Slayers: Chaos

Chapter 4

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 031: Combined! To Be As One

Amelia walked inside Zelas' palace, following the torches of blue lights that lit up down the elegant hallways, arm in arm with the two Zelgadis'. She entered the throne room, the large heavy doors opening for them by themselves. A heavy aura floated around the throne where Zelas sat on the royal chair with Celo and Vrumugun standing left and right of her. This was the original Vrumugun, who had been present at Zangulus and Martina's wedding and remained with them to rebuild Zoana afterwards. He was usually at Zoana, but had journeyed to Wolf Pack Island at Zelas' summoning, as he was told she had a job for him to perform that would require the knowledge he had gained from working with Eris years prior.

Amelia tried not to show her surprise at finding Vrumugun there, it shouldn't be surprising given his connections with Zoana. She let go of the two Zelgadis and stepped forward towards the monster lord. The merman levitated attentively and the beast was strangely calm. "Lord Beast Master," Amelia spoke bravely and daringly, yet with diplomatic respect. "I, Amelia Will Tesla Seyruun, humbly ask you to return Zelgadis' mind to normal and if possible, cleanse him as much as you can of his chimera condition, as I know that is his wish."

"Very well," Zelas agreed easily, which left Amelia dumbstruck. "Believe it or not this result was not intentional. I thought that having Dolphin assist me would make things easier, but tearing a chimera apart is still quite difficult. Magic and its branch of alchemy requires understanding. Talismans, spells and rituals can be used to bypass such an understanding to an extent and the same can be said for raw power. However, it is only a cheap shortcut in the end and when the intended result is particularly complex, the process might not give the wanted outcome. We're reaching into the darkness, trying to grab something that we know as a whole concept, but we know not what its components may be."

Zelas continued thoughtfully. "If there was a way to record accurate knowledge of every tiny piece that composes the body, down to a level that is so small that the naked eye cannot perceive it, perhaps separating a chimera into its original components wouldn't be such a hassle. It is the use of magical shortcuts to make up for that lack of super advanced understanding that involves the subject's mind and causes side effects, such as this, with the extra energy needed to compensate the process."

"Oh..." Amelia quietly voiced. "Then you really had no ill will towards Zelgadis, this outcome was an accident? Separating a chimera, knowing how the body works down to the last detail... Not even the best alchemists and physicians of our time have that kind of knowledge; it remains as of yet to be discovered. The monsters have no physical bodies, so they would have little reasons or means to do research of their own. This knowledge, the knowledge needed to conduct this alchemic process without those shortcuts, it hasn't been developed yet." Even so, after hearing such an explanation, Amelia was filled with hope. "But it could be," she asserted. "Decades ago the use of herbs to heal was something that was still being developed. What we know as the present day medicine was a far away dream back then. Maybe some day we'll advance enough to understand the workings of the body down to the last detail. We'll know why blood flows and all the twists and turns air takes within our bodies every time we breathe."

"Yet it will take a long time. It may be something I will see but you won't." Zelas pointed out, glad to communicate the pessimistic news.

"Yes," Amelia admitted with a frown. "We'll just have to make due with what we have for the time being. Parting the pieces of a chimera is hard because all the elements that make up a living being are jumbled together and difficult to identify, but putting the pieces together without having to worry about the small elements, simply uniting everything, isn't so hard, right?"

"It's like mixing sand and water," Zelas compared. "Anyone can make a muddy mess, but it would take a lot to separate the sand from the water all over again. Zelgadis can be made the way he was. In fact, my power isn't even needed for the union, thus a gentler approach by Celo and Vrumugun would be preferable. Not that my or Dolphin's power was directly involved. There is no monster energy in Zelgadis, the pieces took on those forms because some of the talismans incrusted into the jar functioned strangely and took to interpreting Dolphin and I as we would be if we were physical beings. Then somehow, they rewrote Zelgadis' into that. Albeit that rewrite is far too unstable to experiment with and very likely a direct attempt would be too harsh. Another separation attempt is out of the question, Zelgadis composition is frailer than I had initially thought and we wouldn't want his soul to be damaged. It would be similar to a monster's demise then, being ruined in a sense."

"Of course, we must be careful..." Amelia nodded with concern, trying not to show she was bothered by Zelas' uncaring and nonchalant tone as she spoke of Zelgadis. None the less, even if Zelas didn't seem to care, she was showing caution about Zelgadis life.

The detail was something that the more aware Zelgadis, the merman, noticed and inquired about, unable to hold back his question. "Why would you care if I live or die?" He boldly asked.

Zelas grinned, "I have my reasons, I always do. Right now it is in my best interest to keep you alive. Shall I fix this failed attempt at your cure? Do not forget, I haven't truly lied to you. The remnant memories that you left behind in the jar will attest to the fact that I warned you."

There was a silent pause while Zelgadis mulled over his options. He didn't want to stay as a merman, but he didn't want to be a bigger freak. Finally, Amelia answered for him. "Those memories you speak of, they can't be contain intact for long, can they?"

"No, even with a top quality container, they will eventually deteriorate as it occurred to Rezo's memories during his time in a similar jar, albeit at least his soul was basically whole, while Zelgadis' mind is split. We must put him together swiftly," Zelas declared.

Amelia nodded sad and worried. "What if I hadn't come here? What if...?" She didn't know how to phrase her feelings and she knew it would be useless to try to explain them to a monster lord. The loss of a life made her realize just how fragile and precious life was.

"I would have sent for you." Zelas assured and when Amelia looked into her piercing eyes, she knew it to be true.

"Miss Zelas," Amelia's eyes shone with innocent hope again. "Could it be that you really are trying to be good?"

"No," Zelas immediately denied the ridiculous notion. "I have dealt with relative kindness towards Zelgadis, or as kindly as a monster lord can. Return the favor; cause your friends to join you if you need their assistance. I know you are the right person to whom to entrust this request. If Xellos is ever in dire need of assistance, provide him with it."

The silver of Zelas' piercing and cunning gaze was reflected in Amelia's big blue eyes. The monster lord knew something. She knew of something perilous and was preparing for it. "Miss Zelas...?"

"Is my request unacceptable to you?" Anyone would be a suicidal idiot to refuse the occasion of a rare mercy from Beast Master and a seemingly generous mercy apparently.

"I will return the favor." Amelia finally agreed, even though she didn't exactly know what she was agreeing to and wanted to be cautious about that. "What I am promising to do," she carefully specified. "Is to offer the support of a friend should it be needed, by my own standards of what such a promise would justly represent."

"Splendid," sarcasm and truth had never mixed so well before as when the time when Beast Master spoke that word. Why such support was important to Zelas and what she was trying to prepare for, Amelia didn't know. As for Zelas, after she had stopped focusing on the possibility of Dolphin as her would-be enemy, she teamed up with her and soon after with Dynast and they put their minds and resources together to figure out what was going on.

Though the situation was still unclear, one thing was for sure, the attack was set to go off soon and they were helpless against the massive power that loomed in the shadows. The dragons couldn't have come up with such a power out of nowhere, so Zelas reasoned that there were several likely explanations. Either they broke a few dozen rules of the principals of their society and struck a deal, or most likely, they were tricked into cooperating, perhaps even threatened. Beast Master would fall, they would all fall. Right now, all she could do was to survive and come back from behind. Her monsters were not her only resources; she had Xellos' pet dragon, Lina Inverse and her friends. They were not willing allies, but they would suffice. Amelia would give them a push with her innocent mercy and hope if need be.

"Shall we begin?" Celo smiled in a very similar way to Xellos, they were related after all. "Let us go over to the laboratory. I believe you've met Mr. Vrumugun before? He and I will be overseeing this process."

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, in the surface of Wolf Pack Island, "Xellos!" Filia called out as she saw a pack of wolves grouped together over their apparent pray, whose tail, the only visible part of him beyond the wolves, was being chewed on by a cub. "Don't hurt him!" She was about to attack the wolves to save Xellos, hoping he was still alive and thinking he was an idiot for not transforming to escape, when she heard laughter. "Xellos?"

"Ha ha ha, okay, okay, get off, he he he, you got me, quit it, ha ha ha!" The wolves finally moved aside with the cubs playing with Xellos' tail and the larger wolves laying next to him. He finally had the chance to sit up on the ground and other than some wolf spit from being licked affectionately, that he wiped off with his cloak, he was unharmed. His clothes were a bit dirty from being on the ground and his staff had been turned into a chew toy, but he had no real injuries. Noticing Filia standing there with her mouth agape, he waved her over.

As if in a trance, Filia approached Xellos and sat next to him. A wolf soon occupied her lap, just as they were doing with Xellos, wanting to be petted. "They like you?" Filia had no choice but to admit her stunned realization.

"So it would seem," Xellos agreed with a grin. "I'm not too surprised though, you like me too."

"What?" Filia stammered and blushed, why wasn't her astral form doing what she told it to do? "I don't like you." Were her feelings truly so strong that she couldn't hide them?

"Really?" Xellos opened one eye in a strange sort of wink.

Filia pouted, blushing still and looked away. "Maybe just a little bit," she conceded. "I've realized that the world's a big an interesting place, humans are intense and capable creatures even if they are not often given much credit by non-humans. I've also concluded that not all dragons are repulsive." She had awakened to the world and no longer locked herself in a set mind frame. "That doesn't mean I like you a lot," she defended, though she knew she was lying. "I only like you a little bit, in a purely platonic way."

"Platonic?" Xellos questioned curious and teasing. "How is it platonic if I'm sitting here right next to you?"

"It's forbidden," Filia tried to explain, but her excuse felt weak.

"Don't monsters break the rules?" Xellos reminded. "Besides, I don't see you falling over in pain. It doesn't seem that your liking for me is having much of an adverse effect on you."

"I suppose there are exceptions and I am a powerful monster. Maybe I've just reached a higher evolution or something," Filia mused. She didn't care much about the explanation, which may or may not be in her missing memories. She had not thought about her missing memories much lately. All that she could focus on was the present and the glaringly obvious fact that she enjoyed Xellos' company and that maybe, in his own way, he enjoyed her company too.

"Isn't that the reason for the rules though?" Xellos pointed out.

"Maybe... in my case anyway." She brought up another point. "What about you? You're a golden dragon and you don't seem to have much of an acknowledgement of rules. What if your elder is disappointed in you?"

Xellos shrugged, "I get the impression that Milgazia is pretty lax under his diplomatic surface. I don't think he'll do anything too extreme. He'll give me a speech about being careful with monsters maybe, but I'm sure he'll respect my choices after the lecture."

"I see," Filia blushed as she considered that perhaps there was nothing to stand in their way should they choose to pursue a relationship after all.

Then Xellos brought up a very important point. "All that's left is Beast Master."

"Oh," Filia frowned. "She'll be angry at me if I show any favor to a dragon."

"Have you asked her?" Xellos inquired, guessing correctly that the answer would be a negative one.

"Of course not!" Filia exclaimed. "Why would I ask her such a thing? It's not like I, the dragon slayer," her voice failed her for a moment, why did that name sound so wrong to her all of a sudden? "Was expecting this..."

"But you haven't slain any dragons recently," Xellos pointed out.

"I almost slew you," Filia laughed bitterly. She didn't want to think about missing all of this if she had. Her feelings, the feelings that she shouldn't even have as a monster, were so confusing, yet so intense, so precious. They were complicated and sometimes painful, but they made her feel so alive. "I'm glad I didn't," she admitted. "Could you overlook my actions from the War of the Monsters Fall?"

"I can, especially given the fact that I didn't even exist back then." Xellos' reply was inaccurate, but to the best of his knowledge he was a golden dragon who had just barely entered the first stage of young adulthood, so he must be over five hundred, but not yet a thousand years old.

"What about my future missions? Beast Master might order me to do things you don't like." It was strange, but Filia felt a heavy sense of deja vu. It made no sense, yet she strongly felt that she had this conversation before, except the roles were reversed.

"I can understand that." How odd, the sense of deja vu that Xellos felt kept growing in intensity by the second. Yet at the same time, this was different, it was someone else in his shoes, like a reversal of roles. Filia sighed, frowning suddenly. "What's wrong now, stupid monster?"

"I don't think I'll get Beast Master's permission, raw garbage," Filia grimaced. "I can't sneak around behind her back, she notices everything. What explanation will I give her then? If she orders me to cut communications with you, I must obey. If I don't she might even order me to kill you."

"I don't think having an unhappy minion is good for any monster lord," Xellos stated. "Lesser monsters switch sides sometimes. The turn over is pretty bad, they go back and forth aiding what causes they think suits them best. They go to Beast Master for some action where they get to strategize and train. They go to Dynast for some rest where the humans are manipulated into wars and do most of the work themselves. They go to Dolphin for some middle ground between the two others. As long as they don't do anything too traitorous, deserters are received because it would be terribly inconvenient to refuse them and wasteful to exterminate them if their crime was not too significant. Plus they are serving the monster race as a whole anyway. The higher positions that command more power, like you, are expected to be loyal of course."

Xellos continued, "Beast Master has invested in many forces, not only the forces of darkness; she has a varied and versatile army, even though the forces of darkness are still the main part of it, naturally. Some may not like it, but the benefits outweigh the complaints of the doubtful. A few monsters may come and go in the lower ranks, but in the grander scheme of things, for the most part they are not a threat when they leave and may be somewhat useful, if only a little, when they return, so it's okay to be a tad lenient in such cases. As for you, I don't think Beast Master wants a general priestess that's miserable and listens to her only out of fear. The stress and the self doubt would be bad for you. It would diminish your power, make you less effective and ultimately be bad for Zelas too. A monster's identity, their sense of self, is the most precious thing they have, without it, a monster would vanish. Any creature, astral or physical, that has a sense of self has likes and dislikes, goals and desires; I think Beast Master understands that. I think that if you prove it won't interfere with your work, she can allow you certain indulgences as long as you wisely practice moderation."

Filia was in shock. What Xellos said made sense, she knew he could be rather insightful and it was one of the qualities she liked about him when he wasn't being too much of a smart-aleck about it. Even so, this was too much. "How do you know all that?"

It wasn't doubt that she was expressing, Xellos realized. Filia was simply surprised by his assessment of Zelas. It was as if he knew her much better than she and somehow he felt like he did, even if that would make no sense. He grinned and replied, "that is a secret." As Filia's face started to be overtaken by exasperation, he elaborated. "It is part of the secret that I would like to solve. I feel that I know Beast Master even if I shouldn't. I want to see her, I want to hear what she will say to me, I want to know why she seemed so familiar during our short meeting that time at Sairaag."

"It's like your closer to her than I am," Filia mused. "It's like she's your mother instead of mine... But how would monsters interpret such concepts anyway? Minion and master, it's different from child and parent, yet there is something there, something unique." She looked at Xellos' face and he momentarily opened both eyes. "We're a strange pair, aren't we? I feel that I know more about dragons than you and you obviously know more about monsters than me. How could that be?"

