Slayers: Chaos

Chapter 3

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 021: Reborn! The Young Prince Returns

After a misunderstanding caused by one of Xellos' mischievous monster comrades, the monster turned golden dragon ended up ingesting a piece of a troublesome dragon lust berry. It was the same kind of berry that caused such stress to Filia in an occasion taking place on the previous year. Thus the situation ended up with Filia arriving at Xellos' room too late to prevent the disaster and standing there before him, listening to his complaints. "You're a perverted monster and a cowardly one, wanting to back out after the trap was set," Xellos accused.

"What?" Filia's face was crimson in mortified fury. "I didn't realize what those berries did. I meant to cause you insanity not..." she paused, red-faced, then added in a quieter voice, "not lust."

"And what are you going to do about it now?" Xellos insisted, his eyes shining with a mischief that Filia thought was not befitting of a dragon.

"Nothing, it's not my problem." Filia crossed her arms and willed the redness to fade away from her face. Her skin tone returned to normal as, being a monster, she had control over it, though that control sometimes slipped.

"Well, it's too bad I don't have a pretty dragon to keep me company." Though the words were only sarcasm, they seemed to jolt Xellos memories. There was the image of a woman, but it was blurry. She had long golden hair. Was that a golden scaled tail on her? A dragon? A golden dragon...

"Raw garbage?" Filia observed the expression that had overtaken Xellos' face. He appeared to be lost in thought and she couldn't help it but to be curious about what he could possibly be thinking. "Are you still there?" She leaned closer as if trying to read something in his eyes, they were open, but his gaze was somewhat disconnected. "Hey!" She yelled into his face.

Xellos blinked, awakening from his thoughts. He couldn't remember who the female golden dragon was, but the sudden proximity of the monster general priestess caused him to kiss her as if being pushed by a purely reflexive action.

Filia took a moment to react again, before she realized who she was and what she was doing. She tried to push Xellos away, but he held her in place until she gave a little stronger shove, "don't..." This felt much more comfortable and familiar than it should and it worried her.

"If you don't want to be around me right now, then disappear." Xellos suggested, trailing kisses down her neck. "You're a powerful monster, you can just push me away or teleport yourself far away from here. But you don't want to, do you?"

Filia realized that she didn't want to leave, but she couldn't get all cozy with a golden dragon. What would Beast Master say? "What kind of dragon are you?" She reproached half-heartedly.

Xellos grinned; in all honesty he didn't even know the answer to that himself, so he replied with the first possibly truthful explanation that came into his mind. "One of the kind."

"I can't argue with that," Filia admitted. There was a small silent pause, during which the tension seemed to stand still. Filia was in the middle of a tempestuous inner debate trying to decide what she should do and dealing with the impossible task of reconciling what she wanted to do, which she wasn't even sure of herself, with what a proper monster was expected to do.

Then suddenly, Xellos' face flashed with inviting mischief and just as swiftly, his eyes were closed again and he had his usual cheerful grin, which made him look like he didn't have a care in the world, plastered on his face once more. "Since I only had a tiny piece of the berry, it looks like the effect wore off and I've managed to calm down now. Well, I should be getting some sleep; dragons need their sleep you know. You should be getting back to your room as far away as possible from mine; I'll see your ugly face in the morning." He practically shoved her out the door.

With an expression of extreme disbelief, which Xellos secretly thought was priceless, Filia was pushed out to the hallway and had the door closed on her face. 'What just happened?' It took a moment for her to realize that the dilemma was over and the insolent golden dragon had kicked her out of his room, not that she wanted to be anywhere near him anyway. She threw her head back in indignation and stomped up the hallway towards the stairs muttering something about a "raw garbage
dragon" that she refused to admit even to herself that she was attracted to.

The recent incident was in no way the cause of that attraction, but it was an eye opener, or at least it would have been if Filia had been willing to admit anything at all. The, unknown to them, mutual, attraction had perhaps started after their battle. It was odd, but nearly killing each other made them see each other in a new light.

Behind the closed door, Xellos listened to Filia stomping and growling under her breath. She was loud enough to wake Lina, who yelled something about fair maidens needing their beauty sleep. Gourry however, slept like a rock, as Xellos could still hear him snoring in the next room. Or perhaps the swordsman's senses were so well trained that he subconsciously ignored noises that didn't represent an immediate danger, at least not to him and Lina. Without even realizing it, Xellos found himself grinning in amusement. That peculiar monster, Filia, was certainly one of the kind.

xoxox xox xoxox

When the next morning came, the group was on the road again. The trip continued relatively uneventful, until Lina, Gourry, Filia and Xellos reached Taforashia. There they met up with Pokota in the royal courtyard at the entrance to the castle. The Taforashia prince couldn't seem to make up his mind if he was excited, nervous, hopeful or disappointed. The mix of different tastes and opposing emotions was confusing for Filia. "Why are you so moody?" She bluntly asked, as if it were an accusation. Her head had been filled with too many confusing thoughts lately, mostly about Xellos, and she didn't have the patience to deal with this.

"I'm curious about that myself," Lina added. One did not have to be a monster to notice the green toy's ever changing expressions.

Pokota, who had been warned about the basics of the situation concerning Filia and Xellos, attributed Filia's bluntness to her monster side and held back any biting remarks, despite not being in a particularly pleasant mood himself. As for Lina, he just grumbled a barely audible, "none of your business," and pouted.

Gourry smiled in a friendly way and patted Pokota's hair like a child. "Hey little guy, if there's anything at all we can do to help, just let us know!" He offered good naturedly.

"I'm not a little guy," Pokota continued to pout, though his expression turned momentarily hopeful when he elaborated. "I managed to make a copy of my body," he revealed with growing excitement. "My original body, I mean," he specified before Lina could comment. With hope in his eyes he smiled at the possibilities, but his smile was not completely happy, as if there was something missing from the picture of his plans. "I managed to find a jar that can hold a soul too. It was one of Rezo's old experimental jars, I was lucky I actually tracked it down. I've been researching a lot."

Lina was quick to put two and two together as she drew a conclusion from what Pokota had said. "You intend to use the jar to transfer yourself to the copy of your body, a homunculus body, isn't it?"

"Yes," Pokota confirmed. "It may be a homunculus, but it's just the same as my original body."

Lina mused over the information. "I wonder if Zel could do something like that."

"Doubtful," Pokota pouted bitterly. "He would need some kind of completely human genetic sample to create a homunculus copy. If he uses his current genetics, the copy will be a chimera too. My old body wasn't completely destroyed after all. I managed to dig out samples from the site of the battle; even a few strands of hair can go a long way with the proper research."

This was the same person who had made a replica of the sword of light, so Lina had no reason to doubt his claims. "Well, it's too bad about Zel, I doubt there's anywhere were he can find a sample of his old human body." The redhead noticed that the mention of Zelgadis didn't sit well with Pokota. "Cut to the chase stuffed animal, what are you not telling us?"

Pokota was about to retort with something along the lines of 'flat chested little girl' in reply to Lina's stuffed animal remark, but he stopped when he saw the look in her eyes. She was sincerely concerned. "I had asked Amelia and Sylphiel to help me with the process. I can't possibly do the transfer myself, because I'm the one who's being moved, it would be too much. They had both said they would help, but now they won't come. I wrote to Amelia and she made up excuses to postpone the visit. Then Zelgadis wrote to me, I would guess without Amelia's knowledge, telling me to find someone else and not ask Amelia anymore."

"Sylphiel said she had something very important to take care of, but wouldn't tell me what it is," Pokota continued sadly. "This communication happened with the spell to call a courier monster bird. You've used that spell before, so you know the bird only needs to know who the letter or small package is for and not where they are, as they can find the receiver on their own. Though I couldn't get much information out of him, I got Jarde to admit that all the correspondence went to Sairaag."

"In other words," Lina correctly concluded, "they are all in Sairaag." This new information filled Lina's mind with questions and all sorts of theories. Perhaps something was happening in the rebuilt Sairaag that Zelgadis, Amelia and Sylphiel were all involved in. Pokota, even as a stuffed animal, could hold his own in battle quite well, so why wouldn't they tell him the truth if there was something going on? Did they want to keep him out of danger and in his homeland in case he had to defend it?

Then again, if there was something dangerous going on, if Sairaag had been attacked, why didn't they warn Pokota in case the enemy eventually moved closer to Taforashia? Besides, if Amelia and Sylphiel had already agreed to help Pokota with his body transfer, they wouldn't just go back on their words. Something big must be keeping them busy, something that for some unknown reason they didn't want to reveal.

"Lina," Pokota's voice woke Lina from her thoughts. She wasn't reaching any useful conclusions anyway, just coming up with more questions that lacked known answers. "Would you assist me? I want to go to Sairaag, but I want to go how I should have been, not like this."

Lina nodded in agreement. "You have nothing to worry about now that you have the beautiful sorceress Lina Inverse to count on. But I'm sure the transfer spell is complicated and I won't be able to perform it on an empty stomach."

"I figured as much," Pokota chuckled. He didn't understand what was keeping Amelia and Sylphiel away, but he knew he could count on Lina to help him. Then he would see for himself what was going on at Sairaag. "We'll have a banquet for you all day long, then tonight the spell will be performed. Then I'll be leaving for Sairaag in the morning." If all went well, but Pokota wasn't considering the possibility of failure, so he didn't even voice it.

"That's pretty fast," Lina commented. Pokota was clearly in a hurry to find out what was going on, but then again so was she. "Alright, I'll do it. If you've rested enough to start getting used to your new body by tomorrow morning, then you can go to Sairaag with us."

xoxox xox xoxox

That night Lina, Gourry, Xellos, Filia and Pokota entered the castle chamber that was prepared for the transfer to take place. Magically charged stones were embedded in the walls of the chamber, creating a web of light overhead by reflecting the light of the torches on the four corners of the room. The lines of light seemed to change in translucent shades of blue and green, creating quite an atmosphere.

There were three platforms in the center of the chamber. Two of them were large enough for a human to lie on top of them, with another smaller, but taller one in the middle. The middle pillar had the precious jar placed on top of it, which wasn't looking particularly sturdy. Yet before Lina could comment on the conditions of the jar, her curiosity was summoned to the young man who lay motionless on one of the two larger platforms. "Who's he supposed to be?"

"Me!" Pokota exclaimed. Seeing Lina's questioning look, he elaborated. "My body was in suspended animation for a while. I would have been around Gourry's age if I had aged normally."

"I see," Lina voiced, then went on to ask amore pressing question. "That jar," she pointed at it with caution, "doesn't look too stable."

"I can't replicate it," Pokota confessed. "I've studied it, but I haven't been able to make it anew and I wouldn't dare to experiment with it in an attempt to repair it. It's a miracle I even found it; it's too precious to be risked."

"I suppose you're right, but..." Lina wasn't feeling comfortable with using that cracked old jar.

"It's okay," Pokota insisted. There were few people that he knew of who had the skill to do this and even fewer that he would entrust his soul to. He couldn't allow Lina to back out. "It's not like I'm going to be living in there. I'll only be there for a few seconds until the transfer is complete."

Lina knew there and then that there would be no way to change Pokota's mind. She let out a breath and nodded her head. "Alright, I'll do my best."

"Thanks!" Eager to get the process started, Pokota went to lie down on the platform opposite to the one that held his homunculus body. The green stuffed animal body that currently held him looked small in the middle of the platform, compared to the taller pink haired human body, which was around the same height as Xellos, took up the entire platform.

"Stand back," Lina seriously voiced. Gourry obediently stepped into the arch of the closed doorway, his action being mimicked by Xellos and Filia, who were too curious to see how this would go to mind Lina's order.

Lina stood behind the pillar that held the jar. Other than being given food, she had also been given information and already knew the spell that she was to cast to activate the preset process empowered by the magical stones in the walls. The web of light that occupied the whole room glowed brighter as Lina voiced the words of the spell and placed her left hand on the jar's cover. She lifted it, extending her right hand towards the toy Pokota, beckoning his soul into her hand and into the jar.

Then she switch to holding the jar in the palm of her right hand and faced the human version of Pokota. She lifted the lid with her left hand, still steadily chanting the words of the spell while the others watched. A ghostly ball of light emerged from the jar, just like the one that had gone in seconds prior. Pokota's soul floated towards his human body, but suddenly, the jar exploded in Lina's hand, sending her flying back, with Pokota's soul also somehow being thrown away.

The ball of light that was Pokota passed through the wall and left their line of vision. Simultaneously, Lina was thrown harshly against the wall with blood all over her torso. "Lina!" Gourry rushed to her, closely followed by Xellos and Filia. He gently cradled her in his arms, she wasn't reacting at all. "Cast a healing spell!" He wasn't sure who held the healing magic as Xellos was acting like a dragon and Filia seemed to have monster powers now. He wasn't going to stress about it before, but right now it would be good to know there was a healer among them.

"Recovery!" Xellos attempted to heal Lina, but it didn't appear to be enough. "Recovery!" He tried again. Her eyes slightly opened, but she coughed and blood spilled from her lips. "Recovery!" Xellos tried a third time. "Just stay alive and this should eventually be enough. Recovery!"

"Stay alive? Easier said than done! Her energy feels like it's fading fast!" Why did that thought scare Filia so much? She was a monster, she wasn't supposed to care. Yet she was worried about Lina for a different reason than the mission she was given by Beast Master.

"Don't give up, Lina! You can't die!" Gourry pleaded, wishing he could do more to help her.

"Recovery!" Xellos kept casting the spell over and over, but what little progress it made was undone in seconds as Lina's heart and lungs would only injure themselves further by the simple action of trying to function.

"This isn't enough," Filia concluded. "It's not enough," she whispered solemnly. "Isn't there another spell?"

"Resurrection, but I don't know that one." Xellos replied with evident frustration.

"Resurrection," Filia repeated. Her body felt like it was filled with adrenaline, or the illusion of adrenaline. The turmoil made the word echo in her mind, "Resurrection..." She could feel it; somehow, she knew how to cast that spell. She extended her hands, palms covered in a golden glow, "Resurrection!" She tried to keep the spell going. "Xellos, don't stop using Recovery, the extra energy will still be useful. Resurrection!"

The light was so bright that Gourry had to close his eyes. When he opened them again, Lina's injuries were gone. Her tired breaths testified that she was still alive, which filled him with a great relief. "Lina?"

Lina slowly opened her eyes and chuckled to reassure her friends. "I knew that cracked jar was a bad idea. Where's the ex-stuffed animal? I need to tell him I told you so. I'm going to be the first one to put a bump on his new head."

The group looked towards the pink haired prince, or at least the body, as for the soul, it didn't seem to be there. "He's not getting up..." Gourry stated the obvious.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 022: Charming! Like A Fairytale Prince

The atmosphere stood still as, for another moment longer, Lina, Gourry, Xellos and Filia, waited for Pokota's human body to move.

"Was his soul..." destroyed? Lina dared not finish her question.

"I don't think it was destroyed," Xellos replied, understanding the end of the inquiry that Lina had refused to voice. "It was thrown somewhere and it's probably still near by," he theorized.

"Then I have to..." Lina tried to get on her feet with difficulty. Her life was no longer in danger, but she was exhausted. "We have to..." They had to hurry; Pokota's soul was at the risk of passing on or becoming a lost spirit if it was not quickly placed in a proper vessel. Lina's legs gave out and she stumbled to be caught by Gourry. The swordsman picked her up and though she verbally protested with a loud, "put me down, I can walk by myself!" She simply didn't have the energy to kick and flail.

"I'll take you back to your guest room, Lina," Gourry announced with no room for argument. "Filia, Xellos, please find Pokota's ghost quickly before he spooks someone or is exercised."

"I think you mean exorcised," Xellos corrected.

"Yes, that too!" Gourry ran off with the weakly protesting Lina, leaving the unlikely pair to their task.

"Hurry up dragon, bring the body, it'll be faster if we have it on hand when we find Pokota," Filia commanded.

Xellos considered teasing her about what a good little monster she was, showing concern for Pokota, but then he might get stuck with doing this on his own. Then again, how did he get stuck with this at all? "Goody-goody monster."

Filia stiffened when she heard Xellos, teeth and fists clenched, "I'm not!" She growled in exasperation. "I just think it might be useful to have someone else on the team. It'll be someone else that can serve Lord Beast Master," she quickly excused herself.

"I suppose your reasoning does have a hint of logic." Xellos picked up the pink haired young man, piggy back style and followed the impatient Filia outside. "So, does Beast Master resort to good deeds often to fuel her own selfish plans? She might ruin her reputation if she does that."

In a split second, Filia's mace was inches away from Xellos' face. "Don't you dare criticize Lord Beast Master! Teasing me is bad enough, but you must respect Lord Beast Master!"

Xellos chuckled, ignoring the deadly weapon that was so dangerously close to him. "Relax, stupid monster, I have nothing against your master. Although I admit I'm curious about her." He couldn't really explain it, but for some reason, he wanted to know more about Beast Master.

"Keep your filthy curiosity to yourself, raw garbage!" Filia snapped.

A glowing small sphere of light approached them floating tiredly. It moved around in odd patterns around them as if scolding them for something, then took refuge inside the pink haired body of the young man. The prince opened his eyes and tried to balance himself on his feet unsteadily, still holding on to Xellos for support. "I would have evaporated if I had to wait for you two to find me." Though it was supposed to be a complaint, the Taforashia prince was smiling.

xoxox xox xoxox

After a good rest, both Lina and Pokota were well enough to go back on the road the next day. "What? No luxury carriage loaded with food?" Lina protested as Pokota joined them carrying only what fitted inside his cape, much like the rest of them traveled.

"I'm not going to Sairaag as an ambassador of Taforashia or anything, so there's no need to make a fancy fuss," Pokota explained. He seemed to be enjoying his new body, making it a point to tilt his head forward to grin at Lina, who was smaller than him now.

Lina pointed her accusing right index finger at Pokota poking his nose as she did. "Don't get cocky, stuffed animal, or I'll be the first one to give your new face a black eye!" She was feeling a tad cranky that day due to the storm of emotion that Gourry taking care of her produced. But instead of taking the opportunity to talk to him about her feelings, it made her feel uneasy and insecure, as if he was only taking care of her out of pity, which was not true at all.

While Lina and Pokota were still having their glaring contest just outside of the Taforashia castle's gates, Jarde came around with an envelope and looked at Xellos and Filia, unsure of who to give it to. The letter was for Lina, but she appeared to be busy at the moment, so he might as well take the liberty of leaving it with one of her traveling companions. The little bird finally decided to give the correspondence to Xellos, who curiously opened the letter and read it. "Dear Lina: If you know where Milgazia has disappeared to, please write back to me at Dragon's Peak. The clan is worried and they're getting restless. -Memphis"

Upon hearing her name, Lina turned her attention to the letter and Xellos relinquished it without protest, while throwing suspicious glances in Filia's direction. "What's up with people going missing from where they're supposed to be?" Lina grumbled in exasperation.

