stretch the material over a long table.

The formal designer's eyes shone with admiration. Her hands caressed the material of smooth but strong scales pleasurably. "A young female, just barely beginning to enter adulthood. She's so beautiful..."

Taken by surprise with the accuracy of Tatjana's deduction, Xellos commented. "I take it this means you have experience?" Marty was employed by Zelas, through one of her minions, or so Xellos had heard. Due to that, it made sense that she would have some experience in working with dragon skin, but he wasn't expecting this from Tatjana. On the bright side, this meant it would be easier for her to craft the purse if she had worked with dragon hide before; it was not the most user friendly material that could be found.

"Naturally," Tatjana replied with a hint of forbidden pride. "I am a world class formal designer; I should have experience with all kinds of rare and exquisite materials, Mr. Metallium."

Then Tatjana knew who he was? That made things even easier for Xellos. "This does make conducting business a lot easier, Miss Dayward."

"Indeed," Tatjana nodded. "This is of course, a secret from the world, but it was actually one of my ancestors from over a thousand years ago who crafted a pair of ancient dragon boots for Lady Beast Master. I believe that event occurred even before your birth, general."

"How very interesting," Xellos grinned; it looked like his problem had been solved after all. "I see now beyond a doubt that your credentials are flawless. Can I count on you to craft a purse worthy of Beast Master?"

"I would be honored!" Tatjana exclaimed, though she quickly composed herself. "Although, you are taking a great risk by making such a request here. If you had written in advance, we could have arranged to meet elsewhere. This town is the home of the Knight of Ceifeed after all," she warned.

"There is no need to worry about that. I have a golden dragon ally with me that will reassure Miss Luna Inverse that there is no need to interfere with my business," Xellos assured. "I need the product to be finished by tomorrow in the early morning at the latest. Do you think you can manage that? It will be worth the pay."

Tatjana nodded, eager to get to work. As she continued speaking, she picked up a notepad and pencil, sketching possible designs for the purse. "I'll begin right away and work through the night. I should have the finished work of art by three in the morning at the latest. This is a very tough material after all, so it takes a few hours to properly craft a masterpiece out of it." Not to mention that special tools were needed, but Tatjana already had those. "I just got a shipment of diamonds that would look lovely on this."

"Diamonds... I'm sure Beast Master will like that." At least Xellos knew he could count on Tatjana to make a good product. He would have the perfect gift for Beast Master after all and it would all go without incident, or so he hoped, because he really didn't have time to deal with a fight right now.

"As for my payment..." Tatjana requested, sounding almost feverishly demanding. "I do not require a monetary compensation, instead I want a trade. This dragon was obviously only recently slain. You must still have plenty more material left. I want a generous portion of her hide, also her fangs and claws, as I can craft jewelry from those. However, I must ask that you do not deliver them to this atelier. I will provide detailed directions to the location of my other atelier, which I expect you to keep a secret." Tatjana looked up from her sketching, meeting Xellos' closed eyes with an unblinking stare. "Are these terms acceptable, Mr. Metallium?"

"Miss Dayward," Xellos grinned, slightly opening his eyes, his long pupils revealing his true nature. "You have yourself a deal."

xoxox xox xoxox

While Xellos was discussing business with Tatjana, Filia had gone over to the cafe where Lina was working. The place was certainly not as busy as the stores, since no one had time to relax at a cafe when there was hectic last minute shopping to be done. Luna spotted Filia right away and went over to her with a menu. "It's been a long time Filia. I don't believe I've seen you since the time you visited with Lina, her fiance and friends."

Filia wished she actually remembered that visit. At least she knew that Gourry and Lina were engaged and learned of how it all began, though it was still not the same as remembering. "Yes, it's been a while. I'm just passing by along with..." What could she call Xellos? An evil monster? A not so evil monster? A piece of raw garbage? An ally in the mission of relationship sabotage? "An acquaintance... shopping."

"Funny," Luna commented with that piercing stare of hers that rarely made itself obvious beyond the curtain of her long bangs. "I thought Xellos was more than just an acquaintance. Although, last time he was here, he was in no position to cause any trouble." Luna was smart, that went without question, yet she was smarter than Lina knew. Her younger sister saw her as completely lacking in tolerance, though the Knight of Ceifeed could be more tolerating at times than she was given credit for. Sometimes, it was okay to overlook certain details, unless the details made themselves too obvious.

