Slayers: Alive

Chapter 2

Slayers: Alive

Episode 011: The Nerve! Of Fish And Flirting

Thankfully, the line to enter the aquarium wasn't particularly long and the group, consisting of Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia, was able to go in fairly quickly. They made their way through the hallways, slowly examining the large tanks all around. Gourry tapped on the glass of a tank that took up an entire wall and made funny faces at the jellyfish swimming behind it. A particularly large jellyfish approached and waved its tentacles along with several other small ones more shyly waiving from behind the first. Gourry waved back and continued his jellyfish bonding.

Lina looked into another tank, a bit smaller than the jellyfish one taking up only half of the adjacent wall. It was a good thing she just ate, or else she would be fireball frying all the fish in the tank. She made a mental note just in case, that if she was starving and no restaurant took mercy on her, she should go to the aquarium. She tapped on the glass with half interest and noticed that a yellow fish followed her finger. Amused, she spun her finger around until the fish was dizzy, spiraling away in the water and crashing into an orange fish. The orange fish looked angry and slapped the yellow fish with its fins. Maybe the aquarium was also an amusing place for people who, unlike Gourry, didn't have a fixation with jellyfish.

"Look at this Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia cheerfully announced as she pointed out a sign propped up on a sort of easel. The sign depicted a dolphin with an anonymous young couple at the edge of the pool playing with it. "I want to go see the dolphins; I heard they're really smart."

Despite not finding a single tiny clue about his cure, for once Zelgadis thought it was alright to let it go and simply enjoy his time with Amelia. "Let's go see if it's true." The pair walked off happily, not even realizing that though they were all at the aquarium, the group had split apart again.

Filia sighed and observed the swimming fish. Admittedly she was a bit bored. Lina looked happy enough picking on some poor fish and Gourry had his jellyfish fascination. Amelia and Zelgadis had walked off somewhere, but they were probably having a great time in whatever part of the aquarium they were in. As for Filia, she was almost ready to admit that she missed Xellos, almost being the key word. It's just that she had no one else to hang around with and sometimes silence got so long it wasn't relaxing anymore. Wait a minute.... Who said she had no one to hang out with? What about her new friend... um... Phythan was it? Yes, Phythan! After Filia saw him at the ball tonight she would invite him to hang out the next day, then she wouldn't suffer from the delirious desire to see Xellos.

"You look bored," Filia turned around from her position staring into a fish tank. "Xellos," she meant to sound furious, because his mere presence was infuriating, but she didn't.

"Miss me?" It looked like Xellos was back to being his cool, calm, collected, cheerful and overall impossible self. At least, it looked like it to those who didn't know him well enough, apparently Filia did.

Filia gave him a half curious and half disappointed look. "What's up with that half-hearted 'missed me?' Not that monsters have a heart anyway, but you know what I mean. What are you plotting?" She glared. "You don't sound as smug and annoyingly cheerful as usual."

Xellos' reply was a simple and utterly disappointing "I don't?" He was taken off guard by Filia's powers of observation. He was indeed not feeling quite in the mood to be as mocking as he usually was. That fact consisted largely on the reason of being unable to find any useful clues about the mysterious power that was at work in trying to end his existence. It was a power such as that of the monster lords, but he had no reason to suspect them. It was extremely odd that not even the smallest clue would slip up. Regardless, he couldn't very well have Filia thinking he was losing his touch. "The truth of the matter is..." he began seriously.

Filia was alertly paying attention with a suspicious look during the beginning of his long pause. Then an uncomfortable look invaded Xellos' face and he shifted, finally staring at the floor. Filia's mouth was hanging open by this point because Xellos simply didn't act like that. "What's wrong?" She tried to snap at him, she knew he was just acting, yet her voice came up with the flatness of opposing emotions that canceled each other out, with just a hint of concern.

Xellos looked up with a big grin, "that is a secret!" Filia wanted to punch him, which was normal. At least the order of the world was restored to what it should be with Xellos once again acting like a smug trickster, which he was.

"Idiot raw garbage!" Filia growled and walked past him. She glanced over at Lina, who had stopped picking on the poor stupid fish and was looking at them. Filia seemed to say 'what?' with her eyes.

If Lina was a telepath she would have replied, 'I know you were flirting.' But she didn't need telepathy because the look on her face spoke volumes. It was enough to make Filia blush and look away before promptly continuing the process of storming off with Xellos annoyingly following her. It seemed that Lina, from the perspective of an outsider noticed things that Filia did not. Those things included how close Xellos leaned in and how Filia didn't back away, although her back would have met with the glass of the tank behind her anyway. Filia had to sidestep around Xellos to get out of the position, that even after breaking from it she didn't seem to notice, much less be bothered by it.

Lina chuckled to herself and looked towards Gourry, freezing in place upon doing so. Gourry was right where she left him in front of the jellyfish tank, but he wasn't alone. He was talking animatedly to a... jellyfish person? She was different from the fish people, yes she, because if her sweet feminine voice and the yellow bows on each tentacle were any indication this jellyfish person was a girl, and she was flirting.

"You're so nice to the jellyfish; I really can't say it enough. How talented you are to be able to communicate with them." The jellyfish woman, aside from having a good number of tentacles, had a pair of human-like shapely legs that allowed her to easily walk on land; she was wearing yellow high heels that Lina would probably trip on.

Gourry was laughing sheepishly with a hand behind his head. "You really think so, Miss Medusa?"

"Oh yes," Medusa blushed and just about swooned. She giggled and batted her eyelashes, which were too long for a jellyfish, but accentuated her big blue eyes nicely, as if they didn't already stand out on her pink body. "It would be wonderful if I could get to know you better. Are you attending the masquerade party tonight?"

"Masque... Party? Sure, I guess," he obviously didn't know what it was and it looked like Miss Medusa was more interested in getting a date than in educating Gourry in the correct use of the word 'masquerade'.

Lina was fuming, but she didn't know why. She told herself she was being stupid. If Gourry wanted to go to the masquerade with some slimy jellyfish girl with too many bows, then that was none of her business. Throwing her head back in defiance, Lina bravely marched away from the scene, refusing to look back.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia made her way angrily through the halls of the aquarium, lined with tanks containing different kinds of sea life. She stopped to look back and realized that Xellos wasn't following her. She approached a large tank ahead and tapped gently on the glass. A silvery colored fish swam near the glass. Filia smiled at it and tapped her finger on the glass again, then a shark came from behind and closed its deadly jaws on the fish.

Filia gasped startled and jumped back. She bumped into someone whom she didn't notice had been standing behind her and was surprised a second time. "I know dragons are naturally cowards, but don't worry, Filia, I'll protect you from the big bad shark that's completely harmless behind glass anyway." Xellos whispered in her ear. Why did he have to be so irritating?

"Get away from me!" Filia snapped and squirmed out of her entrapment between Xellos and the shark tank. This time she wasn't thinking about missing him so she actually noticed his proximity. She walked over to a stand which held several copies of the same book being sold as a souvenir. Filia picked up one of the picture books and examined the cover. There was a man dressed in royal looking attire facing towards the left of the page. He looked rather sad just standing there at a sandy beach, his back turned towards the other character on the cover. With her tail still touching the water, though deep enough into the shore to be easily seen, a mermaid looked longingly at the human prince.

Filia opened the book and began to read it to calm down. "Once upon a time, there was a prince who lived near the ocean." The page was illustrated beautifully in full color, depicting a castle near the beach. "A mermaid who liked to swim near the area had fallen in love with the prince." The next page depicted the mermaid, watching the prince from the beach as he went for a luxurious stroll at the shore. Filia turned to the other page, each one only had a short sentence and beautiful picture. "One day, the prince organized a ball and invited all the ladies in the land, in hopes of finding true love." The castle was drawn in detail on the page, its lovely crystal decorations standing out with elegance. "The mermaid desperately wanted to go to the ball, but she could not walk on land." There was a picture of the sad mermaid at the beach.

Filia felt that she was calming down as she focused on the story, keeping her thoughts away from Xellos. "A kind fairy saw that the mermaid's love was sincere and granted her a wish." The picture of the fairy was mostly made of light with a faint silhouette in the middle and the wings more noticeably originating from the light. She turned to the next page, which held a picture of the mermaid with human legs, wearing a beautiful dress. "The fairy transformed the mermaid into a human; however, the spell would only last until midnight."

Filia felt that the story was very similar to two other stories she had read before. One was about a mermaid and a prince and the other about a peasant and a prince. It seemed that the stories were combined to form a new tale. "The mermaid was able to attend the ball and had a wonderful time with the prince, who couldn't help it but to fall in love with her." The page depicted the prince and the mermaid, for the time being human, dancing at the castle with elegance and splendor. Filia had to admit that though the story wasn't exactly original, the artist was very talented. She was already smiling thinking that despite the cover, the ending would be happy.

Filia focused on finishing the story, all annoying thoughts about Xellos gone for the time being. "At the stroke of midnight, the mermaid ran out of the castle, regretfully telling the prince that she had no choice but to leave him." The human mermaid was depicted running down some stairs, which Filia mused must be quite tricky in her high heels, especially for someone who's used to swimming rather than walking. "The love-struck prince followed the mermaid and, refusing to lose sight of her, he ran all the way to the beach." The prince stood at the beach, his hand outstretched to a doubtful looking still-human mermaid.

"When the twelfth bell echoed loudly from the palace clock tower, the mermaid regained her original fish tail form." The astonished prince was drawn staring at the fish woman that was before him in place of his human love. "Angry, the prince accused the mermaid of being a deceiver and would not hear her plight, refusing to spend another minute in her presence." The prince was angrily walking away as the mermaid was left crying at the beach. "Neither the prince nor the mermaid ever fell in love again, for their love was a destined one that their foolishness kept them from enjoying... the end." Filia sighed and sniffled, "such a tragic story."

Xellos rolled his eyes; he had been looking at the book over Filia's shoulder the entire time. "Such a melodramatic dragon."

Filia closed the book. This time she didn't jump at Xellos' presence because in the back of her mind, even if she was blocking him out, she felt he was there. "I think it's a lovely story, in a bittersweet kind of way and I'm buying this book."

"So being specist and deceptive is romantic?" Xellos mocked, referring to the prince who wasn't fond of mermaids and the mermaid who went to see the prince in disguise. "Here I thought those human-made fairy tales were all about the perfect woman meeting the perfect man, not that I have ever wasted my precious time in reading them anyway."

Filia hugged the book to her chest as if it were a very precious treasure. "It goes to show how much you know. No one is perfect in the world, even if they might think they are," that last part was obviously directed specifically at Xellos. "It's about finding someone who is pleasant to be with and trust worthy. Of course, you wouldn't understand that or the fine lesson this story teaches."

"Enlighten me," there was something unnerving about the way Xellos could request to be 'enlightened' with a tone that screamed 'you're so stupid!'

Filia frowned as her glare intensified. "The prince lost his chance in love because he was too focused on the fact that the lady was a mermaid, rather than seeing her for who she was on the inside. It means that people should look on the inside because that's what counts. Of course, I wouldn't expect you to understand any of this, because monsters only have pure evil on the inside!"

"Specist aren't we?" Xellos mocked with the same smug grin that characterized him. Whatever sour mood he was in before was slowly taking a turn for the better, despite his continual lack of information.

"Shut up!" Filia reprimanded and walked off again with Xellos still following her. She did her best to ignore him, which sometimes worked, but mostly didn't.

xoxox xox xoxox

Some time later, the group met up at the exit of the aquarium where all the souvenir items picked up through the experience were tallied up and paid for. Amelia and Zelgadis were in exceptionally good spirits, Filia was kind of annoyed, but surprisingly not too badly and Xellos was amused.

Lina looked dangerously grumpy as she made her way out of the aquarium with the group. She was determined not to look at Gourry even if he kept trying to get her attention by tapping her shoulder repeatedly. "Lina, Lina, Lina..."

"Stop that, Gourry!" Lina slapped his hand away, no one in the group understood what her problem was and they dared not ask.

"But Lina, don't you want it?" Curiosity won her over and Lina glanced at the item Gourry was holding out to her. He gave her a big smile, "It's a marshmallow on a stick, I got it for you." Without waiting for any further reply, He placed the stick between her reluctant fingers.

Lina glared at the large marshmallow, which was at least three times the size of a fist. The sweet treat was shaped like a jellyfish and it reminded her of that flirty jellyfish girl, Medusa. Lina glared angrily at the marshmallow before devouring it with malice. Tossing the bare stick in a pink trash can decorated with red hearts, she took a deep breath. Gourry got her candy; maybe this was a sort of apology from him, which she should accept. With her best forgiving smile, she finally said, "thanks."

Gourry cheered up instantly, "I'm glad you liked it." The tension that Lina projected into the group was gone and the atmosphere felt much easier to breathe in. "You know, Miss Medusa said there was a party going on tonight." The atmosphere darkened again. "She said I should go and I told her I would. It's a marque... masquee... ma-something party."

"Masquerade!" Lina angrily supplied, while no one else in the group dared to say anything, after all Lina was glaring at them not to. "By the way, Gourry, doesn't that remind you of something you might have forgotten?"

Gourry thought for a moment. "Now that you mention it, did we have plans for tonight? I keep feeling like I've forgotten something I was going to do, but I can't remember what it was. Oh well, maybe we can do that and still have time to go to the party. I promised Miss Medusa I would be there."

Lina was fuming again. If she got her hands on that sly wicked little jellyfish witch she would... she would... She wouldn't do anything; after all, it wasn't like she was jealous, it wasn't like Gourry was her boyfriend. "Do whatever you want!" Lina growled and began to walk at a faster pace. "I'm going to the masquerade ball tonight in a pretty dress and I'm sure I'll meet a mysterious prince from a distant land!"

"Oh, that's right," Amelia nervously commented; the tension in the air could be cut with a knife. "We need to go dress shopping and the guys need tuxedos."

"Tuxedos?" Zelgadis nervously asked; he wasn't sure he liked the sound of that. Uneasiness invaded him, how would he look in the middle of an elegant ball? He had not really allowed it to fully sink in until now. But it was a masquerade ball, so his chimera condition wouldn't be too noticeable. He held on to that ray of hope and nodded, "I guess we should go to the stores if we're going to be ready on time."

"We're not going to have time to visit all the shops," Lina stated as a matter of fact as she stopped in front of a poster containing a map of the resort. "Look, here are the fancy clothing shops; that's a pretty far walk. Puffy dresses and beach clothes is all they sell around here, no middle ground what so ever. These all look like they're boutiques for women's clothes and there are jewelry shops next to them," Lina pointed them out on the map. "They take up most of the streets. The tuxedos stores are over here," she pointed them out on the map as well. There were definitely many more stores dedicated to female attire.

"Then the girls and guys should split up for shopping," Filia caught where Lina's logic was going. "It might be best that way anyway." Then she could go dress shopping without Xellos and still charge it to his account, since he was the one who made the initial vacation reservation.

"Then our dresses can be a surprise," Amelia seemed to be the only one who saw the positive side of splitting up with no ulterior motives. Lina and Filia just wanted to get away from Gourry and Xellos respectively. With that plan agreed upon, men and women went their separate ways off to shop for ball worthy attire.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 012: Get Ready! Preparations For The Ball

Given the limited time available until that night's ball began, the men and women of the group decided to take their separate ways in shopping, so that they wouldn't have to wait for each other, as there would not be enough time for that. As expected, the men finished their tuxedo shopping swiftly. There were only so many variations of the classic suits and all they really needed to do was find some in the appropriate sizes.

"This is a masquerade ball," Zelgadis reminded as if it was a vital fact and it was.

"Indeed," Xellos agreed in his usual annoying overly friendly tone. "Well, it's been fun shopping with you, friends," he added for the purpose of annoying Zelgadis, who would not so freely use the term of friend, especially when referring to Xellos. "Now if you'll excuse me, I will embark on the journey to purchase an appropriate mask on my own, farewell." He did a mock bow like an actor in a theater thanking the audience for their thundering applause, then he faded away.

"Good riddance," Zelgadis muttered under his breath. Gourry, as expected, just looked confused. If he showed up short of a mask at the masquerade ball, surely Zelgadis would get blamed for not reminding him. It wasn't so bad really, Zelgadis was annoyed by Xellos, a lot of people were, but Gourry, jellyfish brain aside, was an okay traveling companion and thus shopping companion. Besides, Zelgadis wouldn't admit it, but he would get terribly bored on his own, after all, hunting down vague clues that might lead to his cure and pillaging, without burning, random temples and museums of magical artifacts, was much more entertaining than plain and simple shopping. Shopping was an activity best endured with some form of company. "Let's go get ourselves some masks."

"Masks?" Gourry asked in puzzlement, which came as no surprise to Zelgadis. "Why do we need masks?"

"It's a... a mask party," it was a simple small word translation to the oh so complicated term of masquerade ball.

"Oh!" Gourry exclaimed in understanding. Then smiling in more amusement than the realization was due, he followed Zelgadis out of the store with their purchases neatly folded in bags. They went hunting for a mask shop and were able to find several down the street. They went in and started to browse, observing the vast assortment of masks available.

"Cats, rabbits, birds..." Zelgadis didn't seem too fond of any of the masks right away, but he knew he couldn't reject them all.

"How about this one?" Gourry picked up a mask and handed it to Zelgadis.

"A peacock?" Zelgadis didn't think it fit him at all. He looked back at Gourry, trying to discern if the blond was joking or not. "Really?"

Gourry nodded, sticking to his suggestion. "It has nice feathers and the colors stand out and kind of match."

It was true that the colors of this particular peacock mask did match him in a sense. They weren't exactly the same colors as one would find in a peacock, perhaps feathers of different birds were mixed in. The blue was a more intense shade than Zelgadis' skin and lavender details that matched his hair along with glittery traces of silver adorned it. The rest of the masks were just as colorful and glittery, so he couldn't reject it on those reasons alone, or he would reject all of them and remain mask-less, which would be unacceptable for a masquerade.

"I think it's cool," Gourry commented.

"I suppose I'm never going to find one that I actually like." He stroked the soft feathers, it honestly wasn't so bad and it wasn't as elaborate as some of the other masks which bordered being full hats. He tried it on and felt oddly empowered. Zelgadis, though he would deny it if anyone pointed it out, had a fair amount of shyness. The feeling of hiding his face without having to look away was subconsciously comforting. The mask wouldn't hide his chimeraism as he had the silly notion to think for a wishful moment, but it didn't matter. Maybe this odd sensation that he felt upon wearing the mask was part of the mystique of the masquerade, regardless of how cheesy that might sound. "Actually, I think I might like this one after all."

"I thought you would," Gourry grinned, happy that his suggestion had been useful. He picked up a few different masks and tried them on. "What do you think?" Gourry tried on a white rabbit mask with ears that were so long that gravity pulled them in front of his vision. He pushed the ears back, but if he tilted his head forward, they would fall in front of his eyes again.