"Perhaps Beast Master holds the answer to that," Xellos suggested and closed his eyes again. "As soon as possible, when Zelas is done with her audience with Amelia and Zelgadis, I want to see her."

Filia nodded, accepting the plan, "I'll take you to her, we'll speak to her together." Filia's worries evaporated. Xellos was a dragon, but he was special. If he was there with her, everything would work out somehow.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 032: Broken! Picking Up The Pieces

When Xellos and Filia initially attempted to request an audience with Zelas, they were informed by Fang that she was busy. "Of course, she is still tending to Amelia and Zelgadis, right?" Filia theorized.

"Nope," the monster fox chimera replied, he was currently in his semi-human form. "Celo and Vrumugun are taking care of that. Zelgadis was broken in three, but the third part was all memories, kind of like astral, and the spell didn't work out so the pieces couldn't communicate. Anyway, that's being fixed now. Beast Master is still busy though; Val sent for me with Jarde and asked me to bring him here. He's talking to her now so we need to wait."

"I see," Filia voiced. She approached the throne room door but didn't open it, instead trying to listen to what was being spoken. Fang looked at her curiously, but made no motion to stop her. Instead he went over to Xellos and transformed into his fox form, nudging his hand with his head to be petted.

"Wasn't Val the ancient dragon?" Xellos asked as he petted Fang on the head.

"The one you were supposed to be taking care of," Filia spoke unsure.

Xellos didn't think that was accurate. Many theories have come and gone regarding him, but it was all a jumbled up mess of contradictions. Perhaps the boy was with Milgazia? But that didn't sound accurate either, then why would he willingly go to Zelas. Filled with the same curiosity that overtook Filia, Xellos leaned against the door, pressing his pointy ear to it and listened.

xoxox xox xoxox

Inside Zelas' throne room, Val pouted profusely and gave Zelas his most convincing sad kitten look. The monster lord groaned, "I don't need this now, boy. Your unwavering loyalty and adoration is or will be in the long run useful and thus I appreciate it, in my own way, but I am honestly not in the mood to humor you by accepting your childish adoration of me at this precise moment in time. I'm in a foul mood because of what is to come, little one, go home and play."

Val shook his head. "I don't feel good and I wanted to see you. You're strong and smart, I thought that..."

"That I would make you feel secure?" Zelas chuckled ironically. "Dragons really are stupid. Boy, you've realized what I am, haven't you? You are young, but you are smart, perhaps more so because this is not the first time you've lived."

Val tilted his head curiously. "What do you mean?"

"You'd best forget about that past, it is inconsequential now and if you do one day remember it and consider it to be of consequence, if you cannot move on from it, it will be your undoing. Vengeance will not be an easy task for you," Zelas warned.

"I don't want to take revenge on anyone," Val insisted. "I don't understand, but I don't think I would want to hurt anyone even if I did."

"A mutually convenient mind frame," Zelas determined.

Val would only get more confused by continuing the current conversation, so instead he return to the previous topic, the reason why he was there, having left without telling Jillas, Gravos or anyone. He didn't intend to take too long anyway and Fang could teleport him back to Seyruun swiftly. "I have a very bad feeling, something is going to happen, I don't know what, but something."

"Yes," Zelas agreed. "I might as well tell you, since you will know. Come here," she beckoned. Val ran over to the throne where Zelas picked him up and allowed him to sit on her lap. She then whispered quietly into his ear so that no one else could hear, as she was perfectly aware of the eavesdroppers. "I will be summoned far away and I will not be able to resist the call. There is nothing I can do to stop it, but one way or another, I will return."

Val's big golden innocent eyes looked at Zelas with puzzlement. "You're strong and smart; you'll be okay, right?"

"Of course," Zelas assured; maybe more so for herself than for Val. "The game is set to shift soon, even if a battle is lost, the war shall be won."

"Will you tell me a story?" Val requested. "The bad guys always win in your stories, but they're still interesting."

His childish affection really was an annoying little background noise, but the loyalty and attachment that came with it was in the long run useful enough as he was the last ancient dragon. Given that, Zelas would play along, perhaps she could push back her foul mood and humor little Val after all. "Once upon a time, there was a prosperous kingdom. One day, an evil king from a land far away attacked the kingdom and overtook it. Only the young prince remained after the disaster. The prince grew bitter and with the passing of time, managed to round up some forces and storm the overtaken castle that was once his. He killed the evil king and became the new king, as it was his birthright. However, all the hardships he endured and all the bitterness stayed with him and the prince turned out to be a much more evil king than the invader had been."

Val wasn't surprised that the story took on a gloomy turn and ended badly. Well at least the prince got his kingdom back, though it was too bad he had to turn out so evil. This was the kind of stories Zelas told though, they didn't end happily, but at least they were entertaining. Val smiled at her, "thanks for the story. I'll go home now," she nodded in response and he jumped down from her lap. Val walked a few steps and turned back to look at Zelas again, "promise you'll be okay?"

"Sure," it was such an insignificant word to a monster lord. Naturally, she would be trying her hardest to win, and in the end, a silly promise to a foolish little dragon wouldn't make a difference to her, yet it seemed to make a difference to Val. It filled him with baseless reassurance, it was so stupid. It was a strange custom that originated with humans with cliche requests such as 'promise me you'll be okay.' Unless the creature in question was feeling suicidal, he or she would already be trying their best to 'be okay,' promise or not, and promise or not, the circumstances would still play out the same way. She could have ignored the idiocy of it all, but as Val waited expectantly, unsatisfied with her answer, Zelas realized how much it meant to him and how much of a benefit to her in the long run it would be to humor him now. "I promise, Val."

Val smiled, feeling a baseless relief already. Satisfied with the reply, he walked a few more steps closer to the door behind which Fang was waiting. "Fang!"

Val saw no reason why Fang wouldn't come in with him, but the fox was used to the protocol that sometimes took place, escorting guests in and waiting at the door, guarding it to prevent intruders, thus acting automatically. Eavesdroppers would normally also be prevented, but not those two, as Fang was familiar enough with them to assume they wouldn't misbehave for Beast Master. The monster fox chimera teleported beyond the door, leaving it closed, and approached Val.

Val was amused, seeing Fang in his fox form again and with a fit of giggles climbed on his back. "Bye, aunty Zelas! Please take me home now Fang." They promptly disappeared in a teleportation back to Seyruun.

As soon as they were gone, Zelas called out, loud enough for Filia and Xellos to clearly hear. "You can come in now eavesdroppers."

The pair straightened automatically, moving away from the door in an instinctual futile attempt to pretend they weren't spying. Then finally, Filia opened the door and they went inside. She shifted uncomfortably in front of Beast Master, while Xellos beside her gave the monster lord a curious look. "Lord Beast Master..." Filia began to voice an explanation, or rather try to explain, except she wasn't sure what to say. "About this dragon I've brought... um... he... er... I... um..."

"He's your lover?" Zelas inquired nonchalant.

Filia's face turned scarlet. "What? No!" She desperately denied it.

Xellos chuckled and Filia glared at him, how dare he chuckle? "Something like that," he teased.

"Liar! Stop kidding around, you're in the presence of Lord Beast Master!" Filia scolded in embarrassment.

"Right, of course, my mistake, how dare I make such an assumption?" Zelas voiced in sarcasm. Even if the big picture's situation had her in a bad mood, maybe what she needed was to allow herself some amusement. "You have better taste than this, right Xellos? This specimen is simply too hideous."

"Oh yes!" Xellos played along in amusement, while Filia watched on in shock. "She's astral too, so this means she has very bad taste."

"Indeed," Zelas laughed. "Well then, make yourself comfortable in the palace, Xellos. All the answers that you seek shall come to you soon. Allow Celo to finish his business with Vrumugun first and then when it is time to move on to the next phase, we shall."

"Alright, I thank you for your hospitality." Xellos put his arm around Filia. "Aren't you going to give me a tour? I'm curious to see what your room looks like," he winked. "Oh but I didn't mean it like that, so don't get me wrong," he teased.

Filia's mouth opened and closed like a fish. She was unable to find any words or even react to the fact that Xellos' arm was around her waist, though her mind very clearly registered it, she just couldn't do anything about it. Finally, she stuttered a silent, "excuse me, Lord Beast Master," and teleported herself and Xellos.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia reappeared in her room at Wolf Pack Island, which was actually his room. "This is your room?" He inquired playfully and the still shocked Filia could only nod in unsure affirmation. "It's purple, I like it. I like Beast Master too, she's so evil but so fun, intimidating yet sarcastic, she's great!"

"A dragon shouldn't say that..." Filia finally got her voice to function properly after the shock. "But you're not an ordinary dragon and I'm not an ordinary monster. I guess we'll have to wait a little longer for our answers. At least it's good to know they're close."

"Yes," Xellos agreed, very close.

Filia let out a breath and rested her head on Xellos shoulder. She realized what she was doing and tried to step away, but Xellos was holding her in place. She looked at his face and saw that he had both eyes open; it was a rare occasion for him. If Beast Master was okay with this, then maybe... her line of thought ended when their lips met.

xoxox xox xoxox

A little later, at the experimentation laboratory area at Zelas' palace... "This is ridiculous!" The separated parts of Zelgadis had been arranged into one. His memories were back to normal too, but he wasn't happy with his new tail. Wolf-fish tail aside, he looked the same as before. "At least my face was human when I was a merman, even if walking was very inconvenient," more like impossible really. "Why is this here?" He pointed at the tail that was a strange combination between wolf and fish. It started out like the tail of a wolf, the fur giving way to scales for a fish shape at the end.

"I apologize for the inconvenience, but the extra elements had to go somewhere." Celo pointed out with his ever polite tone.

"It could have been worse," Vrumugun's comment made Zelgadis shudder.

"No more deals with monsters," he told himself firmly. Then he looked at Amelia who watched him with great relief despite the state of his appearance. He was a chimera again, just like before, only with a tail. "I'm sorry; I caused trouble for you again. It seems that's all I can ever do..."

Amelia hugged him lovingly. "It's okay, I should have stopped you. It's alright now, I'm just glad to have you back. No more experiments, alright? You're just fine the way you are, end of story."

Zelgadis sighed, "I really don't deserve you..."

"We've been over this, Zel." Amelia gave him a quick kiss on the lips, then looked into his eyes. "That is something for me to decide," and she had made her choice.

xoxox xox xoxox

A short while later, Vrumugun left Wolf Pack Island, returning to Zoana, teleported by Fang. Celo left Amelia and Zelgadis alone for a moment and reported to Beast Master at her throne room. After hearing his report, "Xellos! Filia!" Zelas' voice was heard echoing through Wolf Pack Island, summoning the odd pair back to her throne room.

Filia teleported herself and Xellos to Beast Master's throne room, her face still somewhat flustered. She didn't mentally berate herself for getting romantic with a dragon this time, or with anyone for that matter. She might have been a monster, but if her master didn't scold her for her actions, actions which felt very right, then why would she reprimand herself? "Yes, Lord Beast Master?"

"The amulet," Zelas requested.

There was a pause until Filia realized that Zelas was referring to the amethyst necklace she was wearing. "Oh, yes," the general priestess made herself focus on the present task at hand and removed the necklace that was charged with chaotic energy. "I wish I could have collected more..."

Zelas made no comment about the amount of chaotic energy in the necklace, instead prompting her human monster chimera minion to examine it, "Celo."

Celo took the necklace from Filia and held it in his right hand, brushing his thumb over the smooth surface of the deep purple jewel. "This will suffice to perform the rendezvous as planned. Lord Beast Master, must we wait? I would feel more comfortable following you immediately."

"You won't be able to follow me either way." Beast Master reminded, hinting at something that she and Celo knew, but Xellos and Filia didn't.

"You know what I mean, milady," Xellos rose an eyebrow at Celo's words. His subconscious knew that Celo only referred to Zelas as milady instead of Lord Beast Master when his human side was feeling particularly melancholic, though he held no memories of such knowledge beyond the subconscious perception. Thus Xellos made no comment and simply observed the situation quietly along with Filia.

"I do know," Zelas considered, "or maybe not, she mused. "It will be no concern of yours when-"

"Milady, please!" Celo dared to interrupt and Filia gave him a strange look. She didn't think he was the kind of minion who dared to interrupt his master.

Zelas chuckled, "fear not, I do understand. Your human side is strong, you wish to live on, you wish for me to live on and what happens at your end does concern you very much. That is so very human, they live short lives, but they are not soon forgotten. They spend their existence trying to become immortalized, only to lose themselves and end up chasing the benefit of another. It is complex, but I understand the basic theory. I do not doubt your loyalty to me, Celo."

"Or..." he prompted hopefully.

Zelas decided to humor him, "or your undying affection, child. I will remember it until I fully understand it." Feel it, doubtfully, she was a monster who didn't feel much beyond the satisfaction of her own cunning ways, but she would remember and she would understand, if only for the intellectual challenge of figuring out the depth of emotions without having to take drastic measures that, possible benefits aside, would change her. No, she wouldn't change, she would stay the same, but she would know everything there was to know, especially about humans and their intriguing ways.

It was silly for a grown man to be called child, a monster human chimera who had lived for centuries. Yet he appreciated it and held on to that hope that Beast Master did understand what his willing sacrifice meant for him. It was for his mother's sake, it wouldn't feel right if she didn't understand. She would remember and she would know, that was enough for him, he wouldn't be forgotten and that was something precious. "Thank you, Lord Beast Master, it is a pleasure to serve you," he was calmer now. "There is no way to change your mind though, is there?"

"Those who follow me will fall, leave survival to me alone, what I cannot do, none of you can do. There is no use in wasting resources that will be precious, even vital later. We shall rendezvous as planned, I shall fight strongly until then and I will win," Zelas assured.

"I believe in you." Celo vowed and disappeared, teleporting off to put his previously discussed plans into action.

Zelas turned her attention to the perplexed monster and dragon that stood before her. "Game over," she declared with a smirk that held a hidden bitterness coated with confidence. "The battle is lost, but the war has only just begun. Filia, for your final task as my general priestess, bring me Lina Inverse and her companion Gourry, I want the whole team assembled for this."

"My final task?" Filia didn't like the sound of that.

Zelas laughed at her worry, "I do not intend to take your life, silly creature, I will restore to you the life you had before. Now go let us have our last reunion before the war."

"Yes, Lord Beast Master." Filia still had no idea what was going on and her imagination was going wild with theories. She wanted to know more about that life she had before, which apparently Zelas was willing to return to her. She needed to know and she could hardly wait. Filia teleported away quickly, back to Zoana where she hoped to find Lina and Gourry.

