Episode 011: Go! Don't Trip Over The Starting Line
As Lina, Xellos and Filia turned a corner behind a rock formation on their way down from Dragon's Peak, Lina didn't notice that there was someone following the group. Gourry peeked out from behind the rocks. So Lina was on a new mission, it seemed. Surely the journey would get dangerous and maybe she would find herself in need of a swordsman in battle, to watch her back while she chanted her spells. He was glad Fang secretly dropped him off at Dragon's Peak, though the monster fox was only following Zelas' orders to add Gourry to the group for the sake of causing additional chaos. Even if Xellos and Filia were planned to be the main sources, the more the better. Quietly and imperceptibly, Gourry followed them.
As Lina, Xellos and Filia went on their way; a little golden dragon boy curiously approached them. He looked at the purple haired lady who very much resembled Val's mother, save for the hair color. Unsure, he asked, "is Val here, Miss Filia?"
"Val?" Filia questioned with more curiosity than she, in retrospect, thought a monster was expected to have. The name sounded very familiar, Val... Val... Valgaav... Val... That Val? The dragon monster, the one who was reborn. "That is a question for Xellos," she tried not to show her curiosity. This was information that she should already know and it should not concern her anyway. She didn't want to hint at her missing memories; the general priestess of Beast Master shouldn't show any weakness. Yet she couldn't help it but to wonder what that dragon did with the egg when he took it to... Where had he taken it again? To his shop? What was it that he did? Did he make maces? No, that was her own hobby; she made weapons for fun like a monster should. What did he do then? Determined not to think of it more than it was needed, Filia decided to conclude somewhat logically, that Xellos must have handed the egg over to Milgazia or something. As for what he did with his time, she shouldn't care.
Xellos shrugged, his memories about Val were also fuzzy and he too was trying to remember what ever happened to him. He had not seen the egg while he was there and Milgazia had not brought up the subject. The egg should have hatched by now, but he didn't see a little ancient dragon running around either. Maybe the clan felt uneasy about it and Milgazia sent the hatchling elsewhere? "Milgazia sent him somewhere I guess..."
"Oh," the little dragon boy was disappointed that his playmate wasn't there. His parents always seemed worried when they played, but never had a word of complaint. Besides, Milgazia seemed to be fond of Val, so he had to be a good dragon, even if his father was a monster. Though the boy didn't understand the details, he assumed there was some kind of diplomatic truce going on with Beast Master and that, as a child, he had no reason to worry himself with trying to understand grownup business anyway. "Are you going to play with us, Xellos?" Milgazia looked angry last time Xellos was playing with Val's friends from Dragon's Peak, but he was fun and taught them tricks. Maybe the clan elder just felt left out because he was busy and didn't have time to play with them. "Filia, Lina, you two?"
Lina was about to reply, but her instinct told her to look in Filia's direction. Filia's face held a smile that was much too kind to fit the ferocious monster she was trying to be. She started to bend down to the boy's eye level, but as soon as she noticed what she was doing, she quickly straightened and forced her face to look serious. 'Sorry sweetie, but we're on a mission and must be on our way.' Filia was certainly glad that such preposterous words had not actually left her mouth. She was a monster, how could she be talking to a dragon child, let alone so sweetly? "Be gone little boy!" She exclaimed dramatically, with the flare of a theatre villain. "Be gone least you wish to forfeit your miserable existence!"
The little boy only looked confused, but Xellos couldn't resist the opportunity to tease Filia. There was just something about her that begged him to annoy her. "Ooh! The big bad monster is going to kill us, this is so scary!" Xellos mocked.
The boy only laughed. He didn't know why Filia dyed her hair purple. He didn't know why Xellos bleached his hair blond and had a dragon tail, the little boy had one too, but he was a dragon child so it wasn't odd for him. Yet now he realized that they must be playing some kind of game of pretend. "Oh no, who will save us?" The boy laughed in a futile attempt to act out the role of someone who was supposed to be frightened.
Filia fumed and seeing as her face became red in an involuntary reaction she couldn't help it but to express as she clenched her teeth, Lina let out a foreboding "oh, oh..."
"You dare to mock me, dragon child?" Filia shouted. "Do you not know who I am, you ignorant fool? I am the dragon slayer!" Purple lightning surrounded her and she was starting to look really scary.
"No... no... no..." Lina chanted under her breath. Dealing with a trickster monster was easier than dealing with a prideful monster that constantly obsessed about doing what was expected of her. Seeing that her race was capable of making mistakes made Filia awaken to reality before, but how could that be accomplished now? "Listen, Filia, I don't think you have to..." No one was listening to Lina, especially not Filia.
The little dragon boy had become so frightened by the dark energy and purple lightning that surrounded Filia, poisoning the atmosphere with negative emotions, that he hurried to hide behind Xellos. Filia was supposed to be the dragon and Xellos the monster, but Xellos didn't act that way, at least not on Dragon's Peak in the time of little that boy's lifetime.
"Stand aside, Xellos!" Filia commanded with a murderous glare.
"You're really a big bully, aren't you?" Xellos' voice was joking and mocking, cheerful and sarcastic all at once.
It could only infuriate Filia further, yet she remembered that Beast Master had forbidden her from killing Xellos. Did he know? No, he had always been this infuriating, she half knew and half recalled, so it wouldn't make much of a difference if he knew. "Stand aside I said!" Filia shouted louder, the dark energy around her increasing as she ignored Lina's attempts to calm her down.
"Wah!" The little dragon boy wailed. "Filia's scary! Wah! Filia's really scary! Wah! Waah!" his cries were terribly loud and annoying, they made the atmosphere stand still for a long moment.
Xellos wasn't sure what to make of the situation, but he thought the boy was a wimp. Lina hoped that the boy's fright was enough to convince Filia to let him go unharmed. As for Filia, something snapped in her and she was horrified. The boy's cries were bothering her and she held no joy or satisfaction in them. His fear empowered her, but she was displeased. "Stop it..." She spoke in a growl under her breath at first, then in a louder more commanding tone, "stop it, child!"
Scared beyond reason, the little boy ceased his cries and stared up at Filia with tearful eyes and a terrified expression. He was too afraid to speak any words beyond a soft shuttered "sorry."
Filia kneeled to the boy's eye level and patted his head gently. "Hush child, I will forgive your life." The boy nodded, but still looked scared. She pulled him into a hug before she had the chance to think. "Shh... I said I would let you go, so don't cry. Go now, little boy, return to your home."
When the boy parted from Filia, she was smiling at him and he smiled back, assuming that all the scary stuff was just an act. He had heard that it took real skill to play the villain in a dramatic performance, so Filia must be a very talented actress. He waved at the group and ran off towards the center of Dragon's Peak where the majority of the dragons were.
Lina let out a breath of relief, glad that the little unexpected interruption to the start of their journey had gone by without any major incidents or fatal casualties. However, her relief was very short lived, as Xellos had to go and open his big mouth to tease Filia. "That was kind of sweet of you, but monsters aren't supposed to be sweet. You make a pretty cheap monster I guess."
Lina slapped her forehead as she noticed Filia's glare. Then the redhead joined in the glaring, albeit for a slightly different yet related reason. "What about you?" Filia retorted angrily. "Shouldn't a noble dragon defend the young of his clan? Didn't Milgazia take you into his clan after yours was pathetically destroyed?"
"I see no reason to defend every little coward that crosses my path, child or not." Xellos crossed his arms and pouted stubbornly. "Besides, who says I have to be a certain way? I'll do whatever I want!"
"You're a failure as a dragon!" Filia argued.
"And you're a failure as a monster!" Xellos countered.
"Xellos..." Filia's voice was dangerously low and threatening. She grabbed him by the shirt collar and materialized her mace in her other hand with her monster energy.
Seeing that Filia was ready to pound Xellos into a bloody puddle, Lina was quick to interfere. "Wait! Don't forget what Beast Master said!" She desperately reminded. Bitterly, the redhead mused that the feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach was not alone; it was accompanied by deja vu. This situation reminded her of the time when Xellos was stuck as a human last year and she had to play bodyguard until he got used to fighting in such a state.
Xellos was a fast learner and the best Dragon Slave caster Lina had ever seen, after herself of course, but he still needed some back up now and then, as any human would in his situation. He was a dragon now, but the imminent danger wielded his own true powers against him and that was a lot of power. Knowing Filia's temper, she could lose it and kill Xellos if Lina didn't keep an eye on things. This was different from last year's situation, the sorceress mused, so he probably wouldn't actually die, but she had a feeling that if Xellos was killed in dragon form someone would die, most likely Filia.
Closing her eyes and counting to ten in her mind, Filia released Xellos and made her mace disappear into thin air, causing the energy that formed it to return to herself. "Fine," she relented at last, "let's go."
The exchange between Lina and Filia made Xellos very curious. Beast Master was Filia's boss, what did she say that would cause her to let him go? What was the monster race planning? It was his mission to report that to Milgazia and he would not fail that mission. Yet before he could uncover the monster's plot, he had something else to point out. "It's this way."
Filia glared, "no, it's this way!" She pointed in another direction.
"This is a shortcut!" Xellos insisted.
Lina groaned as her feeling of deja vu increased to unprecedented proportions. Already her mission was turning out to be a headache. She looked at the path suggested by Filia, full of jagged rocks on the way down, she was probably trying to be a monster by choosing the most sinister looking path. Xellos' suggestion was a very stiff mountain path, but it didn't look as bad. "Filia," Lina spoke with caution. "Since I'm only human," she attributed the suggestion to her own human necessity, making it clear that she wasn't simply choosing to agree with Xellos. "It would be hard for me to go down the mountain that way."
"You must!" Filia insisted. "I must go with you, as Beast Master commanded, and I cannot go through the other path, so you must use this path!" She pointed at the jagged rocks and long fall below. "Surely you can get through it just fine with a levitation spell."
Lina sighed, convincing Filia was not easy back then and this past version of Filia turned monster was even harder to deal with. Yet she knew by the way she reacted to the boy that the nice Filia who was her dear friend was still in there, she just had to be gently coaxed to come out. "Why don't you just teleport us down?"
Filia thought about it, but disregarded the suggestion. Teleporting would be too easy and this was supposed to be a chaotic journey. "No, that's too simple. We're not only trying to make our way out of the Kataart Mountains here; we must go on a note worthy journey."
Lina looked at the path Xellos had suggested, "and that steep path over there isn't note worthy enough because?"
"The path isn't even the real issue." Filia pouted as she glared at Xellos, then she started speaking in a very proud and self righteous tone. "I am Lord Beast Master's general priestess; I cannot lower myself to agree with this..." She tried to find the right word to describe Xellos, pointing at him with disgust. "This... this piece of raw garbage!"
"Raw..." Xellos twitched, "garbage?"
'Not this again!' Lina had enough; she had to put a stop to this. "That's it! I'm taking control of this operation. I'm the leader, so you two will answer to me!"
It was true that Beast Master had appointed Lina Inverse as the leader of their group, but how could she be so disrespectful? Filia couldn't tolerate it, "wait just a minute..." She threatened.
"No I won't!" Pissed off and with a pounding headache, Lina tried to resolve the argument in the most effective way she knew how. "Darkness beyond twilight..."
Filia blinked, "she blew her temper..." She should have seen this coming given Lina's volatile emotions.
"Crimson beyond blood that flows," Lina continued her signature spell's chant.
"No kidding, captain obvious..." Xellos sarcastically replied.
"Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows..."
"Aren't you worried about the safety of your clan? This spell is called the Dragon Slave for a reason, you know," Filia pointed out. Her fierce anger was strangely replaced by curiosity towards that oddball of a golden dragon Xellos.
"I pledge myself to conquer, all the foes who stand..."
"I suppose I could go tell them to clear the area," Xellos considered.
"Before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands..."
"You're not even scared," Filia noted with disappointment.
"I still have time to fly away," Xellos reasoned. "Besides, panicking never helped anyone anyway. If anything it might make Lina angrier."
"Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed..."
The sorceress was almost done with her spell and Xellos could feel the rush of power gathered in her hands. "Now Lina, I think that's quite enough," he tried to calm her down, but she wasn't listening. Maybe he shouldn't have waited that long before trying to talk her out of this. There was only one thing to do now; he gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
Lina's face turned scarlet and her focus was completely lost. The power she had gathered from Shabranigdu dissipated into nothingness as the spell's effect disintegrated before it could be used to do any real damage. "You! You!" Lina pointed at Xellos accusingly, "you cheat!"
Xellos gave her a smug look of victory. He took her accusation of being a cheat with a different meaning than how Lina spoke it and didn't further inquire about it. Filia seemed particularly angry, though Xellos assumed she was simply disgusted by the kiss, innocent as it was, because monsters were supposed to hate stuff like that. He did not expect her to stomp on his tail. The painful yelp came out along with a beam of laser that pierced a rock formation near by.
Xellos picked up his sore tail while Filia continued to glare at him. She didn't know why she was so annoyed seeing Xellos kiss Lina, but felt strangely relieved that she was. The feeling was certainly unpleasant, but at lease she was acting like a proper monster should. There were so many improper monsters these days, it was quite unfortunate.
Brushing pebbles and dust out of his hair and clothing, a blond human swordsman crawled out from under the stones that fell on him when Xellos' laser breath destroyed the rock formation. His hair, Xellos noted through the dull ache on his tail, was similar to the hair of that female warrior in the portrait at Milgazia's house and the reason why she looked familiar became clearer. How could he have half forgotten Gourry?
Seeing her ex fiance again all of a sudden was not something Lina took very well, especially in her current both temperamental and embarrassed state. She didn't want to see him now, she couldn't see him now. She couldn't let him follow her and protect her without loving her; it was too painful to be around him like that. She had to get away. With such thoughts running through her head, Lina ran away as fast as she could in the opposite direction, deeper into the Kataart Mountains.
"Wait, Lina!" Gourry called after her and started running too.
"He's remarkably good at hiding his presence," Filia mused aloud before she could stop herself. Xellos looked at her with a slightly mocking expression, which made her quickly add, "of course, I knew he was there all along."
"Sure you did," Xellos replied with sarcasm.
Filia glared, wishing strongly that she could destroy the annoyance named Xellos and get it over with, but she couldn't go against Lord Beast Master's orders. Instead she looked in the direction Lina had gone in and realized she was already out of sight. She was supposed to be the leader of the journey, so Filia couldn't lose her. The redhead had not gone in the direction previously suggested by Xellos, so she wouldn't be agreeing with him if she followed her through a different route. Without another word, Filia hurried to chase after Lina. Xellos wasn't just going to stand around, so he went off to find Lina too.
To be Continued
Episode 012: Chase! Still Not Getting Anywhere
A young golden dragon by the name of Phythan sat on the ground at the Kataart Mountains, specifically in the outskirts of Dragon's Peak. His tail was out and he was sticking out his tongue on the side of his mouth in concentration as he drew on a sketchpad. Two elf females called Memphis and Onyx were sitting near by, swapping notes and quietly discussing the plot of a story, while their artist friend tried to translate their earlier character descriptions into images.
Lina rushed by and stepped on Phythan's tail, causing him to yell in pain. Gourry quickly followed the distressed Lina and accidentally stepped on Phythan's tail again. Whining pathetically, Phythan hugged his pained tail as he lay on his side on the ground.
Filia saw Lina and dashed after her. Seeing the obstacle in her path at the last minute, Filia jumped over Phythan then stumbled a few feet away from him, tugging on her skirt self consciously. "I hate dragons!" Reasoning that she didn't have time to waste killing that, according to her, perverted dragon, Filia continued chasing Lina.
"Ha!" Xellos mocked smugly, "I feel sorry for the poor guy, he'll have nightmares!" However, Xellos was actually observant enough to notice that Phythan's eyes had been shut tight in pain and he didn't even notice that someone had jumped over him.
As Filia and Xellos disappeared from sight, just as Lina and Gourry had seconds ago, Onyx picked up a blank sheet of paper and began to quickly scribble somewhat messily. "Their random antics always give you plot bunny attacks," Memphis observed, looking at the notes over the other elf girl's shoulder.
xoxox xox xoxox
Lina Inverse, the sorceress extraordinaire and recently heartbroken maiden came to a sudden stop at the edge of a cliff at the Kataart Mountains. She considered casting Ray Wing, though she was in such a state of upset that the possibility flew by in the back of her mind and disappeared before she could even grasp it.
"Lina," Gourry, stopped a few feet away from Lina. He wanted to talk to her, to try to fix things, but she didn't look like she wanted to talk to him. He didn't understand, she had left him, or so he thought, but did she really have to cut him out of her life completely?
Filia and Xellos caught up to the pair and watched with curiosity. Lina's face could only be compared to the expression of a trapped mouse cornered by a hungry cat. The redhead tried to device an escape, she was so out of focus she doubted she could Ray Wing her way out of this and Filia refused to teleport her away. The only option left was Xellos. "As the leader of the group I order you to change into a dragon and fly me out of here!" She called out to him.
"But that's-" Filia began to protest.
"Do it!" Lina interrupted.
"Alright, alright," Xellos agreed.
Lina looked away, but Filia continued to complain, she didn't want her assigned leader to rely on a dragon for anything. "Wait, you shouldn't-" There was a flash of golden light as Xellos changed into his dragon form and Filia gasped when she realized that he didn't take cover before the transformation and she had been glaring at him at the time. "You piece of raw garbage!" She blushed involuntarily, mentally scolding herself for it, because a monster should have more control over her physical form. "Nobody wants to see that!"
"Then you should have had the decency to look away like Lina," Xellos retorted. "Although, judging by the blush on your face, I'd say you enjoyed it, you're such an improper monster!"
"Monsters are supposed to be improper!" Filia blurted out the first counterargument that came into her mind, which was not really a very good one. She tried to amend it. "Not that I would ever be attracted to a golden dragon no matter how improper it may be!"
"Hurry up or you'll be left behind!" Lina called out, she was already climbing on Xellos' back.
"Wait, don't leave me behind, I want to go too!" Gourry insisted.
The blond swordsman tried to climb on the golden dragon's back, but Xellos picked him up off himself and placed him on the ground. "I don't mind if you come along, but if Lina blows her temper again, I really don't want her to cast a Dragon Slave while riding on me. Take off!" Xellos flapped his wings, creating a great wind and flew away from the Kataart Mountains.