Milgazia was his leader, Xellos mused, though that didn't feel entirely accurate. Even so, he had to do something about this, right? "I have to investigate," he finally decided.

Jarde was still flying around near by. He landed on Xellos' shoulder and chirped. "Ha! It's so fitting of a dragon!" Filia mocked when she heard the bird.

"You little liar," Xellos grumbled.

Gourry and Pokota both blinked dumbly with peculiarly similar expressions, while Lina inquired. "You can understand him?"

"Of course I can," Filia looked proud. "Jarde is one of Lord Beast Master's monster courier birds and I'm her general priestess."

"I can understand him too," Xellos stated, a bit surprised at himself.

Filia frowned, not sure if that was supposed to be possible. "Weird," she finally voiced.

"Let's get back to the main point," Lina prompted. "What did Jarde say? Does he know where Milgazia is?"

"Yes," Xellos confirmed. "Milgazia has tried to communicate with his clan, but the letters were intercepted. He is currently trying to find a way to break a curse Beast Master has inflicted upon him."

"If you ask me," Filia declared with monster pride. "All dragons are already victims of the worse curse possible, being dragons."

"There's definitely something serious going on with the monster race," Pokota silently observed.

"We should help Milgazia," Gourry suggested. Then, as if it was a conclusion that required a vast amount of thought and analysis, he added, "we should help him by breaking his curse." Because helping someone by any other means aside from slaying whatever was attacking them and carrying them to safety was rather complicated.

Lina groaned, just when she thought she could finally track down Amelia and Zelgadis and throw her problems at them, she found herself in yet another situation in which someone else's problems were thrown at her. "That's it! I'm running out of patience! Jarde, go get Fang!" The bird chirped mockingly and though Lina didn't understand what he said, she was quick to snatch him away from Xellos' shoulder and shake him. "I know you don't have enough power to teleport us, you puny monster bird. And you also don't have enough power to survive a Ra-Tilt point blank, which you will be getting if you don't get Fang right now!"

Chirping in fright, Jarde disappeared into the astral side. The second his chirps were silenced by his departure, Filia's complaining reminders began. "Lina, didn't I tell you before that we can't just teleport from one place to another? This is a journey of chaos; if we don't actually travel we won't be able to-"

"I got all the chaos you need right here!" Lina roared, pointing at her face, which was red with anger and held the expression of a ferocious beast.

Before their argument could progress, Fang appeared in his fox form, his twin tails wagging playfully. Yet he stopped cold when he saw the redhead's expression and whimpered, moving closer to Xellos who petted him almost automatically. Filia pouted but didn't say anything. She still found it odd that Fang seemed to seek comfort from a golden dragon more so than from her. Of course she didn't remember that Fang had been a little afraid of her since the incident in which she put a pink bow on him a little over a year ago.

"Fang, teleport us to where Milgazia is and don't you dare tell me you don't know!" Lina commanded. The group gathered around her and Fang teleported them away.

xoxox xox xoxox

When the group emerged out of the astral side after Fang's teleportation, their location was, ironically, the destination that they had intended to head to, Sairaag. Or to be specific, they were at the outskirts of Sairaag, very close to the town. Milgazia was absorbed in prayer in front of a young tree of the same kind as Flagoon, his back was to the group and he didn't look particularly cursed. Yet Lina couldn't help it but to get an odd feeling about the situation. She picked up a leaf and blew it towards Milgazia with some minor wind magic. The leaf touched an invisible electric magical shield and was reduced to dust.

"Either he really didn't want anyone breaking his concentration, or he's expecting an attempt on his life." Xellos commented, albeit it was pretty obvious that the most likely scenario was the latter.

A particularly charred looking gorgon monster with a veil covering her face to prevent the accidental petrification of those around her, her turquoise scales singed, approached. She was an astral being, but at the time her body couldn't help it but to visually reflect the injury upon her astral form. "That holy barrier he put around himself is something else," Galathia huffed. "I was going to rest in the astral side for a while longer, but now that you're here, maybe you can do something about it."

"First things first," Lina voiced, still at the edge of a Dragon Slave rampage. "Let's hear the explanations."

"Lord Beast Master did something to Milgazia's face. I cannot tell you exactly what it was, but she did something. You have to see it to understand it. I've been following him ever since," Galathia vaguely explained.

Lina's group looked at each other's faces in curiosity, then resolved to walk around the invisible magical dome that protected Milgazia and look at his face. They looked at him from the side, he was facing towards the tree, but they could still see his profile. Though they expected to see some hideous scar, or something that seemed appropriate for a curse, they did not find any such blemish. In fact, it was all the opposite. "He definitely looks... different..." Lina admitted with a slightly red tint to her face.

Filia couldn't help it but to nod in agreement, forgetting that a proper monster general priestess of her high rank shouldn't be saying such things. "I thought all golden dragons were hideous," except Xellos, her subconscious silently added. "But this one seems almost," she cleared her throat as if trying to sound very nonchalant, "passable."

"What did Zelas do to him?" Lina wondered. He seemed perfectly fine, and there was something about him that made him look... What was the proper term? Like a fairytale prince. "Maybe if we look at him from a different angle?"

Filia nodded and she and Lina walked around again to look at Milgazia's profile from the opposite side. "He looks the same from here," Filia observed.

"Yeah," Lina agreed. "I know!" A theory, though unlikely due to how easy it was, came into her mind. "Maybe Milgazia's prayers are part of his cure. Maybe he broke the curse just before we got here."

"Probably, I don't sense any monster energy on him." Filia paused to think about what that could imply. "What should I do now? Should I challenge him to a fight because he dared to break Lord Beast Master's curse?" Though she certainly didn't want a repeat performance of what happened the last time she tried to fight a golden dragon, she mused that it might have been a unique occasion due to the additional energy from the Knight of Ceifeed that was involved.

"Curse?" Galathia questioned. "Who said anything about a real curse? Milgazia only thinks he's got some kind of curse, though he cannot sense it. That's because it's not really there. Zelas didn't curse him, she just did something to his face, but no one really knows what it was."

"For what purpose did she do whatever she did?" An annoyed Xellos asked. He, Gourry and even Pokota were feeling ignored and frowning at how the girls kept staring at Milgazia.

"To annoy him, I suppose..." Galathia theorized. "Although," she unwisely mused aloud. "She might have been trying to give him a better chance of influencing the dragon council in hopes of making him suggest what is mutually beneficial for his clan and the monster race, in case the dragons are tricked into..." She realized that she had said too much, though it was only speculation at the time. "Never mind, I don't know. I would like to think she's rewarding me with fan service for being so evil."

Finally, Milgazia finished his prayer and got up, dissipating the shield around him. Galathia dashed towards him, but Milgazia was expecting it and a barrage of laser breath sent her on the retreat. "One of these days I'm going to fight you for real, no matter how hot you are. When I stop holding back you'll witness my true power!" As if remembering she had something to do, and she did, she gave her farewell. "I have to go now, but I'll come stalk you, I mean, keep you company later." With those final words of parting, Galathia faded into the astral side and returned to Wolf Pack Island. She was to report it to Beast Master as soon as Lina's group reached Sairaag, where chaos reigned supreme around Amelia and Zelgadis, who were dealing with a very stressful situation.

Gourry, in a rare moment for him, did something that was actually pretty smart, albeit totally simple. "Fang, could you tell me what happened with Zelas and Milgazia?"

Since this was the ever amusing Gourry asking about it, the swordsman who never plotted and only ever noticed the obvious, Fang was not on guard about his reply. The monster fox chimera morphed into his semi-human form, with only one smaller fox tail and fox ears, the rest of his features looking very much human, though he did have an unusual eye color, silver, and rather long fangs. "Zelas ripped his hair out. She joked that it was to see if hair was the secret of the Rolly-Rolly champs, like that strong human from the legend... What was his name, the strong human?"

"Hercules?" Pokota suggested, not really knowing where the odd fox monster creature was going with all this.

"No, not that one, the other one, the one that was defeated," Fang continued trying to remember.

"Achilles?" Lina suggested.

"Not that one," Fang repeated. "I mean the one with the hair."

"Samson?" Xellos guessed.

"Yes, that one!" Fang recalled. "Zelas wanted to see if Milgazia still kept his strength after having his hair pulled off."

Curious, Lina shyly reached over to the confused Milgazia's head and pulled his hair. "Ow! Miss Lina!" The water clan dragon elder scolded. "Please don't do that."

"It's real," Lina concluded. "Wasn't it supposed to be a wig?"

Fang shook his head. "No, no, she didn't pull off all his hair, only a little of it."

"I get it... It's his eyebrows," Filia concluded. "They're thinner so they don't look like a blond version of Philionel's anymore."

"You're right!" Lina exclaimed as if it was a great discovery. "I thought there was something different about his face. I guess Galathia is even more attracted to him than before, she always had a thing for Milgazia since last year," Lina recalled.

"Is that it?" Milgazia seemed to be coming to the realization himself also. "Well it was painful, but I suppose the effect will go away on its own. With Galathia chasing me more adamantly than ever, I thought Zelas had cursed me with a spell that attracted monsters or something."

"Your clan is worried about you, Milgazia." Xellos insisted, wanting to get rid of him.

"That's right," Pokota affirmed. "You should go home and reassure them." He was the one who just got a new body; it wasn't fair that he had his spotlight stolen away from him so soon.

"I was sure I sent correspondence..." Milgazia mused aloud. He was quick to logically conclude that it must have been intercepted. Well, he would resolve that by returning home, he could really use some time to himself right now. Though he knew he would have to cut his rest short, as there would surely be more council meetings to attend soon, he could almost feel it. "Have I met you before?" He curiously addressed Pokota.

"Yeah, we met at the wed-" Pokota hastily stopped himself before he said wedding, as the subject of Xellos and Filia's marriage was currently set to be left in secrecy. "At that weird resort last year, I'm Pokota."

"Ah yes, I remember," quite the chaotic party that was. "It's good to see you have recovered your human form. Well, I must return to my duties now. I wish you all luck on your journey." Milgazia glanced to Lina, whom he correctly assumed must be dealing with a lot of stress as the leader of this chaotic band of travelers. After the goodbyes were exchanged, Milgazia walked around the tree, and with a bright golden light, he took off in dragon form, flying in the direction of the Kataart Mountains.

"I'm going home now too," Fang announced and he promptly disappeared into the astral side again.

"That's one mystery out of the way, now on to the next." Lina announced in her leader voice, as she looked at the rebuilt town.

Pokota nodded in agreement, he was eager to know what had happened with Amelia and Sylphiel. "Sylphiel and Amelia are there..." and so would be the answers he needed to hear.

Thus without further ado, Lina, Gourry, Xellos, Filia and Pokota walked into town. The streets had a normal level of activity with a few people talking about the golden dragon that they just saw fly by next to their town. There wasn't anything in the calm yet active streets that hinted that the town was in any way in peril. It was all very puzzling, plus Milgazia didn't seem to be aware of there being any danger in Sairaag, he was just confused over his own supposed curse and visiting the new holy tree.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 023: Evasive! The Chimera Dilemma

Lina, Gourry, Xellos, Filia and Pokota made their way through the streets of Sairaag, looking every which way in hopes of seeing familiar faces. "Do you think they left town?" Pokota frowned.

Lina pouted, finding Amelia and Zelgadis was turning out to be quite the wild goose chase. "Let's look around town for a while and if we can't find them, I'll call Fang to sniff them out and teleport us straight to them." Filia opened her mouth to complain, but Lina's impatient look was so determined and deadly that she silently closed it again.

It was surprisingly Gourry who first spotted the familiar man whose face was covered hiding his identity. Yet in a place where people's faces were in plain view, the attire made him stand out just as much as his chimera condition would. "Hey Zel!" When Gourry called out to him, lifting his arm in a friendly waving gesture, the man in light colored clothing stiffened.

For a split second, Zelgadis looked like he was debating if he should look back or pretend he didn't hear. The latter choice won over and he quickened his pace, tightening his grip around the large shopping bag he carried in his arms. Several medicinal; herbs of various types and an assortment of fruits and bread peeked out from the top of the large bag. This was exactly what Zelgadis didn't want, for his closest friends to be involved in this dilemma.

"What's his problem?" Lina grumbled. She was sure that Zelgadis had heard Gourry calling him. Though his pause only lasted a split second, the perceptive redhead saw it. Zelgadis was definitely hiding something.

"Come back here!" Upset, Pokota rushed after Zelgadis who had made his way through the crowds in the street.

Seeing that Pokota had already taken off into a run, Lina, Gourry, Filia and Xellos followed him. Up ahead, Zelgadis dove into an alleyway. Pokota turned the corner, but found nothing but an empty dead-end at the space between the two shops. Of course, the Taforashia prince was not so easy to lose when he decided to give pursuit. "Levitation!" Pokota made it to the roof of one of the shops and sure enough, Zelgadis was speeding away, jumping from the roof of one building to the next. "Stop right there!" Pokota rushed after him.

The rest of the group followed Pokota. Lina paused, ready to cast a spell to help Gourry levitate to the roof, but he seemed to do well enough on his own, using the two close walls of the shop structures to jump from one to the other and propel himself upward to where Xellos and Filia had already reached. "Let's go Lina, or we'll lose them," he extended his hand to her.

Lina reluctantly jumped, catching his outstretched hand and allowed Gourry to pull her up to the roof. He held her by the waist as soon as he had pulled her up high enough to reach and set her down on her feet. Lina wasn't sure what to say or do, until a loud noise caught her attention from further down the street. She hurried to the location where Zelgadis had jumped down and used a wind shamanistic spell aimed at the bare streets full of loose dirt that was lifted creating a sort of smoke screen.

Pokota was quick to dissipate the smoke screen with his own wind magic, but he didn't know in which direction Zelgadis had ran off to and the citizens of Sairaag had enough of the odd band of travelers that disturbed the peace of their town. With the people that occupied the streets giving Pokota and his companions nasty warning looks, Lina decided that it was best to end the chase there. The leader placed her hand on the prince shoulder and shook her head. "Let him go for now."

"But he's acting suspicious!" Pokota argued, but Lina was firm. Her look told him that she wasn't going to allow him to argue and if he did, he would have not only Zelgadis to deal with, but her as well.

"If Zelgadis is so adamant in hiding from us then he must have a good reason," Lina concluded. "We'll just have to find out what that reason is without his assistance." Naturally, she wasn't going to give up and mind her own business. Something was obviously bothering Zelgadis, likely Amelia and possibly even Sylphiel were in on it. Perhaps they would be more willing to converse. "Let's find Sylphiel, she might know something about this."

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina, Gourry, Xellos, Filia and Pokota continued their trek through Sairaag until they finally reached Sylphiel's house. Though she still worked at Beast Master's secret resort every now and then, she was currently taking a break. The group heard the sounds of pots and pans coming from the house, indicating that someone was indeed inside. Lina lifted her hand to knock on the door, then froze halfway. She had spoken to Sylphiel before, back when she got engaged to Gourry. The other girl had taken it surprisingly well and come to turns with Gourry's choice. However, he was no longer Lina's fiance now and the redhead was worried that by leading him to Sylphiel she was practically handing him out on a silver platter, setting him up to be stolen away.

Gourry looked at Lina's hesitancy with confusion, as did Filia, while Xellos was surprisingly the most perceptive of the group towards Lina's inner battle and concern. Pokota looked impatient and resolved to knock on the door himself, calling out, "miss Sylphiel!" As he did.

What was done was done and Lina knew there was no turning back now. She glared at Pokota, but the prince was so focused on his own dilemma that he didn't even notice.

The atmosphere stood still as a female voice that they recognized as belonging to Sylphiel, replied from within the house with a simple yet well practiced, "coming!" Footsteps approached and the door was opened. Sylphiel smiled with a surprised looked that didn't seem all that real, as if she knew that Lina and the others were in town. "Hi everyone, come in." She stepped aside a little too eagerly as if wanting to entertain the guests for as long as she could.

Deciding that it was best to act natural, Lina sniffed the air, perceiving the assortment of appetizing and not so appetizing scents originating from the kitchen. "What are you cooking?" The gluttonous redhead curiously inquired.

"A few dishes, actually. Some boiled meat, fruit salad and I'm also making some medicine," Sylphiel explained with a slight fidget. That explained the non-appetizing smell that invaded the atmosphere mixing with the good scents. Good medicine often tasted bitter and sometimes even smelled foul.

"That sounds good!" Gourry cheered with a bright smile.

"I'll be happy to have all of you over for a meal, just let me put some extra food into the pot," Sylphiel offered. Her eyes finally traveled to the pink haired prince who had been waiting to be acknowledged, something that her previous distraction had until then not allowed Sylphiel to do. She had already heard about Xellos and Filia, so seeing him with blond hair and a golden dragon tail and her with purple hair, wasn't too much of a surprise, though she still had to take a second look at them. "Hello..." She curiously stared at the unknown yet somewhat familiar young man. "Have we met?"

Pokota nodded, not sure what to make out of the situation. "Pokota," he simply revealed his name. "I'm Pokota; the transfer to this body was a success thanks to Lina." That wasn't entirely accurate, there were some problems along the way and the process was almost messed up, but it all worked out in the end.

"Oh my..." Guilt invaded Sylphiel's delicate features as she went from looking at Pokota curiously to looking at the floor with sudden interest. "I'm so sorry..." she whispered almost inaudibly, but full of sincerity. "I'm very sorry I wasn't there, Pokota, I really am."

After hearing those words, her tone of voice and seeing her face, Pokota couldn't be upset at Sylphiel anymore. "I'm... I'm not angry at you," he finally voiced while the rest of the group watched on quietly with curious interest. It was clear that the friendship between the prince and the maiden had grown over the past year. "I know you must have had a good reason not to come, I trust that you do. Why? Why was it that you couldn't come?"

Sylphiel bit her lip in guilt and shifted uncomfortably. "I'm sorry, but it's not my place to say. I do have a reason why I must remain here. It is a very important reason, but I can't reveal it, it's just not my place. I'm really sorry to have to say this." She looked up from the floor, her eyes meeting Pokota's, tears threatening to invade her emerald gaze. "Please don't think that I don't trust you. I would tell you if I could, but it's not my place and I have an important promise to keep. I can't... I can't lie and make up an excuse, so please accept my silence."

The quietude that hung in the air was heavy and tense after Sylphiel expressed her unexpected request. "Sylphiel..." Pokota whispered. "If there's anything wrong, if you're in some kind of trouble, please let me help you!"

Sylphiel shook her head vigorously, "it's not that. No one is threatening me or anything. There's just something very important that I must do. When this task was completed, I was planning to go to Taforashia," she revealed.

Pokota and the others understood then that Sylphiel was not going to give them any more information. "I understand..." Pokota finally accepted, though he really didn't understand and he was still very thirsty for answers, they all were.

