Slayers: Alive

Chapter 14

Slayers: Alive

Episode 131: Crossfire! A Flawed Plan

Another moment of silence passed between Zelas, Milgazia and Wizer, this time interrupted by Zelas' mocking laughter. Much to Wizer's surprise, Milgazia laughed too, although he did so in a much less mocking tone. "Good joke, coach," Zelas gave a thumbs up.

Wizer frowned, "I wasn't joking. Can you try this idea? Please!"

Yet another moment of silence passed as Zelas and Milgazia eyed each other critically. Wizer was certain that they would adamantly refuse, yet suddenly, they simultaneously agreed, "sure."

The single word gave Wizer a strong feeling of foreboding and he questioned how wise it was to have made such a suggestion. When it came down to it, he concluded that he might not want to know what kind of presents those two got for each other.

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It was three in the morning at Zephilia as a very sleepy Filia made her way towards Tatjana's shop following Xellos. "You're not sick?" The purple haired monster inquired.

"I'm too sleepy to be sick," Filia pointed out. "Besides, there are times when I don't get teleportation sickness. It happens most of the time with long distances though. I think it started after the Darkstar incident, or rather, I noticed it then. It's not like I had monsters carry me through the astral side regularly before." Or during, but that was not the point.

"Is that why you looked so disoriented that time with Valgarv?" Xellos curiously inquired. "I thought you looked more shocked than sick though."

"Yes," Filia replied, remembering the occasion. "That's when it all started, actually that might have been the cause of it." She frowned with a look of accusation.

"How so?" Xellos asked with real curiosity.

"I was so shocked, so sick... I couldn't believe a monster saved me and that just made me terribly sick," Filia confessed.

"Interesting," Xellos mockingly observed with a grin, while Filia prompted him to continue with her critical gaze. "Have you ever thought that it could all be in your head? That you get sick because you think you should feel sick being transported by a monster? Astral side motions are not really harsh; it shouldn't be enough to make you sick in that sense. Besides, those who can fly rarely have motion and balance related problems anyway."

"It's not like I want to be sick!" Filia argued.

"I'm sure you don't, but you're very skilled in self-sabotage. If you put your mind to it, you might not get sick anymore," Xellos theorized.

"Fine, prove it," Filia stomped her feet and crossed her arms stubbornly.

Xellos glanced at Tatjana's shop. Light was coming from inside it. The shop was still in business even at that late hour, or early hour depending on how one looked at it. Well, it's not like the atelier was going to get up and walk away; he could give Tatjana a little extra time just in case. Of course, Xellos didn't know that the atelier could in fact get up and walk away, as it came equipped with full battle golem capabilities, but Tatjana had no reason to activate it at the moment anyway. "Okay, I'll prove it, but it'll only work if you put your mind to it."

"Fine, you have my word," Filia assured, though it was difficult to keep such a promise when it meant being wrong. She didn't think about that detail though, because she was sure she was right. Xellos stepped behind Filia, holding her by the waist. "What are you doing?" She protested.

"Taking you to the astral side," Xellos stated. "We'll stay there for a few seconds. It's like teleporting in slow motion. Usually, when physical beings are taken to the astral side they actually end up in the pockets of astral space that are like small alternate dimensions. The laws of physics are similar to the physical world on those spaces, or they are made to be by the influence of the mind within the space. The top layer of the astral plane that connects all the pockets of space is a little different though. That's where we'll stay, ready?"

"Okay..." Filia wasn't sure she should be doing this, but she was secretly curious. The next thing she knew there was a swirl of colors and everything finally settled. The scenery of the town around her looked distant and distorted, though air still filtered in sufficiently to breathe with ease. There were pockets of astral space like bubbles that could be used to enter a wider area, the astral spaces Xellos mentioned before. Filia floated through the street, reaching the park in the middle of town with Xellos still holding on to her.

Filia saw a tree coming closer, she reached to touch it but her hand went through it. Then she was moved forward, passing through it completely. She saw the pond at the park's center coming closer until her feet could touch the water, but it didn't feel wet. Down she went until she was completely submerged, but she could still breathe and she was still dry. She was moved up again until she floated a few feet above a flower bed.

"Ready for landing?" Xellos whispered in her ear. Then he released her and she returned to the physical world, where the laws of physics, gravity included, did fully apply.

Filia stumbled a little, but quickly regained her balance. It was odd, feeling the soft breeze, hearing the crickets more clearly and sensing the pull of gravity after it had been completely gone. Those details were things she didn't even notice a few minutes ago. Yet after experiencing floating without wind, everything sounding distant and having no weight, all those things were all too obvious. The astral plane was peculiar. For one who was used to the physical world, Filia knew that she would miss the extra sensations that came with it, but visiting the astral plane in such a slow calming pace was certainly an interesting experience. It was so fascinating, so ethereal. "Xellos... Do you feel things the same way I do?"

"That sounded like a really cheesy question, so I'll go with no," Xellos teasingly replied.

"I mean physically," Filia tried to clarify, succeeding only in making things worse.

"Are you admitting that you want me?" Xellos teased with an amused grin. "Oh wait, that's right, you've already admitted that before, stalker."

"You know that's not what I mean!" Filia shouted, red faced. "Stop twisting my words around, raw garbage! I mean to ask about things like tact and smell and taste. I know you can taste things, smell things and interact with the physical plane, but for an astral being, does it feel the same?"

"How should I know? It's not like I've ever been anything but an astral being." Or rather, he didn't remember being anything different. "I would assume that it's the same or similar enough. Except I won't sneeze if I smell the pollen of these ugly flowers that are all over the ground around here and I don't get any annoying itches. That aside, I suppose it's the same." Oh great, now she had made him curious, how stupid. "So, are you feeling any teleportation sickness?"

"Not really," Filia admitted. "Maybe it really was all in my head and I only got sick because I thought I was supposed to, because you're supposed to have that effect from the sheer discomfort of being near you."

"Except now you like being near me," Xellos teased.

"I do not!" Filia argued with a pout. "I would rather be in bed," taking note of his smirk, Filia quickly added, "alone!"

"Than let's get this errand done and I'll take you home, nobody likes a cranky sleepless dragon." Xellos mocked, which produced more annoyance in Filia than he expected. Wordlessly, she started walking towards Tatjana's shop.

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Xellos and Filia entered Tatjana's boutique. The atmosphere was much quieter than during the day, as a customer exited the shop with some very last minute purchases. Tatjana's assistants were occupied in replenishing the displays that had been emptied during the day. "Welcome!" One of the shop keepers rather loudly greeted them. "How may I help you?" The young woman looked like she was in a caffeine high, twitching slightly.

"I'm here to see Miss Dayward about a custom piece," Xellos voiced with his usual deceiving friendly look.

"Ah, you must be Mr. Metallium. Miss Dayward is upstairs in the atelier, she told us to send you up when you arrived." The shop keeper replied.

"I'll be right there," Xellos glanced at Filia, who seemed intent on following him, with more anger in her eyes than he could explain. Was all of this really because he dragged her out to go shopping at three in the morning? Her emotions didn't taste so strongly of rage not too long ago. It was as if she had decided she was angry, got distracted, then realized she should be furious and acted in turn. But why did she want to be angry? Was it because she felt she was supposed to because he was a monster? How stubborn could that perplexing golden dragon be? "Filia, why don't you browse around the shop and pick something you like. I'll get it for you as a Christmas present." Xellos offered as a distraction. "I'm sure the nice ladies will help you choose something that's perfect for you."

As if on cue, the shop keepers immediately attacked Filia with their prospective sales, suggesting that she should try on this and that, becoming very insistent upon it. With Filia being held back by the employees, Xellos headed up the stairs to the atelier where Tatjana waited.

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"You are late," Tatjana Dayward, world class formal designer, sat on a chair staring at her latest masterpiece. "It is alright though, I enjoyed being able to admire this beauty for a while longer. Please inspect the product and ensure it is up to your expectations, Mr. Metallium."

Xellos approached the table where the purse was. The white dragon hide was smooth and perfect with a shine to it as if it was made of melted pearls. The handle was made of swirls of gold encircling more of the white dragon scales. A line of diamonds was round about the purse's opening and another line in the middle of the bag. Inside, there was golden silk that could be seen protecting the inner side of the purse when it was open. The seams were completely invisible, unlike the barely noticeable seams of Marty's design. "How did you do that? It's as if the hide was originally shaped this way, but it wasn't."

"I merged the hide where the seams would be with a regeneration spell," Tatjana proudly confessed.

"Regeneration? It's not alive," Xellos pointed out.

"A regeneration spell modified with necromancy, as for the specifics... that is a secret," she unknowingly stole his quote.

Xellos chuckled, "I'm sure."

"All of the materials have been magically enforced to measure up to the resistance of the dragon hide. Does the product meet your approval?" Tatjana inquired.

"It does," Xellos agreed.

"Good, shall I gift wrap it?" She offered.

"Yes," Xellos handed the purse back to the designer. "As for your payment, I delivered the requested compensation to your other atelier earlier tonight."

"I was informed." Tatjana confirmed as she carefully placed the purse inside a shiny golden box with ivory paper within. She closed the box's lid over it, tying a white ribbon around the golden box. "It was a pleasure doing business with you. Please come see me if you have any other projects such as this."

Xellos received the box, "I'll keep that in mind." He better not risk keeping the box anywhere near Filia, least she get curious, actually manage to somehow snatch it away and see what was in it. She was moody enough as it was. Thus Xellos disappeared from before Tatjana, making a quick trip via the astral side to his room at Wolf Pack Island, where he safely deposited the box and left it there to give to Beast Master later. With the number of minions she had, she had a lot of presents to open. Just as quickly as he disappeared, Xellos reappeared, though Tatjana didn't seem to be alarmed in the least. He headed downstairs to see how Filia was fairing with the shop keeper's quest for an extra sale.

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While Xellos was upstairs, Filia had been given a dress, insisting that she should try it on. After she was trapped in the dressing room, she knew she wouldn't be allowed out until she humored the shop keepers. Thus she changed out of her usual pink dress and into the light blue one that they had suggested. The tone of pale blue made her eyes look a deeper shade of blue. The garment was comfortable. It had a white top and a thin blue ribbon that went from the waist to the chest in a zig-zag pattern on the white part, which gave it a very form fitting style.

The dress began just below the shoulders with two blue ribbons resting loosely on each shoulder. The third piece was like a little shawl shaped like a miniature cape resembling the top of Filia's usual white cloak, without the long part. The fabric was of the same blue color of the dress with a white ribbon. It gave the outfit as a whole a less showy look, which characterized Tatjana's conservative designs. Filia exited the dressing room, meeting with the approval of the shop keepers.

"This dress is definitely you!" One of the assistants exclaimed. "Just don't forget that this dress is meant to be worn with the shawl, not without, that's what Miss Tatjana said."

"Oh yes, you should keep it on!" The other agreed. "Here, let me get you a bag to carry your other clothes," she offered.

"This ribbon would look great on your hair and it matches the dress perfectly," a light blue ribbon was offered. "Let me braid your hair, miss!"

Filia made a mental note never to underestimate the power of caffeine, as it kept the girls so terribly energetic even after a long day of dealing with the mayhem of last minute shoppers. Actually, Filia could use some caffeine in her system herself. It was too bad the cafe where Luna worked wasn't open at such a late hour, or she could have stopped there before Xellos took her back to Seyruun. Xellos... That's right, she was angry at him and for a good reason!

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By the time Xellos made his way downstairs, having finished his business, he found that Filia was no where to be seen. He glanced in the general direction of the changing rooms but found that the doors were all open, revealing the fact that they were all empty. "Your bill, sir." One of the caffeine high shop keepers handed him a piece of paper with an amount that carried an impressive number of zeroes to the right of less circular looking digits. Tatjana's boutique was certainly pricey.

Xellos wasn't sure what happened to his account during the time of his missing memories, but he was a whole lot less rich now than he had been before. None the less, his spying budget income had been restored and he was able to pay the bill without incident. With that done, he exited the boutique and went off to find Filia.

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Fortunately, Filia had not gone too far. Xellos found her walking back to the park in a huff. Her long blond hair was pulled back on a loose braid tied with a light blue ribbon that matched the color of her new dress. Xellos secretly observed that it fit her well, though he didn't make any immediate comments on the subject. "Wait up, stupid dragon. Where are you going in such a huff?"

Filia paused, looked back at Xellos, glared murderous metaphorical poison coated daggers at him, then continued on her way. Predictably, Xellos kept up with her pace quickly. Unpredictably, he placed his arm around her shoulders; once again predictably, he teased her. "You're such an ungrateful dragon, I get you a Christmas present and you ignore me in return, even glare at me." Refusing to speak to him, Filia escaped his grasp by freeing herself of the shawl, untying the bow and quickening her pace towards the park. Xellos was left holding the pale blue garment, following after the upset Filia in confusion as she reached the park and just stood there solemnly. "I didn't think Tatjana sold dresses like that."

Realizing that it was useless to try to ignore Xellos, Filia snapped, "like what?" He followed his gaze and soon found herself tugging up the fabric of her dress. "This dress is meant to be worn with the shawl, not without." She snatched away the garment and put it back on.

"I thought it looked good without it, it's not like it's cold anyway," Xellos teased, receiving no reply. This was getting rather frustrating. "Hey, moody dragon, what's your problem? You were fine for a while and now you're angry again. What's with all the mood swings? Are you mad that I was right about your teleportation sickness being in your head? You lost the argument, but at least you can start getting used to not being sick. Isn't that better anyway?"

"That's not it," Filia sighed hopelessly. "I think I understand now," about what she thought was going on with Milgazia's possible brainwashing. "Monsters are so tricky, so... distracting. I have a good reason to be angry at you, but you keep distracting me from it and for a moment I actually forgot and that was terrible of me."

"Would you care to share that reason?" Xellos asked with true curiosity.

"Why her?" Filia inquired with a heavy tone of accusation.

"Why who?" Xellos returned the question in confusion.

"Why her? Why that white dragon girl?" Filia insisted. "I'm not stupid; I know what you had in that parcel you delivered to Tatjana. It was for Beast Master's dragon skin designer purse, wasn't it? Her scent was still so fresh, she was killed recently. I'm a dragon too; I have the right to be upset about this. Why, Xellos? Why her? What did she ever do to deserve becoming one of Beast Master's trophies? You didn't even know her, did you?"

"It's not like you knew her," Xellos argued.

"That's not the point!" Filia shouted; her rage increasing.

"Answer me!" Filia angrily demanded, her voice echoing across the Zephilia park and disturbing the quiet of the very early morning, that could still be called by many night.

"You already know the answer," Xellos replied with a serious tone that was a sharp contrast from his usual mockery. "I had to give Beast Master a good present, that's all there is to it. It's not like I hurt anyone you knew, so you can stop being so overly dramatic."

Filia glared with tears in her eyes. "Why didn't you just use me instead? Why that poor innocent girl that surely had absolutely nothing to do with you? I'm the idiot that humors you more than I should, so why didn't you just turn me into a designer purse for Beast Master?"

Trying to get back into a teasing argument and away from this drama, Xellos replied, "because you're too ugly to be good enough. I chose to hunt her because she was beautiful and that's all there is to it."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 132: Presents! Gift Wrapped Hidden Desires

"You stupid piece of raw garbage!" Filia screamed in frustration, her voice echoing through Zephilia. "Why do you have to listen to Beast Master all the time? How can you live with yourself being a slave to someone like her? How can you tolerate your own existence?"

Angered by the path the argument was taking, Xellos shouted back. "Stupid dragon, it's my terrible existence that's keeping you alive!"

"What's that's supposed to mean?" Filia demanded.

"Beast Master is sparing your life allowing me to keep you as a sort of pet," Xellos explained. "If I displease her, my punishment might be to lose my pet. If I wasn't there to convince her that it's convenient to keep you around, she would have killed you and taken the last ancient dragon as her slave."

Filia was taken aback by the revelation and was definitely upset by it. She didn't want to be protected like that, but she didn't want to risk Val either. "I don't want sacrifices," she voiced in a quieter tone.

"I'm not particularly bothered by this sort of thing but... Sometimes you just have to choose what is most precious and hold on to it. Sometimes you can't have it all," Xellos stated truthfully. "I thought you weren't sheltered and naive enough to believe that anymore."

Filia did not reply. She just let his words spin around in her head continuously until they were so overanalyzed she didn't know what to think anymore. 'What is most precious...' Filia thought. Was he telling her to hold on to Val and forget about everyone else, to ignore the suffering of strangers? Or was there a deeper hidden meaning to it? "Take me home," Filia finally broke the long uncomfortable silence.

Without saying anything more, Xellos teleported Filia to her shop at Seyruun and left. Filia stepped out to the balcony and admired the sunrise; it was the start of a new day...

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Earlier that night at Dragon's Peak... "Wake up!" The sudden voice made Milgazia jump out of bed and land on his feet in an alarmed automatic motion. He glared at the source of the voice, Beast Master Zelas Metallium, who had the daring audacity to teleport right into the middle of dragon territory, specifically to the dragon elder's house, to his room no less.

"What are you doing here and why at this hour?" Milgazia fought and successfully defeated a yawn that had attempted to make its way out. He maintained a serious stare despite standing there wearing only shorts... hey, it was a warm night. At least Zelas seemed to be gracefully ignoring his lack of full apparel.

"It's one minute past midnight, it's morning and it's about time to get up, even for someone as lazy as you. I'm here for my present," Zelas stated in a demanding tone as she tossed a box at Milgazia, who caught it. "Here's yours. Give me my present, I have to go back to Wolf Pack Island and start opening the many presents I'm getting from my minions. Some of us do get busy during Christmas, unlike you whom I'm sure no one would care to gift anything to, except for the coach's suggested pity gift. Hurry up, you're making me hungry."

Okay, so maybe she did notice his lack of apparel after all, in a purely culinary way. Before she got any ideas about turning him into dragon cuisine, Milgazia quickly retrieved the gift box containing Zelas present, which he thought was very fitting for her. "Ladies first."

Did she just detect a hint of sarcasm in his otherwise diplomatic tone? She decided to ignore it and tore the wrapping paper apart, curious to see what this mysterious present was. "Coal? Really Milgazia, I knew you were cheap but not this cheap."

"That's the only thing a naughty monster should get," Milgazia stated.

"I'll give you points for foolish bravery," Zelas chuckled. "It's your turn to open your present and I'm not as cheap as you are."

Milgazia dreaded opening the box, but he knew he had to. The suspense was interrupted by insistent knocks on the door. "Lord Milgazia, we sense a monster in there! Are you alright?" A dragon called from outside.

"Not a monster, a monster lord!" Another dragon corrected. "And of course he's not alright, there's a monster lord in his house!"

"Everyone calm," yawn, "down," Memphis tried to make the dragons settle down. "I'm sure Milgazia is perfectly capable of handling this. Zelas is probably just here to discuss brass rackets strategies or something."

"In the middle of the night?" A random dragon questioned.

"Monsters don't sleep," yet another dragon dramatically declared. Quite a few dragons were gathered around Milgazia's house.

"Everything is alright!" Milgazia called out as he hurried to open the present and get this over with. Inside the box he found a scarf... made of white dragon hide. "This is..."

"Stylish, isn't it?" Zelas hopped over to stand directly next to him in amusement, taking the scarf and wrapping it around Milgazia's neck. He did not look amused. "I actually stole the material from Xellos, but I'm sure he'll overlook it. I bet he hunted that white dragon so he could order that custom made designer purse I've been hinting I wanted. I can't wait to see it! Last year Xellos gave me a vase for Christmas, I think he got it at his little dragon pet's shop. Honestly, he never knows what to get me unless I practically spell it out for him. I guess you're the same way, aren't you? You're completely hopeless at choosing a gift for a woman unless she tells you exactly what she wants. By the way, I made myself a scarf like this too. We should wear them next time we play brass rackets. You know, to get into the team spirit." Never mind that the weather was like that of a warm spring. "Well I must be going now. Merry Christmas!" The holiday wishes were of course, filled with heavy sarcasm as Zelas faded away to the astral side at last.