"Don't leave without me!" Filia disappeared into the astral side and reappeared floating next to Lina as she rode on Xellos. There was no way she was going to lower herself to riding on a golden dragon.
Left behind at the edge of the cliff, Gourry watched as the golden dragon and the purple haired girl disappeared along with Lina. "I wonder who Lina's new friends are." Gourry, being Gourry, didn't recognized Xellos and Filia, though he did think Lina's new friends reminded him of them. Even so, Xellos wasn't a dragon and Filia didn't have purple hair, so he assumed they were different people. He frowned, was there something going on between the golden dragon and Lina?
xoxox xox xoxox
Feeling the wind on her face in blissful silence for a while was just what Lina needed to recover her senses. She let out a breath and lay down on Xellos' back as he continued to fly. "Where are we heading to?" Filia's voice woke her.
"No where really, I'm just flying," Xellos replied.
Filia pouted and glared, "I was not talking to you, raw garbage. Where are we heading to, Lina?"
Lina thought about it for a moment and came to a decision. Perhaps this journey would be a little easier to overtake with Amelia and Zelgadis in the group. "Seyruun," she replied. "We're going to Seyruun."
"Roger that," Xellos altered his flight course to head in the direction of Seyruun.
Filia was not pleased. It was not the destination that bothered her, but the method of transportation. "I do hope you're not planning to fly on this filthy thing all the way. If that is your intention, I must object!"
"It's the easiest way," Lina grumbled. "We'll start walking again after we leave Seyruun," and by then she would have someone to back her up in keeping those two in check.
"Absolutely not, we must take this journey properly starting right now!" Filia insisted, a sadistic look flashed in her eyes as her mace materialized in her hands. Lina had a very bad feeling about this. Xellos twisted his long dragon neck back to look at them and saw the mace; he had a very bad feeling about it too, but showed no outer signs of it. "Land right now dragon, or I'll force you to land by breaking your wings!" Beast Master had ordered Filia not to kill Xellos, but she didn't say anything about hurting him.
Xellos' amethyst eyes glared with a challenge, "don't fall off, Lina."
The redhead didn't have to be warned twice. "Wait! What are you going to do?" Lina knew that the ride was about to get wild, she climbed on to Xellos' head, wrapping one arm around one of his dragon horns and grasping the hair of his yellow main with her other hand.
Xellos didn't reply with words, but with actions. He shot a laser breath at Filia. She disappeared out of the way and reappeared again, raging mad. "You dare to so openly challenge me?!" Then she noticed that Xellos was flying away full speed. 'The nerve of him, picking a fight then flying off!' "Come back here!" Filia teleported in front of Xellos, causing him to make a sudden turn to dodge the monster in front of him. "I'll get you for this!"
"Don't forget what Beast Master said!" Lina called out, still holding on to Xellos and pulling his hair a lot in the process.
"Don't pull my hair so much!" Xellos complained as he dodged Filia's attacks of dark energy and purple lightning.
"You'd be surprised at what a dragon can live through!" Filia called out in reply to Lina as she gathered more dark energy around her mace. The mace grew to gigantic proportions, glowing with dark light and sizzling with purple lightning.
Lina gasped, this was serious. "But I'm human!" She reminded, yet it didn't look like Filia was going to listen to reason. The monster swung the giant mace of dark energy at Xellos and by consequence at Lina, who was on his head. "Elmekia Lance! Elmekia Lance! Elmekia Lance!" Lina aimed the consecutive attacks at the giant mace, trying to dissipate the monster energy that it was made of. At the same time Xellos shot lasers at it for the same purpose.
The mace was weakened, but Filia fed it more energy so it didn't disappear. "Windy Shield!" Xellos and Lina called out at the same time, shielding themselves from the attack that was too large and fast to dodge. The mace of energy collided with them, but rather than a blunt hit, the giant mace had been weakened enough to feel more like a shock of negative electrical currents.
"This has to stop!" Lina yelled with great alarm.
"Miss Lina, please dismount off that horrid thing," Filia scolded. "I assure you I have not forgotten Lord Beast Master's orders and I have no intentions of defying her, but there are certain liberties that it is possible to take without breaking her commands!"
This wasn't good, Filia was too stubborn and she was too much into a stereotypical monster mind frame. Yet within the situation, Lina also felt sorry for her, Filia would feel terrible about all this when she recovered herself. "Alright, I give up. Xellos, land."
"No way," Xellos stubbornly declared. "I shouldn't have to listen to some monster brat!"
"Then listen to me before I Dragon Slave you!" Lina stomped her feet on Xellos' head. "Land this instant!" to make sure she was taken seriously, she began the familiar chant. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..."
"Fine!" Xellos growled and began to lower his altitude straight down, hovering near a mountain path. Lina jumped off and stood on the narrow ledge that was just barely big enough for a human and certainly not spacious enough for a dragon. "I'm changing back now." Lina nodded and looked away. With another flash of golden light, Xellos changed back to his human form. Filia floated near by, her arms crossed and her face scrunched up in angry indignation. She pretended to look away while keeping one eye open behind her long purple bangs.
After the transformation was done, Filia landed near the others. Lina didn't even bother looking back at them. Instead she started down the path grumbling enraged incoherencies. As Xellos tried to dodge Filia's attacks, the chase had led them back to the Kataart Mountains, making them lose what little progress they had made on their way to Seyruun. Now they would have to finish making their way down from the mountains on foot.
"You!" Filia gasped all of a sudden, pointing her right index finger at Xellos, or more specifically at his behind.
"Oops..." When he changed back into his human form, Xellos had done so completely. He had forgotten that his pants had already been ruined with a tail hole before. He allowed his tail to grow out again, figuring it was the best solution to the problem at the time.
Filia knew that Xellos was about to say something teasing. How dare he tease her! She didn't want to hear it, so she threw her head back with an angry "hmp!" and hurried to walk past him to catch up with Lina. That dragon was so infuriating, if only Beast Master had not forbidden her from killing him. If only he would just go away, if only he would be involved in an unfortunate accident. 'That's it!' Filia thought triumphantly. If Xellos died in an accident or was killed by someone else, then it wouldn't be her fault. Beast Master told her not to kill him; she didn't say she had to protect him. Yet waiting for an accident to happen might take too long, so maybe she should give him a little push, literally.
Xellos didn't like the victorious look that Filia had on her face. She must be plotting something, so he should be on his guard. Filia was slowing her pace to allow him to catch up to her and make it look like it happened naturally. They were walking next to each other now with Xellos on the side of the mountain path cliff's ledge. Suddenly, she shoved him pretending it was an accident. He feigned distress as he fell and caught a glimpse of Filia's smug look.
Lina heard something suspicious, like someone yelping as they fell off a cliff. She looked back at where Xellos and Filia were supposed to be following her, but only saw Filia looking smug. Then Xellos reappeared in a half transformed state. At some point he found the time to remove his cloak and shirt to allow his golden scaled wings to grow on his back. Lina shrugged and kept going.
Filia glared as Xellos landed next to her. She glared for what she dimmed was a moment longer than she should then looked away in indignation. How dare he survive? "You look like a gargoyle," she growled.
"You look like a gorgon," Xellos retorted.
"You're a disgusting reptile!" Filia shouted.
"You're a hideous gathering of electro-magnetic energy!" Xellos yelled back mockingly.
"You're a disgrace to the dragon race!" Filia screamed louder.
"You're a bigger disgrace to the monster race!" Xellos countered stubbornly.
Several steps ahead of them, Lina quickened her pace. She had a headache and she didn't care if those two killed each other. She just wanted some peace and quiet.
"Me? A disgrace to my race?" Filia looked very offended. "How dare you even suggest such a thing? I am a perfect example of what a monster should be!"
"Oh really?" Xellos continued to rile her up. She was an infuriating creature, but annoying her was very amusing. "And how is a proper monster defined?"
"Cruel and sinister," Filia proudly answered.
"Since when does a cruel and sinister monster run around being all cute in a pink dress?" Xellos teased.
Filia pouted, "there's nothing wrong with my dress. Pink can be a very sinister color, I'll have you know." She was too busy being angry to realize he had basically complimented her. "Pink is like light red," she tried to reason. "Blood is crimson, red, so pink is like a lighter version of Lord Ruby Eyes' color. Pink is like blood that has faded after being spilled in a massacre of a battle field!" It was morbid and unpleasant, but monsters were supposed to be that way, right?
"I can't think of blood when I see pink," Xellos disagreed. "It reminds me more so of sweet cotton candy."
Filia frowned, why couldn't that stubborn golden dragon just follow her logic? "I'm not sweet, I'm sinister!"
"Hardly," Xellos grinned. "You're a sweet monster, what a disgrace!" He teased. "Not that an obviously sinister monster is very effective anyway," he admitted.
"I'm not sweet and what's that supposed to mean?" Filia argued angrily. "What do you know about effective monsters anyway? You're a golden dragon!"
Xellos shrugged, "I just know," he honestly couldn't explain, or perhaps it was more accurate to say that he couldn't remember how to explain it, he simply knew. "A tricky monster is best. The kind of monster who makes people lower their guard and forget they're with a monster."
"Such a roundabout approach," Filia huffed. "You know nothing. You don't even know anything about being a proper dragon, let along a proper monster."
"I suppose you know all about how to be a proper dragon, don't you?" Xellos challenged.
"Of course I do," Filia replied with pride. "I am Beast Master's general priestess and the dragon slayer from the War of the Monster's Fall. I should have this information. Dragons are supposed to be kind and polite. They are not to associate with monsters under any circumstances. If you were a proper dragon you would be doing anything within your puny power to get away from me."
"I'm not a coward," Xellos pointed out.
"You also have no shame, transforming like that in front of Lina!" Filia scolded.
"She wasn't looking, I gave a fair warning and she looked away like a lady," Xellos countered with a mischievous look in his now open eyes. "You didn't," he reminded.
Filia felt her face go red without her permission. How did he notice she was watching? He was more observant and perceptive than she had given him credit for. What ever happened to the perfect control that a monster was supposed to have? Maybe she had been taking a human form for too long. "I only looked on accident! It shouldn't matter anyway, I'm a monster, I don't care about such stupid matters."
"But you're such a sweet monster it almost looks like you have a crush on me," Xellos teased. Infuriating this monster was too much fun to resist; she was so volatile it amused him to no end. He didn't think a dragon should be amused by such things, but he didn't care. He wasn't one to stick too closely to the rules anyway, though he did have an intense loyalty for his leader... his leader... His past clan elder? His new clan elder, Milgazia? Who inspired that sense of loyalty? There was a blurry image in the back of his mind of someone who was not a dragon elder, who could it be?
"Are you even listening to me?" Filia's yelling in his ear woke Xellos from his thoughts. "I said that monsters don't feel affection, they don't love."
"Oh right, I forgot," there was a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "I guess you're not a rebellious monster, are you? Nor are you a special one, just a bit odd."
"I'm not odd, you are!" Filia accused. "Just what is it that makes you the way you are? Why are you so different from other golden dragons? Why are you so carefree, so annoying, so infuriating?" 'So fascinating?' she mentally added, albeit she quickly banished the thought.
"I wonder if you could answer that question if asked about yourself," Xellos mused aloud. "As for me..." He winked and shook his finger and his tail at her. "That is a secret."
He was mocking her, Filia's face turned redder in anger. How dare he mock her so directly and constantly? She reacted somehow savagely and bit his tail. She was the daughter of Zelas, the greatest dragon cuisine chef in the world and she felt like ripping Xellos' tail off and eating it. He could live without it after all.
To be Continued
Episode 013: War! Tails (And Tales) Of Enemies
Xellos yelled in pain as his tail was suddenly assaulted without a warning. He had to be more careful, Filia was more violent than his fuzzy scattered memories revealed. Wasn't he supposed to be the violent one, throwing temper tantrums in dragon form and leaving random towns in ruins? There was no time to try to sort through his blurry shifting memories now, as the only thing that occupied his mind was pain. A barrage of lasers was released from his mouth point blank at Filia. Acting on instinct, she teleported away and some of the lasers caught Xellos' own tail.
Filia looked smug, noticing that Xellos' tail was still bleeding and his expression was very pained. Maybe she wouldn't have to pull his tail off after all. Yet when she looked at him for a second longer, a painful rush of guilt overtook her. This made no sense, he was a dragon and she was a monster, she was supposed to be enjoying this, but she suddenly felt awful. She told herself that she was simply disgusted by how pathetic the dragon was and unable to look at him any longer, she hurried to find Lina.
"You'll pay for this, monster." Xellos' purple eyes glared intensely at Filia's back as she hurried away to catch up to Lina. If she thought that dragons were weak, she would have to learn the hard way how lethal they could be.
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Later, far from the Kataart Mountains, Milgazia had just arrived at Wolf Pack Island, having been teleported by Fang, who was only too amused to run around, or rather teleport around, playing messenger boy for Beast Master. It was like playing fetch, a game that he adored, except instead of fetching a stick or ball, he had to fetch a dragon, not in his mouth fortunately for Milgazia. The dragon elder, who was already wearing his brass rackets uniform, busied himself with setting things up for a game, one on one, at Zelas' court while the monster lord appeared to be talking to herself.
Zelas had her alternate sporty look with shorter hair orange in color in a wing shaped hairstyle. She wore a brass rackets uniform as she converse with her little messenger monster bird, Jarde. The cute but tricky tiny creature gave a whole new meaning to the phrase 'a little bird told me...' "She did that, really?"
Jarde chirped softly into Zelas' ear sitting on her shoulder. Although, even if Milgazia heard the monster bird, he wouldn't be able to understand him anyway. He was telling Zelas about when Filia bit Xellos' tail, wondering if a tail injury was particularly serious for a dragon, as there had been a lot of blood before Xellos managed to patch up the wound with healing magic.
"I don't think it's fatal," Zelas replied, noting that Milgazia was giving her an odd look.
"What is?" He wasn't particularly fond of these meetings, but the odd occasional games of brass rackets, though they had no official partnership anymore, served as a way for them to spy on each other. In a way it was mutually beneficial and there were certain details that Milgazia wanted to discuss that he wouldn't otherwise get the chance to inquire about. That didn't mean he actually expected a straight answer from Zelas, because he didn't, but an expression, a reaction, a hint, something, anything, was better than nothing.
Jarde chirped again with the suggestion to test the theory and Milgazia took note of the bird, concluding that Zelas must have been talking to her tiny minion the whole time. She gave him a hungry look that reminded him of when she threatened to turn him into dragon cuisine and replied. "If I try to test the theory I won't be able to stop. He would die, but not due to the injury, but rather, because he would be completely consumed."
Milgazia looked displeased as Zelas went back to talking to the bird and ignored his indignation. "Go now Jarde, keep me informed and don't worry so much about a minor scratch. A sadistic monster is a terribly dangerous thing; I expected this much at least. I'll have to make Xellos a dragon cuisine banquet when he comes back to make up for all the terrible peril I'm putting him through for the sake of chaos." Jarde chirped cutely despite being a monster and flew away, fading to the astral side soon after.
After Jarde was gone, Milgazia address Zelas. "You've told me so much already, so you might as well tell me the reason why."
Zelas feigned ignorance, "what ever do you mean?"
Milgazia was not in the mood to go around in circles, so he was direct. He began with a review, "in the past year you would call me to play brass rackets when there were important meeting concerning the dragon race as a whole. You used threatening my clan to presume to go, thus forcing me to send a representative to the meeting rather than going myself. Following such occasions you arranged it for my usual representatives to be busied elsewhere on the next meeting, making me send someone else."
"No matter how much they pay attention and take notes, the information will still be out of context after the previous meetings have been summarized and retold." Milgazia continued. "Plus my representatives wouldn't be able to vote on certain aspects unless they have my signature, which I wouldn't be there to give in the name of the clan. Even if I try to catch up later I'll get behind in important political matters, look irresponsible and overall be judged for putting my clan's safety above formal procedures."
"Of course everyone knows you put your clan first, just like in the past." Zelas smiled as if the tragedy of the past was unrelated to her, but it was very closely related to her and to Xellos.
After the previous water clan leader was killed early during the War of the Monster's Fall, the clan was left in disarray. Official decrees were terribly slowed because of the war and because they were cut off from the other temples, thus the inhabitants of the Kataart Mountains had to fend for themselves and decide for themselves. Without any official confirmations, the dragons that had lost their leader turned to a young golden dragon with wisdom beyond his years and a courageous determination. Many would later ascertain that despite the results of the massacre, there wouldn't be a single dragon left in the Kataart Mountains if not for Milgazia's leadership. He was known as pleasant Milgazia, always smart, always a perfect gentleman, always good company, friendly and loyal, he even became close to the elves and formed a closer alliance to them than any other dragon leader previously had.
Even after the war when things needed to be made official and procedures properly carried out, no one questioned that Milgazia should remain as the leader of the water clan. His views were more open-minded than other dragons and he even spent some time traveling with a human female warrior. Rumors flew for a time that he had been in love with her, but the woman eventually married a human and those who spoke of such things were looked down upon for daring to think that pleasant Milgazia was anything less than what a proper dragon should be, even if he was far less strict than other leaders when it came to tradition.
Milgazia's clan was always exceptional. They were not extinguished when the odds were against them and guarded the knowledge of the Aqualord through the passing of time. They were also recalled as being one of the clans that did not participate in fighting the Ancient Dragons despite being under the leadership of a golden dragon. Some elders, who had been a part of the battle back then, thought that Milgazia had no choice but to hold back his forces to ensure his home's survival after being targeted by Xellos. Others ascertained that he knew the golden dragons were making a mistake and did not want to be a part of it. Both were right, Milgazia didn't want to participate in an unfair battle, but he was also thinking of his clan's safety, putting them first, as they were in his immediate care.
Returning to the present, Milgazia continued his review of the most prominent details of his intrigue. "The barrier is gone, but it's like you want to separate my clan from the others, or at least, that's the way it was."
Zelas nodded, with no intentions of denying it. "To put it simply, I didn't want them to have you as an asset. The other dragons are stricter with how they move, predictable. They are not as adaptable as your clan has grown to be."