Considering how Lina was noticeably shorter than Gourry, if he intended to dance with her, and Zelgadis wasn't sure why he assumed he did, then the ears might be an obstacle. "Troublesome," was Zelgadis' summarized verdict.

Without being discouraged, Gourry put the rabbit mask back in its place and tried on a calico cat mask, then sneezed. The mask' synthetic material was exceptionally fuzzy. "This one makes me sneeze," Gourry took off the mask and put it back on its previous place on the shop shelves without even waiting for Zelgadis' judgment on it. It was a troublesome mask too.

Zelgadis spotted a peculiar mask and picked it up, not sure if he would seriously suggest it or not. It at least fit Gourry. "What about this one," he passed the mask over to Gourry.

The blonde swordsman's face lit up as he received the mask. "It's perfect!" He put it on and grinned big. The glitter covered plastic accessory was shaped like a jellyfish, it's decorative tentacles enforced to defy gravity with wires, while still being arranged nicely and out of the way left and right on the sides of his face rather than falling in front of his nose and mouth, which would have also been troublesome. "It feels so natural to wear it, I'm buying it. Tonight's party is going to be so much fun!" Gourry held what might appear to be too much joy over such a small achievement, but his general optimism was welcomed by his shopping partner.

Things had been going very well between Amelia and Zelgadis. He was taking a break from everything and though ever so often he would feel a bit of self inflicted guilt over the time he wasn't spending looking for a cure, he told himself that it was okay to take a break and that he should just take that piece of advice Amelia had given him while they were sharing a meal at a restaurant. Sometimes it really was best to live the moment. Zelgadis let go of a considerable amount of his usual gloomy mood over the course of the day. "I think it will be," he agreed.

With their masks chosen and purchased, and no sign of Xellos, Gourry and Zelgadis walked along the street looking for something to do to pass the time. They both knew that the girls couldn't possibly be done with their shopping already. Women tended to take much longer than men to shop, which wasn't all that surprising when one took into consideration that there seemed to be more attire related products out there marketed towards women than what was marketed towards men. They had more to choose from and thus more to examine before making a choice, unless they simply choose the first thing they liked... But Lina wasn't like that; she would want to make the best purchase she could possibly make, even if she got away with charging it to Xellos.

The two passed by in front of a casino and eyed it curiously. "This place looks fun," Gourry pointed out with the innocence one came to expect from him. He proceeded to walk inside, or at least tried to.

"Gourry, no!" Zelgadis desperately pulled Gourry back. "You can't go in there, it's a trap. You'll lose all your money and be forced to make a hasty escape when you become buried in debt."

Gourry blinked, Zelgadis certainly looked serious about this. "It's that bad?"

"Yes," Zelgadis gravely nodded. He was remembering an experience he had regarding a casino and the rumors of a mysterious price. Some said it was a rare and powerful magical artifact and that was enough to drive Zelgadis to gamble away his last coin like a moth to a flame. In the end he lost all his money and fled from the establishment, only to return later that night to sneak into the vaults and steal the mysterious magic item.

The item in question turned out to be an ordinary playing card. The ace of spades was apparently the lucky charm of a legendary gambler that never lost a single game... until he got caught cheating with that same card. It wasn't even a magically powered lucky charm, just a card that used to belong to a casino celebrity that ended up broke after his underhanded tactics were discovered. The venture was a frustrating waste of time and money for Zelgadis and he decided there and then that he did not like casinos.

"Um... okay, thanks for the warning." Gourry replied good naturedly, though he would probably forget about Zelgadis' advice in the not so distant future. "How about we go get flowers instead? We're going to need them anyway, aren't we?"

"Flowers?" Zelgadis questioned, wondering where the seemingly random suggestion came from.

"My grandmother once told me that if I was going to a party with a girl, I should bring her a corset." Gourry recalled, almost accurately, but not quite.

Zelgadis blinked, "A corset?" That seemed like a rather personal thing to gift a girl just because they were going to a party together. Besides, that had nothing to do with flowers.

"Yeah," Gourry nodded, "it's like a flower bracelet," he explained, assuming that Zelgadis' confusion was due to not knowing what the word meant. That happened to Gourry a lot.

"You mean a corsage," Zelgadis corrected. That made a lot more sense than getting a corset and it explained why there would be flowers involved. "I suppose we might as well get some." Though they had no idea what the girls' dresses looked like, they might be able to find some nice, match-anything, corsages. "I'm sure there are some shops selling them near here, since all the fancy party themed stuff is in this area."

The thought of giving the corsage to Amelia made Zelgadis blush. He could almost picture himself stammering as he attempted to put it on her wrist if she asked him to. At least Gourry would be doing the same, Zelgadis assumed with Lina, so he might not be so embarrassed by comparison. Everyone knew that Lina had a shy side to her, but no one was suicidal enough to say it to her face. If she turned as red as her hair, Zelgadis might be encouraged to face his own corsage related trials. Everyone knows there's nothing like someone suffering a misery greater than your own to make you feel better.

The two men were indeed able to find a store that sold corsages. With some advice from the clerk they were able to choose some nice ones that would match regardless of the color of the girls' dresses and that officially finalized their ball preparation journey. They still had some time to spare, and were still pretty sure that the girls weren't done with their shopping yet.

From lack of something better to do, Gourry and Zelgadis decided to idly walk around the resort. The place was huge and they haven't really explored it fully yet. Besides, this way they could get ideas about where they wanted to go later even if they might not have enough time to visit right away. There were certainly a lot of rides, though the lines were huge, so those were events to be tackled with a lot of time on their hands if they decided it was worth it later.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Lina, Amelia and Filia were indeed taking their sweet time trying on dresses for the night's main event. Lina came out of the dressing room in a bright red dress with a slit on the side that made her feel uncomfortable and a cut that made her feel the vexing need to tug the fabric up her chest constantly. She looked at the poster of a red haired woman wearing that same style of dress on the wall. She didn't know what made her think that because she and the model both had red hair she should try on that dress. It simply wasn't her style and it wouldn't be any more her style even if she put on a pair of elbow length purple gloves like the ones the model on the poster was wearing.

Lina shook her head vigorously, being joined in the motion by her judges, Amelia and Filia, who were providing Lina with shopping support instead of making good use of their time by shopping for themselves. Determined to correct her mistake, Lina grabbed the next dress from the bunch she had picked out to try on and entered the changing room again. A few seconds later, a few obscene words were heard directed at a particularly evil zipper. A few minutes later, Lina emerged wearing a new dress. This one was pink with big puffy sleeves that looked more so silly than elegant. "I kind of like the color, but I don't know about the sleeves..."

"It's kind of cute," Amelia commented with the tone one would use when referring to a little girl playing princess.

Filia gave her prospective comments some thought. She didn't want to say the dress looked ridiculous and anger Lina. How could she explain that she was disagreeing with the dress and not with Lina? "Maybe you should try on something else?" Filia gently suggested.

"I guess it wouldn't hurt," Lina returned into the dressing room and the rustling of fabric was heard as she fought with the big puffy gown in the enclosed space that was certainly not large enough to properly try on this sort of space consuming attire. She tossed the mess of pink fabric over the dressing room's door, which thankfully didn't reach all the way to the ceiling or else more than a few unfortunate women might have suffocated while battling their potential dresses. A few more minutes passed and Lina finally emerged wearing a different dress.

The two judges looked at Lina, at each other and finally nodded in agreement. It seemed that the third try was the charm. The dress Lina was wearing was made of a shimmering white fabric that a poet would describe as being crafted from melted pearls and that's exactly what it looked like, if such a thing was possible outside of a metaphor. The white fabric was glossy enough to bring attention to the dress, without the look as a whole being too visually loud given Lina's vibrant hair color. The dress had an elegantly folded line of fabric that went below the shoulders and wrapped itself around the gown above the chest, accentuated with a line of pearls round about. Though Lina would never admit it, and she would kill anyone who pointed it out, it did a good job of making her look... well, not flat.

Lina's dress had another line of pearls around the waist hiding the seams of the secondary layer of fabric that lay on top of the first. That extra layer was see-through and additionally glittery, but not overly so. Lina entertained the notion of wearing high heels, but remembering how difficult it was to walk in them, she decided to discard the possibility. Besides, she would have to wear ridiculously high platform shoes if she was going to be anywhere near as tall as Gourry. Lina's thoughts had unconsciously wandered away from him as she focused on choosing her attire for the night. Then her thoughts had, without her authorization, unconsciously wandered back to Gourry as she considered what he would say when he saw her in that dress. Then she remembered that rotten jellyfish girl, Miss Medusa and her blood instantly boiled with anger.

A sour look invaded Lina's face, which made Amelia and Filia glance at each other in nervous confusion. Wasn't Lina happy to have found a pretty dress to wear that fit her so well?

Just as quickly as the fearsome look appeared on Lina's face, it faded away and her expression turned plotting. Sure, this facial feature was less menacing, but considering the fact that this was Lina Inverse, the Lina Inverse, it was perhaps more dangerous than the first. Lina threw her head back determined. If Gourry wanted to dance with some ditzy jellyfish girl, let him! She would find some other charming, nice, amusing, handsome and all around pleasant guy to spend the ball with... Not that she thought Gourry was any of those things anyway. Oh no he wasn't, certainly not when she was mad at him and especially not when he was too stupid to realize why she was mad at him, or that she was mad at him at all. Lina twirled around, showing off for the judges one last time before looking at her reflection in a conveniently placed full length mirror. "This is the one."

Even if they didn't know what came over Lina in the past few seconds, Amelia and Filia remained optimistic. "You look lovely, Miss Lina!" Amelia complimented.

"Yes," Filia agreed with a smile, "this dress definitely fits you beautifully."

With a triumphant smile Lina gave herself one last look in the mirror before declaring, "I'm going to have all the guys staring at me at the ball." She laughed evilly as she imagined herself being the center of attention of many imaginary ultra handsome men, while Gourry sulked jealously in a corner. She retreated into the dressing room and changed back into her vacation clothes, carrying the dress out with care. She treated the chosen dress a lot more nicely then the rejects, after all it didn't really mattered if those got wrinkled. Who would want to wear them anyway, if not even the beautiful Lina inverse could make them look good? "Who's next?"

"Me! Me!" Amelia raised her hand, waiving like a student desperate to be chosen by a favorite teacher, to answer a very easy question worth a good deal of bonus points on the next test. Then she calmed down and looked at Filia with a bit of sudden shyness as it wouldn't be just to be selfish. "That is if Miss Filia doesn't mind."

Filia laughed in good humor, "not at all. Lina and I will help you choose a dress, then you and Lina can help me choose too."

"Right!" Amelia cheered and brought forth her own selection of dresses, taking the first one in the pile to the dressing room.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 013: Beautiful! Princess Parade

The first dress Amelia tried on was yellow, with the skirt arranged in a way that made it look like curtains. The top part was cut similarly to Lina's dress, without the line of pearls. Amelia looked cute in the dress, but with a lack of a point of comparison it felt too soon to decide. "What do you think?"

"Not many people can pull off yellow like that," Lina nodded in approval.

"That's true, it looks good, but it would be nice to see the others too." Filia had a feeling that the choice might be a closer race in this case than how it was for Lina, who ended up with two not so great dresses and a gorgeous one, making the choice obvious.

"Okay! Here comes the next one!" Amelia cheerfully went to change into the next dress. The second dress was light blue with a different cut, small semi-puffy thin sleeves around the shoulders and decorative fabric over the skirt on the sides in a lighter blue than the dress. Sure, the first skirt looked like curtains, but it looked better than this one with the two round pieces of puffed up fabric on the sides.

"I think this color brings out your eyes more," Filia truthfully declared.

"Yeah, but I liked the style of the other one better," Lina finished.

Filia nodded, "I guess they both have their positive points. Maybe the style of the other dress with this one's color," Filia suggested.

"I wonder if they have it," Amelia mused, "before I go ask about it, I'll try on the last one from the three I picked out." Amelia repeated the changing process swiftly. Being a princess, she had more experience with gowns then Lina, thus she didn't get into any fights with any stubborn zippers. "Here's the third one, it's mostly light blue too, what do you think?"

The judges' silent faces adorned with awed expressions spoke volumes. The dress had a simple and classic heart shaped cut on top with a heart shaped pale sapphire in the middle. It started out almost cerulean, quickly fading into a shade of sky blue until the end of the skirt finished in white. A thin see-through layer of fabric was over the dress with abundant silver glitters, parting at the sapphire heart like a thing cape around the dress, falling over the figure hugging skirt that turned flowing past the hips. Amelia looked even more beautiful than a princess was expected to look in a ball gown, she looked like an angel.

"How beautiful, I think this is the one!" Filia finally spoke, voicing her approval.

"Definitely!" Lina immediately agreed, "Forget asking about that other dress in a different color, you should get this one! Zel won't be able to keep his eyes off you!" She teased.

Amelia blushed, "I hope he likes it," she whispered shyly.

With Amelia's dress chosen, Filia was the last one who needed to pick a gown to attend the ball. "Okay, it's my turn," she drew in a deep breath. She hoped that one of her chosen dresses made her look a stunning as the effect the proper gowns had on Lina and Amelia. When that annoying Xellos saw her he would be speechless and his expression would be absolutely priceless. Then she could tease him about it and throw it in his face over and over. Wait a minute, why was she even thinking of Xellos? She was supposed to be thinking about impressing her date, that golden dragon guy... Phythan, yes, Phythan, she was dressing up all pretty for him, not for Xellos!

Filia emerged from the dressing room in a pink dress with round sleeves and an oval shaped sapphire brooch on the chest. The skirt faded into a deeper shade of pink at the bottom. Filia liked pink and it did look nice on her, but the truth was that during their travels, everyone had gotten used to seeing Filia in pink, so the color didn't present much in the way of novelty.

"It's pretty," Amelia sincerely commented with a smile, "it fits you nicely."

"But it doesn't stand out," Lina finished for her with more directness. "It's definitely your style and maybe that's just it. You need something different. Something that Xellos isn't expecting you to wear."

"Xellos?" Filia's glare landed dangerously on Lina and she growled in a warning tone. "I'm not going to the ball with Xellos. I have a date, there's no reason for me to get stuck hanging out with him. Besides, Phythan hasn't really seen me in pink, so it will be new to him. I'm trying on the other dresses anyway, but not because I want to impress Xellos!"

Before Filia could retreat into the changing room, Lina stopped her with an interrogation. "Phythan? Who is this Phythan? Your new boyfriend?" Lina realized sourly that if Amelia was with Zelgadis, Gourry was with Medusa and Filia was with that Phythan guy, then she would be the one to get stuck with Xellos.

"He's not my boyfriend!" Filia blushed. "He's my date," she corrected. "I met him at the resort and he gave me ice-cream. He's very nice and he's a golden dragon too."

"How wonderful, Miss Filia," Amelia congratulated. "I'm happy that you found a nice date for the ball. Introduce him to us later, okay?"

"Sure," Filia's agreement came up somewhat nervous. She appreciated her friends, she really did, they were just a little eccentric. She finally retreated into the dressing room, leaving Lina to contemplate her woes. Filia emerged a few minutes later with a new dress on. This one was yellow in a style very similar to the first. It also had a brooch, this time an emerald, with its frame shaped like a flower. It had orange puffy oval shaped decorations on the sides and an orange line at the end of the long yellow skirt. "What do you think of this one? Is yellow enough of a novelty for you?" As in not for Xellos?

Amelia and Lina looked thoughtful, "this one is pretty too," Amelia finally said, "but I think I liked the first one better," she admitted.

"Yeah," Lina agreed, "we're used to seeing you in pink, but I guess it does bring out your hair."

"I knew pink was the right choice," Filia nodded to herself. She was still a little disappointed because her impression on the judges didn't measure up to the judges' impressions on her. Maybe she was simply one of those people who didn't look all that different than usual in a dress. Both Amelia and Lina could be tomboys, Filia rationalized, so even if Amelia was a princess, given that the group wasn't used to seeing her in full princess gear all the time, they both looked very different in dresses. Plus they usually wore pants and the group was used to seeing Filia in a long skirt, so the long skirts of the dresses, though much fancier and puffier, didn't seem all that different. It wasn't that she looked bad; Amelia and Lina had assured her she looked good, she simply wasn't a novelty, she wasn't impressive...

"Aren't you going to try on another one?" Lina inquired. It was true that the past two dresses both looked nice on Filia. Sure, the pink one was appropriate and pretty, but it wasn't her ideal dress.

"What for?" Filia inquired as she emerged from the changing room in her vacation clothes. "I already picked the pink one. We don't have that much time anyway and we still need shoes, accessories and masks. Not to mention that we need to do our hair and makeup." If the dress alone didn't make her look amazing, she would go all out with every other aspect of the outfit.

"You might find a dress that you like even more," Amelia scanned the boutique, her eyes landing on emerald fabric. "What about that one?"

Lina joined in the effort to find the perfect dress for Filia, pointing at a black dress, "or that one."

Before Filia could protest, Lina and Amelia had bolted towards the dresses and were bringing them over for Filia to try on. The golden dragon shook her head, "I don't think this is really necessary," Filia insisted, though a part of her wanted to keep trying to find the right dress to impress Xe... Phythan.

Lina and Amelia held the dresses out to Filia. "Come on, try these on, you might like them." Lina insisted as she took Filia's pink dress out of her hands and gave her the black one.

"Okay..." Filia finally agreed and once again retreated into the changing room with the black dress on hand. She emerged soon after wearing the black dress Lina suggested and looking embarrassed. The dress was certainly form fitting, but the part that bothered Filia the most was how it opened in the middle of the chest in a long diamond shape. The two pieces of black fabric were held at the neck by a silver choker, and at the waist by a matching belt, the back left bare. Filia adjusted the dress on her chest, knowing that she wouldn't be able to take her hands off it, for fear that it might slip out of place, leaving her in a very embarrassing situation. "I can't wear this," she definitely decided.

Lina tilted her head to the side and considered the matter. "I guess you're right, the black does make you look a little pale. Maybe if they had this same style in a different color..."

"No," Filia insisted, her tone of voice leaving no further room for doubts. At this point, Filia had given up and only took the green dress Amelia was offering her for the sake of humoring her, since she had already humored Lina. She didn't expect to like the dress, but after she put it on, her mind changed. Filia emerged from the dressing room receiving the approving looks of her insistent advisers. The dress was a vibrant emerald green accentuated with golden lines. The heart shape cut of the top wasn't too prominent, with gold lines swirling from the chest to the waste, fading as if they were drops of water on the flowing green skirt. The end of the skirt had a few drops of gold for an artistic and elegant look.