"Ah... well..." Filia stumbled over her words. It wasn't that she was afraid of Luna like Lina was. The real issue was that she didn't know how to go about her end of the agreement with Xellos. "A friend, he's my friend," Filia blurted out, to try to sound as if she was more in control of the situation. "Anyway, he's not here to cause trouble, he's just shopping for his mother, that's all," she insisted.

"You seem uneasy," Luna observed, which only made Filia even more uneasy.

The golden dragon shifted uncomfortably as if debating with herself. Finally, she sighed and spoke sincerely. "I can't really explain it, but could you please overlook Xellos' visit this one time?"

"Very well," Luna agreed much to Filia's relief, though of course there were conditions. "As long as he keeps a low profile and doesn't cause any trouble in town, I'll let this pass."

"Thank you," Filia breathed.

"Now on to more important matters..." Luna paused dramatically, before her face relaxed into a friendly smile. "What can I bring you?"

xoxox xox xoxox

The trip to Zephilia transpired mostly without incident. After Xellos was done with his business, he went to meet Filia at the cafe. Luna seemed eager enough to pretend he was just another customer and Xellos was all too happy to pretend she was just another waitress. Although, just as they were leaving, Luna warned disguised as a farewell, "please come to our cafe again... both of you." Xellos knew right away that it wasn't an invitation for him to return, far from it. It was in truth Luna's way to say that she didn't want a monster general priest walking around her town without an escort. That was just fine; he could arrange that all for the sake of preserving the prized present intact.

Thus Xellos and Filia left Zephilia in relative peace and returned to Seyruun. However, Filia was very quiet, as if fighting a battle with herself to hold back a very big temper tantrum that was waiting to explode like a time bomb. It made Xellos wonder if it was somehow related to something Luna said, though in reality the cause of Filia's uneasiness was not Luna at all.

Cautiously, Xellos carefully informed, "Tatjana said the purse would be done by three."

"Isn't it almost three now?" Filia reminded. "We could have waited for her to finish, if she was going to work this fast.

"Not three in the afternoon," Xellos explained. "Three in the morning."

Filia huffed in annoyance. "I take it this means you're going to ask me to get up at three in the morning and go back to Zephilia with you?"

"You know Luna doesn't trust me to stay out of trouble if I visit alone," Xellos reminded, trying to sound as if it was a terribly unfair accusation. "If it was any other occasion I wouldn't care, but I can't risk my gift for Beast Master getting damaged if a fight breaks out. For the time being, I'll unfortunately have to play by Luna's rules."

Filia sighed hopelessly, though it was obvious that the prospect of getting up at three in the morning wasn't the only thing that was bothering her. "Fine, I'll go with you. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go help deal with more insane last minute shoppers at my store."

xoxox xox xoxox

Elsewhere... Wizer Freion was really regretting taking a break from his detective work right now. He thought that being a coach to an unusual team of brass rackets players that were skilled enough not to actually need a coach would be an interesting an enlightening experience. To be fair, it was, but it was also incredibly frustrating. "How do I put this..." He sighed in frustration as he ran his hand from his forehead down his face. "You haven't improved at all."

It was a lovely afternoon and Zelas and Milgazia were practicing at an indoors private brass rackets court away from the prying eyes of the fans and press that they were, according to their coach, not yet ready to face.

"It's his fault," Zelas Metallium, under the guise of Yuna Wolf with her alternate look, pointed at Milgazia with her racket.

"How is it my fault?" Milgazia, who went by the name of Angel Dragon, diplomatically argued.

"It's both your faults!" Wizer threw his arms in the air in exasperation. "It looks like you've been practicing how to make it look like you're working together, but you're not actually working together. Even if you are both tremendously skilled on your own, if you play one against two, against three given how you seem on the verge of turning on each other, then you will surely lose. That, or you'll expose yourselves."

A long silent pause passed until Zelas grinned and ended the quietude. "So you know. You knew all along who we are."

"Yes, that is why I insisted so strongly in being the one to become your coach. I had to move quite a few bargaining chips for this," Wizer admitted. "You both wish to stay undercover, don't you? Well, let's try acting more human towards each other, okay? I have a very good idea that might just help break the very thick and tall wall of ice between you. I suggest that you give each other Christmas presents!"

To be Continued

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