Slayers: Alive

Chapter 6

Slayers: Alive

Episode 051: Perseverance! A New Mission

Lina Inverse was pissed off and the waves of energy radiating off her were terrifying. She stood on her chair at the breakfast table of Seyruun castle in the company of Philionel, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia. Her breakfast was growing cold on the table, but she was too angry to enjoy it, as Philionel had announced that the promised double banquet that was supposed to take place that night had been postponed for an undefined period of time.

Philionel lowered his head submissively, "you have my most sincere apologies, but my decision stands." He raised his head, meeting Lina's deadly challenging glare. "I will keep my promise of a double banquet; in fact I'll make it a triple banquet! However, that can only be done when the food is plentiful for everyone. We must not allow anyone to starve because of our own selfish gluttony!"

Lina hopped down from her chair, sat down and began to eat breakfast. Given where she was going, this might be her last decent meal for a while. "Stop staring at me and finish your breakfast everyone. If you don't want it, just pass it over to me. We're leaving as soon as I'm done!"

"We are?" Zelgadis questioned, Lina was speaking in her leader voice that dictated that the whole group had to tag along with her.

"That's right, we're going over to those farm lands and finding out what's wrong. Look, we have a dragon with us and she knows holy magic." Lina pointed at Filia with her fork, before moving it to catch another piece of syrup covered pancake. "We have a white magic expert shrine maiden too." She lifted her glass of orange juice towards Amelia before taking a big drink. "If they bless the land or something, the bad crops might be fixed. A famine is my worse nightmare and I won't let it spread. If Seyruun keeps donating its food, there won't be any left for my triple banquet and I want to have it as soon as possible!"

"Miss Lina, I knew you had a good heart!" Amelia cheered adoringly. "Let us all embark on a journey of loving kindness to help the people who are suffering from the famine! With the power of justice, we shall heal the farm lands!"

Xellos was not currently a monster, thus not affected in a negative way by the positive emotions, but he still found Amelia's determination to be very creepy. "I'm skipping out and staying here."

"I'm going," Filia assured; if Xellos thought he could distract her from the noble mission placed before her, he was very wrong.

"Both your bodyguard and your lover are going, are you sure you want to stay behind, Xellos?" Gourry innocently inquired.

Filia's face turned scarlet, "must you refer to me as Xellos' lover?"

"Lina said you are," Gourry calmly pointed out. "When you were late for breakfast she said that 'the lovers' will be here soon and that she would make sure of it. Then she stormed off to find you."

Filia gave Lina a distressed look, which the redhead disregarded. "What? It's not like I lied."

Xellos interrupted after giving the situation some additional thought. "Fine, I'm going too, but I'm not helping, I have my principals." He better stick close to Filia, just in case it was somehow required for his cure to finally take effect. Plus having Lina's power to back him up in case of an emergency was a convenient aspect too.

"Just don't cause any trouble," Filia warned, "I mean it, Xellos, I don't expect you to help, but don't mess this up!"

Xellos rolled his eyes, "how can I? Isn't the harvest, or lack thereof, already as messed up as it can get?"

"You have your ways of making a bigger mess of things and we all know it." Filia gave Xellos an intense look. "I'll be keeping my eyes on you."

"And your hands too, I'll bet," Xellos teased with a wink.

Filia's blush deepened as she muttered something that sounded to be along the lines of "stupid piece of raw garbage."

"Before I forget," Philionel pointed out an envelope that had been placed next to Lina's plate. "That letter was brought while you were reminding our guests about the importance of being punctual to a meal." Phil eyed Xellos and Filia as he mentioned it. Lina might have been selfish, but anyone could count on her to show up on time, or even early, to a meal. "Since you were away, it was left there for you."

"Yeah, yeah, I'll read it later. Can I continue eating without interruptions now?" Lina glanced at the envelope in mild curiosity and caught sight of the return address. "Luna!" She shrieked at the top of her lungs, before instinctively diving under the table. Feeling rather ridiculous, Lina crawled out from her hiding place, sat down and tried to compose herself. Luna wasn't hiding inside the envelope of her last letter, so there was no reason for her to be in this one. Taking a deep breath, Lina reached for the envelope with shaking hands. Gourry placed his hand on Lina's shoulder and nodded encouragingly. Lina glanced at him and nodded back in appreciation for the moral support. She opened the envelope and read the letter inside. "Dear Lina, Our parents and I wish to meet your fiance, Mr. Gourry Gabriev. Please come visit us as soon as possible. Love, Luna." In shock, Lina slowly turned her head towards Gourry, "Luna wants to meet you."

Gourry nodded, "I know, I heard you reading the letter." His carefree smile hinted that he had no idea what he was getting into. "I'll make sure to give your family a good impression."

Lina just stared at him. He was a fool for not knowing what horrible doom awaited him, but he was also very brave. "You have no idea..."

"I'll face anything for you," Gourry spoke in his usual casual and carefree tone.

Yet Lina blushed scarlet anyway. "Thanks Gourry. Then it's settled, we'll stop by my home village, then go on our mission. I don't want to risk testing Luna's patience. Besides, if we're on an important mission, then we'll have a good excuse to leave if things get dangerous."

xoxox xox xoxox

After Lina devoured her breakfast and predictably attempted to devour everyone else's breakfast, managing to steal quite a bit, the group left Seyruun. Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia were on the road again on a brand new mission. Lina had offered to deliver Seyruun's good will in the form of food supplies, but Philionel wisely declined her offer and said he would send the food transports along later.

The atmosphere was generally quiet aside from Lina's grumbling about her Luna related fears. Gourry occasionally gave her a friendly pat on the back. While the action didn't make Lina quiet down completely, it did reassure her enough not to go into a full panic as if she saw a slug.

Xellos appeared to be in deep frustrated thought if his expression was any indication. He had fallen a little behind from the rest of the group. Filia slowed her pace to walk beside him. "What are you plotting?" She glared critically.

"Nothing," Xellos sounded more exasperated than Filia expected.

She examined him carefully. "Something is seriously bothering you," Filia correctly concluded. "What is it?"

"It's nothing," Xellos insisted.

"It has to be something!" Filia argued adamantly, her glare intensified and she had her hands on her hips. "If you would just tell me, maybe I could help!"

Xellos had enough. He was still cursed and it made no sense. He would give this one last try, "do you love me?"

Filia blushed at the sudden question, then eyed Xellos critically, "is that some kind of trick question? If you're planning to say something along the lines of 'if you truly love me, you'll help me sabotage the mission' then don't bother! I love you, but innocent people shouldn't have to suffer for it."

Xellos looked into Filia's eyes with sharp determination. "Kiss me," he ordered firmly, which made the crimson blush on her face become brighter. Then he rephrased the request to sound less like an order, forcing a softer tone. "Only if you want to, no pressure."

Filia didn't understand. Xellos' strange behavior had 'trap' written all over it. Yet if she tried to avoid it, she would probably fall straight into it. Maybe the best way to disable this trap was to trigger it and diffuse it after she knew what she was dealing with. They had stopped walking and the others were further ahead on the path. Filia looked left and right, no one was coming and Xellos' request did sound rather pleasant. "I want to..." She wrapped her arms around him comfortably and kissed him, slowly, lovingly. He wasn't doing anything; she parted and gave him a puzzled look. "Xellos?"

"Again..." She kissed him again, more passionately until he started to respond. She wasn't sure what he was waiting for before. When they parted, his conclusion took her by surprise. "You don't love me..."

"Excuse me?" Filia was instantly fuming with indignation. "Are you trying to say I'm a bad kisser?" This had to be Xellos and his stupid criticism. She didn't believe he was sharing a serious conclusion, because she did love him and she was sure of it. She had spent a long time trying to make it otherwise, but she simply couldn't.

"It shouldn't take this long, I should be able to sense at least the beginning of my recovery, but this stupid curse is still firmly in place!" Xellos had enough; he was frustrated, angry and ready to lose his temper dealing with that infuriating curse. "No matter how hard I try, I can't think of any loopholes, it doesn't make sense." This was what humans would call harshly broken hope. "There's only one possible explanation, you think you love me but you don't." If Filia's deep affection wasn't love, then how much could possibly be needed for it to be? Her strong emotions were overwhelming as it was, what more did she have that she wasn't giving? "Maybe there's just no such a thing as love."

Filia stared at Xellos with growing dread. "What are you going on about? I don't understand."

"My cure is the willing kiss of a golden dragon," Xellos finally revealed. "You told me before that a willing kiss was a kiss of love, but I'm still cursed."

Filia could already feel tears running down her face, "you used me. All you wanted was to free yourself of your curse, all you wanted was a cure. You horrible piece of raw garbage, you never cared about my feelings! I hate you!" She slapped him hard enough to throw him on the ground, given that this was a dragon to human slap rather than a human to human slap. Then she ran ahead with full intentions of running past the others and not stopping until her legs could no longer move from exhaustion.

xoxox xox xoxox

The rest of the way to the next town on their journey to Lina's home village was quite unpleasant for Xellos. Not only was he terribly frustrated with his curse, but also immensely confused. According to his empathy, the facts that had happened and his common sense, Filia in theory loved him, but apparently she didn't truly love him, because he was still curse. It felt like she was giving him everything she had, but that wasn't enough.

As if his inner turmoil of angry frustration wasn't enough, Lina, Amelia and even Zelgadis and Gourry, kept pestering Xellos about what he did to upset Filia. They had been walking ahead of the quarreling pair and only caught the loudest offended remarks from Filia, missing Xellos' explanation about his curse and its elusive cure. Needless to say, Xellos was not in the mood to discuss the matters, so his silence let to a lot of tension in the group.

They eventually arrived at an inn after taking a detour at a restaurant. At the inn, they saw Filia's name in the big book of guest signatures as they checked in. The five travelers went to their respective rooms with Amelia being the first to venture out to try to knock on Filia's door. "Miss Filia, may I speak to you."

"I want to be alone!" Filia's voice was strong and determined, yet extremely sorrowful and empty. She really wasn't in the mood to be consoled.

Noticing Lina curiously peeking down the hall, Amelia shook her head. "Whenever you're ready, you know we're here to listen." The princess decided to give the golden dragon some space, making sure to glare daggers at Xellos' door on her way to her own room.

Once everyone had retired and had no obvious intentions of coming out of their rooms until morning, Xellos set out to see Filia himself. There was a very annoying sensation akin to guilt that was bothering him terribly. He stood in front of Filia's door and considered knocking, but decided against it and tried to open it. Predictably, the door was locked. "Filia?"

Proving that she was still awake, Filia replied to the familiar voice with a fierce, "get lost, you piece of raw garbage!"

Xellos knew that insisting at Filia's door would get him no where and he didn't want to talk to her from out in the hall. He made his way outside and around the inn building until he spotted what he calculated to be Filia's window, which was conveniently open. He levitated towards it and let himself in. "For how long are you planning to be mad at me?"

Filia jumped to her feet from her previous position face down on her pillow. "Forever!" She screeched furiously.

"Be reasonable, Filia. You can't blame me for stating the facts as they are," Xellos argued with a certain cutting edge to his voice. "Quit tricking yourself into believing you're heart broken, because you can't be heart broken without having been in love. It's true that I only wanted my cure," in the beginning, he added in his private thoughts. "But I didn't go around claiming that I was in love with you, did I? It was the other way around and it was a lie. The curse is proof of it, so don't even try to argue about it."

"You idiot! You tricked me!" Filia retorted. "I thought you cared about me; I felt you cared about me, I felt you loved me!"

Xellos knew that arguing with Filia was difficult, especially when she was upset, but he was determined to make her see the logic of his argument. "You're not even an empath. You can't claim I tricked you with false feelings, because you can't tell what I'm feeling, but I can."

"If you're such a talented empath, then you should know what I'm feeling right now, what I felt back then, you should know!" Filia threw the argument back at him.

"I do know," Xellos retorted, the volume of his voice escalating to match her loudness. "I know you care about me, I never said I believed you didn't, but it's not love and it's not enough."

"Hypocrite!" Filia shouted. "During the time that you were a dragon and for a little while after, I was an empath. It's gone now, but I had the ability long enough, or so I thought. The pearl granted my wish too, though it was only your feelings that I could sense. I thought you loved me, but you tricked me."

She was an empath? That was news to Xellos, rather embarrassing news he had to admit. That meant that she knew of all his debate and confusion and about how overwhelming her rush of love, or rather affection that wasn't quite love, was to him. "Stupid dragon, how can I trick you by using your empathy against you if I didn't even know you had it? This is all news to me!"

Filia was sick and tired of arguing with Xellos, she was sick and tired of looking at him, of hearing him, she had enough of everything concerning him. She was angry and hurt, she wanted him gone. Filia dried her tears as best she could and tried to retain a serious expression. "Put your one and only brain cell to work, Xellos." She spoke in a serious, almost threatening tone, her dragon fangs peeking out of her mouth, eyes dangerously narrowed. "Have you ever stopped to think that true love is mutual? You keep stupidly blaming it on me, claiming that I don't care enough, but it's all your fault. I'm not saying you don't care about me at all." She mimicked the mocking tone he often took with her when teasing her in hopes of bringing her embarrassment, adding a cold edge to it. "I'm just saying that you don't care enough."

Xellos remained silent; he couldn't come up with a counter argument for that. Filia looked bitterly victorious as one who has taken revenge and found little satisfaction in it. She turned around and walked out the door. She didn't feel like sleeping anymore and she was sure there had to be ice-cream in the inn's icebox. She didn't care if the snack bar was closed; she was taking that ice-cream and spending the night eating it on some rooftop somewhere.

What if Filia was right? Xellos couldn't deny the fact that he was attracted to her and he had developed an unnerving attachment to her that could be called affection, but was it love? Could it be? He didn't like the idea, it was unnatural for a monster to love and regardless of the fact that he was stuck in a human body, he was still the same Xellos on the inside, the same living being with the same mind. Even so, if he was going to stay alive and glue the broken pieces of his existence back together into something that vaguely resembled logic, he would have to love her. Perhaps he was his own worse enemy in that department, being too guarded and resistant, trying to stay in control of his thoughts and reactions.

What about what Filia sensed? She had believed him to be in love. Maybe that love thing was a construct of the mind to define a collection of emotions and attitudes, rather than being one emotion on its own. Maybe it only truly became the thing known as love when it was accepted and embraced; believed. Maybe Xellos was doomed to died a hopeless death at the claws of a monster lord whose patience had ran out. It was that, or figure out a way to crush his own defenses and make himself vulnerable to the horrifying thing called love. Celo wasn't kidding when he spoke those words of warning. 'The cure will bring you to your weakest state before freeing you from the curse...'

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 052: Quarrels! Show Me How To Care

Lina's not so merry band of travelers was fully aware of the lovers', or perhaps ex-lovers', spat between Xellos and Filia. The same fact applied to the majority of the inn's current guests, yet the shouting had been so fierce that they dared not complain. At least the quarreling couple had quieted by now. While Filia enjoyed her stolen ice-cream on a rooftop somewhere in town, Xellos proceeded with his investigation. Sure, why not? He had already dragged his stubborn pride through the mud and danced a stupid little dance on top of it. So why shouldn't he ask all sorts of mortifying questions for the sake of survival?

Besides, he was Xellos; it took a lot to embarrass him. The part that really bothered him was how exposed he had been lately. It wasn't like back when they infiltrated that all female kingdom. He didn't have a big problem with parading around in a pretty dress, because back then he was still the trickster who was somewhat in control of the situation behind the scenes.

Okay, no more hesitation, Xellos knocked on Gourry's door. The sleepy blond opened it and blinked in surprised confusion. After a few more seconds of trying to figure out why Xellos was visiting him so late and failing miserably to do so, Gourry finally settled for voicing a simple, "hi."

"Hi," Xellos replied with a painted cheerful smile that was only all too fake. "Can I talk to you?"

"You already are," Gourry pointed out. He did have times when he came up with smart observations. They were very rare times that came once upon a blue moon.

"True," Xellos agreed without losing his grin. "I mean that I want to ask you something, not out in the hall."

"Okay, come in then." Gourry stepped aside, allowing Xellos passage into his room. "So what did you want to ask?" He curiously inquired.

Xellos figured that he might as well be direct. "How does one go about falling in love?"

Gourry tilted his head to the side in confusion. "Don't you already know that from experience with Filia?"

"Apparently not," Xellos admitted, "and I'm afraid I've heard nothing but bad things about the guidebooks they have available in libraries and cheesy bookshops." He was back into trickster mode with his usual abundant cheer and sarcastic remarks. He needed some familiarity in his own behavior if he was going to keep his sanity while facing all these insane hardships.

"Oh well, let's see," Gourry looked like he was thinking really hard, his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth in deep concentration. "You're in love when you want to be with someone, a lot. The one you love is like a part of your life that you would miss too much to let go of."

Did Xellos miss Filia? It was a bit soon to tell, he had seen her not too long ago. He did occasionally get a whim to visit her for no reason other than to annoy her in the past, but that certainly couldn't have been akin to love, not back then anyway, it was more like entertainment. As for something more recent, he had come up with a plan to continue seeing Filia even after he obtained his cure. Maybe that counted for something. "I see," it had taken Gourry a lot of effort just to come up with that reply, so Xellos decided not to push the poor guy into working too hard, least his single lonely brain cell die out on him. "Thanks for the information," Xellos smiled cheerfully like he used to do as a monster and let himself out of the room.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos then proceeded to knock on Lina's door and wait. He knocked again until the door was finally opened by a furious redhead. "This better be important!" She growled dangerously.

"Hello to you too, Lina," Xellos smiled, though he knew he better stop pushing his luck. "I wanted to ask for your insight about something."

"Something that couldn't wait until morning?" Lina demanded angrily.

Xellos ignored the complaint and continued. "How does one go about falling in love?"

"Excuse me? Why are you asking me such a thing?" Lina blushed, her face becoming as red as her hair.

"You're in love with your boyfriend, aren't you?" Xellos teased. "Oh, sorry, I meant to say that you're in love with your fiance. Lina Inverse loves Gourry Gabriev," Xellos couldn't help it, Lina was too much fun to tease sometimes.

"Go take out your heartbreak on someone else!" Lina shouted loudly, then slammed the door closed and locked it. Xellos was left standing in the hallway amused by her reaction, but knowing he just wasted his opportunity to get more information.

xoxox xox xoxox

Next in the agenda was visiting Zelgadis for more information on the same subject. Xellos knew that Zelgadis wouldn't be eager to talk to him, let alone in the middle of the night, but he would try anyway. Thus Xellos knocked on Zelgadis' door. Zelgadis opened the door with a noticeable red tint on his face, "Ame... Xellos?" The red color in Zelgadis' face went from representing infatuation to representing anger. "What are you doing here?"

Xellos found that maintaining his cheerful expression had become a little easier for the time in which he could witness Zelgadis' embarrassment with mocking eyes. "Why were you expecting Amelia here in the middle of the night?"

