Slayers: Alive

Chapter 3

Slayers: Alive

Episode 021: Lucky! Follow The White Rabbit

"Don't get too close," Lina instructed as Phythan arrived in sight of the hotel, or what was left of it. Despite the rain, repairs were already being made, by... trolls? The green creatures appeared to be being bossed around by a human man with a big mustache, which reminded Lina of Philionel, and a yellow construction helmet. The man looked at the dragon in the distance and waived.

"It looks like he wants us to go over there," Phythan interpreted and did so without a second thought.

"What are you doing? Stop, this is a bad idea!" Lina protested adamantly, though her complaints fell on deaf ears.

Phythan landed as gently as he could on the under construction surface atop the hotel building. At least the lower floors were okay. "About the mess..." he began with an apologetic tone.

"Ah, yes, about that," the construction boss seemed rather cheerful despite the situation. "Guests are charged for the shows available to them at the resort. Since they assumed that this was all part of the show and stayed to watch, we charged all the spectators for the show. The money will be enough for the repairs and more. By the way boy, how would you like an official job at the resort?"

Phythan seemed to be debating the situation. He wasn't sure he liked the idea about the spectators being charged, but if by chance they thought the show was actually worth it, then maybe it wasn't so bad. "I'm not really looking for a job right now, but thanks anyway," he finally answered.

"Wait a minute!" Lina pointed at the construction boss almost accusingly. "While you and your trolls are rebuilding this place, where are we supposed to stay?"

"Shh, Miss Lina!" Amelia uncomfortably whispered. "We're really in no position to ask for much."

The construction supervisor appeared to consider the words and finally pulled a whistle from his pants pocket and blew it. A man in a bellhop uniform swiftly stood next to the construction boss, "sir?"

"Take these guests to the special casino suite," the man in the yellow helmet ordered. He then turned his attention back to the trolls and started yelling at them to hurry.

"Yes, sir!" Taking a moment to examine the guests, the bellhop exchanged a look of recognition with them.

"It's Zangulus," Gourry smiled, "you have a lot of jobs around here, don't you?"

Zangulus chuckled, "indeed I do." He eyed the dragon, "so, should I join you to show you to your new rooms?"

"Sure, I can carry you too," Phythan wrapped his long golden tail around Zangulus' waist and placed him on his back. "Here we go, take off!"

"Having a dragon to give you a ride is pretty convenient," Zangulus commented, admiring the view from above. "The casino suite is right over there," he pointed towards a colorfully decorated building with magically powered multicolor lights.

Zelgadis frowned, "I don't like casinos," he commented hopelessly.

"I'm sure it's not so bad," Amelia smiled gently as they headed towards the roof of the casino. "Casinos are supposed to be a lot of fun."

"Until you lose all your money," Zelgadis grumbled.

"But we're broke anyway," Amelia somehow tried to look at the positive light in that. She wasn't exactly broke really, Seyruun still had a healthy treasury, but Amelia's spending money for the trip was running low.

Zelgadis let out a breath, "there's that." Not being able to lose a lot of money due to not having a lot of money wasn't exactly the best consolation in his opinion.

Once Phythan had landed on the roof of the brightly lit building, everyone hopped off his back. When all his passengers had disembarked, he once again changed into his human form without warning. A soft "oops..." escaped Amelia. She knew Zelgadis didn't want her to watch Phythan transform, but it's not like she was doing it on purpose.

Zelgadis clenched his teeth. 'Idiot dragon with his stupid soft skin, annoying perfectly proportioned body and infuriating well toned muscles and... and...' Zelgadis marched over to Phythan and smacked him on the head.

"Ow!" The dragon's hands flew to the back of his head were the chimera had struck him.

Amelia gasped and gave Zelgadis a look of disapproval with a scolding "Mr. Zelgadis!" That hurt more than Zelgadis thought it would. Pouting profusely, Amelia turned her back on Zelgadis purposefully and gently patted the affected area of Phythan's head. "It's okay, Mr. Phythan, I'm sure Mr. Zelgadis is sorry. Although, you should... ehem... cover up a bit more when you're transforming, it unnerves Mr. Zelgadis."

"But he's a guy," Phythan pointed out the obvious, the aspect of jealousy completely flying over his head.

"Yes," Amelia nodded, "but Lina and I are girls," she pointed out with the patient tone that was needed when explaining something utterly simple to Gourry. Honestly, it was downright strange how Phythan was displaying a variety of characteristics found in their group.

Phythan nodded in apparent understanding, yet the concept that Amelia was trying to portray once again flew over his head. "But you're both tomboys!"

Amelia and Lina simultaneously smacked Phythan on the head, making him fall forward at Zelgadis feet. The chimera looked pleased with the results. Zangulus decided that the safest course of action for him would be to quietly watch the scene until the shenanigans were done.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Gourry placed his hand on Lina's shoulder, speaking a soft, "Lina..." She turned to face him and observed his half-lidded gaze and the rosy tint on his cheeks along with a rather warm atmosphere coming from him. She felt her own face start to become flustered as he took her hand in his, causing her heartbeat to speed up. Then he placed her hand on his forehead and sniffled. "I think I caught a cold..."

Lina's countenance went from flustered to angry in a split second as she smacked Gourry on the head. "It's not like I can do anything about that!" She turned to Zangulus who had wisely remained quiet the entire time. "Show us our rooms so we can change out of our wet clothes before things get worse," she demanded.

"Yes, right this way!" Zangulus hurried towards the stairs that led to the floor below, where the casino's suite was. "This suite is normally reserved for the very best gamblers, so it's pretty lucky that you were sent here." The group arrived at a large room with walls decorated with cards and a poker table in the middle. There were twelve doors in the circular room, one of them being the one that led to the rooftop, which seemed to be a private area for the occupants of the suite. "That door," Zangulus motioned to the door at the opposite side of the room, "leads to the stairs that will take you to the casino facilities below. My Martina works there, so make sure you drop by and say hello. As for the other ten doors, they each lead to a separate room with its own bathroom. You may distribute the ten available rooms among your group as you see fit. The traditional outfits worn by the best gamblers have already been supplied into the rooms in various sizes," Zangulus finished. "Well, I guess that's everything." He stood unmoving with a smile plastered on his face.

Lina stepped past the group, giving Phythan a rather harsh pat on the back as she did, "give the man a tip," she commanded.

"Yes, Miss Lina," resigned to obeying, least his poor head receive another harsh blow, Phythan gave Zangulus some gold coins.

"Thank you very much!" Satisfied with the venture, Zangulus went off, disappearing behind the door that led to the public area downstairs.

The group then went their separate ways, each into their chosen room. Lina took the first door right next to the stairs that led to the roof, with Gourry choosing the room next to hers. Amelia took the first door to the left next to the rooftop stairs and Zelgadis predictably chose the room next to hers. Phythan decided to take a room that was further away and settled into the one right from the door that led down to the casino.

A few minutes later, Amelia peeked out from behind her door, "Um... everyone?" She timidly called.

Zelgadis opened his door just enough to stick out his head and look at Amelia, of whom he too could only see the head. "Yes?"

"About the gambler outfits..." Amelia continued shyly, but trailed into silence.

"Yes... about that..." Zelgadis wasn't sure how to word it, then Phythan's door opened and interrupted.

The golden dragon emerged wearing black pants and shiny matching shoes, no shirt, a black bowtie around his neck, cufflinks on his wrists and white bunny ears on his head. "Is this how humans dress when they go to a casino?" He poked at the rabbit ears.

"I suppose we might as well get the full casino experience even if it is a bit embarrassing," Amelia concluded. Her door was closed for a moment as she adjusted her own bunny ears on her head, then she emerged wearing what looked like a black strapless one piece bathing suit, black stockings, matching high heels, a red bowtie and cufflinks and white bunny ears.

While Zelgadis stared at Amelia and blushed, a furious Lina emerged from her room in an outfit that was the same as Amelia's. "What's the meaning of this?"

Amelia laughed unsure, "part of the casino experience?"

Lina crossed her arms in embarrassment. "This reminds me of when we sang that stupid song that didn't do anything useful after all." She glanced at Phythan, "at least everyone will have to suffer all the same unless they want to get pneumonia from staying in wet clothes." However, Phythan seemed amused by the bunny ears and not at all annoyed. Groaning in exasperation, Lina looked to Zelgadis for a source of consolation. "Zel..." she gave him a wolfish grin.

Zelgadis turned an even deeper shade of scarlet and gulped, then shook his head. "C'mon Mr. Zelgadis, it'll be fun if we all wear the same style of outfits." Amelia sounded more like she was trying to convince herself more so than Zelgadis.

Zelgadis sighed hopelessly. He knew that Amelia would eventually convince him to come out in that silly fan service rabbit outfit so he had no business in fighting it. She had more power over him that he would care to admit. "Alright..." He exited the room in an outfit that was the same as Phythan's, feeling completely mortified to be showing more skin to Amelia than what he ever wanted to show without a cure. He kept his eyes glued to the dark red carpet on the floor and didn't notice Amelia's rather interested flustered look as he fidgeted with the rabbit ears in his hands.

Lina noticed and was giving Amelia a sly grin. Hoping that Lina would simply remain quiet, Amelia hurried to occupy herself. "Here, let me help you with that, Mr. Zelgadis." She took the rabbit ears from his fidgeting hands and raised her arms to reach up to Zelgadis head. Realizing she couldn't properly see how to correctly adjust the ears from that angle, Amelia placed a gentle hand on Zelgadis' bare shoulder. "Could you bend down a little?" Wordlessly, Zelgadis bent over so that Amelia could easily reach the top of his head, where she placed the fluffy white bunny ears, "there."

A moment of silence invaded the atmosphere as Lina continued to smile slyly. Then Gourry emerged from his room, dressed the same as Phythan and Zelgadis, but with a sharply contrasting facial expression. He looked like a zombie. "Lina..." he whined, "I don't feel good," he sneezed.

Lina frowned and analyzed the situation. She didn't feel like running into Martina and having to hear one of her flat-chested comments. She quickly devised a plan that would hopefully benefit everyone. "Amelia, Zelgadis, you two should go downstairs and enjoy the casino together," she emphasized the last word wiggling her eyebrows as she did. "Phythan, since you' have only recently joined our crusade of justice," Lina decided to play on his easily excitable side just as she might have done with Amelia in times past when she insisted to be trained by her. "You should meet our dear friend Martina," 'and drive her mad while you're at it,' Lina mentally added. She suspected that Phythan might have a natural talent for annoying people, or at least he did in his current state. "You should hang out with Martina while Amelia and Zelgadis go about their business, they can point her out to you." That would also serve to get Martina out of Zel and Amelia's hair, a fact for which Lina expected them to thank her with a meal later. "I'll stay here and nurse the sick Gourry back to health," 'while pigging out on room service.'

Now it was Amelia's turn to give Lina a sly smile. "That sounds like a plan," she winked.

"Right, a plan, a non-suspicious plan!" Lina insisted embarrassed.

"Of course," Amelia nodded as she took Zelgadis' hand. "Let's go then."

"Affirmative!" Phythan saluted and followed Amelia and Zelgadis out of the circular common room.

"Uff," Lina let out a breath of relief once they were gone and stretched in relaxation. "I hope room service has a really great menu!"

"Lina..." she looked at Gourry that had that same blushing look with his eyes half closed that made him look almost sensual. Almost, just almost, Lina's brightly blushing face didn't mean a thing... really. Then he moved forward, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, drawing himself very close to her and said, "I feel dizzy..." then promptly passed out, leaving Lina to drag his full weight back to bed where he could rest. She was tempted, very tempted... to abandon him laying on the floor. Yet she dragged him to bed anyway and somehow managed to set him down, pulling the covers over him.

"Get some rest, Gourry..." Lina voiced sweetly, "and while you're fast asleep," she smiled, "I'll eat all the food!" Then she triumphantly marched out of Gourry's room. Lina approached the door leading downstairs, opened it and called out, "room service!" After a short while, a waitress dressed like a playing card showed up, her outfit making her limbs appear to be uncomfortably short. It was too bad for her, because she would have a lot of food to carry up those stairs.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, downstairs in the casino area Amelia and Zelgadis spotted Martina wearing a dress, or what was supposed to be a dress with a revealing heart shaped bra and a big skirt adorned with cards. Her obnoxious laughter echoed as she sat on a throne at the head of an exclusive looking poker table. "Who dares to challenge the poker queen?" She loudly called out as her previous table companions dragged themselves away broke. Apparently her job was something along the lines of making sure the customers lost all their money in the casino's favor.

"That's Miss Martina," Amelia pointed out unsure. It was Martina alright, but what Amelia wasn't certain about was the prospect of abandoning Phythan with her.

"I'll go say hi," having no idea of the dangers that awaited him, Phythan approached Martina's table and sat down before Amelia could change her mind and stop him.

Seeing Amelia's regretful expression, Zelgadis tried to encourage her, "he'll be fine. We should get out of here before Martina sees us."

"It would be mean not to at least say hello." Though she was pointing that out, Amelia was swiftly making her escape along with Zelgadis. "Of course, we could just talk to her a little later."

xoxox xox xoxox

Some distance away from the casino, Xellos and Filia had made their way out of the misty forest in relative peace and quiet. Xellos paused with a focused look on his face. "You're thinking about leaving now, aren't you?" Filia inquired. This was the typical Xellos, coming and going as he pleased, nothing new there.

"I need to check up on some things," Xellos grin, his usual expression was back in place perfectly. "I know you'll miss me terribly, but try not to let your repressed passion torture you too much." He winked; the nerve of him.

Filia glared, tempted to throw her open mind promise out the window and go back to permanently labeling Xellos as a jerk. He deserved it for being so infuriating. "I don't care what kind of stupid teasing you come up with, I'm not going to let that distract me!" Filia firmly declared, raising her voice more than necessary to communicate her message. "If you're leaving, you're taking me along."

"Forward, aren't we," Xellos grinned annoyingly.

Filia ignored the blush on her cheeks as she clenched her teeth and fists. "I know you're going out to investigate and not share any information like the sneaky piece of raw garbage you are! Well I'm not going to let you do that," she crossed her arms and stomped her feet defiantly. "I want to know what's going on too, so I'll investigate along with you!"

"What if I teleport away?" Xellos demonstrated the motion by fading away and reappearing right behind Filia. "What are you going to do about it then?"

Filia jumped at the sudden voice from behind her and more so at the closeness of its owner, as Xellos whispered in her ear, his warm breath tickling her neck. She mentally scolded herself for being surprised. She should have known he would do something like this. "I'll find you," she tried to sound firm and angry, but failed to do so.

"You seem pretty determined..." Xellos observed. What was the harm? He was only going to investigate Phythan and in the location that he planned to visit she might know her way around far better than him. Then again, there was also a good chance she had never been to that place, but that wouldn't exactly be of any harm either. He wrapped one arm around her waist, cupping her chin with the other, making her look to the side, where his head rested on her shoulder from behind. "I'll take you with me."

There was something... peculiar about the way he spoke those words that Filia didn't want to dwell upon. She thought she should push him away. Being open minded about him didn't mean letting him hang all over her. Yet her limbs refused to respond to her rationale's call. He tightened his grip around her wais and they both faded away.

Filia gasped as the world around her changed. She wasn't expecting Xellos to teleport when he did. After a brief view of the astral side, they reappeared at the port, the place where they had arrived at the island. "We'll have to leave the resort for a little while to conduct this investigation. We can come back once we have a look at a certain place I have in mind. Of course, making the whole trip via the astral side with a passenger won't be easy."

With a harsh wave of motion sickness hitting her full force, Filia stumbled out of Xellos' arms. She never got sick from flying or from boats, but teleportation made her feel ill. "Ugh, forget that. Let's just fly." She looked around and found a private spot behind a mountain of crates. There she changed into her dragon form and emerged flying. "Let's go."

"Follow me," Xellos began to levitate as he gave Filia another teasing grin. "Do try to keep up."

"Hmp!" Filia threw her head back and retorted, "don't slow me down."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 022: Hidden! Legacy Of The Golden Dragons

Xellos and Filia went further away from the resort, flying at an amazing speed. Any passing boats in the ocean below would just see a golden blur and wouldn't even notice the other blur next to it. "Getting tired?" Xellos teased as he watched Filia flap her wings, her blond hair blowing in the wind.

"Not a chance!" Filia gasped prideful. She pushed herself to go faster. The world around her was a complete blur, but at least she wasn't feeling sick anymore, she couldn't spare the energy to feel sick. The pink bow on her tail came undone and the ribbon fell off.

Xellos disappeared from in front of Filia, reappearing soon after with the ribbon in his hand. "You dropped this." He held out the accessory. "Want me to tie it on your tail for you?"

Filia allowed herself to slow down, coming to a soft glide. "I don't want you touching my tail," she snatched away the ribbon. "Or any part of me," she specified as an afterthought, then tied the ribbon securely back on her tail. She gasped for breath, "where are we going anyway?"

Knowing that it would annoy her to no end, Xellos smiled raising his index finger and moving it left and right lightly. "That is a secret."

Filia growled in vexation. "I should have known you'd say that, but I'll know where the place is when we get there anyway, so why not just tell me?"

With his smile intact Xellos repeated, "it's a secret."

Filia frowned, "you just like being difficult," she concluded what she had already been aware of for a long time.

"We can try teleporting a little more, but the greater the distance the more affected you will be," Xellos warned with clear amusement.

Filia considered her options. She didn't know how far the place Xellos wanted to investigate was, but she knew that she would get motion sickness from his teleportation. Even so, she was gasping for breath from flying for so long as it was and that wasn't exactly a pleasant feeling either. "Okay," she finally agreed. Even if she regretted it, she could at least catch her breath a little.

Xellos hopped on Filia's back much to her annoyance and in a somewhat cowboy-like tone he loudly declared. "Giddy up, Filia!" Then they disappeared.

When they reappeared, Filia pushed the sick sensation of her stomach aside and began making wild motions in mid air, "I'm not a horse!"

Xellos kept one hand on Filia as if holding on to imaginary reins and raised his other arm. "No, you're a rodeo dragon."

"You're infuriating!" Filia dove into the cloud banks below, at least it wasn't raining, just cloudy in that area. Behind the cover of the clouds, she changed into her human form in hopes of making Xellos fall off, then suddenly felt like she was being choked. "Let go of my cloak, you're choking me!"

"You're the one who put us in this situation," Xellos pointed out with amusement. He was caught under Filia's cloak, his neck and hers tied to each other by the cloak's bow.

"Ugh!" Filia untied the cloak and let the fabric fall gently to the approaching ground below, only to realize that she was falling none too gently towards the same brown rocky terrain of a little island. She couldn't transform in mid air, she had no cover, but she didn't want to go splat on the ground either. Her first automatic and definitely irrational instinct was to hold on to the closest thing to her, which happened to be Xellos.

Xellos turned over in mid air so that Filia was laying on top of him and slowed his fall to gently land on his back on the ground. Filia's cloak, which was lighter and falling at a slower pace held up by the wind, landed on top of them blanketing the pair. "Comfortable?"