It was the classic strategy of 'divide and conquer' and Milgazia had already figured as much. Yet things had changed recently and that was the part that confused him. "There is no meeting now and yet here I am being summoned to play brass rackets, you must have a purpose for calling me here. Also, there have been some events in the dragon race recently that I have found out about by unexpected means. I've received anonymous invitations, which seem very suspicious, but every time they turned out to be true. My presence at the events was informative, beneficial. Coincidentally, Filia had planned to take Val and Palou to Dragon's Peak recently, but it had to be cancelled due to Xellos insisting on taking her and the children elsewhere. Ironically, there was another event that I had not heard about until the anonymous letter came on that very day. Naturally, I wouldn't leave Dragon's Peak with Xellos around, even if Filia is keeping an eye on him."
"How convenient that your schedule was cleared up." Zelas took her position on the brass rackets court, eager to start the game, though she made no attempt to end the conversation.
Milgazia took his stance on the opposite side of the court. "How convenient that you cleared it for me. This makes no sense. Why did you push me away from the other dragons, only to push me back towards them? Why did you bring Xellos to me? Why did you give me the opportunity to have him send me reports? Even if he bends the truth, any information is a clue. I would at least know what you want me to think. Besides, he seemed genuinely confused, I'm not so easily tricked, but he might just actually send me the reports I asked for truthfully."
"He would tell the truth." Zelas served, officially starting their brass rackets combat. "I'm giving you information on a silver platter and supporting your attempts to get closer to the other dragon race leaders."
"Why?" Milgazia returned the ball.
"That," Zelas hit the ball back, "is..."
"Don't say secret!" Milgazia countered, sending the ball back to Zelas' side of the court.
"Actually," she returned the ball. "I was going to say it's because you're delicious."
"Be serious!" Milgazia scolded, he had come to hate Zelas' dragon cuisine jokes. "If you're expecting to get any information I might learn think again."
"I'm not so naive," Zelas hit the ball more harshly, sending it back at Milgazia with a great force. "I don't expect you to tell me anything, but I'll tell you this, even though I suspect Dolphin is plotting, I don't think she's the only one. There might be something going on with the dragon race that you would disagree with."
Milgazia focused his energy on his brass racket as he returned the ball. "You mean something that we may both disagree with?" The thought of such a possibility worried Milgazia. If Dolphin went against Zelas and the dragon race decided to take the opportunity to attack, a war would follow just when things were finally calming down. The casualties would be high. "I see..." He would have to look further into that, but it wouldn't be so easy with how the other elders had taken to excluding him.
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Meanwhile, Lina had managed to make her way down from the Kataart Mountains and was once again on the road to Seyruun. She wasn't even sure if Amelia and Zelgadis were actually there, as they had been traveling around a lot and had no set schedule to drop by Seyruun. It would be easier to summon a courier monster bird with a spell to instantly deliver a letter to them and learn of their location, but Lina would not do that. She purposely took the longer approach, intending to stop and rest at Seyruun until Amelia and Zelgadis showed up, so that they could then continue their journey. Val and Palou's pranks during their martial arts lessons with Phil should be enough to satisfy Filia's need to go on an interesting and chaotic journey, so hopefully Lina could hang around the kingdom of white magic for a while.
The sorceress looked at Filia, who was quietly walking next to her with a kicked puppy expression upon her face that reminded her of Gourry and Lina did not want to be reminded of Gourry. "Cheer up Filia!" She didn't know what afflicted the dragon turned monster and she wasn't in the mood to listen to another's troubles when she had her own. None the less, if Lina didn't cheer her up, she would end up depressed too.
"Cheer up?" Filia gave Lina an incredulous look, then took a surreptitious glance over her shoulder at Xellos, who was walking a few feet away from them at a slower pace. It was clear he didn't want to be near Filia and for that she should be glad, but she wasn't. She had injured him and though crushing his skull with her mace seemed ever so appealing before, now the image of his injured tail seemed terribly cruel. She couldn't think of the blood and pain without her stomach turning upside down, metaphorically speaking of course. "I am happy when the world is miserable, I'm a monster!"
Lina frowned, "I guess you must be really happy then, but you sure do have a weird way of showing it!" She was miserable and, though Lina had mostly been ignoring Xellos, she was vaguely aware of him quietly following them. He wasn't being talkative, obnoxious, or overloaded with cheer, so he must be pretty miserable too.
"Oh... right... hee hee..." Filia forced herself to laugh, but the attempt was pathetic. They crossed a river and the thought occurred to her that she should carry on her earlier plans to get rid of Xellos by accidentally pushing him in to drown him, but she couldn't, it only filled her with more guilt. Maybe she should hire assassins to do her dirty work for her. But how would that look? A monster relying on human assassins, what a joke!
She wondered how in the world she had managed to destroy so many dragons during the War of the Monsters' Fall without falling apart. Though it was an accomplishment she should be proud of, she suddenly found herself loathing the title of dragon slayer. Why did that golden dragon called Xellos affect her so much? It made no sense! In her mental quest for some semblance of logic, Filia concluded that her guilt couldn't be linked to Xellos, because she didn't care about him. Far from it, she hated him, really, she did. Then the only explanation that was left to attribute her guilt to was Beast Master herself. She had ordered for Xellos not to be killed and Filia had been bending the rules to try to get rid of him against her master's wishes.
"Filia!" Lina had to raise her voice, as Filia was too caught up in her own thoughts to hear her. While Filia was analyzing the situation, Lina had lagged behind to check on Xellos, noting the scar on his tail.
The arrow shape at the end was no longer pointy, but instead ended up in a crescent moon shape. When Lina had asked about it, Xellos grumbled something about living dragon cuisine and gave Filia an open eyed glared, which was not something he did often. Lina found it worrisome and it was even more worrisome that Filia actually took a bite out of Xellos. Well, if it was only a bite mark, Lina could pass it off as a weird dragon hickey, but there was actually a piece of tail missing and, even if she was not an expert on dragon hickeys, she was pretty sure that's not how it was supposed to go. Even for a sadist like Filia, this was going too far and Xellos was most displeased.
"What is it, Lina?" Filia finally responded, not too enthusiastically.
"I was saying that maybe you shouldn't be so rough on Xellos." Lina repeated, lowering her voice so that Xellos wouldn't hear her from a few paces behind. "I know that Beast Master only asked you to keep him alive, but I think it might be best to also keep him whole."
"I guess so..." Filia agreed without putting up an argument, which surprised Lina.
Then the redhead put two and two together realizing that the real Filia was surfacing beyond the version of her that was tricked into thinking she was a monster and compelled by her old ways to try a little too hard to behave like one. There was hope yet! If Filia recovered enough to act somewhat like herself, the journey would be a lot easier. Lina mentally gave the thought a bitter laugh. Xellos and Filia in their normal states were not the calmest pair around, all the opposite, they were the most chaotic, but they were still easier to deal with than Xellos and Filia with switched species. "I don't think Xellos is injured that badly, other than maybe his pride."
Filia gave Xellos another clandestine glance as a phrase came into her mind. 'The Sea of Chaos has no fury like a dragon scorned.' Was she the one who said that? She couldn't remember, she felt as if someone had said it about her, except she wasn't a dragon. Perhaps she was just confusing it with the human saying 'the Sea of Chaos has no fury like a woman scorned,' which fit Lina Inverse like a glove. She wouldn't worry about it though, so what if Xellos wanted to get back at her for taking a bite off his tail? Filia was a powerful monster, so it wouldn't matter what he did. He couldn't hurt her, right? No dragon could hurt her...
To be Continued
Episode 014: Lethal! You Dare To Challenge Me?
The journey had progressed with eerie silence for Lina, Filia and Xellos. Though Lina's nerves were on edge more so with the tense quietude then they had been with the fighting from before, the sorceress consoled herself in thinking that they were almost to Seyruun. Pretty soon she would be able to take a break from all of this and maybe distract herself playing with Val and Palou. She assumed that precautions had already been taken to make sure no one who knew Xellos and Filia's true pasts spoke too much of them.
The trio of travelers had stopped to make camp and Lina made it clear that she did not want to be bothered. Night had already fallen and she was tired. She went to sleep next to the fire and for some time Xellos and Filia just sat there without a word. Finally, Xellos got up and left. Filia didn't say anything, maybe he was hungry or needed to go to the bathroom or something, it was not her business anyway. The monster general priestess continued to sit at the camp wondering if she should lull herself to a sleep-like state to create the illusion that time was passing by faster. Reminding herself that no dragon could ever hurt her, she laid down and fell asleep.
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While Lina and Filia were asleep, Xellos took the time to set up a trap for Filia. He drew a circle on the ground, carving symbols around it to boost dragon power and holy magic. In real combat this would be impractical, as it took a long time to prepare. Such methods were used more so for exorcism, purifications and healing rituals for particularly fatal wounds, assuming the patient could live long enough to receive the healing. It was also use for regeneration, though healing studies in that area were still in many ways works in progress, bones were especially difficult to regenerate after all. Becoming a chimera to recover a lost limb was the preferred method of high skill human wizards, but Ceifeed forbid that dragons dared to do the same.
Regardless of its many uses outside of battle, Xellos had made this circle of power for the sake of battle. Luring that temperamental monster out there was something Xellos was confident he could do without even trying. She was rash and volatile; she could be tricked into stepping into a trap. She was, he theorized, strong enough to survive this, but if she wasn't, then good riddance. Most of all, he didn't want to feel weak, he didn't want her to look down on him. If he could just show her he could hold his own in a fight, then maybe she would stop being so condescending.
There was a presence near by that suddenly caught Xellos' attention. It was someone strong, but it was not a dragon and it was not a monster. The presence felt somewhat human, but not quite, it wasn't an elf either. Was it a particularly powerful human? "I know you're there."
The person who had been observing him for he wasn't sure how long, came out of the bushes moving gracefully. She was human in appearance, though her energy was somewhat similar to that of the dragons, but not exactly the same. Her haircut was similar to his, if only a little longer. Her bangs were noticeably longer though, covering her eyes in silky strands of purplish deep crimson. "Hello, Xellos," the woman greeted.
Xellos wasn't sure how she knew his name but he did realize who this woman was. Once her identity was clear to him he remembered or rather knew when he had met her. His memories were terribly blurry, but he knew. "Luna," she was the knight of Ceifeed, he had gone to her during the Darkstar incident and she sent him to find Lina. "What brings you here?" He asked with curiosity, because he didn't think the knight of Ceifeed would just be coincidentally passing by. Not that it was impossible, but it was rare for Luna to leave Zephilia without a reason.
"I have received an invitation to a small house warming party at a black dragon's new house at the Coastal States," Luna truthfully revealed. "I was just passing by on my way there when I sensed something and came to see what it was." She observed Xellos's trap. "You're really out to get someone, eh?"
"She deserves it!" Xellos assured. "It's that infuriating monster I told you about." He paused; the assertion had left him without too much conscious thought. Yet looking back at his own recent statement, silently prompted to do so by the slight shift of Luna's expression, Xellos had to ask himself why he said what he did. Had he told Luna about Filia? Had he written to her? He knew, instead of remember, that he did, but the exact content of the letter, or letters, were a mystery to him.
"I see..." Luna mused aloud. "So closely entwined, jumbled up together..."
Xellos gave her a questioning look. "What are you talking about?"
"Nothing, good luck with your plans and most importantly, don't die." Luna ordered with more of a fierce commanding tone than anything else. This wasn't a concern as much as it was a threat, because if he challenged the power that he didn't remember was originally his and died to it, then Filia would pay the consequences in a strange indirect suicide-homicide with her lover's essence as the murder weapon. "That girl... It would take a particularly strong man to win her heart, mostly because it would take a particularly strong man to survive long enough to love her."
Xellos' only response was a small "eh?" Then the wheels in his head started to turn and he did not realize that Luna was talking about him and Filia. Yet his conclusion was not entirely inaccurate because the description could be ascribed to more than one pair. It was something that fit Lina and Gourry very well. "I get it," or at least, he thought he did. He had gotten the feeling now and then that they were being followed. Filia and Lina either didn't notice or didn't care to pay attention to the detail, but Xellos suspected that the one following them was Gourry.
"Do you really?" Luna didn't think he did. "Just be careful," with that final warning, the knight of Ceifeed went on her way.
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It was late into the night when Filia woke up. She sensed something near by, something powerful and went to check it out. She came to an area that showed no signs of being tampered with, at least not visibly, but the flow of energy was clear. "A trap?" She voiced. "I know you're there dragon!"
Xellos stepped out from behind a tree and into the center of the circle, which was revealed in a bright glow as he entered it. Filia was still outside of it, but it didn't matter. She would step into it soon enough, when she realized that he was protected from most ranged attacks. Besides, blunt hits seemed to be what the sadistic monster liked; she preferred maces to energy beams from what he had seen. If he angered her, she wouldn't be able to resist the temptation to run to him and try to crush his skull.
"What kind of obvious trap is this? There's no way you can win!" Filia materialized her mace in her hand and pointed it at Xellos. "Even if I step into this circle I'm much more powerful than you. You cannot defeat me, you pathetic piece of raw garbage!"
"If you're so confident, why don't you come into this circle and fight me?" Xellos challenged.
"I think I will," Filia stepped forward threateningly. She felt a great pressure around her and summoned up more of her inner strength to counter it. "Do you see? You're too weak, dragon. The monster race will always be superior!"
"You're really stupid, you know that?" Xellos grinned confidently and released the full power that was contained in the symbols on the ground. He focused and tried to call for additional power. He was lucky that the knight of Ceifeed was near by. She was not originally part of the plan, but he might as well include her.
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Down the lonely dark road, a relatively short distance away from Xellos and Filia, Luna stopped the steady rhythm of her walking pace all of a sudden. "I sense danger," she thought aloud.
Just then, a band of thieves jumped out from behind the roadside bushes. "You got that right, lady!" The leader was a beastman that resembled a leopard. Answering to the name of Jay, he was a former member of a mafia gang controlled by a clan of humans known as Team Rocket. He supposedly died months prior, with his apparent death allowing him to leave the gang without being hunted down and killed for his desertion. Since then, Jay had formed his own band of thieves and dedicated himself full time to committing highway robbery on unsuspecting travelers. His gang consisted of both humans and beastmen of various sub-races including wolves, foxes and panthers.
"Calling for back up, are you?" Luna shook her head as she ignored the bandits and looked in the direction of Xellos. "I supposed that if I had been in range during one of Filia's rampages, she would have taken the liberty to call upon my power or rather, Ceifeed's power," she continued to muse. "I might have even lent her this power, but..." After considering it for a moment, she shrugged and allowed the energy to flow through her. "I might as well grant your request. Go on Xellos, take Ceifeed's power and wield it like a dragon. I'm sure Filia will have a ball teasing you about it when this is over." The knight of Ceifeed was surrounded by a golden glow as the energy of Ceifeed passed through her and answered to Xellos' calls.
"Hay, lady, pay attention, we're robbing you here!" Jay shouted in exasperation. He had his own band of fearless thieves now, so he deserved more respect than this from his helpless victims. Well, if he was going to be completely honest with himself, he knew that the gang wasn't entirely fearless and neither was him. If Giovanni, the mafia leader from his past affiliation saw him, he would be terrified and soon after he would be dead. Plus there was always the lurking danger of being found by the dragon spooker, bandit killer Lina Inverse. The thought of her scared him even more. Even so, as far as he knew, those terrible dangers were not near by, so the night's operations should proceed smoothly.
"Hey boss, I don't think she's listening to us." One of the humans in the gang spoke up. He was a tall muscular fellow who looked like he had not shaved in far too long.
"Yeah, boss," a slender black panther beastwoman agreed. Her tone was sleek and elegant even when she was trying to be rough, though she was nonetheless, very deadly. "It looks like she's a sorceress and she's casting a spell."
"But she's only glowing," Jay encouraged his troops. "It looks like she's focusing on something else, like she barely even realizes we're here." Wielding two curved short swords, Jay approached Luna, who was a few feet away from them the whole time. "Alright lady, hand over your money and valuables or else!" As soon as he took a step too close and was within range of the bubble of power around Luna, the unfortunate bandit was blown away. Jay flew across the sky, thrown by a great force that he couldn't see. But now that he had come into contact with it, he could feel it and it was terribly painful, such great power!
"She's a deadly witch!" The bearded human yelled.
"Run for your lives!" The panther wisely added and the whole bandit gang, sans their unfortunate leader, ran away in horror.
After Luna was finished, the golden glow faded from around her and she continued on her way. She made no notion of acknowledgement towards the thieves, that continued to run away full speed, and kept on walking down the road. She had, of course, noticed that they were there, but she could not pay attention to every insignificant detail that crossed her path or one distraction would lead to another and she would be late to her invitation to the Coastal States. Besides, bandit hunting was her sister's business and she had no intentions of jumping on the bandwagon, least one day Lina decide to give her some waitress competition, which Luna could not picture happening.
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Meanwhile, the power of Ceifeed flowed through Xellos, resonating with his own dragon power. "I sense... Ceifeed?" Filia glared. "Even if you managed to call power from your fallen lord's knight to boost your own, there's no way you can win. I'll show you what the great Lord Beast Master's general priestess can do! Don't you know? My power is only second to that of the monster lords. A mere dragon cannot defeat me, not even by calling upon Ceifeed's ghost!" Filia's monster energy increased as she called forth all her power. Dark and bright lights flashed from the site as purple and golden lightning clashed.
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Not too far away, power flowed and the ground shook, waking Lina from her slumber. "Ah!" She heard a scream and the sound was strangely originating from somewhere above her head. Lina looked up and saw a body the size of a human, but not quite human, falling towards her. Reacting quickly she jumped back and casted a spell on the falling target. "Levitation!"
The falling leopard beastman was saved from his painful demise and instead only suffered a minor fall when Lina dissipated the levitation spell. She looked towards the beams of white and black light originating from a location not too far away. Purple and golden lightning surrounded the area and the atmosphere was heavy with power. "What in the world is going on?"
"I don't know, but I'm out of here!" Jay didn't even take the time to realize that he was talking to Lina Inverse, the bandit killer that he so terribly feared. He ran away as fast as he could, which was actually very fast.
"Hey you! Come back here!" Lina yelled after him, but the leopard-man didn't stop. "How rude!" She grumbled, feeling cheated and disappointed. "He didn't even thank me for saving him from the fall and most importantly, he didn't give me a tip!" She stomped her feet in a little hissy fit that ended abruptly when she realized she was alone, even though she wasn't supposed to be. "Filia? Xellos?" Lina looked left and right, but she did not see her missing companions.