Blushing even more deeply, Zelgadis growled threateningly, "none of your business!"

"I'm sure it's not," Xellos grinned teasingly. "I don't want to end up playing the third wheel if she does come, which I honestly doubt will happen in spite of all your mischievous wishful thinking, so-"

"It's not like that!" Zelgadis snapped.

"Temper, temper, I just wanted to ask you a quick question, then I'll leave you to your much needed rest. You're so very grouchy right now," Xellos shook his index finger at Zelgadis, who was quite tempted to rip it off.

The chimera glared in a no nonsense sort of way, "ask your question and leave."

Again, Xellos tried to seek more information about the same matter. "How does one go about falling in love?"

"What?" Zelgadis snapped in annoyance. "What kind of a question is that?" He soon came up with a theory fueled by his lingering discomfort in his appearance, which Amelia was slowly healing. "Are you trying to tell me that no one could love a hideous freak like me?"

Xellos had to wonder where did Zelgadis get all that. The chimera had issues. Then again, Xellos was a mocking trickster, except this time he wasn't even trying. "That's not what I said."

"But you were thinking it!" Zelgadis yelled.

"No, I wasn't," Xellos pointed out as a matter of fact.

"Yes you were and I don't care!" Zelgadis shouted at the top of his lungs. "I don't care what you say, Amelia said I was cool, she accepts me as I am and I... I love Amelia!"

From Amelia's room, the princess loudly declared at the top of her lungs, "I love you too, Zelgadis!" The inn was feeling very much like a soap opera to those unfortunate enough to be stuck spending the night there. Zelgadis' blush deepened as he spaced out for a few seconds, then realized Xellos was staring at him and promptly closed the door on his face.

The randomness didn't end there, as Gourry suddenly called out from within his room, "I love you Lina!"

"What?" Lina exclaimed from her own room.

"I said I love you Lina!" Gourry repeated.

"Did you eat a poisonous octopus again? Why do I have to pay for the inn?" Lina argued loudly.

"I'm not speaking octopice, I really do love you!" Gourry replied, yelling to be heard from his room.

"Why are you yelling that out, you jellyfish brain?" Lina argued in the same shouting fashion that was keeping the whole inn awake.

"Because Zelgadis and Amelia did," Gourry explained. "Isn't that part of the game?"

"We're not playing any games! Those two were just being annoyingly random!" Lina yelled in exasperation. "Go to sleep, Gourry!" A few seconds of blissful silence passed before Lina added with a red face that the whole gang could clearly imagine, "I love you too!"

xoxox xox xoxox

The last person that Xellos had left to interrogate was Amelia, the ally of justice. Xellos knocked on her room's door and watched as she opened the door as if she was expecting him. "Come in, Mr. Xellos."

Xellos stepped inside wondering how Amelia had concluded that he would be coming by. "Was I expected?"

"Sort of," Amelia motioned towards the table where there was a large bowl of cookie dough and a pile of books. "Actually, I was expecting Filia. I picked out a few chick novels for us to read and got some cookie dough so that I could properly console her. I guess I'll console you instead. It must be hard going through difficulties in your love life while everyone else is so in love!"

"Maybe coming here was a bad idea," Xellos theorized.

"Poor Mr. Xellos!" Amelia dramatized with big shiny eyes. "I feel so sorry for you even if this whole painful break up was very likely all your fault!" She placed her hand on her forehead as she threw her head back dramatically.

"Coming here was definitely a bad idea," Xellos concluded.

"Don't be afraid to cry on a friend's shoulder! I'm here for you!" Amelia insisted.

"You know what?" Xellos tried to talk some sense into the imaginative hyper princess. "I feel better already just knowing I have the support of such a good friend. In fact I feel well enough to go get some sleep right now." Xellos picked up the cookie dough and took it with him. There was no sense in letting Amelia's kindness go to waste. "I'll see everyone in the morning and I'll be ready to face a brand new day and all that stuff."

"That's the spirit Mr. Xellos!" Amelia cheered with unnecessary loudness as Xellos made a hasty retreat. At least he got some cookie dough out of his otherwise unsuccessful venture. "Oh, wait Mr. Xellos!" She called out as he reached the door. "Before you leave there's something else I have to say." Taking a deep breath, Amelia dramatically confessed, "I lost the game."

"You did?" Well, that was random, but then again, Amelia was a very random girl. Even if Xellos knew it, her comment still felt like it came out of no where.

"Yes, when Mr. Gourry said 'the game', even if he wasn't talking about that game, it made me think of the game," the Seyruun princess explained.

"I see, that game." The game was something invented by humans. The goal of the game was to not think about the game itself. Ironically, trying to avoid thinking about something, often leads to thinking about it, hence the challenge. Some claim that everyone in the world is constantly playing the game, while others say that only those who know the rules of the game are playing the game. When one thinks about the game, that person must announce to someone else that they lost the game. The game would go on for all of eternity, for as long as a living creature still exists, some would say. Others claim that one day the Lord of Nightmares will publicly announce that the game is up and that will finally be the end of it. Then Xellos realized something, he was thinking about the game too. "I lost the game," he admitted before finally retreating, this time without any further interruptions.

xoxox xox xoxox

The next day, the group got up bright and early with a chorus of yawns. They checked out of the inn among the glares of other sleepless guests, had some breakfast and left town. Filia was still giving Xellos the silent treatment and refused to look at him, while Xellos had made little progress in devising a strategy to ensure his survival. It looked as if the trip would be quiet and tense, yet uneventful. That perception changed when two fully transformed golden dragons landed on the path in front of Lina and company.

"Filia Ul Copt," one of the dragons on the path spoke harshly, his voice full of bitter anger. They were both clearly warriors, more ferocious than most golden dragons. "When you left the golden dragons we cut all ties with you and left you for dead. However, the stain you have placed upon the golden dragon name is too great! How dare you spread the word that the priest of Beast Master is under our protection during his inexplicable time of weakness?"

"Yeah, how dare you?" The second dragon appeared to be even more ferocious than the first with bulging muscles well marked under his golden scales. Unfortunately, he didn't appear to have the brains to match his brawn.

"That's a lie!" Filia yelled bitterly. "I hate that piece of raw garbage! Besides, the whole misunderstanding started because he disguised himself as a golden dragon. I had nothing to do with it!"

"Silence traitor!" The leader of the two dragon warriors roared.

"Yeah, shut up you!" His muscular comrade added.

"We will clean the name of the golden dragons by destroying the beast priest!" The smarter of the two declared, though given his intended goal, one would have to question his intellect.

"We sure will, you just watch!" The other dragon emphasized.

Seeing that this argument would be pointless, Lina quickly devised a plan. She really didn't need the golden dragons making her bodyguard job more difficult than it was. Besides, what if they showed up while she was visiting her family? Luna wasn't supposed to know she was playing bodyguard for a monster! "Excuse me! Can I point something out?"

"Lina Inverse," the smarter dragon warrior recognized her with disdain. "If you wish to defend the traitor, don't bother wasting your breath!"

"Yeah, don't bother!" The muscle-head dragon echoed.

"Actually, I have an interesting piece of information for you." Cue some exaggerated melodrama from Lina. "We're all this horrible monster's hostages! His lack of power is all a lie. Xellos is stronger than ever, he's just hiding his power. Oh please mighty golden dragons, save us from annihilation! Though you might get annihilated yourselves in the process of our rescue, I know you'll be willing to make that noble sacrifice."

Xellos tried to look as confident as he always was as a monster, hiding his frustration well. He began a quiet inaudible chant. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows, buried in the stream of time is where your power grows."

Amelia realized what Lina's plan was as well. If the golden dragons thought Xellos was as powerful as ever, they wouldn't dare go after him. "It's terrible, Xellos is too strong for us, but you might stand a chance, with an army or two... maybe." She glanced at Zelgadis to play along.

Xellos continued his quiet chant while the others distracted the dragons. "I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands."

Though Zelgadis wasn't particularly fond of Xellos, since Amelia was asking him to play along, he did. "There was that incident in the War of the Monster's Fall, but I'm sure the dragon race has learned from it and has much better battle tactics now, please save us!"

Xellos was almost ready to cast the spell. "Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed, by the power you and I possess."

Gourry wasn't sure what was going on, but that was normal for him. "We're Xellos' hostages? I thought he-" Before Gourry could mess up the act, Lina and Amelia, who were standing in front of Xellos, jumped to the left and right of him, allowing him a clear path to his target. Amelia and Zelgadis Ray Winged themselves away, taking along the distraught Filia. In the opposite direction, Lina casted Ray Wing as well, taking Gourry to safety with her.

"Dragon Slave!" The massive explosion of Xellos' spell left a large crater on the ground, filled with the ashes of what once was a very buff golden dragon.

The other golden dragon just barely survived, since he wasn't the primary target. He would be the messenger who lived to warn the golden dragons that Xellos was too strong to pick a fight with. The charred injured golden dragon, got up with some difficulty and a look of horror. "Lina Inverse, you and your perverse companions are on your own. You got what you deserved for siding with that monster. Miss Ul Copt, it still stands that you are not recognized as a golden dragon and I'm sure you will never again be a citizen of our race. None of you are worthy of being rescued by the golden dragons!" With that final declaration, the injured dragon warrior flew away as fast as he could.

Once the danger of being caught in the blast from the Dragon Slave had passed, the group rejoined Xellos in the middle of the path. There was something that the cursed monster turned human thought was peculiar about what that so called golden dragon warrior had said. "Filia, why did he say you're not a golden dragon?"

"Because I'm not, but what's it to you?" Filia exploded in anger. "It's not like you care about me! Why would it matter to you that I got kicked out of my own race after the Darkstar incident? I don't need my golden dragon citizenship anyway." She had lost her health plan along with her golden dragon citizenship, but she no longer needed to fill up a yearly income tax form for the golden dragons, so it all worked out in the end. Golden dragon tax rates were killer, how else would they afford all those fancy temples after human slavery was outlawed? Filia knew that managing her shop would be a lot more difficult if she was still a golden dragon citizen.

"You're not a golden dragon," Xellos repeated. Sure, she was of the golden dragon species, but not officially recognized as one of their own by her race. There was the loophole. His cure was the willing kiss of a golden dragon and since Filia wasn't legally a golden dragon, she didn't count as a golden dragon for the curse. Stupid picky curse.

Filia decided that she wouldn't dignify Xellos with any more words and set out ahead of the group. Gourry was looking around confused. "Are we really hostages? Because I don't feel like a hostage."

"No, Gourry, we're not hostages, that was just an act, but it's over now," Lina explained.

"Really?" Gourry blinked in his usual clueless fashion. "That's too bad, if I knew we were supposed to be acting, I would have put up a really good hostage act!" Oh well, maybe next time he could participate.

Amelia looked at Filia as she wordlessly moved forward. One way or another she would help Xellos and Filia fix their problems and get together again. She didn't know how, but she would accomplish it. She would have to be sneaky about it, given how stubborn those two were. Perhaps she should let their anger cool off before making a move. The right moment to interfere would eventually present itself. Amelia was sure that she would know it when she saw it.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 053: Visit! An Interesting Detour

Time passed and eventually, the journey towards Lina's village, Zephilia, was over. Filia was still avoiding Xellos, making a prominent point of ignoring him. In the last inn they stopped at before reaching the village, he had snuck into her room, sick and tired of being ignored and laid down next to her on the bed. Filia's only response was to rudely comment about the foul scent of the sheets wondering when was the last time they were washed and proceeding to sleep on a chair, not even directly looking at Xellos during the entire incident.

"Everyone better behave!" Lina warned as they entered the village. She eyed Xellos and Filia each individually for an extra long ten seconds. "I mean it!" The worried redhead emphasized. "If anyone asks, you're human and you've always been human," she warned Xellos.

"Understood," Xellos chirped in an overly cheerful voice, though he was actually feeling quite annoyed. Not only was Filia's stubborn choice to ignore him seriously getting on his nerves, but he was already weary of Luna. She was skilled in magic as the initial choice to take care of the Darkstar problem, though she ended up passing the task to Lina. She was the Knight of Ceifeed and thus wasn't supposed to like monsters. If she was as fearsome as Lina claimed her to be, then Xellos knew he better keep his mouth shut about his real identity or he wouldn't have a bodyguard to back him up if he got in over his head.

The group continued through the village until they came to a charming house with a charming dog house labeled as belonging to 'Spot' next to it and a charming... Wait a minute, that wasn't a charming dog! It was Dilgear in beast form, sleeping with half his body inside the dog house and half out. "Is that...?" Zelgadis couldn't even finish the question.

"Looks like him," Lina replied quietly. "I told you Luna's dangerous." The door to the house was opened and Lina jumped into Gourry's arms with a loud, "eek!"

"Lina, it's so nice of you to come! I calculated that you would arrive just about now," Luna greeted, ignoring her sister's obvious bout of fear. "It's a good thing I was right about your time of arrival. It would have been a shame if you kept your family waiting for too long. I even took the day off from my job today so we could all spend some time together. Let us go inside."

The group followed Lina inside the house, where a man old enough to be Lina's father was happily polishing a sword and a woman old enough to be Lina's mother was humming as she arranged flowers on a vase that Filia recognized. It was the vase she had mailed over to the Inverse household as thanks for their recommendation for Lina who, although she ate all of Filia's food budget in a very short time and ended up being rather unorthodox, eventually helped solve the Darkstar problem in the end. The man placed the sword on a display on the wall, which featured many other swords and bladed weapons that Gourry was eyeing with fascination. "Lina! How have you been doing, kiddo?" He patted her on the head like a father who thinks his daughter will forever be his little girl as most fathers do.

"I'm so glad you've come to visit, honey," Lina's mother gave her a gentle hug before taking a step back to get a good look at her daughter.

"Well, Lina? Aren't you going to introduce your friends?" Luna prompted with a carefree polite tone, yet despite her friendly smile, Lina's nerves were on edge.

"Of course!" Lina began the introductions as Luna would say is proper. "Father, this is Princess Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, Amelia, this is my honorable Father, Mr. Light Inverse. Mother, this is Princess Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, Amelia, this is my honorable mother, Mrs. Labyrinthine Inverse. Luna, this is Princess Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, Amelia, this is my honorable elder sister, Miss Luna Inverse." Proper titles needed to be included of course. Lina continued with the introductions without even stopping to catch her breath. "Father, this is-"

Light laughed in a very Philionel-like fashion, though his proportions were those of a normal, though well built, man. "I'm glad you remember the good manners your sister taught you, but you don't have to be so formal, not to mention so repetitive."

"Oh, right," Lina laughed, relieved that she wouldn't have to say such a mouthful of individual introductions and finished summarizing the rest. "This is Lady Filia Ul Copt, whom I think you already met." Filia was a golden dragon, in species at least, thus she should have an easier time getting on Luna's good side. Plus Filia had already survived an earlier encounter with Luna during the start of the whole Darkstar incident and was evidently not traumatized by it. Filia was certainly a very brave soul, Lina mentally noted.

"Oh yes, we had such a lovely time baking cookies when Filia was last here." Labyrinthine giggled like a school girl at the fond memory. "Dear Filia kept saying she had to hurry on her way, but I talked her into staying for some fireball baking. Nothing like magic to bring out the flavor in food!"

"I agree!" Filia decided that she wouldn't let her rotten mood concerning Xellos ruin her visit to the Inverse family. "Thank you so much for teaching me that super chunky chocolate chip cookie recipe."

"You're welcome; I do hope we all get the chance to bake something delicious again. Ah, but we can talk after we're done with the introductions." Lina's mother smiled as she prompted her youngest daughter to continue.

Lina went on with the introductions. "This is Sir Zelgadis Graywords of Seyruun." Never mind that Luna herself was often less formal than that. Lina didn't want to risk Luna criticizing her if she didn't stretch politeness to the extremes. Zelgadis took his turn to smile and nod as everyone had done during Lina's little role call.

Deciding that it was best to leave her fiance for last, Lina continued on with Xellos. "This is Xellos Me-" oh no! She almost called him Xellos Metallium.

It wouldn't do to introduce him just as Xellos, Luna would ask with a critical tone 'doesn't Mr. Xellos have a family name? How could you not know the full name of your traveling companion? That's so terribly irresponsible of you, Lina!' Then again, Lina's fearful mind might be exaggerating, but she didn't want to take any chances!

"Metalburger," Lina finished, which prompted a discrete raise of the eyebrow from Xellos. He understood why she couldn't use Metallium as his surname, but couldn't she think of something better than Metalburger?

"Xellos," Luna mused, why does that name sound familiar?

"I'm sure it's only a coincidence!" Lina frantically insisted.

"Ah, yes, I remember now, that little girl that lives down the street has a cat named Sollex," Luna concluded casually. The Knight of Ceifeed wasn't easily tricked, but decided to humor her sister just this once. Lina let out a breath of relief, which she thought came too soon, as Luna was still giving Xellos the critical eye. "By the way, Mr. Metalburger..."

Xellos could feel his eye twitch in annoyance at the silly surname, "just Xellos is fine, Miss Inverse."

"Likewise, you may call me Luna," she replied still studying him. The group collectively held their breath fearing Luna's conclusion. Then she finally said with a fond smile. "Your hair is very nice."

"Thank you," Xellos replied with cautious politeness.

Lina observed Xellos, then Luna, then Xellos, then Luna again. She couldn't help it but to blurt out, "of course you like his hair, it's almost exactly like yours!" Just as quickly as the outburst came, Lina slapped both hands over her own mouth. "I mean, your hair looks very pretty today, Luna."

"Why thank you, Lina," Luna smiled, "however," her expression morphed into a frown. "I'm afraid I see some split ends on your hair. You must take better care of it. Just look at this young man's hair," she looked towards Gourry, "it's shiny and I'm sure it's silky soft as well. You should follow his example. By the way, you haven't introduced him yet, could he be..." Luna gave Lina a look that told her that this better be her fiance because if he was too cowardly to go meet Lina's family, then Luna would surely hunt him down.

"Yes," Lina nodded, blushing scarlet. "This is my fiance, Gourry Gabriev."

The atmosphere stood heavily still as Lina's parents and sister stared at Gourry waiting for him to say something. Finally, he spoke, "Elsydeon, Espelancer, Masamune, Muramasa, Tessaiga."

'Oh no! All this pressure made Gourry go insane!' Lina thought in agony. 'Poor Gourry, this was too much for him.' A silent moment passed as Lina quietly mourned for Gourry's dearly departed sanity.

Suddenly, Light loudly exclaimed, "exactly!" In a very cheerful voice and Lina had to wonder if her father had gone crazy during her absence, though neither her mother nor her sister appeared to be alarmed. "You have a good eye, my son. You recognized my best swords right from the start. I have lots more in the basement. I used to be a mercenary before becoming a merchant. I've amassed quite the collection of swords and other bladed weapons over the years. A swordsman who knows his swords this well must be skilled. What do you say we have ourselves a little spar for old time's sake, my boy? I still got some skill left in me. You might learn a thing or two."

