Slayers: Alive

Chapter 9

Slayers: Alive

Episode 081: Dramatic! Building Up Tensions

"That laugh, that style of clothing..." Martina commented as she observed Naga.

"Yes? Did you say something to me?" Naga inquired.

There was a certain challenging tone to the atmosphere which was beginning to worry all those present. "I am Martina Zoana Mel Navratilova, the queen of Zoana!" The pale haired woman loudly declared with abundant pride. "Ah ha ha he ha ha!"

With the same volume and pride, Naga answered to the challenge, "I am Gracia Ul Naga Seyruun, the legendary White Serpent! But you can just call me Naga... Ah ha ha ho ha ha!"

You could cut the tension with a knife. Amelia wasn't sure if she should interfere with the possible war that was apparently about to break out, or advise everyone to run for their lives. This could potentially be as deadly as a pissed off Lina's Dragon Slave. Time stood still as Naga and Martina stared each other down, until they both loudly declared in unison, "best friends!"

The rest of the group stared in disbelief, with Lina solemnly muttering, "we're doomed." The newly acquainted best friends began to laugh together. Val produced a little high pitched growl of discomfort and hid himself in the blanket, holding his tiny paws on the sides of his head. Then the earth suddenly began to shake, causing Lina to yell, "shut up, you're making an earthquake!"

Martina and Naga quieted, coincidentally just as the earthquake ended. "Such is the power of our combined laughter!" They unanimously cheered.

"I'm pretty sure that was just a coincidence," Xellos pointed out. Albeit no one seemed to be listening to him, as their ears were still ringing from having heard the two most annoying laughs in the world simultaneously.

"It could be a bad omen," Jillas frowned.

Then suddenly, another person joined the already crowded living room, teleporting out of the astral side right in the middle of it. Before Filia could stop herself, she voiced, "oh no, you were right, that was a bad omen!"

"What did you say, dragon?" Zelas glared in Filia's direction.

"A good omen, that earthquake we just had was a great omen, because the wonderful Lord Beast Master is honoring us with her presence." Filia laughed nervously, fearing for her life and most of all for Val's life. If she had to take a guess, she would conclude that Fang told Zelas about what was happening.

"It is an honor for you indeed," Zelas agreed with a mocking expression. "Don't worry, I'm not here to put on a pair of white gloves and run my fingers on every dusty surface of the house just so I can criticize how filthy your living quarters are. Maybe I'll do that in another occasion, but right now I'm only here to see Val." Zelas approached Filia, who held Val in her arms, while giving Xellos worried looks. Val peeked out from the blanket now that things had quieted down and stopped shaking, staring curiously at the lady who wasn't there before. "I see..." Zelas muttered mysteriously. Then she stepped back and announced, "well, I've seen Val, so I'll be going now."

"That's it?" Filia inquired in disbelief. This was far too easy and it worried her.

"I did say I was simply here to see Val, have you forgotten already?" Zelas feigned surprise. "There are things that science cannot explain. The fact that you're still alive despite not possessing a brain is one of them," she smiled a mocking smile.

Filia felt herself twitch in annoyance. "Oh yeah, now I remember," she growled through gritted teeth. Zelas wasn't there just to see Val; she was there to bother Filia and the golden dragon knew it. In a grim corner of her mind, Filia knew that she better get used to occasional visits from Zelas, who was without a doubt the most fearsome mother-in-law in the known universe.

"Wait a minute!" Naga and Martina exclaimed in a chorus. Lina wished they would stop being so synchronized, it was creepy.

"There's a certain elegance to her," Martina observed.

"Yes, and I must say I really like the jewelry," Naga added.

Martina and Naga nodded to each other before unanimously inviting, "join us!"

Zelas blinked, finding herself face to face with two of the few humans who were strange enough to surprise even a monster lord. "Join what?" She curiously inquired, while Xellos, Celo and Fang shook their heads frantically, but were ignored.

"Join our group of best friends," Martina explained.

"Of course, you must have the laugh for it," Naga elaborated.

"Laugh..." Zelas grinned, "so you want to hear my laugh?" Celo and Fang exchanged looks, then looked at Xellos, who had a horrified expression upon his face. They had the so called honor to hear a real loud all out laugh from Zelas in the past and it was an experience they would not soon forget. Letting the suspense hang in the air for a few more seconds, Zelas finally spoke. "Perhaps in another occasion, this is a busy time for me. I need to prepare for the winter holidays and all." With that said, Zelas disappeared, fading away into the astral side.

"That was close..." Xellos breathed in relief.

"What's her laugh like full force?" Filia felt compelled to ask.

"It's like a mix between a roar and a howl that makes entire armies run away in fear," Xellos explained. Filia shuddered as she thought about what they almost witnessed.

"That sounds pretty cool," Naga observed.

Martina nodded, "I agree, I would like to hear her laugh one day." Martina and Zangulus had become aware of Celo and Tiffany's true nature, but they didn't know who Zelas really was yet. Albeit they might find out sometime in the near future.

"Me too," Naga concurred among the hopeless head shaking of most of those present.

A few seconds of blissful silence passed before Gourry made a seemingly stupid observation that took him way too long to analyze. "It's still fall, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's fall," Xellos confirmed, remembering his little argument with Filia about the use of the words fall and autumn. "The trees are drying up, the leaves are falling off. All the vegetation is falling and dying." The remark was, as expected from Xellos, spoken full of cheer.

"Actually, it's more proper to say it's autumn," Filia argued. The word autumn was much more elegant in Filia's opinion and less gloomy sounding than fall. Plus it was more season exclusive than fall in terms of what it could mean.

"Oh," Gourry dumbly acknowledge. "I thought so. I guess Zelas must be planning a really big party for the winter if she's getting ready for the holidays this early."

Of all the places to find a clue, in the words of Gourry Gabriev was the last place Xellos would expect it to appear. What looked like too much stupidity to be capable of interpreting sarcasm could be a stroke of genius in disguise... or just a useful observation fueled by dumb luck. Xellos glanced at Fang, who looked like the possible hidden meaning of Zelas' words had gone clear over his head. Then he looked at Celo, who shook his head lightly, in an indication that he did not know what was going on. Xellos couldn't draw much information out of this, but whatever secret plans Zelas had that she couldn't even share with her own general and priest were to take place no later than in the coming winter.

xoxox xox xoxox

Things had calmed down at Filia's house. Celo and Tiffany had returned to their duties at Amor Resort. That meant that Zangulus and Martina had to return to work as well. Phythan, who had been feeling better, got another wave of annoying dizziness and decided to retreat to the Amor Resort wooden clock tower to try to sleep it off. Though one would have to wonder if he wasn't just running away from the possibility of being auctioned again. Onyx's payment didn't go through, thanks to Xellos halting the transaction, leaving Phythan in her property once more. She had a word about it with Xellos, though that was not the only topic of conversation, nor was it the most interesting one.

"I'm not going to approve the transaction, even if Filia gets angry. She's in too much of a good mood to get really annoying right now because of Val. If anything, this is the perfect time to cancel that stupid shopping spree of hers. If you want money, you could track down that jellyfish or I could call up Galathia. I'm sure either of them would be all too happy to purchase that useless dragon Phythan, they both have such bad taste." Xellos stated his case while Onyx remained silent. She had requested to speak to her so called brother privately, though Xellos wasn't sure what sort of argument she couldn't speak in front of everyone else. Perhaps she thought she had blackmail material in her hands, albeit Xellos couldn't imagine what it could possibly be.

"I see..." Onyx didn't look like she would put up much of an argument about her lost fortune.

"So, what was it you really wanted to tell me?" Xellos inquired curiously, maybe she had remembered something. Maybe she knew what the Lord of Nightmares sealed in her.

"I'm a defect, aren't I, brother?" Onyx finally asked. "I have this amulet to rely on for self defense," she referred to the winged wolf necklace Zelas had given her. "Yet I have no power of my own. My monster power has not awakened and it doesn't feel like it will any time soon, perhaps never. I'm a failed experiment, the human side somehow poisoned the monster side, maybe even erased it from existence. Why was I made into a chimera? Why such a weak creature? I'm certain I would have been better off as a monster. What is my purpose, why did Zelas create me?"

"I can't give you that answer," just when Xellos thought he might be getting a good clue, it turned out Onyx had more questions than answers. "Finding yourself and all that cheesy stuff is something you need to do on your own. You should go with Celo and the others and take some time to think, figure out your existence and all that meaningless and insignificant stuff," he smiled like he always did when mocking someone.

"Very well," Onyx replied in a monotone, though there was a well marked hint of angry and sad frustration in her eyes. In the end, Onyx tagged along with the group that headed back to the resort.

A day passed and by then Lina and Gourry had consumed all the food at Filia's house, thus they returned to Amor Resort as well, along with Amelia and Zelgadis. Naga's urge to wander around kicked in and she said her farewells, continuing her trip around the world again. That left a relatively calm atmosphere at Filia's house with just Filia, Xellos, Val, Gravos and Jillas there, plus their close neighbors Elena and Palou. Needless to say, Filia was all too happy to have the chance to relax and enjoy taking care of little Val, even if relaxing with Xellos around often proved to be a difficult task.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Amelia and Zelgadis were going around Amor Resort enjoying their time together. Things had slowed down for the group once again, though they deep down knew the peaceful and calm atmosphere wouldn't last for long. The princess and the chimera were enjoying a picnic in the park area of the resort, with a checkered blanket on soft grass beside the shade of a tall tree surrounded by fallen leaves and a basket full of delicious goodies. They spotted two familiar faces not too far away, where Phythan was playing fetch with Fang, who was in his fox form.

Everything was peaceful until a loud voice called out, "there he is!" As a tentacle pointed at Phythan. Medusa was back, having survived her seemingly mortal wound with a scar that went down diagonally across her face to show for it.

Medusa only had one companion as her ally this time. He was a young man, whom Amelia immediately recognized and called out to him. "Mr. Kalio! Where have you been? Miss Kally has been worried about you!"

"My sister can find me when she so pleases." Kalio didn't lift his gaze from staring at the ground. "I'm not surprised she hasn't come to face me, after all, I'm a traitor to everyone. I'm a traitor to my promise; I'm a traitor to Seyruun and a traitor to justice!" He dramatically declared.

Amelia gasped with equal drama, her expression filled with disbelief. "This cannot be! Mr. Kalio, you always worked hard at Seyruun and followed the path of justice! Why do you call yourself a traitor?"

Inpatient and angry at the prolonged exchange, Medusa interrupted. "Kalio, if you have truly sworn your loyalty to me, you'll kill that cruel heartbreaker!"

"Miss Medusa, I've actually been meaning to apologize," Phythan began, though no one seemed to be paying any attention to him.

"I'm sorry princess Amelia," Kalio still didn't look up, his eyes sad and ashamed. "I injured this innocent maiden and endangered her life. Though she survived, she has been scarred for life by my lack of control. That is why I must swear my loyalty to her, to compensate her. My life now belongs to Miss Medusa, so I can no longer serve the fair kingdom of Seyruun. Please forgive me, your highness, but I must do as Miss Medusa tells me to. Kally, dear sister, wherever you are, I'm sure you can sense the suffering of my tortured soul. I'm sorry, but I must raise my sword against a dragon once again, even if I swore never to do that." Kalio finally lifted his face and glared at Phythan, drawing his sword. "En guard dragon!"

Phythan stood still like an idiot in shock as Fang kept tugging at his clothes with his paw, trying to get him to notice the little ball at his feed so he could throw it again and continue their game of fetch. With the same exaggerated dramatic flare with which he had delivered all his lines thus far, Kalio charged forward, sword in hand, aiming to pierce Phythan's heart.

"No!" Amelia dramatically cried out, while Zelgadis was the only one who actually moved to do something about the situation.

The chimera unsheathed his own sword and soon the clash of metal against metal echoed all over the park. The clueless bystanders assumed that this was one of the many shows that the resort had to offer and formed a circle around the battle zone to watch the sword fight. "Stop this nonsense!" Zelgadis demanded. "If you don't really want to betray justice and kill Phythan, then don't do it!"

"I have to!" Kalio stepped back, freeing his blade from its lock against Zelgadis'. "Don't you see? This lovely dedicated maiden has stolen my heart, but hers is broken. If Miss Medusa is to gain the strength to love again, her past heartbreak must be avenged!"

Zelgadis blinked with a weirded out expression, "what?"

"Hey, wait a minute! I thought Miss Medusa liked me!" Phythan protested like a child whose candy was stolen by a classmate.

Amelia gasped loudly, "it's a love triangle! How romantic!" She was in her soap opera fan hyper mode, a side of her that shone through on occasion. Such as that time when Gourry was dragged to be involved in that strange dramatic incident with a family of fish people.

Medusa got a starry eyed look with metaphorical hearts floating all around her. "My dear Kalio, I had no idea you felt that way about me! End the life of that horrible dragon so that I can forever put the memory of his hot naked body out of my mind and focus on my new relationship with you!"

Kalio's jaw dropped, his face turned red and his eyes twitched wildly in an alternating rhythm of left and right. "Just what kind of relationship did you have with Miss Medusa you... you... you... you beast!"

"I'm a dragon, not a beast," Phythan pointed out. "Although I am Beast Master's intern, so maybe that makes me like an honorary beast? Anyway, I have no relationship with Miss Medusa what so ever, so you don't have to get all jealous."

"Calm down, Mr. Kalio," Amelia tried to solve the situation as peacefully as possible. "Mr. Phythan is completely innocent in every way. It's just that he has no modesty what so ever when it comes to transforming. In fact, we've all seen him," she paused, noticing that Zelgadis was frowning and looking generally annoyed. "But it was such a long time ago that I barely remember anything," the princess quickly added with a hint of embarrassment.

"I see..." Kalio was visibly relieved, but he wasn't about to back down from the fight. "None the less, I must carry out this battle to the bitter tragic end! Please step aside princess Amelia, I must fight this dragon!"

"I won't!" Amelia adamantly argued. "Mr. Phythan is an ally of justice and I cannot allow you to harm him! Besides, if you act in such an unjust way you'll be hurting yourself too, Mr. Kalio. The terrible regret of injustice will consume you!"

"The terrible regret of injustice is already consuming me!" Kalio stubbornly insisted.

Zelgadis huffed in exasperation, "Amelia, if they really want to fight, let's just let them fight and get it over with. There's obviously no reasoning with this guy."

Amelia looked as if she was about to disagree, but before she could voice her thoughts, Phythan stepped forward. "A brave warrior of justice never backs down from a challenge. I will defeat Mr. Kalio in battle and prove to him that justice always wins against injustice. Then he'll leave his unjust ways behind and once again become an ally of justice!"

Feeling all excited and inspired by Phythan's little justice speech, Amelia joined in with a few encouraging words of her own. "Yes, go forth bravely into battle, Mr. Phythan. The power of justice is with you to help save Mr. Kalio and guide him back into the path of justice!"

Without any further warnings, Phythan transformed into his dragon shape, roaring a loud battle cry. Zelgadis was a moment too late in covering Amelia's eyes, which left him grumbling in annoyance. Medusa wasn't making things any better by shouting out, "kill him dead, very dead! Because otherwise such perfection would be impossible to forget!"

Amelia moved Zelgadis' hand away from covering her eyes, repositioning his arm around her shoulders. He blushed, seeing that though she, naturally, didn't want a hand obstructing her view of the battle now that Phythan was fully transformed and modesty issues didn't apply, she didn't really push him away either. Amelia always made it clear that she very much enjoyed having Zelgadis near her and that made him fall in love all over again every time it happened. "I can't believe how big it is," the princess commented with amazement.

Zelgadis nearly choked on air, almost too afraid to ask. "How big is what?"

"Phythan's horn," Amelia innocently pointed out. "It was barely noticeable before, but now it's like a really big sword."

"You're right," Zelgadis acknowledged and it looked as if Phythan was putting that horn to use by parrying Kalio's sword with it. The golden dragon's movements were clumsy at best, since he wasn't use to wielding a horn like this, but it was somehow effective against every blow. For the eyes of a skilled swordsman such as Zelgadis, it was easy to detect that Kalio wasn't really trying. It was clear he didn't want to fight Phythan, even if he was compelled to do so by some odd sense of obligation mixed with a strange crush on an even stranger jellyfish girl.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 082: Unpredictable! Impulses Of The Heart

"Go Mr. Phythan! Justice is on your side, you can't lose!" Amelia loudly cheered.

"Not to mention that Kalio isn't actually trying to win," Zelgadis pointed out, taking a moment to examine the battle more closely. "Actually, Phythan isn't trying to win either. Even if he's inexperienced fighting with a horn, Kalio is purposely leaving himself wide open for an attack."

"How tragic!" Amelia gasped. "Mr. Kalio feels guilty and believes the only way to atone is to fall in battle, but Mr. Phythan is an ally of justice who wishes to save Mr. Kalio and will not strike him down no matter what!" Just as Amelia's hyper excitement grew, the ground beneath her feet began to vibrate in a barely perceptible way at first.

The movement soon evolved into all out shaking, which had Amelia clinging instinctively to Zelgadis with the chimera returning the gesture in a protective embrace. The crowd of onlookers that had formed a circle around the fight started running around wildly and stupidly seeking shelter under the near by trees. Phythan's horn was about to collide with Kalio's sword when the shaking incremented, causing the golden dragon to stumble, momentarily losing his balance. Then the sharp horn broke Kalio's weapon as he attempted to instinctively block and stabbed him on the chest. "No matter what?" Zelgadis ironically inquired.

Amelia gasped tragically, as the earthquake finally subsided and the land was once again still. "Oh no!" Amelia tragically declared.

"Mr. Kalio?" Phythan removed his horn from the victim as gently as he could. Kalio collapsed with both hands trying to hold back the abundant blood coming from the wound on his chest. "I didn't mean to hurt you! The earthquake made me lose my balance, it was an accident!"

"Kalio!" Medusa hurried towards her fallen comrade, immediately casting a Recovery spell, joined in doing so by Amelia. "Hold on Kalio, just hold on!"

Phythan looked like he was just about ready to cry, but before he started, Zelgadis pointed out something helpful. "You're a golden dragon; don't you know how to cast a Resurrection healing spell?"

Phythan's mood suddenly changed from tragically sad to energetically hopeful. "You're right, I do!" He focused his energy, calling forth all his power, "Resurrection!"

A warm and gentle golden light surrounded Kalio, whose wound was miraculously healed. "I'm... still alive... Why have you saved me, golden dragon? Do you not understand that my only destiny is to slay you? We must fight until one of us falls!"

"That's enough fighting," Medusa spoke solemnly, with a few tears of relief escaping her big expressive eyes. "Your loyalty has truly touched my heart. I am forever grateful to you Kalio, the amazing man who's willing to give even his life for the sake of my wishes. Right now, my wish has changed, I no longer want revenge, I want you to stay by my side, my beloved!" Medusa dramatically announced at the top of her lungs, adding an after thought in a quick muttered whisper. "Besides, now that your shirt's been ripped to shreds and your wound has been miraculously healed, I can see that you're pretty hot yourself..."

"Do you mean it, Miss Medusa; you're willing to return my affection?" Kalio's eyes were all starry with metaphorical hearts floating around him too.

"I mean every word!" Medusa assured. The happy couple looked like they were about to kiss, which was something that Amelia was anticipating like the final chapter of one of those romance novels she liked to read. Zelgadis really didn't want to witness this and Phythan was too innocent to see it coming. As for Fang, he just wished that someone would throw the ball so he could fetch it.