Sylphiel nodded as if thanking them for being understanding and headed to the kitchen. "The medicine is almost done, let me put it away and add a few things to the main course. Sit down, this won't take too long." The group sat around the table, which was built to accommodate four people, but a pair of extra chairs had been already placed around it to allow all six of them to sit at the crowded table.

Sylphiel continued working in the kitchen next to the dining area, the two areas not really separated from each other. She put away the finished herbal medicine and retrieved a few ingredients from a large bag that looked suspiciously very much like the one Zelgadis had been carrying earlier, though part of its contents had already been removed. It was as if Sylphiel was making it look as if she was caught by surprise and was figuring out how to feed her guests, though some of the food had already been set to start cooking in portions too large to be eaten by a normal person alone; that is someone with an average appetite unlike Lina and Gourry.

Though they made polite conversation and talked about the misadventure of getting Pokota's soul into his new homunculus body, there was still a good amount of leftover tension still hanging in the air the entire time. After the meal was served and eaten, Xellos casually brought up the subject of Zelgadis, which Pokota seemed too lost in thought to address, while Lina and Gourry were distracted by the food. The monster turned dragon received nothing but silence in reply. Then after a moment, Sylphiel smiled as if the question never happened and changed the subject to dessert.

xoxox xox xoxox

That night, the town of Sairaag was just as quiet and peaceful as it had been during most of the past year. Lina and Filia had settled into an improvised sleep over at Sylphiel's room, where Sylphiel's mind appeared to be elsewhere and Lina seemed to be immersed in her own inner thoughts. Filia decided that she wasn't going to learn anything about the current situation by hanging around there. Thus the golden dragon turned monster general priestess, stood up and announced. "I'm going to report back to Lord Beast Master. I think I'll spend the night at Wolf Pack Island, see you tomorrow." With those words of parting, she was gone.

Only a simple, "see you..." escaped Sylphiel, who appeared to be worried about something.

Lina was too caught up with her thoughts to even notice when Filia left, though the petite redhead did eventually realize she was gone. At least she could talk to Sylphiel in private now. "Um... About Gourry..." Lina shyly began.

Sylphiel welcomed the conversation, though she wondered about Lina's uneasy tone. "How are things going? We'll we be hearing wedding bells any time soon?"

Lina let out a breath she didn't even realize she was holding. At least Sylphiel wasn't thinking about jumping on the rebound, not that she appeared to know about it yet anyway. Lina relaxed and pushed away her paranoia to remind herself that Sylphiel wasn't like that. "We broke up," she confessed.

A gasp escaped Sylphiel and her face was filled with confusion. "Why? If you don't mind me asking."

"I don't know," Lina admitted. "He broke up with me and I didn't let him explain it. I got angry and made him leave. We're sort of friends again now and I was thinking about letting Amelia and Zelgadis handle the situation with Filia and Xellos while I attempted to win Gourry over again." Given Sylphiel's lack of questioning about Xellos and Filia's appearance, Lina could only correctly assume that she already knew about those two via Beast Master's ever so convenient information network.

The redhead realized then that by confessing her troubles she had also brought up the subject of Amelia and Zelgadis. Sylphiel was looking at her hands folded on her lap as she sat across from Lina. Her expression was both tense and sorrowful, but still secretive. "Amelia is here too, isn't she? And Zelgadis warned you we were coming earlier," Lina theorized. Sylphiel's posture stiffened, but she remained completely silent. "I just don't understand why we can't know," Lina breathed.

"It's not my place, but I think you should know. Amelia might want it that way. I will speak to her and tell her you're here." Sylphiel offered, confirming beyond a doubt that Amelia was in fact there and that the princess, the chimera and the shrine maiden were all aware of whatever trouble was in the air. "Zelgadis is... He's a good man, but he sometimes tries to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. He doesn't know how to let go of guilt and I know he means well, but..." Sylphiel stopped, she was saying too much and didn't want to get further carried away and break her promise of secrecy.

Lina decided not to further inquire about it; Sylphiel's word that she would talk to Amelia was enough. The host changed the subject and instead tried to help her guest with her problem. "Don't give up on Gourry. I can't say why he would break up with you, but I know he wouldn't do anything to deliberately hurt you. There must be some kind of explanation, I'm sure you'll be able to work things out."

Lina nodded with renewed expectations, "I hope so..."

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, rather than going to Wolf Pack Island, Filia had teleported downstairs. She intended to search for clues around Sylphiel's house, but her attention was caught by quiet sounds coming from the kitchen. Filia sneaked over unseen and watched as a cloaked figure rummaged through the pantry. The person took several containers from there and swiftly left out the backdoor. It was evident that this was no ordinary thief, especially since the so called thief appeared to have a key for the backdoor.

Filia silently followed him, hiding in the astral side. Further observation by the light of the moon and stars outside, revealed that the mystery man was in fact Zelgadis. He kept looking over his shoulder instinctively and on several occasions looked right at where Filia should have been, but since she was in the astral side, he only saw empty space, albeit he sensed something.

Zelgadis took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. He didn't see anyone following him; surely Sylphiel had the group distracted as he had asked. She swore she would help them in any way she could after all, and Sylphiel wasn't one to purposely break her promises. Telling himself that he was only being paranoid, Zelgadis hurried down the street to the outskirts of town where the old Flagoon had once been.

The chimera went through the partially dried roots that were covered in a few new branches here and there as the tree continued its slow but steady revival. He headed deeper into the cavern of the tree with Filia still following him quietly. Finally, Zelgadis arrived at a chamber that, peculiarly, had a few pieces of furniture in it. Amelia lay on a bed, sleeping curled into a ball on her side, though her sleep was not restful judging by her expression.

The Seyruun princess' eyes shot open as she twisted painfully, hands around her swollen abdomen. Zelgadis rushed to her side to comfort her and cast a healing spell that did little to assist her. The sudden pain appeared to end and now that she was awake, Zelgadis thought that it was as good a time as any to offer her some medicine.

He poured a small glass of a thick green concoction and held it out to Amelia whose shaking hands would otherwise spill it on the white sheets of the small bed she occupied. She drank the dose without protest, albeit her facial expression made it clear that it was very bitter. As she sat up for a moment, looking tired and restless, while Zelgadis looked worried and apologetic, Filia noticed a particular detail about Amelia.

The monster's eyes went wide and her concentration was lost as she unwillingly left her astral side hiding place and materialized herself in the physical world. Amelia was pregnant. But that didn't make any sense. Wouldn't have Naga and Philionel known? Had they really not seen Amelia for that long? Unless... of course, it was a possibility, the state of her condition must be accelerated because the child was a chimera. A chimera child... those were unpredictable at best.

"Filia?" Amelia's tired voice reached out to her. Zelgadis looked in her direction, noticing the monster for the first time. It turned out, he realized, that his bad feeling wasn't paranoia after all. He didn't want to get anyone else involved in this, only Sylphiel knew because her skills as a healer were necessary.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 024: Gloom! A Dark Day

After quietly following Zelgadis to the location of the old Flagoon, Filia made an astonishing discovery, Amelia was with child and her state of health was fragile at best. Flagoon had slowly started to revive, the temple that Fibrizo once put in its place being all but disintegrated by the branches and roots that took on a new life. It was all because of the effects of the energy from the Sea of Chaos that had been used to fight off the Stillness a little over a year ago.

"Amelia..." Filia curiously approached, feeling a concern she didn't even know a monster could feel. It was happening again; emotions that she shouldn't have were surfacing and going wild. This was different from what happened when she was around Xellos; it was another type of connection akin to what she felt for Lina, friendship.

Amelia smiled beckoning Filia to come closer while Zelgadis remained paralyzed and silent. "It's good to see you again."

Filia nodded curiously and with her attention captivated by the situation before her, decided to leave her inner debates for later. "It's... good to see you too..." She wasn't sure what to say, as her mind was filled with unanswered questions that continued to pile up by the second. To ask what happened felt rather silly, as it was plainly obvious. So instead she inquired, "how are you?" Which felt like a fairly stupid question as well, given how pale and sickly Amelia looked.

"I'm fine," the smile was strained for energy but not for sincerity. Not one to be discouraged easily, the Seyruun princess was ready to face any challenge that life might throw at her. "How are you doing? Did you come by Sairaag on your own, or are the others here too?"

"They're here," Filia glanced at Zelgadis for a split second to see his reaction. He remained still with a solemn expression.

"How wonderful," Amelia's face continued to brighten despite her condition. She had lost the perception of time since the area was dark anyway and had to be lit with spells. She didn't realize that it was the middle of the night. "It'll be good to see them again."

Zelgadis' mouth opened to speak, but for several seconds no sounds came out until he finally voiced a quiet, "Amelia..." He tried to gather his words and progress with what he was trying to say, though he wasn't sure of it himself. "You know they can be a little noisy," he warned as gently as possible.

"Don't worry," Amelia assured, dismissing the overprotective concern. "Everything will be just fine. Besides, they had to find out eventually. A baby is not something that can be kept a secret for so long."

Zelgadis nodded, lowering his head and remaining silent. Every time he saw how hard this was on Amelia, his guilt increased, though she had never blamed him for her difficulties. Ever since she realized what was going on, she took the situation in stride and was ready to face the consequences of their actions. They were engaged anyway, she knew she wanted to spend her life with him, so it didn't seem like something all that bad, even if the timing could have been better. As her condition rapidly became obvious, Amelia realized that if a royal wedding took place then, there would be a scandal.

Thus Amelia did what she thought would look best in the eyes of diplomacy as long as the truth was never known, for the sake of her kingdom. She resolved to have the child first, get married and then make the announcement of the child's existence. If anyone inquired about the speed of the process, she would explain that the baby was born quickly due to being a chimera, which was actually true anyway. Albeit she intended to tell her father and sister the truth, Amelia decided that she would speak to them upon her return to Seyruun after the birth.

The original plan was to return to Seyruun quietly and give birth there, but after some complications along the way with which Sylphiel helped when they met on the road, they decided to head to the closer town of Sairaag to get some rest. Sylphiel volunteered to help nurse Amelia, but the Seyruun princess never became well enough to get back on the road. As her pregnancy progressed, she spent more time sleeping and Sylphiel suggested that it was best not to move her. The atmosphere of the reviving Flagoon was calming and filled with positive energy, thus it helped Amelia relax, the reason for which she was kept there.

Giving up on trying to shelter Amelia from the chaos that followed Lina wherever she went, Zelgadis finally agreed. "I'm sure the others will come by in the morning."

"Morning?" Amelia tilted her head in question.

"It's the middle of the night," Filia revealed, which made Amelia looked more curious. "I couldn't sleep so I came by now," she excused herself.

"Oh my... I didn't even realize." Amelia looked at Zelgadis with concerned eyes. He was trying so hard to be strong for her that it was at times easy to miss the exhaustion in his face. "Please get some rest, Zel. My fellow insomniac and I will find ways to occupy ourselves."

Amelia made it sound simple, but for Zelgadis, restlessness was all he knew lately. "I'm not tired," he insisted, suppressing an ill-timed yawn.

"Please rest, do it for me," Amelia insisted, her big blue eyes pleading.

Filia wasn't sure what came over her when she volunteered. "Sleep, I'll stay up with Amelia. Monsters don't need sleep anyway and I'm not in the mood to put myself in a sleep-like state tonight."

Filia as a monster was unusual, but Zelgadis resolved to think that this was the same Filia he knew deep down. Furthermore, if he stayed there to try to keep his earlier performance a secret it wouldn't work anyway, if Filia wanted to reveal his run away act, she would, no matter if he was listening or not. "Alright," he finally nodded, accepting Filia's suggestion. Then he gave Amelia a serious look, "you must wake me up if you're not feeling well. Even if you think you can handle it, promise you'll call me."

"Don't worry," Amelia continued to smile.

xoxox xox xoxox

When dawn came to the town of Sairaag, the day was rather gloomy. The sun was covered by thick rain clouds, making it look as if dawn had never happened. A persistent fog clung to the atmosphere, making the day feel even gloomier. Early in the morning, even if the rays of the sun were not there to greet her as they usually did, Sylphiel was up. She and Lina slept in sleeping bags, as it was customary of a sleepover, though the kind hostess did offer Lina her bed. "Good morning, Lina!" Sylphiel greeted cheerfully, even if neither the day nor the situation was cheery.

Lina groaned in response, not in the mood to be woken up so early in the morning. It seemed that not even the sun itself wanted to face the new day. The redhead turned over in the sleeping bag and buried her face in the pillow. Her voice came out muffled against it, "I don't want to get up." The rain wasn't pouring yet, but the clouds persisted in covering the sunlight. They neither released their waters, nor went away with it, they only loomed as if wanting to prolong the dread of the coming downpour.

Ever patient, Sylphiel did not insist. Lina shifted some more as Sylphiel stopped at the door. "The sleepover is officially over now; you can use the bed if you want."

With a few more sleepy incoherencies being mumbled with a drowsy expression, Lina got up from the sleeping bag. She lay down on the bed and on the second that her head touched the pillow, she immediately fell asleep again.

xoxox xox xoxox

A short while later, downstairs, Sylphiel busied herself in the kitchen. She was preparing breakfast for her house guests and the other two no longer secret guests that were in her care, albeit not in her house. She left some bread, blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls baking in the oven, which would take a while to be ready, though not as long as with a regular oven, as Sylphiel's was magically enhanced.

She packed some sandwiches that she made a few hours ago while Lina was sleeping, thus salvaging them from the redhead's voracious appetite. After adding some medicines to the basket she was carrying, the kind young woman headed for the door. She paused before going out, glancing out the front window next to the door. She picked up the umbrella from the umbrella bucket next to the cape rack and went out the door.

Sylphiel let out a breath as she looked at the gray skies. She didn't like the atmosphere; it amplified the feeling of foreboding that already hung heavy in the air. Walking briskly, Sylphiel made her way out of town. The bustling marketplace from the day before was completely different that morning, as if the day invited even the usually eager merchants to stay in bed. With the street clear, almost deserted in the early morning, Sylphiel hurried out of the main street and towards the area where Flagoon was reviving.

xoxox xox xoxox

Mist and humidity hung in the air as Sylphiel entered past the roots and ruins into the inner chambers of Flagoon, covered in vines and the seedling-like branches of the reviving tree. She set her umbrella aside and called forth some illumination. "Light..." Sylphiel voiced softly in case Amelia and Zelgadis were sleeping, she knew that they hardly got any rest lately. In Amelia's case it was because of her insistent pains and for Zelgadis it was his need to watch Amelia twenty-four seven, driven by both love and guilt.

"Ah!" The sudden scream that pierce the gloomy silence made Sylphiel jump and shattered her concentration. As a result, she accidentally dispelled the light as if driven by an instinctual reaction to seek cover as if she was going to be attacked. Yet a split second later she knew that she wouldn't be needing to put the offensive magic she learned over the past year to use in defending her home from bandits and the like, not this time.

"Light!" Sylphiel recasted the spell hastily and dropped her basket carelessly in her rush. Amelia's pained voice became clearer as she got closer. It was white magic that Sylphiel would need now. She was surprised to find Filia next to Amelia's bed on the side opposite to Zelgadis. They had combined their efforts to try to ease Amelia's pain with healing magic. With no time to ask about the specifics, Sylphiel joined the healing with a Resurrection spell.

xoxox xox xoxox

Back at Sylphiel's house, when Xellos woke up, Gourry was still sleeping and Pokota was awake, but he had not gotten up yet. The blonde swordsman's snores were muffled under a mountain of pillows. The scene made Xellos remember the previous night when Gourry was the first to fall asleep. Since the three men shared Sylphiel's guest room, they didn't even have the comfort of a thin inn wall to serve as a barrier between them and Gourry's snores. Thus, following a silent agreement that came to out of shared desperate looks, Xellos and Pokota set out to gather every spare pillow and cushion they could find in Sylphiel's residence to pile them on top of Gourry.

The Taforashia prince seemed to be absorbed in his own thoughts that morning, but soon after Xellos got up, Pokota did too. Then Xellos, perceptive as he was, realized that Pokota must have woken up more than just a little while ago, the evidence of his uneasy slumber clear in his tired face. Yet the pink haired prince didn't want to be the first one to make it downstairs, least he find himself alone with Sylphiel as she, ever the sweet girl she was, prepared food for her guests. He wanted to talk to her in private, but he wasn't sure he wanted to hear what she would say. More so, if she refused to say anything at all, he was sure that he wouldn't be able to contain a sea of questions that would probably make her silence harder on her and more hurtful to him.

Silently and without as much as a verbal greeting, Xellos and Pokota made their way downstairs. Appetizing scents were coming from the vacant kitchen, hinting that Sylphiel must have already been there, though she didn't seem to be in the house at the moment. They reasoned that she would be back soon enough if she had gone off for some early morning grocery shopping or something. As for Lina, if she had not gone with Sylphiel, it was only a matter of time before the scents of freshly baked bread, blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls called her out of dream land and into the kitchen downstairs.

With not much else to do, Xellos and Pokota sat at the table quietly and waited. It didn't look like Filia was back yet, Xellos silently noted. The atmosphere and weather were very gloomy and quiet, thus he wasn't even in the mood to try to come up with a sarcastic remark to tell Pokota as a means of entertainment until Filia returned or either Sylphiel or Lina, or both, made their appearance.

The boring silence didn't have to stretch for too long, as the scent of food did give Lina the motivation she needed to drag herself out of bed and head towards the kitchen. "Something smells good!" The petite redhead exclaimed, surprised that only Xellos and Pokota occupied the dinning table. The scents made her think that Sylphiel would be there taking care of the kitchen and that just as she got up, Gourry would be awake by now too. Where are Sylphiel and Gourry?" A jolt of panic overtook Lina as she thought that wherever they disappeared to they could be together. But that couldn't be, right? Sylphiel only saw him as a friend now, right? She had demonstrated it herself after all.

Xellos caught the hint of jealousy in Lina's voice and thought about teasing her. However, Pokota, who was too caught up in his own thoughts to notice Lina's suspicious tone, answered first. "Gourry is still in the guest room sleeping. I'm not sure where Sylphiel is..."

Lina became visibly relieved. "Sylphiel probably went out to the market or something. She wouldn't have left the kitchen going like this if she didn't intend to come back soon," she logically concluded. "I'm surprised that the scent hasn't woken Gourry."

"Must be all the pillows and cushions we piled on him to block out his snoring," Xellos commented. His curiosity was mildly sparked as he inquired. "I wonder why he's not that loud when we camp out?"

"Sleeping outside and sleeping indoors are different for Gourry. He always snores a whole lot louder at inns. It also depends on his mood." This was something that Lina knew well as a result of her years traveling with Gourry. Then she realized that she had more insight into his feelings than she knew. Something was on his mind; he always snored louder when something was bothering him. For him to be this loud, he must be pushing his brain to think about something a lot.

The scent of something burning in the oven interrupted Lina's train of thought. She, Pokota and Xellos sniffed the air with slight alarm. Then the golden dragon asked with a cheery grin that was very much like him. "Is it supposed to smell like that?"