"I would be honored, sir," Gourry politely replied with a friendly smile, while Lina and the rest of her traveling companions stared in awe.

"Oh, such a smart young man!" Labyrinthine exclaimed.

"Thank you,..." The name of Lina's mother was too long and Gourry couldn't remember it. He was sure it was impolite to forget the name of one's mother in law, thus he tried to fix his shortcoming as best he could by calling her "Lady Inverse."

"Aw, and he's so polite too," Labyrinthine giggled. "It's no wonder you've charmed my little Lina. "Please call me mom!"

"And you must call me dad!" Light added.

Gourry smiled, glad that things appeared to be going so well. "If it is alright with you both." He was being polite just like his grandmother taught him; she taught him a lot of things that she assured him would be useful to him later in life and this was one of those times. "I appreciate your kindness."

Lina's jaw was nearly touching the floor, metaphorically of course, though her mouth was literally wide open. She didn't even know Gourry could act this civilized or manage to make himself sound smart by sprouting random sword related facts. She supposed that everyone had to have some subject they were good at, even Gourry.

"Let's allow the boys some time to talk about swords. Goodness knows that men are always thinking with, I mean about, their swords." Lina assumed that her mother meant to point out that, generally speaking, men were faster to pick fights then women. Although that wasn't really the case in the Inverse family, where the females were considerably more temperamental than the males. "Meanwhile, I can share some recipes with all of you."

A chorus of agreements followed from the girls who would be all too happy to personally investigate the sources of the appetizing scents drifting into the living room from the kitchen. Meanwhile, the men journeyed to the basement, where Light kept most of his sword collection, though the only one truly enjoying Light's lectures about each individual sword was Gourry. As for Xellos and Zelgadis, they just smiled and nodded politely as they assumed it would be best to do.

xoxox xox xoxox

The short visit to the Inverse household was much more pleasant to Lina than she imagined it would be. Though Luna did scold her for trying to eat the ingredients when they were cooking, Lina wisely ceased her gluttonous behavior and no real incidents occurred during the cooking process. Several hours later, the whole group consisting of Lina's traveling companions and family, gathered around the table to feast. Lina's table manners were surprisingly perfect. Thankfully, Gourry's survival instinct was strong enough to make him follow the example and behave well on the table too.

Though Lina was ready to leave right after dinner, her parents insisted that she should stay the night. Honestly, the thought of a delicious home cooked breakfast was very pleasant, thus she stayed. While the guys were given the little house' only guest room to share, the girls roomed with Luna in what Amelia happily declared to be a slumber party. Hair was braided, stories were told, snacks were eaten, teasing was done and there was much giggling. The whole experience helped Filia's mood improve considerably and by the following morning she didn't hold the same amount of bitter anger towards Xellos anymore.

After a delicious breakfast prepared by Labyrinthine's magical cooking techniques, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia were ready to hit the road again. According to the plan, not wanting to push her luck with Luna, Lina used their noble mission to investigate the famine affecting the outer world farm lands in the name of Seyruun as their excuse to leave without any further delays. As goodbyes were exchanged and the charming little house was left behind, Dilgear was content with pretending he didn't know Lina and company, though judging by his expression, he clearly did. The travelers returned the favor by pretending they only saw him as Luna's pet, Spot.

xoxox xox xoxox

The gang was on the road again, going further away from Lina's home village, back on their way to the farm lands where Elena and Palou used to live. In fact, Zephilia was no longer visible in the distance, proving that they were making steady progress, though a long journey still lay ahead. The trip was made more pleasant thanks to the large load of grapes the travelers were given to consume on the trip. Grapes were Zephilia's signature product after all. The group walked on quietly for the most part, munching on grapes as they went along, trying to protect their portions from Lina's voracious appetite and discussing how delicious Labyrinthine's grape pie was.

Further along the way they stopped at inns in each town they passed and continued making steady progress day by day. It seemed that neither the golden dragons nor the monsters were in the mood to attack Xellos lately. Lina had brought up the incident that occurred during their herb hunt at the mountains, now plains, near the town where Filia's shop was located. Yet Xellos was quick to assure that it must have all been some kind of misunderstanding and that there was no way Zelas could be secretly guarding him from the shadows. Maybe she even wanted to get rid of him, but if she did, she could have done so easily already. Also, if she wanted to keep him safe, there was no reason why she would have to be sneaky about it. Except maybe for the part about having a weak underling that needed protection being rather embarrassing.

Yet, if Zelas didn't want Xellos gone, why did she put him in such a risky situation in the first place? Why did he have to choose a dare and get cursed? He couldn't think of any piece of information that was vital enough to be worth his life to protect. What could he possibly know that not even he was aware he knew? He had been so focused on breaking his curse; he had not had time to think about that aspect. What could Zelas' plan be? Whatever it was, Xellos knew it was his role to follow it, but he still wanted to know. After stopping to think about it, the question plagued him constantly.

Xellos tried to focus on the present. Whatever Zelas wanted from him, she would get it. All he had to do was stay alive and he would eventually become aware of her plans. Assuming he could stay alive. He had been plotting about that too and had a plan in mind. He caught up with Zelgadis, who was holding the map and examined it.

Zelgadis glared in annoyance at Xellos purposely getting his head in the way, though he was certain that he could see the map just fine without having to lean over it like that. "Do you mind?" The chimera growled.

"Not at all," Xellos grinned and didn't get out of the way.

"I know how to get to where we're going," Zelgadis insisted.

"Can I borrow the map?" Xellos asked, still smiling obnoxiously.

"No," Zelgadis rolled up the map and put it in his cloak.

"C'mon, let me borrow it," Xellos tried to steal the map from Zelgadis' cloak.

The attempt caused Zelgadis to take the map out of his cloak and hand it to Amelia. "Please keep the map safe from Xellos; I'm sure he only wants to tare it apart."

"Why would you make such a cruel assumption?" Xellos made a dramatic sad face. "You're so mean!"

"You're so annoying!" Zelgadis mimicked the dramatic tone. "You've also been known to rip apart important documents in the past and you know that's our only map."

"It wouldn't do me any good for us to get lost," Xellos logically pointed out. He extended his hand towards the map that Amelia was holding. "Let me borrow it, just for a little while."

"No!" Taking her map protection mission seriously, Amelia tugged it into her shirt in the old trick many women used throughout the ages to keep small items away from men.

Xellos frowned, "that's not fair."

"Let's just trust Zelgadis' sense of direction, he's really good at navigating," Amelia encouraged, with Zelgadis clearly appreciating the compliment.

A few minutes passed in silence until Xellos asked. "Isn't the map kind of heavy, Amelia?"

"It's made of paper," Amelia pointed out as a matter of fact.

"If you don't trust me with it, why don't you let Filia help you carry it for a while? It's about time that lazy dragon did something to help out," Xellos slyly suggested.

"No way!" Amelia refused, "you'll try to steal it from her!"

"And she'd probably let me," Xellos winked at Filia, who was red with anger. At least she wasn't ignoring him completely. She was making furious faces at him again, that was some progress, even if she still wasn't at the point of words just yet. He could still sense her hurt frustration; she was not ready to excuse his past secrecy and ulterior motives, but she was considering it.

"I'm keeping the map," Amelia stated emphatically, hoping to stop another fight between Xellos and Filia before it truly began.

"Fine, be selfish," Xellos pouted with a sad face, hoping that would soften Amelia's determination, but it didn't. He decided to drop the subject for the time being. There would be plenty of time to get a map and elaborate on the plan he had in mind when they reached the next town.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 054: Kidnapping! The Mysterious Lady

In another inn that happened to be in the way to the next town in the journey, Lina and company were sitting at a table surrounding the map that Amelia had kept safe from Xellos. The monster turned human, had run off somewhere in town, joining his companions a while later with his own map in hand. "Since Zelgadis is so terribly selfish and wouldn't let me borrow his map, I got my own," he placed the map on the table. "You're going here," he pointed out the farming village were they were traveling to. I'm going here," he pointed at a location near the village. "So I guess we'll be traveling down the same road for a while."

"What's there?" Lina curiously asked. It didn't look like Xellos was actually pointing at anything on the map, or maybe something was missing from the depiction.

"I'll tell you later. We might as well stop at the village next to our destination," Xellos replied ambiguously. "And Lina... you might have to earn your payment when we get there."

Filia didn't like where the conversation was going. Xellos must be planning to cause trouble if he needed Lina's power to back him up. She frowned, but refused to speak to him.

xoxox xox xoxox

The journey continued normally until eventually, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos reached the farming village they had been heading for. The place was indeed lacking in food, it was Lina's worse nightmare. There were no crops to be seen anywhere and the numerous healthy cattle that once roamed the land were few and sickly. "Lina," Xellos got the redhead out of her pitiful daze, "it's time to work."

"I'm not in the mood," Lina groaned. "This place is so depressing!"

"Come on, Lina, just think of all the money you're being paid for this," Xellos motivated. "If something goes wrong during my mission and I'm outnumbered and killed, you won't get paid anymore!" He reminded with more cheer than anyone should have when discussing their own death.

"Alright, alright, I'm coming," Lina noticed that Filia was giving her a meaningful look, as if trying to silently communicate that she should keep an eye on Xellos. "You guys can get started with blessing the land and what not. We'll catch up later."

Amelia nodded, all too eager to get really started with her mission, "good luck!" She wasn't sure what she was giving them well wishes to achieve, but she wished them success nonetheless.

Thus Lina and her inseparable companion, Gourry, followed Xellos to his room at the local inn, where they could privately discuss the plan Xellos had devised. In the mean time, Amelia and Filia went off to try to bless the land with their white and holy magic, with Zelgadis tagging along.

xoxox xox xoxox

In Xellos' room, he, Lina and Gourry sat around a small table listening to Xellos' explanation. "Though it's not on any map, there is a small villa in the plains south-east of here. That villa belongs to a golden dragon by the name of Celestina Ilumina. She is the only daughter of Orion Ilumina, a rich golden dragon, closely related to the dragon elders, who commands a vast portion of the golden dragons' market share. He also has participation in the councils of several dragon temples. In other words he's a note worthy politician and a wealthy business tycoon."

Neither Lina nor Gourry questioned Xellos' information. Lina knew that it was Xellos' business to know these things when he was spying for Beast Master and Gourry never got far questioning anything anyway. "Go on," Lina prompted, indicating with her eyes that she already knew what was coming. Xellos was going to pick a fight with the dragon, though she was yet to understand why it would benefit him to do so.

"My plan is to kidnap Celestina and hold her hostage to pressure Orion," Xellos revealed. "By those means, Orion will use his influence and bribery to return Filia's citizenship as a golden dragon."

"But Filia herself said she didn't need it," Lina reminded. "Besides, why would you want her to be a golden dragon? I don't get it. What are you trying to achieve with all this? I thought you might want to stay away from the golden dragons, given your current situation. If a large number of them come after us, I might not be able to effectively play my part as your bodyguard."

"We should have Celestina in our custody before the rest of the golden dragons even know what's going on," Xellos insisted.

"What's the point?" Lina demanded. "So what if Filia becomes a golden dragon citizen? Her race might try to take that citizenship away permanently by other methods, meaning by attacking her. Sure we can also use Celestina to protect her, but what would that accomplish? We can't keep her hostage forever, just as I don't intend to keep playing bodyguard for the rest of my life. Don't forget, my contract has a set expiration date."

"I haven't forgotten," Xellos kept his cheerful expression intact. "After Orion passes the bill to restore Filia's citizenship, we'll only need to keep Celestina for a short while longer. By then I should have accomplished what I need to do to recover my monster powers." That or Zelas would have lost her patience and killed him. "Once I'm a monster again, the golden dragons will not present a problem."

Lina gave Xellos a suspicious look, "Okay... Now you need to explain that in a way that actually makes sense. There's something you're failing to tell us."

"My cure..." Xellos half confessed. "Filia can cure me if she's an official golden dragon. There's another detail I need to take care of too, but it's..." complicated, confusing, impossible to explain. "It's nothing I can't handle," hopefully.

"All of this will be accomplished by some kind of magic, I take it?" Lina theorized. "Have you even told Filia that her participation is eventually expected?"

Xellos grinned with overconfident mockery, "she'll help out, she loves me."

"That's going a bit far," Lina couldn't help it but to shake her head. "None the less, Filia is pretty merciful, even if I doubt she still loves you after your harsh break up, she would still help. I guess that even if she's hurt, she doesn't need to be in love to want to save your life. She's helped out before your short relationship after all." Xellos was giving Lina a critical look which made her wonder what she could have said wrong. "What?"

"Nothing," Xellos pushed the thoughts away. Of course he could still count on Filia; he could always count on Filia... But that didn't mean she would always love him, she was merciful, not stupid, even though he called her a stupid dragon quite often. "This town used to be a place where human slaves were traded by dragons many years ago. In some kind of good will propaganda, it ended up as a town protected by dragons. Celestina trains maidens in magic in her villa, however, only women are allowed in."

Gourry's face paled as a cold chill went down his spine. "I don't understand what's going on, but I have a bad feeling about this."

"You're going to have to bear with it, Miss Lala," Lina warned Gourry.

"You call me Lala when you're about to make me dress as a girl," Gourry grimaced. "I don't want to!" He whined.

"Too bad, because you have to. If Xellos gets himself killed in this operation, my money's going down the drain!" Lina argued. "Besides, he'll have his monster powers back by the time we're ready to release Celestina." Xellos opened his mouth to suggest something rather Xellos-like, but Lina guessed what it was and shot down the suggestion before Xellos could even make it. "We're not getting rid of Celestina when we're done. I'm not going to pick a fight with the golden dragons for no reason. Besides, I'm pretty sure that would really make Filia reconsider helping you. And if you dare to ditch us after you get your powers back, I will find a way to survive, hunt you down and slay you, even if I have to call upon the power of the Lord of Nightmares and destroy the world along with you! Do I make myself clear?" Lina slammed her fist on the table with a fierce expression.

"Crystal clear, Miss Lili," Xellos calmly replied.

"Good to hear that, Miss Lulu." Lina nodded. "Okay, let's go get our disguises ready!" Lina exited Xellos' room, dragging a complaining Gourry along.

xoxox xox xoxox

Some time later, three beautiful women, out of which only one was an actual woman, left the town and headed for the villa. Gourry was wearing a pink dress, similar to the kind of dresses he was forced to wear in the past for similar situations. His hair was in pigtails and his face was adorned with bright pink lipstick and an expression of misery.

Lina had simpler attire, though she did change into a light blue skirt to enhance her feminine side, a white top and matching white boots. Her hair was up in a ponytail with a sky blue ribbon and her bangs styled to the side to make her face look somewhat different. To add to that effect, Lina wore some light makeup as well, with pale blue eye shadow and natural pink lipstick. "Seriously Xellos," Lina marbled as she stared at his feet. "How can you walk in those heels?"

Xellos, who was wearing a rather form fitting red dress with golden lining and a generous slit on the side of the skirt, grinned. "It's Lulu, remember?" He reminded in a very girly voice, batting his long eye lashes, the amethyst color of his eyes standing out against the hint of gold around them. The whole perfect face look was completed with red lipstick.

Lina rolled her eyes, that model walk of Xellos was simply too convincing. "I'm left wondering if you're a really great actor or..."

"I'm sure Filia will be able to answer that," Xellos winked. As it was obvious what he was hinting at, and Lina definitely didn't want to talk about it, the redhead decided to drop the subject.

After a relatively short walk, the three so called girls reached the villa, where they proceeded to call out a greeting from the front gates until a young woman came by to see what they wanted. "How may I help you, visitors?" The girl was a brunette with shrine maiden robes and a cheerful attitude.

"We're here to learn magic from Lady Celestina," Xellos, alias Lulu, innocently explained.

"Ah, more students for Lady Celestina's class, how nice." Taking a key from her pocket, the shrine maiden opened the gate. She was very easy to convince. Then again, few people were crazy enough to carry out ill intentions in the home of a dragon, especially in the outer world where magic wasn't as developed as in the lands previously inside the barrier. "Please follow me. My name is Catherine, or Cathy for short," she introduced herself as she led the three guests into the villa.

"Nice to meet you, I'm Lili," Lina cheerfully declared, as part of her act.

"I'm Lulu," Xellos added with a cute little giggle.

Gourry did his voice acting the best he could, albeit he knew it wouldn't be as good as Xellos'. "I'm Lala."

"Lili, Lulu and Lala, you have such cute names," Cathy commented with a cute giggle of her own. "Are you siblings perchance?"

"Yes, we are, that's why we look so similar to each other," Xellos, alias Lulu, was being sarcastic, but he didn't allow the sarcasm to become audible past his sweet feminine tone.

"I knew it!" Cathy dumbly exclaimed, she was a kind girl, but not too bright.

"Who are the guests, Cathy?" A girl with long blond hair inquired curiously.

"They're here to become Lady Celestina's students along with us. This is Lili, Lulu and Lala," Cathy introduced them.

"Nice to meet you, I'm Natalie, but you can call me Natie," it seemed that everyone except Lady Celestina had a nickname in the villa.

"Natie, could you keep our guests company while I informed Lady Celestina of their arrival?" Cathy requested.

"I would be happy to. In fact, I just finished baking some cinnamon bread." Natie's words immediately caught Lina's attention. "Would you like to come to the tea room for some tea and cinnamon bread?"

"We'd love to!" Lina and Gourry chorused, with Gourry's real voice being heard.

Gourry cleared his throat in the most girly fashion he could. "Oh my, I'm so thirsty my throat feels terribly dry."

"I'll make sure to add a few drops of medicine to your tea, Miss Lala. We wouldn't want you to lose your voice to a sore throat." Natie kindly offered.

"Thank you, I appreciate it," Gourry giggled, but really, his voice acting would never be as good as Xellos'.

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina, Gourry and Xellos, alias Lili, Lala and Lulu, were happily enjoying some tea and cinnamon bread, when Cathy returned to let them know that Lady Celestina was willing to interview them. The interviews would take place individually in the garden. "Why don't you go first, Lulu?" Lina suggested.

"If that's alright," Xellos agreed, exchanging a plotting look with his bodyguard. The tea room was conveniently located near the gardens that were visible from the tall glass window. In the garden, there was a woman in dragon robes with ankle length white hair, facing away from the window as she tended to the flowers. They concluded she was Celestina. Lina and Gourry would be able to watch Xellos from there and be ready to play their part in their get away.

"Actually," Cathy interrupted. "Lady Celestina has asked to see Lala first, then Lili and finally Lulu."

"Sounds like she wants to go by alphabetical order," Lina alias Lili, laughed with slight nervousness as she gave Gourry, alias Lala, a warning look. He better not blow their cover. "Go on ahead, Lala."

"Yes..." Gourry tried his best to keep up a good act. He could only hope that the questions Celestina asked in the interview were not too difficult.