Fortunately for those who didn't need to see a human and a jellyfish kissing, the scene was interrupted by the arrival of Kally. "Kalio, dear brother!"

"Kally!" Kalio was filled with both tension and relief at the arrival of his sister.

"I felt your very life fading away, it was so painful!" Kally hugged her brother, sobbing lightly. "I feared you would die!"

"I'm so sorry, Kally, I've been terribly selfish, I'm the worse brother in the world. I know you feel my pain because of our special connection, yet I..."

Kally stopped him from going any further, "don't say anything else, you're safe and that's all that matters. After the pain subsided, I sensed that you were filled with joy. What has happened?"

Kalio's face turned scarlet, "I... I have found true love!" He announced much louder than necessary, reinforcing the crowd's theory that this was all an act for their entertainment. "This is my beloved Miss Medusa. Miss Medusa, this is my dear twin sister Kally."

"It's wonderful to meet you," Kally greeted, "or rather to meet you in a better situation."

"I say the same," Medusa agreed, "let us leave the past behind and live peacefully and happily."

"Life is wonderful!" Amelia cheered.

Zelgadis felt himself almost twitch in disbelief. He wondered if some giant tidal wave would show up to return all the fish people to the sea again, but none came. "Life is a soap opera..."

"Princess Amelia, I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused. I go berserk when I see those creatures," Kalio apologized. "I hope you can forgive me and not exile me from Seyruun."

"I'm the one to blame for Kalio's state. It is because of the pain of a past experience I had, which I rather not think about, that he ended up like that," Kally explained. Due to the connection they shared, though Kalio was not poisoned by an octopus allergy directly and thus presented no physical symptoms, he felt Kally's pain and suffered along with her. Instead of developing an acute fear like Kally's, Kalio wasn't affected by verbal references to octopi, but if he ever saw an octopus he went into a crazy fit of rage.

"It's okay," Amelia assured. "I will gladly welcome all of you at Seyruun whenever you're ready to return, you too Miss Medusa."

"Thank you!" Kalio, Kally and Medusa chorused happily.

"If it is alright with you, princess, I would like to continue my journey," Kalio requested. "I feel that I still have much to learn about life, love and justice. Miss Medusa, are you willing to come with me on this journey?"

"I will, I'll go anywhere with you my love!" Medusa gladly agreed.

"Then I will remain here and work as a doctor," Kally decided. "I'll make sure to report my findings to Seyruun."

"I wish you all the best of luck in your chosen paths and don't forget, you'll always have a home in Seyruun." Amelia happily send them off with radiant joy. After one last farewell, Kalio and Medusa went off in one direction, hand in hand, or rather tentacle in hand. Kally walked off in another direction, while Phythan, Fang, Amelia and Zelgadis remained. "Everything worked out well in the end."

"Yeah," Phythan agreed, transforming back into an elf and raising his fist into the air victoriously, "justice always triumphs!"

Zelgadis slapped his own forehead and shook his head hopelessly, "you're never going to learn your lesson when it comes to modesty, are you?"

Phythan looked clueless, as if he didn't even know if Zelgadis' vexed mutterings were directed at him or not. Then he adopted a thoughtful expression as he came up with a rather stupid theory. "Do you think that if I get injured and I'm an inch from death, and Miss Onyx sees it, she'll suddenly realize she likes me?"

"I don't think being injured is a good thing," Amelia warned. "I'm sure Miss Onyx will be sad if you're hurt, we will all be sad, so please don't take such a risk."

"It wouldn't work," Zelgadis added, his next words taking everyone by surprise. "You're not the problem, she's the problem. The way Onyx is now, she cannot love anyone."

"Because of her amnesia?" Phythan sadly inquired.

"No," Zelgadis insightfully replied, "it's because she doesn't believe she's good enough to be loved. I heard her talking to Xellos. When she asked to speak with him alone, I thought they might be discussing some kind of plot from Zelas, so I eavesdropped. I think Xellos noticed, but he didn't say anything about it. Onyx probably didn't know." Zelgadis confessed. "Onyx thinks she's a defective chimera, she's unhappy with herself. That's why she can't accept anyone's feelings, not unless she accepts herself." It was something that Zelgadis knew from his own personal experience.

"I see... I won't give up, but I'll take things slowly. I'll try to let Miss Onyx know how much fun it is to be around her. Then she'll accept herself and maybe even like me. Then we'll be best friends!" Of course, one couldn't expect anything too deep or serious to be spoken by Phythan, who still had the innocence of a child.

"We'll be cheering for you, Mr. Phythan, just take things slowly and be patient," Amelia smiled encouragingly. She understood that Zelgadis was referencing his own personal experiences with his interpretation of Onyx's situation. The princess leaned her head on the chimera's shoulder lovingly, which caused a blissful red tint to invade his face.

"I won't give up!" Phythan was determined. The golden dragon's blissful expression slowly evolved into a doubtful one as a particular thought reemerged in his mind. "I have a feeling that I've forgotten something important," he gave it some more thought and finally reached a conclusion. "Oh yeah, now I remember, since my horn has grown out completely, a clan of dragon slayers might come to kill me soon. Mr. Kalio and Miss Kally said they would help me out with that, but I guess that with all this excitement they forgot. It's okay, I feel much better now so I can take care of myself, and I have Fang to help me out if I need backup."

"I'm sure they didn't mean to forget," Amelia assured. "Kally has a lot on her mind worrying about her brother and getting ready to face her new career. Kalio is in love and that can be pretty distracting. Just make sure to be careful not to go off into any lonely dark alleys and if anyone attacks you, shoot a bright light to the sky and we'll follow it to you right away!"

"Thanks, I appreciate it," Phythan smiled, while Fang tugged on his clothes with his paw impatiently. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Fang." Phythan picked up the little ball they were playing fetch with and threw it far away. By then the crowd of spectators had dissipated, since it looked like the dramatic show was over.

"Where should we go next?" Amelia inquired, cuddling Zelgadis lovingly.

Zelgadis happily embraced her, giving the question some thought. "I'm getting kind of hungry, do you want to find a nice restaurant and sit down for a good meal?"

"That's a great idea, I'm getting hungry too," Amelia agreed and the happy couple walked off.

Phythan blinked in confusion, debating if he should call out to them or not. He finally decided to let them go, they looked so happy walking away arm in arm that it felt wrong to disturb them. The golden dragon glanced at the white and red checkered blanket as Fang brought back the ball he fetched. "It looks like they forgot about their picnic. I guess love really is distracting. Oh well, there's no sense in letting a perfectly good picnic basket go to waste. What do you say we have a snack, Fang?" Naturally, the energetic monster fox was all too happy to agree.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few days passed in relative peace. Nothing seemed to be disturbing the quietude of the world, save for the occasional earthquake. Actually, the earthquakes were becoming a little too occasional, which began to make Lina and her traveling companions grow suspicious, especially Xellos, who secretly wondered if the earthquakes were somehow connected to Zelas' winter plans, whatever they might entail. Currently, Xellos was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a bowl of cereal after having slept in, never mind that lunch time was right around the corner.

The proximity of the next meal time was made more obvious by the fact that Filia was slaving away at the kitchen, trying to prepare something especially delicious for her family. Xellos watched her from the corner of his eyes, yawning slightly. It wasn't that Val cried in the middle of the night to be fed, the real problem was that Filia woke up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, wanting to check on Val to make sure he was alright. Every time, the baby dragon would be sleeping soundly and Filia would blissfully return to the warm comfort of Xellos' arms in her room. Then after an hour or so, she would wake up again and wake Xellos with her motions to get out of bed so she could once again check on Val.

The same scene was repeated over and over, until Xellos finally had enough of it and the next time Filia got up, he accompanied her. Without a word, he picked up the comfy basket crib where Val slept and moved it to their room, where Filia could keep an eye on Val without having to get out of bed and wake Xellos in the process. As for Val, he had a great night's sleep and was full of energy, ready to pounce on his parents and jump on them continuously at the crack of dawn in hopes of getting some breakfast. Though he was still quite small, Val's wings had developed and he learned to fly on instinct.

The tiny ancient dragon swooped into the kitchen and landed on Filia's head, curiously stretching his neck down to look at the pleasantly aromatic contents of the pot his mother was steering. "Val, honey, it's not nice to land on people's heads. Plus it's dangerous to lean into a boiling pot of food like that." Filia carefully removed Val from her head and placed him on a high baby chair next to where Xellos sat at the kitchen table.

"Have you ever heard about dragon cuisine?" Xellos inquired with an infuriatingly sweet smile. "Lina and her friends once hunted down a dragon for its meat, but it turned out the cuisine took too long to make so they had to move on with their journey. That's too bad, because they were really looking forward to tasting dragon."

Filia glared in annoyance. She was mostly used to Xellos' taunts, but sometimes he still managed to tick her off. This was one of those times when she didn't know if he was kidding or completely serious, as his tone could never really be used as an indication. "You're lying!"

"Not at all," Xellos mocked with a wide grin and cheerful squinty eyes. "You can ask them yourself, unless you really don't want to know."

Before Filia could come up with a proper retort to Xellos' taunts, Val flew from his baby chair to Xellos, landing on the top of his head and snuggling into his hair. "Xellos, we need to teach Val not to land on people's heads. I don't want him to grow up to be rude and inconsiderate like you."

"That last bit was uncalled for," Xellos feigned hurt. He then proceeded to take another spoonful of cereal, not doing anything about Val who was still happily perched on his head.

"Xellos!" Filia scolded, "you're not being helpful!" She growled impatiently. "Val, sweetie, please get off daddy's head." Val looked at Filia, making a little confused and pleading sound as if asking if he really had to and pointing out the fact that his father didn't seem to mind. "Come on, honey, I already told you it's rude to stand on people's heads." She worried that one of these days Val would fly out the window and land on some bad tempered person's head. "You need to respect people's personal space."

Without any further protests, Val hopped off Xellos' head and landed on the table. "Want some cereal? I put extra sugar in it," Xellos offered, pushing the half eaten bowl towards the baby dragon.

Val curiously looked at the substance, before sticking his head into the bowl and eating some. "Xellos!" As expected, Filia had something to say about that too. "Don't encourage Val to stick his head in dishes, that's terrible table manners! If you're going to feed him cereal, then set a good example and contribute to teaching him how to use a spoon!" As a second thought, she added, "actually, don't feed Val cereal now, I'm about to serve lunch in less than ten minutes and you're making him lose his appetite."

I wouldn't be a very good father if I didn't make sure my child is fed," Xellos gave Filia his usual cheerful expression that seemed to be painted on his face. "You're such a cruel dragon, letting a baby go hungry."

"You're lying!" Filia defended. "I gave Val a good breakfast while you were sleeping in late!"

"Whose fault was it that I had to sleep in late?" Xellos teased.

"It's not my fault that you're a light sleeper," Filia retorted.

"It's not my fault that you're clumsy getting up," Xellos countered. "Every time you would get out of bed you would slap me or kick me."

"Not on purpose!" Filia argued. "I was sleepy and stumbled around a little." She took away the super sugary cereal and offered Val a bread biscuit. "Here, Val, have an appetizer instead." She tossed away the remainder of the cereal, ignoring Xellos' exaggerated hurt expression and picked up a basket full of similar bread biscuits to place it on the main dining table. On her other arm, she balanced a stack of plates, exiting the kitchen.

Val picked at the bread biscuit, but it wasn't as sweet as the extra sugary cereal, so it didn't really interest him s much. Xellos got up from his seat and rummaged through the pantry until he found what he was looking for, a bottle of hot sauce. "Let's help mommy with her cooking." Xellos walked over to the simmering stew with Val curiously joining him, perched on his shoulder. Then the earth shook again to the sound of a few vases falling and breaking in the shop area. The tremor wasn't too long, but it was stronger than the previous ones.

The bottle of hot sauce slipped out of Xellos' grasp and fell into the large pot of stew. Val was taken by surprise and lost his balance, falling off Xellos shoulder, too startled to remember to flap his wings. Fortunately, Xellos caught the baby dragon, before he fell into the boiling pot. Filia rushed back to the kitchen in a panic. Xellos quickly stepped away from the stew and pretended to be innocent. "Is everyone okay?"

"Of course we're okay; it was just an earthquake, no big deal, stupid cowardly dragon." Xellos grinned teasingly.

Filia let out a breath of relief. She had heard some vases breaking, but no pained voices, so she concluded that the shattering objects didn't hurt anyone at the shop. Plus it only sounded like one or two vases, so the property damage was minimal. She noticed that Xellos was holding Val protectively, which further calmed her down. She gently caressed her son's head. "It's okay honey, mommy and daddy will keep you safe." Filia smiled at the baby ancient dragon, before turning a critical look towards Xellos. "Although, there have been far too many earthquakes lately."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 083: Official! Smoothing Out The Technicalities

Xellos shrugged his shoulders and pretended he didn't find the frequent earthquakes at all suspicious. It's not like he had any real information to share anyway. So what if Zelas was plotting something? Zelas was always plotting something, it wasn't really news. If he shared his vague theory he would only cause Filia to worry and uselessly go around in mental circles trying to figure out what was going on.

Then Filia's furious voice pierced through Xellos' thoughts, startling Val and even Gravos and Jillas who were all the way in the shop area, with its loud volume. "Xellos! Why is there a bottle of hot sauce floating in my stew?" Filia looked so angry that one might think she swallowed a whole bottle of hot sauce, or ten.

"I don't know," Xellos tried to look innocent. "Maybe it fell in with the earthquake."

"It was in the pantry," Filia pointed towards it across the kitchen. "It couldn't have fallen all the way from there, to here!" She pointed at the ruined stew.

"At least you still have the roast, if you haven't burned it," Xellos teased.

"Of course I didn't burn it!" Filia growled, not willing to let go of the issue of her ruined stew so easily. She roughly opened a drawer and pulled out a large butcher knife, holding it in a stabbing position. Anyone who entered the scene at that moment might assume that she was about to stab Xellos to death, since the look in her eyes was certainly murderous enough. Filia opened the oven and pulled out the tray with the roast, carefully cutting it with the knife, it's delicious scent invading the atmosphere. "See? It's perfectly fine."

Filia set the roast down to cool on the kitchen table and, thankfully, put away the butcher knife. Instead she pulled out a tray of silverware from another kitchen drawer and handed it to Xellos. "Help me finish setting the table and if you get into mischief I'll..." Filia made a stabbing motion in the air, then pointed at the roast. "I'll make sure you don't have any of my roast!" She finished the threat that sounded far more murderous a few seconds ago.

"Are you sugar coating your threats because Val is listening?" Xellos mockingly inquired.

Filia looked like she was a time bomb about to blow. "Just go finish setting the table." She growled and started to mentally count to ten, until she finally realized there was no way she could hold in the urge and called after Xellos as he exited the kitchen, "raw garbage!"

xoxox xox xoxox

After having had a week of rest, the group was once again reunited at Celo's wooden clock tower. Jillas and Gravos had stayed at Filia's shop, while Filia and Xellos journeyed back to Amor Resort with little Val, whom Filia wasn't ready to put down for more than a little while just yet, he was simply far too cute to let go of.

Lina called for a conference, which was attended by Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos, Filia, Phythan, Fang, Onyx, Celo and Tiffany. Val was there too, but he was a baby and thus didn't understand what was going on any more than Gourry did. In the end, the results of their conference consisted of stating things they already knew and tossing around crazy theories of conspiracy. To summarize, their so called conclusions were quite inconclusive. Thus Lina suggested that taking a walk and getting some fresh air might help them clear their heads and get some ideas, maybe notice something that had escaped them before.

Celo and Tiffany were as usual, busy with Amor Resort's business and Fang was content enough taking some time off to lay around napping on a plush carpet in front of a fireplace. The atmosphere was turning colder by the day, predicting the coming of a very early winter. Onyx drowned her uncertainties in comic books, with Phythan joining her, in a heavily contrasting cheerful mood as he worked on more drawings for the comic version of her novel. He was very thankful that he had not been auctioned again yet.

Thus Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos and Val found themselves making their way through the busy streets of Amor Resort in a similar way that they had in the past, although in truth they've all made a fair amount of progress since then. Among cheerful chatter and adoring remarks about how cute Val was, the group's attention was suddenly captured by two familiar voices calling out to them. Much to their collective surprise, Sylphiel and Pokota approached.

Lina stopped cold, her face drained of all color as she waited for Sylphiel to refer to Gourry as 'dear Gourry'. Then that big mouth jellyfish brain would blurt out the news of his happy engagement. Then Lina would surely secretly swell with pride while her face recovered its color and beyond as it would become bright red. Yet none of that was the real problem. The problem was that a part of Lina would feel bad for Sylphiel, who had met Gourry before she did, and had a crush on him since long before Lina met him. Given that this was Lina Inverse, she was not used to feeling guilt and the unfamiliar sensation would surely bug her to insanity. "Sylphiel... I... um... hi..."

"Hi," Sylphiel replied with a hint of sadness on her face, while Pokota was yet to say a word, as if he sensed the heavy tension in the atmosphere. After a long choking silence, Sylphiel finally added, "congratulations on your marriage, Mr. Gourry, Miss Lina..."

"Marriage?" Lina echoed, taking note of the lack of dear attached to Gourry's name. Sylphiel probably thought that it would be improper to call him that if he was married to another woman, though he was actually engaged, albeit legally married.

"We're not married," Gourry pointed out casually, "we're engaged," he corrected. "When we do get married, you'll go to the wedding, right?"

Lina considered kicking Gourry, but she abstained from doing so, seeing that Sylphiel's expression actually improved. "I'm glad to hear you want me to attend your wedding." She smiled, accepting that Gourry was with Lina and addressed both of them as she added, "we are good friends after all, right?"

"Of course we are," Gourry grinned cheerfully, still blissfully unaware of the tension that had began to dissipate from the atmosphere around them.

From that point on, the encounter improved, though Lina's curiosity still got the best of her as she inquired. "Where did you hear that we got married?"

"From Amor Resort's monthly catalogue," Sylphiel revealed. "It lists a lot of offers for reservations and mail order purchases. It also has a section announcing all the marriages that take place here. I guess the people in charge of compiling it must have mixed up the engagement with a marriage."

Seeing that most of the tension was gone, Amelia finally found her voice. "It's a nice surprise running into you both. We're here... sort of on vacation, I guess, what about you two?"

"I'm here because one of my distant cousins recently got married and I was attending the wedding," Pokota explained.

"I was the one who conducted the wedding, I just recently moved over here to work on weddings," Sylphiel revealed. "I ran into Pokota and his family at the wedding reception and we talked about our adventures with everyone. There was a rumor that the Lina Inverse was somewhere in this resort, so we decided to meet the next day and look around."

"Well, you found me alright," Lina laughed, not sure if her reputation preceding her was a good thing or not, it usually wasn't.

"I see that you have a new traveling companion with you." Sylphiel referred to Filia, who neither she nor Pokota had met before.

Though the talking stuffed animal was a little odd looking, he was still cute and the young woman appeared to be polite and good natured. Introductions were exchanged for Filia and Val, with Val immediately becoming quite fond of Pokota and flying over to play with him. "Children really like their uncle Pokota, I guess it's because I'm such a great and reliable example to follow," the fuzzy green creature happily declared.