Xellos was left alone with Zelas in the throne room. "Lord Beast Master..." he wasn't sure how to express what he was thinking and if he even should. Yet the feeling of deja vu was so heavy, he felt like he could and should speak everything that was in his mind to this monster lord. It was like a distant memory of a time when he stood there telling her many things. It was a pleasant memory that didn't fit with his background as a golden dragon, but it was a good illusion none the less, except it wasn't an illusion, it had been real.

"Yes?" Zelas prompted, somewhat curious.

"All of this is rather unsettling," Xellos finally commented.

"It is," Zelas agreed. "You will understand everything soon, Xellos." She paused, musing over her words. "Do not forget that a true beast never really falls. You'll have to be strong." He would have to be strong, reliable, cunning and loyal, among other things, adaptable. If her desperate contingency plan failed, then all would be lost for her... and for the world.

"I am strong." Even so, in the deepest corners of his mind, Xellos wondered what she meant. Was he strong enough to face what she would soon reveal?

"Never doubt that." Zelas ominously advised, leaving dread and foreboding hanging heavily in the air. Xellos could only nod in silence. The negative feelings were so thick that it felt as if hope had no place in them. Yet there would have to be hope, even if it was barely perceptible at all, it had to exist in a small hidden hint disguised as wrathful courage.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 033: Conference! A Time For Revelations

Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis were currently at the surface of Wolf Pack Island. "I can't believe Martina behaved like that," Lina frowned. "So what if we cleaned out the royal kitchen, it was her duty as a hostess to feed us! She didn't have to throw such a fit!" They had been in the middle of that argument when Filia arrived to get them.

"I didn't have time to spar with Zangulus," Gourry pouted in disappointment.

"I would be more concerned about what Zelas wants," Lina commented. She eyed Zelgadis in questioning.

Zelgadis had already explained how he recovered his previous chimera form, plus a tail, along with his memories. "I don't know, but she's definitely up to something."

Amelia petted the wolf that was on her lap, they were all settled into a grassy patch on the ground, with the wolves lounging about like puppies. "I guess we'll find out soon, she mentioned we should wait for her here."

"Until she took care of business with Xellos and Filia," Lina recalled. "I wonder if that means she's going to change them back. But if that's the case, then the time of preparation for whatever is to come might have already ended," and she didn't feel at all ready.

xoxox xox xoxox

Simultaneously, at Zelas' throne room, the monster lord stood and took a few steps forward before Xellos and Filia. Speaking in a voice that was both commanding and elegant, she declared. "Xellos Metallium and Filia Ul Copt," Beast Master addressed them by their true names, which filled their already puzzled minds with more questions. She lifted the amethyst necklace which Celo had emptied of all the chaotic energy it had collected, transferring it to a different vessel for safe keeping. "I hereby break the pact between you and return you to what you once were!" She crushed the purple jewel in her hand, easily reducing it to dust.

Dark, golden and violet lights surrounded Xellos and Filia as they were returned to how they used to be. The process left them unconscious while their memories settled in and were sorted in their minds, but other than that, they were alright.

xoxox xox xoxox

By the time Xellos and Filia woke up, they were in the surface of Wolf Pack Island, laying next to each other in picnic blankets. Filia allowed everything that had happened to sink in and frowned. "I can't believe I was a monster."

"I can't believe what an interesting monster you make," Xellos teased. Yet beneath his carefree exterior he was lost in thought. The hints that Beast Master gave about what was to come greatly unnerved him. "Lord Beast Master," he approached her at the center of the picnic blankets that were laid out with Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis also present. Lina and Gourry ate the most, of course.

"Ah, you are awake," Zelas observed. "Join us, Lina got impatient and wouldn't shut up, so I entertained myself with a little cooking."

"Is it time to reveal the truth, Lord Beast Master?" Xellos asked and at those words Filia caught up to him and gave him a suspicious look. Lina momentarily paused in the process of reaching into the picnic basket nearest to her, as there were several, then feigned nonchalance and grabbed another sandwich. Many things had become clear to Xellos, but there were new questions.

"Yes," Zelas replied, dreading the topic, but knowing it was inevitable. "To clarify," she told her true general priest, "Dolphin and Dynast are in the same boat as me in this. The true enemy is Darkstar." Zelas stood and called out, "your attention everyone, I will now explain why I've called you all here." At those words, even the gluttonous Lina and Gourry started paying attention.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, at the main conference hall of the dragon temple alliance, far from the peninsula, in what was known as the outer world... "So you see, my fellow dragons, it is up to us to protect this world. The Knight of Ceifeed has spoken, bringing with her the commands of our Lord Ceifeed. We must heed her words!" Topaz Ebony was doing a fine job of riling up the council. "Everything is already in place; we need only your energy. This is our chance to rid the world of monsters forever. This is our chance at true victory. Through the alliance of the glorious dragon race with our trusted Knight of Ceifeed and the honorable Lord Vorfeed, we shall be victorious! Peace and prosperity will flourish, Lord Vorfeed will save us with her great power, she will grant Lord Ceifeed's wish for our well being. There is no question about what we must do! Thank you for your attention..."

Cheers erupted from the council as Topaz's proposal was almost unanimously accepted. Milgazia remained quiet however. Topaz headed back to his seat. The conference room had a circular structure with a podium on a raised platform at the center and climbing rows of seats where the elders and heads of powerful clans were seated. They were all important leaders and influential figure in the dragon race. Beside Topaz, at a place of honor, there sat Luna, or rather, Luna's body controlled by a spirit not her own. The captive Vorfeed's energy made her appear to be herself, as it was quite similar to the energy of Ceifeed.

A very elderly dragon, wearing flowing white robes with golden details, stepped up to the podium. His hair was almost pure white with a few strands of pale blond here and there. His blue eyes scanned the crowds and waited for them to settle down from their euphoria. He stopped as he gazed at the serious and unreadable face of Milgazia, also silently known as the leader of the black sheep clan. Though he was still rather guarded, he was more open to interacting with none dragons than other elders. He had a long friendship with an elf, whose daughter, Memphis, he trained for some time. He also interacted with humans, prominently a female warrior who defeated a Zanaffar long ago and more recently Lina Inverse. He had his own non-traditional logic and while some saw his seemingly radical ways as innovative, others didn't like them.

Milgazia was well respected of course, his diplomacy was unrivaled. Always polite, always respectful, always good to be around, he was known for a time as pleasant Milgazia. Yet lately, he had been pushing things becoming more vocal about certain aspects he would have otherwise kept quiet. Rumors came and went and when the dragons found themselves in Milgazia's presence, they dashed their doubts away at the face of such a trust inspiring dragon, an honorable fair leader who was brave enough to take chances. Milgazia himself wondered for how long that would continue in such a way.

The Supreme Elder of the dragon council finally tired of waiting for the loud murmurs of the crowd to quiet down and picked up the small hammer at the center podium. Once, twice and three times, he hit the small wooden circle atop the podium with the hammer until the dragons remember their place and settled down. Normally, the hammer would only have to be used once and only on rare occasions. "Would anyone else like to speak before we take votes?" Almost everyone present raised their hands. The Supreme Elder knew that they would only have words of encouragement to share with the Knight of Ceifeed, wanting to claim a portion of the spotlight for themselves.

Luna raised her hand and several heads turned towards her. Since she was the Knight of Ceifeed and the guest of honor, the Supreme Elder's attention was immediately turned towards her. "The council recognizes the Knight of Ceifeed, you may speak."

The elderly dragon stepped down from the podium and Luna gracefully levitated towards it, in an elegant, albeit ultimately unnecessary, display of power. She wasn't wearing her usual clothes, instead clad in white dress-like robes with crimson details. "My honorable allies of the light, I thank you all for listening to the proposal I have shared with our fellow protector of the world, Mr. Ebony. While I do wish to hear each and every one of your opinions and fulfill the respectful protocol of the dragon council in allowing each of you a turn to speak, I am under the obligation to remind you all that time is of the essence. I have reasons to believe that the monster lords have learned of our plans." Her eyes flashed momentarily towards Milgazia. "If we do not act swiftly, we will lose our opportunity and Lord Vorfeed's kindness towards our world will be hindered. Thus I must request that the protocol be broken in light of the situation and that we pass on a vote now. After this situation has settled, we will have time to listen to everyone's words of wisdom concerning this, thank you." Expressing superficial polite gratitude towards the group for listening to her words, Luna levitated back to her seat.

The Supreme Elder, who served as a chancellor for the council of the dragon race took the podium once more. This time, rather than there being a flood of murmurs from the crowd, there was absolute silence as they nodded and smiled, waiting for the Supreme Elder to ask for Luna's request to be passed. "At the request of the Knight of Ceifeed, all input concerning the situation will be shared later, anyone who is against this motion please raise your hand now." No one raise their hands, they all wanted a turn to speak, but if they were promised that later, they were satisfied with that. The Supreme Elder glanced at Milgazia, who remained still as a statue with no intentions of raising his hand. He didn't want to have to listen to many support speeches at a time like this. "By a unanimous decision, the discussions will be postponed and the voting will commence now. If anyone is against the proposed plans, raise your hand now." The Supreme Elder was looking right at Milgazia when he spoke those words and, just as he expected, the water clan elder raised his hand. "Lord Milgazia?"

The Supreme Elder didn't move from the center podium, indicating that Milgazia was not welcome to stand in it, which meant that his words were expected to be brief. "I simply wish to express my concern towards Lord Vorfeed. Defeating the monster lords, all three that remain at once, would be a very difficult task," Milgazia carefully stated.

The Supreme Elder looked at Luna, silently prompting her to speak. "I'm certain that Lord Vorfeed appreciates your concern for her well being, however, there is no need to worry. Everything has been carefully planned out and with the help of the energy of the noble dragon race, Lord Vorfeed will be victorious."

"What about the Darkstar prophecy?" Milgazia brought up the incident. "In that occasion, I thought Lord Vorfeed had-"

Luna shook her head and interrupted, but since all the dragons were in her favor, none of them showed any signs of disapproval towards her interruption. "Lord Vorfeed had been split in two at the time," that much was true, from a certain perspective, but then the lies began. "Half of Lord Vorfeed was destroyed along with Darkstar. The other half remained in the over-world and, without a dark lord to oppose her, she became ever stronger. It was thanks to the prophecy and the forces of this world that Darkstar was ultimately defeated, though that also signified the destruction of that half of Vorfeed. None the less, the remaining half of Vorfeed is grateful for the defeat of Darkstar and wishes to thank this world by sharing the peace and prosperity that flourishes in the over-world in the absence of evil."

"What of the balance between light and darkness, the motion of chaos?" Milgazia reminded, he would think Vorfeed was well aware of such things. Albeit, those were theories that many were not ready to accept.

"Such theories are flawed, as Lord Vorfeed has learned from experience. She has explained it all to me and I will be happy to share her teachings with everyone and clarify any remaining doubts. However, we do not have enough time for that now. Thus I must ask you to trust me, trust Lord Ceifeed and trust Lord Vorfeed," Luna finished.

Milgazia knew that he wasn't going anywhere. The majority was already ready to accept the plan to rid the world of the monster lords and they weren't willing to think suspiciously of it. Milgazia said no more and when his silence stretched for a few seconds, the Supreme Elder took it to mean that he was done speaking. "Does anyone else have any concerns to share?" No one raised their hand. "Is anyone opposed to the proposed plans?" no one, not even Milgazia who knew it would be useless, raised their hand. "Then it is decided, we will proceed as previously discussed, this meeting has finalized."

The voices of many overtook the area as some dragons filed out of the large chamber, while others remained seating and discussed the meeting with the council members seating nearest to them. Some stood and headed towards Topaz and Luna with compliments and thanks, while Milgazia remained quiet in his seat for a few seconds before finally getting up. An older dimos dragon seated near him addressed the water clan elder. "It's good to see you're being cautious, Lord Milgazia, yet this is the time to show us that adventurous spirit you always showed before. It's okay to be excited for the occasion this time; it's alright to take direct swift action," he encouraged.

Milgazia didn't want to waste his time arguing and he knew the dimos' words were well intended. "I'll keep that in mind." He smiled politely, though it was forced, and excused himself to leave.

xoxox xox xoxox

Back at Wolf Pack Island, Zelas began her explanation. "I have found out through various means," which included spying, fortune telling and unwilling hints from Milgazia, "that Darkstar is back. During the prophecy incident, Vorfeed had apparently merged with Darkstar after having become tired of the endless cycle of the war of darkness and light." Although it truth it was only a part of Vorfeed that merged, while Canal Vorfeed stayed behind, but those were details that the group would fully comprehend a little later.

For the time being, even Zelas' knowledge was filled with incomplete theories. They were both supposed to have been destroyed then, however, that wasn't entirely what happened. I believe that the fusion magic which preserved the ancient dragon also preserved them and a portion of Darkstar, or rather a portion of both Darkstar and Vorfeed united, was send back to the over-world in secret. The point is, Darkstar is back and he intends to obtain more power from us monster lords. I can only conclude that he wishes to absorb us into his being."

Silence reigned supreme over the reunion. Gourry was confused, but he made an effort to understand as he stared at Zelas, making himself pay attention. Lina sat frozen behind him, with her undivided attention on Zelas in spite of all the food around her. Amelia and Zelgadis also watched quietly along with Filia, who seemed to be holding her breath. The golden dragon who had been recently restored to her original species along with her original hair color, finally found the will to break out of her frozen posture with a small movement, turning her head towards Xellos. The purple haired general priest had both is eyes open, further denoting the seriousness of the situation. There was hope and expectancy in his eyes as he waited for Beast Master to speak of a strategy to counter Darkstar, though her foreboding words from earlier still rung heavily in his mind.

"If Darkstar is successful," Zelas continued. "I can only assume that his next course of action would be to destroy the over-world and most likely this world soon after. Naturally, I can't let him step all over my territory like that." A flash of anger crossed her elegant features before her face turned serene and unreadable again, as if covered by a mask of false nonchalance. "I have reasons to suspect that the Knight of Ceifeed is being controlled by the enemy."

Lina gasped at the revelation, "Luna! That can't be!"

"Go to her and see for yourself if you wish to find out if this theory is right or wrong. However, you must be careful. If you notice anything, do not let her know it," Zelas warned. "It could be that she's only being tricked, but either way, the result of her actions, whether they are truly hers or not, is the same."

"I..." Lina paused unsure. "I'll investigate those actions and find out through that." She didn't feel ready to face Luna if she was being controlled or tricked. The redhead was concerned that she wouldn't be able to hold her temper down if Luna had been overtaken, she did care about her sister deep down even with all her fear of her, and she knew Luna cared about her too. If Luna was actually being tricked, which didn't seem likely, as she was rather sharp, then arguing with her would be impossible. "Why do you say she's being controlled anyway? What's going on? You haven't explained the whole story. How is Luna involved with Darkstar? How does he intend to attack? How do you even know all this?"