Filia fought to get the cloak off herself and finally tossed it out of the way. She sat up on her knees, her hands in front of her to push herself up. "What..?" She couldn't finish voicing her half coherent question as she looked down and saw him.

Xellos grinned seductively, "do you want me that bad?"

Filia then realized that her hands were on his chest and she was sitting on top of him. She scrambled off him, tripping and falling backwards in the process, then drew herself to her feet, picking up her cloak angrily. "You!" She pointed at him with a scarlet face. Xellos merely winked which sent Filia into a bigger rage than any words could have. She expressed her whole repertoire of remarks, out of which, raw garbage was by far the nicest.

"Tsk, tsk..." Xellos shook his head, waiving his index finger back and forth. "I thought a golden dragon would have more decorum than that. How many times did the dragon elders have to wash your mouth with soap when you were at the temple?"

"Never," Filia growled, then her countenanced changed drastically as her eyes became teary. "What have I become?" She looked positively miserable.

"Less naive?" Xellos offered.

Filia sniffled, "what have I become?" She dramatically screamed, raising her arms to the skies. "I'm hanging out with a monster, helping him investigate and I'm using vocabulary that I shouldn't even know! Where in the world did I pick up those words anyway? It's all your fault!" She pointed angrily at Xellos.

Calmly, Xellos pointed out with an amused smile, "I don't think I've ever called you a-"

In a lightning fast motion, Filia slapped her hands over his mouth, "don't repeat it!" She exclaimed in embarrassment. "Maybe I heard that one in town," she realized, releasing Xellos after a few seconds to make sure he would remain silent. "Maybe I should think about moving to a new town, if people there have language like that, it can't be a good place for Val to grow up."

"You'll find language like that everywhere," Xellos rolled his eyes at her paranoia. "Unless of course, you manage to track down a town full of mutes and move there," he paused then added with a cheerful smile, "but you'd still see writing like that."

Filia sighed hopelessly, "is there not a single decent place left in the world?"

"You mean a place full of uptight extremists?" It was obvious what Xellos was referring to before he even spoke the next part. "I thought you said you wouldn't go back there."

Filia glared and placed her hands on her hips. "The golden dragons are not all uptight extremists and no I'm not thinking about going back to one of the temples."

"Then you can't expect to shelter Val, maybe you shouldn't," Xellos suggested. "Even you had to wake up from your dream at some point and it didn't look like you were having a grant time doing it. Do you want Val to go through life thinking it's perfect only to harshly realize it's not, or would you rather him be prepared?"

Filia opened her mouth to deliver a comeback, an insult, something, preferably a semi-civilized insult, if there was such a thing, that didn't involved vocabulary that was too sinister. She stopped, realizing that she had no negative comebacks to throw at Xellos, negative comments yes, but those were not retorts. What he said actually made sense. "I guess it's best if he's prepared. Maybe moving won't benefit us after all and when it comes down to it, the town is overall a nice place, a lot nicer than other towns I've been to."

"Isn't life easier when you just agree with me?" Xellos grinned that infuriating grin of his.

Filia was determined not to let him get to her and instead walked past Xellos. "Are we close to the place you wanted to investigate?" She returned the subject of conversation to the more pressing matter at hand.

"We're here," Xellos pointed towards a rocky mountain in the center of the little island, which was severely lacking in the vegetation department.

"There's nothing here," it was just some little island with nothing but rocks, rocks and more rocks. The place didn't even have grass.

"Appearances can be deceiving," with a merry mocking tone, Xellos approached the mountain and pushed a loose stone in. A sliding door of stone perfectly camouflaged on the mountain side was revealed. A dark tunnel lay behind it, with no visible end to it.

Filia looked into the dark tunnel with perplexity. "What is this place?"

"I was hoping you would know," Xellos voiced, though his tone made it clear he wasn't. "Alas, it's too bad my possible guide failed me," he pretended to be disappointed, albeit his act didn't fool Filia for a second. "I guess the golden dragons really do work in a need to know basis after all."

Filia raised a suspicious eyebrow. "The golden dragons?" She looked back and forth from Xellos to the dark tunnel. "Are you saying this place belonged to the golden dragons?" She knew not of the existence of such a place, whatever it was. But then again, there were many things that for most of her life she was ignorant of about her race. "It looks deserted," she pointed out, hoping that it was. If there were any dragons in there, they wouldn't take kindly to Xellos or to her, given that she arrived with Xellos.

"It is," Xellos agreed, much to Filia's visible relief. "This place was managed by the golden dragons of the fire temple. It used to have a lot of spells to protect it, so keeping guards here wasn't a necessity. However, when the casters of those spells died, the spells were broken. There might still be traps left in there, but it's nothing we can't handle."

"This place belonged to the golden dragons who served the Fire Dragon..." Even if she was no longer one of those servants, Filia couldn't help it but to be curious. She realized with the entire Darkstar and Val incident that she knew very little about her people and a part of her wanted to know more, even if she didn't like what she found out. "It doesn't look like a temple."

"It was an archive," Xellos revealed. "If the golden dragons who were followers of the Fire Dragon knew anything about Phythan, then they would have recorded it here."

Filia's eyes shone with curiosity. Technically this was trespassing. Theoretically this was a terrible unlawful act that could be classified as espionage. But she didn't care. She didn't care if she could be considered to be corrupt for her actions; she wanted to know more truths. She wanted to see history for what it really was. "Let's go."

"You're very eager to commit an act of trespassing." Xellos grinned teasingly as he stood next to Filia, who was focusing on a light spell. "Maybe I am corrupting you."

Filia didn't even flinch at a comment that would normally severely disturb her. "I'm trespassing, I intend to look at information I wasn't meant to know existed and I will not regret it," she was determined. "I want to know more truths even if they hurt. It's for Val, in order to protect him. If worse comes to worse, I need to have a clear idea of what I could be up against."

"You really took my comment about naivete to heart, did you?" Filia didn't reply to Xellos' remark and they both walked on in silence through the cave tunnels.

Eventually, the brown cavern floors faded into dark yellow bricks that formed a deep tunnel sloped downward. The slope became spiraling stairs with the bricks presenting various carvings on the walls. They appeared to be spells that were no longer active as they were linked to the life of the caster. It was a double-edged sword so to speak. Linking a spell to the caster's life would make them nearly impossible to break unless the caster was killed, but if the caster died, that would be the end of the spell.

"There should be traps around here," Filia brought up an important point that Xellos had already mentioned before. She was prompting him for information. He knew about the location of the archives, so he might know more about them.

"There could be," Xellos nodded nonchalant. "I might have missed a few when I first came to explore this place, but I doubt they'll give us any trouble as long as we're careful. I got rid of all the important traps anyway."

"So you've been here before," there was an accusing edge to Filia's voice, yet it also lacked surprise. "That means you have an idea of what's down there."

"Profiles," Xellos answered simply instead of letting the suspense hang. Before Filia could ask him, or rather order him, to elaborate, they reached the bottom of the spiraling stairs. There they found themselves in a large chamber with shelves containing scrolls as far as the eye could see.

"Profiles?" Filia repeated as soon as she recovered the power of speech.

"There are no war records or big secrets here," Xellos confirmed. "I doubt any of this would be all that interesting to you or to anyone for that matter. The golden dragons of the Fire Temple wrote what they thought was worth remembering. Of course, they stopped writing when they were all wiped out. I think the most recent entry in your profile was when you were sent on your mission to find Lina, or Luna as it originally was."

"My profile..." Filia looked at the vast collection of scrolls on the tall wooden shelves. The ceiling of the chamber was quite high and levitation would be needed to reach the top of the full shelves.

"It was boring," Xellos commented dismissively. "Of course, I didn't read all of these. I soon realized how useless this archive was and left. But we can still find a small clue about Phythan here. His profile should be around here somewhere. We can at least find out what temple he came from and a little about his past, if that's even his real name. If not, then that pretty much serves as proof that he's lying, so the search won't be in vain."

Filia frowned as she looked at the mountains of scrolls, "this will be exceptionally tedious."

Xellos shrugged as if he was used to it, "it has to be done. You can't expect information to just fall on your head, you lazy dragon."

Instead of coming up with a counter argument to Xellos' jab about her laziness, albeit she was certain she was not slothful thank you very much, Filia's train of thought went towards another detail. "You must do a lot of reading and spying to get all your information," she noted. "Maybe more reading than I thought."

"Spying needs to be conveniently timed," Xellos made no attempt to deny it. "As for reading, looking at records that I'm not supposed to be looking at can be done at just about any moment."

Filia thought about criticizing Xellos for it, but she was doing the same thing at the moment and she didn't want him to throw a comeback at her about hypocrisy. "It looks like the scrolls are arranged in order of rank and the shelves are labeled according to each temple. You can start searching in the Water Dragon section and I'll start with the Fire Dragon section."

"Looking to take a peek into your own record?" Xellos opened one eye, keeping it glued to Filia's face. "I bet you used to sneak into the teacher's office and look up test answers too."

Filia stomped her feet, pouting profusely as she placed her hands on her hips. "I did no such thing!"

"Sure you didn't," Xellos turned around dismissively, with a tone that made it clear he didn't believe her, though he actually did.

"I didn't!" Filia screamed, her voice echoing in the large chamber. Then suddenly the many shelves sunk into the floor leaving the surface flat and empty. "What just happened?"

Xellos looked smugly amused, "it looks like your loud voice activated one of the leftover traps."

"Why didn't you disable it?" Filia shouted angrily while the wall on the far end of the large chamber parted to reveal a dragon statue with glowing golden eyes and a jar held in its front claws.

"Why would I bother with a trap that only activates when one is rudely loud?" Xellos gave Filia a look of false innocence. "I'm never rudely loud; you're the one that's always yelling at me. You have terrible manners."

"Shut up!" Filia yelled. Sure, it was true that yelling was what got them into that mess, but they were already in trouble so there was no reason to hold back anymore.

The dragon statue looked like it would launch some sort of attack, then a voice echoed loudly, "quiet in the archives!" The roar of the recorded voice from the statue left Filia's ears ringing. The statue then made mechanical noises as the metal joints that held the stone limbs together demonstrated that they had not been properly oiled for far too long. "You must deposit a coin into the loud jar." That sentence was delivered with less malice then the request for silence, though still with a very commanding tone.

Filia and Xellos paused, looking at the odd contraction. "Loud jar?" Xellos tilted his head curious to the side.

Filia was surprise to find such a thing in a secret archive, but she seemed to know what it was as she fished around her pockets for a coin. "It's like a swear jar, but it's for when people yell, regardless of what they say. Of course if one were to yell a bad word, both penalties would apply." She tossed a coin into the jar and detecting it somehow, the statue went upright again and the wall slid back into place covering it, followed by the shelves reemerging from the floor.

Xellos looked like he was laughing behind his hand, somehow trying not to be too loud because he would rather blow up the mechanical librarian than toss a coin into the jar it held. He finally composed himself under Filia's disapproving glare. "You golden dragons have stupid rules and regulations for every thing."

Filia was tempted to blow up at Xellos again, but she didn't want to lose another coin. Instead she used a moderated but harsh tone of voice, "it's not stupid." She crossed her arms and pouted as Xellos prompted her to continue with his eyes as if waiting for her to explain why it wasn't stupid. "A monster wouldn't understand," Filia left it at that and approached the Fire section of the archives.

"Just so you know," Xellos voiced as he headed over to the water section. "Your profile isn't here."

Filia froze and turned around to glare at Xellos. "You stole it," she correctly concluded, pointing her accusing right index finger at him."

"Oh, don't worry, there are plenty of other profiles left for you to steal my delinquent friend," Xellos grinned like he always did.

Filia huffed in indignation. "I'm not a delinquent!" She turned around determined to ignore any further comments from Xellos and focused on the task of sorting through the scrolls on the shelves of the fire section.

Xellos watched Filia go about her work and gave her just a few more seconds in case she had something more to add. When ten seconds passed and she didn't say anything about not being his friend, he shrugged and began his own search for Phythan's scroll in the shelves pertaining to the water section.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 023: Discovery! The Truth About Golden Boy

"Found it," Xellos called out just loud enough for Filia to hear her, which wasn't too loud since he was standing right behind her.

Filia tossed the scroll she was reading into the air in a startle, then just as quickly she caught it and hid it behind her back as she swiftly turned to face him. "You found it?" She tried to look innocent.

Xellos gave her an 'I know what you did' look, but in his case it was more so commending than scolding. "Keeping up with the gossip? How interesting can it be, this is old gossip anyway."

Filia shook her head frantically, "these are lies," she held up a scroll. "Tiffany Ai Kant, murdered by a monster? I know for a fact that she ran away from the temple and married a human." She sighed in a bout of nostalgia, "she was a very dear childhood friend. I can't believe how mean I was to her." A layer of self loathing covered Filia's features, while Xellos watched on curiously.

"This Tiffany was discriminated over her human lover?" Xellos inquired with false dread. "How terribly cruel."

"Husband," Filia corrected though it didn't make a difference to the golden dragons who accused her. "Don't give me that look; I know you're only trying to guilt trip me." Tears started to fall from her eyes without her consent.

"It looks like you're doing a fine job of guilt tripping yourself," Xellos observed. "So, your friend was killed by the golden dragons, rather than a monster?"

"No," Filia sniffled, "she faked her death and went into hiding. I was so upset at Tiffany that when she confessed that she was in love with a non-dragon, I yelled at her and criticized her. I put her down when she needed my support. I felt so betrayed that she had been seeing him without telling even me. She told me she was sorry for her secrecy and that she feared I would disapprove. Dragons are only allowed to marry other dragons, so of course it was something to frown upon, or at least that's what I thought back then. Looking back on it, I should have supported her."

One detail stood out to Xellos and he curiously inquired about it. "You say that you know what really happened, that she didn't die. Does that mean you helped her? You have quite the delinquent past," he teased.

Filia shook her head, her tears flowing out even more strongly. "I didn't help her, I regret not helping her. I was out hunting her down along with a few others. I was dragged into it because we were friends, so they thought I would have a good chance to find her. I thought that convincing her to repent was the best thing I could do for her as a friend, but I was stupid. I saw her standing beside a human man, I saw the man giving commands to two monsters." Filia's abundant tears continued to flow through her sobs. Her memories of that event were blurred by the emotional scar they inflicted upon her. "There was some kind of spell in the air that hid energy. The two monster shape shifted into the forms of Tiffany and the man. The real ones escaped while I stood frozen, facing the monsters, until I managed to scream, releasing a breath of laser into the sky."

Filia was shaking in Xellos' arms as she cried. He wasn't sure when he started holding her and he especially didn't know why she had not pushed him away. She instead leaned on his shoulder and slowly wrapped her trembling arms around him.

"The rest of the search party interpreted what they saw as a beckon, a sort of flare of alert," Filia continued her narration. "I was too shocked to think my friend was running off with a man who made deals with monsters. I couldn't move, I couldn't speak, except to say, 'don't let them escape.' The others attacked the monsters and they put on a show. Once the monsters were killed, they somehow retained their false forms, probably due to some kind of cloaking spell that would last well until after their remains were cremated. I could only keep shaking and stutter 'don't let them escape' over and over. Then I passed out."

Filia allowed her crying to calm down a little. She felt one of Xellos' arms around her waist, his other hand caressing her back, but she didn't think about what he was. She needed the comfort and she didn't think it was so bad anyway. It was just a hug. Her past self would rather die than hug a monster, but she had changed.

Taking a deep breath, Filia finished her story. "The golden dragons saw my reaction as extreme disapproval for Tiffany's actions. My name was completely cleared and I was fully trusted, especially since I was the one who tracked them down and alerted the others. They even commended me for doing the right thing because I was the one who reported her to the elders in the first place. I felt awful because I was too scared to say they got away. I convinced myself of a lie. I told myself that Tiffany and her husband turned themselves in and that they were resting in peace after finding redemption. My memories are a blur even now, but I know I was lying to myself. Seeing this scroll, remembering so many pieces of this..."

Filia's crying intensified again, in desperate sobs just when it had looked like she was starting to calm down. She tightened her embrace around Xellos and he responded in the same way. A long moment passed and Filia finally let go, slowly parting from Xellos.

"Are you done with the waterworks and drama?" He spoke as dismissively as he could, but Filia was prepared for it.

The blond nodded gently, at least Xellos had reserved his comment for when after she was done sulking and listened to her whole story. She placed the scroll belonging to Tiffany back on the shelf where it belonged and dried her eyes. "So you found Phythan's scroll?"

"Here it is, as usual I have to do everything," Xellos declared in a victimized tone which Filia ignored as she snatched the scroll away. That left Xellos to dramatically make an offended expression, "how rude!"

Filia opened up the scroll and read through the basic information in it. "His name is Phythan Ai Kant..." she paused taken aback and looked at Xellos. He appeared to be interested, as if he had not messed with the scroll. There was no way he could know about Tiffany until she told him, unless something about her capture was written in Filia's profile. She gave Xellos a questioning glare.

He shrugged, "coincidence."

Filia decided to take his word on it for the time being and turned her attention back to the scroll, looking at the information about his family. "He was Tiffany's younger cousin; her uncle married a dragon from the Water Temple." Her eyes paused in his date of birth, "that young?" For a human, a dragon of Phythan's age would be far older than their lifespan, but from Filia and Xellos' point of view he was relatively young. "He's... he's still an adolescent! The nerve of him!" Filia's face turned red as she continued the apparently spontaneous criticism that was making a fine job of confusing Xellos.

"Would whatever it is he's trying to do be any different if he were older?" Xellos asked with true perplexity. There were things about Filia that he couldn't understand, a lot of things, actually.

"I thought he looked kind of small in his dragon form," Filia continued her growling and grumbling. "I was thrown off because he's tall as a human, but he's... he's..."

"The human equivalent of let's say, late teens and you're the human equivalent of, what? Early twenties?" Xellos rolled his eyes disinterested in the conversions; they made no sense any way since their rate of development was so different. A dragon could go from baby to child in a few years, then take decades to reach adolescence and centuries to reach adulthood. Overall, a young adult was at least five hundred, such as Filia who was just a few years over the mark, but Phythan was around a century short of it. "As I was saying, what does that have to do with anything?"

"When I was his age, I was still playing dolls with Tiffany, even though she was a few years older then me," a few years meaning over a century, "and she probably only played to humor me, but that's not the point." Filia pouted, "I almost dated an adolescent and adolescents are not allowed to date anyone, those are the rules at the temple."

Xellos seemed to choke on air. He could have made some wisecrack about the extreme rules of the golden dragons, but he was far more interested in the part about some annoying little golden dragon trying to steal his Filia, er that is, his cure. "So the sneak was trying to seduce you?" The question came out more so as a territorial statement full of venom.

Filia shook her head frantically, her cheeks ablaze. "No!" She clasped her hands over her mouth and looked at the wall frantically. At least her outburst wasn't loud enough to summon the mechanical librarian this time. "He bought me ice-cream and was supposed to go to the masquerade ball with me. That never actually happened, but it's not like he was being improper, he was respectful and polite, charming even. Except he's nothing like he used to be before," Filia watched as Xellos' expression shifted.