"Or maybe it's because you look like a toy." Xellos pointed out with a mocking smile, causing Pokota to grumble something inaudible in response.

Sylphiel giggled in amusement, "ever since I came to Amor Resort, there hasn't been a dull moment. It's been fun spending my free time enjoying the amusement park attractions and working on weddings the rest of the time. No matter how many times I declare couples husband and wife, I always get butterflies in my stomach when I see them share their first kiss as a married couple, symbolizing their love and willingness to spend their life together!"

There was a detail about Sylphiel's words that caused something to click in the back of Xellos' mind. He tuned out the rest of the group's conversation and focused on what she said, replaying the statement word per word in his mind. A kiss of love and willingness? That sounded exactly like what was described as the cure to his curse. The willing kiss of a golden dragon, maybe it was the traditional wedding kiss. Xellos stopped walking, the group moving a few steps ahead of him, absorbed in their conversation, until he spoke, "Filia..."

Filia stopped walking and looked back at Xellos, who was standing there looking determined. She tilted her head in puzzlement, wondering what in the world he could possibly be plotting. "Yes?"

"Marry me." The request was simple and to the point as Xellos thought there was no reason to go around in circles about it.

Almost certain that she had heard wrong, Filia blinked, giving Xellos a confused look and called for a repetition. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me, stupid dragon, let's get married," Xellos reinstated his request.

By then the rest of the group had noticed the odd couple lagging behind and stopped to witness the exchange. Filia placed her hands on her hips suspiciously as her face gained a critical expression. "What are you plotting, raw garbage?"

"A wedding, obviously," Xellos pointed out as a matter of fact with a wide grin and cheerful squinty eyes.

"Don't toy with me," Filia warned, but Xellos' expression didn't change. "Are you serious?" Filia could imagine herself living with Xellos, with him occasionally disappearing to do Beast Master's bidding and coming back to cause mischief and drive her insane. Yet they would somehow call that their life together and difficulties aside, she would somehow find that she was happy. Yet no where in the series of events leading to the rest of her life did she ever imagine an actual wedding taking place. Perhaps the neighbors would think of them as husband and wife and maybe they would be similar enough, but the actual event taking place? Filia assumed that Xellos wouldn't bother. With a piercing glare, Filia demanded the truth. "Why do you want to marry me?"

"Don't you want to?" Xellos innocently asked.

"Quit playing innocent and confess!" Filia angrily demanded. "There has to be some reason why you would ask all of a sudden! Tell the truth, why do you want to marry me?" Her eyes shone with emotion as she waited expectantly to hear something sarcastic. Although if he said something cheesy like 'because I love you' she would probably leap into his arms and say yes... Even if five minutes later she would be threatening him with her mace and once again demanding to know what he was plotting.

"My cure," Xellos finally confessed the truth, while Lina, Zelgadis and Amelia watched on in suspense. Sylphiel, Pokota, Gourry and Val watched on in confusion. It was understandable for Sylphiel and Pokota as they were not fully aware of the particular details of Xellos' situation. It was also comprehensible for Val, since he was a baby and was only beginning to learn about the world around him. As for Gourry, he was just stupid, but everyone had learned not to hold that against him.

Filia closed her eyes, clenched her fists and shook in anger. "Amelia, please keep an eye on Val for me."

"Sure..." Amelia whispered, as if she didn't even dare to raise her voice.

Metaphorical flames appeared all around Filia as the whole group sensed the heat of her raging fury. "Idiot!" Filia roared into Xellos' face and took off in an all out run, which didn't stop until she disappeared in the distance.

Idiot? As in not the almost endearing raw garbage? Yeah, Filia was mad alright. With his painted on cheerful grin still plastered on his face and his eyes still closed, Xellos sarcastically spoke with too much cheer to fit the situation. "That didn't turn out very well, did it?" The group as a whole shook their heads in an obvious response. "I'm off to find the stupid dragon before she does something... well, stupid, or more stupid than usual." This was Xellos' cue to fade into the astral side, except he was still a human so he couldn't. Thus instead, he ran off in Filia's general direction. At least he got the hang of better controlling his expression over time, but the delicate art of deciphering Filia still eluded him.

xoxox xox xoxox

A couple of hours later after a short detour, the result of which Xellos thought Filia better appreciate, he spotted the golden dragon sitting on a bench, watching as the random couples walked by. He took a seat next to her. They were a short way away from the fountain with the cupid in the middle. The area was surrounded by rose bushes that produced flowers in a bright shade of hot pink complimented with minty green leaves that one could only conclude were fake.

They had sat in that very spot before, a fact that Filia clearly remembered. "Remember when you were sitting here in those silly clothes and I came to find you so you wouldn't blackmail me? It was right after that embarrassing incident with the berries. You were still a monster at the time and I still had no idea about your curse. Back then, the thought of kissing you of my own free will seemed pretty unlikely, so as to not say impossible." Filia moved closer to Xellos and rested her head on his shoulder.

Xellos placed his arm around Filia, drawing her closer and leaning his head towards hers. "You've come a long way, stupid dragon."

"We've come a long way, raw garbage," Filia corrected. She let out a cold breath that was far too chilly for autumn and addressed the issue at hand. "We've had this conversation before, about how your cure doesn't work unless it's willing and not just you selfishly trying to get cured."

"I know, but-" Filia held up her index finger to silence Xellos.

"Even if we didn't have an actual wedding, we were basically living together, raising Val." Filia sounded much less upset than Xellos expected. In fact, she sounded calm and content. "I was happy and I think you enjoyed it too, didn't you? That's all that really matters," she concluded. "So I'm not angry that the idea of a wedding only occurred to you because of the cure, after all, cure aside, we're already a couple anyway regardless of the technicalities. Plus I appreciate that you told me the truth."

"It's not like you ever expressed that you wanted to get married," Xellos pointed out.

"I didn't think you wanted to and I didn't want to insist on it and drag you into it only so you could humor me," Filia retorted. "Getting married is something people should do because they want to, not because they have to. But like I said, I've been thinking it's not the party that matters, it's the aftermath of it and we already have that."

"Then you don't want to get officially married?" Xellos inquired, a bit confused by Filia's apparent choice.

Filia gave Xellos a look as if he was asking a very stupid question. "Of course I'll marry you."

Looking quite puzzled, Xellos had to inquire. "If you're satisfied with the way things are and want to marry me, then what was that hissy fit all about, stupid dragon?"

"I just told you, raw garbage!" Filia half growled.

She took a short walk down memory lane, stated a few obvious facts and hinted that she was refusing his proposal. None of that amounted to an explanation in Xellos' opinion, but Filia was an eternal enigma and he had come to terms with that much. Maybe he even got to enjoy how she was such a roller coaster of wild emotions that he secretly missed being able to taste. "Okay..."

Filia huffed, labeling the explanation as a lost cause and snuggled comfortably against Xellos, closing her eyes in much needed relaxation. She had almost dozed off when she felt something kind of cold around her left hand ring finger. She opened her eyes to find a golden ring with a big amethyst in the middle and two smaller diamonds on each side. Filia thought she was well past the blushing stage, but apparently she wasn't. Yet this wasn't an all out burning of the face, but a cute rosy tone on her cheeks that matched her loving eyes and sweet smile perfectly. "I'm tempted to make you ask me properly."

Xellos grinned, with real cheer and amusement reflected on his face. "Not happening," he happily informed. "Here's something else instead." He kissed her and she concluded that proper proposals were over-rated anyway, this was much better.

The kissing lasted for a while, but none of the passer-bys paid them any mind, since kissing couples were not rare around the resort. After some time passed, they decided it was time to rejoin the group. Contemplating the coming wedding, Filia mused, "I wonder if all the marriages performed in this resort are done in the name of the Official International Tourism Guild, like Lina and Gourry's marriage... or engagement."

"Do you know who controls the guild?" Xellos had a certain cheer to his voice that he always enjoyed when he was about to annoy someone.

Filia considered not asking, but she knew Xellos would tell her anyway and she was kind of curious. "Who?"

Grinning in absolute amusement, Xellos informed, "the Metallium family."

"In other words, Beast Master," Filia frowned. "I don't want to get married in the name of Beast Master, even if it is indirectly. I'm sure Sylphiel will be able to perform the ceremony in the name of Ceifeed if I ask her to."

"I don't think Lord Beast Master will be very happy about that," Xellos presented a valid argument. "I'm already pushing my luck by getting married. Getting married in the name of the enemy would be too much. Besides, I don't want a wedding that's in any way related to Ceifeed."

"But most monsters aren't exactly big on love, why would anyone get married in the name of Beast Master?" Filia stubbornly argued.

"That's what makes it not so bad," Xellos reasoned.

"Have you never heard that the wedding is to please the bride?" Filia growled.

"Have you ever heard of a wedding without a groom?" Xellos merrily countered.

"Fine," Filia sounded as if she was going to give up her argument, but Xellos knew better than to expect that and he was right. "How about Seyruun?"

"Seyruun?" Xellos questioned.

"Yes," Filia nodded, elaborating on her idea. "A civil marriage made official by the kingdom of Seyruun. Sylphiel can perform the ceremony and Amelia can validate it."

Xellos considered the prospect, "maybe... But don't blame me if Zelas gets angry. Let's not forget that this entire resort is all one big training and research center in her service. She'll know when the wedding is and she might even decide to honor us with her presence." That gave Filia a whole new set of possible difficulties to think of.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 084: Poison! Prepare For Trouble

The preparations for Xellos and Filia's wedding were quickly started. Amor Resort had plenty of shops to purchase all the needed items, so finding things was not difficult. Sylphiel had agreed to officiate the marriage ceremony and Amelia would approve it in the name of Seyruun. As part of the preparations, Filia and the girls were getting dresses with Amelia, Lina and Tiffany playing the role of bridesmaids, soon to be joined by Elena when she, Jillas and Gravos arrived.

"Filia," a particularly annoying tone adorned the sing-song voice of the mysterious woman who appeared, literally, out of nowhere, or rather, out of the astral side if you want to get technical.

"Zelas..." Filia was taken by surprise, dropping her arms which she had previously held outstretched for Sylphiel to measure her. She wasn't expecting Zelas to cause trouble until the actual wedding.

"What do you think of this dress?" Zelas spun around to show off her elegant dress. It was strapless with small diamonds all around and a low cut that was open on the back leaving most of it bare. The skirt had multiple layers of shiny fabric adorned with more diamonds that matched the rest of her expensive jewelry. Her hair was done up neatly with a few strands elegantly framing her face. Zelas grinned her most annoyingly mocking grin. "Pretty, isn't it?"

The dress was indeed pretty, it was beautiful, it was gorgeous and it was white. Filia knew she should have seen this coming; of course Zelas wouldn't miss the opportunity to show up at her wedding wearing an extravagant white dress. "Very nice," the angry golden dragon finally spoke, careful to keep her voice even, or at least as even as her burning rage permitted. Then she turned to Sylphiel and casually declared, with more sharpness to her tone than any casual statement should merit. "Make my wedding dress pink."

A deadly silence invaded the atmosphere. Sylphiel dared not to protest, it was obvious that this lady was a monster, given her peculiar entrance, and she seemed to be a powerful one. That aside, people didn't always follow the white dress tradition and Filia could get married in pink if she so wished it. Then Lina, who was feeling particularly brave, decided to speak up. "Weren't the bridesmaids supposed to wear pink?"

Filia frowned and Lina quieted. "You can wear pink; I'll wear... lavender..."

"Dark purple," Zelas dictated, causing Filia to twitch at being told what to wear in her own wedding. "Xellos would like that, but of course; I can't expect such an uncaring bride to even remotely consider what her unfortunate groom would prefer." Zelas made a dramatic motion with her hand over her forehead as if pretending to faint.

Filia debated if she should reply or not. Zelas would no doubt be very difficult to argue with, being both cunning and annoying. Worse yet, if Filia did manage to get her point across, that might mean death. On the other hand, Filia wasn't sure what her point was anyway. "Dark purple it is!" Filia knew that there was no way she could beat Zelas in the art of being annoying. She was pretty sure no one could do that, not even Xellos. Perhaps her best survival strategy and hopefully the key to having a somewhat decent wedding was to play nice. "Lord Beast Master, would you pretty please, do me the great honor of designing my wedding dress?" Filia batted her eyelashes, her voice coated in a thick layer of sugar, while her aura screamed bloody murder.

Amelia leaned over to Lina and quietly whispered, "she lost it."

Then the next thing Amelia knew, Zelas had disappeared from in front of Filia only to reappear next to Amelia and whisper to her, "she never had it." Which caused Amelia and Lina to jump back and stumble like dominoes, knocking down Sylphiel in their path.

Zelas' silver eyes focused on Filia, the golden dragon noting the change of color which was all done probably just to better match the many diamonds and the ivory white of the dress, which any honest person had to admit looked good paired with Zelas' radiant tan. "Good to see you're learning your place."

Filia visibly shook with anger. Through clenched teeth she pushed out her reply. "I'm only all too happy to be a part of your lovely family." She wouldn't let Zelas drive her over the edge. That would mean that she lost and Filia simply couldn't give Beast Master this victory.

xoxox xox xoxox

After the measurements were taken, Zelas disappeared with the notes, claiming that she was off to create a masterpiece. Filia didn't even want to imagine the dress she would have to wear. While Amelia tried to console Filia with one of her positive thinking justice speeches, Lina and Sylphiel moved to the balcony of the atelier which resided on the second floor of a boutique. "Um... Sylphiel... about Gourry..." Lina brought up the difficult subject that she simply had to get off her chest. Sylphiel was an important friend to Gourry and she was Lina's friend too, she even saved her life in the past.

Sylphiel leaned on the balcony, closing her eyes in thought for a moment, before looking out in the distance at the busy crowds making their way through the resort. "It's okay; you don't need to sound so apologetic. I took a lot of time to speak up and maybe it's because I knew the two of you belonged together. My dear Gourry is happy," this time Sylphiel attached her usual way to refer to him in front of the name, because he was still someone dear to her as a friend. "That's all that really matters, one day, I'll find someone too. I'll be patient until then."

Sylphiel smiled so sincerely that Lina's worries evaporated. "I'm sure you will," the redhead smiled back.

xoxox xox xoxox

While the last few preparations for the wedding were still taking place, Lina suggested that they should rehearse to make sure everything went just right. At first Filia was surprised at how eager to help and thoughtful Lina was being, though she soon realized she should have seen it coming when the actual rehearsal took place that evening. It was held in the same location of the ball where Lina and Gourry got married, which turned into getting engaged. The dome was as elegant as ever, with its white marble walls round about, impressive glass ceiling and gorgeous levitating chandeliers.

Yet the locale seemed empty with its few occupants when it was built to house a large crowd. Lina certainly wasn't complaining, that meant more food for her. Which brought Filia back to her main argument, that she proceeded to state while cradling little Val in her arms. "Why do we need to have a banquet rehearsal, I thought this was supposed to be a wedding rehearsal!"

"Why would we need a wedding rehearsal? Don't you know how weddings go, stupid dragon?" Xellos teased. "I'm a monster," or he was originally and would hopefully become one again, "and even I know how weddings go."

"I know how weddings go, raw garbage!" Filia countered. "And I also know that no matter how we rehearse, it in the end it will only go any way Zelas wants it to go." She sighed, defeating her own point. Searching for something in the surrounding area that would distract her enough to calm down, Filia spotted Phythan following Onyx around like a lost puppy. The comparison was made more vivid by the fact that his tail was out for whatever reason, wagging slightly now and then.

Noticing what Filia was looking at, Xellos teased, "I bet she hits him in three... two... one..." Onyx turned around, glared at Phythan who tried to smile to soothe her anger. She walked around him and stomped hard on his tail. He yelped in pain, while she walked away. Xellos grinned proudly, even without his ability to sense emotions he could still guess what people were about to do at times. It probably came from his expertise in temper tantrums, which he obtained thanks to Filia. "Did you see that? I'm a genius."

"Anyone somewhat observant would have guessed that," Filia argued. "I knew she would hit him too. Onyx had that look in her eyes that's like..."

"Like when you're about to try to hit me with your mace?" Xellos offered, his expression still amused.

"Exactly," Filia agreed. "But she hasn't auctioned him again yet," Filia pointed out, glaring at Xellos suspiciously, while he tried to play innocent. "Don't give me that look as if you don't know what I'm talking about, I know you didn't let the payment go through. I guess it's okay as long as Onyx doesn't try to auction Phythan again. Maybe she likes him; she did kick him pretty hard." Filia mused aloud, not realizing that her theory was not exactly the most logical.

Xellos raised an eyebrow, one eye open and one closed, "I knew it, you're a sadist."

"No I'm not," Filia pouted, then went over her words again. "I meant it in a completely innocent way. It's like how a child would poke another child because of a secret crush. It's kind of like how you would always get on my nerves."

"A monster isn't exactly an innocent child," Xellos pointed out. "And neither is a grown human, but dragons are... pathetically innocent."

Filia huffed, "stop twisting things around! Anyway, I don't think Onyx is so bad. She's picky with who she graces with a few words, but her ego isn't as big as yours. I know because Zelgadis and I eavesdropped on your conversation with her. I thought you might be plotting something that I would somehow have to stop. Zelgadis muttered something about Onyx not accepting herself, but I didn't quite catch all of it. It didn't look like something he wanted to elaborate on at the moment, so I didn't ask."

Xellos pretended to be hurt, "don't you trust me at all?"

"When it comes to causing mischief, I only trust you to cause a lot of it," Filia retorted. She watched Onyx sneak away from the banquet uncomfortably, she had been in a bad mood since the whole event started. From a certain perspective it could be considered as an improvement from her usual monotone, but from the perspective of Phythan's aching tail as he followed her unsure of why she was angry at him, it was not an improvement. "Which is why I'm not leaving you here unsupervised to get into trouble while I go do something about those two."

"Matchmaking?" Xellos laughed mockingly. "We both know how your past attempts turned out."

"They were perfectly successful!" Filia emphasized. "All the couples that I tried to match-make for ended up together!"

"Not as a direct result of your actions," Xellos reminded.

Filia glared, maintaining her position, "I'm sure I contributed." She strolled over to Tiffany, who was making her way around the dome playing hostess. "Tiffany, can you keep an eye on Val for a little while? Xellos and I need to take care of something real quick."

Tiffany grinned mischievously, "I completely understand. Come here little Val, let's give mommy and daddy some time to do mommy and daddy things."

"Be good to aunty Tifa," Filia kissed Val's forehead and went on her way with Xellos.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia didn't quite catch the meaning of Tiffany's words until she and Xellos were already out of the dome heading towards the forest of plastic trees that surrounded the wooden clock tower. She stopped, suddenly realizing, "I think Tiffany got the wrong idea about why we left."

Grinning in vast amusement, Xellos winked, "we could always make it right."

Filia blushed, "focus, raw garbage, we're here to make sure Phythan doesn't get auction away and to make sure Onyx has a trustworthy companion nearby for whenever whatever was sealed in her by the Lord of Nightmares finally manifests itself. Most of all, were here to make Onyx and Phythan realize they like each other!"

"You sounded like Amelia giving a justice speech, only worse, because your speech is about matchmaking," Xellos mocked.

"Don't worry, it'll work, I'm feeling optimistic. Look, there they are!" Filia pointed to a clearing ahead, where Onyx had stopped walking and Phythan had caught up with her. Filia ducked behind a line of plastic bushes, signaling for Xellos to quietly join her.