"No!" Lina exclaimed as she jumped over the counter that separated the kitchen and dinning area and scrambled towards the oven. She opened it, but the tray of over-baked food inside was too hot. "Ah!" She had to pull back her hands in pain, muttering some less than nice words under her breath that Luna might scold her for and hastily casting a healing spell on her hands.

Mere seconds transpired until Gourry came rushing down the stairs, with the sword of light in hand. "Are we under attack?"

"No, I just burned myself a little. It's no big deal, I already healed myself," Lina explained. Then she took note of Gourry's attire, or lack there of. "Why in the world are you only wearing a towel?"

"When I woke up I was by myself in the room." Gourry explained as he put away the sword of light seeing as there was no immediate threat after all. "I got up and went to take a morning bath, then I heard you yell and came running."

"Oh..." Lina blushed, thinking that it was sweet of him to come to her rescue. Filled with hope, she asked, "you were worried about me because you care?"

"Of course," Gourry replied with a friendly smile. Yet there was a hint of sadness in his eyes, or perhaps longing, that was too well hidden for anyone to notice. "That's what friends are for, right?"

Lina frowned, "right..." Gourry only tilted his head in curiosity upon seeing her expression fall. Not in the mood to deal with Gourry's apparent lack of perception, Lina sent him away. "Well, there's no danger here, so you can go finish getting dressed." Gourry wasn't sure why Lina's mood had suddenly shifted for the worse, but he didn't question it and returned up the stairs. Maybe he would be able to think better with his pants on.

All the while the exchange between Lina and Gourry was taking place, Pokota had found some thick kitchen gloves that allowed him to pick up the trays and set them out on the counter without hurting his hands. Xellos let out a little giggle. "Those gloves match your hair." He teased, referring to the pink kitchen gloves.

Pokota frowned and set the gloves aside, "I don't see how that's funny." He looked at the ruined bread, blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls. "I don't see how any of this is funny."

"I bet Lina and Gourry will still eat this," Xellos teased.

Lina made no direct reply to him, while Pokota expressed his concern. "I wonder why Sylphiel isn't back yet?" There were too many things about the current situation that he didn't know, but he did know that the monsters were up to something and that was enough to make him worry. "I'm going out to look for her."

Lina picked up a slightly burned cinnamon roll and took a bite. "These aren't that bad, with some butter or jam on top they'll be alright."

Gourry returned fully dressed and looked at the food trays hungrily. "Are we going to have breakfast now?" He looked around the group and made an observation. "Aren't we missing some people?" It was enough that he remembered that much, to ask him to name them would be too much.

"They're not here," Lina declared. She wasn't in a good mood and she wanted to console herself with food, even if it meant having to deal with sharing breakfast with Gourry. She would show him, she would eat as much of the food as she could. "I'm hungry so I'm starting on breakfast now."

Gourry shrugged, "if it's okay then me too."

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 025: Tragedy! The Guilt Of A Loss

While the gluttonous duo, Lina and Gourry, focused on eating the accidentally over baked bread, blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls, Pokota slipped out of Sylphiel's house to search for her. Xellos didn't have much else to do, so he went out to take a look around Sairaag.

Xellos walked through the gloomy foggy atmosphere. A few merchants had ventured out and were halfheartedly setting up their products on displays in booths in the marketplace. A few shop owners had opened their businesses' doors and sat behind deserted counters leaning on their elbows with the same lazy expressions. It was amazing how a change in the weather could give or take away stamina. It wasn't so much a matter of the temperature, but the mood of the day. It was a purely emotional reaction that affected the core functionalities of those beings called humans in more powerful ways than it should be physically possible.

Xellos made it to the outskirts of town and curiously approached the reviving Flagoon. He heard the echo of a female voice and became more intrigued about what was going on in the cavern. He saw an umbrella near the cavity's entrance that had been set aside and a few more paces deeper in, a basket carelessly thrown on the ground as if the one previously carrying it was in a hurry.

"Medicine! Medicine!" Filia teleported suddenly, making Xellos take an instinctual step back away from the basket. The monster spotted the basket and hurried to pick it up. While healing magic closed wounds and provided energy for the body to fight off diseases, it couldn't heal what the body was unable to heal on its own. It wasn't a cure for an illness, it was healing, it sped up the process and gave the body some help. Yet if the body could not produce what was needed naturally, with healing magic it still wouldn't.

"Filia?" Xellos' perplexed voice made Filia lift her eyes from the basket she was rummaging through to look at him. "What's going on?"

"I don't have time for you now raw garbage," Filia snapped. She found what she was looking for in the basket and shoved the basket and the rest of its contents into Xellos' arms, just because he was there. "Amelia is giving birth a little way that way." She pointed her finger towards the deeper corridors of the cavern. "So don't go in there!" She warned threateningly. "The only man allowed in there right now is Zelgadis, no one else, got it?"

Xellos nodded slowly, caught off guard by the sudden revelation, "got it..." He knew that Zelgadis was hiding something, but he didn't expect it to be the approaching arrival of a child.

"You better." With one last glare of distrust directed at Xellos, Filia teleported once again and was gone from his line of sight, presumably back to the cave chamber where the birth was taking place.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Pokota had asked around town, but no one had seen Sylphiel that morning. A few people mentioned that she was tending to a patient near the old Flagoon and might have gone there. Using that as a clue, Pokota headed there. He arrived at Flagoon a short while after Xellos, having taken his time to ask and search around town. He entered and saw the umbrella which Xellos had seen not long ago. A short way deeper in, Pokota saw Xellos sitting on the ground with a basket next to him. A woman's pained screams echoed, but all that Xellos did was calmly eat a sandwich he had retrieved from the basket.

"Xellos!" Pokota accused, wondering if he should just ignore the golden dragon, who used to be a monster, and simply rush in to see what the yelling was about. "How could you just be sitting there eating with all that screaming? What's going on?" Another shout followed and Pokota started running towards the next chamber.

"Stop!" Xellos called out.

The Taforashia prince reluctantly halted his rush and glared back at the golden dragon with urgency. "What's going on?" He once again demanded to know.

"There's a birth taking place in the next chamber and I have been warned that no men, save for the child's father, will be allowed in there until it is finished." Xellos smiled cheerful and carefree as he explained.

Pokota's tense stance relaxed slightly, though his expression was still a mix of doubt and puzzlement. "Really?" Xellos nodded and Pokota mused about what the townspeople had mentioned. They didn't say much about Sylphiel's patient, but who was to say the patient couldn't be a pregnant woman? "Oh..." Well if that was the truth then he couldn't just rush in there. Also, it would explain why Sylphiel didn't go back to the house, perhaps the birth began unexpectedly and her assistance as a healer was needed.

Feeling calmer after learning at least part of what was going on; Pokota sat down near the basket and peered into it. "These were made by Sylphiel," he concluded, picking up a sandwich and examining it. Xellos raise an eyebrow as if to inquire how he was so familiar with her cooking, but Pokota decided to ignore the gesture and eat. He paused as another scream echoed and gulped. "Poor lady... I hope everything works out..."

The word "justice" was shouted in a very loud voice, echoing through the area around the old Flagoon and beyond.

Pokota almost choked on his sandwich, "if I didn't know any better, I would think its Amelia giving birth in there..."

Xellos grinned from ear to ear, "that's because it is Amelia giving birth in there."

Pokota's jaw dropped, "no... no... no way!" He stuttered, unable to believe it. He jumped to his feet and walked a few steps, then walked back to the spot where he sat before and moved in such a way for a few seconds. "You're lying..." Xellos only smiled and Pokota knew that he was in fact telling the truth. The pink haired prince walked back and forth some more. He was surprised to learn about Amelia, but more so he was frustrated that no one told him about it, that she didn't mention it in her letters. Wasn't he trusted as a friend? Frowning, he continued to pace around and fidget with uneasiness.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, back at Sylphiel's house, Lina and Gourry had an all out battle to decide who would eat the last cinnamon roll. With Lina as the victor, breakfast was officially over. Once that was done, a heavy uncomfortable silence settled in between the sorceress and the swordsman, until Lina decided to go on the retreat. She headed for the door as casually as she could with a light excuse. "I'm going to see what's taking everyone so long to come back."

"I'll go with you," Gourry offered and began to follow Lina out before she could protest. Lina considered her options for a moment and finally nodded. The prideful sorceress wasn't going to let Gourry think she was avoiding him. Never mind that he probably wouldn't notice even if she tried to make it obvious.

The redhead and the blond exited the house and looked around town. The streets had a few pedestrians here and there by then, but they certainly weren't as crowded as the day before. People carried lighter shopping bags and many had umbrellas at the ready for whenever the dark skies decided to release their waters.

After inquiring about Sylphiel, as out of all of them she would be the one the townspeople would be most familiar with, Lina decided to head to the old location of Flagoon. Though no one revealed the name of the mysterious patient Sylphiel was caring for, Lina put two and two together and concluded that it was Amelia. But what could the problem be?

Just as Gourry and Lina reached the old Flagoon, there was a crash of lightning in the distance with echoing thunder and the downpour that was threatening to fall came down all at once. Lina and Gourry ran for cover at the Flagoon cavern. Once out of range of the downpour, Lina squeezed the water out of her cape. "When it rains, it pours!"

Gourry was about to say something, possibly something dumb commenting about the rain, but just as he opened his mouth a female voice yelled. He closed his mouth again, the odd timing making it look as if the sound had come from him.

Lina would have chuckled if not for the fact that she was on edge thinking that an attack was just waiting to happen and that the one yelling could be Sylphiel or Amelia at the verge of death. She rushed deeper into the cave chamber only to stop upon seeing Xellos sitting in an odd pose, using his dragon tail coiled into a sort of stool. Not too far from him, Pokota was walking back and forth continuously. Lina placed her hands on her hips and demanded to know. "What in the world is going on here?"

"It's customary," Xellos calmly replied with his usual cheery grin.

"Customer?" Gourry blinked in confusion. "Did you decide to open a shop here, Xellos?" He looked around. "I don't see any merchandise and what was that scream just now? We were running to see, but Lina stopped so I stopped too."

"Customary," Xellos corrected. "That is to say that it is a tradition."

"Oh..." When the next pained yell came, Gourry didn't seem alarmed, albeit Lina and Pokota both flinched. "That's a weird tradition, yelling like that."

Xellos let out a breath, trying to be patient. "That's not the tradition," he pointed at Pokota, "that is."

"What?" Pokota and Lina unanimously chorused.

"When a woman is giving birth, there's always that family member that's walking back and forth, slowly making a hole on the floor with all that walking, just outside the door to her room, or a short distance away from her cave chamber in this case. But you know, things change, so this time around the father is in there, assisting with the birth, I would assume. Yet it wouldn't be the same without all the walking, so Pokota is filling in with this silly traditional gesture. Isn't that kind of him?" Xellos chirped cheerfully.

"This is no joking matter!" Pokota snapped.

"What's wrong, are you tired of walking?" Xellos got up from his tail stool and stretched the golden scaled appendage. "I guess I could go for stretching my legs right about now. Do you want me to walk for a little while? Then Gourry can walk for some time too until it's all over."

Gourry wasn't sure what this was about, he only caught something about strange traditions that involved yelling and walking. Whatever it was, it might be fun. "Count me in, I want to be a part of Sairaag's traditions too!"

"Wait a minute!" Lina stepped in with alarmed impatience. "You mean to say that all that yelling is because Amelia is giving birth?"

"Yes, but I didn't say it was Amelia." As Xellos pointed that out, Lina slapped both her hands over her mouth. Albeit to her relief, Xellos soon added, "even if I did already know, I didn't realize you had knowledge of the news as well."

Pokota looked betrayed, as if Lina had also hidden the fact from him. She caught his look and shook her head. "I just got a clue last night and Sylphiel was supposed to be arranging a visit for us today. I didn't realize there was a baby coming until now and it sounds like it came unexpectedly."

"I'm confused," Gourry confessed, although it was certainly not a big secret.

"Amelia is further into the cavern having a baby right now." Lina simplified the explanation as much as she could.

"Really? What about the traditions?" Gourry inquired in puzzlement.

"Never mind that!" Lina snapped.

Gourry decided to forget about the complex customs that Sairaag had apparently developed and put his mind into understanding the most important piece of information. Amelia was having a child. "Amelia sounds like she's in pain," he stated the obvious. "Shouldn't someone go help her?"

"Sylphiel is already with her, and Zelgadis too," Lina correctly concluded.

"And Filia too," Xellos added, causing Lina to give him an unsure look. "Why don't you join them," he encouraged, just to see Lina's reaction. "It's just men who are banned from going in there, with the exception of Zelgadis."

Lina gulped, what did she know about children? Nothing, absolutely nothing. "Okay..." she decided to be brave and marched into the cave chamber deeper in, which held the source of the pained voice.

xoxox xox xoxox

When Lina arrived, the birth was almost over. It had actually taken several hours starting before Sylphiel's arrival. Zelgadis had been in a panic, casting healing spells on Amelia and a confused Filia filled with emotions that a monster shouldn't have, could do little else than to follow his example and cast her own healing magic. How and why she knew such spells despite being a monster was still a mystery to her.

Driven by friendship, concern and sibling-like love, Lina hurried to Amelia's side. Sylphiel was directing the process and casting healing while playing the part of the midwife. Filia and Zelgadis were helping with the healing. "Lina?" Amelia was surprisingly the first one to notice the new arrival.

As soon as Sylphiel noticed Lina, she was quick to have her assist. It was something that she was going to ask Filia to help her with, but the monster looked pale enough as it was. Given the fact that she was an astral being, the state of shock must be deep for it to show subconsciously in her projected form. "Lina, come over here, the baby's almost out."

"You... you want me to help?" Lina frantically pointed at herself as if being accused of something fierce.

"Yes!" Sylphiel insisted. With wide eyes, Lina could only nod her head and rush to Sylphiel side. "Okay, aim your healing spells at the child, Filia and Zelgadis will take care of healing Amelia." A few more excruciating minutes later, the baby was finally completely out, but the way Sylphiel and Lina kept pouring all their healing magic into it was unnerving.

Amelia breathed deeply and finally allowed her sore body to relax. "I'm... I'm okay..." she gasped in exhaustion. Zelgadis, who was just about ready to collapse, ceased his constant healing spells and fell to his knees next to Amelia's bed. Her hand was grasping his and if it had not been part stone, she might have broken it with her strong grip. Then again, if he had not been a chimera, her pain and the risk to her health wouldn't have been so terrible. "The baby..." The Seyruun princess gasped with tears in her eyes.

Filia looked at Sylphiel and Lina, who kept persistently casting healing spells on the child that Sylphiel had wrapped in a white blanket. "Resurrection!" Sylphiel called out with clenched teeth and emerald eyes that were blurred by the rivers of tears streaming down her face. The spell never felt so ironically cruel. It couldn't resurrect, it could only heal one who was still alive, but this little one wasn't. "Resurrection!" Sylphiel called out again in frustration and sadness.

Lina realized it was futile and stopped pouring out her healing magic. With a solemn tear-filled face, she bravely took the small bundle from Sylphiel's arms, allowing the tired young nurse to lean on her shoulder for support. "I'm so sorry..." She whispered in a tone that was much more sorrowful, gentle and afraid that anything they had ever heard Lina say before. "So sorry..." she clenched her teeth in bitterness. This wasn't fair, Amelia and Zelgadis didn't deserve this, the little boy didn't deserve this. A golden light began to surround Lina and her body trembled with power. 'Why do you allow this to happen? What can it help? What can come out of this? No one wants to feel this; it'll just make them not want to feel at all,' she screamed in her mind.

"Lina, calm yourself!" The sudden voice startled all those present, including Lina, who seemed to snap back into reality. There stood none other than Beast Master Zelas Metallium. Her pristine ivory dress was revealing, but not enough to lose its elegance as it accentuated her tan figure. Her eyes were silvery, as was her hair in this occasion. She approached Lina and looked into the human's pained eyes. "You were summoning her, without words, your feelings, your magic; your very being was calling her. It is not wise to summon the Lord of Nightmares just so that you may demand answers. It is what it is and no one can change it, not you and not even me."

Lina nodded and lowered her head, a vast deep sorrow invaded the room, a sorrow that strongly eradiated from all those present and even those who were waiting in the next chamber and not hearing a child's cries after Amelia's silence. "Would you have?" Zelgadis muttered under his breath, his voice cracked with sorrow, he didn't seem to notice that he was crying or that he was barely producing any sound as he spoke. He didn't want the mocking, cruel, monster lord there, especially not at that time.

"That is a secret," Zelas replied, though her smile was more so bittersweet than mocking. Zelgadis said nothing in reply and Zelas continued in a neutral tone. "Martina's little boy, whom she name Zoamelgustar, was filled with chaotic energy that she herself unknowingly summon to him. With a vast investment of healing magic and even chaotic energy, she was kept alive and lived through the birth to later achieve a full recovery with a magic prodigy as her child. Yet this time it was not a matter of energy, but of flesh. Such an inconvenience."

Sylphiel lifted her head from Lina's shoulder with a frown. "I'm sorry; I tried my best to create medicine that would simulate the nutrients that the non-human parts of the child would need, but... I failed."

"It's not your fault," Amelia choked out. "Lina, please, even if he didn't make it, I want to see him."

Even if it made Amelia's heart break even more, Lina could not deny her that request. She approached with the motionless bundle in her arms and carefully gave the child's body to Amelia, as if it were a fragile living newborn.

Amelia cradled the baby in her arms. The hue of his skin was in some areas similar to Amelia's and in others similar to Zelgadis, fading smoothly from one color to another. The shadows of a few stones were visible beneath the flesh as if they would come out later. His eyes were closed and his ears were pointy. His little hair was the same color as Zelgadis, but with a very soft texture, like Amelia's hair.

"This is all my fault, because I'm a chimera." Zelgadis quietly blamed himself with infinite sorrow and bitterness. "I shouldn't have... I shouldn't... Amelia, I'm so sorry, you deserve so much better than this, so much better than me."

"Hush, Zel, don't say that." Amelia held the dead child in one arm and pulled Zelgadis closer to her with the other. "I was only unprepared, that's all. I still love you and I always will!" Yet nothing seemed to be enough to console Zelgadis.

As far as he knew, he had stolen the life of Amelia's firstborn, the life of his own child. He couldn't do this to her, he couldn't do this to her family, to her kingdom, he couldn't do this. 'A chimera doesn't belong with a princess, with a human.' Zelgadis thought bitterly that he should have never forgotten that truth. 'A chimera, a mixture of creatures that don't belong together, doesn't belong with anyone.'

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 026: Sadness! Facing Sorrow

Zelas walked to the next cave chamber. Xellos found himself staring at her curiously the second he saw her. Her energy... she was a monster, no, not a mere monster, she was a monster lord. "Lord Beast Master, Zelas Metallium." He voiced, as all the others were too surprised by her presence to say anything or even move.