His eyes were open showing their alluring amethyst depths. He seemed angry, dangerous. He was a monster and an extremely powerful one, but he rarely looked like such an obvious predator.

Filia raised her hands, the scroll still held in one, fearing for Phythan's life. "That's the last thing on my mind, plus he's obviously not interested anymore." She paused and wondered why in the world she was trying to calm Xellos' jealousy if the concept of said jealousy was an impossibility in itself. Nevertheless, it was gold when it came to teasing. "Are you jealous?"

"No," Xellos forced his face to turn back into his usual smile. "In fact, you and Phythan can get together and make all the little golden dragons you want!"

The sound of a loud slap pierce the air as Filia's hand collided with Xellos' face. The hand shaped imprint on his cheek matched the scarlet color of her face. Then the shelves sunk into the floor again and the mechanical librarian reemerged, speaking its usual recorded lines just as before.

Filia let out a low offended growl before fishing another coin from her pocket and tossing it into the loud jar. The scenery then returned to normal with the mechanical librarian out of sight and the shelves back in their proper place. "Don't even joke about that," she finally voiced, offense evident.

Xellos wasn't sure if he should get angry because of Filia's daring move to slap him or feel somewhat triumphant or maybe even relieved because of her apparent disdain for the prospect of some alone time with Phythan. "To clarify, are you getting angry because of what I suggested or because of who I suggested to be involved?"

"Both," Filia grumbled. "Honestly, if it takes that long for me to meet my destined one and he arrives when I'm twice as old as I am now, the same age as I am now, I won't mind. If the situation is reversed and I'm the younger one, I also wouldn't mind. I don't care if the man is older or younger as long as he is of adult age. The temple might not approve, but I don't live in the temple anymore. Still, the part about adolescents being too young is something to be taken into consideration. I know I certainly wasn't ready for love when I was one."

"That's because you're especially naive," Xellos rolled his eyes. He didn't see the logic behind young adult plus near middle age being okay, but not young adult plus adolescent. Then again, monsters didn't need to be in any kind of couple regardless of how many years or centuries they've been around for. "So, you're saving him for later then?" He questioned with suspicious insistence.

"Who? Phythan?" Filia glared, "of course not. He's sweet, but not my type, at least that's what I've realized. Anyway, I don't want you to be mean to him, I think I might grow to see him as the little brother I never had, given the right time."

"You're only developing a soft spot for him because he's an Ai Kant," Xellos theorized. Showing kindness to beings that had things in common with beings that produced guilt served to ease the guilt of humans. If dragons were just as emotional, then it would work for them too.

Filia looked distressed, then went back to reading the scroll, speaking as she scanned it with her eyes. "I want to be Phythan's friend regardless of who he is. He has a good heart, I just know it." She continued looking through the scroll until she found something useful. "Here we go, he was sent on a special mission to the Fire Temple to work guarding the Genie's Lamp as..." Filia's eyes grew in indignation as she frowned. "As punishment for being caught reading comic books during his Water Temple guard duty!"

"Well it's not like the Water Dragon is around to punish him," Xellos chuckled. Maybe the current Phythan was the real Phythan after all, as opposed to whatever act he tried to show Filia.

Filia let out an exasperated breath. "His people hold the memory of the Water Dragon; he should have been more responsible!" She continued reading, "what's this?" She raised a suspicious eyebrow at the information. "Killed by a monster who was trying to steal the Genie's Lamp?"

"He probably slacked off again and got sentenced to death, but escaped, or maybe he was exiled," Xellos theorized. "Anyway, wasn't the Genie's Lamp just a rumor?"

Filia nodded, "the lamp contains a ghost that is so strongly attached to it that it can't be exorcised without damaging the lamp itself. The lamp has some historical value since it originally belonged to a very illustrious golden dragon who-"

Xellos yawned profoundly, "boring! Would you mind cutting the history lesson short?"

Filia glared and allowed herself a small growl before she continued. "Since the lamp has a historical value, it cannot be destroyed, so no one was willing to risk breaking it with a strong exorcism. Instead the ghost was left to dwell in it and the lamp was placed behind a protective barrier in case the ghost decided to come out on his own and cause trouble. The barrier would exorcise the ghost instantly, but he never came out anyway. Stupid stubborn ghost not wanting to rest in peace."

Xellos grinned, "annoying the golden dragons does seem like a worth purpose for haunting."

Ignoring his comment, Filia continued her explanation. "The lamp was to be kept in different temples for a few years. When it was being transported from one to another, the dragons ran into some troublesome monsters and the lamp was lost in the battle. It turns out it wasn't destroyed and it was found by a human who thought the ghost was a wish granting genie."

Xellos chuckled in amusement, "humans will believe any stupid myth."

Once again ignoring the interruption, Filia went on. "The ghost made all sorts of excuses and gave warnings about regretting certain wishes, speaking of the unwanted side-effects that they might have. As a result, by the time the lamp's holder even came close to deciding upon a wish, rumors about the lamp would have already spread and the lamp soon ended up in someone else's hands. Since the wishes kept being delayed by the tricky ghost, the humans never realized that there was no genie and they kept on fighting for the lamp. Fortunately, the golden dragons eventually recovered it and kept it safe."

"They probably burned a whole human village to get it back too," Xellos chirped cheerfully.

Filia groaned, ignoring Xellos' vexing nature was an increasingly difficult task, especially when she was talking to him. "According to the date Phythan was in the Fire Temple while I was away, so it's no wonder we missed each other. This means that he was telling the truth according to the scroll, even if he sounded confused about it."

"Except for the part about him being alive," Xellos pointed out with annoyance. "I could fix that."

"No," Filia insisted. "Whatever happened, I want to help Phythan recover his memories. Unfortunately, the golden dragons were more prejudiced than I ever wanted to admit before. If not because of the fact that I was commended for my participation in the mission against Tiffany, I would have been shunned for having been her friend. The news about her must have surely reached the remaining followers of the Water Dragon and with Phythan's record being less than merit worthy, he had nothing to fall back on to prove his loyalty. He was from a different temple and was not directly involved in anything, so they couldn't just kick him out, but they must have confined him to a lower rank with no hopes of ever being promoted. That must have been hard."

"It's just as I said, you're trying to be kind to him to ease your own guilt." Xellos didn't like the prospect. "What's next? Are you going to fly off in search of Tiffany and her monster contractor of a husband to make peace with them?"

Filia stared at the stone floor as she rolled up the scroll absentmindedly. "I probably wouldn't be able to find them." She looked into Xellos' eyes. "You're a monster, you don't understand about guilt, kindness and mercy, but I won't let you ruin this for me. I need to make up for what my people did in anyway I can. Not just with Val, but with every opportunity that presents itself."

Filia placed Phythan's profile scroll on the shelf nearest to her, which was in the fire section instead of the water section where it belonged. Then once again the shelves sunk beneath the floor and the walls parted to reveal the stone dragon with the metal joints, screeching in a recorded voice that was defective due to lack of maintenance. All that Filia and Xellos could understand was something about a "proper section."

Filia's surprise had made her jump into Xellos' arms. She was more emotional than usual and thus jumpier. Her tail popped out while the rest of her body remained in human form, the tail wrapping itself around Xellos in an automatic motion. Realizing what she was doing, Filia unwrapped her tail from around Xellos blushing profusely, and tried to find another coin to pay the fee for placing a scroll in the wrong place, though apparently the mechanism couldn't detect if a scroll was stolen.

Xellos produced a coin from his pocket and tossed it at the jar without looking, his open eyes focused on Filia who held her tail in her hands muttering something inaudible as if trying to coax it into disappearing. The shelves sprung up once the payment was received, causing Filia to stumble forward, once again in Xellos' arms, her tail automatically wrapping around him. She blushed as she tried to find something to say to defuse the peculiar tension that came from their frequent hugging and perhaps more so from the fact that they were able to have an almost civilized conversation.

Of all the people Filia could talk to about Tiffany, Xellos just happened to be there, but there was more to it than that. The conversation they had about her keeping an open mind had rattled her more than Filia could ever admit. Her postponed research about a good, or at least decent, monster didn't seem so absurd anymore, even though most would say it was. The deeds of the golden dragons, her childhood friend, Val's future, the mysteries of Phythan, it was all too much.

Filia felt overwhelmed and in the face of everything she couldn't get her body to properly respond and get her away from Xellos. Instead she drew closer, he didn't move, though he was inviting her with his eyes, silently telling her to take the initiative if this was what she wanted. She stopped thinking and focused only on sensations as she closed the distance between them and their lips met.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 024: Disaster! Casino Calamities

Xellos and Filia walked out of the archives in absolute silence. She kept her eyes on the dark yellow stone stairs as they made their way to the surface of the little island of brown rock. "Filia..." Xellos began, or tried to.

"Don't say anything!" Filia snapped again. Ever since they parted from their most recent kiss, which was somewhat different from the others, though neither could precise why, she had been unwilling to communicate.

Xellos felt his trademark grin melting off his face, he was still cursed and it made no sense. "Back there-"

"I don't want to talk about it!" Filia snapped, refusing to look at Xellos. Couldn't he understand that she was too confused and didn't want to be bothered with anything that required thinking?

"You don't have to say anything," he grumbled with more irritation than Filia had heard him express before. This was real annoyance and a hint of frustration. "Just listen."

Filia stubbornly placed her hands over her ears and began her frantic loud singing of "la, la, la, I can't hear you, la, la, la, la."

Xellos raised his voice, they were far enough from the annoying mechanical librarian anyway, not that he cared. "I told you that you didn't have to kiss me until you were willing. Don't tell me that I somehow tricked you because I didn't do anything. You were the one who hugged me, you were the one who kept rubbing my leg with your tail, you were the one who kissed me." At this point Xellos was yelling to be heard over Filia's stubborn effort to cover up his voice with her own.

Giving in to the necessity to rest her throat, Filia stopped straining her vocal cords and took a series of deep breaths. She finally removed her hands from her ears as they reached the surface of the little island and closed the secret passage behind them. "I know," she accepted all the charges, sounding mortified.

Xellos approached her, lifting her chin with his index finger so she was looking at him. He needed answers. Why had not her kiss cured him? "You're agreeing with me?"

"I was... not myself so don't give it too much thought." Filia tried to excuse herself. The last thing she needed was Xellos bringing up her very confusing action. "I was just... sad."

"Somehow, I doubt you'd throw yourself into the arms of a random man to seek consolation, even if he happens to be the only one who's conveniently around." He sounded somewhat frustrated and it puzzled Filia. How could Xellos know if she was being sincere, why would he care? Filia stared at Xellos for a long moment unable to come up with a reply, thus instead he spoke. "What would you classify as a willing kiss?"

Filia continued her blank staring until it donned on her that the question wasn't full of mockery as she would expect it to be. There was also something about it that hinted at more than just idle curiosity. She mulled on it before replying truthfully. "A kiss full of love; one that isn't inspired by circumstance or the rush of the moment."

Xellos was sure his eye was twitching in annoyance and his teeth were clenched but he didn't have the energy to force the automatic reaction to cease. "Love..." he repeated the dreadful word. He remembered what Celo had told him about the cure. 'The cure will bring you to your weakest state before freeing you from the curse...' A kiss full of love, full of positive emotions, such a fully charged direct hit would certainly weaken even a strong monster, more so since he would have to be exposed to all those positive feelings during the process of making it happen. "I see..." Things were far more difficult than Xellos ever expected them to be.

Filia watched as Xellos made his way to the shore where the salty water of the sea met the brown rocks of the island. The sky was no longer full of clouds, it was clear but a long time had passed and the afternoon had gone by. The sun was setting in the horizon as Xellos levitated above the ground. He looked back for a second, "coming?"

Filia woke up from her pensive state and nodded quickly. "Yes, of course!" She ducked behind a rock formation and changed into her dragon form, following Xellos into the horizon.

xoxox xox xoxox

During the time that Xellos and Filia spent on their investigation, Lina occupied herself in ordering a ton of food via room service. Gourry eventually smelled it and joined her in eating, his sickness not slowing him down one bit. In the mean time, Amelia and Zelgadis strolled around the casino, looking around as people jumped and cheered or cursed and cried with the latter reaction being far more abundant than the former.

Simultaneously, Phythan was knocking on doom's door as Martina's elite poker table filled up with guests. "So you're in the White Rabbit rank," Martina observed curiously. She didn't recognize the blond man, but if he was wearing the clothes of a master gambler then he must be one. She would have to be on her guard. "I am the Red Queen; no one can beat me at poker!"

"Poker..." Phythan repeated with curiosity. "A card game of human origins. I do like games. Okay, I'll challenge you Red Queen Martina!"

Martina's mocking laughter echoed for a few seconds before she paused and inquired. "Are you a fan of mine to know my name beyond my alias of Red Queen? What is your name, White Rabbit?" She believed she was admired by many, so this wasn't a surprising development.

"I'm Phythan and I heard about you from Miss Lina. Miss Amelia and Mr. Zelgadis are around here somewhere," he looked around, unable to spot them. "Miss Lina is nursing Mr. Gourry back to health from his terrible cold and Miss Filia and Mr. Xellos are... somewhere." What ever happened to those two anyway?

Martina looked rather angry; her teeth were clenched as she squeezed the deck of cards in her hands. "I will win," she declared firmly without any further elaboration upon her determination. Then she held the cards to her chest and loudly called out, "give me luck Lord Zoamelgustar!"

"Luck spells are allowed?" Phythan's question was ignored as all the players seated on the table took a moment to cast their own luck spells and brandish their charms and talismans for protection against the Red Queen's winning streak. Wasting no more time in waiting for an answer, Phythan focused his energy in a whispered chant. "Fate, destiny, chance, clock of shifting sand, commanding time's advance, heed my will, my stance, deliver triumph to my hand... Fortune Luck!" his eyes flickered violet then returned to brown as he felt a sharp pain in his head. He ignored it, attributing it to the needed strength of the spell for it to work in the current circumstances.

"The time is now!" Martina raised her hand signaling that the interlude for prayers and luck spells was over. "Let us begin!" She dealt the cards swiftly, each person looking at their hand with unreadable focus.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia kept pointing out different things to Zelgadis as they walked along the casino, though he discouraged her from betting. Finally tired of only looking, Amelia gave Zelgadis her best pleading look. "Just one little bet, one little coin. If I lose it it'll be worth it for the amusement. It's like paying a ticket to see a show."

"Why do you even need my approval?" Zelgadis realized. "It's your money, you can bet as much as you want."

"I don't want to bet anything if it makes you feel uncomfortable." Amelia kept giving Zelgadis her adorable pleading look, which would soon either make him beg her to bet something or cause him to melt into a blushing puddle of goop.

"Alright, alright," Zelgadis tried to get himself to calm down. Amelia's charm was stronger than usual in that bunny costume and his eyes kept wondering even if he was trying to keep them looking ahead. "One coin won't hurt."

With a bright smile like a child that had been promised candy, Amelia skipped over to the nearest roulette table with Zelgadis in tow. She looked at the numbers and finally decided, "one coin on lucky seven!" The others who were betting kept mumbling about how in the world someone naive enough to think the number seven was actually lucky could have possibly earned the rank of White Rabbit as her outfit suggested. Furthermore, for a master gambler her bet was sure small.

The roulette master, a tuxedo clad red-haired young man with blue eyes, accepted the bet. Zelgadis gave him a suspicious look, though he appeared to just be doing his job. There was something about his good boy face that rubbed Zelgadis the wrong way and he could have sworn he saw some hidden mischief in his eyes. He could be the underling of someone powerful masquerading as a casino employee. The owner of the resort might have a special guest visiting the casino, some super powerful mafia lord or something. The visitor had his agents scattered all over the place keeping an eye out for their boss' enemies. Maybe it was even a trap to bring them out, thinking they could knock out the mafia boss when he was on holiday outside of his territory. Or maybe Zelgadis just had an active imagination.

Zelgadis constructed a soap opera of a mafia drama in his head to serve as a background for the roulette master. He had been labeled as an elite spy and swordsman able to cast a few spells, partnered with a sorceress, that when provoked, or ordered, had a mean streak that rivaled Lina's, casting terrible electric spells. She had blue hair, because it would contrast his red hair while matching his eyes and style was important in the mafia. Her eyes, Zelgadis' imagination decided, would be pitch black to show her status as a sorceress and give her an extra edge since she wasn't much of a swordfighter, even if she could kick pretty hard.

The pair would be occasionally joined by a healer who dedicated most of her time to the collection of national secrets, blackmail and other such troublesome information through the seduction of unsuspecting men. She would be blond with green eyes. Then there's the knight in training that's secretly the son of the mafia lord and... and Zelgadis was getting carried away. He realized that the whole story must have been something he read at the library while taking a break from his fruitless possible cure research. Something about family secrets, conspiracies and diamonds. He was just passing the time and not really paying all that much attention to the story anyway.

"I won!" Amelia suddenly cheered, which brought back Zelgadis from his gangster novel induced day dreams. She smiled happily as against all odds she held up her obtained coins. "That was fun, wasn't it, Mr. Zelgadis."

"I guess so," seeing Amelia smiling made Zelgadis happy, though he also felt silly for discouraging her bet so adamantly. Lina might get herself neck deep in debt, she constantly was in such a situation with restaurants, but Amelia was a responsible girl who wouldn't get carried away. She knew when to stop gambling. "Why don't you go ahead and try again? You got all those coins; it won't hurt to bet a few since you would leave with more than what you came anyway."

"I did promise I would bet only once," Amelia recalled while the other gamblers grumbled about the amazing luck of those few fortunate enough to reach the rank of White Rabbit.

"It's alright," Zelgadis looked encouraging in his own way. "One more won't hurt."

"If you say so," Amelia smiled and tried to get him to join the fun. "Why don't you try it this time?"

"I'm not as lucky as you," Zelgadis replied quietly, he had a bad feeling about gambling. Amelia knew when to quit, he could trust her with that, but he was stubborn about achieving what he wanted, he couldn't trust himself the same way.

Then out of nowhere, one of the gamblers gathered around the roulette, a wolf beast-man. He pulled out a long double barreled gun and pointed it clear across the room at a fancy exclusive-looking poker table in the corner, at the head of which sat a man in an orange suit. "Die, Giovanni!"

Before anyone could even blink, the roulette master had pulled out a conveniently pre-enchanted sword from under the table and sliced away both long barrels of the gun in half. Then a blue haired woman who was managing chip exchanges in a nearby table sent a precise shot of electricity at the offending beast-man, leaving him twitching on the floor. A blond woman in a tight revealing dress pointed at the scene and the two men previously standing left and right of her picked up the fallen wolf person and took him away.

The red-hared roulette master smiled innocently. "It's all part of the show." Zelgadis thought the show was way too much like that novel he partially read, yet the situation fit so well, he had to wonder if the man in the orange suit really was a mafia lord.

"Mr. Zelgadis?" Amelia looked at him with a hint of worry.

Zelgadis shook off the impression he was left with and decided to place a bet. Just one coin, only that. "One coin on lucky seven," it was unoriginal, but he fully expected to lose no matter what he picked, so it didn't matter.