"I have an odd feeling..." Xellos whispered. He had never felt so in danger without his ability to sense the life forms around him. It was almost as if some kind of obscure survival instinct was setting him on edge.

"I'm feeling pretty relaxed," Filia yawned. "In fact, I've been feeling extra relaxed and kind of sleepy since we entered this fake plastic forest. There's something calming in the air here that I didn't quite notice before."

"Maybe it's that strange perfume lingering in the air?" Xellos suggested, "it's unusual, I don't like it." He glanced at where Onyx was yelling at Phythan not to follow her, while he grinned stupidly. "Phythan seems to agree about this place being relaxing, he's got such a stupid smile on his face." Xellos paused, taking note of Filia's expression, "It's just like the stupid smile on your face. I really don't like this, something is wrong, someone is here!"

Filia giggled, "oh, relax, Xellos, there's no one here but us." She didn't seem to care if Onyx and Phythan discovered them. Then a strange fog like a Dark Mist spell began to invade the atmosphere, but instead of getting alarmed, Filia giggled some more and cuddled Xellos. "Isn't that mist pretty? It's kind of romantic."

"Either that strange smell is toxic to dragons, or you've gone insane," Xellos had a strong feeling that it was the first possibility. Then he remembered the impending danger that everyone knew was to come but had been procrastinating to do anything about, since no real clues were available anyway. "The Dragon Slayers," Xellos blew away the strange mist with a Diem Wind spell. He hurried out of the false bushes to join Onyx and Phythan.

Xellos led Filia away by the hand, while she only giggled in response. "Aw, Xellos, are we going for a nice stroll? That's so sweet."

"C'mon stupid dragon! Don't let that lonely single brain cell of yours die!" Xellos tried to make Filia snap out of it to no avail.

"I love you too, raw garbage," Filia chirped happily.

The whole while, Phythan kept poking Onyx annoyingly asking, "Miss Onyx, Miss Onyx, will you be my best friend forever?" No amount of insults or getting his hand slapped away seemed to be able to stop him.

"I know you're there! Come out before I Dragon Slave you out!" Xellos threatened.

About eight people in black ninja-like clothing came out of hiding from several locations behind the plastic vegetation. They surrounded Xellos, Onyx and the two golden dragons. A tall one who appeared to be the leader, spoke from behind the black clothe covering his face. "Powerless monster, you should die along with the dragons you allied yourself with, I've always known the dragons are just as bad as the monsters and the fact they stand together proves it! We, the Dragon Slayers will rid the world of such creatures in the name of our great leader the Green Alchemist, the Mother of all Things!"

"I stand for justice!" Phythan nonsensically yelled.

"Me too," Filia joined in with a giggle.

'They're insane if they think some alchemist is the Mother of all Things... Or maybe just stupid enough to be tricked,' Xellos mused. "What did you do to them?" He growled angrily. "It better not be permanent."

"It's not, but what does it matter? You're all about to die anyway." The leader confidently declared. "Dragon Slayers, attack!"

The eight slayers threw chain kunai simultaneously at their primary target: Phythan. 'As I thought, they want to force Phythan to transform to defend himself and slay him for his horn,' Xellos concluded. After all, even in their unguarded stupefied state, they would still fight back if they felt enough pain, though it would most likely be with brainless raw power, which could be handled with the proper strategy. "Diem Claw!"

The chain kunai were pushed upward by a vertical gust of wind, rather than back towards their owners, who would have probably just caught them and thrown them again. In the few seconds of time it took the Dragon Slayers to pull back their weapons by the chains, Xellos took the opportunity to fire a rapid succession of Flare Arrows that caused the Dragon Slayers to jump away to dodge, taking their weapons off the intended target course with them.

"Onyx, don't just stand there slapping Phythan silly. You have Beast Master's amulet that's infused with her power, use it!" Xellos ordered.

"Yes, brother," Onyx released Phythan. Both sides of his face where bright red from the angry slaps he received because he wouldn't stop poking Onyx.

Xellos looked towards Filia, but realized that she was not where she had been a mere split second ago. Instead she was recklessly charging against the enemy, stumbling around in a drunken stupor. "Filia!"

Filia was exceptionally easy to capture and be held hostage, which was certainly not the way Xellos envisioned this battle to progress. "Get yer hands off me!" Filia slurred. "Only me fiance can like hold me like close. He's a jealous one, he's gonna rip yer head off... hee hee hee."

"I would rip his head off," in a much more literate fashion, "if you haven't gotten yourself captured, stupid dragon!" Xellos growled in frustration.

"Order the male dragon to transform," the Dragon slayer leader commanded, holding a sharp dagger dangerously close to Filia's neck. It was always 'the dragon' for the Slayers, they never used proper names when it came to the creatures they hunted. The dagger was coated in some green syrupy stuff. It was probably some kind of poison particularly effective against dragons.

"Onyx, tell that idiot to transform," Xellos relayed the order.

"Yes, brother," Onyx roughly pulled Phythan's ear so he would lean closer to her and whispered something to him.

Phythan nodded eagerly, stumbled in place trying to regain his balance and did a silly little salute. The whole time he was laughing stupidly as if he had heard the funniest joke in the world. Then he transformed, the horn on his forehead appearing to its full length. It was so large that it made his head feel out of balance, as if he didn't have enough of that as a result of the gases he was exposed to which affected dragons. "Now we play!" He picked up Onyx and literally threw her away into the distance, hopping around and clapping afterwards.

"Just when I thought he couldn't get more stupid!" Xellos grumbled angrily.

"Sir?" One of the Dragon Slayers inquired to the leader. "Should we pursue her?"

"Forget the girl, she is of no use to us," the Dragon Slayer leader still kept a firm hold on the squirming drunken Filia. "Monster, keep that beast under control while we cut off its horn and your little pet might live."

Xellos glared murderously, they would pay for this, he would make certain of it. But he couldn't take action while they were holding Filia hostage like that. For the time being, he would have to cooperate.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 085: Antidote! A Classic Fairytale Legend

To say Xellos was very enraged would be an understatement. No one bossed him around... except maybe Beast Master, but that was a whole different story.

"That's it, dragon, eat it all up," one of the Dragon Slayers was giving Phythan some strange gummy things that Xellos knew were not regular candy.

Phythan wasn't in any conditions to tell the difference though. "Hee hee, yummy candy!" Before he knew it, he was sound asleep.

"Knock that horn clean off with Flare Arrows!" The Dragon Slayer leader commanded, still holding Filia hostage.

"Hey Xellos," Filia was starting to get impatient with the situation. "How come yer not rescuing me like like like a damsel from those romance novels?"

"Maybe because the villains in those novels are polite enough to tie the damsel over a boiling pit of lava instead of inconveniently holding her hostage with a poisonous dagger to her neck?" Dire situation or not, Xellos was still Xellos and he had plenty of sarcasm to show for it. "It's rather uncomfortable for the protagonist to do battle in these conditions; it won't do for the co-star to get beheaded."

Just as the Dragon Slayers were about to shoot their concentrated Flare Arrows at the sleeping Phythan, the earth shook violently, causing the near by wooden clock tower to become lopsided and many of the resort's buildings to get cracks crawling up their walls. The crowds ran around like little ants after someone poured water on their ant-hill all over the resort. Most importantly, the Dragon Slayer leader was taken by surprise enough for Filia to slip away. Unfortunately, the Dragon Slayer leader swung his dagger at her as she ran, the blade making a small but dangerously poisonous slash on her exposed tail. Further action from the enemy leader was prevented by Xellos' Freeze Arrow being shot directly at him, which encased him in a block of ice.

"He hurt me!" Filia complained loudly, with a waterfall of exaggerated tears that dried up just as quickly as they came. "I'll get my revenge!" She took in a big breath and shot out a powerful laser from her mouth right at the frozen leader. Another of the Dragon Slayers jumped in front of him, holding an enchanted glass bottle as a shield. The laser entered the bottle and spun around inside it like a miniature thunderstorm without an end.

"No worries, I'll get revenge for you," Xellos offered, his expression becoming even more dangerously enraged.

Before Xellos could cast any spells, a familiar voice was heard near by, "Zelas Brid!" A line of light invaded the battle zone, striking the surprised Dragon Slayers, who had been focused on defending against Xellos. Onyx revealed herself beyond the plastic vegetation, keeping up the spell until her amulet shattered.

"That was an ambitious spell," Xellos commented. "But an incomplete one at best, you can't expect to cast a spell like that with just an amulet. You'd need to have some power of your own too."

"My apologies for taking so long, brother," Onyx excused herself. "I was thrown further away than intended. Fortunately, the amulet allowed me to levitate to safety, but it's broken now. I no longer have any power..."

Xellos smiled mockingly, "don't be too disappointed, you never had any power to begin with." He glanced at the Dragon Slayers that were injured on the ground but still alive. "Like I said, that spell wasn't as powerful as it should have been. If not because the amulet was made by Beast Master herself, it wouldn't have worked at all. It looks like I'll have to finish them off."

Again Xellos was interrupted by the arrival of a new person. "Filia, Phythan! Take a deep breath now!" Kally arrived on the scene and threw what appeared to be some kind of smoke bomb that released a golden mist.

When the mist cleared out, both Filia and Phythan were awake and sober. "What just happened? Was I acting like a stupid damsel in distress or was it a dream?" Filia looked at the cut on her tail. "Oh no, it was real, wasn't it?"

"Every bit of it," Xellos mocked. "You're a very troublesome stupid dragon."

"I have a headache!" Phythan complained. He transformed back into an elf so that his large horn would disappear. As usual, he didn't really bother finding a private place for the transformation, never mind that there were plenty of nearby plastic bushes to hide behind.

"Kally, you traitor!" The injured leader of the Dragon Slayers accused.

"Father..." Kally recognized him, surprising all those present. "The ways of our people are wrong, we must not hunt the dragons, they're not our enemies!"

"I will not hear another word from a traitor!" The stubborn leader growled.

Kally turned her back on him. "Filia, Phythan, please allow me to conduct a medical examination on you both to make sure everything is alright. If you were poisoned, I'll make an antidote. I'll be waiting at the clock tower, or what's left of it. As for him," she looked at the man she would never again call father with angry bitterness. "Do as you please with these evildoers." Kally stormed off, disappearing between the fake vegetation in the direction of the lopsided wooden clock tower.

"Now without further ado, you'll finally get what you deserve!" Xellos cheerfully announced. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..."

"Stop!" Filia intervened.

"How many times is someone going to stopped me from disintegrating these idiots?" Xellos glared in annoyance. "What is it? Do you think the Dragon Slave is too messy? How about some Fireballs instead?"

Filia shook her head, "that's not it." She glared at the Dragon Slayers with absolute anger. "I don't want any of you to go after another dragon ever again."

"I was about to make certain of that," Xellos pointed out with a cheerful grin. Their destruction had been delayed for far too long and he was impatient to get it over with.

"Don't," Filia insisted.

"Are you going to lecture them first?" Xellos rolled his eyes.

"No, I'm going to let them go," Filia surprisingly revealed, receiving a puzzled and disapproving look from Xellos. "Dragons are not evil, cruel or merciless; I want to show that with facts. Please Xellos, spare them, do it for me." He seemed unconvinced so she added, "I'll put up a fight if I have to, either you do what I say or you go through me."

"Stupid stubborn dragon!" Xellos growled in absolute frustration. "Next time they attack-"

"I'm not going to protect them anymore," Filia interrupted. She glanced at the Dragon Slayers, "one chance is all you get, just so you know dragons are not evil. Now go, leave this island!"

Without another word, the Dragon Slayers healed themselves as best they could, picked up their frozen leader and went on the retreat. They didn't obtain the horn, but those golden scales stuck to the dagger used to attack Filia and her laser which was still in the enchanted bottle might be useful for something...

xoxox xox xoxox

After the battle had ended, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Phythan, Onyx, Celo, Tiffany and Kally gathered at the wooden clock tower. Fang, Martina, Zangulus and Sylphiel were left to clean up after the banquet rehearsal while Pokota entertained Val.

"It sounded like you were affected by a special alchemical mix that clouds a dragon's senses. With this vaccine you'll be immune to it from now on, so you won't have to worry about being sent into an almost instant drunken state anymore." Kally explained, presenting the results of her alchemic medicine. "It's magic and medicine mixed together. The proper herbs are needed along with an incantation." That was one problem out of the way, but there were more.

"As for the poison..." Kally continued. "Phythan was made to consume it in the shape of candy and it entered Filia's blood stream through the wound on her tail." The injury was healed, but it was too late to stop the poison, now only the antidote could help, which brought Kally to her most bitter revelation. "This poison is extremely dangerous; it can kill a dragon in a day. However, after you've been cured of it once, your body will become immune. Most of the substances the Dragon Slayers use are like that, super effective, but only once. Dragons have a very strong immunity system after all."

"Kally," Amelia spoke up, looking for an answer that she knew she wouldn't like, but needed to hear anyway. "If everything will be okay, why do you look so sad?"

Kally let out a frustrated breath, "I'm sorry, I was only able to make enough antidote for one. I don't have the proper ingredients for more and they're not in season. It would be virtually impossible to find the needed rare herbs to make more antidote on time before the poison's fatal effects come to pass."

A tense silence passed, until it was broken by Phythan. "It's okay, Miss Kally, at least you tried to help. I have nothing to look forward to in this world but the pain of constant migraines, frequent obsessed stalkers and occasional rejections. It's a pity I didn't get to accomplish my dream of finishing and publishing my own comic, but alas, my time has come to an end."

"Well, you heard him," Xellos picked up the little vial with the antidote. "Drink up, stupid dragon."

"No," Filia adamantly refused. "I can't drink the only available antidote knowing that someone else will die if I do!"

"It's okay, Miss Filia, you don't have to feel guilty," Phythan insisted. "You have a loving fiance with whom to share a happy life with, so you should be the one to survive. Besides, Mr. Xellos might get all depressed if you're gone and throw away all the progress he has made in leaving behind his evil ways to walk down the path of justice."

"I don't walk down the path of justice!" Xellos defended, sounding offended.

"All the more reason why Miss Filia needs to stay and help you reform!" Phythan argued.

"I have no intentions of reforming, but you're welcome to uselessly try, Filia... especially with bribery," he winked and Filia blushed. Everyone except Phythan caught the hint. "Now quit being a stubborn stupid dragon and drink your medicine," Xellos insisted.

"I refuse!" Filia maintained her position, even if Xellos looked like he was dangerously close to forcing the antidote down her throat.

"What about the enchanted kiss of healing?" Tiffany suggested.

"The what?" Gourry asked in confusion, he wasn't actually following any of the important details so far, but this sounded like something out of a children's fairytale, so it might be easy enough to understand.

"I've heard about it," Amelia elaborated. "The enchanted kiss of healing can cleanse the body of most illnesses and curses."

"How come you never mention that before?" Xellos inquired in annoyance. By now everyone was aware of the specifics of his curse dilemma and Amelia had not said anything about that enchanted kiss of healing when she first found out about it.

"Because it's only a legend, possibly even a myth," Amelia explained. "Besides, a curse that's strong enough to take away your monster powers and already has a specifically assigned cure, even if it's some kind of puzzle, probably wouldn't be broken by alternative means."

"Indeed," Celo agreed. "In fact, I am ninety-nine percent certain that the enchanted kiss of healing will not be able to break your curse. It is quite unfortunate, General Xellos. However, I am also ninety-nine percent certain that it can cure Filia's poison."

"Then it's real?" Amelia gasped. "Wow, I thought it really was a myth."

"Not at all," Celo elaborated. "The book containing the proper spell is kept right here on this island. It is the very spell that inspired many fairytales such as Sleeping Beauty and many others."

"Could it...?" Zelgadis began to ask.

"Chimeraism isn't a curse or an illness," Celo guessed what his question would be and replied before Zelgadis was even done asking. "It's supposed to be a beneficial combination of different aspects so no, this method wouldn't work on you."

"Well, it's settled, Phythan can have the antidote and I'll be healed with that spell," Filia concluded. Before Xellos could protest that a ninety-nine percent of a survival probability wasn't good enough, Filia snatched away the vial and forced Phythan to drink the antidote.

Phythan made choking noises until he finally fell into a suspenseful silence that culminated in very a whiny, "it's so bitter!"

"Filia!" Xellos scolded, "your stupidity never ceases to amaze me."

"Quit complaining!" Filia retorted, "it'll be okay. Let's just get the spell book."

"Alright, let us journey to the entrance of the caverns." Celo led the way down some stairs that conducted to a hidden basement under the lopsided wooden clock tower...

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Phythan, Onyx, Celo, Tiffany and Kally found themselves face to face with four caves in a rustic basement under the clock tower. "The vault containing the spell book is through the tunnel in the far right. However," he revealed three keys. "These keys must be inserted into the slots at the end of each of the three first tunnels in order for the vault to be opened. Forcing it open will result in its defense mechanism destroying its contents. That terrible miracle cure is not a good thing from a monster's perspective, so making sure the book was locked up was important. It was fortunate that it wasn't destroyed instead. You never know when you might be glad to have something that you might have wanted to destroy in the past. It's like the mirror of truth, but that's not even dangerous enough to be kept in the vault."

"Filia and I will go through the tunnel in the far right, of course, the rest of you grab a key and get going," Xellos ordered.

"Wait a minute!" Lina protested. "I'm the leader around here!"

"Then by all means, lead us," Xellos had his usual cheerful mocking grin.

Lina felt like she was losing somehow, maybe because she was technically doing free work, but she was too stubborn to back down now. "Gourry and I will go through the first tunnel. Which key needs to be used there?"

"The golden one," Celo explained as he gave Lina all three keys. "The silver key is for the second tunnel from the left and the bronze key is for the third one. The last tunnel in the far right only has the magic vault."

"Alright, listen up everyone; we'll be dividing ourselves into teams of two. That should be more than enough to accomplish the simple task of using some keys," Lina commanded in her 'I'm the leader' tone of voice. "Naturally, Xellos and Filia will go through the forth tunnel since they're the ones who will be using the spell book. Gourry and I will take the golden key through the first tunnel. Amelia and Zelgadis will journey through the second tunnel with the silver key."

Lina gave Amelia the key and the princess saluted in response. "I will accomplish this mission of love and justice!" She bravely declared.

"As for the bronze key that must be taken through the third tunnel..." Lina paused, considering her options.

"Onyx and Phythan can go," Filia suggested with a grin that revealed her matchmaking intentions.

"Alright, then it's settled," Lina gave Onyx the bronze key. "Onyx and Phythan will journey through the third tunnel. Everyone move out!" All the assigned pairs marched through their respective tunnels aiding themselves with light spells to see where they were going.

"I guess I'll return to my duties as a doctor now," Kally announced, making her way up the stairs and out of the basement area.

A quiet moment passed with Tiffany and Celo alone in the basement. Tiffany gave Celo a peculiar look, "didn't you forget something, dear?"

"Did I, my beloved?" Celo innocently inquired with a clear hint of mischief in his eyes.

"Yes you did, lover," Tiffany returned the expression. "You didn't tell them anything about the guards."

"You're right, sweetheart, it must have slipped my mind," Celo grinned in a way that made him look similar to Xellos. "I suppose they'll figure that out soon enough."

Tiffany nodded, "I'm sure they will, honey."