Then it donned on her and she looked at the source of the powerful battle. It was dragon and monster energy colliding in fierce combat, but there was also something akin to her own sister's power mixed in there. Lina gulped and told herself to be brave. Even with the possibility of Luna being near by, or more so because of the possibility of Luna being near by, Lina knew that she had to do something about this. She couldn't let those two kill each other. Thus without a real plan beyond her quick temper and fiery determination, Lina rushed into battle.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos and Filia pushed their power to the limit a little too harshly. Xellos could feel cuts forming along his skin because of the terrible pressure of mixing his own power with Ceifeed's energy, additionally amplifying it through the circle on the ground. Blood started to flow tinting his clothes in red and he knew he couldn't take much more of this.
Filia wasn't doing much better. Her monster power was stronger than the dragon power that Xellos' possessed, but his energy was amplified and he had help. This wasn't fair and it infuriated her. Why did she ever feel guilt about hurting that piece of raw garbage? In a rush of fury, Filia tried to knock out her opponent and end the fight. She summoned all her monster energy to the surface of her being as if trying to empty her very core to use even her vital energy to attack. It was a dangerous move considering that the power that supported her as a purely astral being was not her own. Something fell out of place, something was released and suddenly, Filia's power was flowing to the surface out of control.
Lina arrived near by, the trees, bushes and vegetation around the area were blown away and some were even disintegrated. "Filia! Xellos!" She called out, knowing that she couldn't get any closer to the fight or she would be killed. "It's too late," she bitterly realized, "I can't stop them now." She looked around, but there was no sign of Luna. At least Lina could console herself in thinking that she would escape being punished for letting things go out of control with Filia and Xellos, at least by Luna. But what if one or both of them died? 'If Filia dies because Xellos was killed in dragon form, when he gets his power back he'll have my head. If Xellos is the one to die, Filia will have my head. Worse yet, if Xellos dies or is permanently damaged Zelas will be the one hunting me down!' Suddenly, Luna didn't seem so scary anymore, at least not by comparison.
Staring at death in the face, Xellos had no choice but to pour all his energy into shielding himself as Filia's power flowed out of her almost completely. "Stop... stop... stop!" Filia called out desperately. She was fading fast; her very life was being drained from her. In a whirlwind of power she changed into her true form, a pink cone, and tried to call her energy back to her, but it wouldn't answer. For a reason unknown to her, she automatically changed back into a human-like shape, save for the pointy ears that she always kept, making her look more like an elf.
The energy that Filia lost surrounded Xellos, it mixed with his own dragon energy in a current of fusion magic. It was too much for him to handle. Why was her energy flowing into him like that anyway? He had never seen such an attack. "Stupid monster! If you use all your energy to attack me, you'll die too!"
"I can't stop! My energy won't return to me!" Filia called out desperately. The amethyst on her necklace began to glow. She had no choice, she had to use the energy stored there to call back her power or she would fade away. Focusing on that plan of action, she made the purple gem glow brighter as she coaxed the monster power to flow back into her body. At an excruciatingly slow pace, that in reality took only a few minutes, Filia's monster energy returned to her and the flashes of power all over the area faded away.
To be Continued
Episode 015: Hope! The Long Road To Recovery
The air was thick but still, in fact, the area was so still it was eerie. Any wild animals that might have been near by had long since ran for their lives at the first sign of the commencement of the battle. Not a single sound pierced the atmosphere except for the ragged breathing coming from the bottom of the crater.
There in the center of a crater lay Filia, her energy having been pulled back into her and thrown into an almost dormant state. She reasoned that she would recover, that she would be able to bring out her power enough to project herself in the material world properly after some time of rest. Yet in the deepest reaches of her mind, she feared that she would be ruined, not simply banned from interacting with physical beings, but truly destroyed, dead. The monster tilted her head to the side to the source of the breathing sound next to her. She did not have the energy left in her to emulate such functions as that of the respiratory system, even if they came so naturally, so automatically before, that they were almost truly involuntary.
Fortunately for Xellos, the monster power that flowed into him, albeit very strong, was not pure. It had mixed with his own dragon energy and the energy he borrowed from Ceifeed, creating fusion magic. The pressure caused by it as it entered his body was enough to cover him in cuts and bruises, but due to the rebirth-like effect that fusion magic took, symbolizing the balance of destruction and creation, he had no internal injuries, which would have otherwise resulted to be fatal. He looked at the monster beside him. He weakly lifted his hand towards her, shaking and with difficulty. "Source of all souls which dwell in eternal and infinite..."
'I failed...' Filia thought. 'I failed Beast Master... Now that I think about it, how did I get injured before? How did I get in over my head? I can't remember, but it must have been a fierce battle. How did I end up like this again? I failed and now I'll be finished by a dragon. At least I know he doesn't have the strength left to cast Ra-Tilt without repercussions. He'll fall along with me. Forgive me Lord Beast Master, forgive me, monster race...'
"Everlasting flame of blue..." Xellos paused in his chanting and allowed the spell to dissipate, letting his hand fall back by his side. "You still don't give me any credit."
"Hmm..." Why was that dragon stopping? Was he not willing to sacrifice his life to take her down?
"Quit feeling sorry for yourself and blame me." Xellos tried to snap at her, but he didn't have the strength to do so. Instead his voice came out calmer than it was meant, due to exhaustion.
A blurry image came into Filia's head; there was a human town in ruins. The image skipped and blurred further, changing into something else. She was embarrassed, something about being naked in front of many people. Someone said something about bringing out her true power. She was feeling sorry for herself, she was ashamed, but then she was angry. What happened wasn't her fault; it was someone else's fault. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she should blame him. Everything was his fault, she wanted to hurt him. She was bigger, she shot beams of energy from her mouth, why did she do that? He dodged, he always dodged. She called his name in fury, 'Xellos! Grr! Xellos!' His hair... his hair wasn't blonde, it was purple. What strange manner of awake dream was this? It was... It had to be a nonsensical vision of delirium.
"Filia," Xellos could feel his senses fading, he was about to pass out. Hopefully at some point in the immediate future, Lina would find him and heal him before he bled to death. He was a dragon, he was strong, he would last until she found him, he couldn't doubt himself now.
Filia closed her eyes and allowed herself to rest, though she pushed away any odd dreams or visions that came her way. "Shut up, raw garbage."
It was the same degrading little nickname she had given him before, but there was something in her tone, something in the way she said it that was different. He was an enemy, a rival, not an inferior being, he was being acknowledged and it pleased him more than it should. He smiled, "stupid monster..."
"Xellos! Filia!" The pair was already unconscious by the time Lina approached the crater. She had protected herself with a magical shield, but due to her close proximity to the bursts of powerful energy, she was still blown away, though thankfully not disintegrated. Other than the pressure of powerful magic giving her a few cuts and bruises, she was okay. The redhead quickly healed her minor scrapes with Recovery magic and was as good as new, at least physically. Mentally she was both angry and worried. Xellos and Filia were more impossible than ever since they switched species.
Lina finally made it to the crater where the pair of fierce combatants lay defeated. "I guess I should call it a draw." She went down into the crater and checked for both their vital signs. She almost freaked out when she realized that Filia wasn't breathing and her body was very cold, but she soon recalled that Filia was currently a monster. She didn't need to breathe or keep a certain body temperature to be alive. The fact that she was there, visible in the physical world, was proof enough that she was still alive. Xellos' story was different, but at least he was still breathing.
Lina stretched her arms and popped her knuckles. Her specialty was black magic, though she knew other spells. White magic may not be her forte, but it was a necessity and she had learned a more powerful spell than Recovery. "Resurrection!" She poured all her healing energy into Xellos, pushing the spell to the limit and casting it again, "Resurrection!" The bleeding had stopped and his wounds were closed. His breaths were calmer now, less forced, and his heartbeat followed a steadier rhythm. He would be fine after getting some rest, they both would be.
The petite sorceress considered her options. She probably shouldn't leave those two laying in a crater on the ground, but she couldn't carry them, they were much too heavy for her. Well, Filia was astral now and she didn't have the strength to add too much detail to her physical form at the moment, thus she was probably very light, but Xellos was a dragon. When Gourry had carried a sleeping Filia during the Darkstar journey, he had complained that she was heavy and Gourry was very strong.
'Don't think of Gourry; don't think of how useful it would be to have him here.' Lina sighed; logic dictated that a male dragon would be heavier, so if Filia in elf-form was heavy, more so would be Xellos. 'I know,' Lina mused. 'I'll cast levitation on him and push him through the air. Or maybe I'll just Ray Wing all of us to the nearest inn.' She could solve her problems; she didn't need Gourry for anything, she had to convince herself of that. She was fine on her own before she met him and she would be fine without him. Yet before she could put her plan into action, she heard something.
"Lina!" A voice very much like that of the man she didn't want to think about approached the crater. Lina's heart skipped a beat and she automatically went up to the edge of the crater before she could reason that she should have stayed down in the middle of it. Gourry was covered in cuts and bruises, but his sturdy body wouldn't be seriously injured so easily. "Are you okay? I tried to come help, but there was a big explosion and it blew me away!"
He was there; he was there the whole time, ready to stupidly dash into the center of the storm of opposing magical energies to help her. Lina frowned and looked away, "I don't need your help."
"But maybe you could use it," Gourry offered, slowly, almost cautiously, approaching the volatile petite redhead before him.
Lina turned around and instinctively took a step back when she realized how close to her Gourry was. The edge of the crater was right behind her and she missed a step as the heel of her boot only touched empty air. She was about to tumble backwards and likely land painfully on her head in the bottom of the crater, but Gourry caught her on time.
Both his hands reached her upper arms to steady her on the edge of the crater. He smiled down at her, "careful..."
That smile, that strong yet gentle touch, they were what she adored, they were what she lost. She couldn't stand him, but she couldn't hate him either, she could never hate him. Lina stepped aside to be at arm's length distance with Gourry. "You're hurt..." she stated the obvious and without another word she got to work on healing him with her white magic. "There, you're alright now."
He smiled again; she had always loved his smile. "Thanks Lina."
"You're welcome, now go, I don't need any help." Lina hopped back into the crater and Gourry followed her. "Look, Filia has been turned into a monster now; she's an astral being so she's light. Xellos is a dragon so he's heavy, but I can use magic to move him. I can handle this myself."
"Xellos? Filia? You mean they're not new people? And this dragon, he's really Xellos transformed?" As Lina silently nodded in an affirmative response to Gourry's question, he looked relieved. "For a minute there at the Kataart Mountains I thought you got a new dragon boyfriend, but it was just Xellos being friendly the whole time." The swordsman laughed at his own mistaken assumption. 'I'll have to thank Xellos later for being so supportive of Lina.' He made a mental note that would most likely be soon forgotten.
Gourry's words caused Lina to become both angry and embarrassed. Yet a part of her couldn't help it but to wonder if there was a good reason for his apparent jealousy at his misunderstanding. Maybe he was realizing that he had feelings for her after all. Maybe he was regretful to break up with her. Perhaps she shouldn't have sent him away so quickly back in Zephilia. If they took some time off and became friends, then maybe he would realize how much he missed her and fall in love with her all over again. Yes, it had to work. "Actually..." Lina made up an excuse. "I'm feeling kind of tired; I don't think I can cast a spell on Xellos after all. Filia is light enough in monster form, but Xellos is really heavy as a dragon. Could you help me carry him somewhere where he can rest and recover?"
"Of course!" Gourry immediately offered. He picked up Xellos piggy back and soon found out that Lina wasn't kidding about his weight. He was heavier than Barbara, that ball from Rolly-Rolly Village.
Lina picked up Filia piggy back style too and they climbed out of the crater. The sorceress and the swordsman had only walked for a few steps when they heard a voice calling them. "Wait!" Several feet away there was a leopard beastman by the name of Jay.
"It's you," Gourry recognized him.
"You know this guy?" Lina inquired with curiosity.
"He was the nice man who broke my fall after I was blown away by the explosion." Gourry smiled in blissful ignorance of the truth of the situation. "Thanks again, mister, my fall would have been much more painful if you weren't there to catch me."
"I didn't catch you, you crushed me!" The visibly bruised leopard complained. "My gang ran off on me and now I got nothing!" Taking a close look at the red haired girl, he concluded beyond a doubt that this was in fact, Lina Inverse. "You... Lina Inverse... I lived my life in fear of someone, always in fear. I feared my past gang leader, I feared the mafia lord I later served and I feared you. I've had enough of that, it's over. From now on I'll be brave!" He pulled out a cannon-ball sized bomb from his cloak. How he managed to hide it there without it protuberating from the fabric was a mystery and there was probably an enchantment involved. He lit up the bomb's fuse with a match.
"Hmm..." Filia slowly opened her eyes. "What's all this noise about?" She realized she was being carried by Lina. A monster probably shouldn't be carried like that, but Filia was too tired to care.
"Just some crazy guy," Lina disregarded the threat, though a part of her remembered the past battles against Jillas, the trap he set up in that mountain maze and the power that bombs could pack. Maybe she should be careful; albeit she was confident she could bat away the bomb with wind magic when he threw it. She wouldn't wait for it to get too close to her though, least it go off in mid air.
Xellos had also just regained consciousness, awakened from his slumber by all the yelling Jay had been doing. "Mr. Leopard, I think you're about to receive an unpleasant surprise." He spoke in his familiar cheerful and playful tone, with a hint of a hidden knowledge that only he had.
"Threaten me all you want, I'm not going to run away!" Jay countered. "This bomb is not only at the peak of technology, but it is also enchanted. Technology and magic together, it's the ultimate force of destruction. You see, this bomb makes a shield around its immediate area, trapping the force of the explosion in that enclosed space to make it that much more intense. If you're caught in the blast, you'll be instantly reduced to dust!"
"That sounds powerful," Gourry stated the obvious.
"Don't say I didn't warn you," Xellos commented. With a confident cheer he counted, "three... two..." Jay gave him a confused look. "One..."
The bomb's fuse burned out and the explosive went off. A magical bubble was projected around Jay and his immediately surrounding area, though Lina, Gourry and their two passengers were at enough of a safe distance not to get caught in it. The result was perhaps more so an implosion than an explosion. The inside of the magical bubble was painted with shades of red, orange and bright yellow as a scream of terror was lost to the noise of a loud blast that sounded off very strangely as it too was contained inside the barrier. The bubble then turned black and gray as it was filled with smoke. Finally, the magical shield dissipated and the smoke was released to be blown away by the cool night breeze. On the ground where Jay had stood there was now only a pile of gray dust, which was also blown away and lost.
"He... was destroyed..." Filia observed in disbelief, "by his own weapon."
"Give the stupid monster a prize; she can make logical observations after all!" Xellos sarcastically congratulated.
"You were distracting him on purpose so the fuse would run out, you piece of raw garbage!" Filia shouted.
"Wow, you're really working on stating the obvious tonight," Xellos mocked.
"If I could materialize my mace, you'd be in big trouble!" Filia growled. "Never mind that, you are in big trouble!" She reached for the short sword that Lina kept on her belt and pointed it at Xellos. "Bring me closer to him, Lina!"
"I'm not a horse!" Lina argued and it felt like a combination of karma and deja vu. Wasn't that what Filia said when the group asked to ride on her in dragon form before?
"If this is how you want it," Xellos pulled Gourry's sword from its sheath and pointed it at Filia. "Let's go, Gourry!"
Unlike Lina, Gourry was amused by the whole ordeal. "This reminds me of when I used to play civil war with my brothers in the Elmekia Desert. Charge!"
Lina gasped and moved out of the way. She should have known that Gourry would jump into the insanity and take it like a game. "That's it! Darkness beyond twilight..."
"Yes, Lina, attack!" Filia encouraged.
"Crimson beyond blood that flows..."
"Oh, oh..." Xellos didn't like where this was going. He certainly didn't want to be hit by a Dragon Slave point blank.
"Buried in the stream of time..."
Gourry took a step back. He was pretty sure that casting spells during a game of civil war was considered cheating, but he wasn't about to point it out to Lina, not when she was in the process of casting a dangerous spell anyway. "Should we retreat?"
"Is where your power grows..."
"Not yet," Xellos decided. This was a risky move, but he had to try it. "Don't forget what Beast Master said!" The phrase previously spoken by Lina had resulted to his favor, so perhaps it would work now.
"I pledge myself to conquer..."
"Oh... I almost forgot," Filia admitted. "But she only told me not to kill Xellos," she accidentally revealed. "Lina, did Beast Master also order you to spare that infuriating dragon?"
Lina was not listening, "all the foes who stand..."
'I see, so Beast Master doesn't want me dead, but why?' Xellos thought in puzzlement. Unfortunately, whether Lina was given such orders by Beast Master or not, it didn't matter when she was too furious to think of the consequences of her actions. "Gourry, retreat!"
"Before the mighty gift bestowed..."
The swordsman didn't need to be told twice. Gourry immediately went on the retreat with Xellos on his back.
"In my unworthy hands..."
Reasoning that maybe she shouldn't be exposed to so much magic after such a fierce battle that she was still not fully recovered from, Filia decided it was time to leave too. She summoned up her monster power and it was just enough for a short teleportation. Fading away into the astral side, she reappeared above Xellos and Gourry, dropping onto Xellos' back, leaving him sandwiched between her and Gourry. "I'm coming along too!" Filia announced, leaving no room for arguments, but Xellos would argue anyway.
"Let the fools who stand before me..."
"This is a one man ride!" Xellos complained.
"At least she's a whole lot lighter than you," Gourry commented. He continued to run as fast as his cargo would allow, in a mad dash to put as much distance as possible between himself, his passengers and Lina's deadly Dragon Slave.
"By the power you and I possess..." Lina's voice was now an ominous echo in the distance.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Xellos complained.
"Dragon Slave!" Lina released the full potency of her spell in a massive display of power.
"He means you eat too much ice-cream pie!" Filia mocked teasingly.
The explosion of the massive Dragon Slave echoed through the area as a brilliant flash of light enveloped the premises.
"I would argue back, but right now I'm being crushed by a fat monster!" Xellos retorted.
The power of the Dragon Slave slowly dissipated.
"I'm an astral being!" Filia defended.
The cloud of smoke and dust that followed Lina's spell finally settled.