The other gamblers grumbled about how there was no way lucky seven could win twice in a row and questioned how a gambler so lacking in skill could have possibly earned the rank of White Rabbit. Then the roulette landed on seven again.

"Congratulations Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia cheered happily. "You've won a lot of coins. This must be your lucky day!"

"Maybe it is," Zelgadis' eyes shone with ambition. He wasn't usually greedy, but if he had a ton of money, he could post an offer for a reward for information about his cure, perhaps going as far as finding someone who would offer the cure itself given the proper incentive. "Time to raise the stakes!"

"Mr. Zelgadis?" Amelia tilted her head to the side in confused worry as Zelgadis seemed to glow with determination.

"This table is for small bets. I'm going to the highest rank roulette table to place my next bet and I'll win!" Zelgadis bravely declared, sounding much more like a White Rabbit gambler now. "For the larger bets chips are required, so I'll need to get some chips!" Without a second thought, Zelgadis bolted towards the chip exchange stand with a worried Amelia following him.

"Maybe we shouldn't get so excited," Amelia cautioned ineffectively.

"It's my lucky day, Amelia!" Zelgadis insisted as he positioned his earnings plus all the traveling money he had on the chip exchange table. The blue haired sorceress gladly exchanged all his money for chips, depositing the coins in the safe under the table. Then the eager chimera ran off to gamble everything he had, with an apprehensive princess trailing behind him.

xoxox xox xoxox

"You cheated!" Martina pointed at Phythan who had been winning one game after another. He was wiping the floor with the other unlucky gamblers; the table having switched players several times as they went broke and left.

"No I didn't! An honorable ally of justice would never cheat!" Phythan argued back defensively.

"It's time for a special challenge!" Martina loudly declared, raising her index finger to point at the ceiling and lowering her hand in a swift motion so she was pointing at Phythan. She then spread the deck of cards on the table like a fan face down. "It's an all or nothing special challenge and a White Rabbit should know that when the Red Queen issues a challenge, it cannot be denied. You must pick the cards I command or lose it all!"

The other gamblers began to mutter to themselves, glad that they were not on the receiving end of Martina's challenge. White Rabbit or not, no one had been able to defeat the Red Queen's special challenge. The key to gambling is knowing when to quit and quitting is a must before the anger of the Red Queen is provoked.

"You will choose the jack of diamonds..." Martina commanded with a fierce glare.

Phythan had not heard of this particular game before, but it appeared to be simple enough. He was good at games though other aspects of life sometimes escaped him. From what he understood, he needed to choose the card that Martina told him to, obviously without looking. It was a very easy game of chance, since his turn was his alone without someone else's luck to push away his own. He moved his hand forward confidently; eyes closed in concentration and picked a card. It was the jack of diamonds.

"You got lucky," Martina growled. "Alright, challenge me if you dare!" She let out a stream of obnoxious laughter.

"Since you're the Red Queen, I'll challenge you to find the queen of hearts." Maybe picking a card that suited the challenger so well wasn't Phythan's best move, but he wanted to see how far Martina's powers over chance really went.

"That's easy!" Another round of loud high pitched laughter from Martina followed. Then she paused and took a deep breath. "Guide me oh great Zoamelgustar!" with the outmost confidence she picked a card and it was the queen of hearts.

The gamblers, who had been left as spectators to the showdown between the Red Queen and one of the White Rabbits marbled at their skill. When the word spread through the casino that the Red Queen had issued a direct challenge, more people gathered around her table to watch the rare occurrence. The Red Queen usually cleaned out the savings of all her challengers, even the White Rabbits of the past, without having to resort to the special challenge. In the few rare occasions when she had issued it in the past, the challenger fell to her superior luck after a mere few turns. This particular showdown was just getting started and it didn't look like it would end any time soon.

"Seven of spades!" Martina called out defiantly.

Phythan picked the correct card, showing it to her. "Ten of clubs!" He challenged.

Martina chose a card without a hint of doubt and revealed it to be the ten of clubs. "Three of spades!" So it went on and on until all fifty-two cards had been chosen and the challenged ended in a draw. Of course, the great Red Queen wasn't going to take that. She shuffled the cards and set them out again as the spectators continued to marvel. The challenge was again restarted and one after another each card was correctly chosen with each combatant empowering their own stream of good luck.

"Enough," an old man, or rather a monster chimera disguised as one, made his way through the crowd; it was Celo, the resort owner. His attention had been captured by the showdown of chance.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 025: Risky! Ye Who Ask For Ruin

Martina froze at the sight of her boss, Celo, the resort's owner and manager, hoping that he wasn't going to fire her for taking so long to defeat the White Rabbit. "The two of you have great skills in empowering your luck. Martina, when we met you could only tap into your abilities occasionally through your faith in Zoamelgustar, but your power of chance has been further released since then. However, this young man also possesses the ability to bend chance in his favor. You are both only empowering yourselves, merely defending. In creasing your good luck won't be enough to win, you must wield the opposing power. Martina, the power of bad luck, you also possess it, but in this young man I sense only the power of good luck. You have the advantage Red Queen, it is time!"

Martina gasped in shock, "Master Celo... you don't mean..." when Celo trained her as the Red Queen he told her never to use the dark side of her chance bending abilities, least the horrible luck fall upon her. Was she truly prepared to control such a dangerous power?

"Yes!" Celo threw his head back, his voice louder as he went on in a somewhat mad scientist tone. "Ye who wields both fortune and misfortune, ye who carries the unique power to shape fate!"

"Yes!" Martina cheered determinately. "She who walks between chaos and order, she who decides the path beyond borders, she who knows no master, she will become the caster. I am she who unites fate and destiny by chance; I am she for whom all the world will dance... Lady Luck!" The atmosphere around the casino became darker as the enchanted lamps flickered, then it all returned to normal. Martina had her eyes closed, face downcast. She slowly lifted her head and opened her now golden eyes. "Doest thou challenge ye who movest fate?" Martina's speech was odd in more ways than one. She spoke in words long lost in seemingly incorrect tenses, albeit Celo understood the logic behind them.

Phythan cringed in pain as he felt his spell being shattered, its effect gone. "May I cast my luck spell again?"

"Thou mayst, yet thou shallt not prevail, for I am ye who movest fate." Martina's voice carried an unnatural echo to it that gave her an anonymous tone.

Focus on the task at hand, Phythan chanted his spell again, with a few differences. "Ye who flies and never lands, ye who knows and understands, aligning fate, destiny, chance. Eternal clock of shifting sand, commanding time's advance, heed mine will, mine stance, deliver triumph to mine hand! Fortune Lock!" A tremendous strain overtook Phythan again, as his brown eyes once more flashed violet and returned to brown, only to become violet again a second later and remain that way. Phythan felt his energy being drained as his newly casted spell fought to stay active. He refused to let it break, pushing his energy to the limit.

"The showdown is now," Celo grinned. "It's time to take back what has been stolen from the monster race, the Green Alchemist will regret his thievery!"

Phythan's eyes went from violet to red as his countenance changed to a sinister expression, then it all went away. His eyes were brown once more as he lost consciousness.

"Hmm..."Celo looked thoughtful. "Could it be that you do not want to be released?" He mused aloud.

"The fate of mine challenger who lies before me doest not align with mine destiny that I walk." Martina's ominous voice echoed. "Mine fate is that of ye who seekst order within chaos. Ye shalt run towards the destiny of harmonious discord. Present thou thine challenger of mine infinity."

"Oh-oh..." Celo whispered as the gathered audience looked at him for answers. "The Red Queen issues a challenge to all of you and you cannot refuse!" The gamblers gasped. The Red Queen's challenge was reserved for extreme cases, this was very unusual. "Rise to the challenge of the Red Queen or face great peril!"

The gamblers knew they had no choice, thus one by one they challenged Martina and lost miserably. Celo took the distraction as an opportunity to gather more challengers for Martina. She was supposed to push the dragon boy to the limit and extract that which was contained inside of him. Yet the boy had shut himself and the creature inside of his own body without realizing it. Until another opportunity presented itself, the force possessing Martina had to be kept entertained, least it grow bored and she lost control of it completely.

xoxox xox xoxox

"C'mon lucky seven!" The ball spun around the roulette ignoring Zelgadis' pleas as all inanimate objects tend to do. It stopped on the eight as if mocking him. "So close! Forget lucky seven, it's not lucky anymore." As the past bets were cleared, Zelgadis gave up several more chips, "Black," he simply stated.

"Mr. Zelgadis," Amelia tugged on his arm looking quite concerned. "You've already lost all that you won before and you've lost most of your savings. I think it's time to quit."

"Not until I recover," Zelgadis' eyes were glue to the roulette. "Just a few more bets and I'll have it all back!" The roulette landed on red, which meant another loss for Zelgadis. "Forget roulette, how about some dice? Now that's real gambling. There's a table for throwing dice over there." He made his way out of the crowd gathered around the roulette table and started walking towards the dice table.

Amelia hurried to block his path. "I think you've had enough, Mr. Zelgadis. It's time to stop!" She insisted adamantly.

"I know when to stop and the time is not now," Zelgadis argued. "Just one more bet, one more try," he went on almost feverishly. He tried to side-step around Amelia, but she kept moving along his path in an odd sort of dance. "Amelia stop it, you need to trust me!"

"I trust you Mr. Zelgadis, but not everything can be entrusted to chance!" Amelia tried to reason with him. "Let's take a break, alright? We can go back upstairs, order some room service and relax."

"We can do that after this one bet, just one more." Zelgadis continued his blockade dance with Amelia. "It's my money and I know what I'm doing!" He snapped in a harsher tone than he meant and pushed past her in a hurry.

Amelia's face fell, Zelgadis never spoke to her and she never could imagine him shoving her aside. "Mr. Zelgadis... I've never seen you like this." She felt as if she stood in the middle of an icy field, miles away from Zelgadis as he walked into the distance.

xoxox xox xoxox

Martina had run out of challengers and Phythan was still out cold. Celo didn't like the looks of this. He could continue to bring in more challengers, but they would eventually run out, plus Martina, or rather the force inside her, could get tired of them and refuse them. "I am ye who walk between chaos and order!" Martina's voice echoed as the entire casino trembled. "I am ye who decide the path beyond borders!" It felt as if a massive earthquake was demolishing the casino, causing most of those in it to run for their lives. The tremors lessened for a moment and the atmosphere was filled only with the sounds of the last few fleeing footsteps. Then in a silent pause, Martina spoke once more, "I am ye who knows no true master!" Her voice turned agonized as she screamed at the top of her lungs, she was losing control.

xoxox xox xoxox

In another area of the casino, Zelgadis held on to the edge of the table to avoid falling. His eyes were transfixed on the dice as he willed them to land on six. "C'mon... be lucky..." Most of the other gamblers had already fled.

The dice finally stopped as the tremors lessened and the pieces of roof stopped raining upon them. "Snake eyes," the casino employee in charge of that particular table announced. "You lose, game over, I'm out of here!" The employee fled, leaving a frustrated Zelgadis behind.

"Get back here!" Zelgadis loudly demanded as he slammed his fist into the table and broke it, that is broke the table obviously. "I'm not done betting! The house can't quit, only the gambler can!" Never mind that he couldn't. "Take my next bet!" He frantically searched for chips, but his chip bag was empty. "A bet... A bet... I need to make a bet. Amelia, let me borrow a coin, I'll pay you back tenfold as soon as I win!"

"Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia glared defiantly. "You're out of control; don't you see that all the other gamblers have left? Even the employees ran away! This building is about to collapse, we have to get out of here!" The final tremor came so harsh that the ceiling above their heads was no longer shedding pieces, instead fully collapsing. Amelia fell back, her leg getting stuck under a pile of debris.

"Amelia!" Zelgadis rushed to get her free, but it was too late. The falling ceiling landed upon both of them, burying them alive.

xoxox xox xoxox

Simultaneously, Gourry and Lina's banquet had been interrupted by the same cause of the sudden evacuation of the casino building. It seemed that Gourry's defenses had put up a fight against the cold that a fool shouldn't have been able to catch in the first place and he was feeling much better after eating. "Lina, why is it shaking so much?"

"How should I know?" The floor began to fall apart and the table was overturned, the dishes spilling the food all over the broken floor to the debris below. "My food! Whoever is causing this will be in big trouble!" Lina momentarily put aside the fact that she was wearing a ridiculous bunny outfit and rushed in, jumping into the opening on the floor, determined to find the one to blame for the tremors.

"Wait for me!" Gourry jumped in after her, with no clue about what was going on, but following Lina into the center of it anyway, just as usual.

xoxox xox xoxox

Martina was surrounded by a golden glow. She slowly raised her right hand, index finger outstretched and gently pointed upward. The debris started to float along with those unfortunate enough to have missed their chance to run away. "I am ye who controls the dance of fate and destiny."

Zelgadis became free from the clutter of debris with Amelia still mostly intact in his arms. He wasn't sure what was up with the floating fragments of the once elegant construction, but his attention was more focused on Amelia. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm alright, I just scratched my leg, but I can heal it," Amelia confirmed. She began to cast the recovery spell so that she could be on her feet and ready for whatever this was as soon as possible.

Zelgadis looked towards the source of a golden glow. The rain had finally stopped, but the black clouds were still present forming an odd swirling tunnel above them. It was a bad sign made worse by the fact that Martina was the source of the golden glow. "What is she up to?"

"Zel!" Lina's voice called out as the redhead spotted the chimera. She saw Amelia getting up from next to Zelgadis after having healed her leg. "Amelia!" She hurried towards them while her eyes automatically went to the source of light floating near by. "Martina?!"

"Hey guys," Gourry's greeting was rather cheerful and carefree given the situation. He noticed the glowing Martina and with a face that hinted that he was particularly unaware of the dangers that the circumstances foretold, he asked, "what's up with Martina? What's she doing?"

"Causing trouble!" Lina assumed before anyone else could come up with a possible answer. They didn't know what was going on anyway and silently agreed with Lina.

Amelia gasped and pointed as she noticed another significant detail. "Isn't that Mr. Phythan over there?" She referred to the still form under a pile of debris. "He's hurt!" She rushed into the impending danger in hopes of rescuing her comrade of justice.

"Amelia, be careful!" Zelgadis went after her, leaving Lina and Gourry standing there, unsure of what to do. Gourry was leaning towards standing around with a blank look and Lina was inclined to Dragon Slave the already ruined casino.

"Martina!" Zangulus' voice echoed beyond all other sounds as he dramatically entered the scene, still in his bellhop uniform. His wife didn't appear to recognize him as she threw a bolder of debris at him. Zangulus narrowly dodged it wishing he could cut through those kinds of obstacles instead. "I wish I had my sword!"

"Granted," Celo held out Zangulus sword to him.

Zangulus reluctantly received the blade. "How did you...? When did you...?"

Celo smiled as if they weren't in the middle of a major crisis. "When one questions luck, it turns sour," he spoke in a sagely manner, with the wisdom of many years and long time observations.

"Fine, there's no time to ask questions about my sword anyway." Zangulus moved on to another topic. "Instead I'll ask what's going on with Martina? What's wrong with her?"

"It seems her spell has failed her," Celo kept the appearance of composed calm. "She is being plagued by the constant push and pull of humanity's subconscious. If you appeal to her own conscious strongly enough, she should be able to regain control." All the while Martina had started floating away, off to decimate the other nearby buildings. "I would prefer that you accomplish that task before Martina destroys my resort. I can overlook two or three buildings, but if this keeps up, I'm afraid I'll have to charge the Kingdom of Zoana for the damages."

"No way!" Zangulus was about to argue, but he realized he was better off taking action to stop Martina from further burying them in debt. He dashed forward once more, calling out dramatically, "Martina!"

"Hey, old man!" Lina marched over to Celo glaring fiercely. "I saw you! Don't pretend like you have no idea what I'm talking about because I saw you!" She pointed at him accusingly. "Zangulus was distracted by that bolder and Gourry was distracted by being Gourry, but I was looking and I saw you! You disappeared, then reappeared with Zangulus sword. Only monsters can move through the astral plane like that!"

"Indeed," Celo calmly nodded. "However, I am not lying when I say I'm also human." By that point, Amelia and Zelgadis had recovered the unconscious Phythan and were rejoining Lina and Gourry. Amelia heard something about a monster, which meant she should probably start preparing a speech. She scouted for a place to climb up to, but it looked like none of the ruins and piles of debris were appropriate.

The argument continued, along with Lina's pointing. "That's impossible!"

"Is it?" Celo looked at Zelgadis, who was stuck with the task of carrying the unconscious Phythan. He had very bad luck, he was certain of it, as if his losing streak didn't make it obvious enough. The chimera cringed upon remembering how he treated Amelia. Apologies were certainly not his forte. It looked like she had already forgiven him, but he still felt bad about it. "What about your friend?" Celo decided that he was not going to point at Zelgadis, because Lina was clearly hogging the pointing spot light. Instead, Celo merely gave the chimera a glance and that was enough of an indication about who he meant.

Zelgadis looked offended and hurt, "I'm not a monster!" He would have ran away dramatically if not for the fact that he was carrying Phythan and no one can properly run away dramatically while carrying another person, regardless of how inspired to do so they are.

"I never said you were," Celo continued calmly. "I was merely expressing that you are a combination of human and something else. If that is possible, then why not a combination of monster and something else, with that something else being human?"

"Are you trying to tell me that you're a monster and human chimera?" Lina continued her relentless pointing, which by that point was becoming downright rude.

"Precisely," Celo's tone was ever so respectful and serene it was starting to get on everyone's nerves. It still wasn't as annoying as Xellos' constant cheer though. "Either way, I mean you no harm; after all you are allies of general Xellos, who is my superior."

"Xellos!" Lina spat out the name like poison, and yes, she was still pointing at Celo. "I knew there had to be something going on! Alright, what's the mission that Xellos' boss sent him to trick me into doing for him?"

"I believe that general Xellos is here to tend to some business of his own," Celo explained in partial revelations that left out the most important details. It was annoying. "However, he glanced in the general direction of Zelgadis and Phythan. "It seems that you have gotten mixed up in some business that I intended to clean up myself, so perhaps you wouldn't mind assisting me?"

"We don't make deals with monsters!" Amelia suddenly shouted with dramatic flare. She too was pointing at Celo along with the still pointing Lina.

"Unless they're rich monsters," Lina corrected, finally ceasing her pointing to instead cross her arms and nod her head.

Amelia stopped pointing as well because she nearly fell over, though she knew she should have expected something like that from Lina. "Miss Lina!"

Before Amelia could finish scolding Lina, Zelgadis interjected with an important inquiry of his own. "Since you're a chimera, and probably a very rare kind of chimera since I've never heard of a monster human chimera before," humans becoming monsters by a contract was something else entirely. "Can I assume that you're fairly knowledgeable about chimeras?"

"You may..." Celo remembered what Xellos had mentioned about someone being interested in a way to take chimeras apart. Celo wasn't well informed in that particular area of chimeraism, as it wasn't his main interest, but he wasn't about to point that out.

Zelgadis' eyes shone at the prospect of a new clue that could lead him to his cure. "Why don't you tell me all about your problem, I might be able to help."