"You look beautiful, Miss Filia!" Amelia gave her approval and Filia knew that she wasn't saying it just to be nice or simply because this was the dress she suggested.

"Amelia's right, it looks like you've found the perfect dress for the ball!" Lina completely agreed, never mind that it wasn't her own suggestion that was picked. She couldn't deny that the green dress suited Filia better than all the others she had tried on so far.

Filia smile triumphantly, yes, this was exactly the kind of dress she was looking for. She couldn't wait for the ball; she couldn't wait to see the look on Xe- er... Phythan's face when he saw her in that dress. Then her world fell apart on her head as her jaw dropped and she pointed at a figure behind Lina and Amelia whom the other two couldn't see before.

Lina and Amelia turned around to see a woman who looked very much like Filia, wearing the exact same dress as Filia. They had to look back and forth between the two women for a moment before it sunk in that they weren't seeing double. The other woman had, not only the same dress, but also long blond hair that was almost the exact same style as Filia's. There were some differences in their facial features, mostly the color and shape of their eyes, but they had the same style of pointed ears. "Your long lost twin sister?" Lina couldn't help it but to ask.

"No," Filia managed to push the word out with disappointment.

It looked like the woman was too focused on modeling the dress for her boyfriend, a brown haired human with a knightly look to him, to even notice that she was in the presence of a look alike wearing the same dress as her. The man was in turn too focused on his girlfriend to notice either. All in all, only Filia, Lina and Amelia seemed to be aware of the predicament that Filia and the woman were facing.

"She's not even a dragon," Filia observed, focusing in sensing her energy, looking for answers. Sure, energy could be hidden, but in this case, the woman wasn't trying to. If she had been a dragon, even if Filia had never met her, she would consider going over to talk to her not about the dress, but about the possibility of them being relatives and having been unaware of it their whole lives, but the woman wasn't a golden dragon. "She's an elf," Filia informed, catching a trace of their rare but unmistakable energy.

Elves were rare in today's world, few were left alive and even fewer decided to live among humans. Yet the elf woman seemed quite happy as she emerged from the changing room in her normal clothes with the dress in hand and, linking her arm with her boyfriend, they merrily strode over to pay for the dress. The happy couple was saying something about the masquerade ball from what they could hear. Filia thought she overheard their names as being Deedlit and Parn.

"She's buying it? The nerve of her!" Lina was ready to defend Filia's dress, but Filia's hand on her shoulder stopped her.

"It's okay," Filia insisted, trying to make Lina calm down. "She didn't even see us, it's not her fault. Besides, she already bought the dress and look how happy they are about the ball. Let's not bother them."

Lina pouted, "you can't show up in the same dress as your look alike! If not for the difference in species, I would seriously suspect that she's your twin, or at least your sister."

"I'll pick another dress," Filia concluded. She could have simply settled for the pink dress that she had intended to choose at first, but it didn't feel good enough anymore. Letting out a deep breath, she changed back into her vacation clothes, discarded all the dresses she had tried on so far and went in search of a new one.

As Lina, Amelia and Filia browsed around the boutique, a few suggestions came up on Filia's possible dresses, but none of them seemed right to Filia. "Maybe this one..." it was kind of flashy, not in an elaborate sense, but in the sense that the fabric was golden and very shiny, the light bouncing off every inch of the dress. Filia went to try it on while Amelia and Lina looked around some more. "What do you think?"

The judges shook their heads almost instantly with Amelia focusing on finding a polite way to express her disapproval and Lina holding her hand over her eyes. "You're blinding us with that, it's too shiny!" Lina found an eloquent way to express their mutual concern and Amelia was left to nod in inevitable agreement.

Sighing at her prolonged dress dilemma, Filia changed back into her vacation clothes and continued browsing. She spotted some pretty purple fabric and reached out to have a better look at the dress. She instantly withdrew her hand as if it had been burned. It was the same color as Xellos' hair and that made it automatically hideous. She glared at the dress as if it had personally offended her, then examined the one next to it. It had that same deep shade of violet found on Xellos' hair, but that was only on the details, as the majority of the fabric was instead a softer shade of lilac. Filia's hand tentatively reached out for the dress, wondering if she should excuse those bits of Xellos purple on it... not that 'Xellos purple' was a real color name.

The lilac dress with the Xellos purple, I mean purple, details, was snatched away by the hands of Lina Inverse, who eyed it critically before holding it up for Filia to take, "what about this one?"

Filia paused uncertain until Amelia suggested, "you should try it on, Miss Filia." That's when Filia noticed she was being silly. She took the dress with determination and more courage than the activity of trying on a dress should normally require. It's not like Xellos owned the color purple anyway.

After a few minutes in the changing room, Filia emerged in the suggested dress. Thin straps of fabric surrounded her shoulders culminating in a V shaped cut on the top of the dress. The gown hugged her waist with an elegant fold of fabric accentuated with a small amethyst flower brooch over the right hip, the thin folds of the lilac skirt showing hints of the purple layer underneath. This time Filia didn't look like a beautiful elf from a magical forest, she looked like the princess of all beautiful elves; except of course for the fact that she was in reality a dragon, not that anyone could tell just by looking, unless they knew what to look for.

"This is it, Miss Filia!" Amelia cheered, clapping her hands together in admiration. "This dress looks even better than the other one!"

"Amelia's right, this one's more elegant. You should definitely wear it." Lina proudly declared, since it was she who found the dress, never mind that Filia was already eyeing it when she picked it up.

Filia smiled in satisfaction, "alright, it's been decided." With that said, the girls took a moment to examine the price tags on the dresses.

Amelia might have been the best accustomed to having a closet full of expensive gowns, even if she preferred not to wear them if she could help it, and even she thought the dresses were pricey. "They're of very fine quality though, so it's not all that surprising and they all have jewels as part of the dress so that really adds to their value."

"Let's not forget, Amelia's actually a princess," Lina reminded as if it was easy to forget about that detail, which it was, though they were clearly reminded a short while ago when Amelia was all dressed up. "That means that she knows about dresses, so if she says these are high quality products, that's because they are. Besides," Lina grinned greedily, "we're charging all of this to Xellos' reservation, remember?" Never mind that she might still have some store credit left, it was her store credit for her souvenirs, which would consist mostly of overpriced gourmet candy.

Amelia was the only one that looked a bit doubtful at Lina's suggested plan, with just a hint of guilt, but she was quickly persuaded into partaking of it by the determined and satisfied looks that Lina and Filia had on their faces. Sure, she could attempt to use the Seyruun royal family crest and allow the bill to be forwarded to her father, but he probably wouldn't appreciate the gesture as much as he would appreciate a nice little souvenir when she got back from her vacation. So it was settled, they would just charge everything to Xellos.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 014: Charmed! Enchanted and Mesmerized

"It's getting dark," Zelgadis observed. He and Gourry were passing the time looking around the resort until it was time to go to the ball. They had gotten a few looks, some of scorn and some of understanding, that Gourry didn't understand and Zelgadis decided he didn't want to understand. A girls' night out in a somewhat romantic place was fine, because people expected normal girl bonding to occur in such a place, as they played make over and plotted against man kind, but a guys night out in the same place? Zelgadis wasn't sure if people were assuming they had been dumped or... Or maybe it was time to stop thinking at all. "We should head back and get changed, then go to the north dome for the ball."

"Right, the girls won't like it if we're late," a few curious eavesdroppers gained a look of realization upon the mention of girls that were apparently waiting for them. The two men walking down the street in a resort crowded with couples were suddenly a whole lot less interesting. "We walked a lot," Gourry absentmindedly commented, his flip-flops making the continual flip-flopping sound that characterized such a type of comfortable footwear when dragged with equal amounts of laziness and energy along the street.

Flip... flop... flip... flop... "Shoes!" Zelgadis suddenly exclaimed, "Gourry, we completely forgot about the shoes! We got the suits, the masks and even the corsets," cue the odd looks. "I mean corsages," un-cue the odd looks. "But we didn't get shoes. We can't show up in these," he gestured towards their feet, "and our traveling shoes are too worn out for this sort of thing."

Gourry blinked, clearly not understanding the predicament. "So.... we should get new shoes!" He felt rather smart for figuring that out.

"Yes, but the shops that sell formal shoes are all the way in the other side of the resort, we'll have to run." Without further ado, Zelgadis wrapped his arms securely around the bag containing the parcels with the suit, mask and corsage, and broke into a run. Gourry followed him, both men nearly falling and actually falling on several occasions along the way, enforcing the theory that men are incapable of running in flip-flops.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Hurry, we're late!" Filia urged as she made a mad dash towards the north dome, with her skirt bunched up to her knees, clutched in her hands, her high heels making fast tap-tap noises on the street.

"Wait for me!" Lina tripped for what felt like the millionth time. As it had happened in several occasions before, kind Amelia tried to catch her, but this time both girls toppled to the ground.

"Miss Lina," Amelia complained from under Lina. "Why do you wear high heels if you know you can't walk in them?" Let alone run.

Amelia's lack of her usual characteristic encouragement was not helping Lina feel any better about her choice in shoes. It didn't help that she had purchased a dress that was too long for her height thinking that the flowing skirt that touched the floor was pretty. It was indeed pretty, but not convenient. She had decided to correct the miscalculation at the last minute by wearing high heels, but it wasn't working out. "That's it! Levitation!" Floating in the air only a foot or two above the ground, Lina discarded her uncomfortable white pearl decorated heels and resolved to simply levitate for the rest of the night. There should be enough food at the ball to keep her energy sufficiently replenished.

"Great idea," Filia had trailed back to her fallen companions, extending a helping hand towards Amelia, who was finally able to get up after Lina got off her. Filia took both girls' hands and shouted, "levitation!" springing forward in mid air with all her might. She slowed down as she reached the top of the long staircase were two familiar people seemed to be engrossed in the task of catching their breath.

"Do you think we made it on time?" Gourry breathed, he and Zelgadis had gone back to the shoe store, bought some appropriate shoes, went to the hotel for some quick showering and changing and hurried to the north dome.

"At least we're not too late," at least Zelgadis hoped they weren't. He adjusted his mask on his face, though the half of his face that was visible made his identity easy to guess for anyone who knew him. He looked up and saw a most awe inspiring sight. Three girls floated up the stairs like gorgeous angels, drawing quite a few spectators to look at them.

"Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia's mask looked more like a tiara than a mask. After she found such a nice dress that matched her eyes, Filia and Lina insisted that she should not hide them. The main part of the mask was on her forehead in the shape of an eagle of pale blue feathers with royal blue accents and silver glitters. The tiara-like mask had two lines of feathers framing the face giving it a more mask-like appearance, without getting in the way of Zelgadis staring into Amelia's eyes and blushing like a ripe tomato.

The Seyruun princess had blue eye shadow with a silvery outline that matched her dress perfectly, her long eyelashes standing out elegantly. Her lips were a slightly more vibrant shade of natural pink than usual with a noticeable gloss to them, that a romance novel might describe as irresistibly kissable. Though such thoughts did fly through Zelgadis' brain, he seemed over all too paralyzed to say or do anything. She had sapphire heart earrings that matched the heart shaped sapphire brooch on her dress and a single bracelet with small heart shaped sapphires on her left wrist. Her hair was more relaxed than usual, giving the impression that it was longer, touching her shoulders in glossy dark strands.

"A..." Zelgadis opened his mouth with a great deal of effort as the girls landed. "Me..." He continued trying to articulate the name which seemed to consume all the strength he had in him. "Amelia..."

Amelia smiled brightly, that encouraging smile that he so loved, and took a few steps forward towards Zelgadis. Deciding that she should be the one to break the ice and ease the atmosphere she blushed and complimented sincerely, "you look very handsome Mr. Zelgadis."

If it was at all possible, Zelgadis blushed even more as he made a bigger effort to recover the capability of speech. "You're beautiful," he finally stated. Remembering the corsage, he held it towards Amelia. It was less match-anything than he had initially hoped for, as it held a lovely blue flower. He thought that regardless of what Amelia was wearing it would at least match her eyes and that had been close enough to match-anything for him when he got it. Now it turned out that it matched the blue of her accessories perfectly. "I... um... for you..."

Amelia's eyes lit up with pure joy. "Thank you, Mr. Zelgadis!" With all the happiness her voice carried anyone would think she had just been given the entire world as a gift. Yet any gift from Zelgadis meant the world to her. She extended her right hand happily, her smile making her glow with joy. "Help me put it on?" Her nails were sky blue with sapphire glitters at the tips.

Zelgadis nodded and after several hand trembling failed attempts, he relaxed sufficiently to manage the task of putting the corsage around Amelia's wrist, not letting go of her hand after the task was done. Amelia in turn linked arms with Zelgadis, her fingers laced with his as they entered the large dome in their own fantasy world.

It was clear that Amelia and Zelgadis were not about to notice the rest of the universe any time soon. Filia stepped aside and wondered if she would witness a similar scene from Gourry and Lina.

Lina floated at the top of the stairs, her long white skirt flowing in the light breeze, more so since she was levitating. Her hair was pulled into a half ponytail held together with pearls that matched the dress and earrings, the rest flowing down her back. Pearls also went from the side of her head, the line of precious jewels reaching the half-ponytail in a decorative hairstyle. She wore a bracelet that consisted of three lines of pearls and light flattering makeup that gave her eyes a silvery pink glow with her lips standing out in a nice shade of glossy pink. The renowned bandit killer reached out a hand to innocently stroke her hair, secretly trying her best to be irresistible. Her nails were pink with a pearly glow that made them appear both white and pink depending on how the light reached them.

Gourry was looking at her, he seemed interested. Lina was burning with rage at the jellyfish mask he was wearing, but she was willing to let it go if he sincerely begged for her forgiveness. He took a step forward, he was about to speak. Lina waited, she wouldn't say anything first, let him be the one to realize his grave error in ignoring her over some flirty jellyfish girl. Then the interruption came...

"There you are, Gourry! I was waiting for you!" Miss Medusa emerged from the white marble walls of the dome and latched onto Gourry's arm immediately. She was wearing a white dress or more so a skirt since those sea creature people were more like a head with limbs than anything resembling a torso. Her white skirt became semi-transparent just above the knees and down, showing off her shapely legs. Her heels were white, adorned with pearls, very similar to the ones that Lina decided she wasn't willing to put up with. On each tentacle Miss Medusa wore a lovely pearl bracelet and her mask was a butterfly.

That was crossing the line. Medusa had stolen Gourry, she had stolen the general concept of her outfit being white and pearls and she was wearing a mask quite similar to hers too. Lina glared behind the beautiful white butterfly that hid half her face with a few pink glitters adorning its wings. Medusa had a larger version of that same mask on her face.

"Hi, Miss Medusa," Gourry greeted with a friendly smile. "I just got here and-"

"And you couldn't wait to dance with me? How sweet!" Medusa cut him off and dragged him away by the arm. "I love your mask!"

Gourry smiled sheepishly, "thanks, I'm glad you like it." He glanced back at Lina as he was dragged off inside. "Lina, Filia, do you want to come hang out with us?"

"No!" Lina snapped angrily. She floated past Gourry eradiating hot anger into the atmosphere around her. Inside the dome, she didn't even take a moment to notice anything or anyone and made a bee line for the biggest buffet table.

"Oh, okay, I guess we'll hang out later, Lina." Gourry looked disappointed, but accepted the event with his usual patience for Lina. He glanced at Filia, who seemed to want to glare a hole through his skull, and concluded that perhaps she didn't want to hang out with him and Miss Medusa either. Seriously, girls were so confusing sometimes. "Um... see you later," he went inside the white marble dome, finally allowing Medusa to completely drag him away.

Filia was left standing on top of the long marble stairs at the northern end of the main street, muttering something about men. For a fleeting moment she wondered if Xellos, rather than teleporting, would walk up those stairs and find her standing there. She had found some nice lilac heels with amethyst decorations. Her earrings were small but exquisitely detailed amethyst flowers. A portion of her hair was braded on the sides of her face, the braids twirling around her head like a golden crown, the rest falling down the back of her head, held in place by another amethyst flower. Tiny amethysts like miniscule flower petals adorned her hair, making its beauty truly stand out.

Her eyes were adorned in purple eye shadow that faded into lilac, her lips a pink-ish shade of lilac with shiny gloss. Her mask was small with thin wings extending over the eyes originating from a round amethyst in the lower middle of her forehead. It was a fairy, a representation of an orb of light with wings originating from the barely perceptible silhouette in the center of the light.

The flowers and chosen mask made Filia look more so like a magical elf, a mythical creature whose beauty could only be born of legends. But she was real and she was waiting, yet no one was coming for her. Filia caught herself thinking of Xellos again and pushed the thoughts away. She would be fine as soon as she was with Phythan, she would be able to focus on him then. Maybe he was already inside waiting for her. She entered the dome to find him.

The rounded structure of the north dome with its impeccable white marble walls and long dramatic, though tiring, stairs, looked far more impressive and beautiful from the outside than Filia had imagined. The look was accentuated by the fact that it was on a hill, holding it above the rest of the resort on a backdrop of clear starry skies.

Yet the inside of the dome was far more amazing. Everything was made of white marble, with several decorative paintings hanging from the walls, depicting a variety of romantic scenes. Sunrises, sunsets, fields of flowers, ocean views, her eyes traveled from one painting to another as if she was in a museum filled with precious art. Tables with appetizing abundant food were scattered about all around the circular structure of the dome with lovely carved columns forming an inner circle at the center within which the dance floor was. Smaller column-like stands adorned the area with beautifully crafted flower vases holding red and white roses.

She paused and looked up; admiring the crystal chandeliers, then realized that the round ceiling of the elegant dome was made of glass. The chandeliers were literally floating, their gems infused with a long lasting levitation spell. The night sky was amazing, the stars shining like diamonds. Forget having balls in a castle, this place was so much better! The entire ambiance was further enhanced by the music played by a live orchestra, completing the magical feel of the location.

While Filia was admiring the atmosphere and decorations, one of the vases caught her eye, filled with white roses. She approached the vase and gently touched it with her fingers, nails delicately painted with lilac and purple water marble lines. Feeling the smooth surface of the vase, Filia realized that her thought was unmistakable. This was her vase, one she had crafted from scratch with her own hands and painted with care... Or at least that's how her fluttering heart re-colored the picture in her memories at first, albeit the truth resurfaced as she remembered.

xoxox xox xoxox

It had been a rough day for Filia. She attempted to craft a vase to relax, then Xellos snuck up on her and caused her to ruin the almost finished product. As a result the vase had an asymmetrical diagonally lopsided look to it.