Milgazia was having a pretty hard time refraining from making any comments, as he was taught at a young age that if he didn't have anything nice to say he shouldn't say anything at all. He grumbled and growled under his breath as he promptly removed the scarf and tossed it back in its box. He would say a prayer and properly dispose of it later. Just when Milgazia didn't think the very early beginning of his day could get any worse, a battalion of golden dragons invaded his house, with one elf among their ranks. They all stood there, staring at him while Milgazia's face turned red. "I told you I was fine!"

"Yes sir!" The invaders chorused as they hurried to get out.

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During the whole day on December twenty fifth, the Christmas celebrations went very well in Seyruun. The monster lords spent the day receiving presents from their minions and had no time to cause trouble. Amelia and Zelgadis were planning to go on their trip after Christmas, but they delayed it for after New Year's. Lina and Gourry had a lot of fun with the banquet. Many friends from all across the land came. Naga, Martina, Zangulus, Phythan and Onyx all showed up at Seyruun.

Gifts were exchanged in abundance and it was hard to believe that the world almost ended not too long ago. Filia even found that some presents from Xellos for Val and Palou mysteriously appeared under their tree at some point in time that Filia couldn't quite precise. She watched the gifts cautiously and finally relaxed, realizing that they were harmless art supplies. Her relief was short lived, as she realized that the finger paints would most likely end up on every surface and cleaning would be terribly difficult. They were gifs from Xellos, of course there had to be a catch.

The good news was that despite Filia's early rising and rude awakening to reality, the holiday cheer was so present in Seyruun that it made her forget her troubles. The whole day went by pleasantly with festivities, music and food. There was even mistletoe, under which Lina and Gourry got caught. For a second, Filia considered running for cover because surely Lina would be terribly embarrassed and Dragon Slave Seyruun castle, but it wasn't necessary. The red haired sorceress blushed, stood on her tip toes while Gourry bent over, and kissed him without making a major fuss.

The mistletoe scene made Filia think about how close they were and made her wish she had someone too. Xellos popped into her thoughts uninvited and made her become guarded around mistletoe, least he should decide to embarrass her by conveniently teleporting in when she was passing under one of the mistletoes that were scattered about all over the castle's party hall. It also reminded her about how he tried to sneak up on her with mistletoe on his staff last year. She broke a vase on his face for that stunt and charged him for it along with the one he bought. She also remembered building a snowman with a purple wig and a black cone for a nose, then smashing it with her mace to let out some tension. However, this time Xellos didn't show up.

After the party was over, Filia looked at the grand Christmas tree in the middle of the party hall, admiring it for the last time before heading home with a sleepy Val in her arms, late into the night. There was magically generated snow out in the garden and Jillas had been lighting up some sparklers there earlier. Filia had a lot of fun, surrounded by people she deeply cared about. Yet there was a certain detail missing, but she couldn't, or didn't want to, figure out what it was.

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After the Christmas party was over and the kingdom of Seyruun was once again still, Filia found that, despite having woken up so early, she couldn't sleep. She stood at the balcony of her home looking at the city streets which were not busy anymore, but still held a few late partiers and bar goers, most of them already heading home.

"Why are you still awake, stupid dragon? You're going to get uglier if you don't get any sleep." Xellos appeared floating in front of Filia before joining her on the balcony.

"Where were you all day, raw garbage?" Filia cut right to the chase in addressing her curiosity.

"Watching Beast Master open presents," Xellos truthfully stated. "She's still opening presents, actually, but I already gave her mine and hung around for long enough, so I'm excused to leave." Filia frowned at the thought of sour memories that she had overanalyzed to the point of mental exhaustion before giving into the temptation of focusing only on the holiday cheer and blocking out everything else. "Are you still mad at me?" Xellos interrupted her thoughts.

"Maybe," Filia admitted, because honestly, she wasn't even sure anymore. Their situation was... very peculiar. None the less it was Christmas, or at least the day after Christmas since it was already past midnight, so she might as well continue procrastinating on her worries in favor of paying attention to the holiday for a while longer. "Just a moment," Filia went inside, returning swiftly with a small box in her hands. She gave the box to Xellos, "merry Christmas."

"You actually got me a Christmas present?" He wasn't expecting that, given how angry she had been before. Filia really was a box full of surprises, a very nicely wrapped box of surprises.

"You gave me a present, so I thought I should correspond." Filia smiled; maybe she wasn't so angry at Xellos after all. "Are you going to open it?"

"I am curious," Xellos opened the gift and pulled out a plush dragon keychain.

"It's a purse charm for your purse," Filia smugly stated. Though the topic of purses was drenched with sour memories recently, she had been looking forward to teasing Xellos with this gift since the hectic day when she realized that the holidays were upon her and she wasn't done with her shopping yet. She couldn't resist.

"It's not a purse!" Xellos snapped, though he did hang the plush dragon on his bag. "This little one kind of looks like you, it's so ugly, I bet I can scare people with it."

Filia blinked, "what? You're actually using it?"

"Why not?" Xellos innocently inquired with a hint of mischief reflected in his one open eye in a sort of reverse wink. "You're using the present I gave you."

"I guess so..." Filia voiced. Now she wondered if it was such a great idea that she made the keychain plush look like her true form. It even had the blond hair and a little pink bow on its tail. Then again, she was kind of amused by the idea of Xellos walking around with a miniature doll of her attached to his bag. It made her wonder for how long he would keep it there.

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The days went by and the time eventually came for the New Year celebration at Seyruun. Once again, the city was filled with visitors, perhaps more so than in Christmas because of an interesting fact. The League of International Fellowship on Earth, known in short as LIFE, was throwing a New Year party, which was being sponsored by Seyruun and was thus to be held at the castle. The grand party hall was buzzing with activity as journalists from across the land made a fuss and asked questions about the oh so secretive training regimen of the rising stars of the brass rackets' world, Yuna Wolf and Angel Dragon.

They put up an admirable human act, though it seemed that most of the journalists were having problems with suspicious bouts of sudden clumsiness. They dropped things and things were mysteriously dropped on them. Some had started to wonder if Seyruun was haunted, though that should have been quite difficult. Of course, they weren't counting on the fact that it would take a lot more than this to suppress the power of a monster lord.

The journalists were not the only ones who were having some coordination issues, as several men seemed to be having problems of their own, albeit it wasn't Zelas' secret doings. "What's wrong with them?" Filia curiously inquired from her place next to Xellos, her arm linked with his. Zelas and Milgazia were both expected to attend the New Year ball as Yuna Wolf and Angel Dragon respectively. This was due to their involvement in the LIFE sponsored upcoming world wide brass rackets tournament. It only made sense that their personal team of relationship sabotage agents should tag along and keep an eye on them.

Xellos would be required to play his part as Zelas' backup if she got too tired of dealing with the press, to assist her in the effort not to blow her cover so soon in the game. Other than that, many of the business associates of the Metallium family were also present, occasionally asking Xellos about the whereabouts of his mother, who was secretly not too far away playing the role of a different identity. "I don't know," Xellos replied in perplexity as he followed the trail of love struck looking men prone to random acts of clumsiness as well as finding themselves in the receiving end of slaps courtesy of their respective dates.

The purple haired monster finally spotted the source of the men's fascination and the women's anger. It was a beautiful woman whose silver hair reached all the way to her ankles, cascading in stunningly beautiful waves. Her very long pointy ears were visible sticking out left and right as she made her way across the party hall. That was not what he expected to find, because when one kills someone, one does not expect that someone to show up alive again and in no way undead. Xellos was certain that the white dragon girl he thought was near by was supposed to be very dead.

The white dragon turned her face slightly towards Xellos with stunning golden eyes. Golden, not green... That's when he realized that this was not the dead white dragon after all; it was the girl who had been guarding her. She simply looked different with her hair down; he didn't even notice it was that long when he saw her before. Either way it was trouble, because they had a vengeful dragon in their midst. That meant that, as much as he would rather spend the rest of the night with Filia, not that he would ever admit it, it was time for Xellos to get to work before the dragon girl caused a troublesome commotion.

The dragon female, what had she said her name was? Ah yes, Kirei, she looked away and kept moving. She was purposely letting Xellos know that she had seen him; perhaps calling him to follow her into a trap that he was confident would be unsuccessful. He better investigate and put a stop to her plot before things got out of hand. He glanced discreetly towards Zelas, their eyes meeting with silent communication. Then Xellos' eyes went back to watching Kirei's every move, wondering if she had brought backup.

Xellos' concentration was finally broken when Filia harshly removed her arm from his. He looked at her, as she glared intensely; producing the unmistakable taste of her delicious wrath mixed with... jealousy? "I guess a pretty face can stop even you in your tracks!" Throwing her head back in anger, Filia walked off in such a hurry she nearly tripped on her long elegant dress. Trying her best to ignore the stumble, she hurried away angrily without looking back.

Xellos chuckled in amusement. Filia was jealous, this was priceless! It filled him with an odd sense of pride that he wasn't sure should be provoked by something like this. He considered going after Filia and teasing her about this, though the truth was that he was not looking at Kirei that way. He was only surprised by her presence and rightfully concerned about her plans, which could expose Yuna Wolf's true identity.

Xellos knew he didn't have time to deal with Filia now; it was time to do his duty like the secret bodyguard of a celebrity. Thus Xellos gave Filia one last glance as she took up a seat at the bar and walked a few steps in pursuit of Kirei. Then he looked back and had to do a double take. Luna was the one serving the drinks at the bar, Luna Inverse, the Knight of Ceifeed. Great, just great... If a fight broke loose everyone would jump in and then Beast Master might be pushed into jumping in herself. That would certainly give things a very interesting twist, but her undercover plans would go down the drain and there would be consequences to pay. Xellos knew he couldn't allow things to go that far.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 133: Reminders! You're Everywhere To Me

"You're looking healthy." Xellos greeted his target with a mocking grin. The people around them were oblivious to the tension in the air as they went about their business, staring at the pretty pointy eared girl or getting slapped by jealous dates.

"You're looking smug." Kirei glared at Xellos with a great fury in her golden eyes. "You have no idea how much trouble you caused for my clan by killing Jewel."

"I thought you weren't fond of the brat," Xellos responded with mock innocence.

"She was... necessary," Kirei growled.

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Several days ago, close to midnight in the outer lands across the sea from the peninsula, a monster general priest with a peculiar mission appeared in the gates of a mansion on the outskirts of a secluded white dragon settlement. Quiet and sneaky, Xellos approached the mansion, standing before its front entrance. It didn't look like there were guards around; there was no reason for the owner of the mansion to expect intruders. Yet there was in the end at least one guard...

"Stop, you monster!" A white dragon female with fiery golden eyes and long silver hair in a folded ponytail, that made it look half as long as its true ankle length, approached. She was wearing what looked like some kind of martial arts uniform and looked ready to fight. "Why have you come here, insect?"

"I came here for you, Jewel." This had to be her, Jewel, the legendary beauty of the white dragons. For a moment Xellos thought she was only a rumor. She was said to be quite young, just barely entering adulthood. She was betrothed about a century ago, but was too young to marry. Thus she was kept protected and hidden, as her fiance, a black dragon from a family of prominent political influence among the dragon race, was extremely protective of her. As a result of that, few had laid eyes upon her, but those who had, spoke wonders of her beauty. She would make a grand addition to Beast Master's collection.

"My name is Kirei," the white dragon girl corrected. "I am Jewel's protector. If you're here for the spoiled brat you'll have to get through me!"

"Spoiled brat?" Xellos questioned. "That's not how I would expect a bodyguard to refer to her superior," he mocked.

"My opinion of her does not matter." Was that a hint of jealousy in Kirei's voice? "I am her protector; it is my duty to my family. I must repay them for raising me as a child by protecting the one they treasure."

Xellos chuckled, "if the guard is this cute, then the treasure must be a real beauty. I'm sure Lord Beast Master will be very pleased with her new dragon hide designer purse."

"You want to turn Jewel into a fashion statement?" Kirei considered the possibility in her imagination. "Well, it is kind of fitting for such a manufactured beauty..." She shook her head, remembering her duty and trying to firmly hold on to it. "What am I saying? I'll fight you to the death to protect Jewel if I must, insect!" Without any further warnings, Kirei charged towards Xellos, who disappeared into the astral side.

Xellos reappeared behind Kirei, with a ball of black energy ready to shoot it at her. She jumped, flipping backwards as the ball of energy passed harmlessly through the now empty spot where she stood a split second ago. She attacked with magic even before she landed, managing to catch Xellos before he faded away completely. Before he reappeared, Kirei continued on the attack, hitting the areas where he intended to fade into the physical world. Finally, Xellos appeared floating high above the mansion. 'I see now why they thought one guard was enough,' he mused. For a young white dragon, this girl was exceptionally strong. Play time was over...

With another ball of black energy surrounded in purple lightning, Xellos went on the attack. Kirei didn't move, his blast hit her head on and when the dust that was lifted when the energy collided with the ground settled, there was no one there. 'An illusion!' Xellos realized. She must have sensed him moving up to reappear several feet in the air. She predicted that he would attack from above and left an illusion below in her place. Where was the real one?

Xellos looked in every direction; Kirei was gone, just gone, he couldn't even sense her intense emotions anymore. Did she run away like a coward? Maybe she was smart after all. He looked towards the mansion that looked so exposed to infiltration. He was there for Jewel, not her bodyguard, so it didn't matter if Kirei ran away. Xellos faded into the astral side with intentions of teleporting straight inside the mansion. As he entered the astral plane, he caught a glimpse of a most unexpected sight.

There was a white dragon with black energy that pulsed through her, surrounding her in black lightning. She looked as if the dark force within her could not be contained by her body, as if it would rip her apart from the inside. He only saw her for a split second before a blast of magic made him go on an emergency retreat. 'What... what is she?' That blast point blank actually hurt a lot. Yet somehow, she kept her emotions completely hidden as if she wasn't even there.

Kirei reappeared in the physical world, going all out with rapid blasts of energy, which Xellos was quick to dodge, until she exhausted herself and had to pause to catch her breath. Her senses where blurring, she had pushed herself too much. It was too late by the time she sensed the blast of dark energy surrounded in purple lightning heading towards her. Her damaged dragon body was not responding, she couldn't dodge it and was knocked out.

Finally victorious, Xellos approached his would-be victim. "So that's what you are, a poorly made chimera. The monster fused with you was never fully integrated." He was reminded a little of Valgarv. A combination of dragon and monster that was actually stable, did such a creature even exist? Valgarv could not fully transform into a dragon, though a partial transformation could give him extra power. This girl forced herself to transform and paid the consequences. "You're bearly in control..."

Xellos raised his hand as if to finish her off, but soon the dark energy in his palm faded to nothing and he lowered his hand. "Such a little firecracker..." Her temper reminded him of Filia. Leaving the injured unconscious dragon girl on the ground in front of the mansion, Xellos went inside. He knew he wouldn't run into any further interruptions. Surely the dragons in the near by village sensed all this. If their strongest warrior fell in battle, they would know there was nothing they could do.

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The inside of the mansion was elegantly decorated with emerald curtains that stood out on pale pink walls, plush carpets and expensive looking art. Xellos paused as he spotted a pink vase splashed with drops of glittery green. Filia was trying to glue some clear rhinestones to it. She arranged the glue in swirling patterns, but before she could pick up even the first rhinestone, Xellos showed up and dumped a jar of green glitters on the work in process. He wanted purple, but he couldn't find it, so he settled for annoying Filia with the first jar of glitters he found. "Her vases are everywhere..."

Xellos continued towards the room at the center of the mansion where he sensed a presence. He pushed the elegantly carved double doors open, cherry blossom pictures parting left and right to reveal the inner room. There was a lot of pink to go with the cherry blossom theme; Filia would probably like all the pink. In the middle of the room among many soft pastel colored cushions, there sat a young white dragon woman in front of a large mirror, admiring her reflection. "Jewel..."

At the mention of her name, she turned around to face the unwelcome invader. "Monster..." Her voice was clear melodious and beautiful, as was she. Her hair flowed in amazing waves as if it was crafted from the finest silver. It seemed long enough to reach her ankles. Her ears were long slender and pointy, sticking out left and right and slightly upwards, rather than straight up. A few shorter strands of hair framed her flawless face and light pink makeup highlighted her delicate features. Her eyes held various shades of green as if peridots, jades and emeralds had been fused together in impressive swirls of melted gems.

"What a disappointment," Xellos voiced.

Jewel showed no change in her neutral expression. "What words do you speak?" She inquired with detachment.

"You are Jewel, are you not? I had heard you held legendary beauty, but I don't see what the fuss is about." Xellos stated, unimpressed. "Your bodyguard is cuter than you."

Jewel merely blinked, "unreasonable," she stated in her quiet melodious voice. "My elder sister holds no beauty; she is damaged beyond repair, overtaken by a terrible monster. She is destined to die if she does not free herself and free herself she cannot."

"That fact doesn't seem to bother you much," Xellos observed.

"My only concern is my duty," Jewel replied.

"Your duty?" Xellos questioned with mild curiosity.

"For as long as my beauty mesmerizes all, my clan shall remain prosperous." Jewel stated emotionlessly.

"You're pretty dull," Xellos observed. There was a hint of indignation, mixed with fear and annoyance, perhaps a hint of rage, yet it was all so downplayed he wasn't even sure. She was a superficial beauty, a cultivated beauty; she was manufactured in a sense. When it came down to it she was nothing but a living doll with barely the hint of a spirit in her. She was trained to be beautiful, trained to be the image of perfection, nothing but an image, nothing but falsehood. "Quite dull indeed, a disappointment."

"An astral being with no definite appearance would not understand the meaning of beauty," Jewel stated with indifference.

"You think so?" Xellos pretended to look perplexed, then he gave her a mocking grin. "Maybe it just takes a little more than what you're capable of achieving to make me understand." He wasn't sure why the image of Filia popped into his head, but he tried to leave such thoughts for later and focus on his mission. "It doesn't matter, not for you at least, because you're about to die anyway."

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In the present time at Seyruun castle, the New Year's ball continued. Kirei's intense anger invaded the atmosphere around Xellos. The emotion was slightly bitter, as if mixed with sorrow, unlike Filia's pure, almost innocent, fury. "The only reason for which someone as tainted as myself was kept in the clan was to protect Jewel. When she died I was regarded as a disgrace because I lived when she did not. Jewel's fiance is disappointed and my clan has been abandoned. She was to marry in a mere few months; the Ivory clan was to become one with the Ebony clan."

"So much for political power," Xellos chuckled mockingly. "Why don't you marry Mr. Ebony yourself? Oh wait, that's right, you're dying as a side-effect of the monster inside you. You're an imperfect chimera."

"I would rather the monster kill me than completely fuse with me. I will resist it even if I die." Kirei snapped angrily. "Even if I cannot reach happiness, my family could have if you haven't shown up to collect another trophy for Beast Master."

"So now you want revenge? Fine, let's take our fight outside, shall we?" Xellos suggested.

"You don't want to cause a commotion do you?" Kirei correctly concluded.

"If you do," Xellos slowly opened his eyes threateningly. "I guarantee you will regret it."

"We shall see," Kirei walked away.

Xellos paused, debating if he should follow her or not. She didn't seem stupid enough or suicidal enough to cause trouble. No, not that one, she seemed to be a cunning fighter, she would probably assess the situation further before making a move. She was heading towards the line where autographs were being signed by Yuna Wolf and Angel Dragon. So that was her plan, she probably intended to gain some support from Milgazia, but he should know not to make a troublesome move, especially given his... relationship.