"Which means that you can decide what you look like, so you must have really terrible taste to be so ugly!" Xellos teased, he wouldn't openly admit it, but he was enjoying their little argument.
There was now another crater marring the landscape.
"Have you never looked in a mirror, raw garbage?!" Filia argued back.
Through it all, Gourry kept running, while his feisty passengers kept arguing on his back.
To be Continued
Episode 016: Trials! The Never Ending Journey
Time passed and the evening of Topaz Ebony's house warming party at his new mansion at the Coastal States arrived. Luna entered the town, immediately noticing that there was danger all around. 'A trap,' she thought. The black dragon had been acting strangely when he invited her, albeit the oddity of his behavior could only be noticed by the particularly observant. Strangely, the town was deserted and a feeling of dread hung in the air. Luna quickened her pace towards the mansion. The tall front gates were open, leading to a cobblestone carriage driveway, which reached to the steps in front of the mansion's entrance.
Luna hurried past the inviting gates and towards the beckoning double doors of the main entrance that were already open. With great speed, she dashed past the doors into a grand hall decorated with dark colors, black, grays and wine, accentuated with topaz jewels. At its center there was a gray marble fountain with water flowing from the mouth of a dragon statue that resembled Aqua Lord Ragradia. The atmosphere was still and silent, foreboding. Luna wielded her knife, "her whole body glowing golden. "You're certainly a daring one to challenge me," her voice was calm yet fierce.
From the top of the grand staircase that overlooked the fountain, there came a man who was actually a dragon. His hair was black and shiny, perfectly straight, tied in a low ponytail and reaching to his mid-back under his black cloak. His eyes were a piercing gold, angular and long, like the shape of his face and his tiny nose. The rest of his clothes were also dark in color, presenting various shades of gray, making the topaz decorations on his belt and the front of his cloak to stand out more. "I will not be your opponent," the dragon replied with confidence. "I am merely a negotiator. Would you give up your life in exchange for the lives of the townspeople?"
Luna was not one to be easily pressured, nor was she one to panic. With a calm demeanor and solid serenity that somehow existed in harmony with the fierce power in her glowing eyes, she replied. "I have no guarantee that they will be freed once I'm gone. Furthermore, I'm sure that the plans you're trying to accomplish by getting rid of me will result to be far worse than the extinction of this town."
"Far from it, traitorous knight," Topaz argued.
"Traitorous?" Luna perceived that it was more than just a random insult.
"You are meant to try with all your might to defeat the monsters and yet when given the opportunity, you refuse. Is that not traitorous to Ceifeed?" Topaz accused.
Luna's expression morphed into a mocking grin. "No hurt feelings, eh? I knew you would insist upon that."
xoxox xox xoxox
A month prior... Zephilia was a very special human town, known to produce a great number of skilled individuals. It was a place where no enemy spy would dare to go, a place where not even the bravest and strongest bandits could endure. It was a town of sorcerers and swordsmen, a place of skilled magic users and mercenaries. Yet on the surface it had the appearance of a quiet country village where people spent most of their time farming grapes.
Topaz entered a boutique near the front of the town. Ladies were busily moving around making sure all the merchandise was perfectly arranged. They immediately notice the visitor and greeted him politely. The owner of the store, Tatjana Dayward, approached with a smile. "It is good to see you Mr. Ebony; it has been far too long."
"It has indeed, Miss Dayward," Topaz gave her a charming smile. He had not spoken to the formal designer since his fiance, Jewel Ivory, was killed by Xellos to please Zelas' whim of wanting a dragon hide designer purse as a Christmas present. The young white dragon had been quite a fan of Tatjana's kimonos and Topaz often gifted her new ones. Of course, Topaz had no idea that Xellos had secretly gone to Tatjana to craft the purse where her rival, Marty Lenford, had failed to create a product that met the needed standards. Very much less, he had no idea that Tatjana had done a stellar job and the final result had pleased Zelas well. "Pardon me for appearing on such short notice, but I wish to purchase a fine product from your selection of hand crafted jewelry."
Tatjana was pleased by the news. The rich Topaz Ebony was a very good customer to have as a regular. "Certainly, come this way and I will personally show you my best selections. Did you have a particular gem in mind?" She knew that the black dragon favored his namesake gem, the topaz, but his past fiance had preferred emeralds, rubies and rose quartz. "And might I ask who the lucky lady is?" Though Topaz had not made any mention of having found a new prospective bride to be, Tatjana certainly hoped he had. Another younger dragon like Jewel, for whom he'd have to wait until she was old enough to marry. Then he would spend the in-between showering her with gifts until she was surely his.
"Not just yet," Topaz admitted. If he felt any sort of sadness for Jewel's death, he did not show it. He would have very much liked to have her, but only because she was such a treasure, such an amazing beauty. "The gift I wish to purchase is for a lady who is not even truly an acquaintance. I know her by name and face as many people do, but we have never spoken. None the less, I feel it would be rude to show up to meet her empty handed. I must ask for your assistance in choosing the gift, for I do not personally know what the tastes of the knight of Ceifeed may be."
'The knight of Ceifeed! Luna!' Tatjana's mind buzzed with excitement, though her expression remained calm and polite. "I believe Luna might be fond of garnets." Or at least they would match her usual colors. Tatjana looked through the jewelry on display behind glass and reached for a wine-colored box, the covering soft in texture. It was cushioned in black on the inside where it held a platinum bracelet adorned with dagger-shaped garnet charms. The bracelet looked fit for a princess or even a queen.
Topaz reached for the box that Tatjana held out to him. Her forte, many insisted in the past, was clothing and she should stick to it. They thought she couldn't be good at designing clothing and jewelry as well. But when she launched her line of designer jewelry the world was dazzled into swallowing their words. His fingers traced the outline of the perfectly crafted bracelet. The garnets were of top quality and the cut was precise, giving the gems a splendorous deep crimson shine. "Beautiful," he finally spoke. "I shall purchase this lovely piece and I do so greatly appreciate your advice."
"I am only all too happy to assist," Tatjana smiled.
xoxox xox xoxox
A short while later, the bells on the door of the Inverse general store chimed as a man dressed in dark colors entered. Labyrinthine, who was at the front counter at the time, greeted him cheerfully. "Welcome, Mr. dragon, feel free to browse and let me know if you need anything."
Topaz paused, then grinned in acknowledgement. Of course she would notice he's a dragon even if he had never gone beyond the entrance of town where Tatjana's boutique was. This woman, though now enjoying the peace of retirement from her previous profession instead dedicating herself to the quiet life of a shopkeeper, was still and always would be, a powerful sorceress. "I thank you for your kindness. My name is Topaz Ebony, might I inquire of the whereabouts of the knight of Ceifeed?"
"Ah, so you're here to see my daughter, I'm Labyrinthine, nice to meet you. Luna is working at the cafe down the street right now, you can't miss it." Mrs. Inverse replied with a glow of curiosity in her eyes. "Say, Mr. Ebony, is there something going on? The last time a dragon came to town looking for Luna the world was set to end according to an ancient prophecy by the hands of Darkstar."
"I assure you madam, there is no prophecy this time," Topaz replied with a casual friendly laugh. He was telling the truth in what he said, but he didn't speak the whole story. To be sure there was no prophecy, or at least no prophecy that he knew of, but Darkstar was certainly involved.
There was a flash of something in Labyrinthine's eyes. "That is good to know," she smiled as if she perceived nothing more than what she was meant to perceive.
"If I may be excused, madam, I must be on my way to speak to the knight of Ceifeed. I thank you for your guidance." Topaz' voice was polite, but Labyrinthine caught an undertone of cunning deception.
She smiled in a mischievous half grin disguised as pure friendliness. "Any time..." 'It looks like my girls will have a new adventure on their hands soon,' she thought.
xoxox xox xoxox
Down the street from the Inverse general store, there was a quaint little cafe that Filia happened to be very fond of. At the cafe there could be found a peculiar waitress who seemed to have a constant aura of power around her. Topaz spotted her as soon as he entered the cafe and as they made eye contact, somehow he perceived that she knew he was there to speak to her.
Luna exchanged a few words with another waitress away from Topaz's hearing range. Then she approached him with a smile that seemed to scrutinize his very being. Her eyes were hidden behind her long bangs, but all the same, her stare still felt very piercing. "Welcome..."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Luna Inverse, knight of Ceifeed." Topaz managed to maintain his confidence, even if Luna's aura was on edge. It was as if her instinct was telling her more than he could ever speak in words. "My name is Topaz Ebony, if I may, I would like to ask for a short audience with you... privately."
For a second Topaz thought he saw Luna's eyes literally light up behind her hair. Yet the shadow of the deep purplish crimson once again made such details imperceptible, making him wonder if it had even happened. "You may..." Luna agreed. "I shall bring you something as well, would you like to see the menu?"
Topaz shook his head, "that will not be necessary; I shall trust the judgment of your recommendation."
"Very well," Luna accepted. "Let us speak at a table on the terrace. It is a rather slow day today and there is no one there at this time."
xoxox xox xoxox
A few minutes later, Luna and Topaz were sitting at a table at the cafe's terrace. There were cups of tea and cookies before them and anyone who saw them thought they were just two young people passing the time on a calm afternoon. "First of all let me make a proper introduction, I am Topaz Ebony, of the black dragon Ebony clan. It is a small, but ever growing independent clan, allied to the Ilumina clan as well as several other clans that dedicate themselves to the well being of the dragon race's society and the world as a whole."
"Politicians," Luna observed and her tone was not favorable. Not that she judged all politicians alike, but the recent movement of dragon politicians was reminding her more and more about how human politics worked and that might not be very favorable, yet none the less, it was a part of the ever turning cycle of evolution and change. While many dragons still clung to the elder system, where the elected elder would serve in a position of leadership for life, others preferred a more dynamic method to choose their leaders along with the possibility of discarding them if they did not perform their duties in a satisfactory manner. In theory, the democratic method was the best, but reality was often a great contrast to theories.
Topaz didn't like Luna's tone, but he remained calm and polite, presenting a counterargument in a way that it didn't even sound like he was arguing. "Not only that, but true leaders who want to restore peace to the world and ensure the safety of the dragon race, the elves and also the humans. I do hope to one day form a close alliance with prominent members of the human race. While some dragons may be a little cautious about this, I recognize the ingenious and potential of humans."
Luna only smiled, but she was far from being tricked. Topaz wasn't going to soften her up by complimenting her race and trying to say between the lines that he was better than other dragons.
Seeing as Luna didn't seem to have the intentions of voicing any further comments, Topaz continued. "Before we proceed to discuss the good news that I have come to deliver with my visit, I would like to present you with a small gift." He produced the elegant box from his fine cloak and gave it to Luna, "Please accept this humble present as a token of my admiration and friendship."
Luna gracefully accepted the box with a polite, "thank you." She knew that the so called humble gift would be something flashy. As Topaz seemed to be expectantly waiting for her to open the box, Luna decided to humor him. She ran her hands on the smooth wine-colored velvet and gently lifted the lead the reveal the sparkle of exquisitely crafted jewelry. The garnets that adorned the platinum were a lovely deep crimson color and they were even shaped as daggers. The bracelet, Luna had to admit, was very her, if she wore sparkly jewelry and it was not something she often did.
Topaz gave her a charming smile, "please try it on. Here, let me assist you with the lock." He took her left hand before she had the chance to reply, picking up the bracelet from the box and putting it around her wrist. "It looks lovely on you."
Luna's reply was a simple, polite, yet noticeably monotonous, "thank you." She was bored and did not care to hide it. She expected the dragon to proceed to invite her to some party or promotional activity that would further his political career by claiming he had the support of the Knight of Ceifeed. "Let us move on to the main discussion, shall we?" She picked up her cup of tea and drank.
"Ah yes," Topaz made a pause that, according to him and him only, was quite dramatic as he took a sip of tea. "I bring you wonderful news. You see, I have discovered a way to rid this world of the monster lords for good!" That was it, the mask of politeness fell and Luna had to laugh. Topaz looked slightly offended for a second, but he quickly recovered and continued. "I know it sounds too good to be true, but I assure you, I am not playing a cruel joke on you. I have contacted a noble being from the over-world and he is willing to transport the monster lords of our world to his and defeat them permanently. It is the one and only Vorfeed, the over-world's equivalent to our own honorable Ceifeed."
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I very much doubt Vorfeed would make such an offer," Luna ascertained. "Who ever you might have spoken to, he is not Vorfeed." The real Vorfeed was most likely busy with the situations of the over-world and couldn't be bothered with the problems of a different world. Besides, Vorfeed wasn't even a he. Technically, it wasn't exactly a she either, not by the human and dragon definition, but she had a female persona, which caused her to take a female form. Luna knew little else about Vorfeed and the few details she did know were things she learned in dreams which the remnants of Ceifeed had seen from the Sea of Chaos.
"I assure you, I have spoken to Vorfeed and if you would just accompany me to speak to him, you will believe," Topaz insisted. He was starting to get impatient. "Just think, the monster lords gone for good. Think of the peace and prosperity that will overtake the world!"
"Perhaps," the first word of Luna's reply made it sound as if she was considering the possibility and it filled Topaz with hope that would soon be dashed to pieces. "For a time..." Luna continued. "With what is perceived by most as the ultimate evil of this world, the three remaining monster lords, Beast Master Zelas Metallium, Deep Sea Dolphin and Dynast Grausherra gone, peace would reign for a time. Celebrations would follow and the arts would flourish in the bliss of victory, just as it happened last year after the near end of the world was overcome. Yet that ecstasy has died down a year later and with the passing of time it will continued to do so."
Topaz misunderstood Luna's argument as an agreement. "Exactly! With this plan, we can make that victory lasts forever!"
"No victory lasts forever," Luna emphasized. "With the final battle won, there will be nothing left to win, nothing left to accomplish. After the excitement settles down, stagnation will settle in. People will find ways to pick fights of course, and perhaps they'll destroy each other by the absence of a greater enemy that motivates them to join forces. Those who do survive will be lulled into a sense of laziness as there would be nothing to combat, nothing to compete against. It will be a quiet world full of abundance, until people forget what perils are and thus forget how to overcome them. Then something simple, a small problem will destroy them. Those who survive further even then, will forget what sadness is and will feel peace until they become numb to happiness. Then with their emotions gone, they will be as good as dead."
Topaz was unable to come up with a proper argument to speak, thus Luna continued. "Living creatures are made to evolve, to achieve, to conquer. When you accomplish something, you might take some time to rest and enjoy it, but eventually, often sooner rather than later, you'll be off to pursue your next goal, be it personal or professional, or trying to progress towards simultaneous different goals at once. That is how it works; there can never be pure stillness as long as there is life, for the only true stillness is death. That is how the Mother of All Things made it to be. I do not believe that you or your deceiving friend can defeat the monster lords, but if they or the dragons were ever to be entirely missing, the balance would be lost and the world would head towards its end."
To be Continued
Episode 017: Critical! The White Knight Falls
Words could not describe the indignation that Topaz felt after hearing Luna's reasoning. "If what you're saying is true," his tone held only a thin veil of politeness as if he was ready to go into a fierce, and even personal, debate. "Then everything we do is useless because we'll never achieve a total victory, as such a victory will be a sentence towards a permanent defeat."
"Exactly, and it is because no victory is absolute that it is worth going on, to achieve the next victory and to survive the next defeat, learn from it and achieve yet another victory. To evolve, to remain in motion, to conquer, to do something beyond simply existing, that is to live." Luna didn't think Topaz understood. He was in the middle of the raise to power; he wanted to be a hero.
He wanted the glory he had never tasted and he thought he could bask in it forever. He had always been chasing something and didn't know what it was like to have what he wanted. He wanted fame, he wanted glory, he wanted to be admired rather than criticized for his somewhat greedy ways and power-hungry moves. Topaz wanted what he did not have; he had not experienced holding his goal in his hand and realizing that he wanted more. He held the illusion that once he obtained what he wanted in the present, what he had wanted for his whole life, he would not be in want of anything else ever again.
"Ridiculous," Topaz half growled. "Your mission is to defeat the monsters as is mine. Yet you say we must dance around victory never grasping it in an endless charade? Would the monsters do the same? They don't care about stagnation, all they want is destruction and when they kill all the living beings of this world, then there will be true stillness. That is what the monsters want; by defeating them we prevent the catastrophe!" By this point, he was shouting.
Luna's features were adorned with a mocking grin. She did not like ignorance and had little patience for it. "You are not a very convincing politician," she critiqued. "My choice is final, I will not be involved in your foolish pursuits and by the looks of it, the majority of the dragon race agrees with me." Topaz's frustration was evident on his face and as if reading his thoughts through his expression, Luna added. "How do I know? Because if they agreed, they would already be taking action without consulting me; you need me to convince them for you."
Topaz clenched his fists and teeth. "They do not agree with you," he growled. "They may not believe me, but they do not agree with you. Once I prove that I really can get rid of the monster lords, they'll regret waiting this long to trust in my words. I'll obtain their support sooner or later. I'm sure that the other dragons want the monsters gone too. They are loyal rather than holding on to such twisted notions of balance such as yours. The monster lords will be gone and it will all be thanks to me!"
"Leave," Luna's eyes flashed under her long bangs and the aura of power around her incremented. "Now," there was a pulsation of golden energy and the bracelet around her wrist shattered. It was fine platinum with genuine garnets of top quality, but the gems shattered as if they were made of fragile glass.
Topaz stood up. If the pulse of energy had been aimed at him, he would have been seriously injured and this was just a relatively small wave of power. He knew that the Knight of Ceifeed had to be strong, but he didn't realize she was this strong. "Farewell, Knight of Ceifeed." Without another word, Topaz Ebony swiftly left Zephilia.
xoxox xox xoxox
A week passed and Topaz later sent Luna a letter of apology excusing himself for his rude behavior. He wanted to make it up to her and invited her to a house warming party at his new mansion at the Coastal States. She had politely declined the invitation in correspondence, claiming she was too busy. Yet Topaz would not give up. He appeared in person at Zephilia again and politely pestered the Inverse family until Luna agreed to assist to the party. His behavior had been most apologetic and surprisingly humble. He could have tricked almost anyone, but not the Inverses.