After Gourry was gone, Lina casually voiced, "those flowers out there are very pretty. It's too bad flowers won't grow anywhere else around here."

"Oh yes, Lady Celestina tends to the gardens herself," Natie explained. "It is because of her power that those flowers are able to grow."

There was a moment of silence in which Lina and Xellos both debated how to carefully inquire about how suspicious that was without directly accusing Celestina and alarming the maidens. "You're wondering why Lady Celestina has not cured the famine of this land, aren't you?" Cathy suggested. "The question is written all over your faces and you wouldn't be the first to ask it. Lady Celestina has told us she is an observer and that should she interfere, all will be lost. I think she means that people need to learn to overcome hardship on their own, rather than relying on the power of the golden dragons for everything."

Natie nodded in agreement. "It's a valuable lesson."

xoxox xox xoxox

Gourry had gone out to the garden, occasionally glancing towards the window from which he knew that Lina and Xellos were discretely watching him. The garden was full of beautiful flowers in every color imaginable, making a deep contrast with the lack of vegetation that was all over the rest of the land. "Lady Celestina?" He asked quietly in the most feminine voice he could manage.

"You are a peculiar being. It was your voice calling her name which gave her the strength to cling to life. Stay strong and pure." Celestina didn't move from her position on her knees tending to the flowers, her back to Gourry, "go."

Gourry felt strange, as if he was in the presence of a very powerful being. He had this feeling before, but he couldn't remember when. He dared not say any more and simply returned to the tea room.

xoxox xox xoxox

Gourry quietly returned to the tea room and sat down looking kind of pale. Lina wondered if he had somehow managed to mess up in the short time he was out there, but no one was yelling or freaking out. Next up it was her turn, thus she went out.

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina approached Celestina, "Lady Celestina?"

Once again, Celestina did not move or look at her visitor. "You caused me to awaken from my partial slumber. I allowed you to live even after you gave up everything, do not expect it to happen again... go."

This feeling, this sensation of power, Lina had felt it before, but didn't know when. The redhead sorceress couldn't talk, she simply didn't have the strength to say anything. Celestina was definitely not an ordinary golden dragon. She probably wasn't even a golden dragon at all, but not a monster either. Lina somehow knew that she should heed the warning and quietly retreated back to the tea room.

xoxox xox xoxox

When Lina returned to the tea room she had the same pale complexion Gourry displayed. She discreetly shook her head at Xellos, warning him with her eyes. He gave her a hidden look of puzzlement before venturing out to see what had shocked them so much about such a short meeting.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos approached Celestina just as Gourry and Lina had done before him. His empathy appeared to get a clear signal of Natalie and Catherine's innocent cheer, but even when he was only a few feet away from Celestina, he couldn't sense anything at all. There was no emotion coming from her what so ever, but she still held a very strong presence, stronger than anything Xellos had ever felt. He doubted the maidens and townspeople were aware of this, it was as if Celestina was allowing her three special visitors to see her in a different way than everyone else.

Celestina slowly moved her head to glance at Xellos. Her eyes were a stunning golden color, as if they contained an endless galaxy of golden stars. Then he saw it, a vast blackness with no logic or harmony. In the mist of the chaos there was a single golden light shining brighter than anything he had ever seen. Xellos blinked and the vision was gone, he was in the garden once more and Celestina was once again looking at the flowers.

"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." A silent pause passed until Celestina spoke again. "Even so, my dream will continue for the time being. This is all a part of it as well."

"You're..." Xellos couldn't finish, he simply dared not voice it.

"Go," Celestina bid him farewell in the same way as the others. Without another word, Xellos retreated to the tea room, where Lina and Gourry were waiting.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 055: Summoning! The Birds and the Bees

Lina let out a breath she didn't even know she was holding, when she saw Xellos return without incident from his short meeting with Celestina. "We should leave," at least he didn't forget his voice acting for Natie and Cathy's benefit.

"Aw, you didn't pass?" Cathy asked, requiring no answer. "Let me guess, Lady Celestina took one look at you and said 'you are not ready'. Don't be disappointed, I'm sure that with some training, you'll improve your skills and be ready to join our class soon. I didn't make it in until my third interview."

"It took me five tries," Natie added with a light hearted laugh. "I didn't give up and it was worth it."

"We'll make sure to keep that in mind," Lina made herself smile for the sake of acting, as she, Xellos and Gourry were accompanied to the villa's gates by the two maidens.

xoxox xox xoxox

While Lina, Gourry and Xellos were off in their little quest, Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis were visiting the farmlands. There were few farmers actually still living there, as the majority of the land had been purchased by a young business man called Arcius. The farmers interviewed by the trio of justice, as Amelia would call them, were grateful to the mysterious business man who paid a full price for their land despite the lack of fertility of the soil. Finding the timing to be too convenient, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia headed to Arcius estate to have a word with him.

Strangely, getting to meet Arcius was very easy. They strode past the open gates of the estate and rang the bell, until a butler came to let them in, offering no arguments against Amelia's demands to see "Mr. Arcius." That let the princess, the chimera and the dragon to their current situation, seated at an elegant room with sweet tea and oversized chocolate covered croissants on the table in front of them. Lina would love those croissants.

The room had predominating fiery shades with long crimson and orange curtains all over the walls, even on the side that didn't have windows, making the room look like it was on fire. The plush orange carpet was so soft it made the visitors tempted to take off their shoes, but they resisted the urge. The gold plated table was certainly attention grabbing as well as the golden teapot, cups and plates. The room was a bit blinding, but still impressive in luxury.

"Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, Mr. Arcius," Amelia spoke, a bit embarrassed that she had assumed that the business tycoon who bought the farm lands had to be the bad guy.

"It is no trouble at all," Arcius smile politely. He was a tall handsome man with curly blond hair and emerald green eyes. Though he was without a doubt good looking, his taste in clothing and interior decorating left much to be desired. "I try to make it a point to always have my doors open to guests. Is there a specific purpose to your visit? I don't believe I've seen you in town before."

"We're not from here," Amelia explained, realizing that she was yet to reveal their names, "I'm Amelia and these are Filia and Zelgadis, we heard there was a famine and hoped to help by blessing the land. Filia and I are skilled in white and holy magic, Zelgadis is our protector." It was best to steer clear of the princess deal or else Arcius might keep his guard up. Amelia was no longer assuming he was a villain, but she wasn't ready to trust him yet.

"I see," Arcius looked sad. "Many have tried to bless the land before, but nothing has come of it. If it will please you to do so, you are welcome to try. But do not be disappointed if it doesn't work. I'm afraid this land has simply given all that it can give. However, even if it can't produce crops, it might still be used for something else."

"Something else?" Zelgadis suspiciously inquired, "something lucrative?" He questioned boldly.

"Perhaps," Arcius admitted, "the land must be capable of sustaining its people, though I'm sure it will not be as beneficial as the farms that used to thrive here. Houses, storage rooms, maybe even an amusement park. There's plenty of room to allow various projects to grow and produce jobs for the people who have lost their employment as farmers. The downside is that there's still the famine to consider. I've been importing food from far away, but with the losses from my investments in this land, I'm afraid that I have little to share. Hopefully, I'll be able to recover and help everyone else recover as well."

"Can you tell us anything else about how this started?" Filia asked, albeit she wasn't willing to let the previous thread of conversation end just yet. "What was your relation with this land before the famine?"

"I was a merchant who sold the produce of this land." Arcius replied as if knowing that he was about to clear his suspicions. "I don't blame you for finding my timing excessively convenient, but the truth is that if I were in it only for the economical benefit, I was better off keeping my previous position selling the goods that this land produced. As things stand now, most merchants would suggest I was better off retiring from the market and keeping my savings rather than buying barren land. Regardless of what projects I might work on in the future, they are far away and I'll be up to my neck in investment debts before I see any real profits. It's a gamble, but it's all I have to give these people. I am even under a contractual obligation to sell back the land for the same purchase price if any of the previous owners should so request it within the next year. If you are concerned about my actions, please feel free to examine the legal documents related to them."

Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis looked at each other. It appeared that Arcius' business was very much out in the open and no one had a bad thing to say about him. "It's okay," Amelia finally voiced. There was no need to get too technical in the legal aspects without a good reason.

"About your other question," Arcius continued, proving that he had no intentions of avoiding the subject, though he had little to say about it. "There is not much I can tell you about how the famine started. The produce decreased and the land died out in a gradual yet relatively fast pace. I have no explanation for this tragedy. As I mentioned, skilled magic users have tried to bless the land before, but they sensed no curses or monsters in it."

"Curses and monsters are not the only evil in the world," and cursed monsters didn't necessarily have to be detestable, but Filia decided not to voice that last part.

"That is very true," Arcius agreed, "sometimes natural disasters can be far more tragic. I've been investigating alternative solutions for the problem in hopes of saving the farms before I make any final choices to turn the land into something else. I was just about to try a new method before you arrived."

"Maybe we can help!" Amelia immediately offered.

"That would be most appreciated," Arcius glanced at the gray suited butler standing by the room's door. "James, could you please bring the magic book that arrived earlier today? I believe I left it on the desk in the study."

"Right away, sir," James swiftly exited the room, returning a few minutes later with the requested item. "Here you are, sir."

"Thank you," Arcius placed the old wine colored book on the table. It was worn and the golden lining that once adorned it had almost completely faded. "I believe this book contains the answer to our problems. It has many spells that borrow power from Lord Beast Master."

Filia read the somewhat faded title of the book. "The Birds and The Bees?" What kind of book was this?

"Yes, it's a compilation of summoning spells that call birds and bees for various purposes," Arcius explained as he flipped through the book. "This spell for example, can summon a large bird to carry things. It's quite good to have when going grocery shopping. That is when people actually have groceries to carry. This other spell summons a bird that can sing lullabies, very good against insomnia. There's one that can summon a bird that sings in the morning and works as an alarm clock. You can summon bees to produce delicious honey and even call a hive to aid in combat. I actually lost the auction when I first bid on this book. Then days later the one who beat me at the auction offered to sell it to me. He seemed rather disappointed in the book. I'm not sure what he was expecting from it and I can't imagine why it would be a disappointment. This book is certainly filled with many useful summoning spells."

"Interesting," Amelia commented, having an eagle sidekick to accompany her in her quest for justice was something she would really like. "What spell were you planning to use?"

"This one here," Arcius flipped the pages of the book and turned it over so that his guests could read it right side up. "The spell is called Busy Bees. It is used to summon bees that will help fertilize plants by carrying pollen from one to another." The words of the summoning were 'busy bees buzzing, bringing bright bliss, carry the pollen, the harvest assist.'

"What if there's no pollen or plants in the first place?" Zelgadis pointed out. The land was pretty barren, so there really wasn't much left for the bees to work with.

"These are special bees, I would assume," Arcius theorized. "I mean, they come from a summoning spell rather than just being regular bees. I thought they might be able to help. Unfortunately, I'm not a skilled spell caster, so I doubt I would be able to do the summoning myself. I've heard the people from the lands that used to be inside the barrier have much greater magical abilities. Perhaps I'll hire a sorcerer from there."

"I'll do it!" Amelia immediately volunteered. "I grew up in the land within the barrier and I have experience in magic. I can do this!"

"Really?" Arcius smiled gratefully. "Thank you so much, Miss Amelia! I will be sure to repay you for your efforts!"

"No monetary rewards will be needed for a defender of justice," Amelia proudly declared. If Lina had been there she would have gladly volunteered to take the reward in her place. "Although..." Amelia eyed the summoning book as she imagined herself in a blue, white and red super hero costume with a majestic eagle proudly perched on her shoulder. "I would really appreciate it if you would let me borrow the summoning book."

"Certainly!" Arcius agreed. "Thank you again for your kind help. If this works, the farms may be saved. Then the people can go back to cultivating the land, I can go back to distributing their wonderful products and the famine will finally come to an end."

"Yes, we can do this! We can save the farms!" Amelia happily declared in all out defender of justice mode.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Arcius went outside to put their plan into action. Amelia held the summoning book and began to chant the spell. "Busy bees buzzing, bringing bright bliss, carry the pollen, the harvest assist!" Out of thin air, a swarm of bees materialized, buzzing all around. The numerous bees flew in all directions, searching for pollen and plants.

The group watched as the bees buzzed around for a while longer before flying towards them as a group. The four dropped to the ground, dodging the bees. The swarm turned in the air and went on the attack again. "What are they doing?" Arcius demanded in a panic.

"I think they're mad!" Amelia exclaimed.

"Of course they're mad, there are no plants here, there's no pollen for them to work with. They were summoned for nothing!" Zelgadis insisted. "I knew this was a bad idea!"

"Run for your lives!" Filia interrupted with a very good suggestion.

The group dashed towards the estate, where James was watching from the door. The butler let Arcius and his guests in, before shutting the door. The noise of the bees colliding against the hard wood was heard as Amelia let out a breath of relief. "That was close..."

"It's not over!" Filia pointed at the large golden lined glass window next to the door. The bees were ramming it and making cracks on the glass.

"Oh no! The bees are about to break in!" Arcius exclaimed. "We must depart to a safe place at once. Come my guests, we must retreat deeper into the house!"

"No, if we do that, we'll get ourselves cornered," Zelgadis argued. "It's time to send these bees back where they came from!"

"I'm with you Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia cheered.

"Count me in too," Filia agreed.

The bees finally broke the glass window, pouring into the estate as the magic using trio shouted, "Fireball!" The spell reduced the bees to ashes, thus solving that problem. Even so, the fact remained that the farmlands were still dead.

"Impressive!" Arcius congratulated. "You are all powerful sorcerers indeed. Would you consider a long term contract as my employees?"

"We're not looking for a job," Zelgadis pointed out.

"But we'll still help with the famine problem," Amelia added.

"I understand, please let me know if you reconsider," Arcius offered. "Well, that was certainly an exciting event. Perhaps it would be best to rest before the next move is decided upon. I would be honored to provide you with rooms in my humble home."

"I suppose we should plan things out better next time," Amelia agreed. "Taking a break sounds good, thank you Mr. Arcius. What do you think, Zelgadis, Miss Filia?"

"I guess we should take a break," Zelgadis agreed.

"There's actually something I've been meaning to check out in town if there is time," Filia revealed. "There's supposed to be a place called the Golden Dragon Cafe."

"Ah yes, it's a delightful place with the most delicious coffee, tea, juice and baked treats," Arcius smiled fondly, though his expression soon turned bittersweet. "Or it was when the harvest was good. Now their menu is limited, but it is still a good place to spend some time relaxing. If you would honor me with your company, I would be happy to show you to the cafe."

Filia blushed slightly and smiled, "I would appreciate it."

xoxox xox xoxox

After Filia and Arcius left, Amelia and Zelgadis sat down to talk in one of the estate's many guest rooms. "Did you notice, Zelgadis?" Amelia inquired with excitement despite how ambiguous her question appeared to Zelgadis.

"Notice what?" Zelgadis allowed his eyes to try to examine the room again before he had the need to blink as if to rest his vision. The theme in this particular room was green, blindingly bright lime green. "That Arcius is color blind? Yeah, I noticed alright, how could I not?"

Amelia examined the room, "well maybe... but that's not what I meant." She frowned in bitter sorrow, though there was fascination in her eyes. "It's so exciting, so amazing, so dramatic!"

"What is?" Zelgadis wasn't sure what Amelia was getting at and quite frankly, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.

"The love triangle!" Amelia loudly declared. "Miss Filia and Mr. Xellos have recently gone through a painful break up, but they both still have strong feelings for each other. Now, just as their anger was cooling off to give way to a new flame of love between them, the rival enters the scene! While Mr. Xellos is away, Miss Filia's heart is in danger of being stolen away by the dashing Mr. Arcius!"

"Dashing?" Zelgadis questioned with an almost amused laugh. "How can a man in a fuchsia shirt be called dashing?"

"He's dashing in the eyes of Filia's wounded heart!" Amelia insisted. "She blushed when he offered to take her out on a date, I saw!"

"Date?" Zelgadis questioned, where did Amelia get all these conclusions anyway? "Wasn't he just showing her the location of that cafe she was looking for?"

"He was going out with her!" Amelia insisted, "and she blushed!" The princess adamantly emphasized.

"Probably out of embarrassment at the thought of being seen in public with a man who dresses like a clown," Zelgadis concluded. The fuchsia shirt with ruffles around its V shaped neck was ridiculous and the impossibly tight black pants must have been horribly uncomfortable, albeit at least the color was normal.

"I don't think his outfit was all that bad. It reminds me of the cover art from a romance novel, though the shirt was white instead of fuchsia. I guess Mr. Arcius must like to stand out. Either way, everyone in town seems to be fond of Mr. Arcius, even if he's a bit eccentric. What makes it impossible for Filia to like him too?" Amelia might have an overactive imagination, but she brought up a strong argument.

"Good point, if Filia dated Xellos then her standards can't be all that high," Zelgadis concluded, feeling sincerely sorry for Filia. "Maybe you should have a talk with her about being more picky with who she dates. She'll thank you in the long run."

Amelia shook her head. "Love knows no boundaries!" She heroically declared. "If Miss Filia believes that Mr. Xellos has earned her heart, then he has. Who are we to judge the reasons one has to be in love. Love cannot be stopped! Miss Filia is opening her heart to another man too soon; the wound from her previous relationship is still fresh. She might mistake her remaining feelings for Mr. Xellos as feelings for Mr. Arcius. That will only bring pain to both of them when she realizes the truth. I know Miss Filia still has feelings for Mr. Xellos, that's why she's hurting, that's why she's going out of her way to give him the cold shoulder. Mr. Xellos also has feelings for Miss Filia, that's why he's been trying to get her attention even if she's doing everything in her power to ignore him."

Zelgadis was about to present a counter argument, but stopped. Who was he, a chimera with an expertise in robbery and property damage all for the sake of finding a cure he didn't know existed, to judge Filia for falling in love with an obnoxious monster? If Amelia could love Zelgadis, then the chimera concluded that maybe it wasn't so horrible for someone to love that idiot Xellos. Plus Amelia did have a point, if Filia was over her ex, she wouldn't have been making such an effort to pretend he was invisible. As for Xellos, maybe horrible monsters had some semblance of feelings after all, if only a little. "I can't believe I'm saying this but... I'll help you get them back together, granted that we don't get too involved."

"Thank you Zel, you're awesome!" Amelia tackled Zelgadis in a big bear hug and planted a kiss on his lips. "Don't worry; I have a plan that requires minimal involvement. I'll write a letter to Mr. Xellos telling him about Miss Filia and Mr. Arcius' growing romance. Mr. Xellos will then realize the error of his ways by taking Miss Filia for granted and rush back to town, determined to win her heart again!" Amelia finished her dramatic speech and watched for a reaction from Zelgadis, who was just smiling and spacing out, "Zel?"