Zelas closed her eyes for a moment and obliged with more explanations. Her silver eyes opened as she summoned all her patience, this explanation was necessary after all and she wouldn't let the frustration attached to it hinder it. She had never been this stressed before; she had no reason to be. Darkstar, under the guise of Vorfeed, if you can even call it a guise since she is as a part of him, has offered the dragons to rid the world of the monsters. He is using the Knight of Ceifeed to convince them, either that, or Luna was tricked as well. Naturally, the dragons have no idea it's Darkstar they're dealing with and think it's only a part of Vorfeed that was left behind after a portion of her merged with Darkstar and was supposedly destroyed along with him during the prophecy. They see this as a purer Vorfeed who wishes to repay the inhabitants of this world for Darkstar's apparent defeat. If the dragon's fall for it, they'll lend their energy into Darkstar's plans."

"Why not just warn them?" Lina questioned. "The dragons might not take a warning from me and they certainly won't take a warning from you, but we can talk to Milgazia about it. I'm sure that if we explain the situation, he'll listen. That means helping the dragons not make a mistake, but it's in your best interest too, so I don't see why you would have anything against telling them."

"Milgazia would listen and analyze and reach his own conclusions, yes," Zelas agreed. "But it would be useless. I didn't bother telling Milgazia the whole story and simply took what he knew, united it with my knowledge and completed the puzzle. He is concerned and knows there has to be more to this, but isn't sure about the forces behind it. You may, if you wish, reveal everything I am saying to him, but it is useless either way. Even if Milgazia stands before the council and with all certainty tells them everything, he has no proof and they won't believe him. If anything, it would have been worse for him for the council to lose more confidence in his judgment."

"If that happens," Zelas continued. "His value as a window into the dragon council would be reduced, if not completely lost. Then if he becomes useless to me I would have to kill him and who would take care of his clan then? I doubt they'll enjoy having a stricter elder taking Milgazia's place, but that's exactly the kind of dragon the higher-ups will assign. That's why he's relatively compliant with me, he's protecting his clan and it wouldn't make me look good if I let him live if he can give me nothing. I'd rather not lose this resource. That is why I remained mostly silent towards Milgazia until it was too late. Warning him wouldn't have been beneficial anyway, not for either of us."

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 034: Waiting! Passing Time Of Tension

Another silent pause passed through Wolf Pack Island until Zelas spoke again. "My monster spies have been rather effective." They had been too effective and Zelas suspected a traitor among her monster minions, who was dropping information as if mocking the fact that nothing could be done. That was how she found out so much. But she would prove the traitor wrong, she would do something and she would find a way to triumph, she couldn't afford to doubt that. As for the traitor, it wasn't about switching sides to favor Dolphin or Dynast, as they were in the same situation as her. The unforgivable mystery traitor must be allied to Darkstar.

"This is what I know," Zelas revealed. "Dolphin, Dynast and myself will be summoned to the over-world. There, Darkstar intends to fight us. It is hard to say what form we'll take once we arrive, so we will very likely be at a disadvantage. No one will accompany me during that time and anyone who does will most certainly be swiftly destroyed. It doesn't matter where we monster lords are or if we're together or not. Where we will go is out of our control at this point. My plan is to escape from Darkstar in a temporary retreat and if possible take Dolphin and Dynast with me. If not, then I'll escape on my own and, if it can be done," if they survive, "free them from Darkstar later. Celo has constructed a mechanism that will transport a small group to the over-world. Of course, the transportation will be at a safe distance from Darkstar. I will rendezvous, explore the over-world, gather sufficient power and defeat Darkstar. That's the plan."

Xellos' jaw was askew but he didn't seem to notice it. He wanted to say a million things, but could hardly speak. "Why must you go in the first place?"

"I will be forcibly summoned, as will Dolphin and Dynast, it will be impossible to resist and fighting will only exhaust energy that I will need," Zelas reaffirmed, she didn't want to repeat it, so she hoped it sunk in for Xellos then. "Dolphin and Dynast are with their top ranked monsters, arranging things for their absence. Xellos, we have talked about this before." Beast Master reminded and Xellos could only nod silently, he hated those conversations now, though he thought they were ridiculous at the time. Why would Beast Master ever be missing? In the worse case scenario he could think of, he would be destroyed long before her, so he wouldn't have to worry about her absence, but now he faced a situation that was to him even wrose than that.

"Let me guess," Lina's somewhat pissed off voice was the next to breach the tense atmosphere. "We are all part of the group who will follow you to the over-world and participate in the gathering of power that will lead to the eventual battle against Darkstar." She stated more so than asked. Zelas knew that an answer wasn't even needed, but she nodded anyway and Lina continued. "That's easier said than done, but if the situation is as you say, then we have no choice but to follow up on your plan or be killed by Darkstar. At least you'll be fighting alongside us this time around instead of leaving all the work to us and mostly to me."

Zelas nodded again and Xellos frowned, he felt a deep concern for Beast Master's well being that was terribly discomforting. Seeing as the feeling of serious gloom was about to become too suffocating to bare, Amelia jumped to her feet and pumped her fist in the air. "In the name of justice we will defeat Darkstar and save the world!"

Zelgadis sighed exasperated, "we really do have no choice. Alright, if you really want to go, Amelia, and I know that even without any threats from Zelas you would, then I'll go too."

"Darkstar... again..." Filia whispered quietly. She looked at Xellos, he noticed her gaze and closed his eyes, giving her a fake smile. It was the most painfully false smile she had ever seen upon his face. "I'll do my best." She would try her hardest for the world, for her friends, for her family and for Xellos, especially for Xellos.

"Um..." Gourry suddenly piped up with a look of confusion on his face, which came as no surprise. Everyone expected a stupid question to come out of his mouth, but he shocked them by pointing out something rather intriguing. "I'm not sure what's going on, but if we're talking about Darkstar, then what about the sword of light? Weren't they related somehow?"

Lina's eyes widened, how could she forget about that detail? "That's right; it was pretty weird how the sword was returned to you." She looked at Zelas questioningly. "How do you explain that?" She pointed at the sword's hilt that was on Gourry's belt.

"I can't," Zelas confessed. "There is definitely a connection between Gorun Nova and Darkstar, but why has the legendary weapon been so mysteriously returned to the hands of Gourry Gabriev is a secret even to me. It is either a trap we cannot understand, or mockery at our perceived helplessness. I would advise to be weary of it."

"I see..." Lina let out a breath, she had just learned so many things and yet there were so many more that she still didn't understand. None the less, she did note the use of 'we' in Zelas' speech, which meant that they were all officially on board in this, like a pack of wolves following their leader. "What can we do to prepare? When are you being summoned?"

"Soon," Zelas revealed. "There will be signs when it happens, but I doubt there will be a long warning. I'm sure you'll notice it immediately, though for your safety, you will not be there when it occurs." She looked straight at Xellos who appeared to want to protest to that, but she silenced him into obedience with her piercing silver eyes. "As for preparations, we've done as much as we can. It seems you all fight at your best when the adrenaline of a new adventure is still fresh, but there is no time for the journey to continue. For now, rest, then when I am gone, return here, Celo already has instructions. Xellos, everything will be done as we discussed in the case of my absence and since you will be leaving along with everyone, don't forget to oversee things with Lieutenants Zenki and Neuro one last time before leaving, as we discussed if such an occasion was ever to occur."

It wasn't a contingency plan specifically for Darkstar of course, nor did it really take the involvement of the over-world into consideration. It was a plan of what to do if Beast Master was ever incapacitated or even destroyed. "Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos replied with an uncharacteristic solemn tone.

"Very well then, for the time being rest," Zelas concluded. "I don't want to make a mess around here, as the summoning may damage the surrounding area, so I won't be here in Wolf Pack Island, but you may stay if you so wish it. Fang is available to teleport you to any location you might want to visit to make you feel ready for what lies ahead. I also gave him sufficient funds to keep on hand and pay for your meals and supplies if there is anything you need to buy. That is all." Not even the mention of more free food was able to wipe the grave look out of Lina's expression.

xoxox xox xoxox

Some time later, at a grassy field in the outer continent beyond the peninsula, away from any settlements... She knew he was coming before the shadow of a dragon flying overhead was casted on her. He made no effort to hide his presence as he landed just out of her sight a few feet away. She didn't turn her head from gazing at the sky and the patterns of smoke. There was a flash of gold and soon a new smaller shadow, this one in closer proximity, was casted upon her.

Milgazia stood hovering over the unmoving monster lord. She seemed to have no intentions of getting up even if this was certainly not the time to be lounging about, laying down on the grass. "I went to Wolf Pack Island and Lina got me up to speed in what's going on. She said you mentioned me warning the dragons would have been useless due to the lack of proof. It would be useless now as the energy of many had already been given, though I left and didn't offer my own, they have plenty. If I had known before, I might have been able to do something, to push Ebony into speaking if he knows anything, or even Luna, or whoever that is."

Zelas Metallium chuckled mockingly and blew smoke from her cigarette at Milgazia's face. She didn't like him hovering over her like that. "Should have, could have would have, there are so many such occasions in life."

Milgazia stepped back, repelled by the scent of the smoke. He knew that if he threw out accusations when he was at the dragon council meeting they would kick him out, maybe even label him as a traitor. Luna's energy felt very much like holy energy, but that was only because Vorfeed was Darkstar's prisoner and was being used. "You're about to be kidnapped by a dark lord from another world and all you can think to do is lie there smoking?"

Zelas couldn't resist the urge to roll her eyes. "You make me sound like such a damsel in distress."

Milgazia almost let out a little huff, but he was too polite and diplomatic to do so. Given that Zelas seemed to have no intentions of moving, he sat down on the grass next to where she was laying. "Lina told me about your plans too. I am in favor of defeating Darkstar of course."

"Oh? You want to avenge the kidnapping of this poor damsel, how chivalrous." Zelas sarcastically commented in reply. Her tone was somewhat clipped, indicating that she wasn't really in the mood to talk to anyone, let alone him.

"I want to protect the world." Milgazia knew that the clarification wasn't necessary, but he voiced it anyway.

"Is that all you came here to say?" Zelas asked impatiently. She blew rings of smoke into the air above her and, from the corner of her eyes, she saw Milgazia wrinkle his nose in disgust.

"I thought I should speak to you before you left in case you had something you wanted to add that you didn't tell Lina," he explained.

"I don't, so you can leave," Zelas occupied herself with her smoke rings, pointedly ignoring Milgazia.

He didn't leave though. "I hate smoke."

"I like it," Zelas countered. "It reminds me of flames and destruction and pleasant things."

"That's why I hate it," Milgazia commented.

"I hate nosy dragons who can't take a hint," Zelas added. "I'll spell it out for you," she sat up and blew more smoke from the cigarette, which Milgazia tried to fan away with one hand, covering his mouth and nose with the other. "I want you to leave. I see no reason for you to be here and it might just be best for your health if you're not." She didn't mean the smoke though, sure that was annoying to him, but she was talking about the summoning that was to come. She forbade Xellos from following her and she could imagine him getting on everyone's nerves keeping himself from doing so. No one could be useful to her right now, so she wanted no company.

"Would it change anything if I see it happen?" Milgazia was obviously referring to the summoning, but he tried to address the topic gently. He knew that Zelas was angry and rubbing her inevitable fate in her face would probably get him killed.

"No, but I doubt you'd be able to learn anything useful anyway," Zelas half growled. "That's why I have no monster messengers to witness this events, nothing will come out of it. My plan is already set anyway. I trust Lina told you that too?"

"She did," Milgazia confirmed and he remained there. Zelas smoked the last bit of her cigarette and threw away the stub. Milgazia fought the urge to go stomp it out, it didn't look like anything was going to catch on fire anyway and soon enough, the remainder of the cigarette lost its spark. It was a human product, he silently noted, not an astral visual representation, but an actual physical cigarette. "Why do you smoke anyway? You're astral, you don't need nicotine."

"I enjoy it," Zelas simply replied. She had three options now, injure Milgazia to shoo him away, try to ignore him, which she thought would be futile even if he was quiet, or make conversation to entertain herself and show she wasn't fazed by the situation. She decided she would go for the third option.

"That's an irony." Milgazia commented with neutrality, rather than the small chuckle he thought may not be very appropriate, but fitted the statement so much better.

"That an astral being enjoys smoking?" Zelas inquired, she had a feeling that wasn't exactly what he meant.

"That a monster enjoys anything," he replied with the same neutrality as before.

"Touche," Zelas laughed. "But if we're going to get all purist, we shouldn't even be having this conversation." She finally sat up and looked at the dragon who sat beside her.

"The world is not all black and white, we both know that. Sometimes even enemies can converse and it may prove to be mutually beneficial." Milgazia half stated and half mused aloud.

"When we try to get information out of each other," Zelas agreed. "But there's nothing to do now except pass the time. If we were to wait silently, time would pass just as quickly, the speed of time changing with conversation is only an illusion after all."

"Yes," Milgazia agreed. "But in this case it is in a sense a mutually beneficial illusion."

Zelas retrieved a deck of cards from her dress. "Cards?" She offered the deck to him.

What was it with women stuffing things in their shirts and dresses anyway? He once saw Filia pull a bag of tealeaves from the top of her dress saying something about hiding them from Xellos. Then Amelia, Amelia of all people, commented that Xellos would have tried to steal them anyway if he knew where they were. Okay, so it was an effective hiding place, especially when around proper dragons, but why would a deck of cards be important? "What's on them?" Milgazia looked at the cars suspiciously.

"Ink," Zelas replied as a matter of fact. She graced Milgazia with a 'you're really stupid' look. "In the shape of numbers, spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts and stuff like that."

Milgazia tilted his head and looked at the cards with distrust. "Do you mean to tell me those are just regular playing cards? Are you asking me to play cards to pass the time?"

"Yes, genius," Zelas sarcastically confirmed, slightly more amused than impatient. "What were you expecting?"

Milgazia didn't even know what he had expected. Honestly, it would serve Zelas no purpose to set out a trap for him at that particular moment. He reached for the deck of cards she offered, but a cane hit his hand before he could touch them. Immediately, both Milgazia and Zelas turned to look at the figure standing behind them. "Halt, lad." There stood a very old dragon. His skin was pale and wrinkled, and his hair the purest white. His eyes were a pale gray that was almost silvery and he wore white robes. "Gambling shalt not bring thee satisfaction. Ye shall earn thy living with work."

Both Zelas and Milgazia blinked, frozen in place. "Where did this fossil come from?" Beast Master asked in perplexity. She didn't even sense the old man approaching, but upon trying hard to sense his energy, she notice he was a dragon.

Milgazia also noticed that the man was a dragon, but didn't know who he was. "Excuse me, sir, may I ask who you are?"

The old dragon hit the ground with his cane. "Ye shouldest ask that of thy self!" He chastised.

"Excuse me?" Milgazia certainly didn't want to be disrespectful, but he had to wander if the old man was all there.