In conclusion, it was fairly safe to say that Kirei wouldn't be causing any immediate trouble. Xellos would keep a cautious eye on her, but for the time being he could afford to let her go about her useless business for a short while; it wouldn't get her anywhere anyway. He looked around the grant party hall until he spotted Filia sitting at the bar talking to Luna. Great, just great... Couldn't she just hang out quietly on her own until he returned from his unexpected duties? If she was really bored, couldn't she go play the third wheel for Amelia and Zelgadis for a while? Or go pig out at the buffet table with Lina and Gourry? Though she might be risking her limbs on that last option... Of all the things Filia could have done to entertain herself in his absence, why did she have to go talk to the Knight of Ceifeed? Without further ado, Xellos tried to look harmless as he approached the bar.

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Zelas discreetly watched as Xellos went off to the bar where his little pet and the Knight of Ceifeed were. As for the white dragon girl, she was approaching the autograph table, her eyes fixated on Milgazia while he tried to avoid her gaze. "She knows who I am," Milgazia whispered under his breath to Wizer.

The coach was sitting between the two athletes like a human wall of peacekeeping. "Not good..." Wizer glanced at Zelas, who was playing the part of Yuna and seemed well aware of what was happening.

"If she blows our cover..." Zelas' plan was to disappoint everyone when they looked up to Yuna as an inspirational sports heroine. Perhaps some of the fans would even become her followers and form troublesome cults that worshiped Beast Master. It would be so chaotic, so fun, she couldn't allow her cover to be blown now.

"Don't worry, I have a plan," Wizer whispered discreetly. "As the athletes that I coach, it is my duty to assist you in any way I can. Let us create a diversion." The detective turned coach suddenly stood up, addressing the crowd that was standing in line waiting for their autographs, among which Kirei was. "Hey everyone! Wouldn't you like to see Yuna and Angel dance a passionate tango? I know I would!"

"Yeah!" The crowd, excluding Kirei, cheered.

"Will you give the crowd what they want?" Wizer encouraged Milgazia and Zelas to play along, though they did not look amused.

"He's insane," Milgazia stated.

"He's suicidal," Zelas differed.

Wizer's acted cheer faltered for a second before he put a rose in his mouth and with a brand new resolve he spoke between his teeth. "If Mr. Dragon is too shy to dance, then I will happily dance with the lovely Miss Wolf," he volunteered.

Zelas looked back and forth between Milgazia and Wizer. "Are these my only options?" She seemed displeased. "Move it dragon boy, we're dancing."

"Huh?" The next thing Milgazia knew he was being pulled away from his chair and dragged to the dance floor.

"Just do what I do and don't step on my feet," Zelas warned.

"Fine," with a serious face, Milgazia had no choice but to accept the unexpected invitation.

Wizer sighed in disappointment. 'She chose to dance with her sworn enemy instead of with me? Hmp! Monster lords, who understands them? Hmp! Women, who understands them? Hmp! Monster lord women, who understands them?' Leaving the fans to fuss about the sport idols' dance, Wizer went off to nurse his broken pride at the bar.

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Meanwhile, Xellos sat down next to Filia, leaning on the bar to look at her face past the curtain of blond hair that partially covered it as she stared down at her half empty, or half full, depending on one's perspective, glass. "Elbows off," Luna half ordered and half pretended to politely request as she wiped the glossy black bar counter with a white cloth, even if it was already clean anyway.

Xellos continued trying to look harmless. He noticed that Lina had momentarily paused in her eating at the buffet table to curiously glance in her sister's general direction. Xellos smiled at the gluttonous redhead sorceress, hoping that it would further help to make Luna settle down and not cause a commotion. Lina however, promptly went back to her eating without returning the gesture and pretended she didn't know the purple haired monster. Some support.

Filia was doing a fine job of ignoring Xellos so far and Luna was doing a fine job of giving him nasty looks. Just what did Filia tell her anyway? The golden dragon's attention was moved away from whatever was so fascinating about a half full and half empty glass of wine and towards a small commotion taking place at the dance floor as the melody of tango invaded the sound waves. Her eyes widened as she pointed at the pair, "they really know how to tango," she observed.

Curious, Xellos followed Filia's pointing finger. He was going to tease her about how it was rude to point at people, but the phrase died on his lips before he could breathe a word of it. Then he clenched his teeth and glared. Milgazia was dancing with Zelas; Milgazia was dancing a tango with Zelas. "No one dances with Beast Master like that!" Xellos growled in a threatening and territorial tone. He stood up and started marching over to them. Then he realized he would cause a commotion if he so openly interfered and resolved to approach them more discreetly, with some cover in the form of a dance partner. "Filia, we have a mission to accomplish."

Contemplating the peculiar dancing pair, Filia set aside her anger for the time being and nodded. She reasoned that putting up with Xellos was something that she would have to do for the sake of the greater good. "Fine, it's a truce, but I'm still mad at you." She followed him towards the dancing area.

Wizer arrived soon after and sat at the bar, sighing deeply. "Give me something strong, Miss Bartender, I need to drink away my frustrations."

"Right away," Luna prepared a particularly powerful drink and set the glass on the bar counter in front of Wizer.

The frustrated coach downed the full contents of the glass, feeling the burn of liquor traveling down his throat in a stinging way that was almost instantly revitalizing. Yet his worries were still vividly present in his mind. "I'm a failure as a coach," he confessed.

"Isn't that a little harsh?" Luna went into psychological counselor mode, as it was the alternate function of most bartenders. "I hear your athletes are quite talented."

"I'm sure people will soon see through their act," Wizer sighed, revealing a little too much, as his senses became slightly blurry and his speech slurred. What was in that drink anyway? It was exceptionally strong. "They are amazing on their own, but terrible as a team. They hold no passion for each other, no interest in each other, not even a slight hint of a connection. Just look at them dancing there, so stiffly."

"Stiffly?" Luna questioned. "They're movements appear to be fluid and precise."

"Tango isn't about precision," Wizer insisted. "It's about passion and those two have no passion. He's so serious and she's so cold. They are talented and have fast reflexes, but it's all an act. Look there for example," Wizer pointed. "He's not even really holding her waist. If you look very closely, you'll notice that his fingers are just barely brushing the fabric of her dress."

"You're very observant," Luna acknowledged.

"It comes with years of working as a police detective." Wizer revealed with pride. "There wasn't a case I couldn't solve, or a criminal I couldn't apprehend. But this is different..." His expression became sad and frustraited. "Getting those two to even remotely work together beyond a poorly constructed act is a real challenge."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 134: Insanity! Welcome to Wonderland

The New Year's ball progressed merrily at Seyruun castle. Amelia was dancing with Zelgadis. Martina was dancing with Zangulus. Lina and Gourry were eating. Naga and Gravos were drinking themselves silly and laughing insanely, yes, both of them. Jillas was dancing with Elena. Palou, Val and Fang were playing tag with Philionel, which was pretty amusing. Onyx was looking rather bored standing around and glaring at the walls because she didn't particularly fit in at parties. Phythan was getting more attention from the ladies than his innocent mind could think of what to do with.

Wizer's eyes traveled to the pair dancing not too far away from Zelas and Milgazia. They looked like they were fighting for control of the dance, shoving each other not too discreetly. They couldn't make up their minds about in which direction they were going, pulling and pushing constantly, which led to slight stumbles and constant physical contact. "Now that's dancing!" Wizer exclaimed, pointing at Xellos and Filia. "To the untrained eye it looks like they're stumbling around like clumsy drunken idiots, but you can practically smell the passion!"

"Interesting," Luna observed.

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Kirei watched the dancing couples with a glare. Several men had attempted to ask her to dance, but she had refused them all. She didn't know what was going on, but there was definitely something going on with Milgazia and Zelas. Deciding that it was best to study the situation further before making a move, Kirei retreated for the night. She might have acted rashly for the sake of her immediate duty, but now that her duty was dead, she had to plot her vengeance properly. She couldn't take too long though, not with that creature eating away at her very life. That peculiarly mysterious thing inside her, which she assumed was a monster.

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"Your potential conquest is leaving," Filia harshly whispered to Xellos.

"Jealous, are we?" He teased.

"I feel sorry for her if she managed to capture your interest," Filia growled. The tango continued and they had made no progress in cutting into Milgazia and Zelas' dance.

"Xellos..." Zelas' voice was barely heard above the music. She gave her general a look that screamed 'get over here, now.'

"I think I'm being called," Xellos observed. Filia humored him by allowing him to lead the dance instead of stubbornly trying to push and pull in the opposite direction to where he was trying to move.

As soon as the two pairs where in range, Zelas declared, "switch," and they exchange dance partners. This was an infuriatingly long song. "What took you so long? Is your pet that much of a distraction? Do I need to get rid of her?" Zelas, still in the guise of Yuna, growled discreetly but harshly.

"My apologies, Lord Beast Master," Xellos whispered back. "I wasn't distracted, it's just that I did not realize you wanted me to cut in," he excused. It was only partially true and it made him wonder why she would want her dance to be interrupted.

"If you had not come I might have done something..." Zelas admitted, "inappropriate," like murder.

Xellos questioned, unsure if he actually wanted an answer "Inappropriate?" Like making-out in public or more?

"Yes," Zelas confirmed, "very inappropriate," very bloody murder.

"Very inappropriate?" That had to mean more... "But there are so many witnesses," Xellos pointed out almost desperately.

"When the need comes," to commit a violent bloody murder, "it comes." Zelas explained, much to Xellos' horror. She didn't know what kind of thoughts were going through his head and she didn't understand why he was so horrified. "Is there a problem?" She inquired.

"Of course not," Xellos forced himself to smile. "Anything that you decide to do is what is best. I would never, ever question your actions."

"That's a good general priest. Now do me a favor and as soon as this stupid dance is over go fetch me a drink," Zelas ordered. "I would go and demand it from the Knight of Ceifeed myself," because she was most certainly not afraid to do so and they all knew it. "But I'll probably get stuck signing autographs again."

"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos agreed, trying to completely erase from his mind the images of his wild, and very inaccurate, imagination.

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Meanwhile, Milgazia was now dancing with Filia, while Zelas and Xellos moved further away. "Are you... um... alright?" Filia shyly asked.

"Yes, I'm fine now," Milgazia admitted. "I'm glad you came, things were getting rather tense."

"Tense?" Filia questioned, she wasn't stumbling around anymore now that she wasn't opposing any directional resistance to the dance, instead loosely following Milgazia's movements.

"Yes," Milgazia confessed. He was pretty sure Zelas wanted very badly to go on the attack, even if he tried to keep his distance as much as he possibly could while still putting up a half decent act of pretending to dance. "It would not have been suitable for the eyes of young children," because it would have been very violent.

Filia's eyes widened, "really?" Just how much bottled up passion for each other did those two have? "I had no idea it was that... intense..." She felt terribly awkward right about now.

Milgazia interpreted Filia's discomfort as worry, which was perfectly justifiable. "It's okay. After this song ends, we'll go sign autographs separately and I'm sure the atmosphere will cool off after a while."

"Right..." Filia nodded, all too eager to end the conversation.

xoxox xox xoxox

Fortunately, the New Year's ball ended without any major incidents, unfortunately, the troubles that awaited Xellos, Filia and the world were far from over. Zelas, being the prideful, egotistical monster lord she was, decided that Milgazia better improve his brass rackets skills if he was going to be her unwelcome costar at the court. Thus she sent Xellos to hunt down some tea leaves that had been supposedly previously extinct, but were restored into the world after the whole incident that borrowed power from the Sea of Chaos.

The leaves were supposed to be good to make some energy drink tea with, though their existence was surrounded by a number of peculiar rumors. "Take your pet along, she might be able to sniff them out. Plus this tea is good for dragons, so you can give her some as a treat."

Xellos was not happy to have been sent off on an errand to find tea leaves for Milgazia, but none the less he went and he did take Filia along. Hence they found themselves in a big open field with various small forms of vegetation all around. "Why do I have to help you find the tea leaves?" Filia complained. "I don't think encouraging tea parties between Milgazia and Zelas will help break them up."

"That's not the point," Xellos, just as Filia, was also bent over looking at the ground trying to discern one leaf from another. This was far more difficult than it looked. "This is a mission from Beast Master; it's a direct order so it must be done."

"And she specifically told you to bring me along?" Filia complained.

"Yes," Xellos replied. "You shouldn't complain so much, lazy dragon. These tea leaves are good for your kind, you can have some."

"Why don't you get your new friend to come with you?" Filia inquired in annoyance.

"Who?" Xellos picked up some leaves to examine them more closely, but soon realized that they were not what he was looking for.

"The white dragon girl from the ball, you're obviously quite fond of her," Filia huffed.

Xellos grinned, "I don't really know where she is right now. But you're right, I am becoming quite fond of her," but that was only because she made Filia jealous and he was ever so amused by that.

Filia growled something incomprehensible. It was none of her business who Xellos hung out with. If he found a new dragon to annoy, then maybe he would leave her alone. If she never saw him again it would be too soon! She walked off in anger, stomping her feat as she went.

"Don't step on the tea leaves, clumsy dragon!" Xellos called after her in a teasing tone, but Filia didn't stop. Turning behind a large tree, Filia sat down and crossed her arms angrily. Since it didn't look like she was willing to be helpful anymore, but didn't have any intentions of leaving either, Xellos let her be for the time being and resumed his search.

After a while of glaring angrily at nothing and asking herself why she was so terribly annoyed, Filia concluded that she simply did not like being pushed into spending time with Xellos, though deep down she knew that wasn't true. She shifted and realized that the bark of the tree on her back slightly bent inward as if it was thin and hollow. Curiously, she examined it more closely, finding a hole on it to look through, but it was too dark to see inside. She pushed it a little and it gave in, she pushed it a little more and it gave in some more. Finally she pushed it harder and the whole piece of bark sunk into the hollow tree before becoming detached from it and falling in.

Filia leaned into the hole that was hidden below the tree. She squinted at the darkness until she felt something poking at her tail. The appendage had made its appearance a short while ago without her notice during her little argument with Xellos. She turned her head to find a little rabbit looking at her as if asking for passage. Filia moved aside and the fluffy white bunny hopped past her and jumped into the hole camouflaged by the tree. The small creature disappeared in the darkness as it fell, making Filia wonder if it was alright. Well, she couldn't abandon a cute fuzzy bunny all on its own, though it did look like the rabbit knew exactly what it was doing.

Curious about what kind of odd rabbit hole this was, Filia jumped in, levitating so as to not plummet to the ground below. She used a light spell to see where she was going and safely landed in a small cavern underground. She saw the same white bunny making its way to an underground pond to drink some clear crystalline water. The rabbit then climbed out through a smaller hole, most likely making its way to the surface. So it was only here for a drink. Filia was about to levitate back out the way she came, but paused when she saw a peculiar leaf. It was a deep green color with red specs on it and thin sections similar to the shape of a feather.

Filia closely examined the plant with the peculiar leaves, taking in its scent which was like a mix of mint and vanilla. This was it; the leaves matched the description Xellos obtained from Beast Master perfectly. Filia considered taking some and showing them to Xellos, bragging about finding them before he did, but she didn't feel like it. Let him run around in circles up in the fields for a while longer looking for the elusive tea leaves. As for Filia, she was going to make some tea. She could really use something to relax with and the tea was supposed to be good for dragons. With her mind set on tasting a new tea recipe, Filia pulled out her small portable tea set out of a pocket in her cloak and started making tea with the use of magic to heat it up.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile in Seyruun castle, Amelia went over her luggage one last time as she and Zelgadis would be leaving on their trip on the very next morning. She looked through her comic and novel collection, wondering which she should take along. She picked up a particular novel and opened it to the first page which contained some notes from the author. "Make sure to set your imagination to high definition mode, because this is a fan service filled story!"

Amelia giggled as she remembered what the novel was about; it kind of made her wish it was a comic instead. A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when it's the kind of picture that would probably leave anyone speechless. In the end deciding against packing the particular novel, Amelia placed it back on its shelf and picked out a different one instead.

xoxox xox xoxox

Back in the little underground cave, Filia woke up and stretched with a yawn. She didn't remember falling asleep. That tea she drank was good and it must have relaxed her more than she thought if she actually fell asleep on the ground. She started to pick up her tea set to put it away in her cloak, but soon found she didn't have her cloak, or her dress. Instead she was wearing an odd bikini made of pink hearts. Boiling with anger and embarrassment, Filia immediately assigned a culprit to her predicament. "Xellos!"

A figure faded into existence from the astral side, floating a few feet above the ground. The shape became clearer until Filia recognized him as Xellos, except he wasn't the same way he always was. He still had the same purple hair and the same infuriatingly overly cheerful squinty eyes and big grin. The two main differences were that, number one; he had a pair of purple cat ears on his head along with a purple tail and number two, his clothes were... mostly missing. The ears were a deep purple with lavender at the tips and the tail was striped with deep purple and lavender. As for his apparel, or lack thereof, he wore only a purple spade symbol covering what vitally needed to be covered. "You called?" He purred.

Filia's jaw dropped as she stared red faced. The nerve of him. "You!" She pointed accusingly. "You did this, you monster!"

"Did what, Alice?" Xellos inquired with a purr as he landed next to Filia, on all fours and started rubbing against her bare legs purring.

"Stop that, you pervert!" Filia jumped back several feet in furious indignation, "and my name is not Alice!"

"Sure it is, Alice, meow," Xellos faded to the astral side again. He reappeared again next to Filia, first his grinning face and then the rest of him. "I would remember my own master's name, purr."

Filia angrily levitated out of the little cave and peeked out of the tree trunk, hoping that the fields above were just as deserted as before. When she got her mace back, Xellos was really going to get it. What Filia saw was not what she was expecting at all. Instead of the normal fields she had been at before, she found a very strange place with pink grass, orange skies, blue trees, dancing green mushrooms and smile faced white clouds. At least the clouds were a normal color, but clouds were not supposed to have faces. "Where am I?" Filia finished climbing out of the tree trunk in disbelief.

Xellos faded into existence next to her again. "You're in wonderland, meow. Where else would you be, Alice?"

Was this all Xellos trickery or was she going insane? Honestly, Filia was starting to dreadfully suspect the latter. "If I'm your master, then I order you to call me Filia." The least he could do was call her by her proper name.

"Whatever you say, Filia, purr," Xellos agreed, attempting to get cuddly again, but Filia quickly stepped away.

"Now I order you to take me home," Filia demanded.

"Right away, meow, follow me purr," Xellos kept disappearing and reappearing a few feet away, moving by way of short range teleportation.

"Can't you walk like a normal person?" Filia snapped, soon changing her request. "Or better yet, just teleport me home!"

"I can't do that, meow," Xellos insisted. "You have to follow me, purr." Seeing that she had no choice, Filia let out an exasperated breath and moved along. She really hoped no one would see her like this. She really wanted to hurt Xellos right now.

xoxox xox xoxox

After walking for a while, the scenery wasn't getting any more normal, it was getting stranger; Filia could have sworn those green dancing mushrooms were staring at her. Things that shouldn't have faces had faces, such as those odd yellow rocks Xellos was sitting on kitty style. One of the rocks just winked at her!

"Alice?" A small voice called from the ground among the tall pink grass. Filia looked down at the being that took flight on small golden wings. It looked like a dragon, sort of. Yet its head and golden eyes were unusually large. His head was almost the same size as the rest of his body and his wings were far too tiny to keep him in the air according to the laws of physics. To put it simply, he looked like a caricature of a golden dragon, like a cute drawing that shouldn't exist outside of comics, a chibi. "I'm glad you're back!"

"Who are you?" Filia asked the tiny dragon in curiosity. She was embarrassed, given her current apparel, but also very surprised by the creature. "And by the way, my name is Filia," she added in an annoyed tone.