That time Amelia really did fall over, albeit once again, she thought she should have known. "Mr. Zelgadis!"

Amelia's scolding was interrupted anew, this time by Celo. "I have gold coins, I have information and it seems I have an open door towards negotiation. That's good to know, but right now I need to tend to the possibility of my resort being reduced to nothing. Let us further discuss our prospective deals after Miss Martina subsides from her rampage. Mr. Zangulus should be able to bring her back to her senses."

"Should be?" Amelia didn't really like the sound of that.

Lina looked determined, "if he doesn't, I'll gladly knock some sense into her!" Amelia decided that she liked the sound of that even less. As if Martina wasn't causing enough destruction already, she didn't need Lina to add to it.

"Let us observe," Celo proposed, as he calmly made his way towards Martina, who seemed entertained by hurling pieces of scrap that were once part of elegant buildings at Zangulus.

Lina shrugged, Gourry looked clueless, Amelia let out a foreboding breath, Zelgadis readjusted Phythan's weight on his back and Phythan did nothing since he was still unconscious. Thus the entire group joined Celo in his calm walk towards Martina and Zangulus.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 026: Powerful! Hidden Potential

Zangulus dramatically approached Martina as she threw boulders of debris at him in her wild state. He sliced through the projectiles, jumping from one to the other. "Martina!" He reached out to her, almost touching her, but he was thrown back by a great invisible force that sent him crashing to the ground below.

Martina lowered her levitation, landing near Zangulus. "Thou who tries to align fate and destiny. Wilt thou strike down thine companion now that she has become ye who wish for prosperity while pursuing ruin?"

Zangulus stood up with difficulty, holding his sword shakily in front of him. Then he lowered the blade. "No, it was never my intention to harm Martina. I only have this sword with me for self defense against the force possessing her. Release my Martina!"

"She who asks for ruin shall receive it," Martina rose her hand and brought it down in a swift motion. Blades of golden light appeared tracing the path of her fingers and colliding with Zangulus' upper body, reducing his bellhop uniform shirt to shreds.

At a distance that was close enough to comfortably watch and far enough to b relatively safe, there stood Celo, Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis, with the unconscious Phythan on his back. Celo rubbed his chin with his right hand, in a classic thinking pose producing a soft "hmm" sound.

"Hmm?" Lina echoed, "what does that mean?"

"The hero has lost his shirt, that means that the end of the battle is near." Celo nodded as if his assertion was based on nothing but the truest of science.

"What?" Lina screeched. "Ripped articles of clothing don't mean anything in real battles, this isn't that manga about the seven orange gems and the wish granting dragon I used to collect back home." Lina took a moment to muse that she hoped her collection was still safely hidden under her bed.

"If you don't believe me, just watch," Celo appeared to be fully confident about his conclusion.

Zangulus was clutching some sort of talisman that he was wearing around his neck, though it had been hidden under his shirt before. He removed the necklace and held up the talisman. "Look, Martina! This is lord Zoamelgustar's talisman; it's your most prized possession. You gave this to me in hopes that it would protect me. Don't you remember?" Zangulus dropped his sword and approached Martina holding up the talisman.

Martina's eyes were transfixed on the talisman, "Zoamelgustar?" She repeated unsure. "I know not such a name!" She prepared to launch the same attack as before with blades of yellow light flying towards Zangulus.

"Lord Zoamelgustar, protect me and help me save Martina!" A pale blue light emanated from the talisman forming a bubble around Zangulus as a protective shield.

Martina ceased her attack, "ye who eternally push and pull until it all falls into place. Ye to whom fate is a slave. Ye who live believing you are slaves of destiny and thus become so. Ye who defy chance. Ye for whom innumerable destinies are reachable. If thou believest, thou shall achieve..." Just as Zangulus reached Martina, her eyes closed and she collapsed into his arms.

"Martina..." Zangulus held her protectively and gently caressed her face. "You're safe now..."

"See?" Celo sounded rather triumphant as he approached the couple. "I told you that the battle was about to end. I'm sure those two will be fine on their own for now. Let us give them some time to rest and discuss other matters."

"You just don't want to face Martina when she wakes up," Lina theorized, her assessment being met with nothing but a suspicious cough from Celo, who quickened his pace.

As the group walked through the resort towards wherever Celo was leading them to talk, they passed a festival style stand with many soft stuffed animals that could be won by knocking over a stack of bottles with a ball. The trick to it was that one of the bottles in each pile was glued to the table so it wouldn't fall. Just as they walked next to the stand, Lina glanced at it, screamed at the top of her lungs and jumped into Gourry's arms burying her face in his chest and trembling terrified. "Slug! A slug, it's a slug!"

The group glanced at the slug plush toy on the display among other such toys. "It's only a toy slug," Amelia gently pointed out.

"I don't care if it's alive or not, it's horrible!" Lina's voice was a bit muffled since she was still hiding her face against Gourry's chest, unable to even look at the terrible sight before her.

"It's okay Lina, it can't get you," Gourry tried her best to console her, gently petting her hair and hugging her close.

"What's all the screaming about?" Phythan started to wake up. "Where am I?"

"You're awake, good," Zelgadis dropped him and stretched.

"Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia scolded as she hurried to help the dazed dragon to his feet. "You were unconscious for a while, Mr. Phythan." It was probably related to something Martina did when she lost control of whatever power it was she wielded back there.

"I was casting a luck spell, then I felt overwhelmed and..." his eyes, one of which was brown and the other violet, grew wide and fearful. "Spider!" He rushed to hide behind Amelia, who was noticeably shorter than him, thus not an appropriate person to hide behind. "Comrade of justice, I beg of you, please assist me in ridding the world of this evil!" He glanced at the toy spider once more. "On second thought, just get rid of it without me!"

"You have a phobia of spiders?" Zelgadis spoke in his most 'you're pathetic' voice.

Phythan nodded slowly, "the golden dragons didn't like me, they said I came from a bad family and would put me on clean up duty. The underground storage rooms were dark and had spiders."

"Aw," Amelia tried to console Phythan. "It's okay Mr. Phythan, you have new friends now, we'll keep you safe." All the while Zelgadis crossed his arms and looked annoyed, or perhaps more so jealous.

"I know what will make you feel better," Gourry continued his attempt to calm Lina. "I'll win you a prize. Give me three tries." He handed the employee in charge of the stand the appropriate coins.

Zelgadis gave up some coins as well, "two tries," it was the last bit of money he had left after his unlucky betting spree, but it would be worth it. He would win the toy spider for Amelia and she wouldn't refuse it since it was a gift. Then if Amelia had the spider in her arms, Phythan wouldn't get anywhere near her. Gourry prepared to throw the first ball, "wait," Zelgadis stopped him. "Try throwing a curve ball that hits all four targets."

"I can do that, but I don't think it'll work to knock them all down in one throw," Gourry mused. He held a yellow ball in his right hand, his left arm securely around Lina's waist.

"Trust me," Zelgadis kept his eyes attentively on the targets.

"Okay," Gourry threw a curve ball just as Zelgadis suggested. It flew in a semi-circular motion, hitting each of the four targets and knocking down several bottles.

None of the targets were knocked down completely, so no prizes had been won yet, but Zelgadis saw what he needed to see. "It's just as I thought. The hit should have at least lightly rattled all the bottles in each pyramid, but for each one there was a bottle that didn't move in the slightest. "For the first pyramid, aim at the bottle in the middle of the base; hit it hard enough to break it."

"Alright!" Gourry wasn't sure what this was about, but Zelgadis usually had good advice when he decided to express his opinion on something. Gourry threw the next ball just as Zelgadis said and shattered the bottle that was glued to the table, the aftershock of the movement causing the other remaining bottles to fall. "I won, and I still have one more try left!"

"For the second pyramid aim for the bottle on the right," Zelgadis advised.

Meanwhile the employee was looking nervous and annoyed. "It's not fair..." He muttered, but he dared not say anything else because the group looked strong and they appeared to be friends with the boss. He hoped he didn't get fired over this, though Celo merely looked amused.

The second pyramid of bottles was knocked down just the same as the first. "Alright, another victory!"

"My turn," aiming for the proper bottle, Zelgadis knocked down the two remaining pyramids in the same way. "You owe us two prizes each," he informed the frightened employee.

"Con-congratu-lations..." The worried employee stuttered. "What prizes would you like?"

"Hey Lina, what prize do you want?" Lina was unresponsive to Gourry's question, she didn't want to look towards the stuffed animals on the stand because if she did, she would see the toy slug among them and she didn't want to look at it.

"Let's give her some time to think," Zelgadis suggested, to which Gourry nodded, the plotting look on Zelgadis' face missed by him completely. But it wasn't missed by Amelia, who gave him a curious glance. "That," he pointed at the plush spider, which the employee handed over. "Amelia," Zelgadis grinned in a combination of mischief and sweetness. "It's for you."

Amelia paused as Phythan backed away from her and hurried to hide behind Gourry and Lina, the blond swordsman being tall enough to actually hide him fairly well. Amelia accepted the toy spider and looked at it for a confused moment before her features lit up. "I understand, thank you Mr. Zelgadis, it was very kind of you to help."

"You're welcome," Zelgadis didn't quite understand Amelia's response, but he basked in his victory, yet it was short lived.

Amelia approached Phythan with the plush spider in her arms. "Mr. Phythan, this is your chance to vanquish your fears!" She threw the plush spider into the air.

Phythan let out a scared squeak, not worthy of a dragon, then shot his laser breath at the falling toy. It disintegrated into ashes that were carried away by the gentle breeze. The golden dragon looked relieved. "I'm so glad that spider is gone. Thank you, Miss Amelia and Mr. Zelgadis; I am in your debt."

"It was nothing," Amelia smiled happily, while Zelgadis just stood there in frozen shock. At least Amelia was happy, thinking winning the spider was all a noble deed to help Phythan.

Curious at the commotion, Lina had peeked over to Phythan and witnessed the spider incident, without looking at the terrible slug looming near by. Her features turned wicked, "I'll show that slug who's boss!" She started to form a fireball in her hand. Fearing for the safety of his merchandise and most of all his life, the employee quickly threw the plush slug into the air, away from other flammable materials. Lina hit the slug dead on with a fireball, leaving nothing but ashes in the breeze and she punctuated her victory with a villainous laugh. "Mwahahahaha!"

The employee looked displeased. Those terrible sadists were destroying his cute little plush toys. Such adorable stuffed animals were made to be hugged, cuddled and loved, not burned to ashes! "Are you bullies going to keep abusing my soft little plushies?"

"Slugs are evil; they're a waste of material that could be used to make something cute like... Like that kitty over there!" Lina pointed at another plush toy. It was a white cat with a red bow on her ear and blue overalls.

"You like that one best?" Personally, Gourry was leaning towards the pretty jellyfish plush next to it, but the cat was cute too. "Alright then, it's yours."

The employee sighed and handed over the cat plush sadly. He thought they were going to destroy the poor dear. Lina received the stuffed animal with a slight blush on her face and a shy, "thanks Gourry..." holding it gently.

"You're welcome," Gourry smiled. The employee appeared to be relieved. That's how plushies were supposed to be treated, with love.

"Choose a prize, Amelia," Zelgadis shyly suggested. His spider plan didn't work, but at least he could still get a plush toy for Amelia.

Amelia's face lit up with so much joy that Zelgadis could barely believe it. "Thank you, Mr. Zelgadis!" She was almost jumping with happiness as she examined the remaining selection of stuffed toys. "That one!" The employee handed the selected toy over to the young woman, hoping that she too had seen the errors of her ways in participating in the destruction of cute and cuddly innocent little soft plushies. She seemed to have learned her lesson as she was blissfully hugging her prize with the love and respect it deserved.

Zelgadis blinked in surprise. "Really, Amelia? A rock golem? I thought you would pick the one in blue with the red cape and the yellow S."

"It's cute, but I like this one best." Amelia smiled hugging her plushie. Needless to say, the representation of the golem of yellow-brown stone was much softer than one of those could be in real life.

"If you say so..." this was Amelia, Zelgadis realized, one had to expect the unexpected.

"If our little detour is over, please follow me," Celo intervened. Night had already fallen between one thing and the other.

The group followed Celo for a short while, until they crossed paths walking down the street with some familiar faces. "There they are!" Filia hurried towards the group with Xellos close behind. She paused as she took in their appearances. "Those outfits and the bunny ears..." she tried her best not to laugh, but burst out in a fit of giggles anyway.

"Stop laughing!" Lina yelled with embarrass frustration. She hid her face with her cat doll; she had found a practical use for it pretty quickly.

"Really Filia, you're so rude," Xellos teased with a mocking grin.

"You should talk, you're laughing in silence!" Filia snapped, secretly thankful that the awkward silence that had formed between them was replaced with the comforting familiarity of petty arguments.

"At least I'm not being so obvious," Xellos defended. He then eyed Celo suspiciously. "May I ask what inspired you to tag along with Lina's little group?"

"He's hiring us," Lina piped in, all too glad to change the subject and steer the conversation away from matters concerning what she was wearing.

"Is he?" Xellos raised an eyebrow, one eye now open.

"Indeed," Celo nodded calmly.

Xellos felt Zelgadis' glare burning a hole in the back of his head and wondered what that was about. Then he remembered what was mentioned about chimeras in his earlier conversation with Celo. Zelgadis must have been thinking about how to stop Xellos from interfering. "I do hope you're not planning to play any tricks on them," Xellos warned.

Suddenly, the atmosphere appeared to be far tenser than before. "Of course not," Celo smiled, "I would never overstep your territory, general Xellos. I merely ask to borrow their services for a short while. Alas, not all monsters have your level of power. Some of us need to get by in different ways and it seems I'll need some help if I am to recover what was stolen from our master."

"Monster!" Filia gasped. She pointed at Celo; it seemed a lot of people had taken to pointing at him lately. "You're a monster?"

"Since we are revealing things, I might as well tell the truth. I'm a monster human chimera. It is good to see you again Miss Filia, it seems you've left your past life with the golden dragons behind. I commend you for that." There was that something again, the mysterious something that made Celo's super respectful tone incredibly infuriating.

"How much do you know about her?" Xellos growled before Filia could find her voice and respond. Just what did he mean by seeing her again?

"Only what I have heard," Celo responded vaguely. "Not nearly as much as the great general Xellos, I'm sure." Xellos glared in response to the thinly veiled implication, but made no effort to deny it. It seemed Filia had not noticed what Celo was playing at and assumed he was only referring to how Xellos always knew too much about things that shouldn't be any of his business.

"Monster!" Amelia exclaimed, pointing her accusing finger at Celo, who sighed helplessly. Would the pointing ever cease? "What kind of evil traps have you concocted against us?"

"I will reveal all once we are at a suitable place to talk," Celo smiled, keeping up with his respectful act. "If you do not wish to walk, I'm sure general Xellos can take you to the clock tower in the middle of the north forest where I shall be waiting, if he so approves of your attendance." Celo faded away into the astral side, teleporting back to the clock tower.

"We don't need Xellos' permission to go anywhere!" Lina yelled angrily. "And I can get there myself!"

"So many strange things are happening... monsters and that constant dark presence. It feels as if this entire place is surrounded in dark miasma, but then again, it's been like that all along, even if I don't see it." Phythan finally spoke after his long silence.

"Dark miasma?" Filia repeated, "I don't feel anything from the atmosphere, but..." She placed her hand on Phythan's forehead. "Why have your eyes changed color again?"

"What do you mean?" Phythan sounded as if he really didn't know what Filia was talking about.

"There's something there, some kind of presence in you, that must be what you're sensing that feels like miasma. It's... inside." Filia focused her senses on Phythan. "Maybe a curse? No, this is different from a curse." She slowly withdrew her hand, "what happened to you?"

Phythan shook his head, eyes downcast. "I don't know. A few more memories have come back to me, but I still don't know. I remember a little more about the battle with that monster, the monster that tried to steal the treasure I was guarding. I remember being attacked by golden dragons, then both the monster and I were left for dead. A figure in a black cloak approached us and..." A sharp pain coursed through his head and he was unable to continue. "That's all, I can't remember anything else, it just gives me a headache."

Filia knew that the information on Phythan's profile scroll was questionable and that the rumors she had heard probably had plenty of holes too. Maybe there wasn't a battle for the lamp, maybe it was all just a cover up to kill Phythan and the lamp just happened to be there. "Your family; what can you tell me about them?"

Phythan shook his head, "they all died long ago, fallen during missions, but that's classified information so I was never told about the specifics. I was led to think it was all because of the monster race, but somehow, I doubt that's completely true."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 027: Mythical! Magic Lessons

Filia felt her heart break for a fellow golden dragon who had suffered the erroneous ways of her people. "I promise I'll help you find out what happened. I'll help you figure out what's happening to you now and if you're in danger," which he almost certainly was, "then I'll help you overcome it!"

Phythan smiled gratefully, "you're very kind Miss Filia, thank you."

"Count me in!" Amelia enthusiastically declared. "I'll help Mr. Phythan too!"

"Thank you Miss Amelia, you both have infinite beauty not only outside, but also in your hearts." The two girls blushed at Phythan's compliment while Xellos and Zelgadis glared fiercely.

Feeling left out, Lina decided it was about time to shift the spotlight back to herself. She wasn't about to offer any free help, so instead she pushed the group forward with her words. "There's no time to waste, we have a whole pile of mysteries to solve and it keeps on growing. I think our best bet right now is to take the invitation we were given and head to the clock tower at the north forest. But first, we'll take a quick detour at the nearby shops so we can get some decent clothes and change out of these ridiculous outfits!" The leader had spoken and all quarrels aside, the group followed.

xoxox xox xoxox

A short while later, the group found themselves at a costume shop. "It figures that the costume shops would be the only clothing stores around here with semi-normal outfits." Lina commented as she examined herself in the mirror. Her outfit looked more like a one piece leather bathing suit, than an actual outfit, but it still fit the sorceress image. She was wearing long matching boots that covered most of her legs, reaching above the knees, fingerless black gloves that reached her elbows and some light armor with a short white cape attached.

"I hardly call this normal," Zelgadis pouted as he examined his outfit, which consisted of white tight pants and a long green shirt with brown gloves and boots. The outfit also came with a little green hat that looked more like a tiny sack, but he didn't want to wear it. The clothes weren't so bad, except that green wasn't really his color and... and... oh, who cares? At least it was better than what he was wearing before.

"These clothes are pretty cool." Amelia placed her hands on her hips and looked at the mirror victoriously. She was wearing tight blue shorts, which were particularly short, Zelgadis observed, a red top with golden details and matching boots. On her wrists she had golden armlets and a matching tiara on her head. She also carried a lasso around her waist, which was apparently part of the heroic apparel.

"Not bad, these clothes are pretty comfortable after all," Gourry seemed satisfied with his outfit that consisted of black pants, boots and long coat with a big brown belt around the waist and two thinner belts crossed in the shape of an X over his chest, along with metal armor on the shoulders.

"I have no idea what the red R stands for, but this is comfy." Phythan was wearing white pants and a white shirt with a red R on it, dark gray gloves and boots.