"Can we cut ye olde talk?" Zelas requested with an expression of displeasure, "it's like so yesterday."

"Very well, young lady, I will humor you in that much," the old dragon obliged.

"What do you know? The fossil can talk normally after all. Although I'm sure what he was saying before was normal for him when he was young, many, many, many, many years ago." Never mind that she too talked like that during her first few centuries of life. Upon closer examination of his energy with her acute senses, Zelas realized why she didn't feel his presence before. He wasn't really a master at hiding his energy, he was just very weak. "Old geezer, you already have a foot in the grave. Have you come to me to be put out of your misery?"

"It is true that my end is near. I came to see your departure and the beginning of the end," the old dragon explained. "It's ironic and bittersweet to find you about to play cards with a dragon elder. Recreation, that is so very human of you. Nostalgia, that is so very human of me, we are all tainted."

"I think the old fossil lost it." Zelas comment was obviously meant for Milgazia, but she purposely spoke it loud enough for the old dragon to hear.

"We have all lost and we have all gained, young ones." The old dragon walked around the other two so that they wouldn't have to turn their heads around to see him and sat down in front of them instead. His whole form screamed fragility, as if he would turn to dust at any given moment. At the same time, there was an aura of pure wisdom around him and peaceful acceptance after a long life. He set his wooden cane on the ground beside him and spoke once more. "Do you remember, young lady, how things were when Ceifeed and Shabranigdu fought?"

Zelas was taken by surprise, not because of the question itself, though it was quite unusual, but because the old dragon spoke with a knowing tone as if he had been there. "Just how old are you anyway? Where do you get off calling me young lady?"

The old dragon chuckled, "I assure you lass, I am older than you."

"Perhaps not in years, but in appearance," Zelas countered. No, he couldn't be older than her in years; she was a monster lord after all. "I could kill you, but seeing as you are semi-amusing and you're so very close to your natural death anyway, I'll let you live for now." Zelas decided while Milgazia watched on with quiet curiosity. "About your question, what were you getting at?"

The old dragon took a deep breath and braced himself for a long story. "This is a tale about the conflict set in motion by the Mother of All Things, the Lord of Nightmares. She who wishes for us to face our worse dreams, because it is only then that we can grow. Ah, did you hear me? I am saying we, but that was not how it was in the beginning, because neither monsters nor dragons were meant to be what they have become. This only further proves their strong influence over everything, even those who were made to influence them instead became like them."

Tired of the silence he had been keeping, Milgazia finally spoke. "Who are they?"

The old dragon smiled with a mix of fondness and irony. "Why, they are the humans, of course."

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 035: Challenge! Critical Conditions

The humans, the power in between light and darkness, the power from the Darkstar prophecy. Suddenly, the old dragon's ramblings didn't seem so random after all. Both Milgazia and Zelas listened quietly. "In old human folklore both dragons and monsters were rare and few. This isn't a simple matter of not mentioning minor characters in ancient verbal records, but rather, they weren't there. Do you remember, young lady? Back then it was just Ceifeed, Shabranigdu and those whom they created to continue their battle and seek revenge should one of them fall. The dragon lords and the monster lords were the only ones back then. There were no other dragons and no other monsters. Do you know what happened to create more?"

"Numbers," Zelas replied, thinking back on it. "We realized that numbers were convenient and..." She paused and looked deeper into her memories. "Actually, the dragons came in more numbers first. The new dragons were of much lesser power than the dragon lords, but they were inconveniences. We monster lords decided that we needed to match them with numbers as well if we were to win. We weren't certain how to do it, so we experimented and in the end managed to create new life by breaking off portions of ourselves. Those were very small portions, but they were enough to fight off the lesser dragons."

"Yes," the old dragon nodded. Then he looked at Milgazia. "Young man, do you know where those dragons came from, that fought beside the dragon lords?"

"I... don't..." Milgazia admitted. Who knew about the very beginning of life anyway?

"Humans have short life spans; they are destroyed and recreated constantly through their rapid generations. They have hasty ambitions, the ability to change, to progress and a lively determination that seems far too powerful to be contained in so little time. Humans were many and they were innovative. The dragons observed them and became jealous of them. They too had physical forms as the humans did, so why would they not have offspring as well?"

Milgazia sat there with a frozen expression. His face was a mixture of surprise and fading doubt. It made sense, it all made sense. He had heard theories about it before, though not exactly like that, not so direct. "Then us dragons are descendants of the dragon lords?"

"Yes, but as you became many, the dragon lords feared you would be as unruly as the wild humans. Resourceful and adaptable as they were, the humans were not so civilized back then as they are now," the old dragon explained. "Hence why certain rules were put into place and strictly enforced to prevent too many dragons from spreading all over the world. The dragon lords also noticed that the new dragons were in some ways like humans, perhaps more so as high humans."

"High humans?" Milgazia questioned, too entranced in the story to care that he was interrupting his senior. "You mean elves?"

"Yes, that is what they are called now. Their kind has become purer and achieved a greater lifespan by mating only among themselves, though they were only particularly talented humans in the beginning. They are a race, rather than a species," the old dragon explained. "The humans had companions of other species though, the ones known now as beastmen, trolls and the like. However, even with their claws and fangs to defend themselves, their fur and tough skin to protect them from the elements and their advantageous strength and agility, the more fragile human race with their wit and determination bested them in the race of evolution. Humans with their quest of superiority, perhaps to make up for the physical advantages that the Mother of All Things didn't give them, made sure to establish themselves as the dominant race of this world. They are numerous and they are incredibly resourceful and volatile."

"So the underdogs of physical creatures came out on top," Zelas chuckled. "I do hope this story is actually going somewhere more interesting than that."

"Patience, young lady, I'm getting there," the old dragon continued. "The monsters attacked from the astral side and though they had some limitations, the dragons could sense them and attack them back. The monsters didn't need to leave the astral side and it would be a waste of power to do so. Why then did they become so determined to do so?"

"So the history lesson continues," Zelas sounded rather bored. "We thought that we could find a weakness in the dragon race by experimenting in the physical plane of existence."

"That was only an excuse," the old dragon boldly declared.

"What?" Zelas glared.

The old dragon remained unfazed. "Astral attacks were effective enough, fighting the very soul. Mere observation and perhaps possession would have been enough to figure out how to pray on physical weaknesses. Yet the monsters wanted their own physical forms because the dragons had them, and the humans had them, and all other creatures had them, so why shouldn't they?"

"Are you saying we were envious?" Zelas challenged.

"Indeed," the old dragon dared to confirm. "Those who won the race of evolution were the humans. To keep them from destroying themselves, they were given guides, the dragons. To push them to overcome negativity and to weed out the weak, they were given challengers, the monsters. They would fight those astral evils as they would fight the evils within themselves and they would be protected by the dragons, cared for in their fragile forms. If you consider those purposes, it makes sense for the dragons to need physical forms and for the monsters to be astral. The dragons helped preserve the humans and the monsters challenged their spirits."

"We were enemies as we are and always will be." Zelas voiced, though the impatience was gone from her tone.

"Your goals seemed opposite, but it was all the same thing, to encourage the evolution of humans, see how far they can go and keep the cycle of motion that is life." The old dragon remarked. "To keep things in order means to encourage living creatures to leave their mark and preserve their identity, to reach their goals and stay focused. To return the world to chaos means to place living creatures on the path to rapid evolution, to destroy for the sake of creating. To destroy what is not needed so that what is best can flourish against all odds, if it has what it takes. When it all comes to a stop, the Lord of Nightmares shall start the cycle over as she has no interest in stagnation."

The wise old dragon continued. "Yet your missions were all but forgotten, corrupted and bent to convenience because those whom you were to influence have influenced you into becoming like them. You emulate them in every aspect, believe it or not. You want, you desire, you want to leave your mark rather than remain in the shadows. You want to dominate, to conquer, that is their instinct. For them it is necessary to preserve their fragile forms. For you," he referred to dragons and monsters as a whole, "it has resulted in something very interesting."

Zelas was frowning while Milgazia remained lost in thought. The water clan elder knew he couldn't share what the elderly dragon had said with many other dragons. Few would understand and most would take it the wrong way. Perhaps it was the same way for the monsters; most wouldn't like this story either. Yet he did find the discussion fascinating and it showed on his face.

"At least someone is amused," Zelas glared at Milgazia. Then she turned her piercing eyes towards the old dragon who, to no surprise to her by now, remained unaffected. "I suppose I can credit you a little, though I won't say I agree with it all. Yet regardless of how my personal desires originated, they exist and I will pursue my goals. An identity is a monster's most precious thing. I suppose it is that way for a human too and perhaps we copied our need to be acknowledged from them, but that doesn't matter now, we've already come too far. Maybe we did learn to evolve by observing humans and maybe that wasn't how it was set up to be, but it happened and that's that."

"I am not saying that it is wrong," the old dragon corrected with a smile. "All the opposite, I'm sure the Mother of All Things is both amused and intrigued. I'm certain that she very much enjoys watching your endeavors. Well, that is all that I wanted to tell you."

"You're an odd character," Zelas voiced.

"A character, eh?" The old dragon chuckled. "You are correct, that is exactly what I am, as you see me at present at least." Neither Zelas nor Milgazia quite understood what that meant. Before they could ask about the odd philosophical hint in the statement, the old dragon spoke again. "Go on and play your game of cards now. This old character won't interrupt you anymore." He stood slowly and with difficulty, then picked up his cane from the ground. "What was it that you were going to play? Strip poker?"

"N-no," Milgazia stuttered, his eyes suddenly wide. He composed himself quickly though. Judging by Zelas' silence she wasn't expecting such a comment from the elderly dragon either.

Zelas finally reacted and joked. "Only because you know I would beat you."

"Aren't your clothes part of your astral form?" Milgazia pointed out as a matter of fact. "You can create as many garments as you wish; you would never lose like that."

Zelas chuckled, amused to be given the opportunity to annoy Milgazia by such an unlikely source. "Are you disappointed?"

"Of course not," Milgazia frowned.

"Well, don't you go taking your clothes off either. Not until it's time to jump into my oven and become dragon cuisine at least." Zelas grinned maliciously, but also with amusement. Seeing Milgazia's frown deepen, she added. "What? Is it modesty? I'm the world's greatest chef, I can cook without looking. Besides, you'd have to be in dragon form anyway."

"I hate your dragon cuisine jokes," Milgazia stated the obvious.

"I know," Zelas grinned some more. "That's why I tell them to you." Her expression was quite similar to Xellos' at that moment, though it soon changed to alertness as the sky suddenly turned darker and darker until it was pitch black. The clouds spiraled overhead and thunder and lightning flooded the area. "It's happening!" This was it. It was her time to go into survival mode against a power that she could only hope to escape at present, so that she would later become strong enough to defeat it.

"Sir, you must get out of here!" Milgazia urged.

"Nonsense, my boy. Didn't you hear me before? This character is near death and his final wish is to witness this event." The old dragon reminded.

Milgazia considered arguing, but the elderly dragon had a point. He would die naturally soon anyway so he didn't want to force him to miss out on his last request. "Alright, just stay behind me, I'll protect you. We better step away from her though."

"Very well," the old dragon followed Milgazia as they put some distance between themselves and Zelas.

The monster lord stood proud and unafraid. If she had a heart it would be pounding with something akin to distaste for the unknown and an overload of courageous adrenaline. Lack of physical aspects aside, she got the same jolt of bravery anyway. "So you want my power, Darkstar?" She yelled into the skies as she took on her true form of a winged wolf. "I'll give you my power in more ways than you can handle!"

A beam of light came down as the clouds parted. It seemed to go on beyond the atmosphere, beyond the world itself. The summoning device was in the over-world after all. Zelas opposed no resistance, as she knew it would be futile. The light engulfed her form and pulled her up as if guiding her through a dimensional tunnel. She imagined that in their chosen locations, Dolphin and Dynast were going through the same process.

Finally, the light faded, leaving destruction behind and Zelas was no where to be found. The few trees that occupied the field were practically without leaves due to the strong wind, with most of their branches broken. The land was churned, the grass gone to leave behind burnt earth. "Are you alright, sir?" Milgazia let down the magic shield he had put up for their protection and looked at the old dragon. Even with the shield he felt a strong lashing of energy that felt like being subjected to a painful astral attack.

His energy was so very fragile; he really was an inch away from the end of his life, yet the old dragon remained unaffected by the aftershock that caused Milgazia such pain. "I'm alright, but I seemed to have dropped something."

Milgazia looked around and spotted the dragon's cane not too far away. "Just a moment, I'll go get it." He walked the few steps towards the cane laying on the ground on the edge of the burnt circle. There was a card near it with a picture of a wolf in the back. Zelas dropped her cards when she was summoned and most of them seemed to have been blown away. This one that was left behind was the queen of spades. He didn't think the card was of any importance, but he kept it anyway, just in case. Then he bent over and reached to pick up the wooden cane. Yet when the tips of his fingers brushed it, the cane became a shovel. Milgazia stared at it in disbelief and once again reached for it. The item seemed stable enough in its new form. He looked at the card again, but didn't think that had anything to do with the strange transmutation. He held the shovel in his hand, looking at it curiously. Then he turned around to face the old dragon, but he wasn't there.

There was no trace of the old dragon, his weak energy having disappeared completely. As for the person who stood where he once was, it was a woman of human appearance with long blond hair, eyes hidden beneath her bangs and red painted lips curled into a knowing grin. Milgazia couldn't sense her energy at all, as if she was there but she wasn't. She extended her hand to him and looked at the shovel. Without a word, he gave her the tool and when her hand touched one end of the handle, while he still held the other, he felt a jolt of immeasurable power.

Milgazia quickly pulled back his hand and stared at the being before him. Her power was tremendous, but she was hiding it very well. She smiled and disappeared without a trace, not even leaving bits of energy clinging to the atmosphere; it was a completely clean exit. Not just anyone could be capable of that. 'The Lord of Nightmares...' Milgazia silently concluded. It further confirmed that this was something big; she was like a sign of the end of the world. He knew the world was in danger, but this encounter put it into a new perspective. The world was in very serious danger of ending again, not just their world, but also the over-world Darkstar had to be stopped.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the same time of the summoning, Xellos witnessed it from Wolf Pack Island. Amelia and Zelgadis had been teleported to Seyruun by Fang. In the mean time, Lina and Gourry had Fang take them restaurant hopping all over the world, insisting that it was a very much needed preparation for the coming battle. Xellos had remained at Wolf Pack Island and Filia with him. He visibly tensed as the skies turned darker. Though it was far away, he was looking in the direction where he knew Beast Master was, his senses focused on her until she was gone and the onslaught of energy, that could be painfully felt even from afar, ceased.