"You want to be called Filia? Very well," the little golden dragon agreed. "You can still call me by my usual name. I hope you weren't seriously asking who I am. Have you forgotten your own brother?" Filia was pretty sure she never actually had a brother, but she could say nothing as she watched the small dragon glow with perplexity. The golden light stretched into a human-like shape until finally the light faded and there stood Milgazia, wearing a similar attire to Xellos, except his was a blue heart. "Surely you remember me, dear sister. I am Milgazia, the king of hearts, brother of the queens of hearts, Martina and Alice, who is now called Filia."

"You... you..." Filia couldn't even find the words to say. There simply wasn't a word in her vocabulary that expressed a sufficient amount of surprise. Milgazia was in on this craziness too? How did he even turn into that chibi dragon thing? How did the whole scenery change? Nothing made sense!

"Xellos, why have you not yet escorted Filia to the trial grounds?" Milgazia inquired, he didn't seem to be at all bothered by his lack of clothing or Filia's.

"She doesn't seem up to it, meow. She's acting really strange, purr, she won't even pet me." Xellos complained.

"How odd," Milgazia observed. "Usually my dear sister wants to do nothing more than to caress her beloved pet all day and night," he innocently stated.

Filia's face turned red at the thought of cuddling Xellos, repeatedly, all the time, with that odd attire of his... "That can't be!" She shouted embarrassed.

"Your face is red, are you ill?" Milgazia inquired. "Sadly, there is no time for you to recover. You must attend the trial right now. This trial will decide which of my two sisters will keep the title of queen of hearts, while the other will be the jack of hearts. Let's not forget that all the jacks are required to serve as slaves to Zelas, the queen of spades, for seven hundred years before they can go free. Hurry to your trial now, Filia, if you are late, it will be assumed that you wish to forfeit the title of queen of hearts."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 135: Panorama! Minimal Dress Code

"Serve Zelas for seven hundred years?" Filia's eye twitched at the thought. She didn't know what kind of insanity was going on and she didn't like it at all. She wondered if this was related to the use of chaotic energy to revitalize the planet. Maybe calling upon the power of the Sea of Chaos was crossing the line and it was only a matter of time before the world morphed into this nonsensical place. Filia didn't know what was going on or how to get things back to normal, but she did know one thing, she did not want to get stuck as Zelas' slave for a single day, let along seven hundred years. "Which way are the trial grounds?"

"This way, meow," Xellos disappeared and reappeared a few feet further away. "Follow me, purr." Without any further delays, Filia hurried after Xellos as he continuously teleported, leading the way.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Xellos! Wait up!" Xellos' continuous teleportation had increased in speed until Filia was running to keep up with him. Given her current attire, or lack of attire, she thought it best to transform into a dragon. Her human-like shape was one thing, but her dragon form was a whole other story. She didn't mind running around with nothing but a ribbon on her tail in that shape. It was a bit ironic, but that was simply how it worked. She looked around, feeling as if the odd mutant vegetation was watching her. That aside, there seemed to be no one else around. Thus she focused and attempted to transform.

After several seconds of absolutely nothing, her tail finally popped out with a bell ring at the end instead of her usual bow. Filia didn't understand why she couldn't transform, but it's not like anything else made sense anyway. So much for making following Xellos easier by flying. She examined her tail, tugging at the bell ring. How in the world did it get there? The upside-down heart shape of the end of her tail was too big to allow the ring to get to the thinner area of her tail. But once again, it's not like anything else made sense anyway.

Letting out a breath of exasperation, Filia continued on her way in the general direction that she last saw Xellos teleport. The bell ring on her tail made a continuous sound as she walked, but she found herself unable to retract the appendage. Trying her best to ignore the sound, Filia kept on walking, until her missing guide appeared again.

"Bell..." Xellos' purple and lavender striped cat tail moved from side to side as he watched Filia's tail intently. His posture was similar to that of a feline waiting to pounce. "Bell... bell... bell! My bell!" He dashed towards Filia, running in circles around her on all fours until he stopped behind her and started chewing on the end of her tail.

Xellos didn't bite hard enough to cause Filia any pain, but his nibbling was... tickling her, to say the least. "Stop that!" From lack of mace on hand, Filia used her foot and kicked Xellos away.

Xellos made a sound like a hurt kitten and looked at Filia with sad amethyst eyes. "You don't love me anymore!" Then he disappeared once more.

"You don't know the meaning of personal space!" Filia shouted angrily. She waited for several seconds, but Xellos did not return. "Xellos? Oh, come on, don't be such a piece of raw garbage and come back already! Xellos!" After several more minutes passed with Filia's calls being ignored, she even tried using the bell ring on her tail to attract Xellos again, but it didn't work.

Seeing as getting her guide back was not working out, not that he was of that much help anyway; Filia continued walking in the general direction she was heading before. With some luck and more patience than she knew she could realistically muster, maybe she could figure out a way to restore a shred of sanity to that chaotic nonsensical world.

xoxox xox xoxox

After walking for a while, Filia spotted something moving in the distance. Assuming that it was some sort of vehicle, she quickly headed towards it. If there was a kind of transport there, then someone should be driving it. That person might be able to give her directions, a ride and maybe even provide her with some decent clothes if she got over her embarrassment enough to actually approach. Then again, Milgazia was dressed, or rather undressed, in a similar fashion, so maybe this was the normal dress code in that new crazy world. Chaos had no modesty.

When Filia got close enough to the moving vehicle to clearly perceive what it was, she realized it wasn't actually a form of odd carriage after all. It was a piece of furniture, a table to be specific. The table's brown wooden legs were moving as if it were a horse on a calm and quiet walk, the white table cloth blowing in the gentle breeze as it went. On the path's side, Filia stood staring. Just when she thought this world couldn't get any stranger, it did.

Filia recognized the three passengers that the moving table was carrying. They were Xellos, Amelia and Zelgadis. Amelia and Zelgadis were also dressed, or undressed, in the same fashion as everyone else, with Amelia wearing pale blue diamond symbols and Zelgadis wearing white clubs. In both cases the fabric that looked like a censoring sticker on an otherwise too high rated photo, only covered what vitally needed to be covered. Yet by now, Filia figured it was silly to be embarrassed, because everyone was wearing as little as she was anyway. Of course, that didn't stop her from feeling terribly awkward. "Wait for me!" Filia ran after the moving table.

"Oh how wonderful!" Amelia exclaimed as she extended her hand to help Filia climb onto the table. "A local from this land has come to join our tea party! We are travelers from far away, our tea party is always moving. I am Amelia the justice hare." Aside from the bikini, Amelia was also wearing a pair of bunny-like ears on her head.

"And I'm Zelgadis the mystical hatter," Zelgadis took off his big green top hat to salute Filia. She noticed that he had a pair of antennae under the hat, but didn't say anything about it. Really, it wasn't the strangest thing she had seen so far anyway.

"I'm Filia," she introduced herself, watching Xellos suspiciously from the corner of her eyes while he sat there kitty style without a word. Apparently this version of Amelia and Zelgadis had not met her before.

"It is good that you should join us, miss Filia, because this is a very special tea party!" Amelia exclaimed as she served Filia a cup of tea, which the golden dragon gladly drank in hopes that it would help calm her. "We are celebrating the arrival of our child!"

"Your child?" Filia was so shocked she almost choked on her tea. Amelia certainly didn't look pregnant. It was easy to see that she wasn't, given her current apparel. Then that meant that the baby was not on its way, but instead already born. Then again, it might not be their real child, but someone else entirely. After all, family relations were certainly messed up in that world from what Filia had learned so far. Milgazia as her brother she could certainly live with, but Martina as her sister? No, just no.

"Yes, this is our child," Amelia patted Xellos on the head. "We adopted him today. This poor sweet kitty's previous master was mean to him, refused to return his affection and even kicked him, so he ran away. How could anyone be so heartless to a kitty? It's okay now, Beloved, you're safe with us."

"I'm so very happy, meow, you're so good to me, Master Amelia," Xellos purred.

"Be... Beloved?" Filia stuttered.

"That's his name, Amelia thought of it," Zelgadis clarified. "Would you like some milk, Beloved?"

"Yes, Master Zelgadis, meow, I would love some," Xellos purred, still pretending he didn't know Filia.

Zelgadis poured some milk into a bowl and set it in front of Xellos. The purple haired, monster? Cat chimera? Freak of chaos? Filia wasn't sure anymore, licked the milk from the bowl happily. Though it probably was an unimportant detail, given all the other random occurrences that were going on, Filia observed that the milk had come from the same tea pot that Amelia used to pour her tea before. It made no sense, though Filia would probably be surprised now if something did.

Trying to stretch her patience and sanity well beyond their already broken limits, Filia inquired. "Could you be kind enough to direct me towards the trial grounds?"

"The tea party goes where it goes," Amelia replied. "We know not where we're going, where we came from or where we are."

"That's right," Zelgadis agreed, "we just go."

"I see..." So they were basically lost, Filia concluded, but they didn't care. "What about you, Beloved," Filia spat out the name like venom. "Would you happen to be able to direct me towards the trial grounds?" Xellos paused his activity of drinking milk kitty style to take a moment to hiss at Filia, then he resumed what he was doing.

"That's odd, Beloved is usually such a sweet kitty." Never mind that Amelia had only known him for less than an hour. "What's wrong, Beloved? Why don't you like our guest?"

"Filia was mean to me, meow. She kicked me, she doesn't love me anymore, mew..." Xellos complained.

Amelia gasped, "you are Beloved's past master? How could you be so mean to him?"

Filia started becoming very nervous; she didn't like the murderous looks that Amelia and Zelgadis were giving her. "I'm sorry!" She pleaded. "I'm really sorry, it'll never happen again!"

"Well, if you're really sorry," the murderous looks went away, as Amelia considered Filia's supplication. "What do you say Beloved? Do you want to go back to your previous master?"

"Purr, only if she loves me again," Xellos meowed.

Amelia and Zelgadis gave Filia expectant looks. The golden dragon smiled nervously. "Oh yes, I love him very much... really..."

"Okay, if you love him, then kiss and make up," Amelia suggested.

"What?" Filia stuttered. "Kiss?"

"I don't think you really love him," Zelgadis theorized.

"If that's the case, then we can't let you take Beloved away and be mean to him," Amelia warned.

Why was Filia trying to recover that stupid monster, cat, chimera... that raw garbage thing? Just as she was considering leaving Xellos behind with the tea party travelers, she noticed that the walking table had stopped in front of a tall platform. On top of the platform there was a woman wearing a black diamond bikini. Given the fact that this was Naga, she looked pretty normal in the peculiar attire, or rather, normal for her anyway. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! The court is in session! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga hit the platform with a very familiar looking mace.

"The court?" Filia blinked in confusion, then recognized the mace. "That's my mace!"

"Ah! Ha ha he ha ha! So you decided to come after all?" Martina stood beside Naga's platform in a red heart bikini. "Then what's the first thing you do? Accuse the judge of stealing your mace. That was not a very smart move, my dear sister. Ah! Ha ha he ha ha!"

"My mistake," Filia grumbled, "that's not my mace." She tried to correct herself, even if she knew that was indeed her mace. Or at least it was her mace back when the world was somewhat normal.

"Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Order! Order! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Order I say!" Naga yelled as she hit the platform with the mace again.

Zangulus arrived wearing only a dark blue club symbol in the same style as the attire of the other scantily clad men Filia had seen so far. "Yes, I'll take your order now."

"Bring me a cheeseburger and fries and don't forget the rum!" Naga ordered, culminating her request with her signature laugh. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

"Yes, your honor." Zangulus winked at Martina, who batted her eyelashes flirtatiously, then went off to fetch Naga's order.

"Now then, let us proceed with the trial. Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga declared, hitting the platform with the mace once more. "I have already heard Martina's laughter, it is your turn Alice, laugh with all your heart and soul."

"I... have to... laugh?" The golden dragon took a deep unsure breath, not even bothering to ask them to call her Filia. "Ah! He ha he ha he!"

"Order in the court!" Naga shouted as she bashed her mace into the platform again. "A verdict has been reached! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Alice is guilty! Guilty! Her laugh is so pitiful that she will not even obtain the title of jack of hearts, she will instead be executed! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

Unexpectedly, two men jumped out from behind the tall platform Naga stood upon. The first man was wearing a red diamond symbol while the second wore a green club. They were both human-like in appearance, save for certain small details, and rather well built.

The first man had redish-brown fox ears on his head, the same color as his hair, and a fox tail in a similar style to Xellos' cat ears and tail. "I am Jillas!" He exclaimed as he made a silly pose.

The second man had green hair, long pointy ears and a long tail, the tail covered in green scales. "I am Gravos!" He joined his teammate in the silly posing.

"We are the executioners!" Jillas and Gravos exclaimed in perfect unison.

"Jillas and Gravos?" Filia stared in disbelief. "What's wrong with this indecent fan service filled world?" If the Lord of Nightmares was watching this, surely she was having a ball.

Just as Zangulus was returning, carrying a tray with Naga's order of a cheeseburger with fries and a bottle of rum, Xellos suddenly jumped to his feet, standing upright for the first time since Filia first saw this crazier version of him. "Run away, Master Filia!" He took her hand and led her away.

"She's escaping!" Naga pointed at Filia with her mace, before bashing it into the platform again. "Go after her! I would join the hunt, but I'm on lunch break right now. Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

With Naga staying behind to eat and drink, Martina, Zangulus, Amelia, Zelgadis, Jillas and Gravos dashed after Filia and Xellos. "Hurry Master Filia, we must get to the bridge!" Xellos pulled her along, since he, apparently, was only able to teleport himself in that odd twisted version of the world.

"They're heading to the outlands!" Zangulus pointed ahead.

"Stop in the name of justice!" Amelia shouted.

"We're almost there, hurry, Master Filia!" Xellos and Filia continued running until they crossed a seemingly normal bridge. However, the scenery on the other side of the calm flowing river over which it stood varied drastically from the scenery from where they came. Instead of pink grass, orange skies, blue trees, dancing green mushrooms and white clouds with happy faces, everything was gray, black and white.

The sky was dark gray, the clouds were white with sad faces, the grass and trees were in lighter shades of gray and there were no dancing green mushrooms or suspicious yellow rocks. "They're in the outlands!" Zelgadis pointed in alarm.

"They have gone too far," Jillas observed.

"We cannot pursue them there," Gravos agreed.

"Ah! Ha ha he ha ha!" Martina laughed victoriously. "Now that they've crossed the bridge, they have become queen Zelas' property with the action of stepping into her land. They will not be able to return here for at least another seven hundred years. Ah! Ha ha he ha ha!" Martina and the others gave up on the chase and went away.

Filia looked at the bridge after waiting for her pursuers to leave. "Are we really stuck here?" She tried to cross the bridge but somehow found that she was once again heading towards the gray scenery. "What? When did I change directions?"

"This bridge is enchanted, it lets people in, but doesn't let them out," Xellos explained. "We will not be able to leave the outlands unless we get Zelas' permission."

"Which means that she'll make us her slaves for seven hundred years after all!" Filia grimaced. "Just when I thought that this insane world couldn't get any worse!" She took note of a peculiar fact and inquired. "How come you're standing normally now and not meowing and purring after every other word?"

"You are quite capable of making me purr if you want to, sweet Filia." Xellos purred seductively.

"Never mind," Filia stuttered, "just forget I asked." Changing the subject in a hurry, she inquired. "What can we do now?"

"Zelas will send her ferocious warriors of carnage after us if we don't report to her throne immediately. She notices everything that happens in her domain and must already know we're here. Our best chance of survival is to go to her," Xellos concluded. "If she unleashes her warriors of carnage on us, we will be devoured for sure!" He warned.

"It sounds like we have no choice," Filia sighed. "I take it you know which way to go to reach Zelas' throne?"

"Of course," Xellos ascertained. He and Filia started walking into the seemingly endless gray scenery.

xoxox xox xoxox

After a long walk, Xellos and Filia reached a black stone castle with torches of silver fire. They entered the castle and walked to a spacious room with a large golden throne in the middle, upon which Zelas sat. She had her usual monster lord appearance with the tanned skin. Her hair was waist length and silver, matching the color of her eyes, which held a sinister glare. She, like everyone else, was barely dressed, her bikini consisting of golden spades.

Beside the throne, left and right of it, there stood two people that Filia assumed were the infamous warriors of carnage that Xellos mentioned before. A cold chill ran down Filia's spine and it wasn't really because of the temperature. Lina and Gourry looked totally ferocious, as if they really wanted to devour her, and Filia didn't want to become dragon cuisine! Lina wore pink diamonds, while Gourry's symbol was a blue club. They were, not surprisingly at this point, also dressed in the same minimal coverage style as everyone else.

"Can we eat them?" Lina growled.

"Can we? Can we? Please?" Gourry added.

"Settle down, my warriors," Zelas waved her hand at them in an 'at ease' signal. Then she addressed Xellos with disapproval. "Why have you returned here?" She demanded. "I exiled you for your crime of having fallen in love with the daughter of the supreme emperor of the peninsula across the river. I condemned you to live as the brat girl's pet so that you would be tortured by spending your days with her, but being unable to have her!"

Just when Filia thought she was cured from being surprised after all the shocks she received, she was left speechless again. Wasn't Xellos supposed to be her pet?

"I apologize that I was unable to meet your approval, mother, but I do not apologize for my crime!" Xellos defiantly declared. "Do as you please with us, in the end, I am grateful to you. Because you exiled me and condemned me to the rank of a mere pet, I was able to live with my love. Even if she only cared for me as her pet for some time and no longer holds any regard for me anymore, I regret nothing."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 136: Actors! All The World's A Stage

After a very strange journey, Filia ended up being sentenced to execution and just when she thought the situation couldn't get worse, she became trapped in Zelas' domain. She should have learned by that point that when it looked like things couldn't get worse, it meant that they were about to get worse.

"You will regret Alice's death for bringing her here, Xellos!" Zelas dramatically declared. "My warriors-" Before Zelas was able to give Lina and Gourry the order to devour Filia, a green parrot with rainbow colors at the end of her wing feathers and long yellow tail feathers arrived with a package.

"Delivery for Alice!" The parrot, who had a golden crown with a pair of blue ornaments attached on its sides as if simulating earrings, gave Filia the package and flew away.

"Open it, meow! Open it!" Xellos purred urgently with curiosity. "There might be catnip in there, open it, meow!"

Filia tore the brown paper off the box and opened it. Inside, among small pieces of white paper that served to cushion the box, there was baby Val. "Val?" She looked at the brown wrapping from the box and read the return address. "This is from the Mother of all Things?"

"The Mother of all Things!" Zelas gasped.

"The Mother of all Things!" Xellos cheered. "You do love me!" Xellos started cuddling Filia, refusing to let her go. She was too stunned to push him away anyway.

"Can we eat them now?" Lina impatiently asked.

"Yes, can we? Can we? Please?" Gourry urged.

"Stand down my warriors, be at ease," Zelas commanded, much to the gluttonous pair's disappointment. "When a couple has loved each other strongly for a long time, the Mother of All Things will send a child to them, which they must raise with loving care. That is where all children come from; they are delivered by the minions of the Mother of All Things. I see now that even with all this adversity, love was able to prevail. Maybe the outlands and the peninsula are not so different after all. Perhaps we can finally unite our lands as one kingdom, as it should be. After all, the legends say that when the child of Ceifeed and Shabranigdu comes to this world, the time will come for the bitter rivalry between the outlands and the peninsula beyond the river to end."

Zelas dramatically continued. "When I saw the child arrive, I did not believe it and kept the truth hidden. The child was adopted by the supreme emperor of the peninsula, who raised her as his own, keeping hidden from her the mission she was born to do, to travel the land and restore peace and harmony to the world! Alice... You are not Milgazia's real sister; you are the daughter of Ceifeed and Shabranigdu. You are not related to Milgazia at all, but Xellos is..."