"Oh, yes, that, right, great plan, Amelia!" Zelgadis didn't quite hear what Amelia's plan was, but in his current state, he would agree to do anything she asked him to.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 056: Get Along! Try Again

Lina, Xellos and Gourry, still in their disguises, made their way back to town. Gourry was all too eager to get there and change, Lina told him to wait until they reached the inn. After all, a guy walking around in his underwear would probably attract more strange stares then a woman in a pink dress, provided that no one knew the so called woman was actually a man.

"What happened to the plan?" Gourry inquired. The plan was not too clear for him, as nothing ever was.

"It was canceled," Xellos replied, seeing no need for further voice acting, since no one aside from Gourry and Lina were close enough to hear him anyway.

"Who was that Celestina anyway? She wasn't normal," Lina shuddered.

"She seemed powerful," Gourry agreed.

Curiously, Lina inquired, "what did she say to you?"

"Um..." Gourry tried hard to remember, his memory was generally very short term. "She said... Oh yeah, she said I was peculiar. Then she said something about my voice calling someone's name or something. Then she told me to stay strong and... and pure... and then... and then... and then... then she told me to go and I did."

Gourry's explanation was vague at best, not that Lina expected much else. "She told me that she allowed me to live after I gave up everything and woke her. She warned me not to expect it to happen again. It's almost as if she was..." Lina didn't finish.

"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." Xellos quoted. "Those are the words she told me. She also said that her dream would continue for the time being, everything is a part of her dream."

"Her dream?" Lina put all the pieces together and got the same result as her initial theory. The time when she gave up everything, the battle against Fibrizo, Gourry's voice calling out to her. A dream that could be a nightmare for some. "Do you think she's really...?"

"Some time ago, Celestina Ilumina was said to have been killed by Fibrizo," Xellos revealed. "Then shortly after Fibrizo's defeat, she returned alive and well. She had apparently distanced from all those she used to know and many dragons feared her. Maybe the real Celestina really was killed and the one we saw is only borrowing her identity to observe this world up close."

"Then she really is..." Lina looked back in the direction of the villa in the distance.

"I don't get it," Gourry predictably commented.

"I saw it," Xellos confessed, "it was only for a split second, but I saw it. The gold that shines upon the sea of chaos..."

"The Lord of Nightmares," Lina whispered.

"Let's not go back there," Xellos grinned with an exaggerated amount of cheer. It was his way to deal with the overwhelming discovery.

Lina laughed to contribute to lightening the mood. "I agree; there are things we're better off not getting mixed up in."

Gourry had his eternal expression of confusion firmly in place. "I don't get it. What does the Lord of Nightmares have to do with anything?"

Lina sighed, making Gourry understand certain things was simply impossible. "Never mind, the point is that the kidnapping has been cancelled. By the way, Xellos, as deadly dangerous as the Lord of Nightmares is, I can't help it but to think there's a bit of mercy in her. Of course, that is only as long as people don't push it. I have no intentions of disregarding her warning. What I'm trying to say is, she told Gourry and me something related to when we first met her, so to speak, and gave us advice. What if she was giving you advice too?" Though the memories of that occasion were hidden from Lina's conscious mind at first, they resurfaced when she saw Celestina. Those memories felt like a dream, yet Lina knew them to be true.

"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." Xellos repeated what he was told. The truth was that he agreed with it. What he wouldn't normally admit was that he too was one of those creatures that brought unnecessary complications upon himself.

"Maybe there's an easier way to go about this curse thing. Maybe the answer is right in front of you," Lina suggested.

"Maybe," Xellos agreed. Unless the Lord of Nightmares was referring to the other part of the curse he needed to work on. The part about figuring out how to truly love Filia enough so that it wasn't just attraction or affection, but something strong enough to break the curse. He was at a blank there. He cared about her and he managed to accept that, but how could he make it enough? Wasn't this thing that supposedly wasn't love strong enough already? Maybe all he had to do was stop questioning it. Or maybe what he needed to do was change his angle.

How to achieve love... how to find his cure... how to... Xellos paused his train of thought as he arrived at the needed answer. He was trying to survive, he went as far as temporarily forgetting his curse when Filia first accepted her love for him, but he was back to thinking about it again soon after. He was disappointed, he accused her, blamed her, he was selfish. Love wasn't supposed to be selfish, love was supposed to be mutual... If Filia had to play her part with no ulterior motives then he had to do the same thing.

A yellow and white bird flew towards them circling around Xellos until he woke from his thoughts and held out his arm. "What are you doing here Jarde?" The bird, who was carrying some kind of rolled up piece of paper, chirped as if laughing. "Don't tell me you came all this way just to mock me."

Lina blinked in perplexity as she witnessed the odd exchange. "I take it you know this bird?"

"Jarde is a courier bird that can be summoned with a spell that borrows power from Lord Beast Master." Xellos took the paper from Jarde and let him perch on his shoulder while he examined the letter. "Dear Mr. Xellos, I regret to inform you that Miss Filia has found a new love. If you do not wish to lose her forever, you must apologize for taking her for granted and win back her heart. Good luck, you'll need it, Amelia." Xellos stared at the letter in disbelief.

"I didn't know Amelia could summon birds," Gourry casually commented. He made an effort to pay attention to what was being said in case he later got more random questions about what someone told him recently. He caught all the main details, so he felt accomplished. 'Amelia summoned a bird and Filia got a new boyfriend,' Gourry repeated in his mind, trying to retain the facts for more than thirty seconds.

"A good courier bird could come in handy now and then, but that aside, what's more interesting is what the letter says," Lina gave Xellos a severe look.

"You don't think it's true, do you?" Xellos considered the possibilities. Amelia would probably say a false letter like this one was an unjust cruel joke. She wouldn't lie...

'Amelia summoned Filia. A bird got a new boyfriend,' Gourry repeated in his head, but that didn't sound quite right. How did it go again?

"I think you got exactly what you deserve!" Lina placed one hand on her hip, while she pointed at Xellos with the other, waving her index finger back and forth in an accusing fashion.

'Filia summoned Amelia to give her boyfriend a bird,' Gourry thought. But why would Filia want to give Zelgadis a bird?

"Filia's been super nice to you," Lina continued scolding Xellos. "She's been taking good care of you and helping you learn to survive as a human. You haven't exactly been grateful to her."

Gourry knew there was something about Amelia, Filia and a bird, but it was too complicated. Some kind of love triangle? No, Amelia had Zelgadis, the bird was Filia's boyfriend. That's it, 'Amelia's bird is Filia's boyfriend!' "Lina's right," Gourry finally voiced. "You should have been nice to Filia, then she wouldn't have dumped you and started dating Amelia's bird instead."

Xellos and Lina both stared at Gourry, "Who ever said anything about Filia dating a bird?" Lina hopelessly asked. "She's dating a man. A man who's probably kind, respectable, polite, selfless, handsome and rich. A man who lives in a mansion where Filia will invite us to have dinner every now and then. Yes, a rich man with lots of food. Way to go, Filia!"

"I'll believe it when I see it," Xellos grumbled as he quickened his pace to town. Jarde chirped in his laughter way and flew off, disappearing among the clouds above, since his job was done.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos was swiftly on his way to the inn, to change into some clothes that did not include a dress, before going off to search for Filia. He didn't want to think too much about it, but he was worried. Lina brought up a valid point, he had not really given Filia much appreciation and despite how far she had gone to ignore him, Xellos kept thinking she would come around. He even went on to take care of the other preparations for his cure, leaving amending his break-up with Filia for later. He felt guilty; it was an odd and unpleasant sensation.

Lina and Gourry entered the inn, with Gourry running like a mad man because he couldn't spend another second in a dress. Lina rolled her eyes and walked after him at a more civilized pace, making a point to give Xellos a guilt tripping glare before she left. Xellos would have followed Lina and Gourry into the inn building, if not for the fact that a familiar voice caught his attention. There was Filia, it didn't look like Lina and Gourry had noticed her, and Filia had not noticed any of them.

Filia was sitting at an out door table across the street in a structure that looked like someone's personal residence, if not for the tables identifying it as a cafe of sorts. It was made to look homey rather than commercial, as part of the message of peace between the humans and dragons it carried. Albeit that made the Golden Dragon Cafe very easy to miss, as it had no signs with its name anywhere. Never mind the cafe, who was that man in the fuchsia shirt standing up along with Filia and offering her his arm? The nerve of him!

Ignoring the fact that he was still in disguise, Xellos made his way to Filia and Arcius. Filia saw the approaching angry woman and after a double take realized that wasn't actually a woman. Her eyes grew wide in shock, her expression causing Arcius to follow her gaze, curious to see what had surprised her so much. "Xe... Xe..." Filia couldn't get her voice to produce any complete words.

"Xexe," Arcius repeated, adding a barely audible 'rawr' at the end. With an, according to him, seductive grin, he eyed 'Xexe' up and down. "Miss Xexe, I take it you are a friend of Miss Filia. It's a pleasure to meet you. I am Arcius Evergreen, yes, that Evergreen, the one with the big fortune," he laughed as if being a millionaire was no big deal. "I would be more than happy to show you around the town and maybe we can get to know each other better while we-" Arcius was silenced by a solid right hook to the face which carried such a furious force that it threw him to the ground in a daze. "What a woman!" He exclaimed dreamily before passing out.

Filia was still staring in shock, unable to speak or move. Thus Xellos took it as his cue to say something. "Can I talk to you... at the inn?"

Filia nodded her head somewhat unsure and pushed her voice to produce a doubtful, "be right there." She didn't know what was going on, but ignoring Xellos wasn't going to solve anything. Besides, she simply had to know what explanation he had for parading around in a dress.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few minutes later, Filia found herself standing in front of the door to Xellos' room at the inn. She knocked gently, almost unsure if she wanted her presence to be known or not. Xellos opened the door right away, letting her in. Thankfully, he was wearing his normal clothing again and the pretty makeup was gone. "First I would like an explanation," Filia began.

"Our painful break-up was too much for me and I can never look at a woman the same way again. I thought that if I became one, no one would be able to hurt me anymore," Xellos dramatized.

Filia let out an exasperated breath, "and the truth would be?"

Cutting the drama, Xellos grinned in his usual fashion. "I wanted to pressure an influential figure among the golden dragons into restoring your citizenship by kidnapping his daughter. In order to do that, I had to sneak into her villa where only women are allowed to study magic."

Filia was glaring in fierce disapproval. "Not only do you cause trouble for me, but you get some poor innocent girl involved too?"

Xellos tried to look innocent, "there's no need to get jealous. I assure you that my interest in her was purely for business purposes. It's a thing of survival and nothing more."

"Just like your interest in me," Filia reproached, though a part of her kept saying that it wasn't as simple as that.

Xellos paused. He was a trickster, but he couldn't brush this off with a few sarcastic remarks. "It started that way," he admitted. "But it's... or if not, it will be, different."

"Because if you don't return my feelings you'll die? That's a hostage situation if I ever saw one, except the hostage is yourself. It's deadly blackmail, it's not willing," Filia insisted. "What about the dragon girl? What happened? Are you holding her hostage somewhere?"

"The dragon was... not who we thought she was. We realized she was the wrong target and retreated without incident. The kidnapping plan was canceled," Xellos explained while withholding his response to Filia's other remark.

"Furthermore, even if your crazy plan to get me a golden dragon citizenship did work, it won't do a thing if you end up hurting me so much I start to hate you," she accused bitterly. "You assumed I would help, didn't you? You self centered egotistical piece of raw garbage!"

"I did," Xellos admitted, "I did assume, but I shouldn't have." He could sense her pain, her anger, her frustration. "You've been helpful from the start and I've been... a selfish monster."

Filia continued frowning, her eyes analytical and focused. "Concentrate," she wrapped her arms around him without warning, allowing her full frustration and hurt to show.

"Filia..." It was at times like this when Xellos really hated his emphatic abilities. If he focused on himself hard enough, he should be able to distract himself from sensing someone else's emotions. But he couldn't, Filia's emotions were so intense they just flowed into him. It was over, he lost her. She was giving her a bitter farewell, showing him why he couldn't be forgiven.

Filia released Xellos and took a deep breath. "This town, it has a dark past in relations to the humans and dragons. In an effort to make amends, the Golden Dragon Cafe was established. It was built to look like someone's home in symbolic peace. They have cards there made of magically enhanced paper often used for legal contracts to ensure their authenticity. They are membership cards that each person can use once. The cards expire twenty-four hours after being signed and the magic in them makes them disintegrate into dust. For one day, the one who signs one of those cards is an honorary golden dragon, recognized as a legal citizen by the constitution of the dragon race." Filia took a small white card with golden lining from her pocket. She gave Xellos a serious look. "If you ever break my heart again, it's over for good, I mean it!"

Filia placed the card on Xellos' hand. In golden ink, the card read, 'honorary golden dragon' on top, with the silhouette of a dragon below the words and a blank space for a signature under it. "You mean I get another chance?" He wasn't expecting that.

"Only one," Filia warned. She allowed her positive feelings to shine through, no longer suppressing them with hurt bitterness. It was clear that Xellos was still able to sense it; it still shocked him that she cared so much.

"How do you do that? How do you change your mind like that, so suddenly? Which is real?" As a monster it was easy to perceive the predominating taste of emotions when all the tastes mixed together. But this was different, he sensed every feeling individually and sometimes it didn't make sense for certain emotions to coexist simultaneously. "And why... why did you...?"

"It's all real," Filia assured. "People don't feel good and bad exclusively, they can feel wonderful and terrible at the exact same time, sometimes even for the same reason. It doesn't make sense, but feelings don't always follow logic. As for why I'm giving you another chance..." Filia remembered the moment when she accepted her own feelings. "I went through ignorance, confusion, denial and a stubborn resolution to change before I finally accepted how I felt. Nonetheless, even when I was trying to change, it was all still real. I'm not going to hold it against you if you go through the same process a little slower. You were from the beginning very stubborn, selfish, self-centered, prideful, egotistical, overconfident, cold-hearted, malicious, obstinate-"

"I get the message," Xellos interrupted before Filia continued reciting the whole dictionary of negative adjectives.

"Arrogant, cruel, uncaring and all around annoying," Filia finished, ignoring the interruption. "So even if you do have feelings for me, you have a whole lot more to overcome before they can truly shine through, because real love is supposed to be pure. There's nothing wrong with wanting to live. Pure love is a dangerous weapon against a monster. It's your natural instinct to guard yourself from it, perhaps without even realizing it. Nevertheless, it's still real and I know for certain that it's there."

"So my love is poisoned?" Xellos found a creative way to describe it. "But it exists nonetheless?"

"Am I wrong?" Filia asked, her eyes gently demanding the truth.

Xellos gave it some thought and after a long moment of silence he voiced, "I think you're right, but is that enough?"

"It's something to hold on to, something that can grow," Filia replied with a smile. It was a real smile, different from the smile she made herself show for the sake of being polite and not worrying her friends. "Keep the card; I'll sign it when you're ready. Until then, let's just relax and not think about the technicalities."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 057: Bet! Victory is Subjective

Xellos felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Everything was okay now. Well not really, he was still cursed and he still had a way to go before his love could become pure enough to save his life, but he wasn't focusing on that at the moment. He was glad to have Filia back, for now that was enough. "So... does this mean we'll be spending the rest of the day together?" He winked with a seductive grin.

Filia leaned forward, her face close to his as she returned his mischievous grin, "nope," she winked.

Xellos was caught off guard, "huh?" That tricky dragon...

"Amelia and Zelgadis must be done resting by now. Maybe they've even come up with a new plan of action against the famine. If not, then we can always go with the original plan and try to bless the land with white and holy magic," Filia explained with a teasing smile. "Why don't you come along and watch? You might learn a thing or two about white magic."

Xellos rolled his eyes, "that'll be the day. I think I'll just stick with black magic, it's more my style."

"That's just because you don't have enough talent for white magic." Filia crossed her arms, giving Xellos a superior mocking look.

"I could do just fine if I wanted," Xellos returned the challenging gaze. He knew he was walking right into Filia's little trap, but he wasn't about to run away from her challenge.

"I bet you couldn't," Filia insisted. It was as if their big fight never happened, though the lesson that came of it still remained. They were back to teasing each other, back to acting natural, back to being themselves.

"I'll take that bet!" Xellos agreed. With some luck and a lot of effort, he might actually win. "So... what should we bet?"

"That was just a figure of speech," Filia argued, she knew that making a bet with a trickster was a bad idea. Yet maybe if she could arrange things so that a loss wouldn't be a real loss it would be okay. "If I win you have to... take me out on a real date and do everything I ask."

"Be your slave for the evening? I think I know what that involves," he winked.

Filia blushed, "that's not how a real date goes!"

"And if I win?" Xellos reminded that he too needed a prize to go after in their little bet.

"If you win, I'll teach you a useful spell," a spell of Filia's own choosing that she would conveniently keep a secret until the event of Xellos winning the bet occurred, if he actually managed to win.

"What kind of spell?" Xellos inquired suspiciously. What was defined as a useful spell varied from one person to another. Xellos had a feeling that the definition Filia would give it was very different from his own. "Is it something powerful and destructive?"

"You'll have to wait and find out," Filia taunted. "Unless you're making up excuses because you know you don't have the skill to learn a simple recovery spell."

"I'm supposed to be the one taunting you to make you do what I want," Xellos accused in an 'it's not fair' whiny tone.

"I guess you must be rubbing off on me," Filia grinned.

"I'd be happy to continue doing so right now," Xellos offered with a seductive grin.

"Not happening, I'm busy," Filia headed out the door of the inn room, determined to start working on solving the farm problem right away, before she changed her mind. "Are you coming along or not?"

"Just watch, I'll win our bet, even if the prize is probably nothing of use, since a stupid dragon can't possibly know any really good spells. All you know is holy magic, it's not as good as black magic," Xellos teased, though he knew it wasn't really true.

"We'll see about that!" Filia challenged as they both made their way out of the inn.

xoxox xox xoxox

On their way out of the inn, Xellos and Filia met up with Gourry and Lina. Filia informed them of Zelgadis and Amelia's location and the six of them regrouped at Arcius estate. Arcius had since returned home and graciously welcome the new guests, not realizing that Xellos was Xexe. Though he encouraged them to investigate the lands and try anything they could come up with to restore the fertility of the soil, he warned them not to feel bad if it didn't work. Claiming he had a pounding headache, Arcius then apologized for not accompanying them and stayed at the estate while Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos went out to the fields.

"I feel bad taking advantage of Arcius' kindness after Xellos punched him," Filia complained, as the group made their way through the vast barren lands that were once productive farms.

"You mean that black eye was Xellos doing?" Lina frowned. "If he doesn't have us over for dinner because of you..." She didn't even need to finish her threat for everyone to know it was deadly. Messing with Lina's meal, directly or indirectly, was a death wish.

Amelia, as well as the entire group, had noticed that the atmosphere between Filia and Xellos had significantly improved. Her eyes shone upon the revelation of Xellos having punched Arcius. She felt sorry for Arcius, but his bruised face was only a small sacrifice in the grander scheme of things. "Mr. Xellos punched Mr. Arcius? Well done Mr. Xellos! That's what I call fighting for your love! I'm glad you made up with Miss Filia and didn't let Mr. Arcius steal her away."