"The child?" Pokota inquired with a tone of worry.

"Is an answer even required?" Zelas stated rhetorically. Pokota looked sorrowful then paused and stared into the monster lord's eyes boldly. She narrowed her gaze ever so slightly, sending shivers all over the young prince's body. He didn't want to, but he had to look away as a deep terror overtook him. Her eyes... there was something ever so cunning and malicious about the way she looked at everyone. Yet in this occasion, for this particular catastrophe, she was guiltless. His theory that the lost life was because of her was quickly banished and Pokota wondered if it was in truth because of the chimera genetics. He knew that it was very likely.

Gourry seemed to be the only one who didn't know what the sudden silence meant. Normally, the mother's voice would only cease when the child's cries started, but Amelia had quieted leaving nothing but silence in the atmosphere. "Is it over?" He looked at Zelas with puzzlement. He wasn't sure when she got there, but she came from the next cave chamber, so she must know what was happening in there.

"Yes, Gourry, it's over," Zelas replied in a nonchalant matter of fact tone.

Gourry innocently smiled, "the baby is born?" He looked at Xellos, who seemed to be fascinated by Zelas' visit, and at Pokota who looked terribly sad. "Why isn't everyone excited? Don't people usually get all excited about this sort of thing?"

"Ignorance is bliss... Yet it cannot last forever," Zelas chuckled before disappearing. Her presence was gone; Xellos was no longer able to sense her. She seemed ever so familiar and he didn't understand why.

A dejected Lina approached the waiting men. She stood in a corner leaning against the wall and sniffling. "Lina?" Gourry inquired in confusion. "What's wrong?"

"Don't talk to me now." Lina's request was spoken in a whisper, but it was so fierce that it silenced Gourry immediately.

The confused swordsman looked at Sylphiel and Filia, who soon walked into the area they were at, leaving Zelgadis and Amelia to have a moment alone. "What's wrong?" Gourry asked again.

No one was in the mood to explain it, but Sylphiel knew that he wouldn't understand until it was spoken directly. "The child was..." still born, he wouldn't understand that concept and she didn't want to speak of the event more than needed. "The child passed away."

Gourry frowned, "oh..." Suddenly the sadness around him made sense and he too was sad over the tragedy.

Filia's eyes were fixated on the ground. When she finally looked up, she caught Xellos staring at her. Her eyes were teary and she knew it. The reaction happened and it would take a lot of concentration to make her projected form look nonchalant. Yet she didn't want to do it. She didn't want to look like a monster should, she wanted to express the things she felt and didn't understand; she wanted to let it all out. Beast Master had not scolded her; in fact, the monster lord had not acknowledged her at all. Filia didn't want to think about what that meant now, she had too much on her mind as it was. It was too much to add Xellos to it too, thus she teleported away.

Xellos quietly exited the area of Flagoon and focused. He could sense Filia's presence not too far away. He followed the feeling of her energy to the area outside, behind the growing Flagoon and the leftover ruins. The rain had stopped, though the rain clouds were still up in the sky covering the sun with lighter shades of gray than before. The heavens' tears were not yet empty and it might rain again at any moment. Xellos walked towards were Filia sat alone on the ground in the shadow of the Flagoon and ruins structure behind her.

He was a dragon, but he couldn't sense her emotions like the time when he was temporarily a human last year, the time he couldn't currently remember. He had no sense of empathy. His monster ability to taste emotions didn't translate to anything this time, because it wasn't a case of Xellos becoming a golden dragon, but rather Xellos switching with Filia. She could taste emotions, as any monster could and he could not, as any normal golden dragon could not. None the less it didn't take a genius to know she was devastated.

"Go... away... raw... garbage..." Filia gasped between sobs.

"Out of breath, are you? A monster should have better control," Xellos observed. "If you simply will your tears to stop, they should."

"I don't have to listen to you, raw garbage! I can cry if I want to!" Filia snapped. "I can show how I feel, I have the right to!" She yelled.

"Show how you feel?" Xellos stepped closer to her, which prompted her to stand and take a challenging stance as if trying to be threatening. "Monsters feel?" Somehow, he thought they did, but they didn't normally admit it.

Filia wasn't sure how to answer to that. She clenched her teeth and tried to push herself to insult him, but he had a point. She wasn't supposed to be like this. She was not only a monster, but Lord Beast Master's general priestess. Was Zelas angry with her? Was that why she didn't even speak to her? Without realizing it, Filia had lowered her head to stare at the ground beneath her feet.

She suddenly felt a hand on her chin, gently lifting her face to look up. "So they do," Xellos concluded, wiping a tear from her eye with his thumb. Then he made a request that took even him by surprise. "Filia... When things calm down, when this journey is over... Will you take me to see Beast Master?"

"What?" Filia stared at Xellos as if he grew a second head. "Are you serious? You want me to take you to Beast Master?"

His eyes opened for just a moment and Filia found herself staring into the deep amethyst with curiosity and fascination. "Yes," there was no doubt in his voice as he closed his eyes again.

"That's crazy!" Filia exclaimed, taking a step back, causing Xellos to release her face. "You're a golden dragon, what do you want with Beast Master? She'll kill you if I take you to Wolf Pack Island! Are you suicidal?"

"She won't kill me." The certainty in Xellos' voice confused Filia further. How could he be so sure of that? He grinned, "at least, she won't kill me as long as I don't anger her."

"She would kill any random dragon that went into her territory." Filia logically argued.

"Yes," Xellos agreed without question. "But I'm not a random dragon. She won't kill me as long as I don't defy her. If I'm respectful, Zelas won't harm me."

"Why are you so certain?" Filia huffed, anger starting to rise at his apparent arrogance.

"I don't know," Xellos admitted. "Or I suppose I could say that is a secret, a secret even to me. It's hard to explain, but somehow I sense it. I can't say why, but I have a feeling that I can trust her."

"A monster lord?!" Filia sounded both offended and horrified. "You're a golden dragon! How can you trust a monster lord?"

"I really don't know," Xellos reiterated. "Look, it's no loss to you, right? You can just take me to Beast Master after things quiet down and if she decides to kill me that's not your problem. You can excuse yourself and say you brought me as an ingredient for her dragon cuisine or something."

'I suppose," Filia sighed, giving up on the seemingly nonsensical argument. "You're a strange dragon," she observed again.

"And you're a strange monster," he added.

Filia didn't argue with his claim, instead frowning and looking at her hands. She was remembering when healing energy flowed out of those very same astral hands, monster hands. "I am," she admitted.

Xellos raised an eyebrow curiously and even momentarily opened one eye. "And you're okay with that?"

Filia's frown deepened, "no."

"Why not?" Xellos curiously inquired.

"Who wants to be a freak?" Her frankness made him chuckled. "Shut up raw garbage, don't make fun of me, you're an even bigger freak!" Filia huffed and crossed her arms. "What kind of a monster can heal, what monster mourns a dead child? I should be jumping for joy because an innocent baby is dead."

"Or more so because you're getting nutrients out of the sorrow," Xellos mused. "It's odd, but I always thought that's what it's about. It's about getting a good meal, rather than the tragedy itself; about the benefit to you, more so than the loss to others, that part would be insignificant. Physical creatures die after all, it happens. They are set free from their cages of flesh and returned to the Sea of Chaos to be reborn." He wasn't sure how he knew that, how he learned it.

"I suppose..." Filia conceded. "For a dragon you act like you know a lot about monsters. But I don't even have that; the meal doesn't cheer me up."

"For a monster, you act like you know a lot about dragons," Xellos retorted. "I can understand I guess. This band of travelers is pretty amusing and too much gloom can ruin that. The meal doesn't make up for the lack of fun, the lack of delicious chaos. It'll be too quiet if the gloom isn't lifted, too quiet for Lina's wrath to flare about every little detail, to quiet for Gourry to say dumb things that annoy her. Too quiet for Zelgadis' occasional gloomy chimera mood swings to even be noticeable. Too quiet for Amelia to bring out the fear in bandits with her justice obsession paired with Lina's hunt for their treasure. It'll just be too quiet, not chaotic enough. And ultimately, not beneficial. It's okay to miss a good meal; the sin of gluttony is a virtue when it is in a monster. Besides, even monsters like to have fun, don't they? Even monsters can get a little attached to their," 'friends,' he didn't voice, instead finishing with, "toys."

"Really?" Filia spoke unsure. Then she calmed down, not because what Xellos said made much sense to her, but because it sounded as if he was trying to cheer her up. She shouldn't accept such a gesture from a dragon, but she really needed it at the time.

Realizing that he had unknowingly consoled her, Xellos decided to try to fix his apparent mistake. "Or maybe you're just a failure as a monster!" He laughed at her.

Filia's temper flared. "You filthy piece of raw garbage!" She called forth her mace that materialized in her hand. "I'll make you pay for mocking me!"

"Oh, oh! She's mad, I better run!" Xellos spoke to no one in particular as he stuck out his tongue at Filia. In the past, she would have killed him, but not anymore, he amused her too much beneath her anger and he knew it. Curiosity was a monster's greatest weakness and he incited her curiosity.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few days passed with a silent gloom hanging in the air. It was rainy, dark and gloomy to the point where the residents of Sairaag wondered if the sun would even shine again. There was much crying during that time, a lot of morning for what could not be changed. The small tomb was constructed there, in the outskirts of town near the old Flagoon. One would think that it would be built in Seyruun, but no, Flagoon, the tree that revived to once again cleanse the air of any impurities, was a comforting symbol. Seyruun was too, it was Amelia's beloved home after all, but the cemetery where her uncle and cousin's bodies eternally rested brought too many bitter memories, tainted memories, for her. So the child was buried at Sairaag. She would tell her father and sister of this, but not now, not when the mere mention of the boy's name would make her cry before she could even explain who he was. She would tell them when she could console them. It was ironic, they would console her, but she wanted to be able to do the same thing back.

Amelia's hand brushed against the tombstone. The color in her face returned to its usual health, she was no longer white as a sheet as she had been during her pregnancy. With a combination of herbal medicine and healing spells she was alright, physically at least. With her nutrients no longer being drained away by a being that her body couldn't support, she had recovered her stamina. Her appetite rivaled Lina's during the first few days when she was able to eat again without being plague by nausea. Afterwards, she slowed into her usual pace and fell into a routine.

One morning, after sleeping in, as a result of having spent the whole night awake battling with his conscience, Zelgadis was surprised to find Amelia sparring with Lina. It was at the princess' insistence as she wanted to test how far her strength and spell casting abilities had recovered. She was well enough to go back on the road. She was even well enough to bring justice upon bandits if she felt like it. After the mock battle ended and Amelia saw Zelgadis watching them from the sidelines, she simply stated, "I'm ready to go now." She tried to smile, but it was obvious it wasn't sincere.

She tried so hard, too hard, more than he deserved, Zelgadis thought. She expected what was to come next, yet she didn't want it, she so badly wanted her guess to be wrong. "Amelia... Could you come for a walk with me for a while?" It was the first day when the sun shone after a long series of dark rainy days.

Amelia nodded and swallowed the lump in her throat. "Of course..." They walked away, leaving Lina to shudder as a foreboding cold chill ran down her spine.

xoxox xox xoxox

Before they knew it, Amelia and Zelgadis were back in the outskirts of Sairaag. She picked wildflowers on the way and had a bunch in her hands by the time she reached the child's resting place, his name engraved on the stone. She set the flowers in front of the tombstone and went on her knees to pray. Wordlessly, Zelgadis mimicked her posture beside her. Amelia imagined that he was apologizing for something that wasn't his fault. She had told him that, but he still felt guilty. That was how he was, always wanting to be better because he didn't think he was good enough. She thought she had cured him, but this tragedy threw him back there again.

When the prayers had ended, they stood and looked at each other as if seeing each other for the first time. "Amelia... I... you..."

"I'll go with you," Amelia offered before he even had the chance to explain himself.

"What?" Did she know what he was going to say? Yes, she saw it in her eyes; that determined sapphire sparkle. "Please no..."

"I will," Amelia insisted, "I want to."

He sighed, he knew this would be hard, but now it felt so impossible. She had guessed it; he wanted to search for his cure again. "Please, let me do this. You should go home and rest." Before she could argue that she had already recovered her strength he added, "don't wait for me. You should..." this was so hard to say, he felt like he was dying. "You should find someone better."

Amelia pouted and shook her head. "Zelgadis Graywords, the one I want is you and I can be pretty stubborn when I want to be."

Zelgadis smiled a little, just a little, because love was that strong in spite of everything. "There is something I need to do..." Before she could protest again with her insistence to go with him, he added, "I'll be back. I can't say if it'll be a week, or two or three... A month at most and if it is more, I will write and explain the details. There's just something I need to check out, alone."

"Why can't I go with you?" Amelia argued. "Is it something I would disapprove of?"

"Possibly," Zelgadis admitted, "but I will not allow it to cause you sorrow. Please, trust me. I simply don't want you to be pushed to become... part of the bargain."

Amelia furrowed her brow and frowned. "What monster do you intent to negotiate with?"

This was his Amelia; she had become so good at reading him like a book. Zelgadis wasn't sure if it made him feel loved, or uneasy, or both. "Zelas."

Amelia sighed, "I thought as much. Very well, miss Zelas isn't so bad, she wants chaos rather than death and we are used to chaos anyway. But even if she's not completely bad, she's certainly not good either." Her face adopted a thoughtful expression as she mused aloud. "Life was simple when things, situations and people were either good or bad, but that's not how it is in reality."

Taking a deep breath, Amelia continued. "Miss Zelas will help only if it is of a benefit to her, just as when she helped Seyruun and now we must call ourselves her allies. If the other monsters were to ever betray her, she'll have an allied city that specializes in white magic, an ideal weapon to defend against her own kind should the need arise. She uses Seyruun to establish herself as the superior monster lord who commands both the darkness and a portion of the light. I can only pray that she never grows bored with this world, that her amusement stays relatively tame, somewhat balanced."

Zelgadis nodded, "I will keep all of that in mind." Sometimes Amelia surprised him with her insight.

She made herself smile, "right, even if the world is not all black and white, we'll make the shades of grey shine as bright as they can. I still hope that one day miss Zelas will answer to the call of justice deep in her heart!" There she was again, the same optimistic Amelia that everyone was used to.

"Right..." Zelgadis nodded, smiling a little as he did only for her. He didn't want to go off with a sad face; that would only make her more uneasy.

"One more thing Zel..." Amelia's tone turned serious again. "You are in no conditions to properly judge right now and honestly, neither am I," she spoke sternly and seriously, so much unlike herself. "Don't give into desperation, don't make a sacrifice that can only bring sorrow in the long run, don't be tricked."

"I promise," Zelgadis assured, though deep down he wasn't sure if, even if he tried his best, it was even possible to keep such a promise.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 027: Depression! The Choice Of A Desperate Fool

"He's gone?!" The disbelieving echoes invaded Sylphiel's house as Amelia replied to the hostess' innocently concerned question about Zelgadis' whereabouts.

"Yes," Amelia confirmed, "he said he would be back soon, so I'll wait for him here a little longer if that's alright."

"Of course," Sylphiel insisted. "You're all welcome to stay for as long as you want."

"Thank you," Amelia gratefully replied. The last thing she wanted right now was to wait for Zelgadis alone. But she knew her friends wouldn't leave her, and he knew that as well when he left her in their care at Sairaag, even if he didn't directly say it.

Lina half expected Filia to point out that they should be moving on with their journey, but she didn't breathe a word. The redhead had heard the townspeople talking about the purple haired lady's outbursts and the way she would chase the blond dragon around town, but no notable injuries came out of it other than a bump on Xellos' head. The citizens of Sairaag didn't seem to realize that Filia was a monster, but the fact that Xellos was a dragon was obvious to them, since his golden scaly tail was always out.

Xellos and Filia had once again established a connection with each other and she could see Filia awakening into her true self. Lina could see it and she wondered if any of the others could see it too. She no longer worried so much about what a proper monster should do and acted according to her own judgment rather than the expectations that hung over her head, or that she thought were there. At least the journey would be easier in terms of those two from that point on. Lina didn't think they would seriously try to kill each other again and if left to their own devices, maybe they would rediscover what they had and be overall, a little easier to deal with as a pair.

Yet that wasn't the only issue hanging in the air. When something improved, something else went horribly wrong. Amelia didn't speak of Zelgadis' destination, she only stated that she would trust him and hope for the best. That was what worried Lina the most, the look of resignation in Amelia's eyes, as if the Seyruun princess knew that stopping whatever actions Zelgadis was intent on taking was impossible and her only available course of action was to support him through them. What did Zelgadis intend to do? Amelia wouldn't say, but Lina had a feeling that she would find out eventually, and if her recent luck continued, she would find out in a not so convenient manner.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, at Wolf Pack Island, Zelgadis found himself at Zelas' throne room, the same place where she had spoken to Filia before and to Xellos even earlier. Fang had teleported him there after Zelgadis summoned Jarde with the courier bird spell and had him fetch the fox monster, who had sufficient energy to teleport him to his master's home base. The imposing yet elegant monster lord, Beast Master Zelas Metallium, sat regally upon her throne, with a mocking smirk upon her face reminiscent of Xellos. Her expression made Zelgadis feel uneasy, as if he was making a mistake, yet he already knew that, so his concern didn't increase too much beyond what it already was.

"Zelgadis Graywords," Zelas' strong voice pierced the silence that previously clung to her throne room. After Fang delivered Zelgadis there, he left the chimera alone with the monster lord, left them to their conversation, their negotiations, her manipulation. "Your visit here is closely linked to the recent happenings concerning your son," she stated, rather than asked, as the matter was obvious.

"Yes," Zelgadis admitted, trying to keep his voice steady, firm and devoid of a hint of anything aside from the outmost serious neutrality. He knew that it was a useless facade. She was a monster lord; she could clearly taste the turmoil that was unfolding in his heart. Yet if he didn't show it outwardly, he could make-believe that he was in control.

"There are several options," Zelas stated. Unknown to her, she was addressing a request that Zelgadis had no intentions of making. "Let me share a story with you. During the time when Lina summoned the Lord of Nightmares, as you know, many things were set lose and the consequences of that were dealt with during the past year. However, there were other smaller occurrences that seemed insignificant at the time. One of those such occurrences was a rupture in the dimensional fabric that divides the worlds. Our world and the over-world became connected. However, only those whose astral bodies were not too large, humans for example, and a peculiar type of monster found in the over-world similar to mutated animals wielding elemental magic, were able to pass through. The portal closed very soon, leaving a group stranded, but they managed to make new lives for themselves here. Recently though, another portal opened and the band of humans from the over world jumped through."

"The Roketto mafia," Zelgadis realized. It had to be them, it was the only explanation for their mysterious disappearance and the overall eccentric collection of unusual devices the gang had possessed. They had machines, Zelgadis had heard, very strange machines that surpassed even dragon technology, the most peculiar of them being those monster capture capsules. They were gone now, so Zelgadis had to wonder where Zelas was going with all this. "What about that?"