"What I don't understand is why I need to wear this," Filia protested. "I was just fine with the clothes I had on before!"

Lina gave Filia a firm look, "if we're wearing these outfits, you need to wear a costume too."

"That's right Filia, you're so selfish, be a team player." Xellos' teasing voice just had to add something.

Filia growled at him, "why this?" She pointed at her outfit consisting of a short sailor suit with an orange skirt and a blue bow over her chest, orange heels and a red bow on her head. "Can't I wear something that's... not so short?" She tugged on the mini-skirt uncomfortably, but the fabric refused to grant her impossible wish of magically becoming longer.

Xellos gave her a detailed look up and down, his eyes pausing on her legs for longer than was needed for a quick examination. "I see nothing wrong with your outfit.

Filia's face turned red in a mixture of anger and embarrassment. She resorted to insulting his outfit as a comeback. "What about you? Are you obsessed with the color purple?"

Xellos took a moment to glance at his own reflection in the plentiful mirrors set out through the costume shop. "It's a nice color; I am rather fond of it." His outfit consisted of wizard style purple armor, pointy helmet included, and longer purple fabric falling over the pants.

"It looks like a stupid purple armored dress," Filia insisted.

Before Xellos could answer, because he always had some form of answer to everything, Lina interrupted. "Alright, we're done here. Let's get going!" She led the march through the door after having charged all the expenses to Xellos. He didn't really notice since he was too busy giving all his visual attention to Filia.

xoxox xox xoxox

Even though Lina did not bring up the possibility of being teleported and neither did Xellos, the group made good time after their little detour and arrived at the door of the clock tower in the middle of the dark forest to the north. Once there, the door was opened by Celo before the group made any indication of their arrival, thus proving he had been waiting and watching. "Welcome to my humbled abode, please come in, I already have some tea and cookies ready for my honored guests." He wisely made no comments on their outfits.

The group entered the old structure, with the ancient wood creaking in protest to their every step. The atmosphere gave the wooden tower an eerie feel, which seemed to fit with the residence of a monster, or partial monster. Once they were seated in a bigger tabled which was placed in the same room where Celo and Xellos had their discussion before, the questions began to flow. "First up let's drop the disguises. I hope you don't expect me to believe that this is your true appearance. Even if a part of you is human, I somehow doubt someone who's part monster would age so obviously."

"Very well," in the blink of an eye, Celo's form faded into something else. He still had eyes similar to Xellos, though his hair was black and he had fangs. "This is what I look like without a disguise."

Filia gave Celo a long look. It wasn't that she was surprised by the transformation. A lot of monsters resembled vampires even if they weren't of the vampire variety. It's just that something about him seemed familiar. Seeing his younger face and long black hair brought forward a memory that she couldn't fully grasp. The fangs were out of place though, they didn't match the image in her deeply buried recollection and that threw her off.

"Not very original," Lina commented dismissively. "Okay, now for some explanations," she half requested and half ordered. "Let's begin with what happened back there. Tell us about Martina."

"Ah yes, Miss Martina, or perhaps I should say Queen Martina," Celo began his explanation. "First of all, you should understand the principals of fate, destiny and chance, if you are to understand what happened to Martina. I'll put this in basic terms. A fate is an individual and destiny is a path that the individual takes. There are many paths in life that one can walk, leading one's fate towards a destiny. Chance is the force that pushes and pulls fate until it aligns with destiny. This is not the only force that moves it as fate itself has the power to move towards a certain destiny, even against the flow of chance. Of course, if chance is on your side, you'll have to spend less time and energy pushing your fate into alignment with the desired destiny." Celo paused and observed the expressions of his audience.

Everyone seemed to be paying attention except Gourry, who was staring off into space and Xellos, who looked bored. In Xellos' case he probably already knew the explanation so far, though Celo had a feeling that a certain detail which he was yet to speak would be a surprise to him, or perhaps not so much the detail but the interpretation of it. Lina nodded in acknowledgement, "I get it so far, continue."

Celo proceeded with his explanation. "Chance itself is a force generated by all living things. All of it together, the side effects of our actions and reactions however small, even the effects of our inaction and even our very thoughts. Monsters, dragons, humans, beastmen, animals, plants, everything, that is the force of chance. As a part of this force, we are capable of influencing it even beyond natural cause and effect. We can bend probability so to speak, it is the mysterious power of the mind. Monsters have the skill to bring misfortune, though they can bring fortune if they so wish it, it must be done by the movement of their fate, rather than the side effects upon chance. Dragons on the other hand tend to influence chance in favorable ways. For example, if a monster attacks a human village, the humans are likely to lose hope, blame one another for somehow drawing the monster there, and get mixed up in all sorts of disputes about what should be done. If a dragon attacks a human village, the humans are more likely to put their differences aside and work together to defend against the dragon, ending up with a more organized and unified community than before. Similar actions, different reactions."

At this point Filia was fiercely glaring at Celo, "it's not the same." She stated firmly.

"Certainly not," Celo agreed. "But you understand the basic idea. Beastmen can influence chance in both good and bad ways, though they tend to bring good luck towards those similar to them and bad luck towards those who are different. This is only chance and the will of fate can completely negate and even contradict such an effect in any possible case. That is to say, no one has to be lucky or unlucky, fate is stronger than chance, unless one surrenders their fate to chance. This makes chance seem a whole lot less important, since fate can negate it, except in the case of humans. They have the ability to move chance in any direction, good bad and in-between. They have a special alignment with chance, their fate rules it all for they rule over their fate. Even when one of another kind tries to guide their fate, the fate itself will try to throw them towards a certain destiny. Human fate is completely uncertain and at the mercy of the individual, strongly defying chance. With that said, it seems that chance is unimportant, but it should never be underestimated, because even a small chance can take down a powerful fate if one is not careful. To put it simply, if humans learned to control their ability to influence chance in both good and bad ways as needed, aligning their fates with the destiny they desire would be an easy task. Yet they think of themselves as fragile for the lack the superficial powers that monsters, dragons and beastmen possess."

Xellos chuckled in mock amusement, "are you saying that humans control it all? Not even chance can save the human race. The only real destiny is for the world to return to chaos."

"Maybe it is so, but not by our hands, it will be many millennia from now, by their own hands. I fear there might be a time when monsters, dragons and beastmen become extinct and with them the power of sorcery that the humans borrow." There was a long pause in which Celo looked resigned, Filia clenched her teeth and switched glaring between Celo and Xellos, going back and forth, Gourry looked just as clueless as always and the others continued to pay attention. "Ah, but there is no need to think of such far away apocalyptic times now."

"Especially since it's not going to happen." Though Celo expected another correction from Xellos, it was Filia who contributed her disagreement.

"So what does all this talk about fate, destiny and chance have to do with Martina?" Lina inquired. "I gather you were trying to harness her power to control chance, she's a human and as much as I hate to admit it has a strong will when it comes to Zoamelgustar, who doesn't even exist. That barrier Zangulus made is also something to consider. He's not supposed to be a sorcerer."

"He is not," Celo confirmed. "The talisman of Zoamelgustar carries Martina's spell. Her will, that is what Zoamelgustar is. It is even apparent in the name. Her full name is Martina Zoana Mel Navratilova, Zoamel comes from her name and gustar roughly translates into 'to favor' or 'to like'. Zoamelgustar's energy is the energy of Martina's wishes, the force of her fate and her ability to interact with chance. I taught her to tilt the odds in her favor in gambling and helped her to train her instinct so she could fulfill her role as the Red Queen of the casino. However, she was only able to wield good and bad fortune separately and sometimes lost control of the bad fortune during her training. Of course, there was someone to watch over her exercises and make sure nothing went wrong." The way Celo said it hinted that the someone was another person, rather than himself.

"So that's what Zoamelgustar really is..." Amelia mused. "If the mind is so powerful, then the potential of positive thinking is immeasurable!"

"You, young lady, are a frightening person." Celo observed with respectful distaste, even though that may sound as a contradiction, he somehow pulled it off.

"Thank you," Amelia smiled victoriously, "allies of justice are proud to be frightening to monsters!"

Before they got further out of topic, and most importantly because she was running out of cookies, Lina guided the conversation back on track. "So that spell that Martina performed was related to chance?"

"Yes," Celo took the hint and continued his explanation. "Chance is a collective conscious of sorts. Martina targeted a deeper connection with the human side of it, the most powerful bearers of chance. Humans are fragile, but they are adaptable and can achieve what others might have never guessed they could. The original spell called Master of Chance goes like this: 'I who walks between chaos and order, I who decides the path beyond borders, ye who knows no master, ye will become the caster. Ye am I who unites fate and destiny by chance, ye am I for whom all the world will dance.' The first part identifies the caster as a capable wielder of chance and chance itself tests the caster to see if it is true. Then, if the caster's will is strong enough, the power of chance becomes deeply connected to the caster, who becomes as chance itself."

"That spell," Phythan finally spoke up after his long silence. "That's not the spell Martina casted, but it is similar. Was that on purpose?"

"Indeed," Celo confirmed. "Over time people have attributed a form to chance, although it is a shapeless force with no physical attributes. People have come to picture chance as a beautiful but fickle woman. They call her Lady Luck. This Lady Luck is but a portion of chance, the portion that is closest to the fate of the caster. By controlling a smaller portion of chance with this less effective version of the spell, it should be easier to control. This spell called Lady Luck can be focused with these words: 'She who walks between chaos and order, she who decides the path beyond borders, she who knows no master, she will become the caster. I am she who unites fate and destiny by chance; I am she for whom all the world will dance.' It is not rare for a spell to be corrupted over time, such as it happened with the Dragon Slave. In this case the focus of the spell itself changes to concentrate in a smaller portion of fate, so the change is significant."

"So it's like a sub-spell in a sense," Lina surmised. "Lady Luck is a less powerful but easier to control version of the Master of Chance spell."

"Yes," Celo approved of Lina's interpretation once more. "All the gamblers at the Red Queen's table are allowed to use their own luck spells and amulets, thus I don't consider it cheating, given that they all get the opportunity to use what skill they have."

"Luck spells for gambling..." Zelgadis repeated with a tone of careful consideration.

"Mr. Zelgadis..." Amelia's voice carried a gentle but clear warning.

"Anyway, moving on to the important part." Zelgadis disregarded the possibility of working on his gambling skills. His luck made him a very bad candidate to risk trying to cast such spells. "I don't think that things are all that simple, this wasn't just about gambling. There's clearly more to it than that."

"Indeed," Celo nodded with no intentions of hiding it any longer. "With the help of Martina I hoped to draw out that which was stolen and kept in the boy." He motioned towards Phythan. "But alas, the lad passed out and was unable to face Martina's duel of chance. I know of his talent for good luck and thought that if his spells of fortune were pushed to the limit then his true self would have to emerge to support them and push out the invader, that which was stolen."

Phythan gained an expression that was almost identical to Gourry's. "I don't understand."

Gourry gave him a friendly pat on the back, "don't worry about it, I don't get it either, but the tea and cookies are good."

At that point of the conversation Xellos appeared to be truly interested but didn't produce any voiced prompts to get Celo to elaborate. Predictably, it was Lina who demanded more information. "Stop going in circles old man!" Never mind that his current appearance resembled a man in his late twenties, thus he was not really an old man in the literal sense, albeit he had been disguised as one before.

"Your good fortune draws power from your dragon energy," Celo addressed Phythan.

"Yes," Phythan nodded. "The spell I usually use is a shortened version of the original Fortune Lock spell, with it's name having been corrupted as Fortune Luck. It basically works by causing fate to lock on to a specific destiny, making that destiny much more likely to occur by boosting the power of fate to move towards it making use of favorable chance. The words for the short version are: 'fate, destiny, chance, clock of shifting sand, commanding time's advance, heed my will, my stance, deliver triumph to my hand.' It's similar to the spell Miss Martina casted in the sense that the original has a wider range. Having it go out of control isn't really a big concern, since it's just positive energy anyway, maintaining it is the real catch, because the more powerful the spell, the more energy it will require." Like with holy magic, dragons tended to have a natural talent for it. "The words for the original Fortune Lock spell are: 'ye who flies and never lands, ye who knows and understands, aligning fate, destiny, chance, eternal clock of shifting sand, commanding time's advance, heed mine will, mine stance, deliver triumph to mine hand.'

"The collective conscious again," Lina mused aloud. "I take it the ye that Martina and Phythan's spells refer to is the same thing, it's chance."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 028: What?! Expect the Unexpected

After all the explanations about spells were out of the way and Lina expressed her understanding, Celo nodded his approval at her conclusions. He smiled in a similar way to that of a nerd after spotting a collector's edition of a famous book of his favorite subject on sale at his most frequented shop. "The difference between the spells is that young Phythan's spell focuses on the positive side of chance, while Miss Martina's spell attempts to control both the positive and the negative, to attack and defend, all at once, thus making it a more difficult spell. If the two titans of mastering chance collided, then surely the boy would have been driven to the edge. Yet he retreated as if he did not wish to be freed from his prison, that which was stolen."

"Which is what?" Lina growled impatiently. "What was it that was stolen?" Other than a history lesson in spells, all that they knew so far was that something was apparently stolen from the monster race. Phythan seemingly had that something, which Celo attempted to draw out by pushing Phythan to use more of his dragon energy. Yet Phythan seemed to be unaware of what he possessed.

"There was a monster who served Lord Beast Master," Celo revealed. "It was an average monster in the lower end of the middle class. That monster went on a suicidal mission to steal the Genie's Lamp, rumored by humans to be able to grant wishes, but in reality possessing no such power. There are many versions of these events which contradict each other. One version says that the dragons allowed the monster to run away with the lamp, blaming its incompetent guard for the loss, since he fell asleep on the job. The dragon guarding the lamp pursued the monster and was in turn pursued by the dragons. The dragons then slew them both and took back the lamp."

Phythan tried to recall what really happened, his memories were still a confusing mess in need of interpretation, but somehow that sounded kind of familiar. "I suppose something like that might have happened. I don't quite remember, but there was a battle and a monster."

"What came next was the key element," Celo continued. "The dragon boy and the monster were left for dead; however, a small breath of life was still in them. According to my information gathering, it was the mysterious Green Alchemist, or someone working for him, who took the dragon and the monster and fused them together. The dragon was the strongest out of the two, thus he prevailed over the monster and mostly retained his form. He also resisted the fusion, making it incomplete. As a result, rather than a chimera capable of using fusion magic, which was the goal of the experiment, they ended up with a dragon boy possessed by a monster. This was not a complete failure, as in some occasions the subject was able to produce fusion magic when the dragon boy was weak and the monster became his equal. Yet the dragon would eventually repress the monster, though he was unable to expel it and the balance required for fusion magic would be lost."

Phythan stared at Celo in shock, "is that what really happened? Is that what I am?"

"The monster was a servant of Lord Beast Master, thus her property," Celo stated. "The Green Alchemist has no right to use her property, thus I was given the mission to recover it. Of course, the monster would be killed for its betrayal unwilling or not. It seems the monster has more awareness than I thought and hid deeper within you when I tried to push you to throw him out by overwhelming him with a concentration of magic from within, via the use of your good luck spell."

"If the monster has already been sentenced to death, wouldn't it be easier to just kill Phythan along with him?" Xellos cheerfully inquired.

"No!" Filia loudly exclaimed. "I won't let you!"

"Me either!" Amelia joined in.

"Neither will I. Even if the golden dragons condemn me to death themselves, I refuse to give up!" Phythan added.

"Calm down," Celo requested in his tranquil respectful voice. "Killing this young man is not in my plans, I'm afraid she will be quite upset if I do."

"She?" Xellos questioned curiously. The she in question couldn't possibly refer to "Zelas?"

"Master Zelas has left it up to me to decide how I go about this mission," Celo explained. "She doesn't mind if the boy lives, thus I have decided to keep him alive, for her sake."

"Who is she?" Xellos inquired insistently, with a warning tone that let Celo know he shouldn't go on any more circles.

"She is-" The wooden clock tower suddenly shook with the origin of the vibrations coming from above. "She is here." A few more minutes passed as the heavy steps turned so light that they were hardly perceptible in the creaking wood. "Dear, we have guests!"

The nearly inaudible steps became faster and clearer as they drew closer, until an old woman Filia knew she had seen somewhere before, joined them in the tea room. "Not just any guests, I see. Although I never thought I would see sweet Filia and general Xellos sitting around the same table."

Filia's memory fell into place as she recognized the woman. "You're the one who bought that vase from my shop. It's the vase I saw in the north dome!"

"Ah yes, it's a lovely vase," the woman smiled. "Well, since you are not in disguise," she glanced at Celo, "I take it that means I don't need one either?"

"That will not be necessary," Celo confirmed.

"Good," the old woman transformed into a younger shape with long blond hair and pointed ears. She looked like she was in her middle twenties, albeit she was actually a little over six hundred.

Filia recognized her instantly, "Tiffany!" The reason why Celo looked so familiar in his true form also surfaced in her mind. "You're that human... No, you didn't make a pact with a monster that time, you were a monster all along and those others were your underlings. You only disguised yourself as a human. The that means that Tiffany's human lover was... a monster?!" Filia felt her eye twitch in shock.

"Okay, you lost me," Lina frowned; she had been understanding things so far up until this point. Filia apparently knew the old woman who turned out to be a young woman. Then again, judging by her ears she was probably a dragon, and the shaking of the tower from before was most likely her landing on top in dragon form before changing into a human form. "I have a feeling that I'm missing a large chunk of information here."

"Tifa, you're alive!" Phythan ran to his cousin who hugged him and ruffled his hair as if he was a little boy.

"My little Phythan, look how much you've grown, my little cousin. I'm glad to see you well and you've made friends with sweet Filia." Tiffany held his face, examining his eyes. "That monster is still in you, I see. My dear Celo does seem to take his time in getting things done, it appears. Don't worry, I'm back from my little vacation, so I can take care of you now, I'll get that nasty monster infection out."

Xellos looked back and forth between Tiffany and Celo, the wheels in his head spinning wildly. "You two are together?"

"Indeed," Celo replied with respectful cheer, as if it was not an unusual situation at all.

"And Lord Beast Master knows?" Xellos continued.

"Of course," Celo nodded firmly. "Getting close to a dragon was part of my research mission, yet things turned out differently in the end. Nonetheless, thanks to this resort, I am able to observe humans and come up with methods to train monsters into being more resistant to positive feelings. Although Lord Beast Master usually only sends those who have failed her and they tend to refer to the training as torture, but that's not the point. I keep my research flowing smoothly and Master Zelas allows me to live here with my beloved." Xellos twitched at the word beloved and was suddenly very thankful that he was a full breed monster and not some weird monster human chimera freak like Celo.

At the same time, Filia was struggling to recover her ability to speak. She finally managed to find her voice as tears rolled down her face. "Tiffany, I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have turned you in, that was terrible of me. I was supposed to be your best friend, but I betrayed you."