After an argument with Xellos and the creative use of art supplies as tools of attempted, yet failed, murder, Filia decided not to throw away the vase after all. It wasn't perfect, but its accidental deformation had a certain rare artistic quality to it. She was trying to paint the vase when Xellos returned far too soon for her liking, though she would assure that if he never returned it would have been too soon anyway. He made a mess of things again, the paint splashing all over her workspace, clothes and the work in progress of the vase. She was using purple and white, colors that she had subconsciously picked without giving them much thought.

Subsequent to chasing Xellos out of her home once again, Filia looked at the mess that was the vase. The paint had splashed all over it, dying it in shades of purple and white, the two colors mixing together in several patches of lilac and lavender. Filia wasn't in the mood to clean the mess; she was too tired and left it for the next day. When she got around to cleaning up on the following morning, she begrudgingly noticed that the vase really didn't look so bad. The splashes of paint looked somewhat elegant, with unique artistic passion. The thought was roughly pushed away as soon as it was formed and Filia set out to rid herself of the offending vase.

As the trashcans in her work space were full, Filia angrily carried the vase to the front of the shop seeking to dump it in the smaller trashcan next to the front counter of the store. It was there just in case clients came in with half finished sodas and candy bars that they finished while still browsing the store. Then they would have no excuse to stuff the wrappers and containers in random vases because they didn't have the patience to wait until they came across a trashcan, there would be one readily available and clearly visible right there.

"What a beautiful vase!" An old lady whom Filia didn't recognize exclaimed as soon as she saw the vase. The lady had the appearance of an old tourist who had all the time in the world to roam all over creation and the economical resources to back it up.

"Ah, you like this one, my dear?" The old gentleman standing next to the lady smiled. "Then we shall purchase it for our collection."

"This?" Filia voiced in disbelief. She couldn't let such a vase exist in the world and be linked to her. Some may see it as elegant and original and with a little polishing it could be, but it was a product of Xellos causing trouble and that made it a terrible artifact. "Oh, you don't want this old thing, I'm sure there are far better vases to choose from at the shop. This one is all crooked; I was just about to throw it away."

"Don't," the lady strode forward, her aged hands taking the vase away from Filia and cradling it. "It's smoothly curved, asymmetrical but elegant. Uneven in an artistic way, yet perfectly balanced." She demonstrated the fact by setting the vase down gently on the front counter. "It takes a lot of skill to make original shapes like this, more skill than what it takes to make the classic styles of the others. Please, sell me this vase; I must have it for our collection!"

Before Filia could find her voice in the face of such a strong yet pleading argument, the lady's husband stepped forward and set a large bag of golden coins on the counter. Jillas, who had been minding the store standing behind the counter throughout the entire scene was left in shock as the elderly man inquired, "will this be enough to purchase the vase?"

"Sold!" Jillas cheered and happily wrapped the newly purchased item for the generous happy customers. Filia would give him an earful about it later.

xoxox xox xoxox

The truth about the vase's origin resurfaced in Filia's mind and she withdrew her hand away from it before she got the irresistible urge to break it. She didn't know how the vase got there, but she was certain it was the same one; artists knew their own work. Filia walked away from the vase not pleased that she kept finding reminders about Xellos all around. She needed to find Phythan and the sooner the better.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 015: Bells! At The Stroke of Midnight

Filia made her way through the spacious setting of the masquerade ball. She had not set a specific time to meet with Phythan, but there was a possibility that he was already there. The ball was going on full force at the height of the party with music, dancing and a lot of food that was constantly replenished, only to have to be replenished again, because the redhead in the white dress kept devouring everything.

Filia sighed, what if Phythan wasn't coming? The place was big, but they couldn't have missed each other all this time. She had tried walking around, she had tried staying still, she had tried standing by the main entrance, she had tried hanging out by the buffet table, that is one that Lina wasn't assaulting, but nothing worked. She had been there for over two hours and there was no sign of her date. Maybe he only intended to be there for the later part of the ball near the end or maybe he just forgot.

Filia contemplated the floor for several minutes until she felt someone approaching. He was wearing a tuxedo like all the men there were, and a rather large mask in comparison to her small one. His mask was in the shape of a golden dragon, but instead of scales it had feathers like a phoenix, a combination of fire bird and dragon. The mask covered the entire area above his nose, his eyes unseen behind it, the feathers cascading to his shoulders. He took her hand, the light bouncing off her delicate petal shaped amethyst bracelets, he kissed her hand and examined her expression.

All the pent up frustration Filia was feeling melted away. So what if her date was late? He was there and he was even more charming than she remembered, though he was certainly on the quiet side. He seemed to be leading her towards the dance floor and she happily went along. He still had not said a single word and neither had she. They could talk later, for the time being just enjoying each other's presence as they moved to the sound of the music was enough.

xoxox xox xoxox

While Filia's mood improved, Lina's got worse. She ate and ate not only for the sake of replenishing the energy she used up from constantly levitating, but also to calm her temper and stop herself from Dragon Slaving the entire dome, leaving nothing but a crater on the ground.

"How could you!" Miss Medusa's shrill voice pierced the air as Lina finished all the food on one of the tables and moved to the next. The noise caught her attention and she watched as Gourry placed a hand behind his head in confusion, with an expression that clearly showed he had no idea what he had done wrong. "I hate you!" Miss Medusa ran away with tears in her eyes. Gourry initially followed Medusa, but she screamed, "don't follow me!"

Gourry stopped running and replied, "okay," with abundantly present confusion. If Medusa said she didn't want to be followed, it would just make her angrier for her request to be ignored, right? Such was Gourry's literal line of thinking in his effort to understand the female species. He spotted Lina looking in his direction, though the redhead quickly turned her attention back to the food. He approached her with a friendly smile and picked up a sandwich casually, "hey Lina, having fun?"

Lina snatched away the sandwich and swallowed it in one gulp. "This is my table," she declared with the fury of a territorial wild beast. "I see Miss Medusa left you alone, well you had it coming!"

"I did?" Gourry sighed in confusion. "I really don't understand girls. "I mean it was simple enough when we were just friends, but this dating thing is complicated and the confusion spreads to everyone around. I guess this is what my grandmother meant when she used to tell me that things change when you start dating someone."

"Dating?" Lina growled, "so this was an official date with that jellyfish girl!" It had been her assumption from the start, but to hear the sour truth being so casually declared made Lina's anger rise to unprecedented intensities.

"No, I mean with you," Gourry laughed as if it was no big deal.

Lina's face suddenly turned as red as her hair, her anger unexpectedly disarmed. "What?"

"I mean, Amelia and Zelgadis looked like they were on a date. Who can tell with Filia and Xellos?" Gourry began his explanation. "I thought that since the others were doing it, then you wouldn't be shy about it. That's why I got you candy, my grandmother said that candy was a good thing to give a girl on a first date."

"That was a date?" Lina realized that Gourry was talking about the candy he gave her after they went to the aquarium. "What about Medusa?"

"She's my friend," Gourry stated as if it were obvious. "I thought we could all hang out together and have fun. I danced with her because she really wanted to and well... that's what friends are for, right? Doing stuff that their friends want to do so that they have fun. Then I told her that I was getting hungry, plus I haven't danced with my date yet or given her the corset."

"Corset?" Lina questioned with a weirded out expression.

Gourry continued as if the interruption had never occurred. "She asked what I meant and I said that I haven't danced with you yet, then she got all mad. I guess I didn't follow my grandmother's advice as well as I thought. She said that if I didn't treat my date properly then I would be in trouble. But you looked like you needed some space, so I thought I was doing the right thing by giving it to you." He reached into his pocket where a square shape was protuberant in the fabric. Miss Medusa thought it was an engagement bracelet for her, as she had no real fingers to put on a ring, since she had tentacles. She hinted that she would say yes as they danced, but Gourry didn't catch any of the allusions. The square space was actually a box containing a white lily corsage with a light pink tint to it. "This is the corset I got for you."

Lina looked at the item that was obviously not a corset. "It's called a corsage!" She corrected, then the reality finally sunk in that Gourry was only spending time with Medusa as a friend and that, though he failed to properly inform either of them, he viewed this as a date with Lina. Lina's face turned an even brighter shade of red than her hair and she nervously extended her hand for Gourry to put on the corsage, an activity that he accomplished with a good amount of ease. Then the romantic moment was ruined by Gourry's loud stomach. "I guess you're hungry," it should come as no surprise since he spent the entire time he was there dancing with Miss Medusa, unlike Lina, who was eating. "Let's clean out all the tables in this place, it's not every day that we can feast on fancy food like this!"

"Alright!" Gourry cheered. The awkwardness of the situation melted away into the familiarity of each others appetites as the gluttonous couple bonded lovingly in their own special way.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Filia had been led away from the crowd approaching the small, ignored, back door of the dome. They went out through there finding themselves in a dark garden consisting of natural flowers, not particularly arranged in any shape. The hill that was smooth and grassy on the opposite side where the main entrance was, turned rocky and treacherous on that side. On the edge of a small forest that one may assume would eventually fall to the expansion of the already large resort. But for the time being, it was dark and thick.

The place wasn't as well groomed as what was clearly visible for the tourists, but it had a certain wild romantic charm to it. Filia sighed contently, allowing her date to wrap his arms around her, tilting her face towards his, closer... closer... then she stopped and looked towards the skies. "It's a beautiful night, isn't it?" Filia mentally kicked herself for the interruption, Phythan wanted to kiss her and she wanted to kiss him, so what was stopping her? Maybe it was too soon or perhaps it was his silence that had her on edge. "How come you're so quiet today?"

He shrugged and finally spoke, "you're always telling me to shut up, so I thought I would humor you, just this once. I must say it's been terribly boring. I bet you missed our quarrels, even if you deny it, you admire my cunning intellect to prove you wrong on every argument." That unmistakable mocking smugness...

"Xellos!" She didn't have to see him without the mask he still wore to know it was him. No wonder something felt off. The illusion of a wonderful romantic ball was nothing but wishful thinking on her part. She had not seen Phythan anywhere. Either he stood her up, which filled Filia with anger, or he saw her dancing with another man, felt cheated and left, which filled Filia with dread. Then again, she was sure she would rather be dumped than seen with Xellos.

"Yes?" Xellos grinned with false innocence and real amused cheer.

Clenching her fists on her sides and mentally threatening the tears forming in her eyes not to dare to come out, Filia strongly wished she had her mace. "You tricked me," she stated with venom in her voice.

"And you made it oh so difficult," Xellos sarcastically teased with a satisfied grin that Filia desperately wanted to forcefully wipe off his face. Although, he knew that her accusation meant she thought he was someone else, he didn't realize that the someone else had a specific expected identity.

Filia was furious. Xellos tricked her and he almost weaseled another kiss out of her. What was wrong with him? It's not that he liked her, because monsters couldn't like anyone, he was just trying to annoy her. This was crossing the line, it was going too far. Filia raised her hands and curled them into fists for a physical attack, her lips slightly parted to accompany the onslaught with a verbal assault, but she was interrupted. Every hour on the hour, the sound of bells echoed from outside near the dome, reminding the guests of what time it was.

The sound could be heard in the area outside louder than inside as it echoed in the northern border of the resort. Yet it didn't originate from any of the tourist attractions in the resort. Instead it came from a clock tower shrouded in mist in the center of the thick dark forest behind the dome. The terrain was undeveloped and looked abandoned, so why the clock tower still function with such precise accuracy was anyone's guess. This time there was no music as it barely filtered out of the dome and there were no noisy crowds as no one thought to go back there. There was nothing but the forest between Xellos, Filia and the clock tower that stretched out high above the trees. The bells were easy to miss in other parts of the resort, nothing but a faint distant echo, but from their current location they were loud, as if demanding attention.

When the first bell rung out, Filia was startled. The second bell was expected and she tried to ignore it. When the third bell came, she wondered why she even paused. The forth bell echoed and Filia had not yet punched or insulted Xellos. With the fifth bell Filia began to relax her clenched fists. The sixth bell made her lower her hands slightly and the seventh made her lower her hands all the way. With the eight bell her mouth closed, insults unspoken. With the ninth bell she drew in a big breath of fresh air and with the tenth bell she exhaled her tensions. It was like counting to ten to ease her anger, except the clock was doing it for her.

With the echo of the eleventh bell hanging in the air, Xellos grinned and approached the edge of the cliff. He jumped with the twelfth bell and before the echo was done fading away, he was gone, he disappeared before he hit the ground below, teleporting in mid air. A golden feather that had fallen off his mask as he vanished was carried towards Filia by the gentle breeze. She caught the feather and examined it, noticing that a purple hair had gotten caught on it.

Filia looked towards the mist covered shadow of the clock tower in the center of the forest, then approached the cliff and looked down, even if she knew she would not find any signs of Xellos. Then she held up her open palm and let the breeze carry away the golden feather with the purple hair. Filia turned around and entered the dome, she was hungry. If she was lucky maybe Lina had left a little food for the other ball attendees.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos discarded his mask, carelessly throwing it in the forest. While he was out looking for a mask before the ball and pondering the general situation, Zangulus had approached him. "There you are," he voiced upon seeing Xellos at the mask shop.

"Why hello, Zangulus," Xellos smiled, following his usual friendly act. "Have they assigned you another task to perform instead of taking care of the restaurant?"

"Yes," Zangulus revealed, "I'm actually supposed to be on break right now, but the boss asked me to do something else and is paying me extra for the service, so I don't mind." Now wearing his normal clothes instead of his waiter uniform, Zangulus retrieved an envelope from under his hat. "I was asked to deliver this letter to you. It's from Mr. Metallium himself."

The name caught Xellos' interest right away; though he didn't think there was actually a connection between the mysterious boss of Amor Resort and his own boss and mother, Zelas Metallium. Humans sometimes adopt the names of powerful creatures in hopes of giving out the illusion that they are powerful themselves. Nevertheless, Xellos was curious as to why the resort's boss wanted to send him correspondence. "Interesting," Xellos accepted the enveloped curiously. "Might you have an idea of what this is about?" He pried for any additional information that was not written in the letter.

Zangulus shrugged, "I have no idea," he sounded sincere. "Did you send in a job application or something?"

"Not that I recall," Xellos realized that Zangulus had no significant information about this letter. He was only the delivery boy and he had done his part. "I thank you for bringing me this message," he smiled putting on a nice act, despite all past deeds that Zangulus might be aware of. Even if Xellos was a monster, even if people learned that truth, even with all that, his nature was easy to ignore for most, he made it that way for his convenience. "Take this for your time," he handed Zangulus a few coins for him to add to the Zoana Kingdom restoration fund.

"Thanks!" Zangulus went merrily on his way, glad with the lucrative results of his overtime venture.

Xellos wasted no time in fading away to a more private area to read the letter. Inside the enveloped addressed simply to 'Mr. Xellos' there was a single white sheet of ordinary paper carrying a message consisting of ordinary letters, written with ordinary black ink. Yet those ordinary letters with their ordinary yet neat penmanship, arranged in such a way, held a message that was anything but ordinary.

The rarity of the latter began with the very first line where the receiver was greeted as "General Xellos Metallium," a line and an indentation later there was a simple request. "Should you find yourself with the time and in the mood to do so, I would be honored if you could meet me in the clock tower in the center of the forest behind the north dome tonight at midnight." The short request was the entirety of the message, with nothing more than a parting word and a signature below it. "Respectfully, Celo Metallium."

Xellos' purple eyes had opened completely automatically, as he scanned the letter with growing curiosity. He considered showing up at the appointed location immediately, but decided to wait, just to see what would happen if he followed the letter's request. Besides, the sender addressing him as general meant that he knew who Xellos was and he had been careful to sound respectful when writing the letter. Xellos folded the letter and placed it back in its ordinary envelope. The surprise was fading fast and so was Xellos' curiosity as he came up with likely theories that could explain the message.

So what if that so called Mr. Metallium knew that Xellos was a monster general? There was a number of ways about how the knowledge could have reached him. Maybe it had only been a rumor that the man was stupid enough to believe though it turned out to b true in the end. Celo was probably another foolish human who wanted to gain the power of the monsters. Maybe he was a worshiper of Zelas and was hoping that Xellos would introduce him to her, as if that would ever happen. This Celo person was probably insignificant, he had to be. He couldn't be related to the murderous force after Xellos' life because that powered rivaled that of the monster lords and a mere human, especially one so desperately seeking power, couldn't already possess such a power.

Yet the fact remained that the strange occurrences were taking place in Celo's resort, in the place that he administrated and by the looks of it also owned. Maybe he knew something after all, though Xellos thought it was highly unlikely that the man he assumed to be a human would know anything if he who was a monster general had not been able to find any significant information. Nonetheless, his curiosity was just enough to attend to the requested meeting at midnight.

Thus there he stood hours later, in front of the clock tower, still in his suit from the ball, minus the mask that had been carelessly tossed away. Xellos could simply teleport inside, but he chose not to, instead pulling the old rope that was attached to a bell that hung from a small pole on the wall beside the door. The bells' sound seemed louder in the absolute silence of the dark misty forest than its size dictated it should have been.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 016: Unbelievable! Secrets and Surprises

Not even a full second had passed since Xellos rung the bell when the door to the clock tower was opened, revealing the dim interior. A few torches of unusual blue fire projected a dim, yet sufficient light inside the entrance room. The structure itself was made of wood, clearly old and worn as every floor board creaked and the top of the building threatened to fall apart every time it was visited by the soft breeze that managed to pass above the trees.

The man at the door was wearing formal attire, an elegant tuxedo that didn't stand out, but was still fancy in its simple way. He had gray hair with a few white strands and the average face of an average aging human, save for his eyes. His eyes were the color of deep amethyst with a certain sharpness to them that resembled Xellos' own perceptive eyes. "I, Celo Metallium, am honored by your arrival, General Xellos Metallium, please, come in." The elderly man stepped aside and bowed politely, beckoning Xellos inside.

Xellos stepped through the door and waited for the man to close it before, with a grin on his face he voiced, "let us not be so formal." His tone was friendly as it was his usual act. "After all, if your surname is true, then that would make us brothers." There was a certain hint of mockery in his voice.

Celo chuckled lightly, "I wonder if a mere middle level monster should dare to call a monster general brother, what with the implications of equality and all."

So Celo was supposed to be a middle level monster? Yeah, right, his energy felt distinctly human. Maybe he was hinting at what he hoped to achieve. "Let's cut to the chase," Xellos encouraged with a barely perceptible impatient undertone.

"Yes," Celo agreed. "Let us speak in the tea room, I'm sure you will be more comfortable there, general Xellos." Celo led the way to one of the many rooms of the clock tower. The room was just as rustic and simple as the rest of the building, with creaking wooden floor boards and simple wooden furniture with dark red cushions. They sat at a table with tea and cookies already set out. "As I'm sure you already noticed, someone is out to take your life," Celo stated with a careful voice.