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina and Gourry quietly made their way through the first tunnel. It had been a while since their trek started, showing that the tunnel was far longer than they had anticipated. The passageway became narrower as they went along, until Lina had to squeeze in first with the taller Gourry making his uncomfortable progress with more difficulty than the petite redhead.

At long last the pair arrived at a larger chamber where Gourry was all too happy to stretch. "It was sure cramped back there! I feel stiff after all that. Lina, would you mind giving me a shoulder massage? I kept bumping on the cave's sides and ceiling, an ice pack for my head would be nice too."

Lina's face instantly turned red at the request. "You can get your ice pack when we get back to the tower," she replied in a hurry.

"And the massage?" Gourry innocently inquired. He thought it was a reasonable enough request to ask of his fiance. He wouldn't complain if Lina didn't want to do it, but he was certainly hoping she would agree.

"Yeah... that too," Lina agreed. "Let's just get our mission done and over with for now. I'll give you a massage after I'm done giving Celo an earful for not warning us about how long this tunnel was. He could have given us a snack basket for the way." Never mind that Lina had a feast not too long ago during the banquet rehearsal, she never turned down food.

The large chamber was as rustic as the rest of the pathway with plain brown cavern walls and a rocky dirt ground. There were torches round about, which suddenly became lit. Lina dispelled the orb of light that she was holding, seeing as it was no longer needed, though the torches lighting up by themselves were certainly suspicious. The redhead sorceress spotted a keyhole on the opposite wall of the chamber upon a golden tile. In front of it there was a large black jar with red drawings of octopus silhouettes. "There's the keyhole."

Lina approached a few steps, but stopped when the jar in front of her intended path began to shake as smoke came from it. In a matter of seconds the smoke became the shape of an octopus that towered in front of Lina and Gourry, occupying most of the spacious chamber with its colossal size. Just as the two humans prepared for battle, the strange octopus began to sing and dance, waving its tentacles around. "Octo, octo, octopus! Octo octo octopus! Octo, octo, octopus!" It bellowed in a terribly off-key voice surrounded by a strange glow.

Tired of the terrible singing, Lina shouted, "dance like a lobster!" She immediately covered her mouth in horror. She had been trying to say 'shut up already' and she certainly didn't want to encourage more dancing like an octopus, lobster or otherwise. That strange song and dance was a spell that made her speak in octopice. Perhaps getting rid of the octopus would get rid of the language problem, but how could Lina even begin to test that theory if she couldn't cast her spells? "My cookies are happy!" Lina cried out in frustration.

"I saw a pie flying through the sky?" Gourry attempted to ask something, albeit it was impossible to figure out what it was in his current condition.

"The sunflowers are coming!" Lina shouted in reply.

Seeing that he couldn't understand Lina and Lina couldn't understand him, Gourry sighed, "flat-chested." The remark earned him a slap from Lina, who was, understandably, in a very bad mood with the entire situation.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 086: Annoying! Tricky Treasure Guards

After the Dragon Slayers poisoned Filia and Phythan, Filia made Phythan take the only antidote and thus a new mission began to find a spell book that could heal Filia of her fatal poisoning. The needed book was in a vault underground beneath the wooden clock tower that required three keys to open it, which needed to be inserted into locations far from the vault itself. Looking to speed things up, the team took four separate paths with Xellos and Filia heading towards the vault. Lina and Gourry had the first key, Amelia and Zelgadis the second, Onyx and Phythan the third. Unfortunately, Celo and Tiffany failed to warn them that the paths were guarded.

Lina and Gourry found an unpleasant surprise in the shape of a giant octopus that used an incantation to curse them into speaking octopice, rendering Lina unable to cast any spells. "Octo, octo, octopus!" The giant octopus attacked Lina and Gourry, who jumped left and right of it to dodge the coming hits. "Octo, octo, octopus!" The beast swung its tentacles around, impacting the walls as Gourry and Lina jumped out of the way, and causing rubble to fall everywhere.

"Let's sit here and play cards for all eternity!" Lina warned, although it made no sense what so ever in her current condition. What she meant to say was 'that thing's going to bring this place down!'

The two continued dodging the tentacles, meeting in the middle of the chamber, where Gourry looked at Lina and stated with a stupid look of confusion. "Bare my children." Lina turned bright red, although Gourry's intended comment was a simple and innocent 'I don't understand,' in reaction to her random gibberish.

Lina flailed around, trying to communicate something that wasn't random. She pointed at the octopus and made a motion as if wielding a sword. Gourry finally got the message, nodded and went on the attack, chopping off the tentacle that was heading towards him. Two more tentacles followed from the left and right. The skilled swordsman jumped, leaving the two appendages to grab each other instead of him. He chopped another as he fell, then hurried to cut the next with an upward slash.

'Three down, five more to go!' Lina cheered, though in octopice it came out as "I will never be a memory!" She quickly dodged another tentacle that was heading towards her and attacked it with her dagger, stabbing at it repeatedly until she managed to cut it off. Half the tentacles had been cut off, leaving only four more to threaten them.

"Ogres are like onions!" Gourry exclaimed with confidence as he went on the attack again. He was trying to express 'we're going to win this!' He ran around the octopus causing the creatures remaining four tentacles to become tangled under it as it spun around trying to follow Gourry's fast motions. With the four appendages in a knot, Gourry leapt into the air and brought down his sword, chopping them all off in one final attack. "May the force be with you!" Gourry smiled at Lina, declaring 'looks like it's finally beaten' in octopiece.

The tentacle-less torso and the severed appendages glowed suspiciously, cutting the victorious feeling short. All the pieces turned to smoke and gathered together in a cloud. The cloud of smoke separated into four pieces that turned into smaller octopus in four different colors, blue, yellow, red and green. "Octo!" The yellow one screeched. "Octo!" The blue one squealed. "Octo, octo!" The green one shrieked. The four creatures surrounded Lina and Gourry, spinning around them in a circle and chanting "Octo, octo, octopus! Octo, octo, octopus!"

The ground beneath their feet began to glow within the circle created by the four colorful octopi. "They've got more fur than any turtle ever had." Lina urgently pointed out, which should have been 'I don't like what they're doing, let's attack!' She was really fed up with the octopice curse, octopus didn't have fur and neither did turtles, all that gibberish was getting on her nerves. Without further ado, Lina went on the attack, stabbing the yellow octopus with her dagger. The creature dissolved into smoke on contact as the other three began to spin around faster with the glow from the floor becoming brighter.

Following Lina's lead, Gourry attacked the green octopus with his sword, but instead of having the same reaction as the yellow one had with Lina, it split into two with the extra one becoming yellow so that there were four once more. "Octopus!" All four creatures shouted, raising their tentacles as the floor glowed brighter and threw Lina and Gourry into the air like with a Dill Brand spell. Unable to levitate, the pair fell painfully on the ground and the octopi's strange behavior continued. The previous scene was repeated again. "Octo!" The yellow one screeched, "Octo!" The blue one squealed. "Octo, octo!" The green one shrieked. The four creatures spun around Lina and Gourry, chanting "Octo, octo, octopus! Octo, octo, octopus!"

Gourry was about to go on the attack again, but Lina stopped him and shook her head. Knowing that her words would serve no purpose in effective communication, she pointed at the yellow octopus, which Gourry attacked. The creature disappeared into smoke just as it had before, causing the three remaining beings to spin around faster. Lina pointed at the blue octopus and Gourry attacked it. Just as with the yellow one, the blue one also dissolved into smoke and disappeared. Lina's theory was correct; they needed to be attacked following a specific pattern.

Unfortunately, the two remaining octopi sped up their spinning so much that Lina and Gourry could only see a mixed blur of red and green. Gourry looked at Lina awaiting her instructions. She tried to point at the green octopus and signaled a number two by holding up two fingers in her hand. Gourry looked at the blur around them and shrugged in confusion. Lina tried to point again, but at that speed it was impossible to see what she was pointing at. To top it all up, the ground glowed brighter and Lina had a feeling that they were soon to run out of time before the entire process reset itself and they had to start all over again. That, plus the inconvenience of being thrown harshly and painfully.

Trying desperately to convey a message Gourry could understand, Lina pointed at her hair and shook her head, trying to say 'not the red one.' Then she held up two fingers again indicating that he needed to attack the green octopus twice. Gourry looked at her clueless and Lina considered going on the attack herself, but as a magic user though she had some practice with a sword, she knew she wasn't as fast as Gourry in that area and thought she would probably miss. Lina tried to communicate again, pointing at her hair, shaking her head and holding up two fingers.

Gourry finally nodded with a smile and went on the attack, slashing at the green octopus twice. The creature disappeared into a dissolving cloud of smoke and the red octopus stopped spinning. The being declared, "octo, octo, octopus!" Before retreating into the jar from where it came.

"Oops, I missed... twice..." Gourry frowned, though his facial expression became more positive when he realized he was saying what he actually meant to say. "I can talk normally again!"

"Me too, I think," Lina tested, "yeah, I'm cured, finally!" She let out a breath of relief, though she had to ask. "What do you mean you missed? You hit that thing dead on even if it was spinning so fast, that was pretty amazing."

"Thanks, but I still missed, it doesn't look like it mattered too much though. Things worked out anyway," Gourry smiled.

"I still say you didn't miss," Lina insisted in confusion. "I was telling you not to hit the red one and to hit the green one twice," she explained.

"Really?" Gourry blinked in realization. "I thought you were telling me not to miss the red one and making a victory sign because if I managed to hit the red one we would win."

Lina considered getting annoyed at the misunderstanding, but decided not to. "Never mind, things did work out in the end," at least Gourry made an effort to interpret something from her signals. She walked past the jar with the golden key on hand and inserted it into the keyhole in the tile on the wall. She turned the key with a clicking sound and headed back towards the narrow passage that led to the large cave chamber. "That's it for our mission," if Celo wanted to lock the vault again, he could make his way over and retrieve the key himself. "Let's go back to the clock tower and have a snack, plus I did promise you a massage." Quite happy with the arrangements, Gourry followed Lina back through the tunnel from where they came.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Amelia and Zelgadis had also gone through an annoyingly long journey in a very lengthy and narrow tunnel. The tunnel led them to an underground river with a small boat on its side. On one end, the river flowed from below a wall of rocks and on the other end, towards which the soft current was moving, it flowed into a narrow tunnel. "I guess we're supposed to go that way," Amelia concluded, since there was no where else to go.

Zelgadis pushed the boat into the river, the moist soil of the riverside making it easy to move the small vessel in. "This trip turned out a lot longer than I thought."

"That's true, but it's not so bad," Amelia joined Zelgadis on the boat. They both sat there as the vessel was carried by the gentle current. There were no paddles anywhere to be found, but at least they were moving.

Giving it some further thought, Zelgadis concluded, "I guess not." Being alone in a dark tunnel with Amelia? That certainly didn't sound like a bad thing, plus he got to hold her hand the whole way.

The following river tunnel had many glowing crystals on the walls, though they were small enough so that the light was still dim. Amelia dispelled the orb of light she had been holding through their trek on foot in the previous area of the tunnel. "This place is beautiful," she leaned close to Zelgadis.

The chimera wrapped his arms around his beloved princess, "you're much more beautiful." They looked into each other's eyes in the dim romantic light until their lips met in a tender loving kiss. They were so focused on each other that they didn't even notice the river current speeding up considerably as they moved along downstream.

It wasn't until their new speed became so obvious that it was impossible to miss that the loving couple finally took note of it, but it was already too late. The small boat rocked wildly as it was carried through the narrow passage with the speed of a roller coaster. Amelia and Zelgadis held on to each other to avoid falling overboard. The crystals in the walls became less until the gray cave walls became bare and the tunnel was left in total darkness.

Suddenly, the small boat crashed into a rock that protuberated from the bottom of the thinning river. The old wood of the boat gave in and the vessel fell apart on impact, tossing its occupants into the merciless rapids. The tunnel became narrower with the water pressure increasing. Zelgadis and Amelia fought to stay afloat against all odds.

"Zelgadis!" Amelia called out, feeling that the harsh currents were pulling her away from him.

"Amelia, don't let go!" Zelgadis tried to hold on to her, but her small hand eventually slipped out of his and they were thrown around in opposite directions in the dark merciless river.

The currents pushed them underwater, taking each of them to separate subterrain tunnels that spat them out harshly into individual underground ponds of immeasurable depth. It was especially difficult for Zelgadis to try to get to the surface due to his added weight, being part rock golem. He casted an emergency Aqua Breathe spell and pushed himself up with a Diem claw spell. Zelgadis reached out his hand to grab hold of the edge of the deep pond. Just as he was about to reach it, he felt a hand holding on to his and pulling him out of the water, then he came face to face with Amelia.

"Are you alright?" She asked with a smile.

"Taking a deep breath, Zelgadis replied, "Yeah, I'm fine, are you okay too?" He looked her over for any signs of injury, but fortunately found none.

"Never been better!" She smiled brightly.

Zelgadis examined the area they were in, hoping that they were somehow still going the right way. He also hoped that there was another exit to the cave because it would be extremely difficult to go back the way they came. "It looks like we have no choice but to keep going."

Amelia nodded and they continued walking, their way once again illuminated by the glowing crystals on the walls, until they arrived at a point where the tunnel split into two. The left side seemed to lead to a new cave chamber, while the right hand tunnel twisted in a U turn back in the opposite direction behind the cave wall of that area. Assuming that it was more logical to keep going in one direction, Zelgadis picked the tunnel to the left, with Amelia quietly following him.

Zelgadis walked towards the chamber ahead and saw a silver tile on the opposite wall with a keyhole on it. Several feet away leaning against the gray cave wall next to the silver keyhole tile, there was a large mirror about eight feet tall and five feet wide, though its reflection was hard to see from afar in the very dim light of the cavern. "We finally found the keyhole," at least that was one problem out of the way. The chimera looked at the princess again, waiting for her to produce the key and when she didn't he inquired. "Do you still have the key?"

Amelia shook her head. "I'm sorry, I must have dropped it."

"In the water?" If the key had fallen on the ground, which was unlikely, then it wouldn't be so hard to find, but if it fell out of Amelia's pocket when they were being tossed in every direction, it would be practically impossible to find, especially if it fell into that seemingly bottomless pond.

"Probably," Amelia frowned apologetically.

"Maybe Celo has a spare," Zelgadis mused. Monsters were calculating, right? Celo was one of Beast Master's monsters; they were supposed to be cunning tricksters if Xellos was any indication.

"Maybe," Amelia agreed.

Perhaps that other U turn tunnel would lead them outside. Then they could have a word with Celo about this whole situation, throwing in a few complaints and possibly a few Fireballs while they were at it. As Zelgadis stood there looking expectantly at Amelia, she approached him and wrapped her arms around him. He returned the embrace somewhat unsure, "it's okay, we'll find another key," he reassured.

"It's not that," Amelia spoke softly; "I love you."

Zelgadis blushed at the sudden show of affection. "I love you too."

Amelia leaned closer whispering sweetly, "kiss me," she closed her eyes and tried to close the distance between them, but Zelgadis abruptly stepped back.

"Who are you?" He demanded to know.

"I'm your beloved," Amelia smiled.

"What's the name of my beloved?" Zelgadis asked suspiciously.

"Don't you remember my name?" Amelia looked sad.

"You're not her!" Zelgadis accused. He wasn't sure about it before, but suddenly everything made sense. "Why are your clothes dry?"

"I dried them with a wind spell," Amelia or rather, someone who looked like her tried to reason.

"When I surfaced in the water you helped me out of the pond as if I didn't weight more than a feather." Zelgadis knew Amelia was very strong and she had a mighty Pacifist Crush to show for it, but it would take a lot of bulging muscle to lift him so easily. "The real Amelia would be upset about losing the key; she would be worrying about Filia right now."

The false Amelia smirked darkly. "You could have made this so much easier on yourself, dying while kissing your beloved!" Her arms stretched out, becoming like water as her entire countenance melted into a watery monster. Zelgadis jumped back trying to dodge the incoming attack, his back a few feet away from the mirror. But the watery tentacles rapidly stretched and wrapped themselves around Zelgadis, instantly paralyzing him.

"Zelgadis!" Amelia's voice called out as the real princess arrived in the cave chamber. "Elmekia Lance!" The bright light of the spell collided with the attacking monster disintegrating it on impact. "What was that?"

"I think it was an illusionist water sprite," another voice very much like that of Zelgadis explained. It seemed that Amelia also had a companion with her that looked identical to Zelgadis. "I've heard about them. Touching them causes the victim to become paralyzed until they are released. They can cast an incantation to take on the shape of the one a person loves, even if they have never seen them before. Then every person would see the water sprite with the face of their beloved, until the sprite reveals its true form to attack. Be careful, this is clearly a trap." The false Zelgadis accused the real one. "They're setting us up to doubt each other!"

The illusionist water sprites were another of those creatures that were exceptionally tricky, but did not possess much of a defensive power against astral attacks. Thus they were hard to discover, but easy to destroy. Unfortunately, most people were unable to unveil their true nature until it was too late. "Don't worry, I won't be tricked!" Amelia pointed accusingly at the real Zelgadis. "Terrible creature, how dare you try to use my love for Zelgadis to trick me? You shall feel the rightful punishment of justice!"

"No, Amelia, I'm the real one!" Zelgadis tried to reason with her. "Just ask me something only I would know!"

Amelia wasn't about to stop her attack, holding out her hands towards the real Zelgadis she called out, "Elmekia Lance!" She turned at the last second and fired the attack at the false Zelgadis who became like water and disintegrated much like the other illusionist water sprite had. "Are you alright?"

Zelgadis nodded in relief. "Yes, I'm fine now. How did you know I was the real one without even asking me anything?"

"It's that mirror behind you, Celo said he had the mirror of truth and that it wasn't in the vault. I think that's the one," Amelia explained.

"I get it; the creature appeared in its true form in the mirror," Zelgadis concluded, not yet turning around to see the mirror.

"Actually, he was too far and it was too dark to see him clearly, but I saw your reflection." Amelia created a light spell so that Zelgadis could see himself on the mirror clearly. "Take a look."

Zelgadis curiously turned around not really expecting to see anything but his usual reflection, but he soon found himself staring into the mirror in shock. Amelia approached, standing next to him; her reflection was identical to the original one. Yet Zelgadis reflection didn't match his physical form. "This is," he looked at his chimera hand then reached out to touch the smooth surface of the mirror, a human hand mimicking the motion. "It's me... the human me..."

"It's like I've told you before," Amelia smiled as she lovingly hugged Zelgadis. "You're human on the inside and that's all that matters."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 087: Forward! Moving Step By Step

After taking a few more seconds to look into the mirror of truth, Amelia broke the long silence that hung between her and Zelgadis. "Time to use the key," she retrieved it from her pocket, thankful that it had not been lost in the water. She approached the silver tile on the wall. "I'm going to use the key now, Zelgadis."

"Yes..." Zelgadis continued staring into his reflection with bitter longing. This was who he could be, his human self.

"Let's be on our guard just in case," Amelia looked at Zelgadis for a long moment. He nodded in response to her warning, indicating that he had heard her, but didn't move an inch from his position staring into the mirror. Taking a deep somewhat concerned breath, Amelia inserted the silver key into the matching keyhole on the silver tile on the wall and turned it. The response was a soft click and nothing more. A few seconds passed and Amelia was about to conclude that there were no further obstacles in their mission, except making their way out of the cavern. Then a sudden earthquake shook the land, loosening a boulder above Amelia.