That series of events brings us back to the present time. An entire town at the Coastal States had been apparently taken captive by Topaz. Another man appeared on the scene wearing simple tight black clothing. Yet his attire still looked foreign with the way the long sleeved shirt, pants and boots melded together as if it was all part of the same skin tight garment that didn't have any visible zippers anywhere, making it a mystery how in the world he got it on. There was a loose belt around his waist with the metal hilt of a blade-less sword. "Greetings, Knight of Ceifeed," the man had long golden hair and piercing blue eyes. His face had a sharp and somewhat cruel expression marring his handsome features.
Luna narrowed her eyes behind the curtain of her hair and assumed a battle stance with her knife at the ready. "Darkstar," she breathed.
Topaz smiled with mocking superiority, "you are correct. Do not think for a moment that I was tricked into believing my associate was Vorfeed though. I have known the truth all along. Even if Darkstar may be the evil lord of the over-world, he is willing to do this world a big favor by getting rid of the three remaining monster lords. He just needs a little extra energy to transport them to his world. Then destruction will reign supreme in the over-world and peace in this world. A world of evil and a world of good, is that not the epitome of your precious balance, Knight of Ceifeed?"
"I sense a great sorrow, no, worse than that, an empty numb sorrow. Destruction and chaos are not your desire, it is silence," Luna concluded. She paused as she stared into the deep cruel blue eyes of Darkstar, who stood before her in a human shaped body. "You are Darkstar, but there is more... Why are you here like this? Where did you obtain this power after your defeat?"
"I was not defeated when Vorfeed and I came to this world," Darkstar argued. "Weakened yes, I'll admit, but aside from that I was thrown back into my own world. There Vorfeed and I went our separate ways once again to rest, recover and fight another day. Then it came, the remnants of something great, something ultimate."
Luna understood what he spoke of, this was far worse than what she was prepared for. "Last year the ultimate enemy assaulted this world. A being known as the Stillness, the opposite of motion and evolution, the enemy of the Mother of All Things that wished to truly end the world in destruction without creation. The manifestation of the opposite of the Lord of Nightmares was defeated by Lina Inverse and her companions. But it seems that a small piece of the Stillness yet remained after all and it fell towards the over-world."
"Brilliant conclusion," Darkstar mocked. "I am you could say, in a sense the Knight of the Stillness. But alas, my true body cannot so easily travel from one world to another, this vessel that you see is only an extension of myself. Likewise, the monster lords cannot so easily be transported from one world to another. Yet if the dragon race is convinced that their only choice is to get rid of the monster lords or die, they will cooperate. They don't need to know what will become of the over-world; it's not their business anyway. You will be the one who will help me deliver the ultimatum, knight of Ceifeed."
"You can only project so much of your power in this world and you need to transport the monster lords to the over-world so you can overpower them," Luna realized. "That means that you're not in your full power now!" She went on the attack, surrounded by a golden glow. Predictably, Topaz made a hasty retreat to hide at a relatively safe distance.
Darkstar drew the metal sword hilt against Luna. A bright light emerged from it, disintegrating the knife held by the Knight of Ceifeed when it collided against it. Luna jumped back, that light was full of negative energy and it was exceptionally powerful. It was a weapon of the over-world somewhat similar to the weapons of light and yet at the same time different. Without a second to waste, Luna chanted a spell, calling upon the full power of Ceifeed that she was able to wield.
In the second it took Luna to chant the spell, a woman in a white dress with long green hair, sad purple eyes and crimson lips appeared beside Darkstar. "Vorfeed is Vorfeed and Canal is Canal..." She whispered. "Forgive me Alicia, I am no longer the one who is to fight. Canal... Canal who was reborn after my first encounter with this world, she is the one who shall watch after Kain now that I cannot."
"Quiet Vorfeed, it's time to fight!" Darkstar commanded.
"Chaotic Disintegrate!" Luna released her spell full force.
"Fusion shield!" Darkstar and Vorfeed called out in unison, raising their hands to stop the spell which Luna threw at them.
There was a great blast of magic that blew apart the structure around them and left them standing in the middle of ruins. An injured black dragon landed near by, it was Topaz in his true form. "Watch it! Agh... I'll be back later!" He retreated flying away, but no one seemed to acknowledge him.
Luna breathed heavily. That strange shield of fusion magic absorbed her spell and threw it back in a different form with destructive results. She stared at the minty green haired woman in disbelief, "Vorfeed!"
"How careless of you, Knight of Ceifeed, you could have killed the hostages. In fact, I think you did," Darkstar taunted.
"Do not think me a fool," Luna spat. "I know the people of this town were already dead. I knew it from the moment I saw you. You used them as a sacrifice; you drained their life energy to be able to transport a portion of yourself here from the over-world."
Darkstar grinned cruelly, his smile crooked with malice. "I'll sacrifice more humans on the way back too. Dragon energy I expect has a more lasting output. I want the transportation of the monster lords to be swift."
"You mean you need it to be swift, before they have the chance to fight back in their own world," Luna glared. Darkstar was exceptionally powerful, now more than ever, but this was not his full power. His full power was in his own world and he was confident that it was more than what the monster lords could handle if they were forced to face him at his best. Luna looked at Vorfeed again. "Tell me, are you truly Vorfeed?"
Vorfeed lowered her head. "I am and I am not. I hid away leaving a copy of myself to take my place. She has become more alive than I. We united during the final battle in my world, but now we are apart again. We are more disconnected than ever. The one called Canal is now the true Vorfeed you could say, and I... I am but a prisoner."
"We fused together you see," Darkstar continued. "Then when we separated again, only the half of Vorfeed called Canal left me while this half remains as a part of me. Since I am whole and additionally have the remnant power of the Stillness, this shadow of Vorfeed is at my command."
Projections, they were only projections, Luna realized. The real Darkstar and Vorfeed had a single true form that was hidden in the over-world. 'Even if I win this battle, which I truthfully don't see happening, I wouldn't be accomplishing much. I have no choice, I have to retreat.' "Freeze Arrow! Flame Arrow! Freeze Arrow! Flame Arrow!" Luna rapidly alternated the attacks as fast as she could.
"Such weak spells are no use against me!" Darkstar taunted. He shot a ray of black light at Luna, but the attack hit nothing.
The atmosphere was covered in mist from the Freeze Arrows melting against the Flare Arrows. "Ray Wing!" A bubble of wind shot through the mist and Darkstar was quick to pursue it, moving through the air without the need to chant a spell or grow wings, supported by his raw power. Yet when he reached the bubble of air currents, he found that it was empty.
Below on the ground, Luna hurried away, her speed enhanced by a Roller the Road spell. She pushed her power to the limit to get away as fast as possible, but suddenly something flashed in front of her and the next thing she knew she was being knocked to the ground. "Did you really think you could so easily get away," Darkstar approached.
Luna tried to get up, but her whole body was being electrocuted with her every movement. Darkstar did that with just one touch, she couldn't allow him to reach her again. "You will not get away with this!" Luna could hear an echoing voice in her head telling her to fear, to give up, threatening to push her past the brink of sanity. Darkstar was in her mind, but she stubbornly refused to surrender.
"It's over Knight of Ceifeed, you will only cause yourself more pain if you go on," Darkstar warned. "You can't stand, you can't cast any spells. If you move, your body will be electrocuted by the seed of my power that I placed in your mind. If you try to cast a spell it'll be worse, you are now a victim of my nightmare!"
Luna looked into his eyes, they were cruel and full of bitterness, but beyond all that there was an emptiness very much like that which she saw in Vorfeed's eyes. She hoped that the other part of her, the one she had called Canal was different, that she was full of life. "Electrocution, eh? It's not that I can't move and it's not that I can't cast spells. I just have to endure it!" Without knowing it, Luna echoed the words of her younger sister which she had spoken in a similar yet different situation. However, the vital difference was too big in this case. The power that Luna faced was something that not even Ceifeed could defeat alone. She pushed herself to the limit and once again called forth her power.
"Vorfeed," Darkstar commanded, knowing that Vorfeed could not refuse him. As she was a part of him now, he could bend her to his will. "Finish her," in the darkest corner of his mind, Darkstar hoped to get some satisfaction from forcing Vorfeed to do his dirty work, but there was none. She was empty, broken, this piece of Vorfeed was not his true rival, Canal was. Canal, his true enemy who was still hidden from him somewhere in the over-world.
"Forgive me, Alicia... Forgive me, Kain... Forgive me, Canal..." Vorfeed whispered as she approached Luna. The electricity ripping through her was too strong and Vorfeed, with Darkstar's power channeled through her, remained unaffected by Luna's final attempts to defend herself. "Forgive me... No, I will not ask for your forgiveness, Luna." Vorfeed raised her hand and against Luna's struggling placed it on her forehead, pushing back the deep purplish crimson bangs.
Vorfeed looked into Luna's eyes and through the empty violet stare of the one who once held the strength to oppose Darkstar, Luna saw a small hint of life, a thread of loyalty to those she loved that could not be broken. Then she knew; the Knight of Ceifeed somehow knew that she would not die, but she had no idea where she would end up and in what conditions. Luna felt her soul becoming detached from her body. She struggled on the outside, but on the inside she let it go. Darkstar should not notice this, Vorfeed, although a part of him, was also her own person and she was doing all that she could to hide this detail from him. Luna's soul was detached completely and it vanished, being transported elsewhere, to a place far away, a place where it would be very difficult to find her.
The empty vessel of the knight of Ceifeed crumbled like a lifeless doll. Vorfeed, held up the empty body, preventing it from falling face-first into the ground. "Her soul has been ruined," she spoke in a monotone with an undertone of sadness. "The knight of Ceifeed will not be reborn again, but her body remains here as your puppet," she lied.
Darkstar seemed indifferent at first. He had not gotten the reaction he wanted from Vorfeed, she was so empty, so different, she was only a small piece, she was dead on the inside. Yet Canal was so alive, he hated her for it, he hated her energy, her will to fight. He hated how she was brave, how she was determined; he hated how she was alive. Then he reasoned that an important step had been accomplished and that knowledge brought back a half-hearted cruel smile into his face. "You will be her puppet master, Vorfeed, and I will be yours," Darkstar reminded.
xoxox xox xoxox
Later, Seyruun the city of white magic stood proudly before the new arrivals. Lina, Gourry, Filia and Xellos walked past its gates and into the busy streets. "Finally!" Lina let out a breath. She was glad to have finally reached Seyruun at last. Granted she had been stuffing her face during the whole trip, but it was still terribly exhausting having to deal with Xellos and Filia. She was so caught up trying to make sure they didn't try to kill each other again, that she had not even began to device a plan to charm Gourry.
Now all of that could change. Now Lina could leave the troublesome monster and dragon pair in Amelia and Zelgadis' capable hands and focus on her own life. She had wanted a distraction, but this was too much. The streets were abuzz with people whispering about a disaster in the Coastal States, but Lina had no intentions of pausing her stride to eavesdrop on gossipy conversations and get the low down of gossip for herself. Instead she went straight to the castle.
To be Continued
Episode 018: Disbelief! Unexpected Revelations
The Seyruun castle's land was noisier than usual with guards running about and Philionel in full king gear giving instructions, and sometimes shouting them across the courtyard. His eyes landed on Lina, whom the gate guards recognized from her numerous frequent visits to the city and did not question when she led her little group into the royal property. "Miss Lina," Phil walked over to her with a stern look upon his face. "I do hope you are not the one to blame." Because when a town was blown up, usually Lina Inverse was involved. Yet this was not only massive property damage, it was a massacre.
"It wasn't me!" Lina immediately defended on automatic. Then she paused and curiously inquired. "What was it that I didn't do?"
King Philionel let out a breath of relief, fully believing in Lina's words. "I'm glad it wasn't you, I figured it couldn't have been. It was too harsh, even for you. A town at the Coastal States was destroyed, there were no survivors."
Silence overtook Lina, Gourry, Filia and Xellos as they pondered on the revelation. "Who did it and why?" Lina inquired, her face growing serious. She knew that trouble was afoot, but she wasn't expecting such a large scale attack, at least not so soon.
"We don't know," Phil confessed with a frown. "Seyruun is making its best effort to rebuild the town in remembrance to those who once lived there, pay our respects to the family members and friends who had dear ones in that town, and overall keep the situation calm. It's only been a little over a year since the world was so dangerously close to ending. People can't take another disaster like that."
"Fear is thick in the air," Filia observed with a serious and perplexed face. Beast Master had not mentioned having intentions of launching such an attack, thus she concluded that this was the doing of someone else.
"Indeed," Phil nodded gravely. "But we can't let our spirits be crushed!" He tried to cheer them up. "How about we go inside and have ourselves a nice meal to recover our energy?"
"Now you're talking!" Lina cheered. Her theories and worries about the disaster were thrown to the back of her mind for now, as food occupied her most prominent thoughts. Since Phil had not made any peculiar comments about Xellos and Filia, Lina assumed that he was informed of their state beforehand, so as to not cause unneeded questions to arise.
As the group was about to head inside the Seyruun castle, Xellos spoke. "Wasn't Luna there?"
The mention of her sister's name made Lina's head turn towards him in alarm, her gaze scanning the area for signs of danger, like a wild animal fueled by adrenaline. "Was Luna where?"
"At the Coastal States," Xellos revealed. "I saw Luna right before my little quarrel with Filia and she said she was heading to the Coastal States. She was invited to a party by a black dragon."
"Luna was there?" Lina mused over what this could mean. It didn't seem right at all. "The timing must be different. Maybe Luna got there and left before it all happened or she decided not to go. Maybe the dragon's party was moved somewhere else, dragons don't go out to human towns all that often anyway." Logically, if the Knight of Ceifeed had been there, the disaster would have been prevented.
"Do you think Luna is alright?" Gourry asked with genuine concern.
"She's fine." The thought of Luna being unable to handle a battle simply did not compute for Lina. "I'm sure there's a logical explanation, we just don't know it yet." Her stomach growled, "and we won't be able to figure it out on empty stomachs, so let's eat!"
While Lina and Gourry walked next to Philionel, talking about what they were looking forward to eating, Xellos and Filia lagged a little behind. They looked at each other analytically with suspicions in their eyes. Perhaps it was time for a report, they both silently mused. Thus, after the meal, they each took a moment alone to update their respective leaders, or at least those who they thought were their leaders, on the overall progress of their journey and the things they had heard.
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, far away in a well hidden elf village, Memphis was visiting her father. Mr. Linesword was calmly talking to his daughter as she updated him on the most recent happenings at the Kataart Mountains, while they did a little bit of rearranging around the house. Organizing bookshelves was not something Memphis pictured herself doing during her visit, but she humored her father anyway. "What's this?" She held up a little chest that had been behind some books.
"That is a very precious," and hilarious, "secret possession of mine..." Mr. Lineswords' eyes lit up as if remembering the tale that went with the contents of the chest. It was a story of several years ago traveling with a good friend from one peculiar town to another. "I'll show it to you, but you must promise to keep it a secret, especially from Milgazia."
Memphis curiosity grew with the warning and she immediately agreed to the terms. "I promise!"
Her father looked through the books until he found a specific history book, which didn't particularly stand out from the others. He opened it and retrieved a key that was hidden among its pages. He used the key to open the chest, which contained a rolled up thick sheet of paper, like part of a canvas used for a small painting.
Alarming noises were heard from outside, which made the elf father and daughter pause what they were doing and rush to the window. Suddenly, a monster appeared at the village. The creature was a black fox with silver eyes, two long thick tails and large prominent fangs. The fox monster howled like a wolf and began to chase after the elf villagers. Mr. Linesword was immediately alarmed, by the noise and more so when he ran outside and saw what the cause of the commotion was. Yet Memphis was cool, calm and collected, albeit slightly annoyed. Some elves fought with little success, others ran for cover in alarm. As for Memphis, she walked towards the beast with a confident stride.
The young elf woman had in her rush, picked up the rolled up canvas scroll from inside the chest and still held it in her hand, albeit she had no time to look at it. She recognized this monster and knew he must have followed her own scent to the elf village. She was the one who accidentally led him there, so she would be the one to handle this. "Leave this to me," she assured as she stood in front of her father and walked towards the beast.
"Memphis, be careful," the older elf cautioned.
"Don't worry," Memphis assured. "I know how to handle Fang." This was all a game to Fang, he was having fun by causing trouble, but being a monster fox chimera, had instead of diminishing his monster powers with the fusion, made him considerably less ferocious than an average monster. "Bad boy, Fang! Bad!" Memphis lifted the scroll and hit him on the nose with it.
Fang whimpered like a puppy and lowered his head. He had seen his fair share of newspapers from Zelas when she was training him to sit still during pet shows and had a certain amount of fear towards rolled up pieces of paper. But this was not Beast Master, it was an elf girl. Fang decided to rebel against her and snatched away the rolled up canvas with a swift movement. The instinct of his favorite game, fetch, kicked in and he teleported away to take the scroll to Beast Master.
Memphis pouted, but soon let out a relieved breath as she saw that no major damage or serious injuries had occurred. "He stole the scroll, but at least he's gone." She curiously looked at her father, whose face was rather pale. "Are you okay, dad?"
"The scroll..." Mr. Linesword gasped.
Curious, Memphis asked, "what was in that scroll anyway?"
Mr. Linesword's expression was worried. "That monster was one of Beast Master's, wasn't he?" To that Memphis nodded and her father ran his hand over his face in frustration. "Milgazia will be most displeased if he hears about this. I can only hope he never finds out, or at least that he doesn't link me to it."
With her curiosity at its peak, Memphis asked, "how come?"
Mr. Linesword let out a stressed breath, silently consoling himself in the thought that perhaps Milgazia would never find out who was responsible for preserving that scroll and how it fell into Zelas' hands. "What that scroll contained was..."
xoxox xox xoxox
Fang teleported back to the surface of Wolf Pack Island and approached Beast Master with the scroll in his mouth. He sat up, moving his front paws playfully and nudged the scroll into her hand. "What have you brought me, Fang?" As soon as Zelas took the scroll, Fang went back on all fours, wagging his two tails and making eager playful noises. "You don't even know, do you?" with mild curiosity, but not really expecting to see anything worth-while, Zelas opened up the scroll. Its thick texture was like that of a canvas and as she extended it, she began to see hints of a picture drawn on it.