"I am?" Xellos gasped.

Milgazia suddenly stepped out from behind Zelas' large golden throne with a very shocking confession to deliver. "Xellos... I am your father." That was around the time Filia felt her mind explode into many itty bitty pieces.

xoxox xox xoxox

Her head hurt, her head hurt a lot as Filia's eyes opened suddenly and she looked around in every direction breathing heavily. "It's about time you woke up, stupid dragon!" Xellos was there, he was close, he was... holding her?

Xellos didn't have any cat ears or tail that Filia could see and he was fully dressed, as was she. She also noted that he still had the golden dragon keychain she gave him on his bag. "What... What happened?" Filia asked, still disoriented.

"You were tossing and turning on the ground, muttering incoherently," Xellos truthfully replied. "As for what happened, I thought you would be able to tell me that. Are you sick or something?"

"Not that I know of," Filia mused, as she sat up and tried to shake the dream out of her head, but it wouldn't go away. She blushed, remembering the peculiar cat version of Xellos from the crazy dream. "I had a really odd dream." She confessed, immediately regretting it when Xellos looked at her with curiosity. He wasn't just going to pretend he didn't hear, he would want to know more and would get it out of her somehow. Before that happened, Filia tried to diffuse a potentially embarrassing situation. "I was a fugitive," sort of, given the result of her trial, "and Martina was my adoptive sister."

"Martina was your sister?" Xellos laughed, "adoptive or not that sounds like quite the nightmare. No wonder your emotions tasted so chaotic, she must have been driving you insane." He paused, realizing something, "I didn't know you knew Martina. We are talking about the queen of Zoana, right?"

"Yes," Filia nodded, "Zangulus' wife," then she realized that she held no recollection of ever actually meeting them outside of her dream. Yet she must have met them because she knew who they were. This must be part of her missing memories, bits and pieces were finally coming back! Even if the dream was insane, and somewhat traumatizing in certain aspects, Filia consoled herself in thinking that if she was starting to recover from her amnesia, then at least something good came out of it. Plus the hunt for the tea leaves was over and Filia could go home.

xoxox xox xoxox

The tea leaves were collected and Xellos took them to Zelas, who suspiciously decided she didn't need them. Her reasoning was that, "Milgazia doesn't need the extra energy after all." It was just a cheap excuse on Zelas part, because the true purpose of the tea leaves had already been accomplished judging by Xellos report, which mentioned Filia's dream in passing. He told Beast Master about the detail for the sake of amusement only, with Xellos not realizing that it was indeed an important point.

Xellos, who was still caught in the peculiar misunderstanding that had been plaguing him and Filia lately, really didn't want to know how Zelas reached her conclusion. Honestly, what Milgazia did to demonstrate his energy and endurance was none of Xellos' business and he most certainly did not want to know about it.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia and Zelgadis were currently traveling around the world, spreading Seyruun's good will and taking a few deviations along the way to follow leads concerning Zelgadis' cure. He wasn't searching for it as if it were something as vital as what he had thought it to be in the past, but rather something he would like to have if it was possible, without getting too distracted from the other more important happenings of his life.

Seyruun was calm, recovering much more easily than most of the other cities of the world. With the princess gone, Filia had offered to assist kind king Philionel in anything he needed; the Seyruun royal family had helped her a lot. Phil appreciated the offer and asked Filia to participate in a task that he thought she would enjoy, managing a small play to entertain children. Palou, Val and a group of children from around the city would participate in a somewhat modified reenactment of a classic fairy tale that existed in both human and dragon culture.

For the humans, the main protagonist of the story was a little girl, whose trademark accessory was a red hooded cape. For the dragons, the heroine was a little dragon girl who wore a similar red hooded cape. For the villain of the story, many of the human variations of the tale depicted the antagonist as being a ferocious wolf. As for the villain of the dragon version of the story, it was, predictably, a monster.

To accommodate for more children to appear on the little play, the role of the main girl was modified to be a group of children instead, who attended a school at the edge of a forest. Jillas, Gravos and Elena also became involved in the process of the play and after some rehearsing; the children were ready to put on a show at the park. Families gathered around sitting on picnic blankets to watch the show with Phil himself personally attending with a front row seat.

Filia was on their little improvised stage where a group of children, Val and Palou included, were sitting. "That's it for today's lesson, children, be careful on your way home. I'll see you tomorrow bright and early!" The golden dragon cheerfully went over her lines perfectly.

The children energetically got up, giving Filia their farewells and moving to the other side of the stage, which was outside the classroom area and in the imaginary kingdom where the story took place. Filia had gone on her way, disappearing behind some cardboard trees to wait for her next scene.

"Miss Filia sure is nice," Palou observed.

"Yes she is!" The children chorused.

"We should do something nice for her," Val suggested.

"Yes we should!" The children chorused.

While the scene went on, Filia felt a familiar presence backstage. "Xellos," she eyed him critically, growling in a low tone. "If you ruin this for the children, I won't forgive you," she warned.

"What? Can't I watch?" Xellos feigned hurt.

"You can watch," Filia voiced carefully. "But you can't do anything that will negatively affect the play. The children were really excited about this and if you make them sad, I'll... I'll... I'll make sure you get indigestion!" That wasn't the most threatening thing to say and certainly not the worse Filia had offered to do to Xellos. But in her favor, one could observe that it might be a somewhat doable threat if she ruined his meal of misery by finding a way to fix things fast enough. Besides, Filia was distracted for a second, taking note of the fact that Xellos still had that little doll of her decorating his bag.

Xellos took her threat with amusement. "Children get upset too easily anyway. Their sorrow lacks in flavor, since they are too innocent to fully understand fear and disappointment. They're too naive to think of the horrible possibilities beyond the immediate present. Dragon anguish, now that's a delicious dish!"

Filia placed her hands on her hips and glared, "that's cruel." Well at least he wasn't interested in making the kids suffer. She carefully listened for her cue to go back on stage. The children would go to the bakery, that was Elena's scene, and get some delicious goodies. Then they would head out to the gates, that was Gravos' scene, and after being given some warnings and advice, they would head on to the forest to deliver the baked goodies to their teacher's house.

Gravos was currently explaining about how a fairy that lived in the forest had casted a protective spell on the marked paths that repelled evildoers and that they should never stray from those paths. Next up on the play, the children would go into the forest, leave the path and encounter a wolf. That was Jillas' scene, except Jillas couldn't be on stage because he was currently backstage giving Filia desperate nervous looks. "Jillas? What's wrong?" She asked with gentle concern.

"I... I can't do this..." Jillas whimpered. "Elena, Palou, Val... the children, the audience..."

"Coward," Xellos mockingly chirped with abundant cheer.

Filia glared murderously at Xellos for a second, before turning her kind and encouraging eyes towards Jillas. "There's no need to be afraid, just get out there and do your best. I'm sure you'll do great."

"Or mess up terribly," Xellos suggested, grinning happily, "By the way, it's not bad, pretty good actually." He remarked as if tasting food.

"Stop feeding off Jillas' stage fright!" Filia scolded.

"I... can't..." Finally giving in completely to the stage fright, Jillas removed his wolf costume and practically shoved it into Xellos' arms. "You do it!"

"Me?" Xellos shook his head. "Oh no, I couldn't, don't forget that I'm expected to-"

"I said... I think we're lost!" Val's loud voice coming from the stage snapped Filia, Jillas and Xellos into attention. In the play, the children disregarded the advice they were given and strayed away from the path in the forest, becoming lost deep in it. Now it was time for their encounter with the wolf.

"Jillas, that's your cue!" Gravos joined them backstage with the reminder.

"Right away!" Jillas was full of determination as he picked up the wolf costume, but as soon as it was in his hands, he became once again afraid. "I can't!" He shoved the costume back at Xellos. "But everyone is counting on me!" He took the costume back, "what if I fail?" He pushed it away.

"You know, this costume doesn't even fit me, it's too small," Xellos pointed out.

Gravos searched around a trunk full of costumes for something that would fit Xellos. "The only other wolf-like costume we have is that outfit from the fashion show that was cancelled." He held up the garment, there was a wolf tail attached to it, but it was...

"That's..." Filia pointed at the garment in disturbed disbelief. "Fur speedos?"

Xellos shook his head, "only Marty Lenford..." Then again, Naga might also like stuff like that and that's just about as far as that train of thought was permitted to go.

"You can't wear that, there are children present!" Filia snapped.

"I never said I would!" Xellos snapped right back. "Besides, I'm supposed to-"

"I hope we don't run into any wolves!" Palou practically shouted from the stage, the show needed to go on.

"There's no other choice," Filia picked up the wolf mask and shoved it into Xellos' face. "You'll have to play the part of the terrible wolf before the play falls apart. Go out there and... and... just be yourself." Without further ado, Filia shoved Xellos into the stage. He made a stumbling entrance, causing the audience to erupt into laughter and continued the play, more or less as it should go from there.

"I'm sorry boss," Jillas apologized profusely. "I don't know what's wrong with me. Every time I pick up this costume, I get such terrible stage fright."

Filia touched the wolf costume and peculiarly, she felt stage fright too, then she sensed it. "Wait a minute; this costume is under a spell that gives stage fright! The mask must not affect Xellos because he's a monster. That tricky piece of raw garbage, he must have sabotaged the wolf costume!"

"Actually," Jillas confessed, "that might have been Val. I saw him casting some magic on this costume earlier. When I asked him about it, he said it was a secret and that's what he always says when he gets into mischief."

Filia let out a breath of distressed disappointment, "my little Val, why did you have to turn out to be such a trickster?"

"It's okay, it's just a harmless prank," Jillas tried to console Filia. "I just need to get a different costume."

"It might be a little late for that now," Gravos pointed out. "But you can act out the other scene my character was supposed to play and join in that way."

"Alright," Jillas agreed, "I'll act that scene and figure out a way so that the play can still go on even if Xellos is stuck playing a different character!" He realized only too late that he had said too much, automatically slapping both hands over his mouth.

"What do you mean a different character?" Filia questioned suspiciously. "It's not like he actually had a character to play in the first place!" She demanded.

A loud and rather realistic sounding growl was heard from the stage. "No one can save you now!" Xellos threatened. The children called out for help, hoping that the hero didn't take as long to get there as the villain, because they could hardly think of more lines to improvise with.

"That's my cue," Filia realized. The kind hearted teacher, who was secretly a forest fairy, was supposed to show up and save the children from the wolf, sacrificing herself to do so. Then the town guard, previously played by Gravos, who had given the next scene to Jillas, would arrive to find the children crying about the fallen fairy. He would instruct them to focus their positive energy and together they would cast a massive recovery spell that would save the fairy's life. Or at least that's how Filia thought the story was supposed to go.

Filia dashed to hide between the curtains that were set up as a sort of change room back stage, then she ran out to the stage in her fairy costume. The only difference was that instead of her fairy wand, she was holding her mace instead. "Terrible wolf, with my fairy magic I shall defeat your evil, even if it takes every ounce of strength I have in me!"

Filia swung her mace against Xellos who, just the same as any other semi-sane being would do, dodged it. "You'll never defeat me, forest fairy! I shall feast on these children, I'll devour them all!"

Filia swung her mace at Xellos again, which he dodged again. He didn't teleport, but he was moving around a lot with great speed. "You're supposed to stay still!" Filia growled under her breath.

"You're supposed to only pretend to hit me," Xellos countered. Though his face was hidden behind the wolf mask, Filia could still clearly imagine his mocking sarcastic grin. It was infuriating.

"Alright, let's just get this done." Determined to progress with the play as smoothly as possible, Filia prepared to hit Xellos with her mace once more, nodding to him slightly as she dramatically moved her mace towards him. It looked as if she wouldn't hit him too hard, but Xellos knew better than to lower his guard. His miscalculation was that he kept his attention focused on the mace to get out of the way if Filia tried to put some real strength into the hit at the last minute. Then suddenly, Filia shot a laser breath point blank that got Xellos square in the chest.

The crowd cheered, assuming it was all part of the play, while Xellos tackled Filia to the floor on the stage. "That hurt, you sadistic dragon." He whispered in her ear as he lay on top of her. If he wasn't such a high ranking monster he would have been seriously injured.

"Get off me, raw garbage!" Filia whispered back, putting every bit of willpower she had into the effort not to further ruin the play.

"Shh, quiet, you're supposed to be unconscious in this scene, remember?" Xellos whispered back.

"You're supposed to be dead," Filia growled in return, in a low tone of voice.

Jillas entered the scene, playing a second, recently added town guard. "I was worried about you children, so I came to look for you. Why have you gone out of the path? What has happened here?"

"We're sorry!" The children chorused.

"We should have listened and stayed in the path," Val voiced with well acted regret.

"Miss Filia, who was secretly the forest fairy, sacrificed herself to save us from that terrible wolf," Palou voiced in a sad tone.

"If only we could save Miss Filia!" The group of children chorused.

"Maybe we can!" Jillas dramatically declared.

The play was almost over, then Filia could stop pretending to be unconscious and Xellos could stop pretending to be dead in such an uncomfortably close proximity to her. Do unconscious people even blush? 'C'mon Jillas, hurry with the lines. Have the children cast the healing spell so I can get away from this piece of raw garbage.' Filia thought. She had no idea that the script had been modified without her knowledge and Jillas was about to implement those modifications along with a few last minute edits.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 137: Trapped! Growing Tensions, Critical Proximity

"To save the fairy we must... get her true love to kiss her!" Jillas declared, as per the modified version of the play. Then he added the last minute edits. "Rumor has it that the prince is in love with the fairy, but unfortunately, the prince has gone missing." Originally, the prince was supposed to be conveniently passing by, having returned from a trip to a neighboring kingdom. "Maybe he has been cursed and is closer than we think," Jillas hinted.

Xellos started getting up, but instead of being relieved, Filia had a very bad feeling about this. Jillas said something about Xellos being expected to play another character. He couldn't mean... Behind her long eye lashes, Filia's eye slightly opened imperceptibly. She saw the wolf mask landing on the stage floor after Xellos removed it and she closed her eyes completely. Everything felt like a distant echo as Xellos exchanged a few improvised overly dramatic lines with Jillas. There wasn't supposed to be a prince in this story, let alone a prince that got cursed into becoming a wolf and ended up kissing a fairy. "Noble fairy, you gave your life to save the children of my kingdom and to free me of my curse! If only there was something I could do to save you!" Xellos played his role.

Filia could no longer feel the brightness of the sun beyond her tightly closed eyelids. She opened her eyes slightly, just as she thought; he was leaning over her with a mocking, teasing grin. "Raw garbage," she growled at him from her position motionless on the floor of the little improvised stage. Oh how she wanted to sink into it.

"The show must go on," his grin was so mocking, so teasing, so infuriating.

'Stupid monster, quit making this last longer than it has to!' Filia screamed in her head. Xellos wasn't moving. A dramatic pause was one thing, but this was ridiculous. Then she realized he wasn't going to do anything.

"Can I?" Filia glared at Xellos' question, it reeked of trap. He wouldn't kiss her regardless of how much he knew it would embarrass her, because that would be his action and it wasn't as satisfying as pushing her into taking action.

Filia realized grimly that she ultimately had two choices, well technically three. She could push Xellos away and end this inappropriate situation, but that would ruin the play. The children would be heartbroken and the audience would be disappointed. She would be the villain who couldn't accept one little kiss for the sake of concluding an activity that brought some cheer to people in a world that was still recovering from a harsh disaster. Every now and then she saw it, the scars of the sadness that overtook the kingdom during the time that she had mostly forgotten. She caught those hints of terrible despair in their eyes, they weren't fully over the recent past and they didn't need any more disappointments big or small.

Filia's second option was to grant Xellos permission to kiss her. Then he would tease her endlessly about how she was the one who told him to do it. He wouldn't let her live it down, she would be mortified. Her third choice was to do nothing, to lie there pretending she really had passed out until Xellos did something. Yet she knew he wouldn't do anything and ultimately, the play would be ruined anyway after the scene remained frozen for too long. That made that third option as bad as the first in consequences towards others and even worse in consequences towards Filia. If she chose inaction, Filia would ruin the play and get Xellos' teasing because of her lack of open rejection. She would end up suffering both of the main consequences of options one and two combined.

She had to do something. Then she realized it. Bitterly, Filia mused that it was more so the aftermath of the kiss that worried her, rather than the action. Shouldn't she be worried about the action more so? She opened her eyes and noticed that Xellos had his eyes open staring at her with mocking curiosity. He could taste her every emotion, the fact surfaced clearly and prominently in her mind, refusing to sink back into the depths of her subconscious. It made her feel terribly exposed. No wonder he could always tick her off, he knew exactly what buttons to push to produce certain reactions. What could she do about that? How could she become unpredictable? She didn't know how unpredictable she already was to him.

The murmurs of the crowd reached Filia's ears while Jillas was saying something akin to encouraging the prince not to be shy. She couldn't stay trapped in this standstill for any longer. She couldn't disappoint everyone to avoid whatever it was she was trying to avoid, which she didn't even understand herself. She moved her lips without sound. He gave her a questioning look. "Do it..." she pushed the simple syllables out. He did as he was told. She closed her eyes again and her mind was so overflowing with emotions, that she could interpret none.

Finally, after what felt like too soon, they parted. There was a pause, as if they momentarily considered doing it again, but the sound of clapping forced them to remember where they were. They stood up, a few more lines were spoken, the crowd cheered, the children were happy. Congratulations were given, laughter echoed, people moved around and Xellos slipped away. Filia kept pretending that nothing happened; she kept acting as if she was perfectly fine, but she was going on automatic. The whole afternoon and following evening was a complete blur.

xoxox xox xoxox

Elsewhere, at a restaurant... "May I join you?" Xellos asked with mock politeness the morning after the play incident. He had gone back to Wolf Pack Island that evening and obtained some valuable but vastly disturbing piece of information. The situation was getting worse and something had to be done.

"The only one welcomed to join us right now is the main course," Lina replied. She and Gourry had been waiting for their breakfast to be brought when Xellos entered the restaurant and sat at their table, asking to join them only after he had already done so. "Unless of course, you're here to treat us. In which case, by all means, join us Xellos!" The condition of the world was improving, but that was not something that could happen overnight, much less completely. At least not until the Stillness had been defeated rather than simply pushed back. Plus the initial miraculous fertility of the land was starting to ware off, pushing the price of food back up as people feared a repeat of the famine. The Stillness was hidden, but alive and it wouldn't stay hidden for much longer.

"I've concluded that my less than grand financial state was your fault." Xellos stated and Lina looked like she would kick him out of the table, literally. Before things got violent, Xellos continued. "I could treat you to a meal, but not now."

The promise of a future meal was at least better than no meal at all, thus Lina decided to inquire for further information. "What's the catch?"

"Is it tuna? Salmon? Octopus?" Gourry added with his mouth watering. Both Lina and Xellos gave him strange looks, which made him explain. "You said catch, so I thought that must mean that Xellos is treating us to some seafood that he caught himself."

Letting out a 'should have known' breath, Lina tried to explain. "I meant to ask what he intends to request of us in return for that meal. Anyway," after clarifying for Gourry, the redhead turned her attention back to Xellos with a critical stare. "Seafood is good and it makes no difference who caught it, but no one wants to eat your cooking. So if you planned to treat us to a meal you cooked yourself then forget it!"

"Clearly your unrefined culinary taste doesn't understand my genius," Xellos defended. "How about a dish prepared by Beast Master?"

With a starry look in her eyes, Lina slammed both hands on the table and leaned forward towards Xellos. "Zelas' dragon cuisine?" She almost squealed in excitement.