"That was not the only occurrence of such a portal," Zelas revealed. "Though I admit I am unaware of how many such occasions took place, I will tell you of another. It connected to a different part of the over-world, far from the place where the Roketto mafia came from and returned to. There was nothing there but a petrified body. Not dead really, albeit after petrification one has little to do but waste away and eventually die when the stone crumbles, as the cure is so rare. None the less, it is curable, and in such cases the petrification is in a sense like a frozen coma. Monster energy, the creation of a chimera; that is what reanimated that stony body and turned her into one of my minions. A strange, flirty creature she is, but alive none the less, I speak of the gorgon who used to collect statues of petrified men in another life, albeit now what she seems to want from them is-"

"How is any of this relevant?" Zelgadis snapped.

Zelas smiled in amusement, "it is relevant, albeit I don't care to explain it. I was only doing so to make you snap."

Zelgadis gritted his teeth, Zelas could be very infuriating when she wanted to be, and unfortunately for those around her, more often than not, she wanted to be. "Can we get to the point?" His sense of logic was returned as the anger held a small spot within the sorrow and he knew he was a fool to be there.

"If the child is petrified via a spell and then mixed with monster energy, it might become re-animated. Albeit because the flesh was technically not truly alive at the time, it will be more so a monster than a true monster and human chimera," Zelas offered.

"No," Zelgadis firmly stated.

He tried to organize his thoughts to explain his business, but Zelas continued before he could. "The other option is far more straight forward, get a necromancer involved and turn the boy into a zombie. I believed you've witnessed an example of that in Saramina. With the proper potions and spells, the boy will even grow to adulthood eventually, though he'll still be prone to literally fall apart every now and then, as zombies, regardless of how well kept, are never too sturdy. It would be quite ironic given how rock hard his father is," she chuckled mockingly.

Frowning, Zelgadis tried to keep his temper in check, reminding himself that the woman before him could very easily kill him without effort if she so wished it. "I am not here to ask for anything on behalf of my son," he firmly clarified.

"Oh?" Zelas raised an elegant silver eyebrow in curiosity. "Giving up on the boy, are you?"

"Let my child rest in piece, I won't, I can't," the pain was evident on his face as Zelgadis spoke those words. "I could never turn him into an experiment. Even if it was a well intentioned experiment, it would be an experiment none the less; I can't do that to him. I came here on behalf of myself. One child cannot replace another, but Amelia is..." He couldn't help it but to smile bitterly, yet with a deep love. The emotion was so strong that it made Zelas frown in disgust. "Amelia is very stubborn. I can't make her stop waiting for me. I know she wants a child of her own, I want to be able to give her that without endangering her health or the child's chances at living a normal life."

Zelas laughed, "a normal life? You and your little friends are anything but normal. No child of yours or of any of them will know what an ordinary existence is."

"Fine," Zelgadis had to recognize that she had a point there. "A good life then. Even if it is only temporary, I want to be human again."

"Just enough to last out the honey moon, eh?" Zelas' statement made Zelgadis blush in embarrassment. "Such methods do exist, but they are only visual illusions. Your genetics would remain the same and thus your human appearance would have no effect on any descendants you might produce, or I should say, reproduce."

Zelgadis' face turned fully scarlet, the color was so strong it wasn't even the usual purplish blush of his blue skin. He felt like all his blood was currently residing in his face. "Then it's useless," he muttered uneasy.

"That look on your face, the emotions within you..." Zelas grinned, in a very Xellos-like fashion, or perhaps, as she existed first, it would be more accurate to say that Xellos' trademark expression is in a sense Zelas-like. "You have fully realized, beyond the sorrow that numbs your intellectual capabilities, that you are a fool. What did you hope to hear? Do you want me to call upon Rezo's spirit from the Sea of Chaos?"

"No," Zelgadis refused. "Rezo is resting in peace, let him. I understand that my condition was something Shabranigdu drove him to do, I have already forgiven him and I will not revisit those dark thoughts again. I do not wish to make him suffer, even after death, with the guilt of all this."

"You and him are very much alike, always carrying heavy burdens, made heavier by your own wants," Zelas commented in a matter of fact neutral tone.

"What do you mean?" Zelgadis inquired, musing that he might not like the answer. Yet Zelas sounded more so philosophical than mocking and it made him curious, even if he knew her tone could change drastically to suit her fancy.

"Rezo wanted to see and he went mad, you want a child and it's driving you to this," Zelas stated. "Without those desires you would be enjoying what you have instead of pining after what you don't have. Yet that is how all creatures are, always wanting more."

"Even you?" Zelgadis dared to half state and half ask.

Zelas smile in mild amusement and nodded. "Even me. Although, naturally, my desires are different from those you and your friends may have, I too want more, more power, more amusement, more chaos, more adventures, more..." She paused as if searching for the right word, a word that would encompass all the things she mentioned.

"More happiness?" Zelgadis offered.

Zelas considered the term. It felt ironic given the fact that she was a monster lord. "By my definition of it, yes. Albeit my happiness means sorrow and perhaps more so wrath for others. I suppose it is still happiness to me and that above all is what life is all about. Maybe that's the essence of motion, of evolution, of chaos," she mused aloud. "We always want and yet we never have enough so we carry the constant necessity to move forward and obtain, only to want more a second later. The never ending cycle of needs and wants that are impossible to satiate, we were made to remain in motion, all of us." After a silent pause, Zelas continued, readdressing the topic at hand. "There is another method, alchemy."

The method seemed too obvious, too simple to be the answer. Chimeras were created by a sort of alchemic process after all. Yet combining elements was far less difficult than tearing them apart. It was easier to say, let everything in this space be one, because 'everything in this space' was relatively easy to define. But to say, let the parts regain their original separate forms was near impossible. Who could say exactly what each part was? Who could accurately define them, point them out, set their boundaries? And if the union turned those parts into something else by being so closely exposed to each other, how could the process be reverted so that they could then be somehow separated? "What's the catch?" Zelgadis asked, distrusting.

"I can split you into three parts, as you were made from three parts... but I cannot guarantee what those three will be composed of," Zelas truthfully stated. "It is possible however, that one of those three pieces is closer to being human than the others. You would still be a chimera then, but your human side would be more dominant and that would reflect in your genetics. With some proper medicines and spells, I would think, it would be possible to make things work out."

"What's the catch?" Zelgadis repeated his question. Though Zelas was offering no guarantees, her proposed method still sounded too good to be true.

"All that I have spoken is true," and it was. But as always, it was also deceivingly phrased. "As for the true catch, that is up to you to determine. I have told you what I can offer you. Now tell me, what can you offer me?"

Zelgadis was caught off guard by the questions. He didn't expect Zelas to be so open. He was ready to try to look past a request full of trickery. He was prepared to hear her ask for too much, something too great, too precious. He was ready, or at least he thought he was ready, to refuse demands that he knew he would later regret. But this was no demand, yet, it was still not a willing offer. Yet he wasn't expecting this. He wasn't expecting her to ask him to suggest her payment, to make an offer. That was when the great pain of the truth hit him in the face like a ton of bricks, "nothing." He voiced barely above a whisper, "I have nothing."

"Nothing?" Zelas laughed. "What you have is nothing?"

Zelgadis shook his head and clarified, "I have nothing that I can think to offer you, nothing that I wouldn't mind parting with. What do you want from me?"

"You are rather useless," Zelas stated dismissively. "I was hoping you could give me an idea as to what to ask of you, but you truly are useless, even for that." She paused, taking in the taste of Zelgadis' anger, frustration and sadness. "How about espionage?"

"Espionage?" Zelgadis inquired. Why couldn't Zelas just send one of her monsters to spy on whoever she wanted to spy on? One would think that a monster, with free access to the astral side, would be a much more effective spy then a physical being. If it was a matter of the spy having a high possibility of being discovered for whatever reason, then it still wouldn't make sense to send him. Everyone knew about the connection that Lina and her friends had with Beast Master. If he was caught as a spy, they would immediately think of Zelas.

"Yes," Zelas elaborated. "It was something we attempted to do last year with Xellos, albeit there was interference during the split and Solex was the result of that. This time it will be different since you're not a monster, but I can still arrange it so that the other parts can communicate with me after I gift one of them to Dolphin and another to Dynast."

"I see; it's about the three pieces. I'll keep the one that's mostly human and you'll give the other two to Dolphin and Dynast as freakish gifts that they'll hopefully be curious enough to accept and you'll have spies in place. I suppose that wouldn't really have a negative effect on me." Zelgadis looked serious and suspicious. "It still feels too easy."

"That is only because your expectations are too high," Zelas carelessly stated with a touch of indifference. "Didn't I tell you that the results will not necessarily include a fully human body? I can decide where to put your soul, but what if this experiment yields three bodies almost exactly like the one you have? There is a possibility that the human side is dominant enough to make a difference, but there is also a possibility that the small extra percentage of human is so tiny that it doesn't do a thing. You'll be back to square one and I'll have no consolation price waiting for you. Moreover, the process cannot be continuously repeated, as your soul would not be able to take the strain. Perhaps another try in a few years would be safe enough, but the success rate would be just as uncertain as the first attempt."

"Furthermore, I am a monster lord, not an alchemist," Zelas continued, deciding uncharacteristically to drop the deception completely. "Fusion magic will be needed to ensure you don't die during the process, so a human alchemist wouldn't be able to do this. I'll have to do it myself, with some cooperation from a dragon. I have knowledge about alchemy, but I'm not a scholar in the subject. In fact, it might even be best to get three dragons and three monsters involved, then each of us can focus in preserving one of the three pieces and have a higher rate of success. Yet I don't think such eager participants will just waltz through the door any time soon, so I might have to do this on my own with a dragon."

"In other words, you'll be conducting a difficult experiment with uncertain results in an area that is not your expertise," Zelgadis summarized.

"Exactly," Zelas confirmed. Her piercing silver eyes and long pupils were searching his face just as intensely as her taste examined his emotions.

"But you'll try your best," Zelgadis continued. "You'll truly and honestly try your very best to make this work, because it's in your best interest. My death will not sit well with Amelia or with any of our friends. Lina will be angry and in her fit she'll be very difficult to use as a strategic piece, even for the most skilled of players. You'll do this as best you can because it is in your best interest."

"Yes," Zelas smiled, they had reached an understanding. He knew that the process was risky, but he also knew that for once, she would be trying to do things exactly as she revealed she would. The deception had been dropped. There was no need for it, because Zelgadis knew enough to be willing to face the truth. She didn't need to paint a pretty picture for him; he knew that would be asking for too much. "In the worse case scenario, you end up as a bigger freak who is also part monster, but I have no intentions of letting you die this early in the game. Is my word good enough for you?"

His throat was dry, his heart was pounding, his palms were sweaty and his whole body felt stiff. Finally, he pushed his voice to function speaking the unthinkable and wondering if this constituted as a broken promise. "It's good enough."

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 028: Mutation! Half Cured And Half Worse

"Everything is ready," Celo announced with a tone of reluctance in his voice that Zelgadis didn't like. If even Celo was hesitating, there had to be a very good reason.

"Good, let us begin then," Zelas' piercing eyes were on Zelgadis, who was still as a statue. The room was dimly lit with energy crystals round about. What could only be described as a giant jar, lay in the middle with fusion energy swirling within it.

Zelgadis swallowed the lump in his throat. He glanced at Phythan, who gave him a thumbs up. He expected no less from the optimistic and innocent golden dragon. Automatically putting one foot in front of the other, Zelgadis stepped in front of the large jar, which stood around ten feet tall. He levitated and positioned himself on the edge. He doubted and wondered if he really should jump in, then froze in place as a red monster parrot materialized.

"Lord Beast Master!" The red bird called in alarm.

"Yes," Zelas nodded calmly, though her eyes held a somewhat serious look that made Zelgadis wonder about the cause. "I can sense her, let her in."

"Here?" Iago, the red monster parrot, inquired in surprise.

"Yes," Zelas confirmed and once again, Iago was gone, off to deliver the message.

"Who is she?" Zelgadis inquired with a growing feeling of foreboding that increased just when he thought it couldn't get worse. It could, he reminded himself, it always could.

Zelas perched herself on the edge of the jar next to Zelgadis with a quick short range teleportation. "It is not your concern," and she pushed him in. Zelgadis yelped as he fell, but had no time to muster the focus needed for a levitation spell before he sunk into the swirls of magic within the large jar.

Moisture mysteriously clung to the atmosphere as a woman in a blue dress entered the chamber. "What are you plotting, Zelas?" Deep Sea Dolphin demanded to know. "I've had enough of your games, I know you're gathering chaotic energy and strange things have been happening. The last time you made such unusual use of your general priest, the world was nearly erased, as in not returned to chaos, but erased."

"I am aware of last year's happenings," Zelas stated calmly in spite of Dolphin's indignation. "I am also aware of the fact you have been collecting chaotic energy."

"I have not!" Dolphin denied. "Some thing, I don't know who or what, has been stealing the chaotic energy that gathered at the bottom of the sea. I was merely trying to keep it where it was. The thing, the disturbance, rumors tell that it fought with the Knight of Ceifeed recently and afterwards Luna ran off to plot with the dragons. It's all too suspicious and now you are added to the list."

"This disturbance you speak of," it didn't sound like Dolphin knew what it was anymore than Zelas did. "It has nothing to do with me."

Dolphin crossed her arms and huffed. "If you're not behind it, then why not uncover the thing?"

"As a team you mean?" Zelas inquired though she already knew that Dolphin was indeed suggesting an alliance between them. "Very well."

"Fine," Dolphin agreed. She let her eyes wander to the large jar. "What's that? A secret weapon of yours?"

"Not exactly," albeit anything could be a weapon if properly used. "It's a pet project, would you like to participate?" Zelas offered.

No, Dolphin did not want to participate, but she couldn't very well ignore this suspicious invitation from Zelas. "Yes," she decided.

xoxox xox xoxox

The days went by and Zelgadis whereabouts were unheard of. After some time in Sairaag, Filia grew impatient and insisted that they should continue their journey one day after breakfast. "I agree," Amelia had voiced. "I don't know why Zelgadis hasn't written to me, but I fear that maybe it's because he can't. If we travel, we might hear something about him." She was worried, but also determined to find him, she shouldn't have let him go off on his own in the first place.

"Alright," Lina agreed. "We'll get ready to leave right away. Thanks for your hospitality, Sylphiel."

"You're welcome..." Sylphiel was too polite to sigh in relief at Lina's announcement as the redhead nearly ate her out of house and home.

"I'll stay here," Pokota decided.

Lina nodded, not questioning his reasons, though the way Sylphiel smiled shyly at the announcement spoke volumes. "Okay, see you around then." Thus the group was on the road again. Lina, Gourry, Xellos, Filia and Amelia, left the town of Sairaag with no set destination. Instead they would figure things out as they went along and hopefully find some clues about Zelgadis.

xoxox xox xoxox

Going from one town to another, Lina and her companions took the time to listen to the chatter in the streets and pay attention to the rumors. The grave vine told of the Knight of Ceifeed having gone off to meet with the higher ups of dragon society and Lina was curious about it, but didn't pursue any further information. Luna was just fine, exactly as she assumed, or so she thought. Another peculiar rumor in a random little town told of a strange creature in a lake. The definition of 'strange creature' was rather broad, but they decided to check it out anyway.

It was a calm and beautiful day with clear blue skies and a soft breeze blowing. "It's a picnic kind of day," Lina remarked as she observed the peaceful lake among grassy valleys. It was a very large lake, big enough to sail a ship in it.

Amelia sighed as she watched the majesty before her. She took off her boots, then levitated and flew on the lake's surface, dipping her toes in the water. "Um... Isn't there supposed to be some kind of strange creature in there?" Gourry pointed out to Lina, who was next to him, as Amelia was already several feet away.

Lina shrugged, "it looks pretty calm to me. Let's not forget that all the rumors we heard before this one were also duds."

"Duds?" Gourry asked in confusion.

"Fake," Lina clarified. "It looks like there's nothing here after all, but..." She observed how peaceful Amelia looked. The Seyruun princess could certainly use a break. "Let's rest here for a while before continuing on. In fact, let's spend the rest of the afternoon and evening here and camp out tonight. We can go fishing for dinner."

The word 'dinner' made Gourry's face light up. "Alright!" As he got ready to go fishing, he mentioned, "hey Lina, do you remember when we camped and went fishing for the first time? It was before we met Amelia, remember?"

"Yeah," Lina smiled at the fond memories, she had many of those with Gourry.

xoxox xox xoxox

While Amelia took some time to relax, and Lina and Gourry went fishing, Filia sat under a tree at the lake's side contemplating it. "What's on your mind?" Xellos curiously sat down beside her."

"A lot of things," surprisingly, she didn't snap. "I've been thinking about why I know healing magic, about why I would feel in a way a monster shouldn't, about..." She caught herself and stopped. "It's none of your business, raw garbage!"

"Monsters really are rude," Xellos mocked.

"They're supposed to be... I think," Filia sounded unsure.

"Wouldn't that make it too obvious?" Xellos suggested.

"I suppose," Filia thought about it for a moment. "I guess a more effective monster could be polite, but still infuriating, like it's obvious it's a farce but at the same time no one will really notice because the acting would be so good." She wasn't sure where that description came from. Had she heard it in a story at some point in time? "Of course, someone able to sense energy would still notice."

"You really are a strange monster." Filia wanted to hit Xellos for that, even if she had no choice but to agree with him. "I mean, shouldn't you be trying to make me lower my guard or something. Smile a lot and confuse people, something like that."

"No," Filia pouted. "Because you smile practically all the time and I'm nothing like you."

"I never accused you of that," Xellos pointed out calmly. Then he mused on it and said something that he knew would make Filia angry, yet the words left him anyway. "You are kind of dragon-like though; maybe not like me, but somehow dragon-like."

Filia gasped, shocked at the offense. Now she really wanted to hit Xellos, but she was too appalled to do so. Instead she inquired, "how am I dragon-like?"

"You fuss about other people's business when you're supposed to be indifferent," Xellos began to list off reasons. "You know how to heal and-"

"Watch out!" The next thing Xellos knew he was being tackled by Filia.

Fang had teleported suddenly and was ready to pounce on Xellos for his usual greeting of licking his face. He was in full monster fox form, prominent fangs sticking out of his mouth, covered in black fur with two large fox tails. Thinking that it was a game, Fang hopped on Filia.

"Uff!" Filia's breath was knocked out of her as her physical projection reacted to the sudden weight on her back. She lifted her head, her face inches away from Xellos and she blushed in an involuntary reaction as she stammered. "Please get off, Fang." A part of her wanted to fade into the astral side and another part wanted to stay exactly where she was. Fang got off Filia and sat down to wait for the monster and the dragon to get to their feet. Shifting awkwardly, Filia inquired. "Why were you attacking Xellos?" Worry sunk into her as she considered a possibility. "Did Lord Beast Master order you to kill him?"