"Amelia!" Zelgadis rushed to her aid, though the princess had already gotten herself out of harm's way. The shaking stopped as did the falling rocks, to the sound of shattering glass as the culmination to the tremor.

Amelia glanced at the silver tile on the wall. "I hope the vault doesn't get stuck or something, that would be bad for Miss Filia."

Zelgadis nodded, wondering if the other keyholes were also this hard to reach. "Maybe this was the furthest key and the vault is opening right now. Anyway, since the key is already in, there's nothing more for us to do here. Let's just leave the key there and find a way out." He glanced back in the direction of the mirror, when the ground shook he focused on Amelia and the shattering sound was only a distant echo to him. Zelgadis approached the shattered mirror and picked up one of its pieces, hoping to keep it as a reminder of his human form, yet only a blue skinned chimera stared back at him reflected in the broken shard. "The incantation was lost; this is nothing but a normal mirror now." He bitterly tossed the piece away into the broken pile with frustration, looking at the pieces with disappointment.

Amelia wrapped her arms around Zelgadis lovingly; she knew he didn't want to give up on his cure even if he had accepted his current form. The urge to be fully human still emerged now and then. "It was just a mirror, there are plenty of mirrors in the world and you look handsome on all of them. Our mission is done; let's go back, there should be good news waiting for us."

Zelgadis returned the embrace as gently as he usually did, though Amelia held him tighter, so tight that a normal man would have been suffocated. He hugged her closer allowing himself to stop holding back; he understood that she was telling him to stop fearing hurting her, to hold her tightly. She smiled, her eyes shining like stars and once again, he was alright, he held all he wanted in his arms.

xoxox xox xoxox

Simultaneously, Lina and Gourry felt the tremor as they made their way back through the narrow tunnel. The rocks on their chosen path were rather loose and rained down upon them, though they were fortunately small enough not to cause any serious damage. The pair sped up their retreat, making a mad dash as fast as the enclose space allowed. "Celo's really going to get it!" Lina growled.

xoxox xox xoxox

The earthquake was of course also felt on the surface, with the lopsided wooden clock tower shaking and threatening to fall. The wood creaked in protest, but the tower somehow held together. The cups of an expensive teas set shook against the cup holders alongside the rhythm of a tiny silver spoon touching the edges of the cup as Tiffany stirred her tea. The shaking stopped as she placed the little spoon on the side of the cup plate and lifted the cup to her lips. After taking a sip, she placed the cup back down, savoring her warm tea. "Do you think Phythan and Onyx will be alright? He has only recently recovered and her amulet was broken, leaving her with no means of defense. Phythan will have to protect her and himself. Is that not too much?"

Celo considered the question while he took a sip of his tea, placing the cup down seconds after. "If all goes as planned, we will know what was sealed inside her. Survival instinct is a powerful force after all. If it does not work for Onyx, there is no need to worry, for the same reason Phythan should be able to muster the strength to keep them both safe. The guards are not too strong, not for a group like them."

"I do not believe that Onyx is powerless, with or without the mysterious something that was sealed in her," Tiffany pointed out calmly. "Perhaps there is another reason for her body's adversity to magic, such as it not being an adversity at all, but rather an overload."

"I agree," Celo stated with a smile. "I believe that her condition is different from the initial theory. If we are to use the pool and bucket analogy, where the pool is one's total magical power and the bucket is the portion that can be used at once, then maybe it is not that she is allergic to magic or that her pool capacity is microscopic. Perhaps her problem is that her pool capacity is too great, but her bucket capacity is nearly nothing. She has power, yet she is completely unable to use it. Hence when she is exposed to magic, her own pool of energy reacts wanting to manifest itself and being unable to do so is suffocating, that's why it hurts her."

"Interesting..." Tiffany voiced. "Yet forcing her bucket capacity to act beyond its limits would mean certain death..."

"Unless the something sealed inside her prevents it," Celo agreed. "I must say, it is quite an honor to be able to assist General Xellos in his mission concerning Onyx, even if he is unaware of my assistance. Seeing the opportunity, I simply had to take it, or rather, I was all too happy that it was taken for me. The chance to assist the amazing General Xellos was handed to me on a silver platter!"

Tiffany giggled, "you're such a fan boy. At least you didn't have to come up with a cheap excuse to send them on a hunt for the book, since they actually need it."

"Yes," Celo grinned victoriously, "they also couldn't have chosen better routes to take."

"Of course, dear Filia is in no real danger; the book should be one hundred percent effective against her poison, should it not?" Tiffany inquired, though she didn't really need an answer.

"You know how it works, beloved; the enchanted kiss of healing is only as powerful as the love itself. If the taste from their emotions is any indication and it is indeed, I would have to agree that it should for certain be one hundred percent effective," Celo confirmed. "I just hope the others never find out that the keys were not really needed to open the vault and that they don't actually do anything. None the less, this is an amusement park and it is my duty to entertain my guests."

"I'm sure they're enjoying themselves in their own way," Tiffany agreed with a smile. "Even if they might not admit it."

xoxox xox xoxox

The tunnel that Onyx and Phythan were going through felt annoyingly endless. The ground suddenly began to shake and the fact was ignored by Onyx, who continued walking as if she didn't notice. "Miss Onyx, we need to... um..." Phythan remembered what he was told to do during an earthquake for the sake of security, but he knew they wouldn't make it back to the surface before the shaking stopped. Besides, they needed to get the key to the proper place as soon as possible, Filia was counting on them. Plus there were no solid columns to stand next to or desks to crawl under. "Never mind, it's over. We should hurry." It was a pity that the space was too small for him to transform and fly.

"Quiet," Onyx growled; she had been rather moody lately. Then again, it was understandable since such a long walk through a tunnel without an end in sight could put just about anyone in a bad mood. The scenery was plain, lacking the pretty glowing crystals that could be found in certain areas of the tunnel that Amelia and Zelgadis traversed. The cavern was lit only by the orb of light that Phythan held.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia had their own annoyingly long tunnel to journey through on their way to the vault. The trek was made more difficult by the fact that Filia was starting to feel feverish. The sudden earthquake made her stumble to be caught by Xellos. He, as expected, had a thing or two to say about how she was such a "stupid clumsy dragon."

Sadly, Filia didn't have the energy to reply in a clearly audible voice. She could only mutter something about "raw garbage."

The tunnel that Xellos and Filia were traveling through was a particularly annoying one in the sense that it was covered in sand, the ground, the walls, the ceiling, it was a wonder it even held together, especially through the recent earthquake. It had started out as soft porous beige rock that turned softer as they went along until they were surrounded by sand. The sand drifted from the walls and ceiling with many particles falling on Xellos and Filia. The tunnel held a spiral gentle current that guided the sand as if being pushed into place by an invisible drill, making the tunnel, with the travelers walking straight through it.

The tremor had loosened more sand that fell of Xellos and Filia in a very unpleasant and annoying shower. Xellos brushed the sand off his hair and shoulders with a disgusted look upon his face. The particles fell to the sandy ground and continued their spiraling motions clock-wise, up the left wall and down the right one. Xellos lifted his feet, noting that the motions, although much less dangerous than quicksand would sink them if they didn't keep moving. He dragged the feverish Filia along with him, who seemed too out of it to know the difference between up and down.

Xellos brushed some of the sand off her hair as he went along; knowing that in a few more seconds it would coat her again. "We probably have enough sand on our hair and shoes to make our own private beach, we just need the water." Xellos sarcastically declared, adding with a little less exaggeration. "Or maybe just enough sand to make a sand box for Val to play in."

Filia looked at Xellos for a long moment as if giving some serious consideration to his words. Taking note of that, Xellos gave his own idea some further thought as well. Then they both agreed, "no way." After this annoyingly sandy experience, Filia wasn't in the mood to clean sand off her floor in the future whenever Val ran inside the house after playing in the sand box. As for Xellos, he hated getting sand on his hair, so he rather generally stay away from it in the future if it was at all possible. Besides, even if the beach had a lot more sand than a sand box, somehow a sand box always managed to be messier.

xoxox xox xoxox

Following their perilous journey, Amelia and Zelgadis took the U turn tunnel and walked along the cavern until they reached another pond. It was the place where Amelia had fallen, behind a stone wall on the other side of which was the pond where Zelgadis fell. There was another small tunnel connected to that cavity, which they explored. The tiny tunnel began with a few crystals on its walls, but they soon became less until there were none. A simple light spell was enough to solve the issue of not seeing where they were going as they continued their arduous journey.

Zelgadis had insisted on leading the way, just in case something aggressive and potentially dangerous tried to leap at them, but it didn't look like anything was coming. Finally, the narrow tunnel came to an end that Zelgadis hoped wasn't a dead end, though he feared it was. There was indeed a wall in front of him, though a ray of hope, thin and fragile but very much present, still existed in the form of an oddly protuberant square on the stone wall in front of him. Fearing the worse and hoping for the best, Zelgadis pushed the block in and the wall lifted itself up.

The chimera and the princess stepped through, finding themselves behind a row of plastic mint green leaf bushes with hot pink roses on them. The stone wall behind them went down again and it didn't look like there was any mechanism to reopen the passage from that side. The pair made their way past the row of bushes to find a calm little stream with couples riding on tiny white boats adorned with red and pink hearts. There were hearts and flowers all over the cave walls, decorating the surrounding surfaces with cupid statues here and there.

"The tunnel of love," Amelia concluded, which was indeed good news. "If this is one of the resort's rides, then that means making our way out from here will be easy!"

"Great, I've had more than enough of caves for a life time." Zelgadis would be all too happy to see the surface again. Sure, walking through a tunnel hand in hand with Amelia was nice, but walking through the surface hand in hand with Amelia felt even nicer right now.

xoxox xox xoxox

Onyx and Phythan finally reached a large cave chamber that seemed to be the end of their tunnel. A large stone statue of a golem stood in front of them, ominous yet motionless. The tired golden dragon, who was feeling the effects of not resting after recovering from his poisoning, and the moody human girl, who was generally upset with life, walked around the golem and caught sight of a bronze tile on the opposite cave wall with a matching keyhole on it. Without a word, Phythan inserted the bronze key into the keyhole and turned the key with a soft click.

Phythan had been quiet since Onyx ordered him to. He gave a thumbs up sign and smiled, signaling that their mission was done, albeit Onyx was already walking away past the golem and towards the tunnel from where they came. It looked as if they could make it back without incident; as Onyx was already within the narrow tunnel that led back to the clock tower basement. Phythan hurried to join her, until a peculiar sight made him freeze in his tracks.

The insect was tiny, it was black and it had many legs. The tiny thing scurried across the cave chamber a few feet in front of Phythan, paying him no mind what so ever. His face paled, his body trembled and he screamed at the top of his lungs, "spider!" His loud voice echoed all over the cave chamber and through the narrow tunnel. The small bug was startled and hurried away to hide between the cracks on the rocks.

The damage was already done. The stone golem's eyes glowed in an orange light as it came to life, its black stone body stepping forward. To top it all up, it looked like many spiders had made the motionless golem their home, thinking that it was only part of the cave's structure. The panicked bugs abandoned the giant in a multitude that scared Phythan out of his mind, leaving him to scream like an insane idiot.

Onyx looked back with a deadly glare in her dark eyes. "I'm not going back to get you, stupid," she growled in a bad mood. "You're a dragon, you have power, you're not a weakling, so quit acting like you have no strength of your own and get over here!"

"Miss Onyx, the spiders, they're all over! Levitation!" Phythan levitated above the spiders that coated the cave floor allowing his orb of light to float above him and adding more to it. "Light! Light! Light!" He couldn't risk one of those terrible tiny creatures sneaking up on him because he didn't see it in the darkness. "Miss Onyx, I'm scared!" The stone golem batted Phythan away with its large solid hand, sending him to crash against the opposing wall.

"Idiot!" Onyx growled, not moving from her position in the safety of the narrow tunnel where the golem was too large to fit. "It was your cowardly loud mouth that woke that golem. We could have left without incident if not for you!"

"I'm sorry, Miss Onyx!" Phythan cried. "Be careful, the spiders are heading towards the tunnel, they're going your way!" Onyx nonchalantly lifted her boot, squishing the first of many spiders under it. She continued with an odd little dance, crushing as many spiders as she could as they came. "You're so brave, Miss Onyx!" Phythan's admiration was cut short by the rock golem delivering a solid punch that once again threw him against another wall. The guardian beast was tired of being ignored in favor of a few measly insects.

"Hey idiot, can you at least beat that golem?" Onyx called out at the end of her already limited patience.

"Oh... yeah..." Phythan took in a deep breath and shot out a massive laser breath that collided with the center of the golem, shattering it into tiny pebbles with ease. Unfortunately, the golem was full of spiders that rained upon Phythan, who scream in a panicked terror, "fireball!" The frightened golden dragon stupidly set himself on fire in an effort to get rid of the spiders that were crawling on him.

To make matters worse, the pebbles that formed the golem dissolved into black sand that began to reform itself into the shape of a big black spider. Two of the spider's legs wrapped themselves around Phythan as soon as he put out the fire, before he could push out the last bit of his energy to finish healing his burnt skin. Terrified beyond words and unable to do as much as scream like a pathetic idiot, Phythan awaited his demise, suffocated painfully by a spider of black sand after suffering terrible burns.

Onyx clenched her fists and glared. She was a failed experiment, she was powerless, helpless. Such feelings were supposed to be relatively new to her as the world itself should be for a monster who was supposedly so recently created. Yet the feelings felt old, as if she had been withstanding them for so long that she was ready to snap... and she did. If she was so worthless then she had nothing to lose by attacking. When she failed to survive the battle, Beast Master would probably be happy that the failure was disposed of.

Onyx recklessly charged forward towards the black sand monster, not caring if she didn't make it out alive. She didn't understand why she wanted to help Phythan. She didn't understand why his mere existence began to infuriate her more and more with each passing day. All that Onyx knew was that she never felt so determined before and there was a certain bittersweet quality to it.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 088: Clues! Discovering Enigmas

Onyx ran into battle, charging a spell in her hands, pushing it out with her very life. "Wind, crimson flame..." Her heart pounded, her blood vessels were just about ready to pop with the pressure, her head vibrating painfully as her every cell was torn apart. "Grant the power of thunder to my hand..." Her skin became fractured with tiny cuts that slowly grew larger as her energy fought to manifest itself out of her fragile mortal vessel. "Dig Volt!" She finally reached the black sand spider, delivering a fatal hit that disintegrated the creature and released the injured Phythan. Yet the blow was also fatal for Onyx, her motionless blood covered body collapsing to the ground.

"Miss Onyx!" Phythan called out in agony. "Miss Onyx, please be alive!" What could he do now? He wasn't supposed to heal her with magic, she had an adverse reaction to it that could kill her, but if she wasn't healed she would die anyway. "I'm going to try to heal you, there's no choice, please endure it!" He attempted a Resurrection spell, causing no effect at first, the energy was absorbed, but her injuries remained the same as if they couldn't get worse.

Then Onyx's eyes suddenly opened. "I remember," she whispered. "I hated my life. I did not wish for my power to be manipulated, I did not want to work for a cause that meant nothing to me. I didn't want to be controlled. I got my wish; my power could not be controlled, not even by me. I was in pain, I wanted to forget it and I did. I wanted to change and I hated the change. I wanted all that held me back to disappear and when my wish came true it was sorrowful. I journeyed and was close to death, I wanted to forget again. My memories were sealed and my body nursed back to health. I begged Ceifeed to help me. I wished for mercy when I should have fought for freedom. It's over now..."

"No, Miss Onyx, you can't die!" Phythan panicked.

"Quiet, idiot," Onyx growled with less energy than the remark would have received had she not been on the verge of death. "Maybe it was simply because I kept asking for it so constantly..." She closed her eyes and remained silent.

"Miss Onyx? Onyx... Onyx!" Phythan tried his healing magic again, but it held no effect. "This is all my fault... Onyx is gone because of me! I'm so sorry, I'll exchange my life for yours. I should have been the one to die today, not you..."

Unexpectedly, Onyx's body began to glow, her wounds healing themselves and her ears becoming long and pointy. She woke up once again, exhausted, but very much alive and healed. "Quit crying, idiot, I'm finally free of that curse."

"Onyx!" Phythan was certainly happy that Onyx was alive, though he didn't understand how. "Curse? What curse? What's going on?"

"They'll all want answers," Onyx concluded. "I'll tell you when we get back." She slowly got to her feet, tired but at least able to walk. "Heal yourself, stupid."

"Huh? Oh yeah, I almost forgot about my own injuries," Phythan finished his healing and stood next to Onyx, finally noting his problem. "Um... they're going to get mad at me if I show up like this, aren't they?" Onyx took off her cloak and tossed it at Phythan, who had stupidly burned his own clothes when he set himself on fire because of his spider phobia.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia had finally reached the end of the sandy tunnel and not a moment too soon. Though there was sand on the chamber containing the vault, at least there was a solid floor of beige colored blocks beneath it, with a matching ceiling and walls. The so called vault was not one in the traditional sense. It was instead a force field, shaped like a glass box that contained a stone block, on top of which there was an old red book, it's covered tattered and worn.

"Great, looks like it still has a force field around it. The keys must not be in place yet." Xellos reached out to touch the glass box with caution and it disappeared the second he made contact with it, reappearing when he pulled back his hand. "Or maybe the keys are in place after all," he concluded.

The shield around the book was a relatively simple spell since Celo didn't think a thief would be able to get that far undetected anyway. The force field opened to anyone whom Celo authorized to use the book, being an incantation that was constantly linked to the caster. Aside from getting Celo's permission to use the book, the only other way to bring down the force field would be to kill him.

Xellos examined the book, flipping through the pages, searching for the right spell. The symbols represented an ancient language. He wasn't exactly fluent, but he knew enough to make a decent interpretation. "Potentia, pura amor, vera basium, basiamini, salutes, vitae, nostra corda, iungitis, nego finis, aeterna!" The spell could be roughly translated to 'power, pure love, true kiss, to kiss, health, life, our hearts, union, no end, eternal.' There was no brilliant flash of light or any indication at all that anything had happened. Maybe knowing the basics wasn't enough to cast this spell. "It didn't work?"

"Let's find out," Filia concluded that there was only one way to know for sure if the spell had worked or not. They kissed, focusing on that and allowing themselves to get carried away. Again there were no flashes of light or any outside indication at all that it had worked, yet they knew it had. "I'm okay now," Filia smiled feeling full of energy, her fever and exhaustion completely gone. "I'm healed."

"It's about time, stupid dragon!" Now all that was left to do was to break Xellos' curse.

Yet there was still a lot that was unknown to Filia about his curse. "Xellos, how did you get cursed in the first place and why?"

It was then that Xellos realized he had never gotten around to tell anyone the full story, though the whole group was aware of his curse and its nature as far as he interpreted it. "That is a secret," he replied, just to annoy Filia with his classic line.

"Oh come on, you can tell me! Or is that really another technicality of the curse? Not being able to tell anyone about it?" There were certain curses that were made harder to deal with by forced secrecy. "Kind of like how that girl was cursed into becoming an old lady far earlier than her time and though she was traveling with a wizard for a while, she couldn't actually tell him what was wrong. But things worked out in the end, she recovered and they fell in love."

"Have you met them before?" Xellos curiously inquired, he recognized the story as belonging to some of his many acquaintances.