"Really? Dragon cuisine made by Zelas?" Gourry joined in with a similar expression.

Xellos pouted, it wasn't fair that his cooking never got this kind of reaction. He was made from the very essence of Beast Master. If she was good in the kitchen, he stubbornly reasoned that he had to possess commendable culinary talents too. It just didn't make any sense that such a talented chef could produce such a mediocre cook. Zelas sometimes secretly wondered about that herself, but was never able to pinpoint where she went wrong. "Yes, Zelas' dragon cuisine. Naturally, you can't tell Filia about that."

"Do we look suicidal?" Lina snapped. Going back into the main order of business, she questioned. "So, when will Beast Master be treating us to her delicious cooking?"

"She's not," before Xellos could be strangled for getting Lina's hopes up falsely, he clarified. "I'll convince Zelas to make some dragon and deliver the cuisine to you. How about some dimos steak?"

Lina and Gourry nodded eagerly. "Yes, dimos," the sorceress agreed, "that sounds meaty."

"As for the catch," Xellos continued, Lina's eyes immediately becoming focused, while Gourry was still in the blissful land of his gluttonous imagination. "I want your assistance in breaking up a couple."

Immediately, Lina's focused critical eyes increased their suspicion. "Stop beating around the bush and get on with it already."

"I am not in the liberty to discuss it openly here and now." Xellos glanced around the restaurant, eying each customer suspiciously without actually opening his eyes. "Let's just say that their union is politically adverse. I will also require absolute secrecy on both your parts." He was getting desperate, he didn't want to include more people in this, but he had to. Besides, involving Lina Inverse in important situations had generally let to their solution, more or less, in the past, so perhaps it could work this time too. "I see the waiter is on his way, we will discuss this further later. I will be waiting."

xoxox xox xoxox

That afternoon at Filia's shop in Seyruun... "Hey, Stupid Dragon," Xellos appearing out of nowhere was nothing unusual for Filia anymore. The fact that he waited until the afternoon on the day following the play to appear was the real surprise. She thought he would come gloat sooner.

Determined to take his teasing in stride and allow him to get to her as little as possible, Filia turned around from her task of polishing a vase and resisted the urge to break it on Xellos' face. "What do you want, raw garbage?"

"I'm just dropping by to tell you to get ready." Xellos smiled with an overload of sweetness that added more suspicion to his already suspicious nature.

This was just like in the play. Filia couldn't simply ignore him because one way or another it would work in his favor. Xellos was not one of those annoyances that went away when he was ignored; he was the kind of deep annoyance that persisted. She also couldn't figure out a course of action that would prove to be beneficial against him, this was a dead end. "Get ready for what?" She finally asked, knowing that it was inevitable to have to play along.

"The beach," Xellos simply stated. As an answer to Filia's puzzled look he elaborated. "That is where we must go to continue with our mission. Leave someone in charge of your shop, say goodbye to Val, do what you must so that you have no distractions when you get there. Things are becoming critical."

Filia was surprised that Xellos had not started teasing her about the kiss, but apparently he had a good reason. Their ongoing mission concerning Zelas and Milgazia had seen basically no progress. She didn't like the sound of this. "What do you mean critical?"

"Public," Xellos stated with dread. "Zelas is spending the day at the beach with Milgazia. At this rate they'll probably be discovered. We need to, not only break them up, but also somehow cover for them. I'm not sure how we'll manage that, but let's just get there first."

"Right," Filia nodded urgently. Without any further delays, she left behind all the needed preparations and allowed Xellos to teleport her.

xoxox xox xoxox

Aside from the slightly lightheaded disorientation that came with teleportation for non-monsters at times, Filia felt no sickness. She recovered in seconds, taking in the scenery before her as she stepped out from behind the closely rooted group of palm trees they teleported behind. Taking a deep breath, she observed the beach below clear skies in front of a beautiful ocean. There were many people there, all dressed accordingly to their location. She reasoned that she would stand out with what she was wearing, as would Xellos, and glanced over at him to express her concerns. Then she noticed that he was not wearing the same clothes that he had on a second ago and quickly looked away. "When did you have time to change into shorts?"

"While we were teleporting," Xellos nonchalantly pointed out. He appeared to be too occupied in the task of trying to spot someone in the crowd at the beach to say anything teasing to Filia. Instead he put his attention into signaling to someone.

Lina waved to the new arrivals and hurried over. She was already in a two piece swimsuit, with Gourry following after her in shorts. Lina carried a bag over her shoulder, which she offered to Filia. "This is for you." She tilted her head to Xellos as she half informed and half accused, "he picked it."

"What is it?" Filia examined the bag. The fact that Xellos had personally chosen whatever its contents consisted of was bad enough.

"Just something for you to blend in." Xellos grinned mischievously before getting back to business. "Has there been any activity?"

"Not much," Lina informed. "They arrived, set up some beach chairs and umbrellas and that's pretty much it. Oh and they didn't put sunscreen on each other, he put sunscreen on himself and she didn't, but I guess she doesn't really need it." Of course, Lina did not point out that she had received and given some sunscreen assistance from and to Gourry.

"I see," Xellos acknowledged the information. "I'm going to check on the targets personally. She must have noticed my arrival, so it will only look suspicious if I'm too avoidant."

Xellos began to walk away, only to be stopped by Filia's complaints. "I'm not wearing this!"

"What's the problem?" Xellos innocently inquired. "I think the purple one is best, but if you really don't want to wear it, there's also a black one and even a pink one."

Filia glared, red faced. "I'm not wearing any of them, especially not the pink one!" Although the pink bikini in the bag did not include any hearts, it reminded her of the pink bikini she wore in that insane dream where Xellos was a cat-chimera and showed too much skin. She assumed that everything was a construct of her own misbehaving imagination and that most of what she saw was probably pretty far from reality, because she had no way to know what certain realities were like. However, she had to admit now that she had a better view of him, that her imagination was disturbingly accurate when it came to Xellos.

"You can stop spacing out and staring at me any time now, stupid dragon." Xellos mocked with infinite amusement. "I know you want me, but try to control yourself, we have a mission to accomplish!"

"I don't want anything to do with you, raw garbage!" Filia threw the bag at Xellos, her face scarlet in embarrassment and anger.

Xellos passed the bag back to Lina, "talk to her, okay? I'll be back in a little while." Thus he left to give Beast Master a casual greeting and pretend that he wasn't sneaking around behind her back.

Lina grumbled something along the lines of, "it better be a big steak," before turning a suspiciously innocent smile at Filia. "Why don't you try on one of these nice bikinis, Filia?"

Filia's face gained a look of suspicious disbelief. Then suddenly it all made sense. "Xellos bribed you with food, didn't he? How could you listen to that piece of raw garbage?"

"That is a secret," Gourry stated as if he had been rehearsing the line many times. Filia was not amused. Because of Xellos' strong insistence in secrecy, which Lina understood when he revealed his dilemma, Lina had made sure to train Gourry to keep his mouth shut. If he felt the need to say something, he was to tend to it by speaking Xellos' trademark phrase. The extreme precaution would go on until Lina explicitly told Gourry that it was okay to speak other words. Of course, she wouldn't do that until after she had feasted on the promised culinary delicacy.

As long as Filia didn't know what kind of food Xellos bribed them with, Lina reasoned that they were in the clear. Besides, she didn't go around whining about human cuisine, although it had been banned from the dragon race for many centuries before Lina existed. Going for a more direct approach Lina revealed. "Gourry and I are in on the situation with Zelas and Milgazia. We're here to help with the mission, so we're all on the same team, you can trust us, right Gourry?"

"That is a secret," Gourry replied with a smile.

"That doesn't exactly inspire trust," Filia frowned.

"Never mind the jellyfish brain; he's just playing a game with Xellos!" Lina laughed, then once again gained a look of determination. "If we're going to save Milgazia, certain sacrifices must be made. Please pick something to wear and blend in with the crowd. If you don't, you might end up accidentally sabotaging the mission!"

Filia sighed hopelessly, "I suppose so. This is the beach and this is how people dress here. Okay, I'll do it, just point me towards the change rooms. When I come out, if Xellos says anything, make him shut up or I won't be able to contain the need to transform and go on a rampage." Honestly, her nerves were on edge enough as it was. She kept wondering when Xellos was going to bring up the play incident.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Hello, Lord Beast Master," Xellos cheerfully greeted, making a fine effort to pretend he didn't want to kill Milgazia. The golden dragon elder seemed absorbed in the task of covering every inch of exposed skin with sunscreen. His dragon scales could take the sun no problem, but he didn't want to get sunburn in his human form.

"Hello, Xellos," Zelas replied in the same cheerful manner. She had earlier told Milgazia that he was too pale. Her alternate identity as Yuna wasn't as tan as her monster lord form, which she currently had, but she still thought Milgazia needed some color in his skin. That was why she dragged him to the beach. Of course, Xellos thought it was a date, a dangerously public date. Zelas couldn't call this brass rackets business if she was not in the form of Yuna Wolf. "Taking my pawns for a walk?"

"Yes," Xellos grinned. Zelas must have already noticed Lina and Gourry.

"Have fun then," Zelas finished. She had no assignments for Xellos at the moment and it didn't particularly bother her if he spent the day playing with his pet dragon, Lina and her friends.

"I'll try to," after the simple exchange, Xellos left. The only thing he would find fun right about now would be to see Zelas dump Milgazia's sorry tail.

Xellos was focused on how angry at Milgazia he was, until another feeling that was clearly not his own entered his senses via taste. Filia, this was Filia, it was as if Xellos was subconsciously tuned to her whenever she was in range. He moved closer and realized that she was not feeling good at all. Something shook her terribly, but what? There were no commotions going on, as everyone went along with their fun day at the beach. What could have upset and frighten Filia so terribly? Wasn't she with Lina and Gourry?

Xellos hurried towards her. He passed next to Gourry, who was standing in line at a crowded ice-cream stand. That particular business had many more customers than the ice-cream stands next to it, though it was hard to say why. The ice-cream being sold there appeared to be just the same as any ordinary ice-cream. "What happened to Filia?"

"That is a secret," Gourry replied with his practiced line.

"...right," annoyed, Xellos hurried away. He couldn't even begin to guess what the problem was and that really bothered him.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 138: Beach! The Sky, The Sand And The Sea

"Hurry up, Filia!" Lina called in front of the change room Filia had entered. The redhead put her ear to the door and thought she heard sounds of discomfort.

Filia peeked out, her face looking rather distressed. "Could you get me one of those things around your waist?" She pleaded as if she had just received a terrible shock.

"Are you really that embarrassed?" Lina untied the semi-see-through pink wrap around her waist and handed it to Filia. "You can use this one. Seriously, the bikinis aren't that bad. I talked Xellos into not going with his first choice. I know you would have never agreed to wear that even if the fate of the world as we know it depended on it."

After another pause, Filia finally emerged wearing the black bikini with Lina's pink wrap around her waist. "Let's focus on the mission," she breathed uncomfortably.

Somewhat jealous due to her usual chest concerns, Lina pouted. "I don't see what the fuss is about. And by the way, that," she pointed at the pink fabric, "is not supposed to be tied around the waist like that."

"The fabric is too thin," Filia remarked. "If I must blend in, please get me a one piece from one of the nearby shops. Please, Lina..." she pleaded.

"Sheesh, how embarrassed can you be?" Lina was getting very impatient, especially since Gourry wasn't back with the ice-cream she sent him to buy. "If that idiot Xellos told you you're fat, it's a lie."

"That's not it," Filia shook her head. It wasn't really her body that she was set on hiding but rather something that shouldn't be there. It was a nonsensical realization that frightened her with its absolute lack of explanation as far as she could remember. Her recent experiences provided her with no clues and it made it all the more confusing to think about the possible origin of the situation. "Please Lina."

"Alright," Lina finally agreed. Something had truly frightened Filia; it was plainly visible in her face. The golden dragon's expression filled the sorceress with concern; whatever was bothering her was so sudden, yet so serious. Lina wasn't sure what this was about, but she blamed Xellos. The redhead hurried away to hastily pick a bathing suit for Filia.

Filia locked herself in the tiny space of the change room and focused on her breathing. She mentally told herself over and over to calm down, but was unable to. She reasoned that this surprise would not be so shocking if she still held her memories, because then the cause would be evident, but it wasn't. She would tell Jillas and Gravos about it, they would know what answer to give her. Actually, Lina might know herself. She could tell her, she would be back soon, Filia would ask her in a few minutes and her world would make a little more sense. Everything would be okay, this wasn't a huge catastrophe, just a big shock, but she could deal with it, it would be okay... Unless a certain someone interrupted... and he did.

"Filia!" Xellos' sudden voice made Filia jump inside the tiny change room as he attempted to open it.

"You can't come in!" Filia shouted back.

"What happened?" Xellos inquired, the urgency becoming hidden once again now that he knew that she was at least safe enough to answer him.

"Nothing," Filia lied. "I just sent Lina to get me something to wear, because I don't feel comfortable wearing anything that you picked, that's all. When she comes back, I'll change and we can continue with the mission."

"That seems like a pretty poor reason to be this upset." Xellos pointed out with insistence.

"Mind your own business, raw garbage!" Filia snapped, she was hiding something, she was definitely hiding something.

Lina finally arrived with a bag on hand containing her recent purchase. She could have sworn she caught Xellos glaring at her for a split second as if accusing her for leaving Filia alone for a moment. Yet oddly, he seemed to be truly innocent of being the cause of the golden dragon's recent discomfort. It was true that he wasn't even there when Filia's mood shifted so sharply, but this was Xellos, so it was hard to take him out of the suspect list at times. Lina glared right back, pushing Xellos out of the way with her eyes. "I'm back," she simply declared with a neutral tone.

Filia opened the change room door slightly and received the bag Lina offered. Before the golden dragon could close the door again, Xellos pulled it open all the way. Filia was wearing the black bikini with the pink wrap Lina previously wore loosely on her hips tied around her waist, the fabric folded twice over, tied in front in a rather silly way. Odd fashion sense aside, Filia had no visible injuries. She glared at Xellos and close the change room door again, giving Lina a look that requested her to guard the door.

Not entirely sure about what the odd exchange was about, Lina stood in front of the closed door. "No peeking," she warned, leaning her back against the door and glaring at Xellos.

The purple haired monster gave the redhead sorceress a playfully innocent look, silently noting that Lina appeared to be just as confused about Filia's distressed reaction as much as he was. "I wasn't going to."

Lina placed her hands on her hips and reminded in a quiet whisper so that only Xellos could hear. "Filia still has amnesia, you'll creep her out if you move too fast."

Xellos sensed that there was some kind of hidden meaning to Lina's words, but unfortunately he was unable to decipher it, given the fact that he was suffering from missing memories himself. "Of course," he grinned as if he knew exactly what she was talking about.

"I'm ready," Filia called from inside the change room, prompting Lina to move aside and grant her exit from the enclosed space. The golden dragon emerged in a pale blue one piece swim suit. The fabric was so form fitting that it left very little to the imagination and made Xellos muse that it made no sense what so ever that Filia would be so insistent on wearing something else, if despite showing less skin in the middle she was in a sense showing her body just as much as before. Maybe she just wanted to contradict him; that certainly sounded like something she would do. Feeling rather uncomfortable under Xellos studying gaze, Filia urged them to move on with the mission. "We should get to work now, before the wrong people find out about-" she stopped as the unmistakable sensation of a powerful monster arriving ran down her spine.

Xellos looked towards the beach. Beyond the shore where Beast Master and Milgazia were, in the distance, in the water, that's where that newly arrived power was. It was Deep Sea Dolphin. "I'll be right back." Xellos ducked into one of the unoccupied change rooms and teleported away. He was off to casually greet the monster lord of the sea, pretending it was a mere coincidence that he was there. Perhaps if she inquired about Zelas and Milgazia, Xellos could come up with some sort of excuse to tell her.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Greetings, Lord Deep Sea Dolphin," Xellos floated above the water while Dolphin stood on a surf board with amazing balance.

"Greetings to you too, Xellos," Dolphin replied. "I take it your arrival to greet me means you are aware of my intentions?"

"That is a secret," Xellos replied with what he said when he couldn't or didn't want to directly reply to something. He didn't lie if it was his choice, but he kept a lot of convenient silences at times. In truth, he didn't know what Dolphin intended to do, but whatever it was, he theorized that he wouldn't like it.

Dolphin shook her head, "not really," she casually replied. "It's not a secret at all. I'm sure it's rather obvious for you that I intend to make a big tidal wave and cause chaos. I'm sure that Zelas must have guessed my intentions as well. She overdid it with the whole power of the Sea of Chaos incident and the world was fixed more than necessary, was she ever angry about that miscalculation." Although there were certain details that Zelas had not entirely shared with Dolphin, she was a little more informed now than she had been before. But I suppose I can't stay angry at her forever, it would not serve any useful purpose to do so," Dolphin concluded. "Has Zelas sent you here to buy time? I see, so she's not done with her day at the beach with Milgazia yet."

At the shock of the casual tone with which Dolphin address the situation that should have been a secret, Xellos felt his ability to levitate weaken from the mental hit and he fell into the water.

Dolphin ignored the mishap, assuming that Xellos had allowed himself to fall into the water on purpose. "Fine, there is no rush. I'll save my tidal wave for later, it will give the beach more time to continue getting crowded and make the event even better. Besides, I want to see what happens if Zelas' determination to put some color on Milgazia's skin backfires and he gets sunburn. That would be hilarious."

"You know about that?" Xellos couldn't help it but to ask. "About them?"

"That Milgazia is Zelas' partner for LIFE?" Though Dolphin was talking about the League of International Fellowship on Earth, once again, it was impossible to hear capital letters being spoken when one spoke them as a word rather than spelling them out. "Of course I know about it. Dynast knows about it, everyone and their minion knows about it."

This was bad, very bad. Almost afraid to ask, Xellos prompted for more information with a simple, "and?"

"And what? I think it's a fine idea, I'll be there to feast during the big event, it'll be deliciously chaotic." Dolphin concluded as she thought about the scheduled to be ruined brass rackets tournament that was to come.

Xellos assumed that Dolphin was referring to what would happen when the dragons decided to make their move to take a stand against the odd pair. Or at least against Milgazia if they didn't dare to pick a fight with Beast Master. "I see..." Xellos managed to voice. A larger portion of the monster race than he thought was aware of this? Dolphin and Dynast were not trying to use the fact against Zelas? It was all so terribly suspicious. Maybe they were only holding back for the time being to see what would happen. Then, after the dragons snapped and dragged Milgazia's good reputation through the mud, it would be time for the other monster lords to do the same with Zelas' evil reputation. A stop had to be put to this madness before it was too late. Surely Beast Master would be glad for Xellos' interference when she went back to her sane senses after he got rid of that meddlesome golden dragon. "Well then, I guess I'll leave you to your surfing." With those words of parting, Xellos disappeared from Dolphin's side and returned to rejoin his comrades of relationship sabotage.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos found Lina, Gourry and Filia eating some ice-cream. Filia offered him an extra cone that she had protected from Gourry and Lina, who claimed that Xellos' didn't need ice-cream anyway. In his defense, Filia noted that it would help him blend in with the crowd if he had some. The four stood around casually under the warm sun until Lina made a comment that, according to Filia was very inappropriate. "Xellos is back now, are you sure you don't want his help?"

"I already finished on my own," Filia huffed. She seemed to be displeased at Lina, possibly due to something the redhead said while Xellos was away.

"What are they talking about?" Xellos asked Gourry.

"That is a secret," Gourry replied with a casual smile.

"Right..." Xellos recalled Lina mentioning something about training Gourry to keep the secret of Zelas and Milgazia, which Xellos had realized was not so secretive after all. "What was it that you wanted to ask of me, stupid dragon?"

"Nothing!" Filia snapped.