Fang tilted his head to the side in curiosity then shook it. He stood on his hind legs, placed his front paws on Xellos' shoulders and licked his face. "Hey!" Xellos laughed. "For a monster, you sure are friendly. Oddballs, all of you!"

"I'll take that as a no," Filia concluded with relief. "Why are you here then?"

"Maybe he's just checking things out for Beast Master," Xellos guessed.

Fang released him from the puppy-like greeting and nodded, then he faded away back into the astral side. "I guess he went back to report," Filia concluded.

"Well, that was random," Xellos observed. "How kind of you to jump in my defense."

"That is... I wasn't..." Filia wasn't sure what kind of argument she was suppose to put up against that. There was simply no way she could deny something so obvious, so she resorted to simply shouting, "raw garbage!"

"Funny," Xellos chuckled mockingly. "Instead of an insult, I'm starting to take that as a term of endearment."

That was it, another mace wielding chase ensured. Yet not Lina, nor Gourry, nor Amelia tried to stop it. The odd monster and dragon pair were not fighting anymore, they reasoned. That was just their odd way of flirting.

xoxox xox xoxox

After a while, Lina and Gourry had caught some fish. Amelia was helping them cook them. "I'll see if I can get some more near the center of the lake, that's where the big ones should be," Lina announced. She took off her cape where she stored all sorts of things and left it in the shore. She also removed her boots so she could dip her feet into the lake water for a while. With her makeshift fishing rod in hand, consisting of a long string tied to a stick, Lina levitated off to the center of the lake.

Lina soon became impatient as the fish weren't biting and resolved to stir the waters a little to get their attention. However, she over did it and a whirlpool of water soon formed in the center of the lake. "Oops!" It wasn't strong enough to pull her in, but it was enough to tangle the fishing rod's string on something. Lina felt a strong pull and ended up under water. She gave her levitation spell more strength and surfaced. "Amelia! Levitate over here and give me a hand!"

"I'm coming!" Amelia hurried towards Lina and grabbed hold of the stick.

The thin wood broke, but Lina quickly grabbed hold of the string. "No you don't! That might have been just a regular stick, but this string is enchanted to be extra strong!" It was used to fish for sea dragons, but she decided that she didn't need to say that aloud, least it reached inappropriate ears. She couldn't picture Xellos making a fuss of dragon cuisine even if he was a dragon now. But if Filia heard and remembered it when she recovered her original species, she might have a thing or two to say.

"In the name of justice, you won't get away from us!" Amelia valiantly declared; this was apparently a very big and strong fish. Suddenly, the unknown fish pulled them half underwater, where the abundant bubbles that formed with the struggle clouded their vision. Only their legs were still above the water.

Gourry wanted to help, but he couldn't levitate and swimming over might not be very useful. But wait, didn't Lina keep all sorts of useful items in her cape? Maybe she had some rope. He rummaged through her belongings, hoping that Lina would forgive him since it was for a good reason. Among Lina's things, he found a cat plush toy. It was a white cat with a red bow on her ear and blue overalls. He remembered having given that cat plush to Lina over a year ago. With no time to think about it too much now, he quickly found the item he was looking for, a rope.

While Filia chased Xellos round about the large lake, swinging her mace at him almost playfully, Gourry made a lasso with the rope and threw it at Lina's foot that was still visible above the water. He pulled with all his might, with the levitating Lina and Amelia pulling as well once they surfaced.

Shards of ice suddenly flew from under the water, as if someone casted a Freeze Arrow aimed at the two floating women. "What kind of fish can use magic?" Amelia gasped.

"I don't know, but I hope it's the tasty kind!" Lina exclaimed. They kept on pulling and defending themselves with Flare Arrows, until they reached the shore.

Amelia and Lina, touched down on dry land and Gourry let go of the rope, instead grabbing hold of the enchanted string along with them. Xellos and Filia noticed there was some sort of commotion going on and curiously approached, just in time to see the others pull a creature out of the lake, the string tangled around its tail.

The strange creature had light blue fish scales with bits of stone in a few places, at least from the waist down. The most shocking part was that from the waist up he looked like a human man with lavender hair and a very familiar face. "Zelgadis!" Amelia exclaimed upon seeing him and threw herself into his arms. "I was so worried about you!"

Zelgadis blushed brightly. "Who... who are you? And what did you call me just now?"

Amelia looked into his eyes. "It's me, Amelia, your fiance! Your name is Zelgadis, don't you remember?"

Zelgadis looked shocked, "I'm Zelgadis... and I have a fiance?"

"Um... Lina," Gourry whispered to her discretely. "I don't think we should eat this one." Lina only elbowed him in response.

"That's right," Amelia looked him over once more. Half of him was human with soft skin and hair, but his fish tail was rock hard. "What in the world happened to you, Zel?"

"I'm not sure," Zelgadis admitted. "I only remember waking up in the sea. Deep Sea Dolphin was there, she said I was an accursed human that would be her pet. Then something odd happened. There was some kind of energy accumulated at the bottom of the sea. It was strange, like purely chaotic energy. A sort of force as if from another world was calling the energy away, stealing it. When Dolphin was focused on preventing that, I took the opportunity to escape. I reached dry land and moved with levitation, staying away from any settlements. I couldn't be seen like this... I finally stopped here to rest in this lake."

At least they could conclude that he was able to breath in the water and out of it. "You really have lost your memories, but it's you, it's really you." Amelia hugged him again.

"Please... stop..." Zelgadis muttered almost inaudibly.

"Oh, sorry, it must be strange for you to have me hugging you even if you don't even remember me," Amelia apologized.

Zelgadis shook his head. "I... you..." He looked at the young woman's face, trying to find a sense of recognition, but there was nothing. "Why would you still want to be with me? Even if I was your fiance before," he blushed at the thought. "Look at me now."

Zelgadis was supposed to be going to see Zelas, so Amelia wasn't sure how Dolphin ended up getting involved, but when it came to the monster lords, things could get complicated and unpredictable. "It's okay, I'm just happy to have you back alive. You'll come with us, right?"

Zelgadis considered it for a moment and finally replied, "no."

"Why not?" Amelia questioned. "Don't you believe me?"

He examined her honest face again and assured, "I do believe you, that's why I can't go with you. If you really were my fiance-"

"Are," Amelia corrected.

"Right..." Zelgadis continued, "if you were, and more so if you still are, my fiance, then I can't do this to you. I can't remember, but I do get a good feeling from you. I can't put you in danger. Dolphin was distracted by the chaotic energy being stolen, but she might still come after me. If you're with me, you'll be in danger."

"It's okay, I'm not afraid of facing peril!" Amelia declared with endless courage. "No matter what, justice will always triumph!"

"Amelia..." Zelgadis wondered if she was always this stubborn. He wondered about what kind of adventures they got into before he was 'cursed'.

"You're not going to change my mind," Amelia insisted with a reassuring smile.

Zelgadis let out a breath a nodded. "I guess I have no choice but to agree. I get the feeling that you won't let me get away even if I try to leave for your own good."

"That's right," Amelia ascertained.

"I guess this means some re-introductions are in order," Lina began. "I'm the beautiful sorceress Lina Inverse, the leader of this band of travelers."

"I'm Gourry, I'm a swordsman," the blond added simply.

"Xellos, golden dragon," Xellos grinned in amusement.

"I am Filia, the general priestess of Lord Beast Master," Filia finished.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 029: Visitors! To The Kingdom Of Chaos And Beasts

Other than some basic knowledge about how the world worked, which included the names of Ceifeed, Shabranigdu and the five monster lords, Zelgadis didn't know much else. He didn't know the names of any of the minions of the major monster lords and didn't question Filia's claim about being Beast Master's general priestess. He just looked at her strangely.

Noticing the stare, Filia elaborated, "I assure you, I speak the truth." She did a very short range teleportation, moving from the area behind Xellos to right next to Zelgadis. "However, even if you are the escaped pet of Lord Deep Sea Dolphin, I have no reason to return you to her unless I am ordered to do so, as I serve only Lord Beast Master."

All these people seemed to be familiar with Amelia and with him, Zelgadis noticed. He wondered what kind of strange life he lived before. If someone like Filia was his acquaintance, then maybe he shouldn't even be surprised that he ended up the way he did, getting involved in monster business like that.

xoxox xox xoxox

It was decided that Zelgadis would accompany the group. Though he could get around on dry land with the use of levitation, they couldn't exactly be seen with a merman. Then again, their group was strange already and they had been seen with a chimera during their past adventures. Plus there was the fact that Xellos had his tail out all the time, revealing his current species too. Even so, there was no need to make people talk about the merman. It might catch Dolphin's attention and she might just decide to make room in her busy schedule to find him, or pull a minion away from a different task and send someone over to take her pet back.

Thus they resolved to disguise Zelgadis with long robes that touched the ground and made him look a whole lot like Rezo. Zelgadis didn't fully remember Rezo, but he had the vague knowledge of having an ancestor, a grandfather perhaps, with such a name. He didn't remember the later part of his life with Rezo when he became a bitter chimera, but recalled bits and pieces of the happier times. Given that, even though the clothing was not really what he would call his style, he didn't protest to wearing the long robes if it would allow him to blend in at the towns they passed.

Lina decided that they should continue looking around and gathering clues about any unusual activities, as that could enlighten the unknown aspects of the world's current situation. As long as the journey continued, Filia had no complaints with Lina's directions. They traveled from one town to another aimlessly and followed all the rumors they heard. From haunted caves in the middle of dark forests, to holy mountains said to grant miracles to those who climbed to the top, they traveled all over the peninsula waiting for a reliable clue to surface.

Just as before, most of the rumors turned out to be false and many times the hauntings were actually stories made up by bandits to protect their hideouts. At least they got some treasure out of those occasions. There was, as expected, plenty of chaos along the way. Filia and Xellos still argued and insulted each other. Zelgadis blushed every time Amelia did something to show him her affection and was slowly starting to understand why the energetic young woman was indeed someone he would like to have as his fiance. Gourry and Lina further developed their friendship, yet there was an invisible barrier that prevented them from discussing feelings beyond those of companionship. They didn't want to get hurt again, even though their break up had all been due to a misunderstanding being blown out of proportions. Yet deep down, neither of them gave up.

Eventually, their travels led them to the kingdom of Zoana, which had been completely restored with some help from Beast Master. As most of the original subjects had left, the place was now populated mostly by black magic users and monster supporters. It was like a giant magic guild that specialized in offensive spells and spells related to Lord Beast Master. Amelia shuddered and silently vowed not to let Seyruun become that way, though it was perhaps in Zelas' best interest to keep Seyruun centered around white magic, to have some interesting variety in her forces should the need arise to bring up the kingdom's born-from-necessity alliance.

Ironically, though the streets were populated by mostly mages along with a few who were not only sorcerers but also ninja, and some who took on the profession of assassins, there were no bandits to be seen in Zoana's streets. The noise of bar fights was completely absent. The dread of the negative energy of black magic hung in the air, yet the atmosphere was strangely still. "This place is eerily peaceful," Amelia observed.

"Of course," Filia proudly assured. "You can't expect Lord Beast Master's followers to be a bunch of unruly animals. They're not dragons."

"Aren't they supposed to be beasts, though?" Xellos pointed out.

The town did indeed have many humans, but it had just as many beastmen. Because of the less than favorable relationship that beastmen and humans shared in the past, some of them were not too keen on following Ceifeed, simply because the humans were. Thus many actually favored Beast Master, simply because they thought she was somehow closer to their kind. It was inaccurate and unwise, but beastmen, just as humans, were easily swayed by the perception of a sense of identification. For the same reason, the beastmen thought that the humans of Zoana were different from other humans.

"Beasts yes, but not the unruly kind. Cunning beasts, hunters whose prey can never escape, effective powerful beasts, elegant beasts," Filia retorted.

"Aren't dragons the most elegant beasts?" Xellos continued.

Filia pouted, "dragons are lizards, they're reptiles!"

"Aren't reptiles beasts?" Xellos pointed out, more so than asked. His face held his ever present grin and cheery eyed expression.

"Yes, but," Filia paused, and rather than continuing the argument directly, she pointed out. "As a dragon, aren't you supposed to be offended by being compared to the monsters?"

Xellos shrugged, his smile still the same as ever, "not really."

Filia frowned, "you should be! Why aren't you defending the dragon race? Why aren't you saying that they could never be compared to the chaotic monsters? You're supposed to be declaring that the dragon race is righteous, just and dignified!"

"I don't have to, because you're doing it for me." Xellos opened one eye in a reverse wink and closed it again, smiling even more if that was even possible. "I didn't realize you had such a high opinion of dragons, I'm flattered."

"You'll be flattened!" Filia yelled and materialized her mace.

"Now, now, Filia, I'm sure you don't want to ruin the elegant atmosphere of Zoana, right?" Lina pointed out.

Surprisingly, it worked. "Hmp!" Filia let her mace fade away, threw her head back and tried her best to ignore Xellos' mocking grin.

"Honestly, I'm not all that surprised that this place is so peaceful," Lina commented. "Everyone has a decent amount of power, so people know not to pick fights. It reminds me of Zephilia in that sense." Except Zephilia was a land that produced many heroes and Zoana would become a land that produced many villains, not petty thieves, but true warlords. Albeit even the troublemakers of Zoana knew not to anger anyone in their homeland, as the possibility of annoying the wrong person, meaning someone more powerful than themselves, was very high. Even the strongest of Zoana held their peace in their home city, as they didn't know when a mission could go wrong and they would find themselves running home with injuries that could mean their demise if their neighbors held any enmity towards them.

"Are we going to find a restaurant soon?" Gourry asked with his stomach supporting the notion with a growl. "I'm hungry."

"Me too," Lina admitted, "but we're not going to a restaurant. This is Zoana, Martina and Zangulus are the rulers here." They had since been able to leave their previous jobs and dedicate themselves to the kingdom in full, though even there they were still working for Beast Master in a sense. "We'll go visit them and have them treat us to a meal. As much as I don't want to hear Martina showing off now that she's rich again, we can use that to our advantage and have her pamper us just to show off." Lina would just have to keep her temper in check for that plan to work, which was easier said than done.

Lina glanced at Amelia, who nodded, silently indicating she had her back. "I'm sure we'll bring out Miss Martina's more hospitable side."

"I'll leave the diplomacy to you then," Lina resolved. "While white magic centric towns are known for their advances in medicine, black magic cities like this one, tend to be known for their unusual dishes. I want to see how the Zoana cuisine has evolved so far and I'll admit I'm curious about little prince Zoamelgustar too."

"Who's Zoamelgustar?" Gourry inquired, predictably.

"Martina and Zangulus son, the prodigy baby mage full of chaotic energy," Lina reminded.

Zelgadis remained quiet through the exchange. Amelia noticed, smiled at him reassuringly and linked her arm with his. He somehow found it in himself to smile back at her, a light pink tint invading his face. This was certainly an odd bunch of people he ended up with, but he was curious to learn more about them, especially about Amelia.

xoxox xox xoxox

The Zoana royal palace looked like the castle of the evil queen from a fairytale, though it might not have been intentional. Yet the many mask sculptures and statues all over the place in Zoamelgustar and Beast Master's symbols gave it an ominous feel. The architecture incorporated not only Zelas official monster seal but also the crest she used in her human business woman persona. The colors included prominent black with highlights of bright yellow here and there.

As Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos approached the front gates, the guards stood at the ready. "State your business," one of them spoke from under his dark hood.

Lina looked to Amelia, who stepped forward. "I am Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, my companions and I are here to visit your king and queen."

'Seyruun,' Zelgadis thought, that was the name of that city of white magic, right? Then Amelia must hold a prominent position there. Could she be...?

"Very well, princess Amelia," the guard spoke, "please follow me." He nodded to the other sentry and left the post in his care as he left the group inside.

'She's a princess!' Zelgadis thought uneasily. This strange band of travelers kept surprising him more and more. A monster, a dragon and a princess; furthermore, the princess was his fiance.

The group followed the guard inside to an elegant waiting room. "Please wait here while I inform the king and queen of your arrival."

"Sure, no problem." Lina immediately made herself comfortable on the sofa, even if it wasn't her style, with its yellow and black lines it looked like a roadside warning sign. She and Gourry immediately attacked the fruit bowl that was left out for guests to snack on should they be bored of waiting and more often treated as a decoration. It looked pretty, but it was edible and the latter was all that mattered to them.

"You're a princess," Zelgadis observed.

Amelia nodded as if it was nothing. "That's right; you didn't remember that, did you? Sorry I didn't mention it."

"That's..." Of all the surprises he could receive, Zelgadis certainly wasn't expecting this. "That's kind of a big thing."

Amelia shrugged, "not really." She smiled reassuringly. "Don't go there again, Zel."

"Don't go where?" Zelgadis inquired.

As if reading his thoughts, Amelia gently voiced. "The whole I'm not good enough for you deal. We went over that and though you may not remember it, I convinced you to let me be the one to decide that." Until the tragedy of the stillborn child convinced him otherwise, but she didn't want to talk about that.

"Oh..." Zelgadis mused on it and for the time being let things be. Though he was still worried, what would a princess have to do with a half fish freak?

A few minutes later, another guard arrived to escort the guests to the throne room. The whole way as they walked there, Lina kept mentally telling herself not to give Martina the satisfaction of blowing her temper.

xoxox xox xoxox

The group was led into the throne room, which predictably, had a big Zoamelgustar mask hanging over the two thrones where the king and queen sat. Zangulus shifted continuously, as if he thought the fancy clothes no doubt Martina forced him to wear for the sake of showing off for their guests were too much. The place was dimly lit with black marble on the floor, walls and high ceiling. A dark red carpet marked a path from the door to the thrones which had yellow curtains on the sides, framing the royal seats and the Zoamelgustar symbol above them.

"Ah! He he ha he he!" Martina laughed. "Welcome guests, to my glorious palace! Ah! He he ha he he!"

"Hey Gourry," Zangulus called out to his rival. "You'll stay long enough for us to spar, right?"

"You bet!" Gourry immediately agreed, then he paused and looked at Lina, "right?" He was just too used to following her.

"Yeah, yeah..." Just hearing Martina's mocking laugh infuriated Lina and she was already having a hard time keeping her temper down.

Not pleased with the interruption, Martina continued. "What do you think of my palace?" The sound of raspberries was heard as the bundle of black blankets on Martina's lap awoke. She let out a high pitched squeal and turned the bundle over to face her, making all sorts of silly faces at it. After a few minutes of receiving odd stares from Lina and company, Martina stopped and removed the black blankets from around the baby, who was all too happy to be free to blow raspberries at all those present and clap his hands for no apparent reason. "Look Zoamelgustar, uncle Xellos is here... Er, I mean, aunty Filia is here!" Martina corrected as she recalled that Filia was temporarily doing Xellos' job, as well as donning his species.