"There was nothing between Arcius and me!" Filia immediately defended. "Besides, it was more like fighting against love, isn't that right, Miss Xexe?" Filia eyed Xellos mockingly.

"You're really starting to copy me too much Filia, but that's okay, I know you're just jealous because I'm prettier than you," Xellos teased in return.

"Miss Xexe? I thought Xellos was supposed to be Lulu," Gourry pointed out in confusion. "Or was it Lala? No, wait, I was Lala, and Lina was Lili, right?"

"Mr. Gourry as Miss Lala... That can only mean there were disguises in our absence," Amelia realized. "I get it; Mr. Arcius doesn't recognize Mr. Xellos without his disguise." Amelia sounded disappointed that she missed out. Those sneaky missions were always fun. Besides, she would never admit it, but she had fun putting makeup on Zelgadis, even if he didn't enjoy it at all.

"I'm glad I wasn't there," Zelgadis breathed in relief.

"I was there for the disguises, but I missed the part about Arcius falling in love with Xexe." Lina teased as she elbowed Xellos playfully. "Nice going Xellos, you snagged yourself a rich one. It's a pity his taste in clothing and interior decorating is so bad, but I'm sure that's nothing that a woman's touch can't fix. Make sure to invite us over for dinner at your loving boyfriend's estate every now and then!"

Being an experienced trickster, Xellos knew that trying to fight off the teasing was counter-productive, thus he played along. "Shh, keep your voice down, Lina. Filia isn't supposed to know about my little affair with Arcius."

"You're having an affair with Arcius?" Gourry frowned in disapproval. "You shouldn't cheat on Filia."

Filia rolled her eyes while Lina let out a hopeless breath at Gourry being so gullible. "It's okay, I don't mind," Filia assured.

Gourry gave Filia a look of surprise, then finally shrugged, "I find it unusual but... people need to respect each others differences. If you want to be in a trio, I'll accept and support you as a friend," he smiled sincerely.

Lina ran her hand from her forehead down her face. "That would be a threesome and we're just kidding anyway." Back to business, Lina observed the barren land around them. "Okay, let's get with the blessing. Amelia, Filia, you're the most skilled in white and holy magic, so you'll be casting the big spells. The rest of us will support you with recovery. Gourry, you're on a special mission, the land will need water, run to the estate and bring back buckets of water to get some moist in this dry soil. Xellos, unless you quit being stubborn about your black magic only policy and learn recovery well enough to help us, I'm putting you on watering duty too."

"Actually, it was my plan from the start to learn recovery," Xellos revealed. He looked towards Filia with his usual teasing grin. "Unless Filia changes her mind about teaching me the spell, you know how you can't rely on a dragon's word for anything."

"I'm not changing my mind!" Filia argued, "but don't expect this to be easy," there was a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. "Amelia, you should keep an eye on the lessons too. That way if Xellos is too much of a bad student for me, you can come up with some alternate examples to give him."

"I would be happy to help!" Amelia cheerfully declared, thus the lesson began. "Healing magic is all about positive thinking! Don't forget, Mr. Xellos, life is wonderful!"

Xellos twitched and glared at Filia. He would have to learn fast if he was going to keep Amelia's speech at bay. Human or not, her speeches still kind of unnerved him, even if they were supposed to lack the power to weaken him, but apparently that wasn't always entirely true. Never underestimate the power of annoyance, that fact was one that Xellos knew very well.

While the group worked on their fruitless efforts to heal the land and Xellos kept assuring Amelia over and over that he felt he was making progress on his own and didn't need any extra motivation, Lina became a little bored. She stretched from her previous position crouching on the ground giving the land a recovery spell. She watched as Gourry ran around watering the place with the precious liquid he obtained from Arcius estate. The swordsman actually looked like he was having fun. At least there wasn't a drought, though water and healing magic seemed to be doing little for the land. Lina knew not to expect much, since this had been tried before, but it's easier to discard an option without second thoughts after one has personally attempted it. "I had a funny dream a few nights ago," Lina voiced, to interrupt the relative silence that bored her. "It was raining gumdrops, it was awesome!"

"That sounds like a fun dream," Gourry smiled, imagining how wonderful it would be if it really did rain candy. "I hardly ever remember my dreams."

"I had a dream about food recently too," Filia commented.

"Really?" Xellos innocently asked with fake surprise, "I thought you only had R rated dreams about me, or maybe I should say X rated."

"My dream was perfectly sweet and innocent!" Filia argued. "I had this really big ice-cream cone; it was as tall as a person. It had chocolate ice-cream on top, but it was melting so I had to hurry and lick it quickly. The cone was black; I guess it must have been a dark chocolate flavor."

"What mischievous dreams you have, Filia," Xellos was quick to tease her, privately amused by the irony of the dream. "There's nothing innocent about it."

"What's mischievous about my dream?" Filia pouted not really wanting to know what kind of random mocking answer Xellos came up with. "It's a dream about ice-cream, how can it not be innocent?"

"I'll tell you later," Xellos offered with a mischievous wink, grinning in anticipation. "Or better yet, show you."

Filia gave Xellos a suspicious look; she did that quite often and with good reasons. "You better not be plotting anything troublesome!" She warned with little hope for her caution to be heeded.

xoxox xox xoxox

After Lina decided that she had enough of wasting energy on the ground, she called for a retreat to Arcius' estate. Once there, the group discussed their lack of ideas on what to do to help the farm land recover, making for a very short conversation. Thus the leader and star of the show, Lina Inverse, decided to call it a day and get some rest as it was already evening. Plus she was anxious to see what kind of food Arcius had in storage that he would generously share with his guests.

Filia decided to take some time to test Xellos abilities, but instead of trying to show her his progress in casting recovery, he grinned and gave up, "you win."

"What? That's it? You won't even try again? I thought you were actually making progress. Is white magic really that difficult for you?" Filia gave Xellos another suspicious look, but decided not to be too insistent. She won their bet, so she might as well enjoy it. "I guess you have a natural talent for black magic and difficulty with white magic; that happens to some people. They have a certain type of magic that feels more natural to them. It shouldn't come as a surprise which type of magic it is for you. This means you owe me a date." Just as Xellos was about to open his mouth to suggest something, Filia interrupted. "No, that doesn't mean we'll hang around your room doing... activities the whole time. It would be... inappropriate."

"Once," Xellos reminded, "that only happened once and it was a long time ago."

"You're taking me out to dinner," Filia insisted, "I'll let you pick the place as long as it's a nice restaurant." They began to make their way towards the front entrance of Arcius estate on their way to find a restaurant at the nearby town that wasn't closed due to lack of ingredients to work with.

"Anywhere that has chocolate ice-cream pie is very nice." All that work in the fields really did build up an appetite.

"For goodness' sake, Xellos, eat something with vitamins now and then!" Filia scolded, frowning and placing her hands on her hips.

"That big barbecue steak I had back in Seyruun had plenty of nutrients," Xellos argued in his defense. "Besides, I burned a lot of calories practicing that stupid recovery spell today."

"Which you never fully mastered," Filia threw at him.

Xellos wanted to argue back, but thought it was not in his best interest to reveal that he did get the hang of casting recovery towards the end of the lesson. "Just out of curiosity, if I had won our bet, what spell would you have taught me?"

"A useful one," Filia repeated herself. "But since you lost, I guess you'll have to live with the doubts for the rest of your life."

Xellos frowned; he was a very curious being. He would have to remember to get the information out of Filia later. "You're such a cruel dragon."

xoxox xox xoxox

A short while later, Xellos and Filia had found a restaurant that was still working, sort of. Most of the items on the menu had been crossed out as unavailable. "What kind of a restaurant is this?" Xellos complained displeased. He was already dissatisfied with the fact that it was the only restaurant still in business that they could find.

"Our apologies, sir," a depressed waiter with a golden dragon shaped hat excused the establishment, or at least tried to. "Because of the famine, we have few ingredients to work with. It's so sad! This land used to subsist on the produce from the farms. Many businesses have closed since the famine started and our precious Golden Dragon Cafe might be next."

"You mean the golden dragons are not sending supplies?" Xellos feigned indignation. "How cruel! Isn't this town supposed to be under their protection? Those horrible dragons," he pretended to be saddened by the situation. "How could they abandon the innocent people that they swore to protect? Is this very cafe not supposed to symbolize the bond of peace and friendship between the golden dragons and us humans?"

"I'm sure the golden dragons are looking into the situation as we speak!" Filia felt the need to defend her birth race. She wasn't a golden dragon citizen anymore and her race had made mistakes in the past, but they weren't all that bad. They were a race with good and bad people, just like the human race.

The waiter was desperate for some consolation, thus he chose to filter out Xellos' words and focus on Filia's hope. "Do you really think so, miss? I certainly hope you're right! I'll continue to believe in the kindness of our faithful protectors the golden dragons, who have watched over this town for generations!"

Xellos would be all too pleased to burst the young waiter's bubble with some not so pleasant facts. "A few centuries ago this town-"

"Overcame harsh times," Filia immediately interrupted, not wanting to bring up the human slavery related dark past of the settlement. "And I'm sure that it will overcome this trial as well. Now for the order..." Filia wanted to send the waiter away with his task as quickly as possible, before Xellos worsened the poor boy's depression with a blunt historical lesson. "Goodness, aren't the prices a little steep?" Arcius had snatched away the bill when Filia was last there for a snack before she could even look at it. They had eaten his recommendation and she had not even had a chance to actually look at the menu until now.

"Supply and demand," the waiter simply explained.

"Don't you have any secret stash of ingredients for a more varied menu?" Xellos insisted, while handing the waiter a rather generous tip.

"As a matter of fact, we do, allow me to get you the alternate menus," the waiter quickly left to fetch the promised menus.

"What was that about?" Filia inquired in confusion.

"There's a famine," Xellos pointed out the obvious. "As soon as people noticed it, some must have decided to store food just in case. When the famine got worse, the smart ones must have sold the food at a high price and left this land to start a new business at a more profitable place with a big budget to establish a new beginning. In other words, there has to be some food left in storage around here. Because of supply and demand that food must be expensive, thus the staff won't bother revealing its existence to people unless they see that the potential customers are able to afford it. As for those who can't afford it anyway, for security reasons, it's best if they don't know that the supplies exist."

"I see where you're going with your logic," Filia admitted, "you can be pretty smart every once in a while, but-"

"Every once in a while?" Xellos interrupted with a prideful tone.

"I suppose knowledge comes with age and you have been working as a spy for Beast Master for many, many, many, many, many-"

"There's no need to over do it," Xellos protested.

"Many, many, years," Filia finished. "But as I was saying, it's kind of mean to take advantage of a famine for business. If only all merchants were as kind as Arcius, the world would be a better place."

"And if all merchants had Arcius fashion sense, the world would be blind," Xellos added. Filia rolled her eyes, but withheld her comeback, as the waiter had returned with the menus. Her eyes grew to nearly three times their normal size when she examined the prices on this new list of dishes. She was about to point out what an abuse this was, but Xellos interrupted her with a flirty look, "order whatever you want, dear Filia."

She pouted and thought of a lot of things to say that criticized the Golden Dragon Cafe, which was actually managed by a wealthy human family and was all but forgotten by the golden dragons, and of course to criticize Xellos indifference towards this injustice. However, she made herself stop and instead devised a plan to take advantage of the situation. She pointed out what she wanted to eat, then added, "I would also like to order as many portions as you can make of all the other dishes available. Please have them delivered to the townspeople as a gift." Seeing the waiter's eyes increase in size even more than hers had, Filia added, "I'm sure my dear Xellos can easily afford it." Filia wasn't sure where Xellos got all his money from, but illegal or not, she was going to put it to good use doing a good deed by feeding the hungry.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 058: Money! The Value Of A Coin

Xellos and Filia had a nice meal at the Golden Dragon Cafe. Even if Filia had taken advantage of Xellos invitation by purchasing a large amount of food to feed the townspeople, things were progressing relatively well; the key word being 'were'. Just as they were starting on Xellos' favorite part of any meal: dessert, the young waiter who had been serving their food the whole evening approached nervously. "Excuse me, Mr. Metallium; it seems there's a... situation."

"What situation?" Xellos asked calmly. He couldn't imagine anything happening that could really affect him. Plus the waiter looked like he was easy to upset, he was probably overreacting.

"Well... you see... The local inn and the Golden Dragon Cafe belong to the same person, thus their respective managers are familiar with each other. A letter arrived recently, but the inn keeper had been unable to locate you for information, though he did mention it to the manager of this cafe. I was told about it, but I kind of forgot... You see, Mr. Metallium..." The waiter shifted nervously some more, staring at his feet. "It seems your account's funds are... insufficient."

Xellos raised an eyebrow in disbelief while Filia began to worry. "Insufficient?" Xellos questioned. "I'm sure there must be a mistake. Do you even understand how this works?"

"Yes, sir, I do," the waiter assured. "The establishments you visit accept your signature as a form of payment and bill the central bank where your account is. They later take care of sending someone to deliver the payment." It was something similar to how royals did it, passing the bill to their kingdom's treasury instead of carrying a huge load of money in their travels. The practice was later adopted by rich families even if they were not of royal blood. "However, instead of the payment arriving, a courier came with a letter claiming that your account was... empty." Given the considerable expenses Xellos had underwent, generous tip aside, there was no way he had enough money concealed in his person to pay for everything.

"There's no need to worry," Xellos still kept his cool, certain that there had to be a mistake and it shouldn't be too hard to fix. "I'm sure it was all a mistake, in fact, a letter correcting this misunderstanding will probably arrive before we're done with dessert."

"If you say so..." The waiter didn't look like he believed it, but didn't want to continue insisting. "I will leave you to enjoy your dessert then." After excusing himself, the waiter left.

"I knew that fake account of yours had to blow up in your face eventually," Filia scolded after the waiter was gone. She was frowning in that disapproving way of hers in which her eyes screamed, 'I told you so' even if she had not exactly done so.

"My account is not fake," Xellos defended. "Lord Beast Master runs a lot of businesses and has more followers than anyone would admit. A lot of merchants make their fortune with the help of monsters. Human businesses like that and businesses that are directly operated by monsters for various purposes such as research, as is the case with Celo, all pay income taxes to Beast Master. The merchants think that Zelas Metallium is a business woman who worships Lord Beast Master and thus has adopted such a name. They see her as a rich lady to be cautious about, but they believe she's human, or mostly so. The rumors still go around that she made a pact with Lord Beast Master, but making pacts with monsters is more common among merchants than most would ever admit. They're too stupid to realize she is Beast Master, or maybe they know, but they're too afraid of the consequences of openly admitting it. Zelas has funds automatically transferred to my account at the start of each month, so that I'll have a good budget to work with while spying."

"But you're not working right now," Filia reminded. "You haven't been doing a whole lot of work since the entire curse thing started and Zelas wasn't exactly pleased with you when we last saw her. What if she stopped paying you?"

"Even if my budget was suspended, I would still have enough money to last a while in my savings," Xellos insisted. "I'll take care of this; I'll just send a letter to Zelas' accountant. If I summon a monster courier bird, the letter will be delivered through the astral side in no time."

"I have a bad feeling about this," Filia warned.

Xellos ignored her, instead signaling the waiter to approach the table. He requested pen and paper to be brought over, which the waiter swiftly fetched, once again leaving Xellos and Filia to have some privacy at their table. Xellos quickly wrote a letter, short and to the point, addressed to the monster that took care of organizing Zelas' financial undertakings. Such ventures were lucrative in both money and all kinds of gourmet negative emotions to feast on. "Swiftly deliver the letters, by the trail of astral feathers!" The monster courier bird, Jarde, answered to the summoning and started pecking at Xellos' pie. "I didn't call you here to eat!" Xellos pulled the bird away from the pie. "Deliver this letter to Erosnum right away."

Jarde chirped in response and pecked at the pie some more as soon as Xellos let him go. He dodged when Xellos tried to grab him away and flew straight towards the ceiling, disappearing into the astral side before he crashed into it. Seconds evolved into minutes, until Jarde finally returned with a reply letter.

Xellos took the letter and started reading it while Jarde took the opportunity to continue pecking at Xellos' pie. Erosnum's letter was simple and to the point, being more so a note than a letter. It was written in plain white paper with black ink. "General Xellos Metallium: Due to your recent expenses at Amor Resort and other establishments, your account has suffered a considerable deficit. The maximum grace period to amend the red numbers has already expired. Enclosed is Lord Beast Master's judgment in the matter. Detailed account statements and transaction logs may be requested if needed. -Erosnum, Lead Accountant." There was another white paper behind that one, adorned with golden lining that framed the short message written in red ink. "You spend too much. I'm cutting your allowance. -Zelas" Xellos stared at the paper as he read over it again and again. What about his spying budget? Was Amor Resort really that expensive? Lina and the others had been billing things to his name, but Xellos didn't think they would burn through his savings this quickly.

"You're in trouble," Filia pointed out. She had just finished eating her dessert and Jarde had finished Xellos'. It didn't look like there would be another letter to be delivered, so the bird faded away into the astral side once more.

"You mean to say we're in trouble," Xellos corrected. "Your food hasn't been paid for and it was your idea to buy food for the townspeople."

"You're taking me out to dinner, it's your treat," Filia argued.

"You inconsiderate dragon," Xellos made an exaggerated dramatic expression. "Does this mean that you were after my money all along? Here I thought it was my amazing good looks that had you head over heels."

Filia rolled her eyes at the drama, determined not to let Xellos' mockery annoy her too much. "Be serious, we need to come up with a plan to get out of this! I don't have nearly enough money on me to cover all the expenses and I don't think you do either. Even if we pool our resources we'll still fall short."

"By a lot," Xellos confirmed. "This means that our only choice is to eat and run."

"We can't do that!" Filia argued firmly. She wanted to hold on to at least a shred of decency and basic principals.

"It's not like you haven't done that before," Xellos reminded. "When in Lina's company, situations such as this one happen often."

"That's no excuse!" Filia argued. She realized she was raising her voice too much and tried to keep it down, so as to not attract the unwanted attention of the nervous waiter while they were still plotting an escape. "Alright, let's go, it looks like we have no choice but to sneak out. But just so you know, I'm displeased with our date. We could have just raided Arcius kitchen, made a picnic basket and dined under the stars in a flower covered little hill."

"Why didn't you suggest that from the start? I'm not a mind reader," Xellos argued.

"I don't expect you to be, the truth is that I just thought of it," Filia admitted. "Maybe next time."

"Except for the part about flowers since this whole land is barren and dead." There was a lot of cheer put into the words 'barren and dead', but that was nothing unusual for Xellos.