"It's alright, sweetie," Tiffany forgave her all too easily. "I don't bare a grudge against you. She pulled both Filia and Phythan into a bone crushing group hug. "The ways of our people were outdated and close minded, for that we all had to suffer, but don't worry, it's all in the past. You have no idea how happy I was when I saw that you had left the temple and were running your own business. You broke free of the erroneous ways of the golden dragons and I knew then, that after what you had accomplished, after gathering the strength to leave your own kind in search of a better life, I could not stay angry at you. I'm sorry I did not reveal myself at the time, I thought it might be troublesome for both of us if I did."

"It's such a touching story!" Amelia watched on with a dreamy expression.

"You mean you know what's going on?" Zelgadis inquired in surprised. Even if she appeared to be justice obsessed and quick to get carried away, Amelia could be very perceptive at times.

"It's Romeo and Juliet all over again!" Amelia declared with an enamored sigh. "A monster human chimera in love with a dragon. Her family wouldn't accept him and love was not common in his. Yet against all odds they realized their love and lived happily ever after!"

Zelgadis blinked, he didn't get why Amelia was so into their story. "Romeo and Juliet died," he pointed out, "those two are still alive."

"It's a better version of Romeo and Juliet!" Amelia cheered contently.

"Right," Lina spoke in impatience. "So, to clarify, Tiffany was Filia's friend when she lived with the dragons, but she ran off with Celo, which was forbidden. Now Filia and Tiffany have been reunited and rekindled their friendship. Additionally, Phythan is Tiffany's cousin." Lina placed her hand on her head. "Talk about twisted family ties. You're a real freak, old man. Furthermore, the part about taking back what was stolen isn't even about recovering an item; it sounds more like performing an exorcism."

"Indeed," Celo nodded calmly. "However, even if the union between Phythan and the monster turned out to be similar to possession, the methods use were more so those of creating a chimera. Therefore, an exorcism by traditional means will not work, especially since the monster is so deeply hidden. I can tell by the color of his eyes."

"I was wondering about that," Lina prompted for further information.

"Phythan's natural color is violet, while the monster in him had bright red eyes in a fully powered state and dark redish-brown in a low power state. When they are balanced, his eyes are a wine color, when the monster is in control his eyes are red, when the monster is dormant his eyes are brown. All of this influences his personality as well," Celo explained. "The fact that one of Phythan's eyes returned to his natural color, while the other is brown, means that the monster is hiding deep within."

"What?" Filia explained suddenly, all eyes immediately landing on her. So the charming Phythan was the version of him that was influenced by a monster, the sly tricky version? Monsters were not supposed to be even remotely charming! Although that explained why she was kind of reminded of Xellos, there was a monster involved. Realizing that everyone was staring at her, Filia cleared her throat in embarrassment and tried to act natural. "What a terrible thing, we must cure Phythan of the horrible monster in him!"

"Yes, we must!" Amelia joined in affirming the declaration.

"Then I could probably get cured by the same method." Zelgadis had a hint of hope in his eyes that he had not so strongly felt for a long time.

"I cannot assure that," Celo warned. "Phythan and the monster have not fully united, the dragon keeps resisting constantly. If you have already fully integrated your chimera parts to your being, the situation might be different for you. Even so, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to recreate the conditions used for Phythan and use them on you as well."

"It's worth a try," Zelgadis settled.

"So is this why you wanted to hire me?" Lina asked in disappointment. "Exorcism isn't really my strong point," she admitted, but was quick to add, "even so, if the pay is good I'll still give it a try!"

"I'll help," Amelia immediately offered, "and you don't need to reward me because I'm doing this to help Mr. Phythan."

Lina frowned; there went her chances of cashing in some coins. "I guess you don't need me for anything then," she pouted.

"There is another job I have in mind that will better fit your skills, Miss Lina." Celo's respectful tone had a clear hint of secrecy that made it extra suspicious. "However, I will not require your services right away, nor do I guarantee that I will, but it seems very likely. If I do offer you the job, the pay will be considerable."

"Then quit doubting and hire me!" Lina exclaimed.

"Not yet," Celo shook his head meaningfully. "The task would make no sense at this point."

Not wanting to further jeopardize her future earnings, Lina decided to leave it at that. "Fine, just let me know when you're ready to share the details." She noticed that Xellos was giving both her and Celo a suspicious look, with an eyebrow raised and one eye open, but ignored it.

"It's late and I'm sure you're all tired," Tiffany finally concluded. "Why don't you all get some rest, there are plenty of rooms here at the clock tower. It's a bit rickety, but cozy once you get used to it. We can talk about our plans tomorrow." She smiled, "and before we go to bed we should... make smores!"

Filia laughed, "you still love making smores."

Tiffany nodded cheerfully, "some things never change. I can't sleep without having some good smores."

"Count me in!" Lina couldn't be happier with the suggestion.

"Me too, I like smores!" Gourry woke up from his staring blankly at the walls hibernation at the mention of delicious food.

"We should all go," Amelia happily declared and the group went off to make classic campfire smores in the forest near the tower.

xoxox xox xoxox

The next day, the group was glad to find some boxes that had been left in front of the doors to their respective rooms. The boxes contained clothes identical to their classic traveling outfits, except they were clearly new and of very high quality. Glad to be out of the costumes and wearing something that felt familiar, Lina and her friends went off to the tea room to have some breakfast. They were all there, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Phythan, Celo and Tiffany. A feast was already waiting for the guests, which they happily enjoyed, especially Lina and Gourry.

"This is great!" Lina exclaimed between bites. The pancakes, the toast, the eggs, the bacon, the cinnamon rolls, the mixture of juices, it was all perfect. "My compliments to the chef!"

An obnoxious laughter filled the air as Martina entered the room. "Then you admit that I am the best? For it was I who cooked this delicious meal for Master Celo's guests. Although at first I didn't realize his guests included you. This is indeed far too good for you."

"Martina!" Lina felt her stomach turn. "You cooked all this? Suddenly it's less tasty." The unthinkable had happened, Lina stopped eating. Nevertheless, the order of the world was restored soon enough when Gourry made a move on the last cinnamon roll. "That's mine!" Then their battle of gluttony continued as if it had never paused.

"Such a lack of table manners," Martina huffed.

"Miss Martina, I'm glad to see you're feeling better." Phythan smiled, he still had one brown eye and one violet.

Martina did a double take; that young man didn't have eyes like that before. But she soon shrugged it off, it was probably a trick of the light or something. "I feel as good as new today. Lady Tiffany, Master Celo's kind hearted wife stopped by to see me yesterday night and used her healing magic."

"I'm glad everything worked out," Amelia good naturedly smiled.

Zangulus soon entered the room with a letter in his hand. "I see you're all enjoying my Martina's delicious cooking. Lina, you have a letter for when you're done."

"Really?" Lina inquired between big bites of food. "Who's it from?"

Zangulus read from the envelope, "it's from... Luna Inverse... Inverse, huh? So it's a relative of yours?"

Lina had stopped eating and grown terribly pale. Gourry took the opportunity to steal her last piece of pancake and she couldn't even react to stop him. "Lu... Lu... Lu... Luna?!" An ear splitting wail followed. "Hide me! Hide me!"

"Calm down, Miss Lina, it's just a letter!" Amelia tried to console her.

"She might be there; she might be hiding in the envelope!" Lina screamed nonsensically.

"How can a person fit inside such a small envelope?" Zelgadis tried to reason with her to no avail.

"Give me the letter," Martina took the letter from her husband and opened it.

"Hey, what are you doing reading other people's mail!" Lina snapped.

Martina held out the letter to Lina, "I thought you didn't want it."

Lina looked terrified and hid behind Gourry, "get that thing away from me!"

"Oh, stop it! It can't possibly be that bad!" Filia took the letter from Martina and read it aloud. "Dear Lina, I heard that you got married without even telling me or our family about it. I am very upset to have missed the happy occasion of my sister's wedding. You better have a good explanation for this. Love, Luna." Filia finished reading. "It's a short letter and to the point," she commented.

Lina let out another ear splitting wail. "Pen and paper, give me pen and paper!" Celo, who was getting a headache from all of this, hurried to fetch the requested materials by teleporting away and back, he brought an envelope too. Lina snatched away the materials and began to write desperately. "Dear Luna, It was all a misunderstanding, I did not get married, so there's nothing to be angry about. Love, Lina."

"Aren't you going to tell her you're engaged?" Gourry gave Lina his best sad look, which was more convincing than a kicked puppy and a kitten in the rain put together.

"I... ah... um..." Lina felt her face heat up as her blood rushed to it. "Sure..." She added to the letter, "PS: I'm engaged to Gourry Gabriev, but don't worry, I won't get married without inviting you and our family." Lina sealed the letter inside the envelope, which fortunately already had a stamp, and hastily scribbled in the address of her home town on it. "I need this letter to be sent right away, my life depends on it!" Lina dramatized.

"Oh, don't worry sweetie, we have the fastest courier pigeons in the land," Tiffany assured. That Luna person must be a truly fearsome being.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 029: Evesdropping! Jumping To Conclusions

"I can't take it anymore!" Lina screamed at the top of her lungs as she threw a book clear across the spacious room. The book collided with the opposite wall and fell on the floor, open in a random page that was just as boring to Lina as all the others. "When Celo said that we would discuss the exorcism plans after breakfast, I thought he actually had a plan. Now it turns out that his so called plan was to do research until we come up with something!"

Lina's traveling companions were all scattered across the room. Xellos was standing around idly, leaning against a wall, refusing to partake in the research. He would only act as a neutral observer and he made that point clear. He was keeping his word so far, at least until something of interest might happen.

Zelgadis ignored Lina's outburst for the most part with a simple, "I'm disappointed too, but I'm not complaining." He was used to extensive research so his eyes were not watery from reading and his rear end was not in pain from sitting for a long time. Both symptoms assaulted Lina strongly.

Lina looked to Gourry for support, but he seemed happy enough looking at a picture book about jellyfish, which had absolutely nothing to do with the research, but just happened to be laying around Celo's immense library. Other than the guest room and Celo and Tiffany's living quarters, the wooden clock tower was composed entirely of rooms filled to the brim with books.

"Have hope Miss Lina!" Amelia cheered with her usual optimism which was not welcomed by Lina, who only growled in response.

Celo had ran off, saying that he had some business to tend to related to the management of the resort; financial matters and the like. Martina had reintegrated herself into her role of Red Queen of the casino and Zangulus was filling in whatever position needed help at the time. Tiffany had stayed at the tower to tend to the guests, but she was not very helpful in terms of doing research because she spent all her time chattering to Filia who was made in turn not very helpful herself. Phythan seemed to be focused on a book, but it turned out to be a comic book, which wouldn't be useful in helping the situation, even if he was at the center of it.

"I've had it!" Lina shouted. "Let's just go with Celo's original plan of pushing the monster out from the inside. Amelia, perform an exorcism on Phythan, Filia, Tiffany, give him your dragon energy, Phythan, push the side of you that's a dragon to the limit and make that monster come out!"

"Yes, miss Lina!" Phythan stood to attention, then sat back down, "as soon as I finish reading this chapter. The protagonist just recovered his memory when he held the-" the comic was snatched away. "Give it back, Miss Lina! I must know what will happen to the cheese cake obsessed detective!"

"Cheese cake will be the last of your worries if you don't cooperate!" Lina yelled.

"Wait," Tiffany stepped forward in protest. "Celo's plan involved redirecting the strain of forcing the monster out of Phythan into the stream of chance. If chance is not involved in the process, the strain will go to the host. We cannot force the monster out by this method without severely endangering Phythan's life. He will almost certainly die."

Lina raised her hands and screamed. "This is impossible!"

Phythan gave her a sad look that reminded her of an upset Filia. "Then I'm hopeless? I'll forever have to live with a monster inside me? What a terrible fate!" He dramatically exited the room, his steps making the wood creak as he rushed up to the top of the tower with a unique dramatic flare.

"Mr. Phythan!" Amelia cried out, reaching out a hand to him and almost falling to her knees as if the whole thing was a cheesy soap opera. Instead she resolved that it would be more effective to simply run after him, thus she did.

"Amelia," Zelgadis set aside the book he was holding and debated if he should go after Amelia. He would never admit that the way she identified with Phythan made him jealous.

xoxox xox xoxox

While Zelgadis hesitated and the rest of the group tried to stop the angry Lina from burning down the whole clock tower in her hissy fit, Phythan stood at the top of the clock tower. Amelia made it up and joined him in looking out the window to the vastness of trees all around. "You shouldn't give up Mr. Phythan, I'm sure that things will work out." She tried to cheer him up.

Phythan just looked sad. "It's really difficult, Miss Amelia. Before, I was not myself; it was like waking up from a long sleep. Even now I'm still confused, but I know one thing, hardship is to come, perhaps for the rest of my life."

"Don't think that way, you have to stay positive!" Amelia insisted. "Just look at Mr. Zelgadis, he's a chimera too, different from you, but he has not given up on finding a cure, even if he has been searching for a long time."

"He is very different," Phythan emphasized, "I'm not in control of who I am. The monster is hiding now, but he may resurface and make me do something terrible. Mr. Zelgadis' change is only superficial. I would rather have a different appearance than to have to battle for my identity. Mr. Zelgadis can live happily without endangering those around him if he so wishes it. I can never be sure of when I will be forced to betray those who are important to me, forced to commit terrible injustice that cannot find redemption."

Amelia's infinite compassion fell upon Phythan. "Don't worry; we'll stay by your side. Filia, Tiffany and I will make sure that your innocent hands are never stained by injustice!"

"I do not know what I might have already done before having met you," Phythan sadly declared.

"You've done nothing wrong! You're only a victim in this too!" Amelia assured. A long moment of silence passed between them as she found herself musing over Phythan's words about Zelgadis, "I wish he knew that..."

"What do you mean?" Phythan asked, catching Amelia's soft whisper.

"It's nothing," the princess sighed. "I was just talking to myself. It's true that Mr. Zelgadis could live a normal life as he is. Even if people might give him odd looks at first, they would get used to him and I'm sure they would admire him once they get to know him. At least I know that the people of Seyruun would." All thanks to the rumors about how their princess was in love with the chimera. No one wanted to cause misfortune to their dear princess, or themselves, by mistreating he who could one day become their new king. "He really wants a cure and I know he's focused on it. I just think he would be happier if he accepted himself, I think he's cool the way he is."

"You really love him, don't you?" Phythan whispered the question as if that would make it any less embarrassing, which it didn't.

By that point, Zelgadis had gotten over his indecision and gone after Amelia. He peeked into the room where Amelia and Phythan stood near the window and observed them quietly. He didn't hear what Phythan said, but Amelia's face was bright red. He watched as Amelia took a deep breath and voiced a conclusion that was out of context from Zelgadis' perspective. "I guess I really am in love..." Hurt invaded the chimera's expression as he hurried away before Amelia and Phythan could see him.

xoxox xox xoxox

The morning passed and when the sun was in the center of the sky, Tiffany and Filia took on the roles of chef while Martina took a break. The dishes they prepared were typical for dragons, but strange and unknown for humans. None the less, Lina was not one to refuse food without a good reason and gave the cuisine a try to find that she liked it. The meal transpired in a similar fashion to breakfast with Lina and Gourry eating the most.

Celo joined in and ate along with Xellos, both of them consuming the meal to enjoy the taste more so than out of necessity, since they were monsters, or mostly monsters, and had different eating patterns than humans and dragons. Tiffany, Filia, and Phythan were able to enjoy cooking that reminded them of the pleasant side of their past. All the while Amelia wondered where Zelgadis had gone off to, as he never showed up for lunch.

As the afternoon arrived, the group returned to their labors at the library, with Lina grumbling about it until she found a rather interesting magic book about chance. Despite her impatience, she had actually found Celo's lecture to be interesting since she was a big magic enthusiast and all. Thus Lina was entertained with the magic book, Gourry had picture books to look at, Phythan was reading manga, Xellos was standing around idly, Filia and Tiffany were talking and Amelia was left as the only one actually doing some research for both Phythan and Zelgadis.

It looked as if the afternoon would go by uneventfully, except for the mystery of Zelgadis being missing, although everyone silently agreed that he probably needed a break and would soon return on his own. He was fine when they last saw him after all. The atmosphere of uneventfulness was shattered by a loud explosion near by. The group rushed to the nearest window, only to find that the forest was on fire.

Alarmed, yet somehow glad for the break in the monotony, the entire group hurried out of the clock tower and towards the source of fire. To their great surprise, they found Zelgadis being absorbed into a tree. "Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia rushed to the rescue, attacking the malevolent tree with a Ra Tilt, which was enough to free Zelgadis. "Are you alright, Mr. Zelgadis?" She hurried to his side looking for injuries. Other than a few tears in his clothes, he was fine.

"I'm fine," Zelgadis looked away from Amelia with bitter sadness and distanced himself from her immediately. He than addressed the group as a whole. "Whatever is here, it can control trees!" It was a tragic event to have been leaning against a tree contemplating his brokenhearted sorrows, only to have the tree attack him, as if he didn't have enough upsetting things going on already.

"Mr. Zelgadis..." Amelia noticed that Zelgadis was more distant then usual, but didn't understand why. Either way, she knew that this was not the time to ask about it as they were in the middle of a battle. It was a terrible fight indeed, trees were supposed to make good perches for heroic speeches; they were not supposed to be the villains.

"Over there!" Lina spotted a man in a black cloak, hiding among the thick vegetation of the forest. She immediately sent a Fireball his way, even though Filia and tiffany had been trying to put out the fire.

"Lina, sweetie, please use a Freeze Arrow next time!" tiffany requested with gentle but firm insistence as she trapped the charred form of the man in a block of ice, leaving only his head free of the ice.

"Fine, I'll remember next time," Lina approached the suspicious man and removed the cloak that covered his head. From his messy brown hair to his dark green eyes, there was nothing about him that stood out. He wasn't particularly young, nor particularly old, not particularly handsome and not particularly ugly. He was simply an average man with average looks and proportions, who was encountered in a situation that was certainly not average. "Do you know who I am?" Lina asked in a threatening tone.

The trapped man shivered, not only from the cold of the block of ice encompassing his recently burned form, but also out of fear. "Lina Inverse, the bandit killer, dragon spooker!" He stuttered.

"Enough with that dragon spooker stuff! There are three dragons here with me and I haven't spooked any of them!" Lina retorted angrily. "Anyway," she continued in a calmer confident tone. "I see that you're the one who was making the trees go crazy. It's good that you know my reputation, since I assume that means you'll be more willing to cooperate. Start talking! Who are you? What were you trying to do?"

"I am a servant of the Green Alchemist!" There was too much pride in his voice for someone who was trapped and defenseless. "The dragon boy has been claimed as the property of my master. It was our great leader who made him what he is now!"

With an angry glare, Phythan walked up to the trapped man and smacked him on the head. A rather large bump formed almost instantly from the force of the hit. "Sorry about the interruption, Miss Lina, I just had to do that."

"No problem, it's understandable," Lina nodded at Phythan, then turned her attention back to the man who worked for the Green Alchemist. She was about to inquire about his goal, but Amelia cut in.

"Why did you attack Mr. Zelgadis?" Amelia demanded to know with a certain protective aggression that she wouldn't show for just anyone.