"Indeed, it's hard not to notice someone trying to kill you," Xellos tentatively eyed the snacks on the table, wondering if he should rise to the challenge and eat some. "I don't suppose you have information about those incidents?"

"From what I gather, the culprit is the Green Alchemist. Of course, his very existence is doubtful in itself," Celo picked up his teacup and drank casually.

"Do continue," Xellos took a drink from his tea.

"The Green Alchemist is or was a human who specialized in healing potions. It is said he hated monsters very much and longed to exterminate them all," Celo explained. "Apparently, his plan was to pit the monster lords against each other by causing a tempting lack of balance in their power, which would hopefully drive the others to attack the exposed party. However, all his attempts failed, for even if he focused his efforts in exterminating monsters serving the same monster lord, it was never enough to make a difference, as they were only low ranked monsters."

"So, this Green Alchemist is now after me, a monster general, in hopes that my extermination will affect lord Beast Master in such a way that the remaining lords will covet her territory and try to take it in the absence of her general priest." Xellos concluded, taking a cookie and eating it. It was sweet and delicious with rich chocolate chips.

"Exactly," Celo confirmed. "Although, I'm sure his attempts have been merely an annoyance at best, the Green Alchemist, or whoever is claiming to be the Green Alchemist is usually not foolish enough to attack high level monsters, let alone a monster general. This brings me to believe a plot is in the works. The rumors of the truths and dares of the monsters travel fast, even to the lower ranks that are not allowed to participate. It is not unthinkable that even humans would hear something about it, especially if they're keeping an ear out for news. I believe the Green Alchemist knows of the circumstances."

Xellos raised an eyebrow questioningly, his tone the slightest bit defensive among his friendly act. "Filia..."

"Ah yes, the cure," Celo paused in thought for a moment. "I believe the Green Alchemist is not likely to target her. He does not believe the curse can be broken."

Xellos' purple eyes were now open in a glare. To speak so casually of the curse not being broken... the tone of absolute respect behind Celo's voice made it far more infuriating. It was as if he was saying, you are far more powerful than me, but you still can't do anything. You can kill me, but you can't solve your problem. "Who are you?"

Celo smiled respectfully, "I am Celo Metallium, a servant of Beast Master Zelas Metallium, though some monsters know me simply as Zelas' suicidal researcher."

Realization reached Xellos, "how is it that you're human?" He looked at the being before him with suspicion.

"I'm a chimera," Celo revealed. "I'm a monster and a human. I was once of the high ranks among the monster race, but my fusion with a human lowered me to the middle rank. None the less, I thought at the time it was needed, because it was the only way I could stay alive and serve lord Beast Master."

"Ah yes," Xellos' mocking smile was back in place. "I remember you now. Your mission was to research the weakness of monsters, positive emotions. But the emotions would kill you without the human side to keep you barely alive, even if it diminished your monster powers. The sacrifice was supposed to be worth it if you were able to train full monsters to be able to resist positive emotions. This place is full of such feelings. Ironically I've seen weak monsters that appear to be unaffected; I suppose their tiny astral bodies are too small, they are already insignificant enough so there's not much left to weaken. Then there's the one that was fused with a building; buildings are not affected by emotions so that added some resistance."

Celo only partially agreed, "it is true that positive emotions weaken monsters, but contrary to what many believe, they don't kill. A weak monster is slain by another monster, a human, a dragon, there's always someone trying to kill a monster, though for you, it may not seem so because most attempts would fail before they begin. In this chimera state of mine I've grown to enjoy the taste of feelings I should be repulsed by. Thus I have made no efforts to change back into a full monster, if it is even possible, which I doubt."

Xellos chuckled, "to disassemble a chimera... I know someone who would be interested in that." He guided the conversation back into the main topic, "so while you continue your research here, the Green Alchemist might have found something that makes him think he can beat me? If he believes the curse cannot be broken, though it certainly can be," Xellos emphasized, "then why not just let the curse take my life?"

"The results of the curse the Green Alchemist believes will overtake you offend him," Celo explained. "Though the curse is considered a death sentence, you are aware of what will really happen."

"I'll be transformed into a human," Xellos sourly revealed, "not that I'm going to let that happen. Besides, it is as good as a death sentence given the fact that humans are such fragile creatures. I take it the Green Alchemist is a human extremist that can't stand the thought of a monster receiving the honor," heavy sarcasm was poured into the word, "of becoming a human."

"Exactly," Celo nodded, "the Green Alchemist thinks that you'll become human, but he doesn't believe that will be the end. He expects a general priest to be a cunning survivor. He expects you to further corrupt the human race as one of their own. At least, that is the information that has reached me. As for the rumored secret plot, that mysterious something that makes the Green Alchemist believe he has the upper hand, I do not know. I heard he has some sort of weapon, but I cannot be sure of what it may be."

Xellos pondered what he had heard, one thing still bothered him. Underneath his respectful words, which were very much an act, just as Xellos' friendly cheer was, Celo sounded as if he too did not believe that the curse could be broken. "Is there a reason for you to think the Green Alchemist is correct in assuming the curse cannot be broken?"

Celo paused, then smiled, "my apologies if I sound disrespectful, but it is quite a difficult task, even for one of your power. The cure will bring you to your weakest state before freeing you from the curse, even a monster general is weakened by positive emotions, though they don't kill. However, after experiencing the curse and overcoming it, you will be stronger by the power of evolution."

"What does that mean?" Xellos demanded.

"You may kill me if you are dissatisfied with my silence." Celo's voice was just as respectful as ever, his expression serene.

"I think I'll keep you around for now." The way Xellos voiced his choice, 'for now' could be over in mere seconds if he so felt like it.

"I thank you," Celo bowed his head respectfully. "I should let you know though, the meaning of the antidote, least you push the cure away with trickery, for it is in lord Beast Master's, and therefore my, best interest that you succeed. The curse does indeed have a cure, but the words spoken must be thought upon carefully."

"That's quite enough," Xellos grinned, "continue and I will kill you now." Celo remained silent. So there was apparently a hidden meaning to the curse's cure. The willing kiss of a golden dragon, was that supposed to be some kind of metaphor? It was true that Celo was a servant of Zelas, the real reason why Xellos wouldn't kill him. He was a researcher though his research had remained fruitless for a long time. None the less, as a monster on a special mission, it was up to Zelas and Zelas alone to decide when his mission would end. Xellos knew that, Celo, the all but forgotten researcher, knew it as well, yet neither brought to the surface the fact that it was not in Xellos' best interest to kill him without Zelas' permission.

After a long silence, Celo finally nodded, "my apologies," he spoke in his extremely respectful and humble voice, which was getting on Xellos' nerves. "I will not cause any interference."

"You'd best not," Xellos got up. Tiny monsters with puny astral bodies that couldn't be weakened beyond their pitiful state and monsters fused with beings or things that gave them a certain level of resistance towards the positive emotions of Amor Resort allowing them to keep some of their power... those possible interruptions didn't sound like much. High level monsters wouldn't be so high level anymore if they spent too much time in the love filled atmosphere, but Xellos was strong enough to withstand it. The only other annoyance left would be the mysterious plot and possible secret weapon of the Green Alchemist. Xellos didn't think it was worth his time; perhaps he should simply focus on figuring out his cure for the time being. He didn't need or want help; he could figure this out on his own. Perhaps some golden dragon research was in order.

xoxox xox xoxox

"There you are!" A waiter, uniformed as such, approached Lina and Gourry at the buffet table they were cleaning out.

"Zangulus?" The two looked up with curiosity.

"It looks like I'm never going to get a break, but hey, all this overtime is good for Zoana." Zangulus laughed off his exhaustion. Still, I have to say, I never thought that vague description was talking about you. A girl in white with a butterfly mask, she will be in the company of a blond man, I can't believe the ball staff didn't bother asking for a name before processing the request. Ball preparations are hectic, but still... Anyway, I'm glad I found you." He looked at Lina with a congratulatory smile, "everything has been set up exactly as you requested."

"What?" Lina tilted her head to the side in confusion. "What exactly are you talking about?"

"Oh you know," Zangulus gave a sly smile and began to lead the two towards the center of the dance floor. "Here you are, as per your request. Good luck, not that you need it and congratulations in advance!" Zangulus disappeared in the crowd, leaving a very confused Lina and Gourry at the center of the dome.

Gourry looked at Lina quizzically, "what's going on? Are we going to dance?"

"I don't know..." Lina had a bad feeling about the entire thing, then the realization hit her. A girl in white with a butterfly mask, in the company of a blond man... Could that have been meant to be Medusa and Gourry? Was Medusa planning something for him? But the jellyfish girl had already left and the poorly informed last minute staff was left to assume that the first girl in white with a butterfly mask who was with a blond man by her side was the one to make the mysterious request. Well, whatever that jellyfish girl had planned for Gourry and herself, it would be Lina and Gourry that would be enjoying it. It was probably a special song or something. "I guess we'll dance."

Though Lina was expecting some kind of cheesy love song to play, there was instead silence as a man dressed in the robes of a priest approached the center of the dome. He carried a book in one hand and a fluffy white pillow with a simple golden band the appropriate size to be worn by a man on his ring finger and a more decorated golden bracelet with rubies, the appropriate size to be worn by a woman on her wrist... or tentacle. The priest cleared his throat. "We are gathered here today to witness the union of..." He looked at the couple waiting for them to state their names as he too was another poorly informed employee.

Lina's jaw dropped, her face turning scarlet. Miss Medusa intended to trick Gourry into marrying her all along! "Lina?" Gourry asked unsure of what was happening or what he should do.

"Gourry..." Lina gulped, unable to come up with a minimal embarrassment escape route as she stood frozen in place.

"Mr. Lina and Miss Gourry," the priest repeated, incorrectly assuming that they had each stated their own name. Name changing and baby name blessing was also part of his job and he saw his fair share of odd names, so he knew not to judge. "In holy matrimony, if anyone has any reason to prevent this union, please write a letter to the Amor Resort customer service department and your complaint will be addressed as quickly as possible."

Gourry stood there struck dumb, or dumber than usual, while Lina struggled to protest through her embarrassment. "Now wait just a minute!"

The priest was tired after a long day of work and certainly not in the mood to wait a second, let alone a minute, thus he finished. "By the power bestowed on me by the Official International Tourism Guild, recognized on both the inner and outer world, I hereby declare you husband and wife! May you keep these souvenirs as a reminder of your union." He handed the pillow with the ring and bracelet to Gourry. "Okay, we're done, thank you for choosing Amor Resort as your marriage option. Amor Resort, marriages, honeymoons, anniversaries, vacations and controversial romantic flings, we have it all." With those final parting words of advertisement, the priest left, disappearing among the balls' crowd.

"I guess we're supposed to wear these, aren't we?" Gourry put the bracelet on Lina's left wrist and the ring on his own left ring finger. "There, that's how it's done, right?"

Lina was frozen in a red faced, open mouthed expression that didn't move as the people around them clapped and whistled at the happy scene. Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia pushed through the crowd until they reached them. "Congratulations!" Amelia cheered.

Zelgadis was the most surprised of all, "I wasn't expecting you two to get married now, even if everyone knew it would happen eventually, congratulations."

Filia's state of deep thought and heartache was temporarily pushed aside in her attempt to sincerely be happy for her friends. It looked like they didn't need her matchmaking help after all, perhaps she would concentrate her well intended efforts on Amelia and Zelgadis in the future, since her own love life was so lacking as Phythan had never showed up and she had instead gotten stuck with Xellos. "I'm very happy for you both, congratulations!"

Gourry laughed sheepishly, not fully aware of the severity of the situation. Everyone was congratulating them, so he replied with the polite answer to such an expression by saying, "thanks," with a cheerful smile.

Zangulus cut through the crowd with a paper in his hand. "Here's your marriage certificate, good thing I was there, or that priest would have messed up your names on the document too. Don't worry; I made sure the names were correct so that it's fully valid. A courier pigeon has already been sent to the main office of the Official International Tourist Guild with a copy of the certificate, this one is for the two of you to keep."

Lina's eye twitched as she stared at the paper Zangulus was holding up. It was an ordinary white paper, with ordinary letters, written in ordinary black ink, which carried an extraordinary meaning. "Amor Resort hereby certifies by the authority of the Official International Tourism Guild, recognized on both the inner and outer world, that Lina Inverse and Gourry Gabriev are officially united in legally recognized marriage." The date time and place was written below the initial message, followed by another line asserting, "this statement is certified by" and the signature of the distracted, though very much official priest.

"Wow Lina, I thought we kind of liked each other, but I didn't know you wanted to marry me." The easy and carefree tone with which Gourry made such a critical statement threw Lina over the edge.

With her embarrassment consuming her, she began to chant. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows." Life is so much easier when you can Dragon Slave anything that stands in your way, from bandits to embarrassing situations involving crowds of staring people. "Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows."

"Miss Lina!" Amelia exclaimed with worry. "You're getting a little too excited!"

"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand..." Lina continued her spell, blocking out any other sounds beyond her own voice.

"Gourry, get her out of here before she blows up this whole place!" Zelgadis urged. He had noticed that the tourists assumed that every unusual occurrence was part of the show and would be too busy being entertained to have the time or willingness to run for their lives.

"Okay!" Gourry agreed, blissfully unaware of the seriousness of the situation and peacefully accepting his new life as Lina's husband.

"Before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands-ah!" Lina stopped chanting as Gourry picked her up bridal style, following Zelgadis' advice to get her out of there. Her face was a red brighter than flames as her mind went blank and the energy she had gathered for the spell evaporated into nothing, her concentration gone.

"Let's get some fresh air; your face is all red." Gourry ran out of the dome via the main entrance and dashed down the stairs with his blushing bride in his arms.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 017: Move Along! A Small Step Forward

"Why do I get the feeling that this might be troublesome?" Zelgadis' worry about Lina and Gourry's unexpected marriage was quickly disregarded by Amelia.

"Oh, don't worry about them," the Seyruun princess smiled with a starry eyed expression. "As long as there's love, that's all that matters." She sighed deeply, her expression gaining a clearer hint of hope. "One day I want to be a bride too."

Zelgadis blushed, but mentally told himself that Amelia couldn't possibly be hinting at anything. She was just talking about the far away future and not thinking about any specific prospective groom.

Seeing as Zelgadis wasn't going to say anything, Amelia scanned the area for a table that was being replenished with food that would hopefully last longer, since the gluttonous newlyweds were gone. "How about a snack?"

"Yes, that sounds good," Zelgadis happily followed Amelia towards the table, occupied mostly in his own thoughts.

Amelia paused and looked back at Filia, who was alone. "Miss Filia, are you hungry?" Trained to be a tactful diplomat, Amelia knew this wasn't the time to ask Filia about that guy she was waiting for, Phythan. She mentioned him when the girls were getting ready for the ball, but he was apparently not around.

Filia shook her head gently, "no, I just ate. I'm a bit tired, so maybe I'll just go back to the hotel and get some sleep."

"Oh," Amelia frowned, emphatic as she could be, she noticed Filia's saddened expression regardless of how the blond tried to hide it. "What about the fireworks? I heard the party will end at two with a bright display of fireworks that we can watch from inside the dome, since the roof is made of glass. It won't be long now, why don't you stay and watch? I'm sure it will be beautiful."

Filia sighed, her so called romantic night had turned into a disaster, but she didn't want to create a gloomy atmosphere for her happy friends. "Okay, go on and have a snack, I'll just take a walk around the dome and... look at the vases, you know, for inspiration."

Amelia nodded, though she deduced that Filia must have already made a detailed examination of every vase in the premises. "Okay," trying to stay positive, Amelia left towards the table with Zelgadis. Filia could get her breather now, but after a good night's sleep, the next day Amelia would make sure to ask her what was wrong if she didn't come out and say it herself.

Filia walked around to pass the time, then resolved to simply stand in a corner where her gloom wouldn't contaminate anyone's cheer. "Did you miss me?" Filia wasn't sure if she should glare furiously, ignore the question or be somewhat glad that Xellos was back. On second thought, she was sure she didn't want to take that last option.

Finally settling for the alternative of a furious glare, Filia angrily stated the obvious, "no."

"I'm sure you did," Xellos smiled as usual. He was wearing a different mask now, smaller than the previous one, covering only his eyes. The mask depicted the shape of a winged wolf and did little to hide Xellos' identity, as his peculiar purple hair was clearly visible. "It looks like the party's about to end, are you interested in one last dance?"

"You have some nerve to ask!" Filia tried to look away from Xellos and on doing so, she caught Amelia discretely looking in her direction while she ate next to Zelgadis. If she didn't at least pretend to be having fun, she would worry Amelia, who was clearly already worried about her. That would most likely lead to a well intended, though somewhat saddening and embarrassing interrogation about what was wrong. "Alright," she turned to face Xellos and tried to hide her angry twitching. "I'm still angry at you though."

Xellos didn't expect Filia to agree, let alone so easily, "fair enough..." The pair began to dance as the orchestra played the last song of the night before finally retiring to a well earned rest. "Just out of curiosity," Xellos asked while they danced. "When you didn't know who I was, what did you imagine me to be like?" Xellos knew that it was not favorable to bring that up, but he was curious. When Filia didn't say anything, instead making an effort to look nonchalant, Xellos prompted. "Anything at all? Hair color? Eyes? Was there any purple in your imagination?"

Golden blond hair, wine colored eyes... Amelia was already aware of the fact that her date never showed up. Lina would be focused on her own business, but Amelia might try to console her and Filia simply didn't want to talk about it. She certainly didn't need Xellos rubbing it in her face. She closed her eyes and tried to conjure a fictional image in her mind, just to spite him. "No, there was no purple," Filia let her imagination come up with something, any random description that didn't include purple. "Green eyes, light brown hair, I guess I must have seen that man and subconsciously remembered him. What an insult to him to be compared with you."

Xellos gave Filia a victorious grin, she had taken too long to answer and she seemed unsure. She wasn't remembering, she was thinking. "You just made that up."

She glared behind her fairy mask in such an intense way that it was still noticeable. "How would you know? I happen to like men like that, men that don't have anything purple on them."

"Is that what you occupy your time in doing? Fantasizing about men that don't have any purple on them?" Xellos teased, purposely being annoying for his own amusement. He would never admit it but he could use the relaxation that pestering Filia gave him.

"I don't see you with a date," Filia countered, trying to throw Xellos into the spotlight of their little argument so as to get herself out of it. Never mind that he was a monster and monsters generally don't go on dates.

Xellos winked, "rest assured Filia, I'm all yours."

Filia's face turned scarlet, she could feel the heat eradiating from it and it infuriated her. "I don't want you," she snapped.