"Not really, but a boy once came to town and I heard rumors that he was the wizard's apprentice, he bought a vase and had it gift wrapped," Filia recalled. She got all sorts of interesting customers in her shop. "I heard they had some kind of moving castle, but a monster ally of theirs keeps it hidden in the astral side, so no one can actually see it. Although, a few people claimed they had caught small glimpses of it. You know how gossip goes around in that town."

"Ah yes, you're all a bunch of gossipers," Xellos agreed with a mocking smirk that made Filia pout and glare. "Last time I saw Howl, the wizard from the moving castle, he kept asking what shampoo I use."

"Did he know who you are?" Filia curiously inquired.

"Of course, he acts more clueless, helpless and childish than he really is, but he's a fairly talented wizard, albeit rather conceited." Xellos grinned to himself remembering the delicious chaos he caused when he snuck some pink dye into Howl's shampoo. Howl tried to call the Lord of Nightmares in hopes of destroying the world so that he wouldn't suffer with his oh so terrible appearance anymore, never mind that it would have been easier to just dye his hair again. Sophie calmed him down before he actually caused any serious trouble.

"It would be interesting to meet them someday." Getting back to the topic at hand, Filia brought back her past argument. "You already told me about your curse, so I doubt keeping the origin a secret is a big deal."

"It was a dare," Xellos replied simply, which made Filia stare at him.

The golden dragon desperately searched for any signs that indicated that Xellos was lying, but found none. "A dare?" She repeated in shock. "A dare of all things? You don't mean it as in a game of truth or dare, do you? Honestly, I can't believe that you'd be stupid enough to get yourself cursed on a dare!"

"The curse was the dare," Xellos elaborated. "This is a game high ranking monsters play now and then. Since the dares are often deadly and purposely made to be nearly impossible to accomplish, everyone usually picks truth and seeks to gain strategic information. The game keeps things interesting in the constant quest for power of the monster race. This time however, Lord Beast Master ordered me to pick dare," Xellos informed, his features showing frustration because of the next revelation. "Logically, I assumed that I had or would immediately acquire after the order some vital piece of information that had to remain a secret. I'm good at keeping secrets, but if I lied it would mean death, so I couldn't. The ironic thing is that I still can't figure out what is it that I supposedly know that's so important. As a spy, I collect a lot of information, but nothing stands out enough to be worth the risk this represents, not by a long shot."

While Filia listened with interest and puzzlement, Xellos continued. "My dare was to obtain the willing kiss of a golden dragon and the curse that would eventually turn me into a human was placed as a sort of time limit. If I don't accomplish my dare in a human life time, I will die. Then we found out that the willing kiss of a golden dragon is some kind of puzzle full of inconvenient technicalities that apparently cannot be taken literally and simply."

Filia allowed herself a moment for all this new information to sink in. "Who was it that dared you?"

"Some worthless idiot that I killed soon after, who wasn't important anyway," Xellos grinned cheerfully with his usual sugary mask. "Of course, I still need to accomplish my dare. I kind of wish I haven't killed that idiot, then I would have someone to torture for information. Although I might have something else." Xellos flipped through the book. "This spell book contains information about the truth and dare ritual. It has a lot of variety in its topics."

"I thought we already had it figured out," Filia pointed out. "Isn't it supposed to be a wedding kiss?"

"Possibly," Xellos agreed, "but not certainly and if that cure doesn't work, I'll have to find another clue to follow and keep searching until I find it." He paused, mused over his words and came to a shocking realization. "When did I turn into Zelgadis?"

Filia couldn't help it but to laugh in good humor at the fact that Xellos would actually voice the comparison. Sure, he was teasing Zelgadis, but also making fun of himself. "I'm sure we'll figure this out," she reassured between giggles.

Xellos read through the information on the book, finding nothing new. He flipped to the next page, which was about a whole different topic, and considered closing the book, given that the part that interested him was done. Besides, he was getting tired of sitting on the sandy floor in sandy clothes. Yet he didn't want to take the book to the surface with him. It was in a sense Beast Master's property, since Celo was one of her monsters, and she wouldn't want such a book laying around for prying human eyes to see it and possibly make copies of it. He thought it was best to put it back in its place before leaving. Thus he flipped through the book once more, scanning all the pages even if the topics that they held were of no direct useful interest to him.

Filia sat next to Xellos, her body slightly leaning on his, waiting quietly for him to finish studying the book. Then there was a pause and Xellos' grip tightened on the book. The dare wasn't just a dare, it was a spell that was explained in this book, the only difference was that it was translated when it was used on him, but the similarities were unquestionably present. Filia felt Xellos tense up, his eyes becoming more focused as he read incredulously over the contents of the book. "Did you find something useful?" Filia expectantly inquired.

"Yes," or maybe not. Xellos wasn't sure if it was useful or not, but it was interesting, to say the least. "This spell is my dare translated. According to this information, the words golden dragon are metaphors that can be used to refer to a person of any species. Golden means virtuous and dragon means brave. That entire thing about being an official member of the golden dragon race was completely useless!"

Filia once again absorbed the new information, her face forming into a frown. "Are you trying to say I'm not virtuous or brave? If I'm not virtuous it's all your fault!"

"Because of your endless lust for me?" Xellos asked with his familiar smug look.

"No!" Filia loudly exclaimed, her voice high pitched and frustrated. "Because you've given me bad habits like... For example..."

"Quiet down for a minute, I need to check something," Xellos closed his eyes and focused while Filia glared at him and called him a few nasty names. Realizing he wasn't listening, she huffed and remained silent, waiting for Xellos to finish concentrating on whatever he was concentrating on and show some form of reaction. He remained quiet for a while longer, searching in himself for something that was no longer there. When he was a monster he could feel the curse eating away at his power, sealing it deep inside him. When he became human, his monster power was completely sealed and for as long as he didn't clearly sense it he interpreted that as being cursed. Yet his power should still be in existence, locked away deep inside his very soul.

It was a monster general priest sealed inside a human in a similar way to how a portion of Shabranigdu was sealed inside Rezo, except the monster energy and the human were the same person in Xellos' case. He focused hard on trying to find the power that should have been there. When he first became human, he was able to sense it sealed deep inside, he was even able to sense it during his short time as a golden dragon, though his main focus was elsewhere at the time. Then after his trip to the past, he became caught up on everything that was going on and no longer felt the constant need to focus on sensing his own imprisoned power anymore. Every time he searched for it, it had been there and he let go of his secret worries that it would dissolve, but maybe those worries were not without a reason.

This made no sense what so ever. No matter how much Xellos focused, he couldn't sense his monster powers locked inside him. All that energy couldn't have vanished, especially not without his knowledge. It had to be somewhere, but where? He tried something else; he tried to feel the curse in a different way. There was no monster power for it to lock away, but even if the prisoner was gone, the jailer should still be there. Seals were not easy to feel out; the truth of Rezo's own seal had eluded the great sage for years. Yet Xellos had over a thousand years of experience and was aware of his condition, so he should be able to sense the seal. There was nothing, how could this have gone unnoticed? "It's gone," Xellos whispered with more horror than he wanted to show. "The curse, my power, everything... it's all gone."

Filia stared at him in surprise. Celo said that the kiss that could cure her poison would not cure Xellos, had he been wrong? "Was it the enchanted kiss of healing? Maybe your monster power will take a little while to come back."

"I can't sense it at all, it's no longer sealed inside me," Xellos insisted, trying to make sense of the situation.

"Did it..." Filia was almost afraid to ask. "Did it go away? Disappear? Was it... exorcised in a sense?"

"It doesn't work that way," Xellos frowned, the expression looking quite alien on his usually cheerful face. "It couldn't have disappeared, but it did go away, I just don't know where." He looked at the book again, back to the page about the spell. If his cure was a puzzle what was the answer to the puzzle? Then a thought occurred to him. His cure wasn't simply to break the curse, there was more to it than that, there was something else that he was expected to do. What information was he protecting? What could be worth the risk?

Every time it was the same thing, just when he thought he had the answer, he only got more questions. Was the ultimate answer connected to all the questions, to all the misleading deception... Deception... yes... Maybe things were much simpler than he thought. "The curse isn't the complication, it was relatively simple after all, I've been looking for an answer to the wrong question. That time after we fought Arcius," the time when Xellos was finally able to truly and fully accept that he loved Filia. "The curse was broken then, but I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I was too tired for my monster powers to awaken and change me back to normal right away. I was placed in that crystal by Beast Master before I had time to recover enough for my monster powers to manifest. That's where my power is, in the jewel of Zelas' necklace. I didn't notice because my energy is just like hers, it came from her, so it all blended in. That has to be the answer to this puzzle, I can think of nothing more."

Filia allowed the theory to sink in. Given the nature of the cure, it made sense. "The reason why you were kept in the crystal for so long was because Zelas was separating your power from your soul."

"Most likely," Xellos agreed. "I was born from that power as an astral being, but with this human shell I can still survive without it."

It all moved towards another question. "Zelas is plotting something, isn't she?" Though it came out with the tone of a question, Filia's words were more so a statement. "Why would she want to keep you like this?"

"I can't see any benefit in it," Xellos hated to admit it, but the whole situation worried him. Working towards a cure was different. He just had to chase after it and keep trying. Now he had harshly crashed into a wall of questions face first and wasn't sure where to go from there.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 089: Puzzle! Answers Lead To Questions

With the discovery of a spell book containing an incantation that helped heal Filia of her poison, Xellos also found a new clue to his curse. With it he came to the realization that he had actually been cured of his curse for a while, but was stuck as a human due to his monster power being removed by Zelas. "All this time I've been looking for the answer to the wrong question, searching for a cure that I no longer needed. Maybe it's the same thing now. I keep thinking about what I could know that needs to be kept a secret and what Zelas' hidden plan is. Perhaps the answer to the puzzle is something simple and direct, that Zelas did exactly what she set out to do, no more and no less."

"What do you mean?" Filia inquired in confusion.

"She got rid of me," Xellos resentfully concluded. He really missed his empathy now. It was a very troublesome ability, but he bitterly realized that it also gave him an odd sense of security in his human state. It wasn't simply because he was more aware of his surroundings, even if he often tried to block out the constant rush of emotion invading his senses from every living thing. The tricky beneficial part was that if he felt anything particularly inconvenient, he could attribute it to someone else. Any sense of doubt or insecurity that came he would blame on others, rejecting it as his own. He couldn't do that anymore and a dreadful feeling of broken pride and abandonment settled into him.

Filia looked at Xellos for a long moment before wrapping her arms around him tightly. They were both uncomfortably covered in sand, but that didn't matter at the time. "Maybe this is something like what's going on with Celo. He's part human, so he doesn't have the monster's vulnerability to positive emotions. Maybe Zelas wants you to experience human emotions so that when you become a monster again, you won't be affected negatively by it. So that you'll even benefit from them like Celo does, without having to become a chimera to accomplish it."

Xellos returned Filia's embrace, parting slightly so that he could have a clear look at her face after she was done speaking. He exaggerated his surprise to absolute shock. "You do have a brain, I'm impressed."

"Shut up, raw garbage!" Filia playfully retorted, though she felt especially proud of herself for cheering him up.

Xellos tried to remain realistic though, "that's not the only possibility, my theory could be right too."

"Maybe," Filia admitted. "But if Beast Master wanted you gone, wouldn't she had just killed you by reabsorbing your power? Or maybe she just wants her power back, but has enough of a regard for you to provide you with a means of survival."

"Not likely," Xellos mused, "perhaps the training theory is true after all. It would be too troublesome to leave me alive if there is no further use for me, it wouldn't make any sense."

"Still... Don't you have a strong admiration for Beast Master?" Filia pointed out more so than inquired.

"She created me, I'm supposed to, I never tried to overanalyze it," Xellos admitted. "She is an exceptionally cunning monster lord. She has kept me busy; but she hasn't made me work to exhaustion either. I've had challenging missions and also missions I dislike, but it's mostly been fun. I guess Zelas is as good of a monster lord master as a monster might expect to have... or maybe I'm just her favorite."

Filia giggled as if a thought that was funny enough to cause laughter before she even had time to voice it had ran across her mind. Xellos raised a questioning eyebrow and Filia knew that he wouldn't let the matter drop. Between a fit of giggles she voiced, "you're such a mama's boy!"

"Excuse me?" Xellos looked very much offended, albeit Filia knew the reaction was exaggerated. Nonetheless, he was truthfully annoyed. "I am not!"

"Yes you are!" Filia allowed her clear sweet laughter to echo freely. "It's okay, I'm sure Zelas appreciates your usefulness." It was, in Filia's opinion and possibly anyone else's opinion, a much more realistic thing to say instead of 'mommy loves you.'

So Zelas was training him. Giving this conclusion some thought made Xellos realized that the vicious cycle of enigmas had not yet ended. Even if the whole curse thing had been a set up, and cunning as Zelas was, Xellos was sure she was more than capable of staging it, the issue of the purpose of the ensuing series of events was still obscure to him. If he was training, what was he training for? What kind of battle awaited him that was different from the fights he had faced in the past. Remembering his past clue that originated from a comment about winter holidays, he realized that it was all coming in the winter, no doubt. Xellos had a feeling that he better have things fully figured out before then.

xoxox xox xoxox

While all those events were taking place at Amor Resort, or rather under it, the defeated Dragon Slayers had made their way to a secret location far from the resort island, deep underground at the hideout of the Green Alchemist. In a well lit cave with yellow-orange orbs of light floating around, there was a glowing oval shaped crystal similar to a giant seed, with ghostly energy around it, a strange mist seeping from it. "Oh great Mother of All Things, please forgive our failure!" All the Dragon Slayers knelt in front of the entity with only the leader speaking.

"The beast refuses to be tricked and the dragons are getting too close," a phantom-like voice echoed in such an ambiguous way, that it was impossible to tell if it was male or female, though they called it the Mother. The distant distorted echo came from the glowing crystal, to which many roots were connected, pulsating with energy like veins connected to a beating heart. "If we are to cleanse the world we must do it soon. We must take more of an offensive position in this battle and be prepared for the approaching war. I will not tolerate failure again, Ryoushi."

"We will not fail again!" The Dragon Slayer leader, Ryoushi, assured. "We have brought the entrapped energy of the golden dragon who is loyal to the powerless monster and a sample of her scales. Perhaps something can be done with these elements, we could-"

"Those will be saved for later. I know of a good purpose for which they can be used." The creature whom the Dragon Slayers were made to believe was the Mother of All Things also known as Gaia interrupted, claiming ownership of the samples. "We must watch for an opportunity. The traitorous beast is baiting us. The time will soon come to slay her."

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina, Gourry, Zelgadis, Amelia, Filia, Xellos, Onyx and Phythan eventually made it back to the lopsided wooden clock tower. The first order of business was for them to gang up on Celo and take turns hitting him on the head, which they all did, with Lina taking a few extra turns. Once that was out of the way, the group rejoiced in the fact that Filia was cured, then proceeded to inquire about the change in Onyx. They didn't even bother asking why Phythan was clothed only in Onyx's cloak to cover what vitally needed to be covered. They didn't really feel like asking about the sand all over Xellos and Filia either, theorizing that they might not want to know.

"I was born as an elf, with more magical energy than I knew how to use," Onyx revealed, with her full memories restored. Some details were still blurry, but that was natural with the passing of time. "I lived that way for years. I hated being asked to train my power or to use it in certain ways. I cared not for the so called gratitude of those who only wanted to benefit from me. I wished that they would not control my power and lowered my guard, even if I was always warned not to. I was captured by monsters and taken away."

After making a small pause, Onyx continued revealing the story of her secret past. "I lost control while the elves that went to take me back fought the monsters that took me away. Only two lived through that and I was one of them, though we were both left weakened. A golden dragon had gone to aid the elves, he was the other survivor, his name was Narez. He was being pursued by Dragon Slayers that he must have thought he left behind. They caught up to him and slew him."

"My father?" Phythan was surprised to hear about him again. "But then how did you end up as a human?"

"Despite being powerful, the battle I had been caught in was fierce and I was close to death," Onyx explained. "The Dragon Slayers put me to sleep and when I woke up, I don't know how long after, I didn't remember anything and I was a human unable to use magic. The rest of the story you already know. Perhaps the Dragon Slayers intended to save my power for later, but whatever purpose they might have had never came close to being realized. When I was there with the Dragon Slayers, I feared venturing into the unknown and wished for all my attachments to the village to be gone. I got my wish tragically and my adoptive father passed away. He was my guard perhaps more so than my father, but despite all he did wrong, I don't think he was truly a bad person. He really saw me as his daughter."

"What about the Lord of Nightmares? What did she seal in you?" Lina impatiently inquired. A lot of information had been revealed, but that issue had not yet been addressed directly.

"I hated what my life had become and wanted to forget," Onyx admitted, her face showed a slight amount of bitterness throughout the entirety of the confession, but it was mostly hidden by the monotonous mask of indifference that she had become somehow accustomed to. "The gold that shines upon the sea of chaos made me forget. Again my wish was granted, that was all. She sealed only my memories, nothing more as far as I know. She had probably been mocking me all along by granting my wishes, leading to dissatisfying results. Or maybe she was telling me to be careful what I wished for."

While Lina took a long and loud moment to complain about the anti-climatic finale to the mystery of Onyx, Zelgadis felt that the concept of having to be careful with wishes fit him all too well. He wanted power and was turned into a chimera. Then he spent many years looking for a cure. A recent event came to mind from when he and Amelia were exiting the tunnel of love after having made their way out of the cave of the silver key. A rather large wooden plank with heart carvings on it, painted white red and pink was at the end of the tunnel decorating it. It had become loose with the recent earthquake, just barely holding in place. It fell on his head just as he was walking out with Amelia.

Being the tallest of the two, the fact that Zelgadis' head was several inches higher than Amelia's meant that the hit didn't reach her, as the large heavy board slid off Zelgadis' head to the ground behind him. He wasn't injured, though he would have been if he wasn't a chimera. That was just the most recent example, but Zelgadis could think of many more, most of them much more extreme. His strong body had granted him survival in many occasions along with the opportunity to further support his comrades in battle and protect Amelia.

It was technically because of his quest for a cure that he was exposed to most of those dangers anyway, but without that quest he wasn't sure where he would stand. He had grown closer to Amelia after being reunited with her at Zoana and through the following journey to find his cure. Then they were reunited again to explore the world outside of the barrier. Albeit he left to continue his quest, it had been that quest that somehow placed him in Amelia's path in the first place. Maybe everything happened for a reason. Maybe it was time to stop wishing and look at the bright side. Perhaps the time to look at the wishes that had already been granted had arrived long ago. The chimera was planning to ask Celo if he happened to have another mirror of truth or a spell to turn a regular mirror into one, but decided he didn't really need it.

"Wait a minute," Lina finished her tantrum. "Does this mean that you're super powerful?"

"Unfortunately, returning to my true form drained away my power," Onyx' monotonous mask fell into real annoyance. "I am nothing but an average sorceress now. I'm certain your spells are much more powerful than mine."

"I see..." Lina made a dramatic pause before her serious face turned into a smile. "Don't be so hard on yourself Onyx, no one can surpass the beautiful sorceress Lina Inverse!"

"Just out of curiosity, did your elf name happen to be Yuuyami?" Xellos inquired.

"It was," Onyx confirmed. "How do you know that, brother?" She no longer believed she was Beast Master's creation, but if it was her choice she would continue living as if she was.