"I just told her you could help her with her sunscreen, but she didn't take to the idea very well." Lina explained, adding with slight exasperation. "It was just an innocent suggestion."

"I wouldn't have minded," Xellos offered with a teasing mischievous grin.

"No," Filia affirmed flatly. At least she had mostly calmed down from her previous mysterious panic. Maybe she was worrying about something trivial after all, yet it had tasted so intense...

"This ice-cream is pretty ordinary." Lina commented in an attempt to diffuse the tension in the air and also because it was true. "It's still good, but ordinary, don't you think so?"

"That is a secret," Gourry voiced with a nod of agreement.

Wanting to move the conversation into neutral territory, Filia spoke. "I agree." She looked at all the ice-cream stands. A particular one was full of customers with a long line, while the other businesses around it were empty. Anyone would guess that the ice-cream from that particular stand was special, but it wasn't.

"It's Cactuar," Xellos pointed at the cactus that was next to the ice-cream stand. Upon closer inspection the odd plant didn't appear to be a plant at all. It was actually a monster. "He attracts people and when they touch him they're in for a lot of pain because of his needles. Then he can feed off their pain. It looks like the ice-cream is distracting people though. They keep thinking that's what's attracting them and line up to buy it instead of going over to try to hug Cactuar. I bet he's frustrated he has to compete with ice-cream. He's probably too prideful to move from there until he manages to get at least one victim to pick him up."

Lina was about to comment on the newly obtained information, but she was interrupted by a beach ball to the face. "Who threw that?" She shouted enraged, her face red with wrath.

"Over here!" Martina waved. "I'm so sorry about that," she didn't really sound sincere. "Would you mind throwing the ball back?"

Sensing that a battle was about to break lose and their game of beach volleyball would not be resumed any time soon, Zangulus approached the group and found another way to entertained himself. "How about a spar, Gourry?"

Gourry nodded eagerly, "that is a secret!" He quickly finished his ice-cream and followed. Zangulus didn't understand his strange reply, but Gourry seemed eager to spar and that was all that really mattered.

"Martina!" Lina's blood boiled. "I'll get you for this!" She threw the ball violently towards Martina, who ducked out of the way. Coincidentally, a thin young man happened to be passing by behind Martina, minding his own business, and got the full hit of the spherical projectile. The man, who happened to be none other than Jeffrey Mailstar, was knocked to the sandy ground harshly. Lina gasped in horror and Martina didn't quite understand her fright.

"You hit Jeffrey..." A woman whose face was covered by an executioner mask showed up out of seemingly nowhere. Her voice was ominous, threatening, creepy and there was a murderous feel to her aura.

"It was an accident!" Lina wailed at the top of her lungs. Hoping that she was able to make up for the accidental attack before Josephine lived up to her executioner image, Lina dashed over to Jeffrey. "I'm so sorry!" She picked him up off the ground and set him on his feet like a particularly thin and fragile rag doll. "I didn't mean to hit you, it was an accident!" She brushed the sand off his thin form desperately. "You're okay, right? You forgive me, don't you?"

Jeffrey coughed out sand; he had gotten quite a face-full of it when he fell. "I'm alright miss, don't worry. A strong knight like me can't be hurt so easily." Once he managed to rub the sand out of his eyes, he noticed that the girl who had helped him up looked familiar. "I have met you before, haven't I? Oh yes, I remember, you're Lina Inverse!"

Lina nodded nervously, as she still felt Josephine's critical murderous gaze burning a metaphorical hole on the back of her head. "That's right, I'm your friend, remember? We're great pals!"

"We are?" Jeffrey smiled, "of course we are!" He stood proudly in a pose that, given his extremely lanky physique, only managed to look ridiculous and not at all dashing. "I'm really lucky. Wherever I go, people are always very nice and friendly towards me, especially those masked tourists." Who were in reality his mother playing bodyguard from the shadows.

Josephine's wrath appeared to have calmed down, thus Lina breathed in relief. Martina on the other hand, was still stunned. "What just happened?" She wondered aloud. "One second you're a total fury and the next you're acting like that scrawny kid's personal maid."

"You dare to call Jeffrey scrawny?" Josephine's rage was once again provoked as she dashed towards Martina swinging her hammer violently.

"Ah!" Martina was quick to dodge the deadly blow and broke into a run, trying to escape from the seemingly insane hammer wielding lady in the executioner mask. "Save me Zoamelgustar!"

Zangulus and Gourry were amused by sparring, Martina was busy running for her life and Josephine was giving chase. All the while Xellos and Filia watched the scene with amusement. Just when Lina thought the surprises were over and she could concentrate on the mission that Xellos hired her to do, a familiar voice called out. "Miss Lina, Miss Filia, Mr. Xellos!" Amelia approached the group waving cheerfully.

Zelgadis was running after her. It looked like the chimera couldn't decide if he should be embarrassed of showing more of his blue rocky skin than he had ever shown before in a public place or be fascinated staring at Amelia in her bikini. "Amelia, Zel! I knew you were traveling around, but I wasn't expecting to run into you," Lina greeted them.

Xellos mused that this was not a good development in terms of his mission. If Amelia heard about his plans to sabotage Zelas and Milgazia's beach date, she would surely set out to sabotage the sabotage. Perhaps they could pretend that they were all just there for a fun day at the beach and the naive princess would actually believe it.

Or perhaps not... "Maybe you can help us with our mission. We need to make Zelas and Milgazia break up for the good of all that is fair and just in the world." Lina declared. Gourry would probably be distracted with his little spar with Zangulus for a while, so Lina reasoned that they could probably use some extra help.

Amelia frowned, Filia cringed and Xellos reproached, "Lina!"

"What?" Lina wasn't sure what she had done wrong. Then it came to her, or so she thought. "You don't need to worry about Amelia and Zel, I'm sure they can keep a secret and they can help us." Turning her attention back to the pouting Amelia, Lina, who didn't know why the princess had such a sour look on her face all of a sudden, proceeded with her main argument of persuasion. "Zelas is totally using Milgazia and that's not fair. So in the name of justice, we need to save him from a harmful relationship with a monster lord."

"That's not true," Amelia firmly declared as she pointed her accusing finger of justice at Xellos. "Mr. Xellos is just being overprotective of his mother; you can't believe what he says. You saw Zelas and Milgazia dancing that romantic tango at the party at Seyruun before. Don't you see that they're in love? Xellos is just having trouble accepting it. Miss Lina, instead of helping fuel his undue resentment, you should be helping Mr. Xellos come to terms with his troubled emotions and accept Milgazia as his step-father!"

While Amelia went on with her horrifying speech, Xellos desperately tried to distract himself by singing the 'life is wonderful' song.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 139: Will! Side-Effects Of The Sea Of Chaos

What was supposed to be a simple mission of relationship sabotage at the beach soon became a very complicated situation. Gourry and Zangulus were oblivious to most of the chaos, occupying themselves in sparring. Zelas however, was well aware of what was happening around her and she enjoyed its taste.

"Zoamelgustar!" Martina yelled as she ran towards the monster lord. "Beast Master!" She dashed in circles around the beach chairs occupied by Zelas and Milgazia with Josephine in fast pursuit. After it became evident that Zelas had no intentions of slaying her aggressor, Martina dashed away. "Anyone!"

"I should do something about this," Milgazia considered interfering. He began to get up, but Zelas pushed him back into his seat.

Dismissively, the elegant monster lord insisted. "Martina can take care of herself, just watch."

Once again, Martina dashed by in front of Zelas and Milgazia. This time she had enough; she planted her feet firmly on the sand and held out her talisman. Where in her small yellow bikini did she keep that talisman was anyone's guess... and nobody's business "Feel the power of Zoamelgustar!" The talisman glowed, creating a shield around Martina that protected her from Josephine's hammer.

"That technique!" Josephine exclaimed, "that impenetrable force field!" She appeared to be impressed. "You must teach my Jeffrey that power, it would be quite useful as a defense. If you do this, I will forgive you, granted that you treat my wonderful Jeffrey with respect in the future."

"Ah ha ha he ha ha!" Martina laughed victoriously. "So you wish for your son to become my pupil? It is good that you have recognized my amazing talent! Very well, I will take Jeffrey under my wing as an apprentice of Zoamelgustar! Ah ha ha he ha ha!"

At that very moment, Zelas chose to conveniently clear her throat with an "ehem" that sounded more melodious than it should.

"Oh right," Martina recalled, catching the hint. "Being my student also means that Jeffrey will be one of Lord Beast Master's minions, as it is stated in my job contract." Although not all of Zelas' 'employees' shared such a clause in their contract. Martina and Zangulus did, though Sylphiel, for example, had a much less binding job contract free of monster lord alliances and more so leaning towards the display of a sufficient amount of neutrality to perform her duties.

"I suppose being allied to a powerful monster lord would not be a bad thing if it keeps my Jeffrey safe. After the near destruction of the world, I have been trying to find more ways to ensure he is alright," Josephine agreed. Thus a new alliance was formed.

"Alright then!" Martina held out her hand and Josephine shook it. "I, Martina Zoana Mel Navratilova, welcome you to the ranks of Lord Beast Master. Ah ha ha he ha ha!"

Although Martina certainly knew, as the realities of Amor Resort and the truth about the upper management had been revealed to her and Zangulus some time ago, Josephine did not appear to be aware of the fact that the one and only Beast Master Zelas Metallium was present right there, not too far away. "I, Josephine Mailstar, accept this pledge of loyalty."

After Martina and Josephine walked away, discussing something or other about Zoamelgustar and magical training, Milgazia commented. "I sensed something peculiar about Martina." He made a mental note about the fact that the world was still in many ways in peril if humans were seeking monster lords for protection. He would have to start a motion among the dragons to try to reassure humans and build a closer relationship with them. If the other, more experienced elders didn't like it, then too bad, Milgazia was determined never to hold back.

"She is expecting a child," Zelas calmly stated. "Although it is in such an early stage that it is impossible to tell just by looking at her. Zoamelgustar was originally not quite real; it was a monster of Martina's own creation. The displays of power that supposedly came from Zoamelgustar were actually her own. Yet she so strongly believes that Zoamelgustar will be reborn through her, that is what will happen. All this chaotic energy around the world has opened up a sea of possibilities, perhaps that is what the Sea of Chaos really is, an infinite collection of possibilities where there are no impossibilities."

Milgazia's eternally serious face showed a hint of still serious disapproval. "You placed a drop of power in her child?"

"I did not," Zelas admitted. "Martina's strong belief in Zoamelgustar caused her to absorb chaotic energy. It probably helps that she has been trained in the arts of chance spells, which are closely related to chaos, unpredictability and randomness. As such, her child was granted chaotic power, the little one is otherwise a human, originating from a human mother and father, the child has only received a power-up of sorts. Martina had already decided long ago that she wanted to name her firstborn baby Zoamelgustar, thus the product of her imagination in a sense has truly become real."

Milgazia contemplated the situation. "Who knows what kind of possibilities the chaotic energy in the atmosphere will make available." It was a silent promise that he two would explore said possibilities and do all he could to use them in his favor. Yet that was how it was supposed to be, a constant struggle that kept things in motion. Even a pleasant activity could become unpleasant when it was not varied with something else. Motion, change, dynamics, unpredictability, surprises, chaos... It wasn't a trap as Darkstar and Vorfeed had believed; it was life itself.

"Such concepts are not alien to monsters," Zelas stated as a matter of fact. "A strong will is what keeps us in existence after all, the very belief that we exist."

"That almost makes it sound as if denying your existence would make you go away." Milgazia noted, although he understood that it was more complex than that.

"Only to a lesser monster, a particularly weak apparition," Zelas mocked. "Besides," she added thoughtfully, "if monsters disappeared so would dragons."

"Because the opposing forces would be lost and the lack of contrast would lead to some sort of... reaction?" Milgazia mused. "Or an absence of reactions..."

"Possibly," Zelas voiced with regal calm. "But before the last monster is lost to disbelief, magic would go first and the dragons will be left powerless as mere legends." Moving on to a more pleasant aspect, for her at least, the monster lord concluded. "I would rather return the world to chaos than allow that to happen. Start over and keep it in motion for as long as possible again."

"A collection of fleeting moments... that's life." Milgazia quietly mused deeply.

Interrupting the diplomatic philosophical musings of the monster lord and the golden dragon elder, Zangulus and Gourry dashed by, their swords clashing against each other, although they were both regular iron swords. They were relying more so on speed and skill than on weaponry. "Look, there's the father of Zoamelgustar now." Zelas pointed at Zangulus. "He had his doubts about pledging his loyalty to me when the truth of my identity became clear to him, but his dear wife persuaded him."

"The way you keep gaining minions," Milgazia disapproved, his previous calm tone being replaced with one of distaste. "One spreading the offers to join you to another... It's like a decease."

Zelas paused, with only the chatter of the beach goers, the sound of the rolling waves and the clang of metal against metal of the sparring blades being heard. "Did you just call me a decease?"

He had, Milgazia realized, which was terribly undiplomatic of him. It was too late to take it back and he was not going to apologize to Zelas of all creatures. Thus he decided that the best course of action was to simply be honest, "I did."

The iron swords broke against each other by the sheer force of the combatants. "Should have used Astral Vine..." Zangulus commented. He had gotten pretty good at weapon power up spells with some practice.

"That is a secret?" Gourry inquired, meaning to ask 'would you cast it on mine too?'

"Yes, I wouldn't want any unfair advantages," Zangulus agreed. He had more or less started to get the hang of interpreting Gourry's strange speech pattern. Albeit he still had to wonder if the blond was under some kind of curse. At least it didn't look like it was contagious. Thus the two swordsmen started to walk off to find another pair of swords to resume their friendly but intense battle.

Simultaneously, Zelas chuckled and batted her long eyelashes in a blatant display of absolute sarcasm. "Milgazia, you say the sweetest things, you're such a charmer."

Milgazia considered rolling his eyes, but he was far too diplomatic to do so. He had his little undiplomatic slip up for the day and that was more than enough. At least sarcasm was better than Zelas' usual culinary comments about him making her hungry. He had expected plenty of those, something along the lines of roasted dragon perhaps. Maybe the only reason why Zelas had not actually said anything of the sort was because she suspected, or even knew, that he expected her to say those things. It wouldn't be unpredictable anymore.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few minutes later, in another area of the beach... "Gourry!" Lina pulled him over. Martina had come by to get Jeffrey to train him, relieving Lina of the burden of having to hang out with the naive young man so as to not offend his mallet wielding mother. Big hammers tend to lead to crush skulls and Lina did not want to have one of those. She was, for one of the very few times in her life, actually glad to see Martina in that occasion. With Jeffrey gone, Lina's company remained as consisting of Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos, Filia and now the newly arrived Gourry and Zangulus. "You were close to Zelas and Milgazia a while ago, what did they say?"

"That is a secret," Gourry replied with a smile, proud of himself for sticking to Lina's training ever so well.

"Do you mean that literally or are you just repeating that line I taught you?" Lina inquired impatiently. She was beginning to regret being so insistent in training Gourry.

"That is a secret," Gourry uselessly replied.

Releasing a breath of frustration, Lina let it go. She muttered under her breath once more. "It better be a really big steak."

"Mr. Zangulus," Amelia proceeded with the information gathering, directing her question at a more profitable source of information. "Did you hear what Miss Zelas and Mr. Milgazia were talking about? Could you tell us?"

Zangulus certainly didn't want to be accused of eavesdropping on a monster lord, but he figured it would be okay to lightly comment on the subject in passing, making it clear that he wasn't prying, he just overheard. "I wasn't really paying attention." He ascertained, being graced with looks of displeasure for those who were thirsty for information to fuel their own opposing arguments. "But," he added, instinctively raising his hands in a sign of defense. "I overheard her saying something along the lines of 'you say the sweetest things' and 'such a charmer' that's about all I caught." Zangulus assumed, as any other sane creature in proper use of their mental faculties would assume, that Zelas' remarks were sarcastic. Plus it was plainly obvious judging by the tone of her voice.

His audience didn't seem completely pleased with his words and Zangulus didn't understand why. Lina frowned, muttering something about a big steak she was determined to obtain, Filia looked horrified and Xellos started singing about the wonders of life under his breath. Zelgadis seemed to take the information calmly enough and, contrasting with the majority, Amelia was overjoyed. Zangulus concluded that this was just another of those moments of insanity that were abundant around Lina Inverse and her traveling companions. Without another word, Zangulus was on his way, inviting Gourry to follow. So the two swordsmen left the scene, once more off to find new swords and continue their spar.

"Obviously, they're in love," Amelia firmly declared. Then her eyes softened as she gave Xellos a look of supportive understanding. "Don't worry Mr. Xellos, we're here for you. We'll help you accept this and give you all the emotional support you need!"

Frowning slightly in a gesture that looked very alien on his usually cheerful face, Xellos complained, "Lina..."

"Sorry Amelia, but I'll have to stand in opposition," Lina defiantly declared. "There's a big juicy," dragon, she did not specify aloud, "steak with my name on it and I can't miss out on it!"

"You'd take the side of gluttony instead of the site of love?" Amelia gasped offended. "That's terrible! If this is how it is, then I'm afraid we're rivals. I'll make sure to guard the lovers and ensure that they have a wonderful date together. I won't allow you to sabotage them! Let's go, Zelgadis, we need to protect Miss Zelas and Mr. Milgazia!"

Zelgadis paused in deliberation. They had to protect Zelas and Milgazia? They had to protect a monster lord and a golden dragon elder? They had to protect two creatures more powerful than themselves? That sounded odd, to say the least. Yet even so, Zelgadis couldn't help it but to follow Amelia.

Lina declared in determination as Amelia and Zelgadis walked away. "Just you wait! I'll earn that steak!"

"Hello Xellos!" A new voice joined the conversation as two others approached Lina, Xellos and Filia after Amelia and Zelgadis had left. The man, who had so cheerfully spoken, had blond hair with long dark purple bangs framing his face. He had odd little triangular clips on the tips of his hair and displayed two rows of fangs when he smiled. Yet even with all of that, there was another more prominent feature to him, his glowing green eyes. Those eyes seemed to have multiple spinning wheels of different shades of green that were, in a word, hypnotizing.

"Hello Neuro!" Xellos replied with the same energy with which the other man, who was in fact a monster, greeted him. "Taking your pet for a walk?" He tilted his head towards the woman accompanying Neuro.

The young woman looked completely human and rather petite in comparison to the tall man beside her, though not quite as petite as Lina. She had short blond hair with a pair of peculiar hair clips shaped like smiling fanged mouths and warm brown eyes. "I'm not a pet," she tried to point out uselessly.

"Yes," Neuro replied to Xellos' question, ignoring his companion's protests. "I just had a wonderful meal in town not too far from here. I must say I'm glad the Stillness has retreated. When it killed I couldn't really feed on it. It killed just because, without malice, it was such a waste. Murder needs to be malicious and delicious!"

"I agree," Xellos nodded with a smile.

"Murder?" Filia nearly shrieked in indignation. "You feed on murderous emotions?"

"Mysterious murders are my favorite dish," Neuro smiled, showing off his fangs. "So, Xellos, are you taking your pet out for a walk too?"

"I'm not a pet!" Filia fumed.

Ignoring her outburst, while not missing the opportunity to feed on her annoyance, Xellos replied. "My business today is more than simple recreation." Perhaps Neuro and his human friend, Yako, could be of assistance in the mission. He was a high ranking monster for Beast Master after all. Surely he too was concerned with her current relationship. Besides, if the monster race was as informed as Dolphin made it sound, then Neuro of all monsters must surely know. "Would you care to join us in sabotaging Lord Beast Master's relationship with Milgazia?"