Xellos replied with a look that screamed he was convinced she did. "Well, you certainly don't want someone else, or you would have found someone else by now," he teased. "Don't even try to point out that the one you want is your green eyed, light brown haired mystery man because I know for a fact he doesn't exist." Then another thought occurred to him, there was recognition in her eyes when he approached her hiding his identity, but she clearly didn't know who he was. Even if the man she described was fictional, there could be someone else. "Did your real date dump you?" He prodded curiously with far more cheer than the question should entail.

Filia's expression was invaded by sadness for a split second so small that that an observer any less keen than Xellos would have missed it. "No, I have no date," Filia lied. "I don't care; it's perfectly alright for people to go to balls on their own." As if to further validate her point she added, "you shouldn't argue with that, since you came by yourself too."

"You're lying," there was a sing-song tone to his accusation, but also real curiosity. Not that it mattered, Filia got dumped anyway. "You're a very bad liar, what really happened?"

Filia glared with the most intensity she could manage as their dance slowed to a stop and the music concluded. The light of the crystals floating near the glass ceiling of the dome was dimmed and the sky started to light up in brilliant colors. The firework spectacle was taking place right above the dome, with fluorescent rainbow sparks raining upon the structure that was protected from catching on fire by a magical barrier.

The crowds were in awe with the beauty of the light show and all those present watched it with fascinated amazement. Filia pushed Xellos away; they weren't dancing anymore so there was no reason to stand so close. She stepped back and turned around. Amelia wouldn't see her if she left now; she wouldn't worry about her missing a great show. Filia started walking towards the dome's exit without a word.

Xellos watched Filia leave, giving her a few seconds to gain the advantage of a few steps, before following her from a few feet behind, intending to catch up to her outside. He had to break the curse, if he became a fragile human without any monster energy to fuel his magic, he was as good as dead. He wouldn't let that happen, yet that wasn't the most prominent thought on his mind at the time. Something was going on with Filia that she was hiding. There were some broken expectations clinging to her that she chose not to speak of. He wanted to know what that was about.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Gourry had taken Lina all the way back to the rooftop of the hotel, carrying her the whole way while she blushed and protested. He finally set her on her feet when they arrived. "There's a nice breeze here, this should help you feel better. Do you want me to get you a cool drink?"

Lina leaned on the balcony railing and allowed the breeze to caress her warm face. "Yes," she replied simply, if only to get rid of Gourry for a few seconds so she could sort out her thoughts. Besides, this was Lina Inverse, she didn't reject anything edible. "Bring me a snack too," she added as she massaged her temples and tried to think without blushing intensely.

"Okay, I'll be right back," Gourry smiled and ventured downstairs to fulfill Lina's request.

"Take your time," Lina waved her hand dismissively and let out a breath of exasperation. What was she going to do now? She was married, though she had not planned it. She looked at her wedding bracelet. She couldn't believe Gourry so easily played along with the improvised wedding. What if it had been Miss Medusa in her place? What if she had not run off upset and tricked Gourry into marriage. She wouldn't be the first sea creature that tried to steal Gourry away, but Lina had a feeling that this time no conveniently timed gigantic waves would show up to take the flirtatious sea creature away. In a sense, she was glad she was the one to go through the marriage instead of Medusa.

Gourry's footsteps announced his return. He was carrying a tray with a bottle of soda and a chocolate cake. "Here you go!" He smiled cheerfully as if nothing was going on.

Lina occupied herself in eating while she continued thinking about the situation. She could get a divorce and hopefully things would go back to normal. Then again, she could simply ignore the marriage and keep on living as usual. Gourry was probably too much in his own little world to notice the difference between the life of a traveling companion and the life of a husband. Who was to say that anything had to change between them? So what if they were married, they could simply never speak of it again. Yet the nagging possibility of the 'what if' kept poking Lina on the back of the head with insisting annoyance. "Gourry," she finally asked, she wasn't going to stop thinking about it until she did. "What if Miss Medusa had tried to marry you?"

"She's my friend," Gourry stated simply as if that short explanation alone was enough.

Lina looked annoyed, "and?"

Gourry tilted his head to the side in confusion and blinked, echoing, "and?"

"And you would have married her?" Lina questioned with anger rising into her voice.

"Oh," Gourry expressed his realization upon understanding the question. "I don't think I know her well enough to think about that. I mean, she's my friend, but you've been my friend for a lot longer."

Gourry's logic seemed severely flawed to Lina. "Amelia has been your friend for a long time too," she pointed out.

"Yes," Gourry agreed and before Lina could shoot another exasperated impatient glare his way, he added, "but Amelia is in love with Zelgadis." The way he said it was as if it was the most obvious thing.

Lina paused and took in his words, "I guess she is..." she admitted, it was indeed very clear. "Zelgadis is obviously in love with Amelia too, but I wonder how he'll act as soon as this vacation is over. Amelia will have to return to Seyruun eventually and Zel is still stuck on finding his cure."

"A long distance relationship?" Gourry inquired. "I guess that could work, Zelgadis could go visit and stuff."

"I suppose," Lina agreed, "and Amelia is patient enough to wait for him." She realized then that they were getting severely off topic. "Wait a minute; this wasn't what we were talking about!"

Cue Gourry's short term memory, "it wasn't?"

"No it wasn't!" Lina snapped. "We were talking about you," 'and your possible brides,' she decided to add the last part only mentally. "What about Sylphiel?" Before Gourry could cluelessly ask 'what about her,' Lina elaborated. "You've known Sylphiel for longer than me, would you marry her?"

Gourry blinked in confusion, "aren't we already married? No one in my family has gotten married with two people at the same time."

Lina's face turned scarlet in a mixture of embarrassment and annoyance. "That's not the point!" She took in long ragged breaths as she tried to fight with herself to explain her question. "If we weren't married-"

Gourry interrupted with a worried expression, "you want to get a divorce already? Did I make you mad? Am I a bad husband?"

Lina stared at the floor, her whole body shaking in embarrassed anger. She pushed herself to continue, "if Sylphiel had asked you to marry her before you met me, would you have?"

Gourry appeared to give it some serious thought and finally replied, "I don't know. I guess I can't really imagine what things would be like if we haven't met. Back then, I was in the middle of a journey to improve my swordsmanship. I think it might have been too soon to think of marriage."

"So..." Lina focused on her breathing as she tried to get her voice to function. "Do you... do you love... Sylphiel?"

"Of course I do," Gourry smiled innocently.

"What?" Lina had to look up from the floor and stare at Gourry with an indescribable expression that was a mix of many contradicting emotions.

"I care about all my friends," Gourry's smile never faltered.

Lina sighed in exasperation, "of course you do." This conversation was clearly going in circles. Maybe Gourry had no idea what he was getting into, thus pretending it never happened would be easier than she thought. Unless Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, or worse yet, Xellos, decided to bring it up. Then Lina would be mortified.

"You know," Gourry started randomly, with a blank look that hinted that he wasn't going to say anything intelligent, yet that look could be deceiving. "I'm glad it was you I ended up getting married to."

"What do you mean by that?" Lina stammered red faced.

"Well, we're always together anyway and I'm your protector, right?" Gourry tried to logically explain his train of thought, which seldom followed logic anyway. "I was already planning to travel with you for the rest of my life, unless you went and kicked me out of the group or something. So why not? We make a good pair, don't you think?" There was a moment of silence. "Lina?" He looked at her curiously; it appeared that steam was coming from her ears as her face glowed like flames. Gourry gently placed his hand on Lina's forehead and quickly drew it back. "Whoa, you have a high fever!" He tried to use the now empty tray, which carried Lina's snack before, as a fan to compliment the natural soft breeze before Lina over-heated and collapsed.

"Gourry," Lina finally managed to make her voice work. "I... I don't think... I mean... It's so soon... It's so sudden... I'm... I'm not... I'm not ready for marriage," she finally pushed the words out.

"Oh," Gourry looked as if he would ask 'if you weren't ready for marriage, then why did you marry me?' but he didn't. Lina was known to change her mind at a seemingly random pace and Gourry could be patient with her. "That's okay, we can just go back to the way things were."

Yes, they could, Lina had thought of that. She felt a wave of relief when Gourry agreed to let that happen, yet she wasn't satisfied with his easy agreement. Didn't he start asking for an explanation when he thought she wanted a divorce not long ago? "About the marriage..."

Gourry shrugged, "we can just leave it as it is. You know, stay married but live like we always do, until you feel like living like married people."

Gourry's suggested plan of action caused Lina's blood to rush to her face yet again. If that kept on happening, she feared that her face would forever be a glowing red flame while the rest of her body was pale. She pushed away any thoughts concerning the life of married people and tried to focus on the fact that things could go back to normal. Yet one detail stood out to her, "so... you're okay with being married to me? You don't want to get a divorce?"

Gourry frowned, showing that he wasn't too fond of the idea of getting a divorce, but was willing to accept Lina's choice nonetheless. "Not unless you want to."

"It's okay," Lina finally agreed, her eyes once again gazing at the floor. "I guess we could just stay married and continued living normally for an undisclosed period of time."

"Undisclosed?" Gourry looked confused.

Lina tried to explain it without blushing, this had nothing to do with the situation, it was just another instance of Gourry's limited vocabulary. "I mean that I don't know for how long we'll be... engaged, before we... act married." She wasn't sure if she could even call it an engagement, but it seemed like the term that could most closely describe their agreement to remain married without living the life most would expect from a married couple.

"Okay," Gourry smiled, satisfied with the final choice on the matter.

"Right," Lina tried to calm her wildly beating heart. It had not yet fully sunk in that she was engaged, even if the point was for things to go back to normal. "I'm kind of tired so-" her sentence was interrupted by fireworks in the distance, they were painting the skies in abundant shining colors right above the north dome. She glanced at Gourry from the corner of her eyes and saw that his attention had been captivated by the far away lights. This was the typical Gourry getting easily distracted and maintaining a carefree attitude about everything.

Lina smiled despite all the embarrassment she had to endure that night. She could bear to stay awake for a while longer. They could watch the fireworks and afterwards go their separate ways to get some rest in their respective rooms. If in the morning any of their roommates dared to say anything about their apparent lack of honeymoon activities in their wedding night, Lina would shove a fireball in their face and that should keep any further comments at bay. Life isn't so hard once one has a plan to face the possible upcoming problems. Life is even easier when that plan is as simple as decimating your troubles with fireballs.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 018: Indirect! Going In Circles

Filia hurried down the stairs outside of the north dome. In her haste, she tripped over her own feet, her eyes catching sight of something or someone at the base of the stairs before her attention went to the arm that was suddenly around her waist. She looked back at Xellos, who was standing behind her, stopping her from falling head first down the stairs. "You tripped me," she accused with little energy.

The once crowded area in front of the north dome was deserted. All those who wished to go to the ball were inside and those who wished to leave early were gone. The ones that stayed until the end would not leave in the middle of the fireworks display, thus Xellos and Filia were alone, except for that suspicious person on the bottom of the stairs slowly making his way up leaving a rather nasty trail of blood on each step. It didn't look like he had fallen down the stairs though.

"No I didn't," Xellos stated simply as a delayed response to Filia's accusation. His eyes trailed from the suspicious person back to Filia, his arm still around her waist. "I saved you from falling down the stairs and cracking your skull like a clumsy dragon," he added an extra dose of cheer into the part about cracking her skull.

"You can let go now," Filia took his arm, roughly removing it from her waist. She couldn't wait for the disastrous night to end. Amelia and Zelgadis were having a great time, Lina and Gourry got married, she was the only miserable one and Xellos must be really enjoying her misery. She faced forward and saw a most disturbing yet oddly reassuring sight. "It's him..." She let out a breath that could almost be described as dreamy, relieved and guilty all at once. Then she tore herself away from her momentarily frozen position and dashed down the stairs kneeling beside the man that Xellos identified as suspicious. "Phythan!"

He didn't say anything, he didn't even look up, he was trying to drag himself up the stairs as if in a trance. Filia wrapped her arms around the injured golden dragon. His eyes landed on her for a second and there was the shadow of recognition, he looked past her at the dome and the fireworks, then back at her. His eyes were clouded, "Fi... lia..." then he passed out from his injuries.

Xellos was standing beside Filia before she even knew it. "Who's that?" He peeked curiously over her shoulder. "Is he an old friend from your previous occupation, maybe? He looks like he was beaten quite badly. He's bleeding all over your dress too, how rude, not that I'm surprised that a golden dragon would have so little consideration."

"You monster!" As Phythan lost consciousness, Filia sat on the stairs with Phythan half on her lap and desperately casted a healing spell. "You did this!" Tears flowed freely from her eyes as she pushed all her healing energy out.

"How could I have done this if I was with you the whole time?" Xellos innocently pointed out, showing a noticeable amount of nonchalance towards the dilemma.

"You did it when you left; it's all your fault!" Filia continued pushing her healing powers to the limit. Something was off, Phythan was absorbing the healing energy, but at the same time becoming weaker as he did. The physical wounds were closing, but his life energy was diminishing with each pulsation of healing energy. At the same time, his life force wasn't completely giving up, it was clinging to something to stay alive, but it wasn't the spell.

"If I wanted to kill a golden dragon, I would be far neater than this," Xellos pointed out with a smile. "I'm not such a mediocre killer," he chirped.

"Get Amelia!" Filia felt her anger for Xellos becoming deeper. He was the one who killed many of her race during the war of the monster's fall. Even so, she somehow knew that he was telling the truth about not being responsible for this particular incidence. She was mostly accusing him out of frustration, worry, and because it felt natural to throw the blame at Xellos.

"Why should I?" Xellos was annoyingly unresponsive to the urgency of the matter, instead savoring the desperation. He focused on Filia, mostly ignoring the dying golden dragon.

"Get Amelia now!" Filia insisted, she couldn't move from her position and she couldn't finish the healing process alone, not with such a deep bleeding wound. "Please Xellos, just get her."

Filia's attention was focused on the injured golden dragon even when she was yelling at him. Feeling somewhat ignored, Xellos disappeared with a huff, "get her yourself."

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia and Zelgadis stood next to each other at the dome. They watched the sparks of multicolor lights through the glass ceiling and enjoyed the show. Amelia linked her arm with Zelgadis, her head lightly resting on his shoulder. He noticed of course, and dared not move an inch, though he very much enjoyed the moment. Then that annoying voice interrupted, "excuse me, Miss Amelia."

Amelia looked at the grinning Xellos, while Zelgadis, in contrast, glared at the grinning Xellos. "Yes?" Amelia wondered what this was about and where Filia had gone off to, since she and Xellos were together when Amelia last saw them.

"It seems Filia has run into an old compatriot of hers who happens to be mortally wounded." Xellos smiled brightly, his voice coated with delight. "He's doing a fine job of ruining her pretty dress with his blood; I must say that's quite rude of him. But alas, Filia insist on saving his worthless life and is asking for your assistance in healing him. Of course, I'm sure you'd rather not go. The fireworks are so lovely to look at from here."

The size of Amelia's wide eyed gaze grew with every word Xellos spoke. "Where are they?" She demanded, close to taking Xellos by the shoulders and shaking him for information.

"Just outside on the stairs, but I don't think it's worth your time." Before Xellos had finished his sentence, Amelia was already dashing past him, pushing her way through the crowd, ignoring the complaints of those she hurriedly shoved aside.

"If you're lying..." Zelgadis didn't bother finishing his threat, his glare said it all. He followed Amelia through the crowd.

"Why is everyone having such rotten luck today?" Xellos stated more so to himself than anyone else, as Zelgadis disappeared through the crowd in the same way Amelia did seconds prior. He hated to admit it, but he had to include himself in that statement.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Miss Filia!" Amelia hurried down the stairs, nearly falling, "levitation!" She went the rest of the way to meet Filia in the middle of the stairs and wasted no time in joining the recovery spell.

"Amelia, I'm so glad you're here, it works but it doesn't. The wound is too deep, even recovery spells are too harsh, I don't understand," Filia cried.

"We can do this, don't give up! Think positive!" Amelia tried to remain optimistic.

Phythan's eyes opened for a moment, they were blood red, almost glowing, "helplessness... desperation... sorrow..." He gasped as if being choked, closing his eyes tightly. When he opened them again they were brown. He looked at Filia and Amelia, staring at each of them for a long moment. There wasn't even the smallest hint of recognition in his eyes before they closed.

Filia didn't know what to make of Phythan's words, she was so focused that she didn't even notice the change in his eyes and neither did Amelia. The two could only feel their own energy flowing out of their bodies.

"Amelia! Filia!" Zelgadis caught up to them, kneeling beside the group. He casted a healing spell, just as Amelia had explained it to him during their travels.

"We're making progress!" Amelia noticed. She attributed it to the combined strength of their healing spells.

Finally, a few excruciatingly long seconds later, the wounds were completely healed and Phythan's breathing and heart rate stabilized considerably. "You're going to be okay." Filia breathed, she didn't know if Phythan could hear her or not, as he was left in a deep slumber after recovering, but she was in part saying those things to assure herself.

"Of course he will," Amelia caught the hint of doubt in Filia's voice, hiding behind the heavy curtain of exhaustion. "He's alright now," she emphasized, "everything will be alright."

Zelgadis felt the need to interrupt the talk of positivism in order to ask a very valid and important question. "Who is he and who did this to him?"

Filia brushed Phythan's golden hair with her tired fingers. "His name is Phythan; he's a golden dragon like myself, though he comes from a different temple. I met him at the resort."

Realization donned on Amelia as she took a closer look at Filia's date. She thought that if she ever came across him she would have to give him a piece of her mind for leaving poor Filia waiting for him at the ball. Yet sustaining a mortal wound and being dragged back to life after being an inch away from death was a relatively good excuse for missing a date. "Mr. Phythan..." Amelia examined his now still expression, wondering what kind of person he was.

Zelgadis simply looked confused. "Who exactly is Phythan? I mean aside from being a golden dragon."

"He's a special someone to Miss Filia!" Amelia answered for her with a dreamy expression suddenly invading her face despite the morbid state of affairs they appeared to be in.

"I see..." Zelgadis wisely decided not to further inquire about that line of thought.

Filia blushed and didn't confirm or deny anything, instead following Zelgadis' visual prompt to provide more information, specifically in relation to his second question. "I don't know who hurt him, but strange things have been going on in this resort. I've ran into a few monsters and I mean other than Xellos."

"I do think it's strange that Xellos would invite us on vacation. I was suspicious from the start," Zelgadis adamantly pointed out.

Amelia looked disappointed, "then Mr. Xellos isn't trying to be friendly? There's another plot from the monster race going on?"

"Most likely," Zelgadis agreed. "I mean, why would Xellos bring us here? There must be something he needs us to do. There might be an enemy hiding here, someone that he needs Lina to help him exterminate. It wouldn't be the first time something like that happens."

"I guess you're right," Amelia sighed, accepting the likely theory. "Let's be on our guard. For now, we should take Mr. Phythan somewhere to rest. We still have that extra room they gave us at the hotel and he'll be next door to us just in case."