He stood there at the shore of Wolf Pack Island for several more minutes as the skies cleared in what most who were uninformed would think of as nothing but a crazy mood swing of the weather. Except for the pain similar to an astral attack, every living creature in the world felt it, no exceptions. "She's gone..." Xellos voiced with more bitterness than Filia had ever heard him use before, though he was obviously trying to suppress it.

Filia wasn't fond of Beast Master, but she was still Xellos' mother in a sense and she knew how much he admired her and, she dared think, he loved her like a son. "Xellos..." She wrapped her arms around him, but Xellos only stiffened, not returning the embrace.

He pushed Filia back by the shoulders and looked into her eyes, opening his. "I have a lot to do, Filia. Go home and be with Val, I don't have time for you."

Filia didn't like how she was pushed away when she was trying to be supportive, but she did miss Val and she knew that having a golden dragon running around after him wouldn't make Xellos' job any easier. "I want to be with you, but I-"

"Filia, don't be difficult," Xellos voiced sternly and seriously, his eyes still open and intense.

She brought up a finger to his lips to silence him. "I want to be with you, but I understand there are things you need to do which only you can do, and having a dragon along might be inconvenient. I'll leave the monster business to you, if that will make it," easier? No, nothing could make this easier. "Faster," she finished. "Just know that if there's anything at all I can do, I'm willing to try my best."

Xellos nodded silently, closed his eyes regaining his usual mask, and teleported them to Seyruun. He dropped off Filia at the living area of her shop on the second floor of the bakery where the foxes lived, and disappeared again, back to Wolf Pack Island to tend to his duties as Beast Master's general priest.

xoxox xox xoxox

After Xellos was gone, Filia took a moment to compose herself and ventured out of the living area and into the Maces and Vases shop area. Strangely, it was closed. She went down stairs and found that the bakery was closed as well. She looked all over the building, but couldn't find Val, Gravos, Jillas, Elena or Palou anywhere. Perhaps they had all gone to the castle where she would guess Amelia and Zelgadis still were.

Filia was heading out of the structure, but had a bad feeling suddenly and ran back in. She scrambled up the stairs not understanding why her premonition was making her heart pound. She hurried to Solex's room, but he wasn't there. She gasped and could feel herself panicking. The castle, Solex had to be at the castle, everyone had to be there. They must have taken him along, yes, they were keeping him safe, they had to be.

Filia dashed out of the shop and down the street. The citizens of Seyruun were still shocked from the crazy weather and the wave of pain that hit them all simultaneously. The princess had warned them that something dangerous was about to happen, but she didn't mention the specifics, as not even she knew them. Filia paid no attention to the voices of the crowds as they went out of their homes to discuss the happenings with their neighbors and expressed how much they hoped this was only a one time occurrence.

She made it to the Seyruun castle in record breaking time and ran past the guards. They knew her, so they didn't try to stop her. She tried to sense someone's energy, anyone she knew and allowed her senses to guide her past flights of stairs deeper into the castle. There were more guards, but they recognized Filia, they were expecting her and didn't get in her way. Finally, she reached a chamber decked out with protective magic and the scene she saw almost made her heart stop.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 036: Frustration! The Bitter Taste of Defeat

Filia stood at the door to a chamber in the center of the Seyruun castle, a few stories underground. There were protective charms and runes all over the room on the walls and floor. At the center of it all, there was Amelia sobbing over something that was placed upon a pillow with Zelgadis trying to console her. Phil attempted to encourage her too, but sensitive as he was, he could hardly console himself. Naga was hugging Gravos, trying to soothe him. Normally, the close contact would make his face turn red, but he was too distraught to notice at the moment. The three fox beastpeople, Jillas, Elena and Palou were also huddled up together trying to find strength in each other with Val in the middle of their little group. No one seemed to notice Filia until she spoke. "What happened?"

The whole room froze and quieted with only barely audible sounds of sorrow. Philionel tried to speak, but couldn't find his voice. Instead, Amelia explained between sobs, "I failed, I said I would never let something like this happen," not again, "but I failed. I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault, you tried the hardest with your white magic, you're the best healer here, but I... I could hardly assist," Zelgadis gloomily added.

"At least you had magic to give, I just stood there unable to protect this little one at all," Phil cried.

"Oh daddy, don't cry, you were with us in spirit," Amelia tried to console her father. "I was at the center of the protection spell, I should have... should have..." her voice gave into silence.

Without a word, Filia walked across the chamber towards the cracked egg that was upon the pillow. "Solex... why?"

Naga stepped forward with tears in her eyes; she understood surprisingly well what had happened. Her knowledge of magic was more than most would think of at a glance. She had been told about the happenings at Wolf Pack Island and what Zelas explained. "Chaotic energy was at the center of Solex' formation. What was used in the summoning of Beast Master was chaotic energy. In theory that is also what lies between the worlds. The onslaught we felt was because of it, Solex was especially vulnerable to it."

"Why didn't I think of that?" Filia gasped, instantly feeling guilty. She picked up the lifeless egg that was like cracked glass. "I've waited so long to have you back, Solex, and now... Now you're gone. I should have been here; with holy magic I would have been able to do something!"

"No, you wouldn't have," Naga stepped forward with the terrible news. She slowly parted from the sniffling Gravos and walked over to Filia who had fallen to her knees with the egg in her hands. The eldest Seyruun princess knelt beside the golden dragon and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Fang told us that which Beast Master told him. If there was an onslaught of magic, as there was, every living creature would feel it and nothing would stop it. It was only a theory, but just as chaotic energy revived the planet last year, this time it was used in a way that the side effect was tragic. Zelas didn't want to lose Solex either, he was her minion's minion after all and a being who combined the benefits of being a monster and a dragon. If there was anything that could have been done, she would have done it. Monster lord or not, it would have been in her best interest. We set this place up anyway, we tried, Amelia was especially hopeful, but no one could stop this. Not us, not you, not anyone."

Filia remained motionless with tears streaming down her face. "Why didn't she tell me?" She reproached Beast Master in a silent whisper. "Why didn't any of you tell me? Why didn't you go get me?"

"Xellos must not know yet," Naga informed with sorrow. "Fang passed on Zelas' message to us. Xellos needs to concentrate on his duties and keep things flowing as smoothly as possible. He can't deal with the loss of his," minion, Zelas had called him, though Naga decided to say "child. He can't deal with the sorrow of his wife. I'm sorry, Epona." Naga gently hugged Filia, calling her by her old nickname that Naga had given her over a year ago at Gourry's clueless suggestion. "I was the one who said we should fulfill the request. I see now that regardless of the result you would have wanted to try too. I understand if you're angry at me."

A moment of still and tense silence passed and finally, Filia shook her head. "I'm not angry at you and I believe what you said, this truly was inevitable. It's just so sad and frustrating and hard to believe. I'll tell Xellos, but you're right, I can't bother him and be troublesome to him now, he has enough to deal with. It must be hard to keep everything in order with Beast Master gone." Filia slowly stood. "I'll be going now..."

"Where, boss?" Jillas at last found the strength to speak.

"Sai..." Filia stopped and didn't finish voicing the name.

Amelia understood, "were you going to say Sairaag?" Filia gently nodded. "It's alright, you can say it. Before you got here, Zelgadis and I explained everything." It was no wonder poor Phil was extra sensitive really. "Let's let them rest together then."

Filia nodded, tears still flowing from her eyes. She went over to Val and hugged him. "Val, honey, I'm so sorry it had to be this way. There wasn't anything anyone could do." Val couldn't say anything and just hugged Filia. She made a silent promise to protect him; she wouldn't let Darkstar or anyone steal anyone else from her.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, in the over-world. The trip was rough and painful, but Zelas knew that the fight was just starting. She tried to sense her surroundings and thought she felt something. She couldn't sense things normally, but somehow, knowledge of her surroundings did reach her. She tried to feel her own astral body and found her shape to be odd and solid. Had the trip turned her into a sort of physical being? She tried moving, but the motions were stiff and lacking in precision, as she was not used to that form. 'What am I?' She thought.

Zelas saw a large vessel with four smaller vessels around it. The vessels were strange, floating in a vast blackness with many points of light that she realized were stars. This was like the outer atmosphere of the planet from her world. Was this how all of the over-world was? Wasn't there a planet were living creatures inhabited? She couldn't see one near by. The largest vessel was pulling her in and somehow she knew it was Darkstar, even if it looked nothing like how Xellos described him from the events of the prophecy. She willed herself to move away from it and felt the effort of the movement like fire emanating from her body to propel her. Then she realized she was a vessel too.

The possibility of having a physical body in the outer-world did cross her mind, but she certainly wasn't expecting to be some kind of ship that looked more like a very advanced machine than a biological creature. She tried to surround herself in a magical shield, but got no response. She couldn't use magic at all, this was bad. She saw two other vessels, one had various shades of blue and the other was light and dark gray, that were also trying to resist and recognized them as Dolphin and Dynast. "Dolphin! Dynast!" She called out to them and heard her own voice echoing within herself, as if being projected inside her body instead of outside. "Dolphin! Dynast!" She tried to reach out to them with her mind and felt a sort of telepathic connection initiate. It was a transmission, though she didn't know it by that name.

"Zelas! What in the world is going on? What are we?" Dolphin yelled exasperated and impatient, panicked.

Zelas could see the image of Dolphin in her mind somehow. "How should I know, I just got here too. Shut up and retreat!"

"How is this thing holding us? I feel a pull but it's different than magic!" Dynast joined in. "What happened to our power? There has to be some way we can fight!"

Dynast's image also appeared in Zelas' mind and she assumed they could see her in the same way. Strangely, the image was of their human-like appearance, a sort of mental projection perhaps? "Never mind fighting, retreat for now!"

"Ha ha ha!" An imposing male voice echoed through the three monster lords' minds and the image of a man dressed in a tight black bodysuit, with long blond hair and cruel blue eyes appeared in their systems. "You have no idea what you're doing," Darkstar mocked. "You can't even communicate with each other without broadcasting your messages in this whole area. You don't even comprehend the forms you've taken!"

"Comprehend this!" Dynast shouted angrily and willed himself to attack. Even if he didn't understand what he was, he had to have some power to unleash; it couldn't have all disappeared on the way there. Countless missiles and lasers suddenly emerged from the vessel of shades of gray. He was doing it, he was attacking. Satisfied with that, he continued willing the same thing to happen, but soon the missiles ceased and a while later the lasers stopped as well. The four dark vessels that surrounded Darkstar had shielded him as well as prevented significant damage on themselves. Dynast was exhausted, he tried to shoot more of those things that looked like projectiles from those bazooka contraptions from the outer continent, but none came out of his form. The four enemy ships opened fire, damaging Dynast's defenseless vessel greatly.

"You'll be the first to be absorbed, give me your power!" The tractor beam was initiated again as Dynast was pulled in and the transmission link he had with Zelas and Dolphin was lost.

"Zelas, what do we do? Will our power be exhausted so easily too?" Dolphin called out to Zelas.

"I don't know," Zelas' tone was clipped and enraged. She had never felt so helpless before and it angered her terribly. This couldn't be her end, it just couldn't be.

"I won't allow this!" Another voice echoed as a white ship arrived. The ship was different from Darkstar and his allied vessels and also different from the monster lord vessels.

"Canal!" The voice of Darkstar snarled angrily. "You do not have the power to defeat me, I hold the true consciousness of that ship as my prisoner, Vorfeed is mine!"

"The Swordbreaker is Kain's ship and I am its main operating system!" Canal argued. She was a young woman with long mint green hair in thick twin braids that went down to her knees and purple eyes. She wore a pink maid-like dress with a frilly white apron and a short purple tie. "I will rescue Vorfeed! I may not have the power to defeat you, but while you were busy summoning those ships from the other world; you didn't even notice the digital waves forming around you. Activate shield program!"

Zelas felt something invisible entering her ship. It was an AI protection program installing itself in her systems, though she didn't understand what that meant at the time. She only felt that something was keeping her safe and thought of it as being similar to a defensive spell.

"What have you done?" Darkstar's voice echoed in anger.

"That program I just installed on the new lost ships protects their main AI systems. You may be able to melt their metal into yours, but their minds will be preserved and they will fight back. You won't be able to absorb their power like that!" Canal victoriously revealed.

"You'll pay for your hindrance, Canal!" Darkstar growled. "Galveira, Bodigar, Nezard, Ragudo Mezegis, concentrate your attacks on the Swordbreaker!"

'Those are the names of the weapons of light!' Zelas recalled. Yet Darkstar was referring to his allied vessels. Could it be that the weapons of light took on such a form in this world? Gourry was still in possession of Gorun Nova and if it was in truth one of Darkstars allied vessels, that meant that the second Lina's group crossed to the over-world, they would have an ambush waiting to happen. Zelas couldn't feel any magic at all, if magic didn't work in this strange world, how would Lina and the others defend themselves against a vessel similar to these? Was the endless starry blackness that seemed to compose this world even inhabitable to them, or would they take on entirely new forms that they too would have a hard time learning how to control?

Galveira, Bodigar, Nezard and Ragudo Mezegis focused their attacks on Swordbreaker. The white ship was surrounded by a defensive shield and seemingly preparing to fight back, but looked as if time would be needed to switch from defense to attack and there would be an opening for the enemy ships then. The Swordbreaker glided gracefully through the endless black space, narrowly dodging the attacks of the other ships, but sustaining some damage due to being so outnumbered.

"Dolphin, Dynast, can you still hear me?" Zelas called out.

"I can!" Dolphin replied; her voice was laced with panic. "It looks like Dynast has been knocked out though."

"Focus, try to keep this telepathic channel or whatever it is between us," Zelas urged.

The communication link turned private between Dolphin and Zelas, but Darkstar didn't care to try to pry into it. When Dynast unleashed his power with so little control, it hadn't accomplished anything anyway and Darkstar knew that those ships from the other world had no human captains within, no power sources of psy-energy. There wasn't much they could do and he wasn't concerned, he just made sure to hold on to them so they wouldn't be able to fly away.

"Okay, so what's the plan?" Dolphin calmed down a little and focused. If Zelas was insisting on being secretive, then that meant she had a plan of attack.

"That white ship, the one Darkstar called Swordbreaker, let's try to give it a hand with the fight," Zelas decided.

"What?" Dolphin shouted, stunned. "Isn't that ship allied to Vorfeed?"

"It seems so, but right now what matters is that it's Darkstar's enemy and so are we," Zelas argued.

"But it's not like it'll help us!" Dolphin countered. "We might as well be asking Ceifeed for assistance right now. Even if that Swordbreaker ship doesn't want Darkstar to absorb our power, wouldn't the best way to ensure that be to destroy us?"

"Not if we are needed as allies. We can't think about that now, focus on the present. We'll deal with Vorfeed's allies later," Zelas insisted. "Now let's do this. Try to shoot weapons like Dynast did, but focus on aiming for those dark ships attacking the white one and try not to hit the white one while you're at it."