Neuro wondered for a moment if Xellos was joking, but then he realized this was a serious offer. Sure, he would enjoy annoying Milgazia as much as any other monster would, but sabotaging Zelas' brass rackets partnership was going too far. "I'm afraid not," he declined. "I can't risk angering Lord Beast Master with such actions and you shouldn't either. It is true that she greatly favors you, but you'd be wise to stay in her good graces."

"Shows how much you know." Xellos pouted like a little boy whom everyone had refused to play with. He was sure that once Beast Master returned to her senses and realized how utterly ridiculous her relationship was, she would be thanking him for this.

Yako appeared to be trying to sneak away from the group, but Neuro grabbed her head and pulled her back towards him, twisting her neck painfully in the process, his hand transformed into a purple claw. Filia was about to strongly express her disapproval for the monster's mistreatment of his human companion, but said human girl spoke first in an accusatory complaint. "Neuro! You said that after you were fed I could go eat. There's a rumor going around that there will be a scavenger hunt today in this beach and that the winner will get dragon cuisine as a prize. I need to find out if it's true!"

"Dragon cuisine?" Filia exclaimed, very upset. She was in fact so upset that her tail popped out, ripping the fabric of her bathing suit. Xellos, being Xellos, couldn't resist the urge to point and laugh. He was joined in the mocking action by his monster compatriot, Neuro, both of them laughing in great amusement. Red faced and enraged, Filia glared at all those around her.

"Um..." Yako backed away, moving closer to Neuro. He was a gluttonous, deceiving, impertinent, sadistic, smart-aleck of a monster, but she knew that when it came down to it, he would protect her with his very life. The appearance of Filia's tail made it pretty obvious to Yako why she was upset. The gluttonous girl, whose gluttony was in the same rank of the gluttony of the legendary Lina Inverse, tried to excuse herself. "I would never eat a dragon that I've spoken to before. I know the difference between friends and food."

Filia remained unconvinced. She was about to scold Yako, whom she didn't feel sorry for anymore for being stuck with Neuro, but Lina spoke first. "I thought this situation was familiar," the redhead sorceress noted. "You're Yako Katsuragi aren't you?" With a shy nod from Yako, who was unsure of how her identity would be received, Lina exclaimed, "I knew it, you are that detective! It's ironic though, after hearing the rumors, I had thought you were a monster who had enslaved a human as her assistant, but it turns out that the assistant was the real monster. Anyway, I've heard of your adventures solving mysteries, they call you the piggish detective, right?"

"Yes," Yako pouted, "but I hate that nickname!"

"Tell me about it," Lina felt identified. "I don't mind being called the bandit killer, but I hate it when they call me dragon spooker."

"Dragon spooker?" Yako gasped, "you're the Lina Inverse?"

"The one and only!" Lina proudly declared. "Last time I saw you, I was so busy with the sea food barbecue and... other cuisine, that we didn't even have the chance to talk." Lina referred to Xellos and Filia's wedding reception, where Yako had also been busy for the same reasons.

"I've heard a lot of stories about your adventures!" Yako happily exclaimed. "Not too long ago, I had a pretty interesting adventure myself when I went to solve a murder mystery with Neuro at Dils. The most interesting part came afterwards when I had some delicious curry, it was..."

Filia stared at the two young human women as they bonded over their love of food. They used adjectives such as beautiful, noble, divine and even sexy to describe food. If she had not heard the start of the conversation, Filia would assume they were describing the perfect man rather than a dish. "They're not listening to me," the golden dragon concluded.

"Oh dear, this might be troublesome. Do you realize that the three greatest appetites in the world," Lina, Gourry and Yako, "are in the same place at the same time?" Xellos pointed out with fake worry and real amusement.

"This is quite a catastrophe indeed," Neuro agreed with that sharp fanged smile of his.

Just as the group's squabbles were about to continue, they heard a voice that made their heads turn in curiosity. "Attention! Attention!" None other than Sylphiel was near by, holding a bunch of entry forms. She had taken a break from her usual duties and was instead managing a scavenger hunt that would take place at the beach. "All those who wish to participate in the scavenger hunt and try to win a mysterious prize, please sign up in teams of two!"

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 140: Tidal Wave! We Are The Bringers Of Chaos

After hearing Sylphiel announcing the scavenger hunt with a mysterious prize, Lina and Yako could only theorize that the prize had to be the rumored dragon cuisine.

"Partners?" Lina offered her hand.

"Partners!" Yako agreed, shaking Lina's hand.

Gourry had no idea about the scavenger hunt, plus he was entertained sparring with Zangulus. He needed to have a guys day out now and then just as much as Lina mused that she needed a girl's day out. Of course, her reasoning wasn't as simple as that. The gluttonous and greedy redhead concluded that she was better off partnering with a detective for this event. 'With my amazing charm and Yako's detective skills, we'll be an invincible team!' Lina thought.

"There they go," Neuro watched as Lina and Yako ran off to get an entry form. "I suppose I can let my dear little pet play every now and then."

Through her fury and frustration, because no one seemed to be taking note of her rage, Filia noted a hint of fondness in Neuro's glowing green eyes. It made her wonder just what kind of relationship he shared with his human companion. Before she could decide if she should inquire about it or not, very much less even begin to figure out the source of her curiosity, Xellos voiced. "So, you're really not going to help us with the sabotage?"

"I cannot," Neuro reiterated. "If you decide to go on with this very daring move, I wish you luck. I'll be watching, enjoying the chaos and truly wishing that Beast Master isn't too angry at you if you get caught."

"I don't intend to get caught," Xellos smugly assured.

"Good luck then, happy sabotaging!" With his well wishes spoken, Neuro went off to find something to snack on. Other than murderous intentions, he really liked the frustration and confusion that people felt when being unable to solve a puzzle, the fear of the unknown mystery that he knew he was smart enough to solve himself.

After Neuro was gone, Xellos pointed out the obvious. "It looks like it's just us on the mission again and this time we have Amelia and Zelgadis to contend with."

"Yes," Filia nodded thoughtfully. She had to leave her tail out now because otherwise she would have a hole in her bathing suit. She tried to clear her head and focus on the mission. Milgazia had to be rescued from the evil seductions of that terrible she-wolf. But what if letting them be together would, sooner or later, with the passing of time and the illogical and reasonably impossible, yet still very vaguely probable, growth of true fondness between them, eventually lead to the banning of dragon cuisine?

Maybe, just maybe, by a long shot, a very long kilometric long shot, such a thing as real endearment would flourish and their passion will have room alongside it for some real love. It was ridiculous, monsters didn't love, thus monster lords didn't love. Yet Filia's little encounter with Neuro and Yako as well as other recent experiences concerning herself and Xellos, that she kept locked under a thick layer of denial, had made her doubt her initial extreme assumptions. "Xellos," Filia finally interrupted the moment of silence between her and Xellos.

Xellos looked back at her, interrupting his task of looking in the general direction of where Zelas and Milgazia sat in their beach chairs in apparent quietude. "What is it, stupid dragon?" There was no hardship or malice to the supposedly insulting remark, but a strange friendliness that bordered fondness.

"Neuro and Yako are in love, aren't they?" Filia bluntly asked, point blank.

Xellos paused, giving the question some thought. "Neuro is a monster, not a chimera of monster and something else like that researcher I've heard about, who is part human and part monster." He hinted at Celo, who he didn't remember he had interacted with in the past year and Filia didn't know of at all, given the state of their missing memories. Xellos didn't know, or rather didn't remember, about Tiffany, but there were rumors. Going back into the subject of Filia's question, Xellos elaborated. "Neuro loves to feed on murderous intent, puzzles and mysteries. He's a big glutton who is fascinated and perhaps even obsessed with food."

"With emotions?" Filia inquired, as that was monster food.

"Yes," Xellos confirmed. "Yako is an empath, a special kind of empath. She not only perceives, but is able to analyze and explain emotions that the one feeling them might not even understand themselves. The cause and effect, the hidden meaning, the obscure desires, she's got a talent for figuring that out. Her detective work adventures, although it may seem that she is doing a good service to society and in a sense she is, actually yield very precious research. Through all of that, Neuro gets a good meal. But he's still a monster, pure and unaltered. He is of a high rank, but it's still difficult for him at times. He has to cause Yako occasional pain and requires constant meals of the most nutritious kind. Murder is good for such a purpose, not the kind of passing murder that a bandit would commit for money, but a true murder full of the darkest emotions."

"Many criminals have been apprehended because of them." Filia pointed out, trying to look at the positive side of the situation.

"Yes, although, it left free, most of them wouldn't have committed that many more crimes anyway." Xellos explained. "A few perhaps, but those were not impersonal serial killers, they were people with strong grudges, strong emotions. Those were the kind of murders that were not about riches, fear or something superficial. They were mostly, close to the victims in some way with a deep emotional link."

Filia shuddered. "Well, at least the criminals are being apprehended even if it is so that Neuro can get a meal." She was disturbed enough by the topic and quickly pushed the conversation back in her initially intended direction. "None the less, even if it's difficult for him, even if he can't freely show his affection and he needs to have constant very... er... nutritious, meals, Neuro seems to be doing well enough. I think that even if he doesn't express it in a very orthodox way, Neuro has his own way to show his affection and Yako understands that he cares for her."

"I suppose so," Xellos accepted. "There was that one time he gifted her one of those heart shape boxes that usually have chocolates, except it had explosives instead. It was pretty hilarious. But we didn't come here so we could gossip about my odd monster friends, did we? Such nosy gossipers dragons are!" Filia huffed in response to Xellos' expected critique. Albeit her mind kept spinning around the topic of monsters and affection, even if she didn't want to continue overanalyzing it.

xoxox xox xoxox

On the roadside overlooking the beach, there stood a leopard beastman on an errand. He clutched the box securely, constantly reminding himself that the people around him did not know what was in the box and thus had no real reason to be randomly inclined to steal it. In fact, the leopard himself did not know what was in the box either. In the past he was part of a gang of bandits, but had since left the gang and gone off on his own, eventually joining a mafia organization. It was rumored that the leader was an acquaintance of Lord Beast Master, but no one knew for sure. If it was true or not was not the point though, because it was evident that the man was perfectly capable of fighting his battles on his own. That thought was enough to make the beastman clutch the precious box of unknown contents tighter in his arms and wish to get this delivery successfully done and over with as soon as possible.

The leopard, who answered to the name of Jay, scanned the beach in search of the person who was supposed to receive the mysterious package. The person in question was supposed to be none other than the son of the mafia lord that Jay worked for. The problem was that he wasn't even sure what the man looked like and the description he had received was vague at best. "You will find the young man at the beach in the company of a red haired woman and a yellow creature." Needless to say, the one who had given Jay that information was not a very informative informant.

The leopard beastman spotted a familiar looking man, whose purple hair was his most prominent immediately noticeable feature. He was reminded of the man, the monster, who had gotten into a fight back when he was still a part of his old bandit gang, except this one didn't have the golden strands in his hair and didn't appear to be carrying a mace. None the less, their resemblance was clearly noticeable and it made Jay wonder if they were in fact the same person.

Then he took note of something else. Among the companions of the purple haired man, whom slowly left his side little by little, there was a red haired woman and a blond woman with a golden scaly tail. He reasoned that they were the redhead and the yellow creature mentioned in the description, therefore the purple haired man had to be the mafia lord's son. How inconveniently troublesome... He couldn't risk being beheaded because he didn't finish this delivery, so Jay summoned up all his courage and began to walk towards the group.

xoxox xox xoxox

In another area of the beach, a young man with unruly black hair and warm brown eyes was having a pleasant time in the company of a red haired woman and a yellow creature. The creature was a small monster that looked like some kind of rodent rabbit thing with rosy cheeks, a zig-zag tail and a cute face. Though the little monster was beyond a doubt adorable, it was very powerful.

"I really can't wait to see that new monster capture device dad's researchers developed." The young man exclaimed excitedly.

"A device that can capture even high level monsters," the red haired woman mused. "Is that even possible?"

"That's what I intend to find out." The man declared with fiery determination. He really wished the delivery would hurry up and get there already.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia had been left alone by the time Jay made it to their side. With abundant fear, the leopard beastman nervously held out the box to Xellos. "I have a delivery for you, Lord Ash..." Handing the box to Xellos, before the monster could further inquired about it, Jay backed away and bowed. "Please excuse me sir, I must return to my duties under the command of your father." Then he made his swift escape.

Filia blinked as she watched the leopard dash away speedily. She looked at Xellos, who was left holding the box that apparently belonged to someone called Ash. "That's not yours," she pointed out the obvious.

"I do wonder what's in it," Xellos expressed his curiosity with a grin. "That guy made it sound important." He began to open the box in spite of Filia's protests, perhaps even encouraged by them. In the middle of layers of bubble wrap that Val would love to play with, Xellos found an odd spherical item only slightly larger than a fist. The ball was half white and half purple with two slightly prominent pink circles on the top purple half and a white letter M below them. The center of the ball had a black line around it, dividing the purple and white halves with a little white button on top of the black line under the M.

"What is it?" Filia curiously looked at the device, sensing some sort of powerful magic emanating from it. "Wait..." A theory formed in her mind. "Is that a magical machine?"

Ah yes, a magical machine, a device that mixed the power of science and technology with the power of magic and the supernatural. A mix of apparent opposites, a blend of belief and logic. It was a powerful thing indeed. "Looks like it." Xellos' curiosity and confidence led him to making the grave mistake of pressing the little white button on the ball. Instantly, a red beam of powerful magic emerged from the strange device as the purple and white halves parted open. The red beam surrounded Xellos in a split second and absorbed him into the ball that closed again with him inside.

Filia gasped, without Xellos to hold the device, the ball fell to the sandy ground and shook. The button that activated the magical machine glowed until finally, there was a click and the sphere ceased its shaking. Cautiously, Filia bent her knees and leaned over the still purple and white ball. She carefully poked it with the tip of her right index finger, quickly retreating her hand immediately. Nothing happened, thus Filia realized that the ball was only activated with the push of that one button. She carefully picked it up and stood upright, examining it. "Xellos?" She called in uncertainty.

"Let me out of here!" Xellos yelled from inside the magical device, his voice a soft and muffled distant echo. "This thing has astral space inside, it's some sort of high level astral being capture device!" He had heard about magical machines used to capture relatively low level monsters in an attempt to tame them, but he didn't think a magical machine powerful enough to capture him existed, so he never really paid attention to the rumors. "Open it!"

Filia huffed and tried to sound angry and serious. "Why should I? You're better off staying in there, you piece of raw garbage!" A giggle escaped her. If this really was only an astral being capture device, then she should be safe from it and she had Xellos at her mercy. It was time to get him back for all the times he picked on her. "Maybe I should throw this ball out to the sea and let it sink to the bottom where no one would ever find you."

"I would be found and I'll get back at you for this you terrible dragon!" Xellos argued from his entrapment inside the master ball. He would probably indeed be found, most likely by one of Deep Sea Dolphin's minions and it would be terribly embarrassing. He considered saying something to upset Filia just to get back at her for not releasing him right away, but realized on time that it was a very bad idea. Filia wouldn't leave him there forever, she would release him out of the kindness of her heart after she had a little fun and he knew it. But as merciful as Filia could be, she was also very aggressive when it came to being caught in a berserk temper tantrum. She really would throw the ball far, far away or destroy it with him still in it if he provoked her, even if she might regret it later.

"Say whatever you want, but the fact still stands that you're trapped and helpless and there's nothing you can do about it!" Filia waited for Xellos to reply to her taunt, but he didn't. She waited some more and even shook the master ball a little, but there was still no answer. "Xellos?" The golden dragon started to worry, she didn't know what kind of effect this strange device could have on him. "Xellos, answer me!"

The sphere began to vibrate in her hands until it finally broke apart, its purple and white halves flying in opposite directions as a bright red light emerged from their center. The light took on the shape of a black cone, which, much to the astonishment of random beach goers near by, transformed into a purple haired man.

"You broke free of it," Filia stated the obvious.

"Yes," Xellos ascertained with both his eyes open in an endless piercing amethyst. "And now it's payback time. I think you really need to cool off!" Xellos picked up Filia, who yelped as they disappeared into the astral side.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia reappeared floating above the ocean. Before Filia even had time to realize where she was, she yelled, "put me down!"

Grinning mischievously, Xellos, one eye open and one closed, obliged. "As you wish," and he dropped Filia into the sea.

The pointy eared, dragon tailed woman sunk beneath the waves and what emerged in her place was a large golden scaled, winged dragon roaring ferociously. "Xellos!" The gigantic creature bellowed. The surfers and swimmers nearby made a frantic retreat to shore. Even the people who were at the shore panicked and started to run away, seeking shelter in higher ground, in an attempt to protect themselves from being devoured by the ferocious fury that apparently came from the sea.

From the shore, Zelas and Milgazia had front row seats for the chaotic action. "That's Filia..." Milgazia noted. She was in quite a rampage and this wasn't the first time he had seen her go berserk. That had to be the most temperamental dragon he had ever met. He never would have guessed she was such a fury at a first glance.

"Quite an amusing one, that dragon girl," Zelas chuckled. "You could learn a thing or two about properly entertaining your superiors, Mr. Dull and Diplomatic."

This was hardly the time, but Milgazia had to defend himself. "I used to be known as pleasant Milgazia."

"More like boring Milgazia," Zelas differed.

xoxox xox xoxox

Simultaneous to Filia's outrage, Deep Sea Dolphin had been considering if she should send out her tidal wave yet or wait a little longer. She had to pause and stare as this unnerving golden dragon pet of Xellos stole her thunder and caused pandemonium at the beach. "The nerve of her!" Affronted, Dolphin decided that the time to unleash her massive tidal wave was now and she would make it extra large. The sea retreated by Deep Sea Dolphin's command and swiftly returned towards the shore with a great force that washed away everyone and everything on the beach and even on the road beyond it.

xoxox xox xoxox

As the sun set in the horizon, a few people contemplated the now empty beach in separate groups. One of those groups consisted of two humans and a monster by the names of Ash, Misty and Pikachu. "The delivery never came," Ash sighed in disappointment. "Or maybe it did and it was lost at sea," he frowned.

"I hope whoever was making the delivery made it out alive," Misty commented. The trio left the beach, off to explore other regions in their endless journey.

xoxox xox xoxox

Deep Sea Dolphin pouted, the crowd of panicked people dared to blame the golden dragons for the pandemonium even after one of them, the saner of the two that were there in their true form, had started trying to help them. How dare they steal her credit? Dragons as the bringers of chaos? Ridiculous! Although, now it made sense why Zelas seemed to favor them as pets from what Dolphin could, from her own subjective perspective, perceive. With a resounding "hmp!" Deep Sea Dolphin decided to call it a day and go home.

xoxox xox xoxox

"If you don't mind, I'll be leaving now," Milgazia stated. He was currently in his dragon form, which he had changed into to try to save as many people from drowning as he could. Most people were afraid of him despite his good intentions; after all, they blamed that other golden dragon for causing the tidal wave.

"Fine, fine," Zelas waved her hand dismissively. "I have more pleasant pawns to be amused by anyway." Zelas faded into the astral side, returning to Wolf Pack Island, while Milgazia took off flying back to Dragon's Peak.

xoxox xox xoxox

"What about your career as a knight of Zoamelgustar?" Martina called after Jeffrey, who was passed out from the intensity of the latest happenings and was being carried away by his mother.

"If there's going to be tidal waves involved, this is too dangerous for my precious Jeffrey!" Josephine disappeared in the horizon with more dramatic flare than what was due.

Zangulus joined his wife, wrapping his arms around her waist. "Did you have fun today? I did, Gourry's skills have improved, I'll have to keep training hard so that I don't fall behind." He cheerfully declared.

Martina considered his question, then decided, "I guess it was an okay day." The king and queen of Zoana left the beach, off to return to the constant, rather expensive, toils of attempting to raise a splendorous kingdom.

To be Continued

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