The mysterious man hesitated to answer, but a menacing growl from Lina was all the motivation he needed to speak. "Our great leader, the Green Alchemist, thought it would be good to collect such a fine specimen of chimera, rumored to have been made by Rezo. The all powerful Green Alchemist is very fond of chimeras." Zelgadis looked like he wanted to rip the guy's head off and the lackey didn't know if he should be more afraid of Lina or Zelgadis at that point.

"The Green Alchemist..." Lina repeated; it sounded like it was pretty certain that would be their next big enemy to take down in their endless adventure. She was ready to continue the interrogation, when tree roots suddenly shot out from the ground, grabbing the frozen man and pulling him underground.

Everything happened very suddenly, before anyone had time to react. A wail of agony was heard as the man disappeared underground and the tree roots pushed the soil to cover the area. Then everything was dead silent and the tension in the atmosphere was gone. Amelia gulped and looked at the disturbed soil under which their prisoner was dragged. "Is he... dead?"

"So it would seem," Xellos smiled cheerfully as everyone already expected him to do. "It sounds like this mysterious Green Alchemist isn't too keen on the idea of his lackeys revealing too much about him. Strangely enough, it feels as if he has fled. The sensation of magic in the air is gone."

"How suspicious indeed," Celo agreed. "If the Green alchemist can control the trees, this would be a grant time to ambush us, since we are in the middle of the forest. Although, he must not be happy that we have taken Phythan away, I think he'll probably return."

"We'll be ready for him!" Tiffany cheered, "won't we?" She asked in a less than encouraging voice soon after, which made everyone almost fall down in disbelief of the sudden change in tone.

"This Green Alchemist is he really a monster, a human or a human allied to a monster?" Lina inquired.

Celo shook his head, "my information is limited, I thought for a time that he was a human, but I cannot be sure. It at least appears that he has some followers, who knows how many."

"Well, whatever he is, he'll come back," Lina concluded. "Let's go back to the clock tower for now and continue our research. We should be high enough not to be taken by surprise if any other tree roots try to attack. At the same time we are in the middle of a forest, so that might give the Green Alchemist a sense of advantage that will probably help motivate him to come face us."

"I see, then the plan is to draw out the Green alchemist with bate," Filia surmised. "We'll have to be on our guard."

"I can't agree to that," Zelgadis spoke up. He seemed somewhat tragic, more so than usual.

"Do you have a better plan, Zel?" Lina asked curiously, wondering if Zelgadis had noticed something before their arrival which could serve as a valuable clue.

"I'll go off on my own, I don't want to travel with this group anymore," Zelgadis' words shocked everyone, especially Amelia.

"Why, Mr. Zelgadis?" The hurt was clear in Amelia's face, but he refused to look at her.

"It's best this way!" Zelgadis snapped in frustration and began to walk away. "Phythan has the potential to be able to use fusion magic, even if it is on occasion. The Green Alchemist will probably be more interested in recovering him. I'm just a side project, so your plan for bait will work out just the same without me."

"But Mr. Zelgadis, you'll be all alone out there. You'll be in danger!" Amelia argued.

"I know what I'm doing!" Zelgadis yelled angrily, then hurried away.

"Mr. Zelgadis... I don't understand..." Amelia sadly watched him leave as everyone else looked on in shock.

"This is a bad time to throw a hissy fit, but in the end, Zelgadis is free to do what he wants. We can't keep him here against his will, even if it is for his own good," Lina admitted.

"So we should just let him go?" Gourry asked, finally finding a point in the conversation that was simple enough for him to comment on, though he was as confused as everyone else, if not more, about Zelgadis' odd behavior.

"Go back to the clock tower," Amelia advised with determination. Her downcast eyes were raised as she spoke the next part in a distinctive 'don't even try to stop me' tone. "I'm going after Mr. Zelgadis."

"You shouldn't go on your own," Filia stated with concern. "We can divide into two groups, or better yet, we can stay together and all go after Zelgadis."

"No, you have a plan to fulfill," Amelia disagreed. "If the Green Alchemist comes here, I trust that everyone will be strong enough to defeat him. Mr. Zelgadis was right; the Green Alchemist only attacked him as an opportunity, but recovering Mr. Phythan is probably his priority. Now that Mr. Zelgadis is on his guard, I don't think the Green Alchemist will go after him again so soon. The plain to bait him to come out looking for Mr. Phythan will work. I'll at least make sure that Mr. Zelgadis stays away from the vegetation, he probably already figured out that precaution anyway. If he wants to be alone we need to respect his space, but I won't let him be hurt either. I'll follow Mr. Zelgadis and watch him from afar. Don't worry, we'll be fine. Please allow me to do this on my own."

Lina had never seen such a determined look on Amelia. "Fine," the leader accepted the conditions. "If you get into any trouble, shoot a Flare Arrow straight up into the sky and we'll go back you up."

"I'll remember that," Amelia nodded, "thanks for understanding." She swiftly left, following in Zelgadis' general direction.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 030: Revelations! In Love And War

Zelgadis paused his determined stride through the resort and looked at a nearby plastic plant. Since it was fake, he didn't think it represented any danger, but that wasn't the point. The point was that he noticed a familiar person hiding behind it. "You can come out now Amelia; I know you've been following me."

Seeing that she had been found, Amelia came out of hiding and approached Zelgadis. "I just wanted to help."

Zelgadis tensed up as if he would snap at her. He looked at Amelia, his eyes accusing, then his look softened to sadness. "It's really not your fault. I wonder if things would have worked out differently if I had found..." He paused his train of thought. This wasn't about his cure and he knew it. Amelia didn't care about his appearance; she had made that much clear. For a time he thought he could accept himself as he was as long as she was by his side, then that nosy dragon had to enter the scene. Then again, if he was able to steal away Amelia, then what Zelgadis thought he had with her wasn't as strong as he wished. "It's not your fault, I don't blame you."

Amelia was confused by Zelgadis' words. This might take a while to clarify. She took a seat on a bench not too far from the fountain with the cupid statue. It was the same bench where Filia and Xellos spoke before. She indicated silently for Zelgadis to sit beside her and he surprisingly did without further protest, knowing that he couldn't escape this talk no matter how much he wish he had left the Green Alchemist take him so he wouldn't have to face this.

Taking a deep breath, Amelia finally spoke. "Mr. Zelgadis, I know you've always been reserved with how you feel and I try to respect that. I don't want to sound like I'm prying, but the truth is that I don't understand. Why did you leave? Why are you upset? I thought it was because you remembered bad memories, that you were saddened by the past and by what Rezo did. But that came up after you left and skipped out on having lunch with us. What is it that's bothering you really? I don't think it's actually about the Green Alchemist. This is something else, I just don't understand what."

How could Amelia not understand? Zelgadis felt like an idiot for ever thinking she had feelings for him. She was just humoring him, only pitying him. She must have assumed he knew not to get his hopes up. Yet that didn't sound like Amelia at all. Zelgadis couldn't help it but to believe in her, even after what he heard. He didn't understand how he had gotten so attached to her. "I want you to be happy," he finally voiced. "I..." He was tempted to look away from Amelia's gentle face, but he couldn't. She would follow him to the ends of the Earth if he didn't get the truth out. "I heard you talking to Phythan," the last part was all that he had really caught, a reply that was heard out of context.

Amelia felt her face burning red, "you heard what I said?" Her heart painfully sank and she looked as if she would cry. "You heard me and that's what made you leave?"

She seemed to be fighting with her tears that threatened to come out. Zelgadis assumed it was out of guilt. "Don't be sad, it's best if I leave. You'll still have everyone by your side and Phythan is well suited to be a defender of justice, even if he has his own problems, he's at least enthusiastic. We can... be friends," he reluctantly added almost losing his voice to sorrow.

"Mr. Zelgadis..." Amelia was all out crying now. It broke Zelgadis heart and he didn't know what to do.

He resolved to run away. Amelia would be fine returning to the clock tower on her own. Phythan would console her once she arrived. She would be okay and Zelgadis' continued presence there would only make things more painful for her and himself. "Goodbye, Amelia..." Zelgadis stood up and began to walk away.

Amelia sat on the bench crying for a few more seconds, before she stood with a burst of courage. "Wait, Mr. Zelgadis! Even if I have already heard your answer, even if this makes it more painful for both of us, please forgive me, but I have to say it to your face." She closed her eyes for a few seconds, breathed deeply, dried her tears, then looked at Zelgadis. "Zelgadis Graywords... I love you."

Zelgadis was completely frozen in place unable to move. He couldn't detect any sounds in their surroundings except for the echo of Amelia's voice in his head and the loud beating of his own heart. "Wha... what did you say?"

"You heard me," Amelia felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted off her shoulders, even if it was bittersweet and sorrowful. "If you don't feel the same way about me, I understand and I still want to be friends forever. I just had to tell you how I feel properly, even if you overheard when I was telling Phythan."

"Wait a minute!" Zelgadis felt his face practically glow in a brilliant shade of crimson as he struggled to push the words out. "Weren't you confessing your feelings about Phythan? Or corresponding to his feelings for you?"

Amelia blinked in confusion, "No... I was trying to cheer him up. I was telling Mr. Phythan how he should follow your example and never give up. Then he noticed my feelings for you and mentioned it. I couldn't tell him he was wrong, everyone in our group already knows too. I think even Mr. Gourry is aware of it." A long silence followed as Zelgadis struggled to internalize the concept of Amelia having confessed she was in love with him. She broke the silence by asking shyly, "so this means that it was all a misunderstanding? You're not leaving because you're rejecting me?" Yet he hadn't exactly accepted her feelings either. She closed the distance between them, standing only a few inches away in front of Zelgadis. "Please tell me how you feel. Even if you don't feel the same way about me, please be honest. It's okay if you don't love me, we could still be friends. I just want you to be honest and-" Her words were cut off when Zelgadis, unable to regain the capacity of speech, instead demonstrated his answer by kissing Amelia.

xoxox xox xoxox

Back at the clock tower, the research process had continued. Filia approached Xellos in his little corner with a highly critical look in her eyes. "You could try to make yourself helpful," she ordered.

"You're not exactly being helpful yourself." Xellos criticized in return. "This whole time you've been chattering pointlessly with your dragon friend and not doing any real research. It must be in a dragon's nature to be lazy and ineffective, even Phythan is slacking off and this is his problem more so than ours."

"Leave him alone," Filia defended. "Phythan has a lot to deal with and he needs to find a way to cope. It's only natural that he needs to have a little distraction to release his tensions. Furthermore, I haven't been chatting uselessly. I was discussing some interesting things with Tiffany and getting better educated in the topic of monsters." To satisfy her curiosity about the existence of good monsters and to better understand Xellos, not that she would ever admit it.

Xellos gave Filia a quizzical look. "So you're interested in monsters?" The implications were obvious.

Filia ignored the message between the lines as best she could. It turned out that good monsters were an extreme rarity and the part about them being good was a perspective by comparison. There were plenty of such tales out there, but they were mostly fiction. When it came to reality, there was usually some ulterior motive or a benefit involved. "It's to help free Phythan of the monster in him, it's useful research." Filia threw out her perfect excuse, yet she somehow knew that Xellos could see right through it, even if it was in many ways still true.

"Right, it's not like you have any personal interest in any monsters," Xellos grinned, adding a special almost seductive intonation to the words 'special interest.'

"Right," Filia affirmed. "Anyway, since you're not being as obnoxious as usual, I thought I could get you to help. What a silly thought it was!" Honestly, Filia didn't know what she was thinking. It wasn't that she was starting to miss bickering with Xellos in his long silence, not at all. It's just that... he could be plotting or something. Yes, plotting, so she had to keep him busy to make sure he didn't run off to fulfill his terrible plot, whatever it may be.

"That's it!" Lina suddenly exclaimed as she read through a specific paragraph in a big ancient looking book once more.

"Did you find a possible cure?" Phythan asked hopefully.

"Possibly," Phythan, Tiffany, Celo, Filia and Xellos all placed their undivided attention on Lina. Gourry did the same thing, but he probably wouldn't understand anything anyway. "This is similar to the plan Celo attempted to use before and it could only work because of Phythan's peculiar chimera conditions, where the monster isn't fully integrated into him. We might not have the stream of chance to absorb the strain of the separation, but we can redirect it at a different target using the spell in this book. Of course, the process would take time and the target might notice what we're doing and try to stop it. That's where this other spell comes in." Lina picked up another magic book that she had been reading over before. "Those two spells are the main ones, but at the magnitude that they'll be used it might be a little dangerous, which is why the spells must be encompassed by this." She held up an ancient scroll.

The group looked at the spells Lina pointed out one by one, trying to figure out how they could use them for their needed purposes.

"Let me elaborate," Lina began her detailed explanation. "This here is a spell used to redirect energy called Pursuit. It's a sniper spell in other words. It's conventional use is to give other spells an enhanced homing effect so that far away targets can be efficiently eliminated. The spell locks on to an energy source, for example a Fireball, and guides it to the target. In this case we'll use it to lock on the monster in Phythan and guide it to one of the Green Alchemist's trees. Just as it tried to absorb Zelgadis, it'll absorb the monster. Under normal circumstances, the friction of energy would create a fusion, thus making us end up with a monster tree chimera, except in this case, the strain will be so great that it will surely kill both the monster and the tree, thus eliminating the problem. Phythan will be free and the Green Alchemist will be weakened. Then we can finish the job of defeating him."

"Then for the plan to work we must do this while we are facing the Green Alchemist and we need to push him into using the same technique he tried on Zelgadis," Filia reasoned.

"In theory it can work," Celo's face remained serious, "but it would take too long to extract the monster."

"That's what I thought," Lina pointed out the second spell in her plan. "This other spell called Haste is used to increase speed. The only setback is that it will also increase the consumption of energy. The higher the speed, the higher the energy consumption. I've heard about a different version of Haste, which is more powerful and in turn more costly in energy. However, this book reveals that the so called alternate version called Haste Again, which was corrupted to Hastega, isn't a different version at all. What it really entails is the Haste spell being casted multiple times in a row for its effect to pile up. If we use this, we can shorten the time needed for the monster to be drained out of Phythan."

"You forget the high cost of energy of that spell," Xellos pointed out with far too much cheer in his voice for someone who was supposed to be delivering bad news. "Aiming Hastega at a person for them to be benefited by a speed boost is different from aiming it at a spell. The effects of Hastega might bounce all over the area. It is likely that all the humans in our group will be killed by having their energy drained away and the dragons will suffer greatly. I do hope you weren't trying to dump the Green Alchemist clean up duty on me."

"For the magnitude of Hastega that I intend to cast, all the humans exposed to it would indeed die, so we'll just have to make sure we're not exposed." Lina brought the scroll to the group's attention. "This special spell barrier will limit the affected area, so none of us will be in danger from our own spells. Phythan will be exposed to them, but this barrier can let spells in without letting any out. In other words, we can ensure Phythan's safety by constantly casting recovery spells during the entire process."

"This strategy... it might actually work," Celo admitted.

"I'm ready, I will trust in my new friends," Phythan declared.

"Alright!" Lina was full of determination as she started assigning positions to everyone. "I'll take care of casting Pursuit, at that point, Celo must immediately create the spell barrier, monsters do have a thing for making barriers. I'll follow suit with Hastega. Phythan, try to focus on staying alive and pushing the monster out. Filia and Tiffany, you two will heal Phythan constantly to ensure his survival. All of this needs to be done quickly, we'll be busy casting the spells, so we'll be exposed to the danger, that's where you come in Gourry. We'll be counting on you to watch our backs. If Amelia and Zelgadis come back on time to join in, then Amelia can help with the healing and Zelgadis can guard us along with Gourry."

"Miss Lina," Xellos spoke in a song-like voice, "you forgot someone," he innocently pointed out. "Don't you think I would be a better candidate to take care of the barrier? After all, my monster powers far exceed those of Celo."

Lina gave Xellos a suspicious look as she mulled over his suggestion. Technically they were trying to take back a minion of Lord Beast Master, which was stolen and sentenced to death. Even if that mission had not been directly assigned to Xellos, he wouldn't go against Zelas. However, he could just kill Phythan and Zelas would be okay with the method either way.

While Lina remained in silent thought, Filia looked at Xellos and finally spoke, "let him do it." All eyes immediately landed on Filia, she was the last person they expected to suggest trusting Xellos with an important task. Not only Phythan, but the entire group would suffer the consequences if the barrier failed. "You won't mess this up," Filia stated with certainty.

"And if I do?" Xellos inquired in a tone that was both amused and challenging.

"Then I could never believe it was by accident. If you fail, I can only call it sabotage. I'll never forgive you for that. I'll find a way to get revenge." Filia looked into Xellos' eyes indicating that she knew she was holding something over his head even if she didn't know exactly what that something was. She wasn't referring to the kind of vengeance that would come from battle, but rather revenge in the sense of messing up whatever it was he wanted from her.

"Dragons are such violent and blood thirsty creatures." Xellos teased her as he usually would, but Filia knew they had reached a silent understanding.

"Alright," Lina conceded, "Celo, you're on guard duty with Gourry, Xellos you'll be handling the barrier." She quietly admitted in the privacy of her own mind that it was better this way. She wasn't sure if Celo was a strong enough monster to accomplish the task, but she knew Xellos was. As Filia said, he wouldn't fail unless he wanted to. "Everyone take a break, if the Green Alchemist doesn't show up soon, we'll start burning trees. I'm sure he must be somehow keeping an eye on our movements. He'll come out when he thinks it's best to strike immediately, before his advantage in the forest is gone."

While everyone went over the plan, Lina made sure to memorize the proper spells. The chant to cast Pursuit was: ' invisible links of the chain, which binds all in this plane, make the target's struggle vain, follow the inescapable lane.' The chant to call upon Haste was also a short one: 'multiply my humble speed, let all my energy be freed, to quickly do as I please, accelerate all my deeds.'

Amelia and Zelgadis eventually returned to the tower, looking quite content. Zelgadis had decided to continue researching his cure, but not all the time. After this adventure was over, he would return to Seyruun as per Amelia's invitation. Admittedly, he was oddly nervous about seeing Philionel again, even though he had never felt that way about him in the past. He supposed the situation was made different by the fact that Amelia was now his official girlfriend.

They planned to spend some time in Seyruun and later go on occasional short trips to investigate the cure leads that seemed promising enough to be worth the time. That way Zelgadis didn't have to completely give up on his cure, but he could enjoy life without constantly worrying about it. Then maybe one day he would actually find it, or maybe he would lose interest in looking for it.

No one really knew the particulars about what happened between Zelgadis and Amelia when they were gone, but they knew that the two had clearly grown closer. Zelgadis blushed madly and snapped at anyone who asked him about the details, claiming it was none of their business, while Amelia only smiled with a rosy face and a joyous glow. After a while, they decided to drop the interrogation and focus on sharing the strategy they had planned to face the Green Alchemist and cure Phythan at the same time.

Once all the plans had been discussed, the group had a big dinner and retired to their respective rooms early to get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow morning, after breakfast, Lina specified, they would carry out their tree burning plan to draw out the Green Alchemist. From there, they would execute their strategy and hope for the best.

To be Continued

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