Seeing what appeared to be the ground and a pair of feet with brown boots, Zelas turned the scroll over, realizing she had been holding it upside down. Fang's puppy-like noises intensified and he rubbed his fur against her leg like a cat. He was a monster fox chimera, but his monster side was akin to a beast, thus he sometimes exhibited behavior similar to other animals. Deciding to humor her minion's little bout of impatience, Zelas picked up a stick from the ground and threw it sufficiently far away so that Fang would take a moment to return with it. He could teleport, but she knew he wouldn't, that wasn't part of the game.
Zelas turned her attention back to the scroll, now right side up; there was the ground and a pair of feet with brown boots. She finished fully extending the scroll and got a full view of the portrait painted on it. Her face morphed into a smile, her lips parted and soon the sound of laughter echoed. Some of the wolves that were near by curiously approached to see what had amused their master so much. Whatever joke she saw contained in the image in the scroll, they didn't really understand.
Galathia, a gorgon-like monster under the command of Beast Master, had just returned to Wolf Pack Island, just in time to see her boss metaphorically laughing her head off. She tilted her head, which was behind a thick veil that allowed her to see but did not allow others to see her face; least the wolves of flesh and blood that Zelas kept as pets would turn to stone upon laying eyes on her snake hair. Overtaken by curiosity, the monster, whose body was shaped like a snake from the waist down and as a woman from the waist up, albeit a woman covered in turquoise scales, approached. "Beast Master?" She called almost meekly, the tone rather unusual for her accustomed bluntness.
"This is... This is priceless!" Zelas laughed. Fang returned with the stick he had fetched and eagerly tried to give it back to Zelas. Without moving her eyes away from the source of her amusement, she took the stick and threw it again. Fang happily ran off to fetch it one more time. Then she turned the canvas paper over to face Galathia's curious gaze, which Zelas was aware of even if she couldn't see it behind the veil.
A gasp escaped Galathia's lips and her eyes widened, imperceptible behind the covering of the veil, yet Zelas could clearly imagine what her expression was like. "That's... That's... Can I have it?"
"No," Zelas rolled up the scroll again and held it close to herself in a mocking protective motion.
"Oh please, Lord Beast Master, please!" Galathia begged. "Can I at least have someone make a replica of it?"
"I'm going to frame it and keep it behind glass hanging some place where my minions can easily see it, point and laugh," Zelas decided.
Pleased that she would be able to see the image often, Galathia smiled. "What an excellent plan!"
xoxox xox xoxox
Later, Milgazia was once again back in Wolf Pack Island after being summoned to play brass rackets, which was just an obvious excuse to have an information seeking discussion. He had visited all the largest dragon temples looking for information and had heard the story of Topaz Ebony's plans to get rid of the monster lords. However, the dragon race as a whole did not believe him. The black dragon had proposed consulting the Knight of Ceifeed and the council ruled in favor of that plan of action. If Luna backed-up his claims after calling upon the wisdom of Ceifeed, then the dragon race would seriously consider his plans.
Milgazia had pointed out that he never got to vote on that, but he was told that there were enough votes for the plan to be agreed upon regardless of what he voted for. Things were left at a standstill when Topaz claimed that Luna had requested more time to analyze the situation and properly consult Ceifeed's spirit. In truth he had been preparing his plans to get rid of Luna's soul and control the empty body of her vessel to his favor. Vorfeed's energy, which was similar to that of Ceifeed, could be used to trick the dragons into thinking that the Knight of Ceifeed was completely genuine. Unknown to Milgazia and the dragon elders, Topaz would soon make his appeal to the dragon race concerning his deceptive plans.
As for Milgazia, he had no real intentions of revealing anything to Zelas. Things were at a standstill anyway, but if she knew even the smallest of details, she could probably use it to her favor. She had not yet directly asked anything so far, instead telling Milgazia to follow her inside the hidden palace underground at Wolf Pack Island. "Have you heard about the disaster at the Coastal States?"
"Yes," Milgazia replied with a single syllable, he would try to stick to such responses as much as he could.
"Rumor has it the Knight of Ceifeed disappeared..." Milgazia presented no reaction to Zelas' revelation and she continued. "But I suppose just because she's not making her presence known doesn't mean she's really gone, at least not yet. It is still too early to say what ever happened to her." Still Milgazia presented no reaction, other then the hint of perplexity in his eyes mixed with concern. Zelas decided to leave the conversation at that. She wouldn't mention that her monster spies that were in the area had been mysteriously eradicated, thus preventing her from gathering further information. She wondered if this really was Deep Sea Dolphin picking a fight or something else entirely. With Luna's possible involvement her suspicions grew that this mysterious situation was much more complex than it appeared to be.
A low ranking monster that looked like a ragged cloak on a thin coat rack floated down the hall. It had no legs, instead the ripped edges of the black cloak brushed against the floor as it glided towards them. A pair of long stick-like arms held a mop and pail. The hood of the clock concealed what could have been a somewhat wolf-like face and only glowing eyes, one red and one yellow, could be seen. "I have cleaned the hallway and given extra attention to the affected area in front of the portrait. All that nasty gorgon drool Galathia left behind is now gone." Its voice run ominously, carrying much more foreboding than a simple report about clean up duty should merit to have.
"Very good," Zelas replied. She didn't sense Galathia's presence at Wolf Pack Island at present, so she concluded that the mid-ranked gorgon-looking monster was finally off to do her job after managing to tare herself away from the portrait at the hall. The odd low ranking monster on clean up duty bowed and stood aside as Zelas and her unwilling golden dragon guest continued down the hall. Finally, Beast Master stopped in front of a small but genuine portrait. "It's not too big, but I wanted to keep the original so no one says I made this up. This image was drawn by an official artist dedicated to the event it portrays. It is proof that it did indeed take place."
For a few, for him excruciating and for her amusing, moments, Milgazia was without words. His expression was one unlike anything Zelas had ever seen plastered on his usually serious face before. His mouth hung open for several seconds as his face became redder and redder. Then he clenched his teeth and glared, finally opening his mouth, not to speak, but to shoot a strong beam of laser breath that bounced off the glass which protected the preposterous image before him. Thankful for his fast reflexes, Milgazia ducked on time and avoided being beheaded, or at least injured, by his own laser breath. "I thought I destroyed all of these." Not even the villagers of that peculiar place had a single copy of the portrait left.
"One of my minions brought me this as a gift, isn't that sweet?" Zelas mocked sarcastically. "Galathia, you know that lustful gorgon with terrible taste, she has taken quite a liking to staring at this portrait and drooling all over the floor while she's at it. I personally prefer to point and laugh. I've done a bit of research, you know? How cruel of you to steal away the champion's records. He took five victories in a row, then another three. That time that he lost, it was to you. Of course you can't expect a human to be faster and stronger than a dragon."
No one was supposed to know about this. Milgazia had hoped to bury the event in the depths of the past and never think of it again. It had been over twenty years, it wasn't a particularly long time for a dragon, but for a human it was and the village in question was of humans. Plus they had their champion who took those next three victories to fuss about. Yet now that Zelas had this dreadful evidence, surely the results of a lost bet with his long time elf friend, Linesword, would not be forgotten. There on the portrait was Milgazia, holding a large ball at Rolly-Rolly village, wearing the typical attire used by those who participated in the festival, fuzzy brown boots and a matching loincloth, nothing else.
"I think I see a peculiar similarity between you and the human champion," whom Zelas knew to be Philionel, the same one who was now the king of Seyruun. "Do you mind if I test a theory, just for the fun of it?" A cold chill ran down Milgazia's spine. He did mind, he minded a lot, but that wasn't going to stop her.
To be Continued
Episode 019: Farming! An Ordeal Of Strength and Wit
After a good meal at the Seyruun castle, Lina, Gourry, Filia and Xellos were ready to go on their way. Phil had mentioned something about people helping the Coastal States and trying to keep up with farming the lands around Seyruun in their territories all at once. Lina wasn't paying too much attention, but she half caught something along the lines of Phil mentioning that his daughter was there. Thus the red haired leader of the group decided to head to the farms just outside the main city to look for Amelia.
When they did arrive at the farming area what they found was not what they expected. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga's laughter echoed. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Keep at it, Gravy-baby," she patted Gravos on the shoulder as a form of encouragement as he busied himself tilling the land. Upon realizing her misunderstanding and recalling that Philionel did indeed have two daughters, Lina considered running away back to the castle, but it was too late. "Lina!" Naga had already spotted her and was rushing over to greet her. "Gourry, Xellos, Epona!"
"Epona?" Filia looked left and right as if wondering who Naga was referring to, but the eldest Seyruun princess had greeted everyone else already and only Filia was left, whom Naga was looking at when she spoke that name. Of course, Filia didn't remember that Naga had given her a nickname, which was suggested by the clueless but good intentioned Gourry, after the horse of a childhood friend of his. "My name is Filia," she pointed out with a pout.
Naga wasn't really paying attention to the correction and instead explained the situation. "I was passing by to visit daddy, Gravy and everyone when I was given the mission to make sure our farms continued to steadily produce even while so many working hands are off at the Coastal States, assisting in the reconstruction efforts. Your timing is perfect; you're here to help, aren't you? Look, even the kids are doing their part." Naga pointed to were Val and Palou were throwing seeds all over the place like confetti and being quite amused by the activity. With the kids at the farm, that meant that at least Jillas would have a quiet day of managing the Vases and Maces shop and the same could be said about Elena and the bakery.
Filia pouted, because she was being ignored and because she thought it was an appropriate expression of offense when someone dared to imply that a monster was there to help. Xellos remained quiet, not wanting to draw attention to himself in light of the present situation. Lina laughed nervously and was ready to throw out an excuse as to why they couldn't possibly stay to help with the farming, but Gourry spoke first. "That does look kind of fun, count me in!"
"That's the spirit! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga cheered and sent Gourry off to till the land with Gravos. The pair got into a sort of friendly competition and hurried their efforts, talking about random things and laughing the whole time.
Lina let out a breath of exasperation while Filia continued to pout and Xellos remained quiet, as if trying to blend in with the background like a chameleon. "Oh, alright," Lina finally agreed. "What can we do to help?"
"Water the seeds Val and Palou are planting," Naga handed them three watering cans, unfazed by Filia's intense pouting and Xellos' futile efforts to become invisible.
Lina glanced at where the children were throwing seeds. That could hardly be called planting, but she wasn't about to question their methods, least she risk ending up with more work on her hands. "Let's get this over with," Lina sighed. Before starting on her task she took a moment to pause and inquire. "Are Amelia and Zelgadis anywhere near here?"
"Nope," Naga simply informed. "Last I heard they were on their way to visit Taforashia."
"I see," Though Lina had considered hanging around Seyruun waiting for Amelia and Zelgadis to return if they weren't there when she arrived; she had to reconsider that option. If she stayed in Seyruun, she would end up stuck working the land and she didn't want that, nor did she want to expose her ears to the sound of Naga's obnoxious laughter more often than necessary. Thus the redhead reasoned that they would spend the night in Seyruun and head out towards Taforashia early in the morning, after a big breakfast of course. "By the way, Naga, what's your job in all of this?" Lina questioned with the raise of an eyebrow.
"I am supervising," Naga cheerfully informed. "I'm also cheering everyone with my wonderful laughter so that they'll be able to work better. Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"
"Right," Lina pouted, she should have expected something like that. Since she planned to leave the next day anyway, she decided to put up with it. "Well, let's go," she walked off towards the trail of seeds that Val and Palou were spreading after Gourry and Gravos.
"You can't be serious," Filia complained, shaking the watering can she was given in upset motions and splashing some water on Xellos in the process. "Monsters are not supposed to do good deeds. All this manual labor is a dragon's job!" She shoved the watering can into Xellos' hands, splashing him with water again."
"Right, leave it to the capable dragon instead of the stupid lazy monster!" Xellos dared to splash Filia with water.
The action elicited a gasp of shock from Filia. "You did that on purpose!" She accused, and grabbing the watering can out of his hand again, she dumped its contents over his head.
"Hmp!" Filia tossed the empty watering can over her shoulder carelessly. She threw her head back and crossed her arms, looking smug.
Xellos looked annoyed, but he soon let out his annoyance by mimicking Filia's actions. He emptied his own watering can over her head, tossed it aside just as she had and mirrored her posture and smug expression with a similarly indignant, "hmp!"
Lina knew that this was the start of another war. Desperate to stop it before the Seyruun farmlands became a crater on the ground; she dropped her watering can and rushed to step between Xellos and Filia. She pushed them by the shoulders left and right with the palms of her gloved hands to try to put some distance between them before they went for each other's throats, which would be a bigger problem more so in the case of the golden dragon. "I bet you two couldn't plant crops in a farm if your life depended on it!"
Taking the bait, Filia growled. "Why would a monster plant crops? We don't need that kind of food and Beast Master's pet wolves are carnivores anyway."
"Oh well," Lina looked thoughtful as she continued her desperate act as referee. "It's just that I've always thought monsters were better at everything than dragons, but I guess I was wrong. Dragons must be way better at farming. It's not a thing of necessity what I'm talking about here, but rather a matter of skill."
Filia was quick to argue back. "Even if monsters have no reason to farm, we are better at it than dragons. Your initial wise perception was correct, monsters really are better than dragons at everything. Just watch me, I'll prove it!" With that fiercely challenging declaration made, Filia ran off to the opposite side of the farm. She began using her giant mace of monster energy to till the land, than spread the seeds on it with wind and called forth water with magic to water them.
"Real smooth, Lina," Xellos commended.
"Are you going to let her show you off?" Lina encouraged. "Go show her what a golden dragon can do!"
"Oh no, I'm not so easily tricked," Xellos grinned.
"If you say so," Lina pretended to give up on persuading him to work, but soon added. "She's going to be real smug when she takes care of most of the farm on her own. She'll show off about it and shove it in your face."
"Then I'll just tease her about what a good deed she did," Xellos countered.
"She'll assure that it was only for the purpose of proving that monsters are better than dragons and I'll take her side and tell her not to listen to the useless jealous dragon who's just being a sore loser," Lina smugly declared.
Xellos pouted, "now that's just mean. I guess I have no choice then. You got me, I can't let that annoying monster's head grow any bigger. Alright, count me in!" Xellos ran off to compete with Filia. Reasoning that he would be faster in his larger form, he turned into a golden dragon.
"Well, that takes care of that," Lina grinned, proud of her own wit. The would-be crisis had been averted and now Filia and Xellos were pouring their energy into farming the land.
xoxox xox xoxox
By the time the sun started to set over the Seyruun farming area, the whole stretch of land was ready to produce. "Well done everyone! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga commended. "I didn't think we could get this whole place ready in a day, but here it is! Let's give ourselves a victorious laugh! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga looked towards another stretch of land a distance away from the area where they stood. "I'm full of energy, I'm inspired, I'm ready to finish a two week job in a single day. Let's do the same for the other cultivation land over there! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"
"No way!" Lina protested, while in the background Filia and Xellos argued about who was the better farmer. "We're done for the day. Now it's time to go back to the castle and have another big meal!"
"C'mon Lina, my greatest rival can't be tired so easily. If you give up, then I'll do this myself!" Naga eagerly stepped forward and began to work her magic. In her excitement, she didn't realize that the large stone golem she was making would trample all over the land they just took care of that day. Soon the creature towered over the land with Naga riding on its head.
"Aunty Naga!" Val and Palou called to her. "We want to ride too!"
"Hop on my brave little helpers! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" The golem commanded by Naga stretched out its arms to pick up the children, setting them on its shoulders. "Go my farming golem! Go! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"
Quite frankly, Naga was making a mess, and yet at the same time, the golem's farming methods seemed strangely effective. Sure, there were large footprints left all over the place, but at least the soil was sufficiently loosened for planting. Seeds were thrown like a massive rain of confetti and water was spread all over by magic, getting everyone in the premises wet, which finally took Xellos and Filia's attention away from their farming competition argument.
Lina pouted as she watched the golem work. "Why didn't she just do this from the beginning?!"
"That human infuriates me!" Filia growled. "How dare she be so disrespectful to Lord Beast Master's general priestess?"
"I don't think your rank matters much to her," Xellos teased.
"Shut up raw garbage, I don't want to keep dealing with you!" Filia yelled.
"Um, guys..." Gourry, who had been resting from the day's work along with Gravos, pointed at the area behind Lina, Xellos and Filia.
"Not now, Gourry," Lina massaged her temples. After the hard day of work she had, she was not in the mood to deal with Gourry's less than enlightened comments, no matter how adorable he may be.
"But it's..." Gravos pointed along with Gourry and Lina gave him a questioning look, prompting him with her eyes to finish what he was going to say. "It's coming back this way."
The farming golem was indeed on its way over, ready to carelessly step on anything and anyone in its path. Lina, Gourry, Gravos, Xellos and Filia hurried to get out of its way and watched as it headed towards the general direction of the main city of Seyruun. Naga was yelling at it to turn around, but the golem wasn't listening.
"It's out of control!" Lina realized. "Giving orders all day must have tired Naga, she doesn't have the focus required to control her own golem right now. Looks like we'll have to destroy it! Someone get the kids out of the way, I'm firing!" Eager to let out some tension, Lina began to chant. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..."
"Stop!" Xellos and Filia chorused and upon realizing their synchronization they glared at each other.
"Miss Lina," Filia spoke in a scolding voice. "You cannot ruin today's work until everyone has clearly seen that monsters are better at farming than dragons. After that has been proven, only then you may turn this farmland into a big crater on the ground."
"You mean she can turn the farmland into a big crater on the ground after everyone has clearly seen that dragons are better at farming than monsters," Xellos corrected.
"How about you don't turn this land into a crater at all?" Gravos quickly suggested.
"Oh, all right!" Lina stopped her chanting and allowed the spell to dissipate. "But we have to do something! If Seyruun is destroyed by that crazy farming golem, I won't be able to have dinner in peace tonight and I probably won't get a big breakfast tomorrow. I need the energy for the travels ahead!" She looked to all her companions for ideas, Xellos, Filia, Gravos and the one whom she didn't expect to get any ideas from but would secretly draw strength from, Gourry... Wait a minute, where was he? "Gourry?"
Upon realizing that the swordsman was missing from their ranks, the group looked around until they spotted him. Gourry was running full speed towards the out of control golem, climbing up its leg, then up its back, while the stone giant trashed about trying to shake him off. "Naga, take the kids and levitate away from here!" Gourry called out.