The pair was about to sneak away towards the nearest exit, when three tall muscular men surrounded them. They were wearing martial arts uniforms that looked like the sleeves had been torn off. Their uniforms were red, blue and green respectively and they were all wearing black belts. They looked identical to each other with dark brown eyes and messy short black hair, as if they were triplets. "You're not going anywhere," the man in red warned.

"Yeah, the boss said you might try to escape without paying!" The man wearing blue added.

"These rich guys think they can get away with anything," the man in green criticized. "That is until their fortune runs out and they're left with nothing."

"Don't worry, honey, we're not blaming you for this, it's just your boyfriend that's in trouble," the man in red tried to assure Filia.

"Or maybe we should say he's your ex-boyfriend. Make the smart choice next time, sweetheart, strength over money," the man in the blue uniform laughed.

"That's right, cutie!" The man wearing green flexed his muscles, "this is a fortune that won't run out."

Xellos glared, not only were these men challenging him, but they were also flirting with Filia. He had a few things that he wanted to say to them that went as follows: "darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond-"

"Stop!" Filia interrupted Xellos' chant. "I don't want you to use magic on them. These... guards," or whatever they were, "are only doing their job."

"What do you want me to do then? Go wash dishes in the kitchen?" Xellos sarcastically inquired.

xoxox xox xoxox

Ten minutes later, Xellos and Filia were washing dishes in the kitchen, with Xellos grumbling under his breath every ten seconds or so. "This isn't so bad," Filia tried to encourage him.

"Oh no, it's wonderful," Xellos replied with heavy sarcasm. "A night of washing dishes in a stuffy old kitchen is my idea of a perfect date."

Filia rolled her eyes at Xellos' little hissy fit and gave him a quick kiss, which caught him off guard. "Thanks for doing what I asked and not using magic on those guys. I'm happy you kept your end of the bet."

Filia was pleased, genuinely pleased, as Xellos could sense it via empathy, she wasn't only trying to cheer the mood. It made no sense to him. "The strangest things make you happy," he shook his head in confusion. "If I couldn't sense it, I would seriously doubt that you're okay with how this so called date turned out."

"You listened to me, that counts for a lot," Filia explained. "In fact, I think I'll reward you."

"You will?" Xellos grinned; maybe the night could still be saved after all.

"Yes, I'm going to teach you that useful spell I promised, even if you lost the bet," Filia cheerfully offered.

Xellos frowned, "that's the best reward you can come up with?"

"Just wait until you see this spell, it's super useful," Filia insisted. "Plus it can help us get out of here sooner and it will help prevent situations like this from happening in the future."

That did sound useful, though Xellos couldn't imagine what the spell could be about, if Filia was clearly against blowing up the guards and making an escape. "By all means, I'm listening."

"It's a cleaning spell!" Filia cheerfully revealed. "We can use it to do the dishes. Then you can learn to do your own laundry instead of spending unnecessary money on the inns' laundry service whenever we reach a new town. You don't have money to burn anymore, so you need to learn to manage a tight budget and take care of your chores instead of hiring a service."

Xellos' disappointment resurfaced in his expression. "I don't want to learn a cleaning spell," he complained.

"Don't you want to get out of here? I don't want to cause any more trouble and getting the dishes done will be faster if we both help with the spell," Filia argued. "It's actually a combination of different spells," she began to explain.

Xellos considered covering his ears and singing some silly random 'I'm not listening' song, but he knew that wouldn't get him anywhere. Plus that cleaning spell could really be useful for his survival until he managed to get his power, and his salary, back. Though it wasn't an actual salary as much as a resource to use in Zelas favor, that Xellos sometimes used for himself. He wasn't expecting to get any direct rewards for doing his duty of serving Lord Beast Master, as it was what she created him for after all.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few minutes later, Xellos and Filia had divided the different parts of the cleaning spell among themselves, making for a faster process. Filia kept the soapy water spinning in mid air and Xellos used magic to levitate the dishes through the miniature cyclone. At the speed they were going, it looked like they would be done with the dishes pretty quickly. Unfortunately, they were interrupted by the three muscular guards from before, suddenly entering the kitchen and tackling Xellos without a warning.

"I have him!" The man in the blue uniform exclaimed.

"I have him too!" The man wearing green added.

"I'll do it!" The man in red announced.

"Let him go!" Filia yelled angrily. She had been keeping an eye on Xellos the whole time. He was helping with the dishes, he wasn't causing any trouble. This wasn't fair!

"I got it!" The man in red announced triumphantly and the other two released Xellos.

Xellos saw that the man in the red uniform was holding a pair of scissors on one hand. He looked at what he held up in his other hand and found it to be a lock of hair, shiny black hair, his hair. "You cut my hair," Xellos growled with growing rage.

"Yes, and with this as proof that you're our hostage, your mom's going to have to pay a big ransom to get you back!" The man wearing red announced with an evil laugh that was echoed by his two identical brothers.

"I don't think Zelas is going to- eek!" Filia didn't even have time to finish stating her opinion when Xellos lifted her skirt and retrieved the mace she kept strapped to her leg. He then went on the attack like a berserk creature pounding the three men with the mace. Filia had told him not to use magic and Xellos was determined to make the best of this opportunity before she requested that he refrain from physical attacks as well. As the fight broke lose, the Golden Dragon Cafe's staff ran for cover so as to not be caught by a stray hit.

Xellos swung Filia's heavy mace at the man in red, being dragged along with the momentum which caused him to spin, miss the target and instead hit the green clad opponent, who was rushing in for a surprise attack from behind. The man in green stumbled back and stepped on the blue uniformed man's foot, who pushed him angrily. Xellos ducked, causing the man in green to trip over him into the one in red. Again Xellos lifted the mace with every ounce of non-magical strength he could muster and swung it at the man in blue, who caught it with a confident smirk. Xellos pulled the mace back, but his opponent didn't let it go, pulling it towards himself. Finding an opportunity in this, Xellos pushed the mace forward, aided by the blue clad enemy's stubborn resolve to take the weapon. The mace collided harshly with the blue guard's abdomen, leaving him out of breath.

By then, the men wearing red and green had recovered from their stumble and attacked Xellos from the left and right. Xellos ducked out of the way and retreated backwards; leaving the red and green uniformed guards to crash into each other and stumble in a dizzy daze in different directions. The man in blue managed to catch his breath, though he was wounded. He launched forward while at the same time the recovering man in red tried to grab Xellos from behind. Xellos tried to ready the mace to defend himself once more, but as he managed to lift it over his shoulders for a good strike, the weight was too much and the weapon ended up pulling him back. As a result, Xellos fell backwards with the man in blue jumping over him. Simultaneously, the mace crashed landed on the foot of the red clad fighter, who hollered in pain and instinctively bent over lightly, enough for his head to be in the unfortunate path of his blue dressed brother's attack.

Xellos rolled away just in time to avoid being crushed by the combined weight of the red and blue warriors. The fighter in green dashed after him, with Xellos running in circles around the beat up red and blue warriors who were trying to get up from their pitiful pile on the floor. Unexpectedly, Xellos stopped running and swung the mace low like a golf club, hitting the green fighter's leg as he dashed to catch Xellos. The green uniformed guard crashed into his red and blue dressed brothers, just as the two had managed to get back on their feet and back in a pile on the floor the triplet warriors went. Again they hurried to their now limping feet and charged towards Xellos. He was not as physically strong as the trio in human form, but had a clear advantage in speed. Xellos jumped out of the way as the trio of warriors crashed into the wall behind him, demolishing the division between the kitchen and storage room.

The sacks of flour, salt, sugar and dust-like spices that were piled against that very wall in the storage room, were torn apart making a thick cloud invade the atmosphere around Xellos. Shocked by the fierce battle, Filia could only react by blowing the cloud away, or at least trying to. She wanted to finally find an opportunity to jump in, though it didn't look like Xellos needed any rescuing from the three big guys. However, since the windows were closed, the cloud had no where to go and though it was kept away from Filia, it focused in the area opposite to her, where Xellos was still fighting the three men. It was like a scene from a comic book with a thick cloud of dust, or in this case dust-like ingredients, covering a big fight scene. Filia had enough of it.

Upset at the whole situation, the golden dragon concluded that those trapped in the thick cloud couldn't see her any more than she could see them. Thus she used the moment of privacy to transform into a dragon, tearing apart the building's roof as she did. Filia blew away the cloud that covered the action to reveal her true form to all those who had been hidden inside it. The three men stared in disbelief, not knowing where the dragon had come from so suddenly. With an angry growl, Filia picked up Xellos and stomped away, while the three beat up men screamed in a panic, scared out of their minds at seeing a ferocious dragon so close. Sure, the golden dragons were supposed to be the town's protectors, but that one looked very angry.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 059: Past! Details That History Forgot

Filia squeezed in between two buildings into a deserted alley, where she put Xellos down. She made a double check that no one was looking before she transformed back into her human, or rather elf, form.

"For a second there I thought you were going to find some tower to climb so you could sit on top of it holding me prisoner and roaring at the top of your lungs," Xellos joked.

"That's just a false stereotype in fairy tales, princess," Filia retorted. If she was the ferocious dragon, then that left him as the damsel in distress.

"If you must, I would prefer to be called prince," Xellos calmly requested with the most annoying air of confidence he could muster as he fingered the mace's handle, balancing it on the ground.

"Yeah, right, the prince of annoyances!" Exasperated, Filia snatched away the mace and put it away under her skirt. She wasn't sure if she should get angry at Xellos, at the three men or at herself. She didn't want to cause trouble, but she ended up losing her temper and ruining the Golden Dragon Cafe, which would need heavy repairs before it could get back to business. Plus the staff that didn't retreat far enough during the beginning of the fight, along with the three fighters, might get the wrong idea from witnessing a golden dragon destroying the place like that.

On the other hand, Filia's reaction was only due to the fight that Xellos started. Albeit she knew it wasn't exactly fair to blame it on Xellos. He did snatch away her precious mace from under her skirt, but he did it in self defense. Filia knew that she would have a worse reaction if anyone attacked her hair. If she had been the victim of that particular assault, the barren lands around the town would look livelier than what would be left of the town after her wrath. Plus there was the fact that he still kept his word about not using magic to attack his opponents. Sighing hopelessly, Filia gently touched Xellos' bruised face causing him to wince involuntarily. "Looks like those guys landed a few hits too."

"I was winning," Xellos defended, not that Filia seemed to be interested in that.

She felt guilty that she didn't interfere sooner and prevent Xellos from getting hurt, but at least he didn't seem to have any broken bones. He was considerably bruised, with a few light cuts and rips in his clothes, which were anything but clean. "I'll heal you," she offered, noticing that Xellos looked distracted and... shocked?

The cause of Xellos' surprise was behind Filia at the alley's exit, away from her line of vision. Celestina Ilumina, or rather the being pretending to be her, was standing there. Filia turned to see what Xellos was looking at and caught a glimpse of the white haired golden dragon. The second she looked into her golden eyes, there was a blinding bright light that made Filia close her eyes. When she opened her eyes again, everything had changed, though she didn't notice it right away. What she did notice was that the mysterious dragon was no longer there.

A man with a physique similar to Philionel suddenly approached, running from the side of the alley opposite to Filia and coming up behind Xellos. The man had short black hair and pale green eyes. "Dragon!" He exclaimed as soon as he spotted Filia. "Don't just stand there, boy, run!" Without any further explanations, the man picked up Xellos, threw him over his shoulder and ran away.

"Come back here!" Filia screamed at the top of her lungs and took off after the man.

Filia's voice alerted the attention of two armored men who were walking down the street. "There he is!" One of them called out as the pair hurried to join the chase.

At the other side of the alley, the tall man hurried down the backstreet with Xellos still thrown over his shoulder. "Put me down!" Xellos angrily demanded as he flailed around helplessly. He was tired and beaten from his previous non-magical combat experience and he really didn't want to deal with stupid people kidnapping him because they thought Zelas would pay to get him back. They would be sorely disappointed.

"Quiet down, boy," the man attempted to sound soothing, but it came out as a growl. "I'm saving you from that vicious creature that held you prisoner. We humans need to stick together if we're going to escape from those evil dragons!"

Okay, so this wasn't a greedy man looking for ransom money, this was an insane man looking for trouble. "Idiot! I wasn't in any real danger back there; I don't need to be saved!" Sure, he was looking beat up, but that wasn't Filia's doing, she was about to heal him. Besides, weren't the people of that town supposed to like golden dragons? Though most seemed to have mistakenly assumed Filia was an elf. The golden dragons had not visited the town for so long that they expected it to be a big event if one did.

"Poor boy, that dragon must have really messed with your head," the stubborn man insisted. He glanced back to see Filia dashing after him along with two armored men with pointy ears. They too were dragons. Furthermore, there was an even larger number of elf form dragons wearing armor gathering to block the path ahead. Where had so many come from? Why were they there? "Oh no! We're surrounded!"

The armored guards formed a circle around the tall man and Xellos, blocking Filia's path. Filia was starting to fear that the dragons knew who Xellos was and had come to kill him. Yet strangely, they appeared to be more interested in capturing the tall man.

"Fireball!" Xellos exclaimed, breaking his word to refrain from using magical attacks given the fact that this was an emergency.

"He knows magic! Restrain him!" One of the armored guards called out. Xellos was quickly outnumbered and in his exhausted state there was little he could do against so many dragons.

"Let me through!" Filia tried to force her way into the circle of guards, but another guard stopped her.

"Calm down miss, your property will be returned to you. Please come with us to the station." The armored dragon looked as if he didn't know her or Xellos.

Filia was left in shock. This wasn't a hunt for a weakened minion of Lord Beast Master, this was an arrest of some sort. The part about her property made Filia think that the tall man might be a thief and that the guards, who knows where they came from, assumed that he stole something from her. The entire scenario made little sense, but she played along and followed the guards. As she walked, Filia noticed that the town looked different. She didn't recognize any of the buildings and she was especially surprised by the large number of dragons in town.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and the large man were harshly tossed into a cage that held two other humans. They're forms were frail and thin, they were covered in rags, their faces so filthy and bruised that Xellos couldn't even tell if they were male or female. The humans didn't say anything, scooting away against the bars as if they wanted to show they had no intentions of associating with the newcomers. They seemed to hold anger towards the tall man, but they only showed it with their eyes.

"There goes another failed attempt," the tall man sighed. "You surprised me with that magic of yours, boy, too bad it wasn't enough."

Xellos tugged at the metal collar they forced around his neck. "It'll be enough now," he wasn't certain what was going on. The dragons seemed to assume he was an ordinary human. Regardless, he didn't want to stay there. "Darkness beyond-ah!"

"Be careful boy," the big man warned all too late. "That collar they put on you will shock you if you use magic. It's different from the restraint circlets they put on some prisoners. That's an extra strength edition you got there, I doubt you'd be able to endure it."

"You could have said that sooner!" Xellos yelled as he tried to ease his aching body into a sitting position.

"Quiet in there!" One of the armored dragons peeked into the room with the cage, then shut the door again after the order was given.

Xellos looked around the room; most of the cages were empty, though a few still held humans of all ages, mostly young adults, some in worse conditions than others. "What is this place?" Xellos inquired, making sure to keep the volume of his voice low enough so that the guard couldn't' hear him outside the cage room.

"It's a slave trade, boy. What else?" The big man looked as if it should have been obvious. "I would think you would know the story of your life. That dragon you were with, she looked like a sweet girl, but it's obvious she's bad. She wasn't a very good master to you by the looks of it."

Xellos frowned with a deadly glare, "Filia is not my master and my injuries are not her doing." He was still beaten from his fight with the muscle-headed triplets back at the Golden Dragon Cafe as Filia was interrupted before she could heal him.

"So who was she? Your rescuer? There are a few good golden dragons out there. I dare to say that most of them are good. It's just this outdated group that still trades humans as slaves because it's not officially illegal yet. If only it was outlawed they would have to stop, but the higher ups have more important things to deal with. It's been over a hundred years, but the world still hasn't recovered from the War of the Monsters' Fall." The man's face turned sad for a few seconds, before his expression brightened beyond the situation. "Let's keep our hopes up, okay, boy? If that dragon girl was one of the good ones, she'll be back for you, so don't worry, boy."

"My name is not 'boy'." Xellos pointed out in annoyance. The part about the War of the Monsters' Fall taking place over a hundred years ago puzzled him. The old man had to be crazy; it had been over a thousand years since the war.

The man laughed loudly. "Sorry boy, when you're as old as me, any young man is a boy by comparison." He was around thirty, although his many experiences and close calls in life made him feel much older. "The name's Sakel. What should I call you instead of boy?"

Xellos thought it was a bad idea to reveal his name, even if he could say it was just a coincidence that he happened to be called the same as that monster who was a prominent figure in the war. "Your majesty will do just fine."

Sakel laughed loudly, not caring if he got the attention of the dragon guards. "You have a sense of humor, that's important in these hard times!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia followed the armored dragons into a building resembling a police station. "Have a seat miss, the paper work will be done soon and don't worry, everything will be okay." The young dragon with dark blond hair and brown eyes smiled as if trying to ease Filia's nervousness. He obviously had no idea why she was really worried. "Hey Cleo," he addressed a female dragon sitting behind a desk. "Could you get the paperwork done for the lady? She's here to claim her human, who was stolen by that troublesome Sakel."

"In a minute, Narez," Cleo, was a very petite woman with pale platinum hair and light green eyes in elf form, but she was ironically larger than most golden dragon males in dragon form. That was probably due to the fact that her father was a dimos dragon, albeit she looked more like her golden dragon mother. "Lady Ul Copt will be here for Sakel soon, no doubt about it. She always says she'll discipline him better, but he always escapes and causes trouble. I don't know why she even bothers."

Filia tensed at the mention of Lady Ul Copt, though it was clear that the two dragons were not talking about her as they continued their conversation without sparing her a glance. "If she doesn't bail him out they'll kill him," Narez, the young guard, reminded.

Cleo rolled her eyes, "that's not our problem. We just need to do our job." She seemed rather displeased with her job, but quietly accepted it.

"Sometimes I think that doing our job isn't quite enough..." Narez remarked ambiguously.

Cleo raised an eyebrow warningly, then shook her head and turned her attention back to her paperwork. Filia sat quietly in a small waiting area across from Cleo's desk, staring at the floor. She didn't understand this. Where had they taken Xellos? Why did they act as if they knew nothing about her? Most golden dragons knew about Filia, the survivor from the Fire Dragon clan who got kicked out of their society for sheltering an ancient dragon. They knew to steer clear of her if possible and defend themselves if she ever picked a fight, which she had not. She glanced at Narez, who smiled reassuringly, then she noticed something peculiar about his armor. Golden dragons didn't wear that particular style of armor anymore. The design was something she had seen in a history book and it was outdated by several hundred years.

A lady entered the station flanked by two men wearing dragon robes rather than armor, perhaps part of her personal guard. "Greetings, my apologies for troubling you so late in the night."

"It's no trouble at all, Lady Ul Copt," Narez clearly had a lot of admiration for the older dragon woman as he bounced over to her immediately and kissed her hand. "Besides, we have the night shift, so we have to stay up all night anyway."