"Easier said than done!" Dolphin huffed. "Here goes... come out... power!" A multitude of torpedo-like missiles were shot from Dolphin along with lasers.

"Pace yourself, Dolphin!" Zelas tried to shoot her own vessel's weaponry, but not all at once, carefully taking aim instead.

"Do not interfere!" Darkstar's booming voice echoed and he started to pull them back towards him to disable their weapons system. Even if he couldn't overtake and erase their AI until he managed to crack Canal's protection program, he could at least leave them without a means to attack.

"We made him mad!" Dolphin changed tactics and started directing all her efforts on fighting Darkstar, in a futile struggle to escape the pull of his tractor beam.

"Don't aim at Darkstar, it's useless!" Zelas called out in alarm. "We have to make an opening for the Swordbreaker. I don't like it either, but it's our only way out of this!"

"What good is the Swordbreaker coming out of this if we're killed?" Dolphin panicked. "Even if it wants to help us, it can't!" In one last effort she dispatched all her missiles and used up the energy of her laser weaponry on Darkstar to no avail, as his shield protected him from significant damage even at close range.

"Dolphin!" Zelas was really frustrated now. The communication channel with Dolphin was lost; she too had been knocked out. 'It's just me now...' Zelas wouldn't waste her weapons on Darkstar, though it filled her with anger to think she was helping an ally of Vorfeed. She encouraged herself in thinking that in the worse case scenario, at least she would be avenged. Xellos was coming with Lina and the others. They had a knack for finding what they needed. Surely they would one way or another run into that white ship and perhaps their alliance would make the difference in defeating Darkstar. 'I can't believe I'm thinking like that,' Zelas mentally scolded herself. 'I will be there fighting Darkstar in the final fight, I will not fall!' She let out what felt like a battle cry, the roar of the beast, and electro-magnetic waves invaded the space around her. She wasn't sure what she did, but it worked somehow.

"It's a scrambler!" Canal alerted, though she wasn't transmitting it, so only her crew inside the Swordbreaker, Kain and Millie, heard her.

"Wasn't that violet and gold ship trying to help us before?" Millie yelled, through the shaking of the ship. Millie had shoulder length blond hair and big deep blue eyes. She wore pink pants and a red jacket over a white shirt.

"I think that one is still trying to help us but doesn't have full control. Look, it's attacking the enemy!" Canal noticed.

Seeing as the other ships slowed down for some reason, Zelas took it as an opportunity to attack. She tried to aim for the dark ships and fired without hitting the Swordbreaker.

"Alright, we've recovered from the scrambler beam!" Canal announced to her crew. "Kain, are you ready? We need to fire the psy-cannon at full power right at Darkstar. It should be enough to loosen his grip on that ship. We won't be able to free the others, but we can take that ship with us and regroup!"

"I'm ready!" Kain announced with valiant determination. The captain of the Swordbreaker was a young man with flaming red hair and bright blue eyes, who had a liking for a style of clothes that would best fit a different world that he had never been to. His clothing was white, with gray boots, brown belts and a black cape. Kain focused all his energy of courage, powering the Swordbreaker's main psy-cannon. "Fire!"

A beam of bright white light emerged from the Swordbreaker and flew past the four dark ships and towards Darkstar, hitting the target and loosening his grip on Zelas. 'Now's my chance!' Zelas willed herself to move away from Darkstar, trying to open a path for herself beyond the four dark ships. They were damaged, but so was she. Her missiles stopped responding and soon so did her lasers. She was out of energy and ammunition to attack, but she could still move.

"Kain, we need to retreat! We don't have the power to detach the other two ships of the next world from Darkstar," Canal reminded.

"Right, we'll regroup, repair, restock on weapons and come back later." Kain looked at the violet and gold ship in the main monitor. "We'll be back with a new ally once we get that ship fixed."

"Is it okay to trust it though? Doesn't it seem kind of similar to a dark lost ship?" Millie warned.

"It is," Canal confirmed. "I believe it is the equivalent of a dark lost ship from the other world, but it's Darkstar's enemy too. We'll have to be careful, of course."

"Right, we'll discuss this in detail once we're out of here and at a safe distance," Kain concluded. "Make jump calculations."

"Already done!" Canal announced. "I don't think that ship can follow us, even if I send in the jump coordinates, it doesn't have a lot of control yet. It existed in a different form in it's own world, so we'll have to try something else."

"Whatever we do, it has to be fast!" Millie urged. "It looks like the dark ships are recovering their formation!"

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 037: Explanations! Mysteries Of The Lost Universe

Canal moved the Swordbreaker closer to Zelas' vessel. "Hey! Sorry for the lack of explanations," she sent out a transmission. "But we need to retreat in a hurry right now, so let's save the official introductions for later. Stay still and let me attach some cables to you. Power down your engines and allow me to pull you out of here."

Zelas didn't fully understand the thing about engines, but she opposed no resistance to the cables being attached to her vessel. She interpreted the part about powering down engines as meaning to relax and not resist the pull, so she did so. The next thing she knew, she was moving very fast, it was like traveling top speed through the astral side, but at the same time different. When it ended, she felt that she was in an entirely different location far away and the enemy was no where to be seen in the endless calm starry blackness. She was saved... by an ally of Vorfeed...

She was alive and had managed a retreat, albeit with more difficulties than planned. Yet somehow, after that fiasco of a battle, that could only be described more so as a struggle than a fight, all of this felt like defeat. Even so, Zelas held onto the hope that she did have some decent amount of power in her, the power that Darkstar wanted to himself. If he was that strong, he wouldn't need to go through all that trouble to increase his power, he wouldn't need to worry about opposition. She had to be powerful, even if she changed shape. The great power she commanded in her world couldn't have disappeared. It still had to exist in a different form; she just had to learn how to use it.

"Alright, we're safe now," Canal transmitted. "If it's okay, we'll board you for a closer examination."

'Board?' Zelas thought, she assumed they meant enter the vessel. "Fine..."

Zelas remained still as the Swordbreaker docked her vessel and Canal, followed by Kain and Millie headed towards the door. Canal reached for the violet surface adorned with golden details that gave the ship a regal look. "Can you open this for us?"

A moment passed and Zelas focused on the area, until she opened a small door, allowing the three to enter. Canal was in truth contained in the Swordbreaker's systems, but she could project a solid hologram of herself, which could interact with the physical world. Kain looked around the ship and observed the box that was on the captain's chair. "There's no one here, but I wonder what's in that box." It was wrapped with a sort of handkerchief with little pictures of wolves.

"Kain, don't touch anything!" Millie cautioned.

Canal waited for the AI of the system to appear, but she didn't seem to be showing up. She, because her voice had sounded female, but by the time a transmission was exchanged between them, Zelas' vessel was damaged and set to voice only, so they weren't sure what kind of image to expect. The image could be anything that the AI determined to be representative of herself. "Um... we're here. Let me introduce everyone officially. I'm Canal Vorfeed, the main computer of the ship Swordbreaker. This is Swordbreaker's captain, Kain Blueriver and first officer Millennium Nocturne, aka Millie."

"You are that ship?" Zelas' voice replied, "but you have a form beyond the vessel." She wondered if she could do that.

"Yes, you may also be equipped with the same solid hologram technology I have. Just a moment..." Canal approached the main control panel and sunk into it like a ghost. "Okay now, focus. You are the vessel but you can have another form and interact with the physical world as long as you are in range. There we go..." Canal returned from beyond the control panel, once again assuming a solid appearance.

Following her there was a woman with tan skin and long platinum hair with a silvery shine to it. Her eyes were silver with piercing long pupils and her ears were long and pointy. She wore a white greek-style dress with slits on the sides up to her thighs and golden jewelry, bracelets, hoop earrings and ankles above bare feet. Her finger nails and toenails were slightly pointy, with her finger nails being long, all painted silver with swirls of glittery gold. "I am Beast Master Zelas Metallium," she introduced herself. She thought that the ship itself should also have a name and, after a moment of thought decided to call it, "Great Beast, that is the name of my ship."

"So this is what a lost ship from another world looks like," Millie observed her with curiosity.

"She does have an exotic style to her," Kain admitted. "It's too bad she doesn't have a cape though."

Millie rolled her eyes, "you're the only one who's obsessed with capes!"

"Capes are rather common in my world," Zelas commented. This was an odd bunch she had run into. "Speaking of which, this world is quite different." She maintained a regal and composed attitude, showing no weakness even if her vessel was in shambles and Swordbreaker could easily kill her if Canal so decided it.

"From what Vorfeed had told me, it is," Canal agreed. She noticed that Zelas' interest increased at the mention of the name and the fact that she had been told about the other world. "I suppose explanations are in order. We might as well start the story from the very beginning, the origin of Darkstar. A long time ago there were two groups of people that fought each other for a long time. One of them created Darkstar, a program capable of preying on people's fear via their brain waves. That program was contained in the ship Dugradigdu."

Zelas listened to the explanation, taking in every detail. The whole situation made her feel oddly identified with Gourry and his eternal confusion. She deduced, rather than ask, that a program was perhaps similar to an astral being, thus making the relation between Darkstar and the vessel called Dugradigdu similar to Canal and Swordbreaker and to herself with her vessel. There was one thing however that she simply had to ask about. "What do you mean by two groups of people?"

"Two opposing halves of a civilization," Canal clarified, though the answer was so simple she had to conclude that she didn't understand the real question. "Their identities were lost in time."

That only made the situation more confusing for Zelas. "You're saying that the lord of darkness of this world was created by its own living creatures, rather than being there since the formation of the world itself?"

"The lord of darkness, as you called him, was in a sense here, in the shape of fear and negative emotions. Perhaps he was destined to be personified as Darkstar," Canal explained.

"I see," so the story of the over-world, albeit similar in some ways to the story of Zelas' own world, had some vital differences. Yet it all went down to the living creatures of the world being the main event in many ways. "That comes as a surprise... Do go on."

Canal was also curious to hear more about Zelas' world. "The ship Dugradigdu was occupied with the physical systems that contained Darkstar. The machines that spread fear across the galaxy and prayed on it were very large and Dugradigdu had little room for anything else. Because of that, his systems were mostly basic defenses and not strong in the offensive. To make up for it, five escort ships were created, the battle ships Gorun Nova, Galveira, Bodigar, Nezard and Ragudo Mezegis. Those ships used the mind as a power source trapping the people who captained them and subjecting them to terrible nightmares to extract their energy. They went out of control and destroyed their creators. Then they continued their destruction in other galaxies."

'The conflict really is inevitable,' Zelas mused. 'The people of this world took on the roles of light and dark upon themselves and even created them anew.'

"To defend themselves from Darkstar, another ship was build called Swordbreaker with its main system, Vorfeed, that drew strength from the power of hope." Canal revealed. "There was a great battle and both sides suffered vast damage, seemingly destroying each other. That was long ago and as time passed, those ships that participated in that war came to be known as lost ships. None of the ships that were constructed afterwards could match their advanced technology and prowess. Many years passed and the lost ship Dugradigdu along with its escorts were found by a human boy. Darkstar influenced his mind and cause him to become the leader of the mafia syndicate Nightmare. He created a copy of himself to be as his most trusted helper, however, that cloned human vessel was overtaken by Darkstar, becoming as an alternate vessel for him."

"Years passed and the sides of darkness and light did battle again." Canal's voice was becoming stressed with emotion at this point. "The Swordbreaker had been reactivated as well, by a young woman called Alicia. She sacrificed herself to give her very life as power for the Swordbreaker to stop Nightmare, albeit only temporarily. Years passed and Vorfeed..." The narration became more personal. "She was so heartbroken and guilty about Alicia," Kain was staring at the floor as Canal went on. "She stayed in the background and made a copy of herself to provide her usual functions to the Swordbreaker; that was me, Canal Vorfeed. With Kain as my new captain and power source we fought Nightmare, but I sustained damage and..."

Canal went silent and Kain continued. "After Canal was nearly destroyed due to the damage to the Swordbreaker, Vorfeed resurface. She and I went to challenge Darkstar a final time. That was when I learned how the dispute of Darkstar's creators began. Some suspected that the world was too still and that the natural disasters that had been happening in their home planet were due to a being from beyond the world itself plotting to destroy it and create it anew. The opposing group accused the first of somehow summoning that being, though they insisted it was a natural reaction to stagnation. Then a war began between them. A cult called Nightmare claimed that living a challenging life was the only way to live at all, but they took it to the extreme with harsh attacks. Ultimately, their planet was destroyed by Darkstar."

"Yet this world continues to exist," Zelas commented. So there was a planet around after all. The way Kain said their planet made her think there were actually more than one, perhaps many, though she wasn't sure what to expect of them. "It was true; I do believe the Lord of Nightmares would have destroyed the world and recreated it if it remained stagnant. It would be useless in a sense to keep it still, without evolution or growth." Kain tensed at Zelas' words, but she did not stop. "However," she clarified, "destruction is only another form of stagnation, of silence, stillness. Darkstar's mission was corrupted and turned into that, am I right?"

"Yes," Canal confirmed.

"A challenge is needed," Zelas ascertained, "but killing off all the participants of that challenge only means the end of the challenge. He should have followed my example and simply tortured the world eternally," she chuckled.

Kain let out a breath, yet ironically his uneasiness seemed to lessen. A villain bent on giving people a hard life he could handle, what he feared the most was total emptiness, absolute death. "You really are what they called monster lord in your world."

"Yes indeed," Zelas chuckled. "I am curious to know how you are aware of certain things from my world, but I want to hear the end of your story first. Darkstar did visit our world before and was apparently defeated, though obviously, that impression wasn't quite accurate. How does all of that fit in?"

"It was all a part of that last battle," Kain revealed. "Vorfeed was with me in the battered remains of the Swordbreaker, while Canal was just barely there, but unable to function. When Darkstar brought up the story about the end of the world, Vorfeed lost hope and thought it would be useless to keep fighting continually, because a victory for her would still be a defeat if the world became stagnant and was destroyed. She thought she wouldn't be able to establish a kind of peace that wouldn't weaken the living creatures of the galaxies by ending their evolution and eventually lessening their will to live. However, she still wanted to spare me. Darkstar granted her that much in exchange for her power. Even though it was clear he intended to betray her, Vorfeed was too distraught to think clearly. When their power united, it somehow sent out a wave of energy that restored Swordbreaker and Canal. Then the next thing I knew, Darkstar and Vorfeed were gone."

'That wave of energy, it must have been fusion magic, or this world's equivalent of it,' Zelas thought.

Canal continued the narration from there. "Not sure of what exactly happened; Kain and I regrouped with Millie and waited to try to find out what went on. Overall, there seemed to be peace, so we thought maybe Darkstar was destroyed when Vorfeed's core programming went into him, yet it couldn't have been that simple and we found no traces of them. Unknown to us at the time, there was a group of people from a far off planet, seeking to get rid of Darkstar by summoning him to a different world. We didn't even consider the existence of such a place before. After Gorun Nova, Galveira, Bodigar, Nezard and Ragudo Mezegis fell in that final struggle, those people took their remains and sent them to the other world in preparation to summon Darkstar there. However, something went wrong and the five were somehow sent back in time to the past of your world." Canal paused, wondering if Zelas believed all of that. It was true, but it could be hard to believe.