Filia had not been in close communication with Martina during the past year. Xellos on the other hand occasionally dropped by to see how the chaotic energy infused child was developing and report to Beast Master. The boy would certainly grow up to be a great wizard and Zelas wanted to keep him involved in her plans for any future missions that Lina might be for some unlikely reason unable, or daringly unwilling, to cooperate with. As a result of that, neither Filia nor Zoamelgustar were familiar with each other and Filia wondered if she was supposed to be.

Filia's subconscious could modify what memories she kept into something that fitted her current role. Yet she held no memories about this very strange human child that the queen had set down. The boy seemed to have a liking for blowing raspberries and clapping, possibly at his own accomplishment of being able to mock someone. For a creature that held a vast amount of chaotic energy inside a tiny body, the boy certainly looked innocent. He had big pale blue eyes like Martina's and black hair like Zangulus, in an assortment of bouncy curls like Martina's, framing his round baby face.

Little Zoamelgustar was a relatively fast crawler, but nothing particularly alarming; he could pass for a normal energetic baby to those who didn't know him. He stopped in front of Xellos and looked up at him curiously, sitting on the floor. Martina thought it was important to allow Zoamelgustar to learn and explore, so if he wanted to take a close look at something, or someone, she'd let him and no one better get in his way. The child sat on the floor staring at Xellos for a long moment until he fell on his back from leaning his head back to look at the visitors that were much taller than him, as he was a rather small baby. Not phased by the minor setback, the child rolled over, and moved back into a crawling position, moving in circles around Xellos.

Everyone was curious and had expected Zoamelgustar to be as repulsive as the talisman that represented the creature it was named after; the creature that Martina claimed had reincarnated through her and Zangulus' firstborn. In a sense it had, as Zoamelgustar was Martina's own creation, had Martina been a monster lord, she would have, by wishing and believing it to be so, created herself a minion with that name and appearance. It further brought into question the rumor that told that Zelas was drunk on astral wine when she made Xellos, a peculiar black cone, but she had refused to give a straight answer to that.

Yet Martina was human, thankfully, so the process was a little different, her strong will and stubborn belief attracted enough chaotic energy to be absorbed by the life growing within her, before she even became aware of it; for the boy to be special. He might just end up at the center of a number of prophecies about evil wizards, but a baby was too young to concern himself with that anyway. Especially since right now he had a much more immediate concern, was this really uncle Xellos?

The soul of this creature felt like uncle Xellos, but the energy was very different. The energy that the magic sensitive child was used to feeling associated with the ever amusing uncle Xellos was radiating off the one his mother called aunty Filia. Well, having a new aunty was just fine, but what about uncle Xellos? Why was he different? Why did his hair look different, though his face remained the same? Why did he have a tail? Why was his energy so different? Was this really truly uncle Xellos, the same one he knew? What was wrong with him?

It was all too confusing for little Zoamelgustar and he didn't like being confused. He wished the energies around him felt familiar again, but nothing was familiar lately. He was a human, the balance of light and darkness, the ideal vessel of chaos. He realized and he perceived many things a subconscious level that humans generally ignored, but in his young age he had not learned to ignore. He felt the flow of magical energy rather than focus only on the physically perceptible like many adult non-magic users did. Right now, there was something big and bad taking away the energy of that world, as if stealing an invisible security blanket.

The bad thing was far away, but it made him uneasy, he was okay with his parents, they would protect him, he assumed, but he wasn't in the mood to be confused. He didn't like this; more unfamiliarity on top of everything upset him. So he cried. He opened his mouth wide and his little voice echoed loudly. The decorative blue flames of the golden candle holders with yellow candles that simulated being made of gold, but couldn't be, as such was an inconvenient material for candles, flared in response to the child's cries and the energy in the atmosphere stirred.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 030: Pieces! Parts Of A Whole

Martina stood, but Filia had already scooped the child into her arms and was glaring at Xellos who gave her an innocent look. For once, it was honest, he didn't know what he did to frighten the baby, he just stood there and let the boy examine him so as to not frighten him. The traces of magic in the atmosphere became still as little Zoamelgustar calmed down.

"You scared him, raw garbage." Filia accused with a suspiciously victorious tone.

"I didn't do anything," Xellos pointed out truthfully.

"You scared him with your ugly face." Filia informed as if it was a well known fact.

"Then your face will surely give him nightmares, he's too terrified to scream," Xellos countered.

Zoamelgustar giggled at their argument and Filia took it as a sign in her favor. "He's perfectly happy with me."

"Isn't that bad for your health?" Xellos teased.

"What? A child's happiness? I'm strong enough to withstand it," Filia stuck out her tongue.

While the others seemed just as entertained as the baby with the odd pair's arguments, Lina decided that she had enough. "So Martina, aren't you going to show us some hospitality and throw a banquet?"

"Of course I will," Martina agreed too easily and Lina knew that something was up. "Right after we finish catching up! Ah! He he ha he he! Is it me, or have you gotten shorter? You're still flat-chested after all this time? I've been hearing some odd rumors about you, Lina..."

"Enough! If you're going to rant about me, at least feed me first!" Lina stomped her feet in anger.

"If I must feed you, at least hear me out first!" Martina countered. "Such a bad mannered guest!" She pouted.

In the background, Amelia whispered something to Gourry. Lina saw it from the corner of her eyes, but wasn't paying attention. "Such a bad mannered host!" The redhead sorceress fumed. Gourry walked over to her with a smile and suddenly started massaging her shoulders.

"It's okay Lina, you're just cranky because you're hungry, let's not argue anymore, alright?" Lina froze, while Amelia gave her a thumbs up and a smile. Her face suddenly turned as red as her hair as her mind was flooded with memories. She wanted to have Gourry all to herself again, but how could she go about it? She was afraid of a serious direct rejection. At least this way she had his friendship, but what if she ruined it? She would have to proceed carefully.

Since Lina grew silent, Martina declared herself the winner of the argument with a victorious laugh. "Ah! He he ha he he!" Then they moved on to the banquet hall to occupy themselves in eating.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the banquet hall with a big meal all set up, Xellos managed to get Zoamelgustar's attention with a cookie he snatched from the dessert section before Lina got that far, as she was busily devouring everything in the main course section along with Gourry. His energy might have confused him, but this was somehow his dear uncle Xellos, so Zoamelgustar was starting to pay attention to him again. Filia wasn't too happy about it and they made it their silent competition to try to win the baby's attention.

Amelia made polite diplomatic conversation with Martina, who was in princess mode now too. That left Zangulus to take notice of the fact that Martina was either not too observant, or too self-centered, or too focused on annoying Lina, or all three, as she had not said a word about Zelgadis' cure. Curious to hear about it, Zangulus casually asked. "How did you find your cure, Zelgadis?"

"My cure?" Zelgadis inquired. He had a curse right now as half of him hidden beneath the long robes, was a fish. Yet Zangulus seemed to be referring to something he was cured from, an illness perhaps? Amelia had been telling him things slowly so as to not overload him with information that was hard to believe. He knew there was more to his life than the stories he had heard so far, but assumed she would get to telling more as they went along in their strange journey. "What do you mean?"

"For the chimeraism," Zangulus pointed out and that only made Zelgadis more confused. The swordsman king wasn't sure what could be confusing the other man; his question had been clear enough. "You were a chimera before, remember? You had blue rocky skin that you don't have now. How did you manage to become human again? I thought you had stopped searching for the cure."

He was a chimera before? Well that would explain why his fish tail was so strange, such resistant scales and the bits of rock, he was no ordinary merman. "Monsters," Zelgadis answered simply in a likely theory. He would have to ask Amelia for the details later.

"Ah, I see," Zangulus nodded, accepting the answer. "Gotta be careful with them though."

The banquet was progressing in such a way, when Zelgadis and Zangulus' conversation was interrupted by a guard rushing in. "Your majesties!" He called out in despair. "The beast is back!"

"The beast!" Martina exclaimed. "Do as Lord Beast Master said, capture it alive!" She commanded.

"I'm going out there," Zangulus announced. Even in his kingly clothes he had his sword by his side. He kind of wished he had his hat, but there was no time to have the relic fetched from the royal chambers. Martina let him keep it as long as he didn't wear it too often and definitely not to important diplomatic activities.

"Oh Zangulus!" Martina reached out to him dramatically, like a damsel from a play. "Be careful, my darling!" She exclaimed with exaggerated anguish.

"Don't worry, my love," Zangulus replied with equal flare. After being around Martina for so long, her dramatics started to rub off on him. "I shall return to you and our son unharmed. Now I must go fight for our kingdom!" With that noble declaration made, the king of Zoana kissed his queen and ran off with the guard.

The atmosphere stood still for several moments as Lina tried to tare herself away from the food long enough to ask what was going on. She knew it had to be important with the talk about a beast and Beast Master, but she needed another bite, and another, and another... Then before Lina could speak, Martina laughed. "Ah! He he ha he he! Time for some beast hunting! I can entrust Zoamelgustar to you two, right?" She glanced at Xellos and Filia, not waiting for their answer before going on her way.

"Wait!" It was Amelia who called out to Martina, as Lina was still busy eating. "What's going on?" She finally asked.

"Oh, the beast is back," Martina noticed their perplexed looks and elaborated. "It's a mysterious chimera beast that goes crazy attacking towns. The magic guilds of several towns have posted wanted posters for it. Beast Master wants to capture it too, but she wants it alive. It's a slippery creature though, really hard to catch. Well, I'm off to join the fun!" She left the banquet hall.

"All those dramatics about parting ways with her husband and she's going to fight too?" Filia huffed. She had thought at first that it was touching, like something out of a romance novel, but she was proud that her huff came out sufficiently disgusted as it should be for a monster.

"I might as well see what this is about," Xellos decided. "You can baby-sit on your own for a while, right, stupid monster?"

"Absolutely not, raw garbage!" Filia refused. "From what I've heard, this business concerns Lord Beast Master, so I must investigate further. You should watch young Zoamelgustar until I return."

"Alright, I'll just take him with me then." Xellos walked only a few steps with the child in his arms before Filia stopped him.

"You'll do no such thing!" The monster screeched.

Amelia sighed and walked over to them. "Give him here; I'll take care of Zoamelgustar." The monster and dragon offered no protests to that and handed over the baby to the Seyruun princess. Then the odd pair dashed off outside. Amelia sighed and looked at the baby who looked back at her. "Don't worry, we won't miss out. As an ally of justice, I can investigate and protect you all at once!" The baby giggled in response.

"So you were going after all," Zelgadis approached. "Somehow I feel that I shouldn't be surprised, maybe I'm starting to really get to know you better, or remember a little. There are many things I need to ask though, about being a chimera and other things."

Amelia nodded sadly. "You wanted a cure so badly," she recalled. "I don't know how exactly it happened, but that must be how you ended up as a merman."

"So I was strange even before this. If the way the fish tail is reflects the chimera I was, I must have been strange indeed," Zelgadis mused sadly.

"I thought you were cool and you're still cool. It doesn't matter if you're a chimera or a merman as long as you're yourself." Amelia gently rocked the baby in her arms. "Somehow, even if difficulties may come, we'll get through them together. Don't feel bad for being the way you are, okay?"

Zelgadis nodded silently, though it was easier said than done. There was a sadness in Amelia's eyes that he couldn't quite grasp as they walked out of the banquet hall in silence.

Lina looked up from her food for a second and realized, "they all left." Again she considered investigating. With all the strange occurrences happening recently, the story of a beast that Beast Master wanted to capture alive was too suspicious to be ignored... but the food was too delicious to be ignored. Surely the others would be observant enough of the situation, she would ask about it later. Right now she had more important business to tend to. "That's mine!" Important business such as preventing Gourry from eating her chicken.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia ventured into the Zoana castle's royal courtyard, where she heard a commotion, with Zelgadis levitating close behind her. She still held little Zoamelgustar in her arms, confident that she could protect him, though she would retreat to safety if things were too intense.

"Where did he go?" Martina's voice was heard from beyond a row of thorny bushes with black roses. "Split up and find him!" Footsteps followed as Martina and the guards ran off to continue their search.

Amelia was about to fly over the tall bushes, when she heard some rustling in them. "There's something there," Zelgadis stood in front of her with a defensive stance. He was glad the group had stopped at a shop on their way there and provided him with a sword. It was a regular sword, but he could make it better. "Astral vine!"

"What in the world could be hiding in there?" Amelia thought aloud. The bushes were heavy with thorns, it would be a very painful hiding place.

Suddenly, a figure jumped from the bushes and the sword the being held collided with Zelgadis'. Peculiarly, that blade also had astral vine cast on it. Amelia's eyes widened in shock as she observed the creature. Zelgadis didn't seem to recognize the being, but she did. Between the werewolf patches of fur, she saw a familiar face, the face of Zelgadis himself. The werewolf's clothes were torn in various places, but there was no blood, as if his skin was resistant enough to prevent any injuries he could get from the thorns.

Amelia stood back as the blades clashed against each other. The werewolf had a lost fierce look in his eyes, as if he couldn't think clearly, but in battle he reacted skillfully. The pair was evenly matched. Amelia wasn't sure what this was about, but that beast, that werewolf, he was somehow connected to Zelgadis. She was determined to find out more about that, even if she had to drag the beast to Wolf Pack Island and demand answers. But she couldn't risk Zoamelgustar, she could either protect him or catch the beast, not both, so for now she needed to retreat.

"Found it!" Xellos and Filia arrived on the scene simultaneously and pointed at the werewolf creature. They glared at each other as if declaring with their fierce looks, 'I saw them first!'

"Good, you're here, protect Zoamelgustar!" Amelia gave them the baby.

"Weren't you supposed to be protecting him back in the banquet hall?" Filia questioned.

"There's no better protectors than a monster and a dragon." The Seyruun princess quickly made up a silly excuse, that didn't make a whole lot of sense, even to her. Xellos and Filia could only blink in confusion and accept her reasoning. Amelia saw that in terms of swordplay the two parts of Zelgadis were evenly matched, but the merman was noticeably more tired from levitating all the time.

Just as the merman's strength was about to give out from magical exhaustion, Amelia rushed forward. "Recovery!"

"Thanks for the energy," the merman continued fighting back.

However, Amelia took him by surprise again. She wasn't going to hang back and let him keep fighting. "Hey you!" The werewolf's animal ears twitched, he was being challenged. "Pay attention!" Amelia demanded. "Let go of your wrongful ways and rejoin the side of justice!"

The werewolf looked annoyed. "What are you doing? Don't try to get his attention!" The merman began to cast some shamanistic magic, but Amelia vigorously shook her head at him and stepped forward. He couldn't attack now, not with her standing so close to the beast, or she would get caught in the blast too.

The werewolf looked like it would attack Amelia, but she caught a hint of something in his eyes akin to recognition and he paused. Then she took the opportunity to plant a kiss on his lips. The merman's jaw dropped and his body went limp. His concentration was lost and with the levitation undone, he flopped to the ground like a fish out of water. As they parted, the werewolf looked stunned, but somehow calmed. He held on to Amelia, he was confused, but he knew he had to hold on to this woman.

"Love tamed the beast..." Filia sighed dreamily and Xellos cleared his throat next to her. She pretended the dreamy expression never happened and looked disgusted. "Love, gross!"

"You're leaving me for that?" The merman finally found his voice; though he was still on the ground as if he didn't care if he stayed there. "If it was a normal man I'd understand, but that thing?"

The werewolf growled at being called a thing and Amelia gently soothed him. "You're the same," her opening statement only elicited an offended frown from the merman. The princess elaborated. "What I mean is that you're the same person. I don't know how you ended up part fish and him part wolf, probably because of Zelas and Dolphin I would guess. I don't know what kind of things they might have done, but I know you're both parts of the same being."

Something seemed to be pried loose in the merman's memories. For some reason, the idea of being split into separate creatures wasn't as impossible as it should be. Against all sense and logic, if there was a shred of that still left in his life, he found that he could believe this. "I believe you... but what now?"

"We'll have to go see Beast Master," Amelia decided. It was a dangerous determination, but she would follow it through. "Miss Filia, please take us to Miss Zelas!"

"If you're that determined, I guess I could ask if Lord Beast Master has a moment to spare," Filia greed. She gave baby Zoamelgustar to Xellos. "You can stay here with the baby."

"Wait! I want to see Beast Master too!" Xellos protested.

Filia pouted, "when this is over, I'll take you to her, but not now." Then when it was over, she would come up with an excuse not to take him.

"I want to go now!" Xellos insisted, his voice raising in volume. "I have to see her, I have to see Zelas!"

"Why?" Filia argued in a shout and Zoamelgustar giggled.

"I don't..." Xellos paused, recovering himself. "A secret, it's a secret I need to solve."

Filia frowned in exasperation. Zangulus entered the scene and found the gathering to be quite odd. He looked at the beast, who was like a puppy with Amelia. Zelgadis, whose robes had rolled up a little when he fell, was sitting on the ground with fins where he should have feet. Then suddenly, Filia declared, "fine!" and his son, who shouldn't even be out there, was placed in Zangulus' arms.

Zelgadis the merman recasted levitation and scooted closer to the group, intent on tagging along. Xellos and Filia joined Amelia and Zelgadis the werewolf and Filia teleported them to Wolf Pack Island. All in all Zangulus felt lost with what was going on. The only thing he could be certain of was that he had been beaten to the capture of the beast.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia, Xellos, Amelia and the two Zelgadis reappeared at Wolf Pack Island, in front of the entrance to the underground palace, hidden beneath the island's fierce wild surface. "I'm going to ask Beast Master if she can see you now. Stay here, don't touch anything and wait quietly until I return. Don't come in until I say it's okay!" Amelia and the merman nodded in understanding, the beast growled and sniffed the air curiously, while Xellos did nothing except continue smiling his usual smile. After giving Xellos another suspicious glance, Filia disappeared again, off to inquire of Beast Master.

Silence reigned over the group, until Xellos took a few curious steps away from the entrance. He looked around the island, feeling as if he had been there before. It was all so very familiar. Amelia wondered if she should tell him to stay with the group, but figured that even if he had no memories of it, this was his home, so he should be alright exploring a little bit by himself. Xellos went a little further, noting that no one had tried to stop him. He glanced at Amelia who only smiled, then kept going a little further away. A large black wolf with golden eyes approached. Xellos wondered if she would attack him, but she didn't. In fact, she was rather friendly. More curious still, Xellos followed the wolf and went to have a closer look around the island.

A few minutes later, Filia returned and found that only Amelia and the two Zelgadis were waiting there. "Beast Master will see you now... Where is Xellos?"

"He's looking around the island," Amelia replied calmly. She entered the palace arm in arm with the two Zelgadis left and right of her, leaving a shocked and worried Filia standing in the doorway.

'He's exploring on his own?' The thought was too nonsensical, too suicidal, to fully compute for Filia. 'That stupid piece of raw garbage is going to get himself killed!' She hurried off to find Xellos before she had nothing but dragon bones to find in his place.

To be Continued

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