"I heard about that story before, except the so called official version was that the elf girl died. No one knew she had been hidden by the Dragon Slayers." Xellos explained. "Now that all of this is known, it must be reported to Lord Beast Master," he reminded. There have been some rather worrisome thoughts in the back of Xellos' mind ever since he realized that Zelas was purposely keeping his power from him. He couldn't go to her yet, he needed to figure out a vital detail first. It was a detail that could mean life or death for Filia. "Onyx, find Fang and have him take you to Beast Master. You should go along too, Phythan, after you put on some clothes that is."

Thus Xellos feigned ignorance and pretended that he didn't investigate the spell book beyond only what he needed to cure Filia. Celo surely knew something and he dared to lie about it, using Xellos' own line against him and luring the group back to the resort. But if Celo was following Zelas' orders, then that changed everything and Xellos was almost certain that was the case. There was no way Celo would dare to taunt Xellos' patience unless he had a greater power to answer to.

"Oh, right!" Phythan agreed. "You're probably wondering why I'm wearing this cloak like this." It would be impractical for its current purpose to wear it as it should normally be worn, plus it was kind of small on Phythan. Instead the fabric was tied around his waist.

"No, I'm not," Xellos assured with a look of absolute seriousness that soon morphed into a cheerful expression of mockery. "I honestly don't want to know."

Phythan told them anyway. "It was really scary!"

"It was really stupid," Onyx corrected.

"I set myself on fire because there were spiders crawling all over me," Phythan confessed in frightful horror. "I healed my skin, but my clothes were gone." The group as a whole stared at Phythan, blinking once and twice, before finally agreeing unanimously that Phythan was an idiot.

xoxox xox xoxox

Phythan and Onyx had gone off to find Fang so that they could report back to Zelas. Meanwhile, Lina, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos, Filia, Celo and Tiffany discussed the factor of the Dragon Slayers being with the Green Alchemist and that they were somehow tricked into believing the alchemist was the Mother of All Things. Gourry was present too, of course, but he just sat around not really following the conversation. By then, Xellos and Filia had gotten cleaned up and were, much to their relief, no longer covered in sand.

"I think it's about time you tell us everything you know about the Green Alchemist," Xellos demanded.

"Very well, as you wish, I will reveal the fruits of my research on the subject," Celo began. "The original Green Alchemist was a human who believed that the Mother of All Things not only created the world, but she was the world. That is to say the planet. He was well versed in alchemy, especially the kind related to plants. He gained a fair number of followers in his day, but this all occurred over a thousand years ago, shortly before Zelas created her general priest, Xellos."

'So that's why I haven't heard about it,' Xellos concluded. Things got busy soon after his creation, or rather he came to be because the situation was already busy. He was sent on many missions right away and had no time to focus on things that were not directly related to the tasks at hand.

"The Green Alchemist became a chimera, fusing himself with an ancient tree with the purpose of becoming close to the Mother of All Things," Celo continued. "Then his followers continued his work and attempted to fuse the human tree chimera with the planet itself. They were recklessly ambitious and they paid with their lives. As the fusion ritual came to a close, the energy accumulated for it was rejected by the planet and thrown back at those performing the ritual. The large majority of those who followed the Green Alchemist perished on that day. As for the tree, it withered up completely, save for one of its seeds. That was the end of the Green Alchemist and his followers, as the dwellers of the land soon became focused on the war and the barrier."

A moment of silence passed with Lina impatiently interrupting the dramatic pause. "So what happened to the seed? How does all of that relate to the present?"

"Ah yes, I was getting there," Celo smiled and continued. "The seed was recovered by the remnants of the Green alchemist's followers and protected. Through much research, I have learned that it was actually planted underground in a cavern that was prepared with rich soil and alchemically enriched nutrients. Spells were used to simulate sunlight and the seed grew into a tree. As time passed, the followers of the Green Alchemist died out almost completely. What was left of them later evolved into a small cult known as the Alchemists of Gaia or simply the Followers of Gaia. Gaia was the name they attributed to the Mother of All Things, as I'm sure you're all aware that she has received many names over time. These people are rather well known for their disdain towards monsters, albeit they had not previously stood against dragons in the past."

Another dramatic pause ensued, further drying the patience of a certain redhead and making the legendary bandit killer, dragon spooker, impatient was not a good idea. "Enough with the dramatic silence! Get on with it! What's the deal with the tree? What's the status of the Alchemists of Gaia in the present day? Out with it!"

"Impatient, aren't we?" Xellos grinned with an over exaggerated cheer. "Perhaps all this information is too much for you to absorb all at once. Maybe we should take a break and talk later. Wouldn't you agree, Lina?"

With a stern look in her eyes and a well marked frown upon her face, Lina dangerously warned, "shut up." She emphasized every syllable while glaring daggers at Xellos. She then proceeded to glare swords at Celo, poison covered swords, metaphorically speaking of course. "Continue," she ordered.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive

Episode 090: Breakup! Hurt The One You Love

Celo cleared his throat and went on with the revelations to his audience, consisting of Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia. Tiffany was there as well, but she had already heard all that Celo was about to tell them, though she didn't know everything. There were things that a monster, or monster human chimera in Celo's case, couldn't share, not even with his wife, not until later at least. "That was the end of my researched factual information. The rest is only theory. I do not know what the present status of the Green Alchemist tree is, or if it is even of any importance. The tree in this tale could simply be a mutant tree of no real power, surrounded by a bunch of stupid people who created the illusion of it being special. In other words, the whole story about the Green Alchemist is a cover up for the truth. There is another enemy using the name of the Green Alchemist."

Before Lina's impatience exploded like a time bomb, Celo continued. "The reason for the trickery was probably as a way to gain followers by pretending to be the revived leader. This enemy's plans are somehow linked to the planet, thus it is only natural to find similarities between them. None the less, there are important factors that indicate that the Green Alchemist is very likely long dead. Most importantly, this enemy is something much more powerful than a chimera, much more powerful than a mere mortal, but it is not like a portion of Shabranigdu, or Ceifeed in nature... only in power."

Another dramatic pause followed, but this time it seemed only fitting. If that unknown entity that was their enemy was that strong, it was certainly something to think about. It was also the answer to Xellos' question about what he was supposed to be training for. Though no one directly said it, they all knew deep down that a confrontation was inevitable. "Tell us more," Lina prompted.

"This is all I can say for the time being. There is an important choice that my master must make. Until then, the situation will not progress." Celo's ambiguous reply carried volumes of information between the lines and at the same time said nothing.

"So Beast Master is the one who's moving us all like pawns in a chess board," Lina bitterly concluded. "Well, she's got another thing coming. I had enough with that Fibrizo set up."

"If Zelas chooses one path, you'll have no choice but to accept it. Yet if she chooses the other path, you shall join her cause willingly, no threats necessary," Celo assured.

"Why?" Lina demanded to know. "Stop dancing around the issues and tell us what you know!" She paused when she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned her head to see Xellos. "What is it?"

"That's quite enough, Lina, let it go," Xellos surprisingly suggested.

Lina turned her fierce glare towards Xellos. "I take it you know something too and don't want to share? What's going on, what's Zelas planning?"

Xellos grinned like he always did. "That is a secret... A secret that am I as of yet to truly comprehend. However, if Beast Master so wishes for it to remain a secret, then it shall."

Lina threw her arms in the air, exasperated. "Count me out! C'mon Gourry, all this annoying secrecy has made me hungry!" She stormed out of the room and all the way out of the lopsided wooden clock tower, followed by Gourry, who dared not remind her of her promised massage when she was so mad. Celo made no effort to stop Lina. He could easily get her to return with bribery. Besides, she was probably off to check out the restaurants, she wouldn't leave the resort island.

A tense silence settled in and before the conversation turned argument could jump start again, a courier bird arrived and perched himself on Amelia's shoulder. "Jarde, you brought a letter for me?" The princess received the letter and the bird went away to the astral side after his delivery was done. Amelia realized that the letter was from her father and thought she should read it right away. "It looks like that is as far as our discussion will get today, if you'll excuse me..."

"Ah yes, it was a pleasure talking to all of you. Let us all move along with our business for now. Of course, you are all welcome to continue as my guests." Celo excused himself and left.

"I'll be going now too, I want to take some time to reply to my father's letter," Amelia went off.

Zelgadis paused for a moment, his face serious. "I won't let Amelia be harmed by Beast Master," he assured.

Tiffany smiled sweetly, perhaps with too much reassurance. "I believe the right choice will be made. That's the impression I have, so don't worry too much about it."

Without a reply, Zelgadis followed Amelia out. From his perspective, Tiffany's last remark made little sense. How could the choice that benefited a monster lord be the right choice for them in any way?

"I'll be right back," Xellos walked away to catch up with Celo just outside of the clock tower so they could have a word alone.

"The right choice?" Filia questioned when she was left alone with Tiffany. She harbored the same doubts as Zelgadis and the others. "The right choice for Beast Master might be a very wrong choice for us."

"What is the definition of right and wrong? Is the grand price truly more valuable than the silver lining of a loss?" Tiffany mused aloud ambiguously. "Are we truly qualified to decide what is good and what is bad? What if there was no such a thing as black and white, would the shades of gray be too overwhelming when the similarities between them become obvious? Can anyone ever accept wanting what they once despised?"

Wanting what was despised... Filia could relate to that, but there had to be limits about what she was willing to do, what she was willing to overlook and what she wasn't willing to allow. Those limits had become blurry and she had to stop and question herself for a moment. Had she become far too corrupted to hold any sense of true and good reason? "I'm confused," she admitted sadly.

"Do you love Xellos?" Tiffany decided to simplify the question in a way, while at the same time complicating the situation in unknown measures.

"Yes," Filia didn't hesitate for a second before replying.

"Then that's all you need to know. That is the sort of answer I've come up with for myself," Tiffany confessed. "Regardless of what happens, whether you spend millennia together or if the world doesn't last long enough to see another spring, never forget the intensity of what you feel." Leaving Filia with those words to think about, Tiffany left. "If you'll excuse me, I need to help Celo manage business around here. Make yourself at home."

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Xellos had been trying to get just a little more information out of Celo. They stood a little way outside of the lopsided wooden clock tower, surrounded by plastic trees and vegetation. "There is one more thing I wanted to ask you about." Xellos grinned like he always did, smile wide, eyes squinting.

"Ah yes, ask anything you wish, General Xellos. I will give you the information you seek if I have it and am permitted to share it." Celo's reply in itself hinted that he was indeed following orders directly from Beast Master.

"It's not something so serious," Xellos assured with his face unchanged. "It's more of a personal matter really."

"General Xellos wishes to discuss a personal matter with me? I am honored, please proceed," Celo smiled respectfully. His respectful smile was his equivalent mask to Xellos' squinty grin.

"When you married Tiffany, how did Beast Master react? When did she find out about you two?" Xellos inquired, masking his question thickly, though perhaps not thickly enough. If there had been a big angry temper tantrum he would have surely heard about it even if he was away on a mission at the time.

"It seems too good to be true, doesn't it?" Celo sighed, remembering his own past worries. "I feared that Lord Beast Master would not allow me to be with Tiffany. I feared that she would kill us both, or worse yet, only her. I know not what the pain would have done to me. Perhaps I might have become stronger, though that would have defeated the purpose of making me a monster human chimera. Experiencing human emotions has helped fuel my research after all. Heartbreak, I can only conclude, leaves a vast pain in its wake that numbs the senses to anything else. In a way, I am thankful for what I learned from that worry," Celo admitted. "I realized how precious life is and how much I owe to our master. I never said that to Zelas, she would probably be disgusted at my outburst, but I'm still grateful I was allowed to live like this, even if it is only because it benefits Zelas. As such, I will do everything in my power so that I may continue representing a benefit to her."

A moment of silence passed as Xellos took in all the information, trying to read between the lines. He had been so caught up that the wedding was thrown to the back of his mind. The wedding that was supposed to provide a cure to a curse he no longer had. Yet Xellos couldn't exactly go to Filia and tell her to call the whole thing off. She would make a fuss about him only wanting to be with her for his cure, even if had that been true, he would still be cursed. It just seemed like a somewhat troublesome formality if it wasn't absolutely necessary and they would still be together anyway. He supposed he could give her that, even if Zelas somehow ruined the event for Filia, Xellos knew that she would still be happy to be officially married, instead of just living together. It was a golden dragon thing, Xellos supposed, there was no real distinction from his point of view.

Then Celo continued, speaking through his human side once more. "I admit I am surprised our master is allowing her general priest to marry a golden dragon, or to get married at all. You'll probably think I'm ridiculous and that my human side has made me stupid, but I am happy for you."

The worries that inhabited Xellos' mind became more intense. What benefit could Zelas get out of this wedding? Why had she not returned his power? If she was giving Celo direct orders, then maybe she was telling him to throw out hints. What was Xellos expected to do? What if he was supposed to return to Beast Master to reclaim his power? What if the answer to the puzzling ambiguous path he was expected to take led him away from Filia? Another troubling thought surfaced. If facing adversity from the point of view of a human made him stronger, then wouldn't losing Filia be the biggest adversity he could currently face? He had been ordered to kill her once, was that a warning of what was to come? Would he be ordered to take her life again, this time with Zelas having no intentions of taking back her command?

"You've become quiet all of a sudden and your face is pale." Celo noted, his voice waking Xellos' from his troubling thoughts. "Are you feeling ill?"

"No, just tired." Xellos forced his facial mask to remain firmly in place with a squinty eyed grin, despite the color still being mostly absent from his features. "I should go back inside and rest."

"Ah yes, do take care of your health," Celo smiled politely as he always did.

Xellos returned to the lopsided wooden clock tower, passing by Tiffany, who was heading out, most likely to catch up with Celo. Good, Amelia was off tending to her mail and Zelgadis was with her. Lina and Gourry were gone and the others probably wouldn't be back right away. That meant that Filia was basically alone and Xellos needed to have a word with her before Pokota and Sylphiel came to drop off Val.

xoxox xox xoxox

The floor boards creaked as they always did when someone stepped on the rickety structure of the wooden clock tower that looked just about ready to fall. If it did fall, no doubt it would be rebuilt again just as rickety as before. "Filia?" She wasn't in the tea room where the group had previously been.

"I'm in the guest room!" There came Filia's voice almost echoing in the quiet tower. Zelgadis and Amelia were probably still in the structure too, though they were in a different area of it.

Xellos made his way up the tilted stairs and towards the guest room where Filia's voice originated. The door was left partially open. Xellos let himself in and closed the door behind him. Filia was lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling. "Filia..." Xellos sat down next to her. This would hurt her, but it was for her own good, it was the only way to preserve her life.

Filia sat up on the bed, instantly cuddling close to Xellos. "I'm worried about all this secrecy."

Xellos automatically placed his arm around her, before realizing what he was doing and getting up. He wasn't there to make out with Filia; he was there to break up with her. He paced around the room once, feeling Filia's perplexed gaze constantly on him. "I'm breaking up with you." It was fast, simple and to the point, yet not very effective.

Filia tilted her head to the side in puzzlement as she slowly got up. "What are you playing at raw garbage? Don't change the subject! Did you find out something more? What is it?"

"This has nothing to do with the Green Alchemist or who ever that enemy is," Xellos argued, injecting as much angry exasperation into his voice as he could. "It's about us, it's over."

"No," Filia refused to believe it. "Why would you break up all of a sudden? It makes no sense!"

"I don't want to be with you," Xellos replied as coldly as possible.

Filia glared, his words hurt but she wasn't about to believe them so easily, not after all they've been through. "Is this about the wedding? We can postpone it if you don't feel ready. I admit that I would like for us to be married, but in the beginning I never expected it to be possible. If I must let it go, I can do that. If it bothers you that much, let's not get married then."

She took the lack of wedding much more calmly than Xellos expected, but that wasn't the issue at hand anyway. "It's not simply about the wedding. I don't want to be with you at all."

"Liar!" Filia angrily accused. "What's gotten into you? I thought we had worked things out, gotten over our denials. I love you, Xellos, and I truly believe you love me too."

"Stupid dragon, that's the problem!" Xellos yelled. "I don't want you near me. I don't want to love you! I want to be like before, a monster who knows nothing about such useless emotions. I can do it; I can go back to the way I was if I get rid of you. I hate what I've become and I hate you for it!"

That did it, cue the water works. "No..." Filia subbed, unable to choke out any further coherent arguments. "Xellos... I thought..." her voice cracked and almost gave out, her words obscured and blurred by her desperate crying. "I thought you were happy..."

"Goodbye," Xellos stormed out of the room, leaving Filia crying and calling his name. She wasn't going to drag him back and force him to reconsider, but she wasn't going to let him go so easily either.

When Xellos exited the clock tower and walked through the plastic vegetation surrounding it in a dark false forest, he could still hear Filia's distraught sobbing voice calling him so loudly that her throat no doubt burned. He Ray Winged away, he had to put some distance between them, he didn't want to hear her fall to pieces like this while being unable to do anything about it. This was all to save her, even if it hurt her, it was all for her own good, he just kept telling himself that until he could no longer truly hear her pained voice. Yet somehow, the sound still echoed in his mind.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia and Zelgadis had been on top of the clock tower. The princess expected to be cheered up by the letter from her father, but its contents were dreadful. She clutched the letter in her hands as she related to Zelgadis the difficulties that were once again before them. There was someone else after the throne. This time there were no murder attempts or trickery, but rather some old documents were brought to light. The laws were ancient and had not actually been enforced in many generations, yet they were never officially overruled and Amelia's distant cousin was set on not allowing that to happen any time soon.

"This is so unfair! Why does the heir to the throne need to be engaged to royalty?" Since Naga had officially passed up on it, Amelia was the only candidate left in her generation, the only direct descendent who would ascend to the throne. She dreamed of doing good things for Seyruun, just as her father wanted her to do. One day, when their need to travel and see the world was fully satisfied, she and Zelgadis would return to Seyruun and watch over its people as their king and queen. "This is ridiculous! This law has not been enforced in years, why now?"

Philionel had no intentions of pressuring Amelia, as he explained in his letter. He would sooner hand over the throne than separate his daughter from her true love. Yet even if he did not write it, Amelia knew he was devastated by the thought of having to leave the fate of his people in the hands of someone he barely knew, despite being a distant relative.

Before Zelgadis and Amelia could further discuss a plan of action, Filia's tortured voice was heard. "Miss Filia sounds like she's in pain!" Amelia hurried over, following the sound, with Zelgadis running right next to her.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia and Zelgadis had heard the echo of some yelling, but they were too focused on the Seyruun problem to realize what it was right away. It wasn't until Xellos left and Filia's cries got really loud that they perceived the agony and ran to her aid. They wondered if one of the Dragon Slayers had somehow snuck into the tower. The golden dragon sounded as if she was in a truly terrible pain. They assumed that Filia calling for Xellos meant that she was calling for his help, but neither Zelgadis nor Amelia knew if he was still there in the tower, or if he had gone off somewhere for some reason.

Amelia and Zelgadis quickly arrived at Filia's room. The door was left open and Filia was on her knees sobbing on the floor. She called after Xellos one last time before her voice painfully cracked and her throat refused to respond. He didn't come back, she could drag him back, he was a human and she was a dragon after all. But she dared not keep him in her presence by force, if she had to do that, it would only hurt more.

To be Continued

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