"Yes..." Filia accepted the suggestion. "I suppose that's all we can do for now. When Phythan wakes up, he should be able to tell us something."

Thus Filia, Amelia, Zelgadis and the unconscious Phythan, whom Zelgadis ended up having to carry, made their way back to the hotel. They would have to inform Lina and Gourry about the recent happenings and their suspicions, even if it was a pity to interrupt their honeymoon.

xoxox xox xoxox

The night time hotel receptionist looked up from her desk at the sound of footsteps. She was very bored since people hardly came and went after a certain hour, though there were many attractions at the resort that were available twenty-four hours a day, such as the casino. Unlike most nights, one semi-interesting thing had happened tonight. A rather handsome blond man was carrying a red haired woman who kept throwing a hissy fit. It was a funny scene, as usually when a bride is carried away by her very attractive husband, she doesn't complain like that.

Now another highlight was added to her shift as her eyes glanced curiously at the quartet of guests. The hotel receptionist blinked, wondering if the dress the blond lady was wearing was supposed to have such a big red stain on it or not. Either way, the most amusing part was the man who was carrying that other man on his back. Maybe they were drunken buddies. They didn't say anything to her and she didn't say anything to them. After they were gone, she let out a bored breath and continued waiting out her shift.

Once they had gotten up the stairs, Filia, Amelia, Zelgadis and his unconscious passenger, Phythan, stopped in front of the door to the apparently unoccupied room. "Wait..." Amelia started unsure, her face taking a rosy red tint. "What if Miss Lina and Mr. Gourry have decided to move out of their current rooms and use this one instead? I mean, they're married so there's no reason for them to do the girls in one room and guys in another thing... right?"

A moment of silence paused as Zelgadis blushed. He couldn't imagine it and he didn't want to. "Do you... hear anything?" He finally inquired doubtfully.

Another moment of silence passed until Filia drew in a deep breath of courage and placed her pointy ear against the door. "I don't hear anything..."

Then the sound of an amused conversation was heard, but it wasn't coming from the vacant room. Lina and Gourry made their way through the hall, coming from the stairs that let to the roof. Amidst the occasional yawn, they were talking about how much the fireworks reminded them of kompeito. They stopped and looked at their friends. Lina shifted uncomfortably because she thought they were going to say something about her unexpected wedding. "Um... hey, everyone!" She tried to act natural and failed miserably. "Nice party, huh? Good food..."

"Miss Lina," Amelia began as gently as possible, "I'm afraid there's a most pressing matter that might cause you the need to postpone your honeymoon with Mr. Gourry."

Lina's face turned scarlet, "honeymoon..." was all she could say. Even if she expected this to be difficult and even if she had a plan, Lina was simply too restless to pull through with it. She took a deep breath and tried to focus on the plan. "Fireball... fireball..." she chanted under her breath as if giving herself a pep talk. Then she took a deep breath and decided to give her traveling companions a clear warning. "If anyone decides to tease me about my marriage I'm going to throw a fireball in their face no matter who it is!" She shouted at the top of her lungs, making Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis back away cautiously.

Gourry laughed nervously and decided to rescue Lina. She was shy sometimes, but he was okay with that and could be more perceptive on certain occasions than he was given credit for. "What Lina means is that we're not married, we're engaged and we're going to keep living as usual until an un-this-closed thing..."

Trying to keep her temper in check and the flow of her blood visiting parts of her besides her face, Lina did a super fast mental count to ten. "What he means is that everything is normal and nothing is out of the ordinary. In other words there's nothing to discuss and no reason why we should discuss it."

Amelia opened her mouth to point out that an engagement, even if it wasn't a marriage, was something to discuss in itself, but thought better of it and promptly closed her mouth before any sounds escaped. Instead she nodded quietly along with Zelgadis and Filia.

"Good," Lina nodded back, "well, it's been a busy day, so I'm going to get some rest." She paused noticing the fact that Zelgadis was carrying a man on his back. "Who's your friend, Zel?"

"Filia's boyfriend," Zelgadis replied on automatic, his brain not having yet recovered from the notion of danger in the face of a furious Lina, to the realization of relief in the knowledge that as long as she wasn't teased, she wouldn't get violent, or at least not more so than usual.

Filia blushed and slightly shook her head, "not quite," she corrected with relative calm. "This is Phythan, we were supposed to go to the masquerade ball together, but he couldn't attend because he was mortally wounded. Amelia and Zelgadis helped me heal him. Now we need a place for him to rest. We can ask him about what happened after he wakes up."

"So this is Phythan," Lina curiously went over to have a better look. She was at least glad that the topic of their conversation had shifted away from her, but she was already dreading the interruption to her vacation. It sounded like trouble was near.

"Can I put him down in the spare room?" Zelgadis inquired. Honestly, he just wanted to put his slumbering cargo down anywhere.

"Sure," Lina shrugged and watched as Amelia opened the door and Zelgadis carried the unconscious golden dragon inside.

Once Phythan was on the bed, Filia fluffed up his pillow and placed the covers over him. "Xellos might know what's going on. In fact, it's almost a given that he knows. Strange things have been happening around here and Xellos keeps coming and going." Filia frowned, glaring at the walls as if she was glaring at Xellos.

Lina nodded in agreement with the theory. "We'll have to ask Xellos about it tomorrow," then she shook her head. "What am I saying? All that we can possibly get out of asking Xellos for information is a lame 'that's a secret' excuse. I suppose if Phythan has some useful information for us, we can use that to figure out what's going on and maybe we'll even be able to help him with his problem and get a reward." It was expected of Lina to want a reward, so the statement was met with no surprise from anyone. "On the other hand, if Phythan doesn't have enough information for us, our best option would be to carry on as if this never happened."

"We can't do that!" Filia exclaimed with frustrated indignation. She couldn't pull the Luna card on Lina anymore as this wasn't an official mission.

"Mr. Phythan is in need of our help to defend against the forces of evil. Any agent of justice would be happy to assist him!" Amelia valiantly declared, with the particular heroic tone of her justice speeches, raising her fist into the air.

"I'm not saying we should abandon him," Lina defended. "I'm just saying that if we have no leads, then we'll be wasting our time going in circles about what we should do. If there really is a plot at hand, it will be revealed in due time and whoever is behind it will learn the hard way not to mess with Lina Inverse!"

Lina's declaration didn't leave any room for argument from the rest of the group as they exchanged glances and nods. Somehow, their adventures always began as a series of inevitable incidents that they tried to ignore as they went about their business, only to eventually be sucked into some kind of secret conspiracy, a plot for vengeance, world domination or something to that effect. For the time being, they retired to their respective rooms to get some much needed sleep. They would give the situation some further thought the next day.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 019: Avoidance! Dancing Around The Issues

Filia, Lina and Amelia retreated to their room and Zelgadis and Gourry to theirs. Gourry slept soundly as he was too dense to worry about anything. Zelgadis stared at the dark ceiling for a while, but soon allowed sleep to overtake him while listening to the sounds of Gourry's snoring. It was business as usual, Zelgadis mused, when was he not in the middle of something troublesome? There was no need to make a fuss over such an almost common occurrence.

Amelia stayed positive and allowed sleep to fall upon her, attracting pleasant dreams with the power of positive thinking. Lina was too tired to have any encounters with insomnia, thus she was out like a light as soon as her head hit the pillow. Filia was the first to have changed out of her ruined dress, gotten cleaned up and into her comfy night gown, but she was by far the last to fall asleep. She tossed and turned in worry, until finally, exhaustion led to a restless slumber.

The sun came up, morning invading the resort lacking its usual brightness. Heavy rain fell upon the land even if the streets were just as busy with a rainbow of umbrellas all around. The rain made the atmosphere cold and further zapped away the motivation from those who were already lacking the desire to get up.

It wasn't until mid-day when Amelia got out of bed and started singing loudly and cheerfully to balance out the gloomy mood in the air. The action woke Lina, who was positively starving, and Filia, who was plagued by tiredness and bloodshot eyes. With Amelia ready to face a new day with the power of justice on her side, Lina rushed to get ready and hurried downstairs for brunch, a meal that would combined the breakfast she missed with the lunch which was about time to eat, no way was she skipping on either one.

Filia was the last of the women to drag herself out of bed like a zombie and get herself somewhat ready to face a new day. She peeked into Phythan's room and found that he was still fast asleep, then headed downstairs. She hoped some food would give her a little much needed energy.

As usual, Lina and Gourry were stuffing their faces at their own table that no one dared to invade for fear of losing a limb. That left Amelia and Zelgadis at the next table beside them, with Amelia giving a cheerful speech to lighten the mood, while Zelgadis and Filia half listened.

After the rather normal and uneventful brunch, during the entirety of which Xellos didn't show up, the group went to check on Phythan again, with an extra set of footsteps joining them as they went up the stairs. They turned to see a familiar purple haired man, who returned their gazes with a squinty eyes smile.

There was a collective pause until Lina, who was walking at the front of the group, turned her head forward and continued towards Phythan's room without a word. It would be a waste of time to try to get information out of Xellos anyway. Once the group was back at Phythan's room with a collective silence upon them, they stood around him and peeked over him as if he were a very strange sight.

A few seconds passed and the group ceased their collective staring with Lina adopting a pose that hinted that she was about to explain her plan of action to the group, or rather remind them about the plan of inaction that she had suggested the previous night. However, before she could say anything, Phythan's eyes opened and he looked curiously at the people around him with chocolate brown eyes.

"Phythan?" Filia stared at his face perplexed, she noticed now the change in his eye color, but couldn't explain it. He was the same person, she had no doubts. Maybe she had been distracted before, maybe it had been a trick of the light.

"You know my name," his voice was the same but his words made no sense. "Who are you? What happened to me? This room..." He sat up slowly on the bed and tried to look beyond the group at the room he was in. "Where am I?"

Another collective pause passed until Lina loudly declared in a voice full of frustration, "you have got to be kidding me!" Her palm met her face, running down from her forehead to her chin. "So he finally wakes up and now he has amnesia?"

"How inconvenient," Xellos chirped, hiding any hint of annoyance very well. "I was curious about what happened too."

"You're going to tell us you don't know?" Zelgadis stated a rhetorical question. It didn't matter what Xellos answered to it, a conclusion about that had already been reached.

"It is the truth this time," Xellos' smile never faltered even if he knew they didn't believe him. It wouldn't actually make a difference if they did.

Phythan examined each person's face with curiosity; he looked at Filia who lacked her hat. Her ears were clearly visible, but for a golden dragon, she could not be mixed up with an elf, for they could recognize their own kind. "You're a golden dragon," he stated simply, as if grasping the obvious facts would help him understand what was going on. "You know my name," he continued, making a pause and watching for any reactions from the golden dragon lady.

Filia nodded, "I found you injured last night. Amelia, Zelgadis and I healed you," she motioned towards each person as she spoke their names. "Then we brought you here, Lina and Gourry are also part of our group." Lina clearing her throat interrupted Filia's introductions. "Lina is the leader," she clarified, which seemed to satisfy the redhead. She skipped over Xellos' introduction on purpose. "Before you passed out last night you said my name, Filia."

"I did?" Phythan looked confused. He didn't want to question his saviors, but he didn't recognize Filia or any of the others. "I'm sorry, I don't remember you. I apologize for that and I thank you for helping me."

"Do you remember anything at all about how you got injured?" Lina tried one more time. Maybe his amnesia wasn't total, maybe he could remember a tiny image of the events that took place which would serve as a clue.

"Yes," the certainty in Phythan's voice took everyone by surprise. "A monster snuck into the temple to steal the treasure we were tasked with guarding. I fought the monster and..." Phythan tried hard to focus but all he got for his efforts was a headache. "That's all I remember." He took a look around the room again. "This place doesn't look like a golden dragon temple. Is this in one of the nearby towns close to the Fire Dragon temple?"

"The Fire Dragon temple?" Filia repeated in confusion. The followers of the fire Dragon had been exterminated some time ago. Furthermore, she didn't know what that treasure he mentioned was. He was clearly confused, his words made no sense. "I think... I think your memories might be a bit jumbled up." Filia tried to explain it as gently as she could.

Phythan looked genuinely confused. "What do you mean?"

Xellos chose that moment to speak up and deliver a direct explanation, decorated with a cheerful tone. "The dragons of that temple were mass murdered some time ago."

Phythan stared in shock for a few seconds as if an invisible time bomb was ticking, as his face became red with anger. "You're lying," he stated flatly with a glare that some would call worthy of the biggest righteous fury and others would describe as the look of murderous intent. It was all in the contrast of perspectives really.

Xellos smiled, his expression screaming 'you poor ignorant dragon' as he shook his head lightly. "Filia, would you care to accept or deny my claim? Maybe this poor fool will understand if he hears it from a member of his own flawed hypocritical species."

Filia couldn't say anything. The errors of her people were being thrown in her face in the middle of her confusion. Phythan wasn't from the Fire Dragon temple; Filia had never met him before he ran into her at the resort. Was he lying or just confused? She was already too worried, disturbed and lost to articulate a single word before Xellos added old guilt and bitterness into the mix. She just froze, expressionless, like a statue.

"Nothing to say?" Xellos prodded with the raise of an eyebrow, one eye open, the other remaining in its usual squinting fashion.

"Who are you?" Phythan demanded with an angry glare.

"Oh, that's right, rude Filia didn't introduce me before." Xellos criticized her in hopes of getting some form of reaction out of her. Her temperamental side was familiar and enjoyable, but her frozen state bothered him for reasons he could not explain. "My name is Xellos, I'm a monster allied to the great Beast Master Zelas, pleased to meet you." He stuck out his hand in a business-like manner, knowing full well that his words didn't exactly set the mood for a friendly handshake.

Phythan looked positively horrified as he predictably slapped Xellos' hand away. "You're a monster!" He loudly declared, standing on the bed and pointing at Xellos. "I'm not exactly sure what's going on, but I know it's your fault you fiend!"

"Spoken like a true golden dragon," Xellos rolled his eyes dismissively. This was much more fun when Filia did it. "Are you a relative of Filia or something?"

He wasn't, but Phythan's automatic response was, "there's no reason why I should reveal that to you!" He didn't stop pointing at Xellos the whole time. "Terrible fiend, justice will prevail over you by my hand, in the name of the Water Dragon!" Those who, unlike Filia, were not in a catatonic state, noticed a bit of a contradiction in relation to the fire and water dragons, which one did he serve anyway? Additionally, Amelia was smiling with admiration, inspired by the declaration of justice. "Vile creature, you will be defeated!" With that final declaration of war against Xellos, Phythan was surrounded by a golden glow and began his transformation into dragon form.

Amelia's jaw dropped, her face red in embarrassment. She had been so transfixed by the justice speech that she had no time to respectfully look away. Zelgadis covered her eyes while scolding Phythan. "You can't transform like that when there are people watching!" But the angry golden dragon was not listening.

Lina opened her mouth to say something along the lines of pointing out the trouble that had just started full force, but her throat produced no sound waves. "Um... Lina, maybe we should look away." Gourry pointed out while tapping her on the shoulder with continual insistence.

"Maybe we should run away!" Lina screamed, regaining her ability to move.

The catatonic Filia seemed to wake up, looking in every direction frantically before resolving to join the others in levitating out the window. Phythan grew to his full size, which was smaller than Filia's dragon form, but still too large to fit in the room, thus he effectively destroyed a good portion of the hotel. Guests ran around like ants in the streets below, pointing at the commotion atop the remains of the structure. Some were slightly alarmed, but most thought it was part of the show. In that strange resort everything was part of the show, unless otherwise stated and no one had specified that this was real danger yet.

"Oh my, if I didn't know any better, I would think you were picking a fight." Xellos grinned maliciously, both eyes open now. "I'm sure that's a silly thought, after all, I am Xellos, as in the one who massacred countless of your race and you can never hope to defeat. Ah well, what's one more?"

Phythan looked very much like he was pouting and Xellos half expected him to shout, 'meanie-head' or 'you big dumb-dumb' at him or some other such playground remark. His pouting continued for several seconds as Xellos curiously waited for his last words that never came, unless the sound he made counted as a word which was along the lines of 'chomp!' Xellos was now in his mouth.

Zelgadis' eyes were open wide, Amelia didn't know if she should cheer or not, Lina pointed in disbelief and Gourry was confused, but that was nothing new. Filia's reaction was the loudest as she screamed an agonized, "no!" and transformed into her own dragon form, ramming into Phythan from behind, causing him to spit out the purple haired monster, who looked none too pleased.

"I have to say, that was original," Xellos felt his eye twitch in annoyance as he faded into the astral side covered in dragon spit and reappeared perfectly clean. "Creative, but terribly unpleasant, basic, yet classic, I was waiting for the laser breath after the insult, but you weren't opening your mouth to negotiate, so typical of a senseless violent creature." Xellos had his teeth clenched, his eyes glaring, he was pissed off and that meant big trouble. "I guess I should show you the same discourtesy with a painful annihilation." Xellos paused dramatically, then realized that no one was actually listening to him.

Phythan was coughing up a storm and making what could only be described as a combination between gagging noises and growls. Filia was patting him on the back with concern, "what is it? Don't tell me you're going to spit out a purple hair ball!"

Phythan coughed some more, "no, it's just that it was really gross."

"Well, that's what you get for trying to eat a monster." Filia raised her index claw and waved it back and forth. "You can't go around putting such filthy things in your mouth; they have germs and can make you sick."

"I know, but I was angry," Phythan pouted yet again and gave Filia a sad look.

"I know you were," Filia patted him on the shoulder gently. "I was angry too, I still am in fact."

"So am I," Phythan agreed.

Xellos felt his eye twitching violently some more. "What part of certain doom don't you understand, you stupid dragon? Filia, get out of the way so I can decimate that idiot! Why are you babying him anyway? He's not a toddler!"

"Don't try to boss me around you piece of raw garbage!" Filia shot back. "I'm not letting you hurt Phythan, if you want to lay one of your filthy monster fingers on him, you'll have to get through me first!"

Phythan looked at Filia curiously before loudly declaring, "comrade!" and raising his claw into a fist in mid air. "My honorable golden dragon compatriot, let us fight for justice together!"

At that point Amelia's eyes began to shine dreamily and she floated closer to the golden dragon. "Justice!" She blissfully declared, happy to have found someone who shared her passion for justice.

"Yes, justice! You may also join our noble cause if you wish, my honorable human friend," Phythan gladly welcomed Amelia into the group.

"What in the world?" Zelgadis wasn't even sure of how to voice his confusion.