"Ah yes," Lady Ul Copt smiled politely with no real cheer in her expression. She noticed a young female dragon looking at her from one of the chairs in the waiting area, but the younger woman looked at the floor immediately as soon as their gazes met.

Filia could feel herself trembling. She knew that lady and there was a reason why they shared not only a surname, but also similar features with the main distinction between them being that Filia was younger. Her suspicions were confirmed when Cleo turned a paper over on her desk so that it faced the lady. "Lady Faili Ul Copt, if you would please sign here, we will return your confiscated property to you."

"Of course," Faili signed the paperwork without even reading it. She had read that form so many times she had the whole document memorized. Filia tensed even more, Faili Ul Copt, that was her married name. Filia couldn't believe it, this was the woman she had been named after, Faili, known to Filia as grandma Fai. She passed away in the Darkstar incident. How could she be here and several centuries younger by the looks of it?

"Miss, excuse me, miss..." Cleo's voice got Filia out of her thoughts and she jumped to her feat in a startle. "Sorry, I didn't mean to surprise you. No offense, but you look a bit out of it. I guess not everyone is used to being awake at these hours of the night. I know I had to get used to it when I started in this job." She motioned to the chair across from her desk which Faili had recently vacated. "Have a seat, read the forms and sign them when you're ready. This here is the claim form, and this is a bill for the collar. I think it is best if you purchase it and keep it on, if your slave causes damage with his magic, it will be billed to you." Cleo placed down a pen next to the paperwork and watched as Filia nervously took a seat across from her in front of the desk. "Try to relax, it's not like you're in any real trouble or anything."

Filia nodded and tried to play along. "Right..." She read the paperwork, still confused about their nature. It was almost as if... as if this was the era of that town's dark past when humans were traded as slaves there, before the golden dragons officially outlawed it. The old style architecture, the outdated design of the armor, seeing her grandmother alive and younger then Filia could remember her; it was as if they had been thrown into the past.

Filia knew that her grandmother had a soft spot for humans. No doubt about it, she had to be trying to free the town, playing along with their rules until she could permanently solve the situation and Filia was there to witness it. Though the historical recollection of the peace treaty that ended up with the establishment of the Golden Dragon Cafe was short and widely ignored, Filia knew a little about it, even if she wasn't sure about the accuracy of the information. A golden dragon and a human joined together to conduct negotiations, which made the golden dragons more openly recognize humans as beings of intelligence and importance.

Maybe Filia would see the real historical event as it happened. Perhaps the name of the dragon that was withdrawn by the records was actually that of her grandmother. She still didn't know how in the world she got thrown to the past, but it was both worrisome and exciting. She only hoped she could be reunited with Xellos without incident so they could start working on figuring out what to do next.

xoxox xox xoxox

The door to the room with the cages was opened and Faili entered along with her personal guards and an armored guard. She glared at Sakel displeased. She had freed that human several times and he kept going back to free the others in the most troublesome ways. Why couldn't he just stay away and allow her to rescue the others by purchasing their freedom little by little? Why couldn't he hide behind her rank like a sane human would do? She was trying to protect him for crying out loud. All he did was pretend to be strong and risk his life when he should just be accepting her charity. Wordlessly, Sakel was taken out of the cage and escorted out by Faili's personal guards.

Narez joined his armored companion in the cage room soon after, "don't close it, I have to get that other one out too."

"Right, out you go, human," Xellos really wanted to blow up the whole town. Being treated as a weak human, worse yet, a human who was a slave to the golden dragons, was too much for him to put up with. But he was worried about Filia and made a huge effort not to blow his temper before he confirmed her safety. Besides, in his current state, picking a fight would be suicide.

Xellos was let out to the front area of the station, where Filia was waiting with a warning expression that screamed 'don't do anything' louder than words. "I apologize for the trouble, I'll be going now." She told Cleo and Narez, who nodded casually as if this was all every day business to them, though they didn't seem to be at all pleased with it. Giving Xellos one last warning look, Filia exited the station with him. They swiftly made their way walking out of town in silence. They had a lot to talk about, but they wouldn't do that until they were at a safe distance.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 060: Rage! Painful Grudges

Xellos and Filia made their way out of the town and towards a field of flowers that reminded Xellos of the garden in Celestina's villa. She was no doubt responsible for this, but why? "I have the key," Filia revealed a small key that could remove the magic suppressing collar Xellos had and he was all to glad to be rid of it. "This may sound crazy, but I think we're in the past. The buildings look like ancient structures, the dragons are dressed like in the past and I think I saw my grandmother."

"Then that man who said the War of the Monsters' Fall happened over a hundred years ago wasn't crazy after all," Xellos concluded. He had noticed the style of the environment being similar to the past as well, even if it was hard to believe.

"How could this have happened? I only remember seeing that light that came from that dragon and we were here," Filia recalled. "Who was that white haired dragon?"

"A descendant of one of the few survivors of the war within the barrier, which must still exist in this time. She was supposedly killed by Fibrizo, but reappeared after his death. Her father was quick to climb the ranks after Fibrizo's defeat and holds an important position with the golden dragons now, or I should say in our time." Xellos explained, "that's the official version at least." He knew it was best to tell Filia the whole truth, or at least as much of it as he knew. "She was supposed to be the person Lina, Gourry and I set out to capture to get your golden dragon citizenship back, but the real Celestina really was killed. That woman is someone else, so we retreated."

"She's someone powerful, I assume," Filia's face turned serious as she thought about the situation. "Who's powerful enough to time travel? That's supposed to be impossible even for the strongest dragons and monster lords."

"Yes, I believe the only being in existence who is that powerful is the Lord of Nightmares and that is who she is," Xellos revealed. As expected, Filia only stared at him in disbelief. "I know it's hard to swallow, but that's the truth. You've heard stories about Lina's adventures before, during those campfire nights when she's not in the mood to sleep. After we left Celestina's villa, Lina mentioned her first meeting with the Lord of Nightmares, which happened during the battle against Fibrizo, as if she could remember it, but she had claimed to hold no memories of it before. I didn't inquire too much about it, I didn't need to. I somehow caught a glance of the Lord of Nightmares, or I was allowed to see her for a split second. A bright golden light shining upon an endless sea of chaos. A golden light, that's her true form, or perhaps her form is something beyond our comprehension and we simply see her that way. She's been awake since Lina's fight with Fibrizo, but she doesn't seem to be planning to return the world into chaos just yet. Of course, she could have changed her mind and in the end, even if she doesn't destroy the world, she can do as she pleases with it."

Slowly allowing the truth to sink in, Filia managed to find her voice, "why would she send us here?"

"I don't know," Xellos admitted, "maybe for amusement. This is the Lord of Nightmares we're talking about. A being of infinite power who just woke up from a very long nap might be in the mood for some amusement."

"But we're not her toys!" Filia argued.

"To her, we might be," as much as Xellos hated to admit it, he knew it to be true. "There's really not much we can do except to play along and make the best of it."

Filia let out an anxious breath. "First things first, let me heal you." She began the process to heal Xellos with her magic, spending some time on the task.

"Don't look, but there's someone coming this way," Xellos quietly whispered, just as Filia was finishing up with her healing.

"Who is it?" Filia pretended not to notice.

"A dragon lady that was at the station earlier. She took away Sakel, that big stupid guy that got us mixed up in this," Xellos explained.

Filia's eyes widened. "I saw her," she whispered urgently and discreetly glanced at the approaching dragon woman, who was walking nearer to them in elf form. "Don't say anything, but that's my grandmother."

Xellos managed to contain his surprise and remained silent as Faili approached them, examining him with critical eyes. "Excuse me, travelers; do you have a place to rest? It might be best to wait until morning before you are on your way. I hope it is not to forward of me, but you are welcomed to stay at my place."

Filia thought it was a bad idea to get involved, but she couldn't resist, this was her dear grandmother whom she missed. "If it's not too much trouble, but we really must be on our way early."

"I understand, please come this way," Faili invited. "Perhaps you already know," because everyone who visited that town seemed to have heard of her and the rumors that she was freeing humans, albeit there was nothing illegal about it, it was her money to spend as she wanted. "I am Faili Ul Copt, may I inquired your names?"

"F-" Filia froze, she couldn't tell her grandmother her name, that might make a mess of things.

"What's wrong? Have you forgotten your name, Fluffy?" Xellos smirked.

Filia felt her eye twitch, but she needed an F name to go with so that it matched the sound she started to produce. Then again, perhaps the fact that she didn't want to reveal her identity had become too obvious already. "Fluffy? That's a cute nickname. If you prefer not to say your names, that is alright with me. What should I call you then?" Faili asked Xellos.

"Ice-cream," Filia replied for him. It was the first thing that popped into her mind.

xoxox xox xoxox

Faili led Xellos and Filia to an estate that served as the foundation for Arcius' estate centuries later. The structure had been enforced and practically rebuilt time and again over the years. The interior decorating was in much better taste than anything Arcius would choose, giving the building a calming atmosphere. Faili showed her guests to their rooms. "Please make yourselves at home, friends."

"Thank you," Filia nervously replied, she was happy to see her grandmother, but afraid of having an emotional outburst that would mess up history somehow. Xellos played his part by remaining silent, though he wasn't happy about it.

"If it is alright, Miss Fluffy," Faili couldn't help it but to giggle at the nickname, though she tried to contain her reaction. "I would like to have a word with you."

"Of course," Filia agreed, though it was clear she was still jumpy. Maybe she shouldn't have come. "You should go ahead and get some rest, Ice-cream."

"Don't stay up too late yourself, we have an early start tomorrow, Fluffy," Xellos replied, before going into his assigned room.

Filia twitched at the name but disregarded it quickly enough and followed Faili.

xoxox xox xoxox

Faili and Filia sat at a tea room where Faili insisted on making some tea. "This tea is good for relaxing, you seem rather troubled."

Filia wasn't sure how to reply to that. She kept switching between staring at Faili and trying to hide her face behind her hair. "I'm not exactly comfortable with what's happening in town."

"I understand and I'm glad you would say that. I wasn't sure about you, given the state of your human companion, so I set out to find you. Please pardon my intrusion; I knew my doubts were baseless after I saw you healing him. He really seems to trust you." Faili spoke with a kind tone as she served the tea. "The law will be passed soon to end the activities in town, I'm sure of it. Yet I wish something would happen that could show the golden dragons who have doubts or who quietly accept the happenings of this town that dragons and humans should live in peace as equals."

"Something will happen!" Filia encouraged before she could stop herself. "A dragon and a human will prove that the two races can live in peace and the dragons will acknowledge humans. Maybe if you work as a team with Mr. Sakel..." Filia stopped, she was saying too much.

Faili laughed, "that fool doesn't know what's good for him. I've freed him countless times and he keeps coming back saying that he wants to prove that a human can also be the one to free the ones held captive here. He's far too stubborn and doesn't know how to accept help. It will take quite a cunning and convincing dragon to make things change around here."

Filia's face fell. Though Faili did have mercy for humans she didn't really acknowledge them as strong. She sheltered them and pitied them without realizing it. It was all done with good intentions, but Filia still thought it didn't quite fit in with the ideals of equality she claimed to defend. "I think..." How could Filia properly phrase this? "I think that in order to achieve equality, humans will have to stand up for themselves. It will take more than just an eloquent dragon, it will take teamwork. It will make forgiveness easier if the humans see that a member of their own kind is trusted and acknowledged."

"Forgiveness is never easy," Faili bitterly voiced with a grave expression. "These people have lost loved ones. Only after losing someone myself did I understand that kind of pain."

Realization hit Filia harshly, "your husband..." She knew about this, she had heard about the fact when she inquired about her grandfather as a child.

"Yes," Faili sighed sadly. "My beloved husband fell in battle fighting against that fiend, the monster known as Xellos, shortly before the barrier was completed. It's been over a hundred years, but it is a pain that my son and I will forever remember."

Filia felt her eyes water. Xellos was Beast Master's loyal minion, he killed countless golden dragons in the past, he caused a lot of pain and suffering. He was an enemy to her race. She might not be an official citizen of the golden dragon race anymore, but she was still a golden dragon, she still carried the same blood as her family. "I'm sorry," looking at Faili's hurt expression, seeing the pain in her eyes, it made Filia feel like a traitor.

"Don't cry, dear, we all regret the terrible losses that our comrades suffered and that horrible barrier is still there. Who knows if it will ever be lifted? I can only pray that I will live to see that day." Faili's face went from sad to defiant. "If I could, I would tare that barrier down myself and hunt down that monster. I would avenge my people."

"If you had the chance..." Filia's voice was barely audible. "If you were given the opportunity, you would kill Xellos?"

"Painfully so!" Faili assured with a temper similar to an angry Filia, though with a little more control. "Ah, my apologies for the outburst. Realistically, there's no way a single dragon can slay the horrible monster who destroyed so many of our kind."

Filia was trembling, unable to contain her tears from flowing abundantly from her pain filled eyes. "Revenge never accomplishes anything. It only brings more pain. If I had that chance, I would... I would..."

"Spare him?" Faili huffed. "I was innocent like you once. I thought that all creatures had good in them, even monsters. I know it's a shock for a golden dragon to say such a thing, it's even blasphemous, but I believed. He proved me wrong, Xellos changed my mind about monsters and made me see them for the horrible creatures that they truly are. What sets us dragons, humans, elves and even beastmen apart from monsters is that we have feelings. We feel love and pain, but monsters feed on hate and hold no feelings of their own. They cannot learn from their atrocious actions, they know no guilt, no regret. The only thing left to do to preserve ourselves is to destroy them."

"So it would be different if they had feelings?" Filia insisted in a barely audible voice.

With the bitterness of broken hope, Faili voiced a soft, "if only that were possible." She let out a breath that seemed to carry all her tensions as she tried to get her turmoil of emotion under control. "Back to the subject at hand, I think I see your point. If the humans see that we dragons can understand their pain and stand side by side with them, then maybe they'll forgive." Filia nodded her head, though she kept her eyes low. She tried to dry her tears as best she could, an effort that did not go unnoticed by Faili. "I apologize for upsetting you. I'm sure you must have lost someone in the war too, there doesn't seem to be a golden dragon in existence who has not. Please, get some rest. I'm sure you'll feel better after a good night's sleep."

"Yes," feeling quite shaken, Filia returned to her assigned guest room. Filia knew that she had picked after her grandmother in many ways. Their resemblance had been pointed out by family members in the past, but it wasn't until now that Filia saw how similar they were in more than just looks.

xoxox xox xoxox

Although she was tired, Filia couldn't get to sleep. After her family passed away in the Darkstar incident and her citizenship as a golden dragon was annulled, she eventually moved on and it no longer mattered to her that she was a golden dragon. She was no longer a part of the group and she would carry on minding her own business, leaving the official golden dragons to mind theirs. However, she was still a golden dragon of birth. Her family was gone in her time, but their existence was still important to Filia and she felt that she wasn't honoring them. What would they think if they saw her now? What would they say if they knew how close she was to Xellos? She could disregard the opinion of the dragon race in general, but not that of her closest relatives whom she grew up with.

The movement of the sheets in the dim room, got Filia out of her thoughts. The light of the full moon that seeped in through the glass windows revealed the identity of the familiar shadow getting comfortable next to Filia. "Go away Xellos, I'm not in the mood to... keep you company."

"You're certainly in the mood to give me insomnia," Xellos retorted without much of an edge. He caught the hint of a puzzled look appearing in Filia's obscured features. "The walls aren't thick enough here, I can sense how upset you are from the next room. What's your problem this time? You weren't this scared when we first realized we're in the past."

"It's odd, you're such an annoying trickster that it's easy to forget that you've been around for such a long time. Zelgadis has a lot more maturity than you, even if he's a whole lot younger," Filia began ambiguously. "You're sarcastic, you make mocking jokes and you... you get chocolate all over your face when you eat chocolate ice-cream pie. You can make yourself appear to be as harmless as a child if you want, but you really do have the cunning of all your years, even if some experiences might still be new to you as things stand now."

Xellos really didn't know where Filia was going with all of this. She wasn't exactly criticizing him as much as stating facts, though he could argue that he only got chocolate on his face when he had to rush to eat his pie because it was in danger of being stolen by Lina and that he was a perfectly neat eater when no one was trying to steal his precious pie. It felt all too natural to reply with a sarcastic comment. "Yes, I get it, I'm charming, you adore me, thanks for the reminder." Filia burst into all out crying, which was certainly not the reaction Xellos was expecting her to have to such a light remark. "What's wrong with you, stupid dragon? I sense that you're angry at yourself, but I don't understand why."

"Idiot! Filia got out of bed, pacing around angrily. "You're the one that killed grandpa, that's why I never got the chance to meet him. As for my other grandparents on my mother's side, they got caught inside the barrier, separated from their daughter and you probably killed them too."

Xellos followed Filia and held her by the shoulders to stop her frantic pacing around the room. "Are you realizing this just now? You've known about my past all along and you never made the connection? I don't have my full power now. You could rip my head off before I'm half way done casting a Dragon Slave. You can kill me and be a hero to the golden dragons; they'll welcome you back with open arms. If you want revenge that badly, why don't you take it? What are you waiting for, an apology? I'm sorry for killing a bunch of dragons long before I even met you and I'm especially sorry if any of them were your acquaintances. Oh wait, that's right, you didn't exist back then, well it's too bad you never got to meet any of my war victims." The slap that Filia gave him made it clear for Xellos that sarcasm was a very bad idea.

"You monster!" Filia growled. Monsters were cruel because they felt no pain; there was no guilt to hold them back. "Even if you were following Zelas orders, you had no problems with what you were doing. Of course you didn't, you were created as her slave, that's who you are! More so that's what you are, not a real person, just a tool, a thing to be used for the convenience of someone stronger. You're nothing but a weapon and not even your master has any regard for you, she'll kill you soon because you're not beneficial to have around anymore. You're a useless broken weapon that was tossed away, a real piece of garbage!"

Xellos was shaking with anger, fists and teeth clenched, glare enraged. He wanted to say something that would make Filia shut up, something that would take away that fierce cold look from her eyes, but the only thing he could come up with was an unsure sounding, "I am... my own person... Stupid dragon, you wouldn't understand!" He was done arguing. He didn't want to look at her any more, so he left, he ran out of the room and out of the estate as fast as he could.

Filia stood frozen. Monsters don't have emotions, monsters don't feel pain. Monsters don't laugh, or get annoyed, or have a sense of humor, it's all just acting. Monsters feel no sorrow, monsters can't be hurt. But even long before he was turned into a human, Xellos could make stupid jokes, get annoyed and even be surprised. Humans were not all the same, dragons were not all the same, monsters were not all the same. Filia got her vengeance, she fought back. She knew she managed to hurt Xellos; she got back at him for all the pain she blamed on him. Yet that only made her feel worse, so much worse.

To be Continued

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