"Right, let's go, aunty Naga will protect you." She picked up Val and Palou, who pouted at her because they were actually enjoying the ride. Then she jumped off the golem with a spell of levitation. "Abandon ship! I mean abandon golem!" Naga landed near Lina and the others and set the children safely on the ground. "We made it! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"
"Gourry's still up there!" Lina exclaimed with concern. She certainly couldn't blow up the golem now.
"Sorry buddy, but you're out of control, so I'll have to slay you." Gourry dramatically declared. Then he took a peculiar sword handle from his belt. That's when Lina noticed he was carrying two swords. One was a regular metal sword that he had before and the other was that blade-less handle, it looked familiar, almost like... "Light come forth!"
"The sword of light?" Lina watched as the brilliant light of the blade cut off the golem's head.
The creature was far from beaten and when Gourry thought he had won, the golem threw him off backwards. The skilled swordsman turn right side up in the air and extended the sword's light to reach the stone arm of the golem. He pushed up with the sword to propel himself and did a front flip, landing on the creature's arm. He dashed up the stony limb and cut it at the shoulder, quickly doing the same for the other arm. Then he sliced the golem down in the middle, cutting the torso vertically in half. The pieces of the golem lost their incantation and the blade of the sword of light glowed ever brighter.
Gourry landed on his feet after the feat. He retracted the light from the sword and set the handle back on his belt as Lina rushed over to him. First things first, she looked him over for injuries and confirmed that he was alright. Then she examined the sword hilt that once again was on his belt. "Can I see that?"
"Sure," Gourry retrieved the hilt of the sword of light and allowed Lina to examine it.
She ran her fingers over the familiar yet alien material. "It's genuine," she could somehow feel it. This wasn't another replica made by Pokota or anyone else. This was the sword of light, the very same sword of light that Gourry had before. This was Gorun Nova, one of the weapons of light that was so vital during the Darkstar battle. "This is the original Gorun Nova, isn't it?" She handed it back to Gourry.
"Yes it is," Gourry smiled, as if holding the sword again filled him with joy. He had willingly let it go, even though it had been in his family for many generations. He reasoned that it was the rightful property of the people of the over-world, but now that it was back in his hands, he realized more than ever that he missed it for more reasons than its obvious usefulness and power. That sword was as dear to him as a traveling companion, as an ally and as a friend, even if he didn't say it.
"How in the world did you get it back?" Lina's mind was buzzing with questions that held no answers just yet. A quick glance at the thoughtful yet puzzled expressions on Xellos and Filia's faces revealed that they too were confused by the sudden appearance of the sword of light back in Gourry's possession.
"While I was separated from your group, as I tried to catch up, I saw a woman with long green hair in a white dress on the road. She said something like, 'this sword might enjoy traveling with you,' and gave me the sword of light," Gourry explained. "At first I thought she was a sword smith looking for a good owner for her creation, but then I realized that this sword is the same one I had before. I would recognize it anywhere; this is the same sword of light that was passed down in my family. I kept looking at the hilt in surprise and when I looked up to ask the woman about it, she was already gone. I looked around but I couldn't see her. It was as if she disappeared."
Gourry's account of the events which led to the recovery of the sword of light was very suspicious. Something big was definitely going on and it was closer than anyone knew. "A quarrel between monsters?" Lina shook her head. "No doubt about it, this is much more than that." She was already involved, there was no turning back now and she wasn't one to run away from a fight anyway. Although, she would rather have her usual team assembled sooner instead of later. "Naga, stick around in Seyruun for a while longer and make sure everything's alright here. There's trouble in the air."
"Right, you can count on me!" Naga's face was serious and determined, though she still added her signature laugh at the end of her declaration of assurance. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"
"Gourry, Filia, Xellos, we'll head back to Seyruun for now and spend the night." Lina, the unquestionable leader of the group decided. "Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, we'll leave right after breakfast. Our destination is Taforashia." Amelia and Zelgadis should be there, plus Pokota was there and Lina wanted to have a word with him.
To be Continued
Episode 020: Startling! Another Dragon In Distress
On their way to Taforashia, Lina, Gourry, Xellos and Filia stopped at a town. It was the same as always, Lina and Gourry cleaned up all the supplies of the local restaurant and after spending the night at the town's inn, the group would once again be on their way. The suspicious occurrences that had taken place lately had Filia wondering what would happen next. She strayed from the group and wandered around town for a while, blending in surprisingly well.
The street merchants called out various phrases to advertise their products, but one specific merchant stood out to Filia above all the others. He wasn't any louder than the rest of them, but her pointy ears picked out his words above the shouts and murmurs of the busy streets. "Berries, get your berries. Just make sure you don't give them to dragons or they'll go crazy!"
Driven by curiosity and mischievous intentions, Filia approached the man behind the booth. His hair was black, about mid-back length tied in a low ponytail. She looked at his peculiar violet eyes that reminded her of Xellos eyes, except this man seemed to b a human. There was something in the back of her mind that told her she had seen him before, but she couldn't remember. She looked at the berries he sold; they were red and somewhat heart-shaped. "Will these berries really drive a dragon crazy?"
"Oh yes, very crazy!" The mysterious man smiled, showing that his fangs were slightly longer than those of an average human, but his energy was still like that of a human. There might have been a hint of something else in his aura, but it was very well hidden.
"I'll buy a box!" Filia's interpretation of the merchant's warning was that a dragon who consumed the berries would act stupidly insane. She didn't ask any further questions so he didn't give her any further specifications.
As Filia ran off with her purchase in her hands, the mysterious merchant grinned, his expression similar to that of Xellos. "Increment the chaos around Xellos, that was the order I received from Lord Beast Master," he mused aloud. "The methodology was of my own device, you can thank me later, dear brother." The man, or rather the human and monster chimera, faded into the astral side, returning to his duties at Amor Resort, a very peculiar secret monster training facility.
xoxox xox xoxox
Later at the inn, Lina, Gourry and Xellos were hanging around idly, since there was no way they could make it to the next town before sundown and Lina wasn't in the mood to camp out tonight. Filia wasn't sure which room Xellos was staying at, but she had a very simple plan to figure it out. She walked right up to him and asked. "What room are you in, raw garbage? I want to know so I can stay in the room furthest away from you."
"I'm in room number five in the second floor," Xellos replied rather nonchalantly.
"Then I'll be in the opposite end of the inn." With that announcement made, Filia teleported away.
Meanwhile, Lina had been sitting at the opposite end of the inn's common room and was unable to hear the exchange between the monster and the dragon. She was trying to make some kind of friendly conversation with Gourry, but wasn't sure what to say. She was supposed to be charming him, but she didn't know how. All she ever did around him was be herself, but she was convinced that alone wouldn't work. Deciding that perhaps she should wait until she ran into Amelia and ask for a little help with her situation, Lina delayed her plans for the time being and decided to head upstairs to her room.
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, Filia had teleported to the hallway of the inn's second floor. She looked at the numbers carved on the brown wooden doors. The inn had nothing peculiar about it, with an ordinary appearance and ordinary rooms filled with common wooden furniture and plain white sheets and pillows. One of the doors, the first one in the hallway was labeled 2-1, she continued walking down the hall past doors 2-2, 2-3 and 2-4. Finally she found herself in front of door 2-5. Without a second thought, she phased through the door and entered the room.
The room was just as generic and boring as all the other rooms at the inn. There was a bundle of something tossed in a corner in what appeared to be a black cape. Albeit Filia didn't examine it closely enough to realize that it was Lina's and not Xellos' cape. She set the box of berries on the little wooden table's surface and left it there. Her aim was that Xellos assumed it was room service or something and ate the berries. Then he would go crazy and embarrass himself. She couldn't wait to see what he would do. With a mischievous expression and a gleeful giggle, Filia teleported away and waited, hoping to hear the sounds of a commotion soon from room 3-5, which was directly above room 2-5.
xoxox xox xoxox
Soon after Filia had left room 2-5, Lina retired to her inn room, finding a mysterious box upon the table. She curiously opened it and was delighted to find that its contents were edible. She picked up one of the red heart-shaped berries from inside the box and put it in her mouth. The berry was delicious and though it had a dark history and peculiar side effects for dragons, it was harmless to human consumption. Thus Lina began to happily devour the berries.
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, from his position in room 2-3, Xellos waited eagerly to hear the sounds of a commotion when whatever Filia was planning to trouble him with was unleashed upon the lethal Lina Inverse. However, all that he could hear were the sounds of Gourry snoring from room 2-4 next door. Curious about what was taking so long, Xellos cautiously exited his room and made his way down the hall towards room 2-5. He placed his ear against the door, but didn't hear anything particularly suspicious though he did hear some loud chewing noises.
For a moment Xellos wondered if he should be concerned. Maybe Filia had left food there to poison him and now Lina was eating it. If the poison Filia had managed to get was indeed strong enough to knock out, and perhaps even kill, a golden dragon, then a human didn't stand a chance against it. He knocked on the door least he risked angering Lina for the terrible crime of 'entering a lovely maiden's room without permission,' as it sounded like something she would say, most likely after throwing a blunt object at him.
"Come in," there came Lina's eager voice from the room and Xellos had to wonder if she thought her visitor was someone else, perhaps Gourry. Xellos opened the door to room 2-5 and let himself in. The disappointment was evident on Lina's face as her previously smiling expression fell. "Oh, it's you. What do you want this late?"
Xellos eyed the nearly empty box on the table. There were a few heart-shaped red berries left in it. "I just came to visit." He moved closer to look at the box's contents with suspicious eyes. "Looks like you're having a nice snack. Out of curiosity, where did these berries come from?"
Lina smiled at the thought of the berries. She didn't really know where they came from, but she had come up with her own wishful thinking theory. "They're a gift from Gourry, just for me."
Lina answered with such certainty that Xellos couldn't help it but to believe her. "I see..." He looked around the room as if searching for a hidden trap. "Have you noticed anything suspicious around your room?"
"Not really," Lina mused, her gaze becoming suspicious. "Why do you ask?" Her tone was growing serious as she considered the possibility of the town being attacked. "Have you noticed anything?"
"Not really," there was no way Xellos was going to admit he tried to trick Filia into aiming whatever plans she might have had at the wrong target. Thinking back on it, maybe the reason for her question really was as simple as wanting to be as far away as possible from him as the inn's structure would allow. "I just had a bad feeling, that's all."
"I see..." Even if Xellos had sounded disregarding of his supposed bad feeling, Lina decided to take a small precaution. She approached the window and looked outside, finding nothing really suspicious about the now quiet street below. Just in case, she closed the window and made up her mind to get an early start tomorrow moving on with their journey. "We need to be on our way early tomorrow, so I'm going to get some sleep now," as soon as she ate the rest of her berries.
"Right, then I bid you good night," Xellos left Lina's room and headed back to his own.
After Xellos was gone, Lina turned her attention back to the nearly empty box of berries on the table. "Hmm..." There was something definitely out of place about it. She could have sworn there was one more berry left in there, though only Lina Inverse would be so attentive to details about food and their quantity. Did Xellos steal one of her berries? Her, Lina Inverse, the sorceress who was known to wield the Dragon Slave spell with such power and frequency? Lina shook her head, "nah!" She was probably just tired and didn't properly perceive the amount of berries before. There was no way Xellos could be suicidal enough to mess with her food.
xoxox xox xoxox
While Xellos' visit to Lina was taking place, Filia was getting impatient up in room 3-5. She considered interfering to speed things along, but that would most likely alert Xellos about her trap and ruin the plan. She was growing tired of listening to Gourry's loud echoing snores, so she teleported outside of the inn and took in the fresh air of the night. A man in dark clothing walked down the street and looked towards the inn. He didn't go inside, but instead turned away and faded.
Filia recognized the man as the same merchant that had sold her the berries. He reappeared again only a few feet away from her and she could finally sense his aura clearly. He was a human, but also a monster. Then she knew, she wasn't sure how she had forgotten the detail before, but she now knew who he was. "Celo," she voiced his name. He was a human monster chimera under the command of Lord Beast Master. Did he purposely place the berries in her reach to assist her in getting back at that annoying golden dragon?
"Greetings Filia," Celo spoke with his usual extreme tone of respectfulness. "It is a lovely night, is it not? Yet I would think that you have more pressing matters to tend to at this time. Pardon me for daring to ask, but why are you out here at a time like this?"
"So I was right," Filia expressed her conclusion rather than answering his question. "You did set me up to find the berries so that I would take revenge on Xellos." She wasn't particularly bothered by it. He was her ally serving Lord Beast Master after all. "I left the berries for Xellos, but I don't hear the sounds of a commotion. Maybe he has not had any yet. How loud are they supposed to make him anyway?"
"My lady, I assure you I don't know," Celo ascertained. 'Albeit for certain your most deeply buried memories would have the answer to that and more,' he wisely decided not to voice.
That wasn't very useful. "I just assumed that crazy also meant loud," Filia voiced. "I mean, he'll be acting all random, right? He'll probably yell, or sing, or do a stupid silly dance or something, right?"
Perceiving that Filia had no idea the kind of craze that the berries provoked, Celo elaborated. "Those berries are called dragon lust berries. They are often sold among humans as an aphrodisiac. Albeit they have no effect what so ever on humans, they do affect dragons in such a way."
Filia's jaw dropped and her face turned crimson. "What?" She shouted loud enough for her voice to echo down the street, piercing the still quiet of the night. "You didn't warn me about that! What if that stupid raw garbage dragon is flirting with some random girl right now?" Not that she should care who he flirted with anyway, but she would feel sorry for the poor girl, she tried to convince herself. After all, she was a monster and she was evil, but no one, not even Shabranigdu himself could be evil enough to wish Xellos as a romantic possibility upon anyone. With such determination in mind, Filia decided that she had to stop any possible passionate disasters from occurring.
"I suggest you hurry," Celo smiled ever so respectfully, with his tone remaining friendly and formal without the slightest hint of mockery. Yet somehow, all those details made it all the more infuriating. Given that she had no time to waste, Filia decided to let Celo's masked impertinence pass and teleported back to the inn.
xoxox xox xoxox
Filia reappeared at room 2-5, which she thought was Xellos' room. Her sudden materialization out of the astral side caught Lina by surprise and the gluttonous petite redhead almost choked on the last berry. "Sheesh, Filia, don't pop out of nowhere like that!" Lina scolded in annoyance. Then she reasoned that maybe Filia's little visit was not a random annoyance, but an action that had a reasonable and important explanation. "Did something happen?"
Filia looked at the empty box of berries and at the lack of Xellos in the premises. "Those berries, did you eat them all?"
"Yup," Lina smiled proudly, more so because of what she thought was the source of the gift than at the relatively small feat of eating the whole box full of berries by herself. Such a snack was nothing for Lina Inverse. "I found them in my room; they must have been a gift from Gourry."
"Your room?" Filia realized that she had been tricked and for a moment her temper flared. But she was soon overcome by the relief of knowing that she wouldn't have to deal with a flirty Xellos. "Stupid piece of raw garbage," she grumbled.
Lina gave Filia a suspicious look. "Xellos was here earlier and he said something about having a bad feeling. Is something going on that I don't know about?"
"It's nothing," Filia pouted and in her upset state she confessed most of what was going on. "Those berries were part of a prank for Xellos, but you don't need to worry, they are harmless to human consumption."
Lina frowned in disappointment. "So you were the one who left the box here?" To that, Filia nodded in confirmation. Before Lina could further dwell on her disappointment about not having received a gift from Gourry after all, she realized that Xellos had basically used her as a scapegoat and her temper flared. "Xellos!" She growled, "how dare he use me as a scapegoat?!"
Eager to contribute to the topic of Xellos bashing, Filia added her own little comment. "Causing trouble, that's the only thing raw garbage is good for."
Then another thought occurred to Lina, though she wasn't sure about it. She should probably mention it just in case, so she would know what the situation could be at its worse. "I suspect Xellos might have stolen one of the berries before he left, but I'm not sure. Are they poisonous to dragons?" Lina was sure she had seen the berries before and even heard tales to go with them, but she was so excited about supposedly receiving a gift from Gourry that she wasn't thinking about that. Then her memories finally clicked as Filia's face turn red in alarm. "Aren't these dragon lust berries? I didn't think I would ever see them outside of Amor Resort."
"You know what these are?" Filia exploded. "Why didn't you warm me? I thought they made dragons stupid crazy not flirty crazy! Xellos better not have stolen that berry and if he did, he better not have eaten it!" Without further ado, Filia disappeared.
"Warn you?" Lina argued back, though Filia was no longer there to hear her. "How was I supposed to warn you if I didn't even know what you were planning?" She huffed with her hands on her hips.
xoxox xox xoxox
At room 2-3, Xellos was absorbed in the task of examining the odd red berry heart-shaped that he had a peculiar foreboding feeling about, and yet there were also obscure pleasant memories attached to it. He smelled the berry then licked it to perceive its taste. At the same time, Filia rapidly teleported from one room to another until she arrived at room 2-3 where Xellos was. Her sudden appearance startled him into taking and consecutively swallowing a small bite of the berry, though the rest remained held between his right thumb and index finger.
"Don't eat that!" Filia slapped the berry out of his hand, sending the remaining portion flying out the window. "You haven't had any of those berries, right? That was the only one you got your hands on, right?" Her questions were suspiciously desperate and insistent.
"Yes," Xellos admitted. He wondered if the berries were poisonous and Filia was feeling guilty over her attempted murder, she was a strange enough monster to exhibit a conscious from time to time, he mused. "I only had a little piece of the one you threw away and I believe Lina ate all the others by herself. Are they lethal?"
"Not to humans," Filia breathed. Her mind wrapped around the little detail revealing the fact that Xellos had indeed consumed a small piece of the berry. "I suppose such a tiny piece wouldn't do much to you. You'll probably be alright. Just don't allow yourself to have any strange thoughts." If Filia intended to say anything else, she was unable to, as soon Xellos' mouth was on hers, preventing further words from being spoken. Her face turned scarlet and after a moment's hesitation, which Filia mentally scolded herself for having, she pushed him away.
It dawned on Xellos what he had done, driven by a strange irresistible impulse and he struggled to find something to say. "Strange thoughts like that?" Filia could only nod in embarrassment. Dragon lust berries, that's what those things were. Xellos couldn't believe he had forgotten all about them and even now he wasn't sure how the information had surfaced in his mind. He couldn't recall the event that let to such knowledge at all.
To be Continued
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