"No, no, no!" Filia shouted, her voice rising in volume with each syllable. Phythan was acting completely different from before, something was definitely amiss. "What we need to do is calm down and discuss things in an orderly fashion. People are staring at us and..." she stopped as horror crept into her face in slow motion. She looked at the ever growing crowd below. "People are staring," Filia repeated in a panic, "people are staring, people were staring, people have been staring all along!"

Phythan looked confused as to why people staring would be a bad thing. "It's good that they are here to witness justice in action. This is a fine opportunity to inspire the masses to pursue the wonderful path of justice!" He cheered.

"Mr. Phythan is right!" Amelia joyfully declared.

"Ah!" Filia screamed at the top of her lungs, a blast of laser energy escaping her and tearing through the cloud filled skies, barely diminished by the falling rain. "They saw me transform!"

"So?" Phythan tilted his head to the side in confusion, with an expression that was disturbingly similar to Gourry's. Witnessing this, Xellos twitched some more. Phythan yelled at him like Filia, gave justice speeches like Amelia and missed the point like Gourry. If he started acting like Lina too, that would be the last drop on the already overflowing glass of vexation.

"Have you no decency?" Filia screeched, before flying away in tears that mixed with the falling rain.

"Miss Filia!" Worried about her, Amelia flew off after the distressed dragon.

Zelgadis looked around at a loss and finally flew off after Amelia, "wait for me!" He had no clue of how in the world things had gotten to this point, as if the level of unexpected weirdness had just hit an all time high.

Xellos felt a vein began to protuberate on his forehead and considered killing off Phythan there and then. He clenched his teeth and glared, before flying away in the direction Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis had taken.

Phythan watched them disappear in the distance and blinked in confusion, "Miss Lina, was it?" He looked at the red-haired levitating human girl. "Would you mind explaining to me what just happen? Did the monster retreat or something?"

Once again, Lina's hand met her forehead and slid down her face to her chin. She looked at Phythan, she looked at Gourry and she looked at the cheering people below, most of which had discarded their multicolored umbrellas to get a better view of the show above. Finalizing her assessment of the situation, Lina concluded beyond the shadow of a doubt, "I'm surrounded by idiots." After a moment's pause, during which the two idiots in mid air, one of which, namely Gourry, was holding on to her leg to stay in mid air, Lina floated towards Phythan. She deposited Gourry on his back, then saddled in herself and pointed in the direction the others had gone in, dramatically declaring with more flare than necessary, "after them!"

Happy to have been given direction in his confusion, Phythan gladly accepted the command, "yes, ma'am!" He flew after the group, which had faded away in the distance with the rain relentlessly beating down on him and his passengers.

Lina glared forward. Trouble tended to come with plenty of company behind it. She had heard people say that married life is tough and though she had settled for just being engaged and this had nothing to do with her marriage, she never imagine things would be this tough. She looked to the skies that didn't appear to have the slightest intension of ceasing their downpour. Strange things were happening, their only possible clue made no sense and Xellos appeared to be rather upset, which could only mean more bad news, perhaps the worse of news. "When it rains, it pours!" Lina crossed her arms begrudgingly, shifting a little too suddenly for someone sitting atop a fast flying dragon with slippery wet scales. As a result she almost slipped off, albeit Gourry stopped her from falling.

"We better hang on so we don't fall off," Gourry advised what was to him a genius suggestion, though it should have been common sense to anyone else. He wrapped one arm around Lina's waist, keeping the other on Phythan's back for balance. She blushed, but didn't say anything, merely hoping that the rain somehow miraculously covered her red face.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 020: Unstoppable! Allies of Justice

In the distance past the north dome, there was a dark misty forest with a small cave in the middle of it. Filia had transformed back into her human form and was huddled up in that little cave protected from the rain but not from her own conscience. Her life was a mess, a very embarrassing mess.

It wasn't too long before Amelia caught up to Filia and landed in the spot where the golden glow had faded. She looked around, spotting a figure in the dimness of the small cave, which was not deep enough to be pitch-black, though the entire forest was a little dark due to the weather and thick trees. The princess hurried to the cave, kneeling beside the ball of self pity that was her friend. "Aw, don't cry Miss Filia," she hugged her gently and rubbed a soothing hand on her back like a mother consoling a crying child. "There, there, it's going to be alright."

"No it's not," Filia sobbed. "There's some kind of evil plot going on and I've already embarrassed myself more during my stay in this resort than I have over the course of my whole life!"

"It's not so bad," Amelia tried to comfort Filia, though in retrospect her chosen words might not have been the most reassuring. "It's not like this is the first time you've transformed in public. Besides, look at Phythan," Amelia blushed at the memory, "he transformed in front of all of us and didn't seem to be bothered by it."

Filia huffed in indignation, "he has no modesty!" Having transformed in front of people wasn't her only humiliation during the time spent at the resort. At least her friends didn't know about all the incidents that had occurred concerning Xellos. He had not thrown them at her face in a public way yet, but he might be waiting for the right time, or rather, the worse time, to do so. She sighed, going back to the topic of Phythan, "he's acting so different, this isn't the Phythan I met that day, even though I'm sure it's the same person." It wasn't a long lost twin or look alike, his energy held the same essence and his scent remained unchanged, it was just something that another golden dragon could perceive beyond how a human would see it.

"I'm sure he'll recover and be the same as ever," Amelia continued trying to stay positive.

"There you are," Xellos' voice came from the small cave entrance as he walked in out of the rain. "Are you having a moment of bonding between girls? Should I come back later?" He teased.

"Xellos!" Filia dried her tears so that her glare could glow in its full fury. "What in the world is going on? What are the monsters planning? What did they do to Phythan? Answer me!" She demanded.

Xellos' eyes flickered into something akin to frustration for only a tiny moment, before he put on his painted smile and lifted his right index finger. "That is a secret," the tone of mockery was lacking the usual smugness lightly.

Filia's eyes went wide in horror, "you don't know," her voice was a whisper of fear before her tone reached an all out panic. "You don't know!"

Xellos frowned, he didn't want to, but his face moved on its own. "I will find out," he declared with the outmost certainty.

Amelia looked back and forth between Xellos and Filia. If Xellos was in the dark about whatever secret plot was at hand, then things must be really complicated. She weighed her words in her mind, wondering what she could say to defuse the tension in the air. Yet she remained speechless until a thud was heard outside the cave.

"We finally found them," Lina hopped off Phythan's back, accompanied by Gourry. It was then that Amelia noticed Zelgadis standing to the side of the cave and realized she had not seen his quiet arrival before. "Alright, I want some explanations and I want them now!" Lina stomped her way into the cave, where the entire group minus the dragon form Phythan barely fit.

Phythan and Xellos were automatically caught in a staring contest that Filia hurried to end. "Listen up you two; I will have none of this!" She stood between them with her arms outstretched left and right, palms facing the two men, or the dragon and monster. "Phythan, I know Xellos is a horrible monster, but we don't have the strength to kill him." Filia's face was adorned with a sour look as she admitted it. "Xellos," she paused, searching for a proper excuse as to why he shouldn't kill Phythan. Finding none, she simply finished with, "just let it go."

"No," Xellos firmly declared, his eyes open, expression predatory.

Filia was unfazed in the fear department, though in terms of anger, she returned the glare full force, her dragon fangs peeking out of her mouth as she insisted, "let it go." A moment of silence passed while Filia and Xellos glared at each other until she stomped her feet firmly on the ground and asserted, "if you want to harm Phythan you'll have to get through me, I already told you that before and I meant it."

Another moment of tense silence passed by until Xellos huffed and broke eye contact with Filia. "Stupid dragon, I really don't understand why you're so set on defending him, just because he's another golden dragon." The tension lessened considerably after that apparent acceptance of a truce.

Another moment of silence passed as everyone tried to calm down a little from their guarded states. Then Phythan transformed back into his human appearance, once again changing without a warning. This time Zelgadis couldn't get to Amelia on time to cover her eyes. "For crying out loud, I told you not to do that!" The chimera snapped.

Phythan gave him a confused look, "I honestly don't understand why it bothers you so much." Without giving Zelgadis or even Filia the chance to explain what the problem was, Phythan went on with his speech in a very Amelia-like tone. "My golden dragon comrade, I admire your amazing courage that even a monster dares not to challenge!"

"What?" Xellos glared in indignation, "you really have a death wish, don't you?"

Phythan ignored him and went on praising Filia. "I must say, I was very impressed by how you managed to make that monster stand down. It was almost as if you've tamed it."

"Tamed?" Xellos questioned, that annoying little vein appearing on his forehead again as his eye twitched.

"I have a long way to train if I am ever to become such a noble protector of justice as you are," Phythan bowed, showing his respect to Filia.

"I... um... that was..." Filia laughed nervously. "Think nothing of it." She cleared her throat indicating a transition in topics, but was unable to bring up the next one.

Instead a very impatient Lina stomped her feet. "Didn't anyone hear me before?" She demanded in an enraged growl. "I said I wanted answers!"

"About that, Miss Lina," Amelia tried to calm her down before the all out confrontation they were avoiding really took place. "It seems that Mr. Xellos is truly unaware of what's going on. Given Mr. Phythan's current memory problems, we really have no reliable clues as to what's happening."

Lina groaned, "that's just great," she sarcastically declared. She looked outside the little cave, noting that the rain was still pouring. "To top it all up, it won't stop raining. Well, I guess we'll have to follow plan B, inaction can be the best course of action sometimes, let the pieces fall by their own weight. Listen up everyone, here's the deal! We're all going back to the hotel, getting dried up and changed, then we'll grab some umbrellas and check out some indoor attractions. Since we're here, we might as well keep enjoying the resort." She then directed her commanding look towards Phythan, she looked like she was going to punch him in the face or worse yet, slay him. Despite being a dragon who was almost as tall as Gourry in his human form pitted against a petite human, Phythan instinctively took a step back without noticing. Then Lina's expression made a drastic change and she smiled sweetly. "You're more than welcome to come along with us, in fact, I insist that you do."

Phythan nodded eagerly, "I would be happy to join your group of crusaders of justice!"

Lina could have corrected him on the part about crusaders of justice, but chose to simply accept his reply and move on. Amelia on the other hand had her dreamy eyed expression back on her face, with a wide happy smile. "Yes, we have a new ally in the quest for justice!" She cheered.

"Anyway," Lina felt the need to move along. "Let's head on back to the-" she paused realizing something. "Oh, that's right, the hotel was destroyed. Maybe we should just flee while we can."

Phythan gasped and loudly declared, "an ally of justice never runs away!" He pointed at what he thought was the direction of the hotel, which was hard to determine in the thick forest. "I will personally return to the scene of the accident-"

"You mean temper tantrum," Xellos suddenly interrupted with his correction. If Phythan annoyed him with his very existence, he had the right to annoy him back.

"Tantrum," Phythan repeated, he paused and gave it some thought, then smiled in a disturbingly similar fashion to Xellos. "How mature of you to admit your mistake, Mr. Monster... No, Mr. Xellos, I will call you by your name acknowledging you as an individual rather than a worthless monster, because I can see your desire to change!"

"What?" Was all Xellos could mutter, thrown for a loop.

"You've been looking to Miss Filia for ways to change your evil nature, haven't you?" Phythan's eyes shone with support. "Don't worry Mr. Xellos, though the path of righteousness will be especially difficult for you to walk, we will help you get through it! The first step is accepting the facts! Oh, and I forgive you for your temper tantrum back there."

Xellos felt his entire body shake with anger. After sprouting all that ridiculous nonsense, which Amelia was now agreeing with wholeheartedly, the foolish golden dragon had the audacity to give Xellos a comforting pat on the shoulder, which was far more infuriating than it could ever be comforting. Then he turned away and focused on chatting about justice and second chances with Amelia. "I'm going to kill him," Xellos spoke slowly, emphasizing every word in the most sinister tone anyone had heard him use up to date.

Filia stepped forward and gently placed her hand on Xellos' shoulder, leaving it there. "Just let it go," there was pity mixed with confusion in her voice as she sighed hopelessly. "Poor Phythan's injuries really got to him, he wasn't this crazy before. He's not himself and I don't think it's fair to murder the clinically insane without even giving them a chance to recover." She paused and corrected herself, "actually, it's not right to murder anyone at all, not that I can easily convince a monster of that."

Xellos huffed and crossed his arms in a rare angry posture for him. He didn't make the slightest attempt to remove Filia's hand from his shoulder, which remained there. "He really pisses me off," realizing that he was letting a golden dragon get to him far more than he should, Xellos tried to regain his composure. "It doesn't matter." His false smile returned to his face, his eyes looking far less sinister once they were squinting again and in Filia's secret thoughts, a little less alluring with the amethyst irises hidden. "He's insignificant anyway. So, how do you know him? What dragon temple is he really from?"

A few feet ahead of Filia and Xellos, Lina looked back at them before waving her hand dismissively as if saying with her body language that those two could catch up at their own pace. Then Phythan offered to give them a ride. "That sounds fun." Gourry agreed in the name of the group though convenience was more so their motivation instead of fun, since riding on a dragon was a lot less fun in the rain than it was in nice weather.

At that point Zelgadis calmly took Amelia's shoulders, causing her to blush, and gently turned her over so that her back was to Phythan, then he let her go. Lina stared to the side awkwardly, keeping her eyes on a random bush until the golden glow was gone and in place of the human form of Phythan, there stood the dragon version of him. "You know, Mr. Zelgadis, I was ready to close my eyes this time." Amelia softly pointed out.

Zelgadis scratched his chin and looked slightly upward, "just making sure," he half muttered, half replied.

The group minus Filia and Xellos, who were left several feet behind, climbed onto Phythan's back and he took off. Meanwhile, Filia was trying to figure out Phythan while talking to Xellos. "I honestly don't know. He claimed to be from the fire and water temples, but that makes no sense. I mean, the temples generally get along, so having visitors from one temple go to another isn't rare. Even so, there are too many contradictions. Maybe he's a follower of the Water Dragon and is just confused."

"Yet the Water Dragon has already passed away," Xellos pointed out with the cheer of delivering good news, while communicating bad, albeit old, news for Filia.

Filia was so used to it by now that she chose not to react to his tone and instead continued normally. "Yes, but there are still some golden dragons left that pledge their alliance to the Water Dragon." She let out a breath and massaged her temples. "Unless whoever is behind all the strange things that have been happening makes a move or Phythan recovers, we're in the dark."

"Have you considered the possibility that maybe all of this is an act and that Phythan is the villain of the situation?" Xellos suggested.

Filia shook her head, "in any case, you would be the bigger villain of the situation." She pointed out with just a little bit of relaxation starting to make its way into her voice. She was unwinding even if she shouldn't be.

"True," Xellos accepted the claim sounding somewhat flattered. "Still, you know what I mean."

Filia frowned and gave the possibility some real thought. "I suppose I can't discard that possibility, yet it makes no sense. If Phythan wanted to weasel his way into the group his first style of acting was much more effective than his current one. Now he's just odd."

"His first style of acting?" Xellos questioned curiously, his voice carrying the faint scent of disapproval.

"Yes," Filia nodded, recalling when she met Phythan and blushing, which was met with a suspicious raise of the eyebrow from Xellos, one eye open and the other still squinting at her questioningly. "He was nice and... not suspicious," charming... almost seductive, but Filia decided not to voice the last parts; she didn't know what brought about such charm anyway. Was it the wine colored eyes? His confidence? The way he looked as if he hid a dark secret? How she was reminded of Xellos? She shook her head frantically. "Anyway, let's just keep an eye on him just in case, but if he's just a poor confused dragon suffering from temporary insanity due to his previous injuries, I don't want you hurting him."

"What makes you think I'll listen to you?" Xellos inquired in a tone that was surprisingly more teasing than mocking.

"You will grant me this request," Filia had no idea on what she could base her certainty; there was nothing to base it on. She closed her eyes for a moment as she slowly walked next to Xellos through the misty forest. The trees served as a sort of makeshift umbrella so the rain was lighter in the forest, though the thin drops were still falling on them. She opened her eyes, her face rosy from her idea.

"Filia?" Xellos looked at her flustered face in curiosity. "Are you catching a cold or something?" He asked hopefully.

Filia shook her head, her blush deepening, "I'll kiss you," she finally offered, unable to explain why she would even try to entertain the notion that such a plan would work. It was absurd.

Xellos was taken aback, his painted silly grin fading into real surprise and reemerging as a true mischievous grin. "Is the private atmosphere of the forest getting to you? I heard that there are some who enjoy kissing in the rain."

He began to wrap his arms around her, but she stopped him and backed away. "Not now," she couldn't believe she was offering this, but it was for a noble cause. "When we find out about Phythan I'll kiss you once and only once, of my own free will, in private and no one must know. That's what you wanted wasn't it? In exchange you have to let him go." She remembered the Phythan that gave her ice-cream, the charming version of him. It wasn't technically cheating because they were not an official couple and it was for his sake anyway.

Xellos frowned, "I'm afraid that won't work," he realized with disappointment. "Kissing me for the sake of someone else counts as a sort of blackmail or threat. My request is for you to kiss me completely out of your free will with no outside pressures or motivations. It has to be done on the sole reason that you want to do it."

Filia gave Xellos a confused look and recalled their conversation on the bench that time. "Why?" Her voice lacked her usual anger towards Xellos and was instead filled with puzzlement, curiosity and an inexplicably strong need to know.

"I can't really explain it," because it might endanger the cure. If Filia knew that he was in danger of turning into a human and being swiftly killed off soon after by forces that not even Lina could save him from should she actually choose to try, Filia, being Filia, might feel somewhat guilty and try to save him. She would declare he deserved a punishment worse than death and throw a number of angry remarks at him, but she would try to save him anyway. Somehow he knew it and it bothered him. Mercy felt like too much of an outside motivation. It wouldn't be Filia's free will; it would be her desire to run away from the possibility of a guilty conscience if she didn't help. Then the cure would be useless.

"Xellos," Filia stopped walking and looked boldly into his eyes with a pleading gaze. "Please, just tell me. Are you making fun of me? Are you just trying to mock me?" Things wouldn't work out as long as Filia had those fears to hold her back.

"There's a very good reason why I can't explain myself in full." Xellos revealed with more sincerity than Filia had ever witness him have. "It's not a trick and I can at least assure you that I will be able to tell you once it's done," able to tell her, albeit not obligated to. "I just can't tell you now. It's a secret and there's a good reason why it needs to stay that way, not necessarily forever, but at least for now."

Filia nodded as a flurry of crazy theories flew through her mind. She should have known this was as close to a straight answer as she could get from Xellos. Yet his reply was far more perplexing than she ever imagined it would be. She sighed in defeat. "Alright then, instead of offering you the kiss, I will instead offer to keep an open mind and let things flow naturally," she couldn't believe what she was saying, but the words had already come out. It wasn't the first time she offered to keep an open mind, but this time, she felt compelled to keep her word more strongly than she could explain.

To be Continued

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