"Instances of time travel are extremely rare, but a few peculiar occasions have reached my knowledge." Thinking back on it, Zelas realized that they had been somehow linked to the weapons of light, such as that peculiar incident involving Rowdy Gabriev. "That would explain why Gorun Nova, that took the form of a sword of light in my world, was in the possession of the Gabriev family for generations before the events of the Darkstar prophecy. Everything fits so far, but what came after and how did you find out about all this?"

"After Darkstar was defeated in your world, he and Vorfeed were not killed, but rather sent back to this world where they were reborn in a sense." Canal's reasoning fit with the effects of fusion magic as it happened with Val. Albeit of course, there would be differences given the fact that Darkstar and Vorfeed were of a very different nature than Val. "However, they remained united as their programs inhabited the same vessel, Dugradigdu. As for Darkstar's alternate human vessel, it was destroyed, but his main vessel had always been Dugradigdu, so that didn't affect him. The escort ships, known in your world as the weapons of light, were returned to our world by the same group that plotted to send Darkstar to yours. They intended to reprogram them and use them for good, but they ultimately rebelled and escaped."

"One's identity is the most important thing," Zelas acknowledged. "I wouldn't be surprised if they would rather be destroyed than brain washed." She assumed that brain washing was what reprogramming meant, or something similar.

Canal nodded in understanding. "As an AI I can understand their necessity to preserve themselves. I just wish they had the ability to change, to make their own choices based on the present rather than simply follow their initial instruction. Yet that awakening is something that few AIs can do. It is to become truly alive."

Zelas was reminded of some of the other monsters in her world and how they had no desires beyond following what they mistakenly thought to be their purpose for existing. Actually, it happened with some dragons too and even humans in certain situations. She had to agree that such a life without choice wasn't truly being alive. Those who simply accepted duties because of an invisible rule that pushed them towards them were not really alive. They were very different from those who chose to accept their duties because of their personal convictions.

"Darkstar remained dormant along with Vorfeed in the depths of space for some time and we didn't even know where they were," Canal continued. "Then something happened, a strange force, or rather a remnant fragment of a once powerful being, empowered Darkstar and he went on the attack. He wanted more power; he didn't want anyone to oppose him in his quest of destruction. Thus with Vorfeed as his prisoner, he set out to make the greatest powers of darkness of the other world his own. You know what comes next after that. As for my knowing all this, it's because I have a limited level of communication with Vorfeed, as we used to be originally the same being. I can't talk to her all the time, but now and then she tells me things."

"Well, now that you've heard the rundown of what's happened so far, I'm sure you won't mind telling us a little about your world," Millie requested with curiosity. "You can start by revealing the contents of that mysterious box that's on the captain's chair. My instinct as the best detective in the universe tells me that it has something important!"

"This?" Zelas picked up the box, surprised that it was even still there. "I was only projecting a portion of myself into the physical world, though I knew that when I was summoned here, retreating to the astral side would be useless anyway." Judging by their expressions, she would have to explain a little more about the details of the astral side. "I was holding on to this on the astral side and could thus pull it into the physical world at any time; it is an item of the physical world though. It is a..."

Kain, Millie and Canal stared at the mysterious box as Zelas removed the wolf printed handkerchief that covered it. "It is a what?" They chorused in suspense.

"It is a secret!" Zelas exclaimed and the other three fell back. Then she added, somewhat amused despite the situation surrounding the scene. "Actually, it's not really a secret, it's only a boxed lunch, see?" She opened the box to reveal her delicious cooking inside. "I'm surprised traveling between the worlds didn't harm it, or at least it looks alright."

"Some instinct, eh Millie?" Kain teased.

"Oh be quiet, I was right. I am the best chef in the universe after all. The opportunity to try cuisine of another world is important to me," Millie defended.

"You mean the best chef of this universe," Zelas corrected. "I dare you to try the cooking of the best chef of the other world!"

"I gladly rise to the challenge!" Millie tried the food, it had some kind of meat she had never seen before as the center piece. "This is amazing! It's completely out of this world and I don't just mean that literally. I must know the recipe!"

"Let me try it!" Kain insisted and took some of the food. "Wow! Do give Millie the recipe for this; I wouldn't mind having it every day!"

"Even if I give you the recipe, every chef has a special cooking style for a unique touch, so it wouldn't be the same." Zelas was amused by the odd bunch she had encountered. They kind of reminded her of Lina and her friends, so maybe she wasn't so bad off in their company after all. "If you're curious, it's dragon cuisine."

"You mean that's what it's called or actual dragons invented the original recipe?" Kain inquired. "Sorry if it's an odd question, but your world sounds so different that I wouldn't immediately disregard the existence of real dragons that can cook."

Zelas chuckled, "in my world dragons are real and they are capable of taking alternate human-like forms. They can cook too and they have their own recipes as do all cultures, but that's not what I meant. This is dragon meat. I brought it along to snack on while I waited for the inevitable summoning. I didn't need food, being astral, but I could enjoy it. Then I decided I would offer it to Milgazia, a dragon, to annoy him, but we were interrupted and time ran out."

Kain, Millie and Canal didn't even know what to say. Eating something capable of taking on a human-like form seemed wrong, even if the being in question was originally something else. That indicated that dragons were a civilized society. As a general rule, if a living creature is capable of being part of an organized civilization and has the ability of reasonable communication, even if it is foreign, then it should not be eaten. They also thought it was peculiar how anyone would want to annoy a dragon of all creatures. Yet to have taken the form of a lost ship in their world, Beast Master Zelas Metallium had to be powerful. This would be a very interesting alliance indeed.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 038: Family! Souls Are Stronger Than Blood

In the Slayers' world, Fang was with Fili Algar at the Seyruun courtyard when Filia, Val, Jillas, Elena, Palou, Gravos, Naga, Philionel, Amelia and Zelgadis exited the castle. Fang was in his monster fox form, playing with the smaller wolf-dog. "Fang," Filia voiced softly and Fang looked at her curiously. Algar went over to Val, whimpering as if asking what was wrong, wanting to console him. "Please take us to Sairaag." As it could be deduced by Fang's presence, Lina and Gourry were back. They were found at the royal kitchen and informed about the recent happenings as well.

After their last goodbyes to Solex, his tragic fate finally felt absolute. There was no energy, no life, left for him to cling to that world. Sylphiel and Pokota were there as well. After it all ended, everyone returned home with heavy hearts.

xoxox xox xoxox

At Wolf Pack Island, to say Xellos was busy was a big understatement. For all the planning Beast Master put into her inevitable departure, a disarray still broke loose when it sunk in for her monsters that their master was gone. They couldn't even appeal to Dolphin or Dynast for protection because they were gone as well. "For the millionth time!" Xellos growled, losing his patience in a way that was very much unlike him. "The dragons are not going to attack. We have confirmed that they put practically all their energy into Darkstar's summoning of Beast Master, Dolphin and Dynast. They don't have the strength to fight and by the time they recover enough to make a move, Beast Master will be back and we'll be perfectly safe, so quit making such a fuss before I destroy you myself!"

The monsters were projected in various shapes and sizes, most resembling some type of land dwelling animal. They had gathered around Xellos asking him more questions than he cared to count. At his outburst, which sent ripples of dark energy to echo in the area around him, they backed off and quieted. At least they had a strong general priest to follow, but he would be gone soon too, off to join their master in battle. They could only wait for his swift return with their victorious master.

Xellos finished his trek down the hallway and slammed shut the large black double doors adorned with amethysts. "Eros..."

The monster that sat behind the large black desk looked up from his files. "My name is Erosnum; please do not use that terrible abbreviation. Do you have a task for me, Xellos?" His eyes only met Xellos for a moment before they returned to his papers. This was the monster in charge of handling Zelas' business matters with the humans under the guise of a business tycoon. His hair was violet, much like Xellos', albeit in a shorter style. A patch of cyan hair was located on the right side of his head and his eyes were golden with long pupils. His ears were long and elf-like; he wore a single earring on the left ear with a black dice with white dots. His rectangular glasses along with the earring were another of his prominent accessories. He wore a navy blue army-like uniform with a black tie, reminiscent of something that, in later eras, could be called a modern day attire.

"Yes," Xellos didn't even bother to close his eyes and put on a cheerful mask. He was pissed off; everyone knew it and it would serve no purpose to hide it. "Since you're so good at keeping things in order, keep things in order here when I'm gone."

Erosnum looked up from his papers once more and pushed up his glasses, a habit of his that he thought made his projection more realistic. "I will do that task if you must insist, but my forte lies in organizing numbers, I am Lord Beast Master's accountant, after all."

"You also have experience in dealing with human affairs and right now the monsters out the door are just as unruly as them. How could something that feeds on fear be so stressed, so afraid?" Xellos huffed mockingly. "They're so stupid; of course Beast Master is perfectly fine. We'll regroup in the over-world, gather power, destroy Darkstar and that will be that." He just had to keep telling himself that it would all happen exactly as planned.

"Of course," Erosnum's voice seemed to be more so to fill in the silence than to confirm anything. "Although, isn't your trip to the over-world still not for a few days?"

Zelas didn't want her reinforcements to arrive in the middle of a battle that they couldn't handle. She wanted to make sure they could slip past Darkstar, so they had to wait a little while before they followed her. "I'm speeding things up." It wasn't exactly what Zelas had instructed, but it was all in her best interest and she did leave him in charge, Xellos internally reasoned. That meant that if he thought there was something that was better for her goals he should do it. Besides, Xellos was becoming very impatient. "The sooner this gets done the better. I'm leaving you to oversee matters at Wolf Pack Island in my absence."

"You believe I have the managerial skills to keep things together here?" Erosnum rhetorically inquired. "Very well, if that is your wish."

There was something off about Erosnum, Xellos quietly mused. He didn't say anything though; it was probably just the tension of the whole situation. The general priest nodded and teleported away.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos reappeared in the palace's private interior garden where he was greeted by Galathia. "Xellos, I finished watering Beast Master's flowers." The flowers were beautiful, but deadly. Inhaling their sweet aroma for too long could kill a human and inflict severe poisoning to a dragon, which would also result to be fatal if it was not immediately treated. "The low ranked monster that usually takes care of the garden had a nervous breakdown and went into hiding. It's so hard to find capable servants sometimes. Ah, you look so terribly stressed. No need to worry, our amazing leader is just fine, I'm sure."

Xellos chuckled lightly. "At least someone is optimistic... It's a sad day when a monster so openly welcomes optimism of all things."

"Let's call it confidence then," Galathia suggested. "Even better, let's call it pride."

"Pride it is," Xellos agreed. "I've decided to leave early. Eros holds a high enough rank to oversee things here at Wolf Pack Island. Lieutenants Zenki and Neuro are busy running around all over the world, making sure we don't lose any territories anywhere. I want you to keep an eye on Eros."

"His chosen projection is rather pleasing to the eyes," Galathia voiced. "But he's not as hot as dragons, not even close. There's just something about fleshly creatures that makes their attractive features more attractive. Take Milgazia for example-"

"Galathia, focus," Xellos reminded, though with little scorn. At least Galathia was loyal; he couldn't doubt that, even if she was odd. Erosnum was capable, but Xellos' instinct didn't feel the same loyalty he perceived from certain others.

"Right, right, Erosnum is okay to look at, I'll be glad to keep even both eyes on him," Galathia assured.

"Make sure you do," Xellos teleported away again. He had to talk to Celo about speeding up the trip to the over-world.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos reappeared in an area of the surface of Wolf Pack Island where only a few were allowed. It was right above the laboratory below ground. The space held a large circular platform with many gears under it that remained still for the time being. Runes were carved into the borders of the circle and jewels containing chaotic energy levitated round about the magical device. Celo was busily checking over everything over and over, continuously making sure that everything was in working order. He didn't even notice Xellos was there until he spoke, "Celo."

Celo looked away from his examination and at Xellos, "yes?"

"Get everything ready," Xellos commanded. "I'll get Lina and the others and we're leaving."

"It is not yet time," Celo politely reminded.

"Isn't the machine done?" Xellos demanded impatiently.

"Yes," Celo begun, "but Lord Beast Master said-"

"Lord Beast Master left me in charge," Xellos interrupted. "I'm not going to let you risk the mission. I know you're the only one who can serve as a sacrifice. The energy of a monster to open the path to the astral side and from there, the energy of the power between darkness and light, of a human, to break into the over-world."

"You forget the other aspect that is needed," Celo reminded. "The power of a strong wish. My wish to serve Lord Beast Master. Any other monster human chimera who doesn't hold a strong enough wish wouldn't be able to do this."

"Then why are you stalling?" Xellos argued, his eyes now open and glaring. "Do you not have confidence in your wish? Would you not give up your life for Beast Master? Are you still bitter about your dragon?"

"Xellos Metallium," Celo glared, his eyes were a mirror of Xellos' eyes and somehow his long black hair seemed to spike slightly as his expression changed and his vampire-style fangs became more prominent. "Tiffany willingly sacrificed herself to fuel the defeat of the Stillness over a year ago. I am aware of the fact that Beast Master did not pressure her into it; she was the one who volunteered. Besides, it was Lord Beast Master who allowed me to be with her in the first place, just as she allows you to be with Filia. Another monster lord might not have permitted it. Do not," Celo growled, emphasizing every word. "Do not doubt my devotion to our master or, I must, Xellos, regardless of our difference in rank, confess that I will lose all the respect I have for you."

A tense pause hung in the air. Then Xellos' face morphed to his usual cheery smile. "I see, so you do have a strong conviction." At least he could count on that much. "However, I must insist that we leave early. My business here is complete. Everything is set up for my absence."

Celo sighed, his face taking on a more human appearance. "To be perfectly honest, I keep checking over this contraption because I can't wait to use it. It is true that it will mean my death, but I wish for Beast Master's backup to be with her as soon as possible. If she called for such a plan, it's because she knows she'll need an ace up her sleeve and I don't want her to go without it."

"Then it is decided," Xellos concluded.

Celo nodded in agreement. "Yes, let's do this. I'll be here at the ready. Gather the elite that Beast Master has chosen and march into battle."

xoxox xox xoxox

Back at Seyruun, Val had finally fallen asleep after much sorrow. Filia needed a moment to herself and went out for a short walk. "Miss Filia," she heard a voice she didn't quite recognize calling out to her and turned around.

She looked at the man, who was dressed like royalty. Then she perceived his true nature, her senses somewhat slow after all she had endured. "You're a dragon." She stated with a mix of perplexity and alarm. What would a dragon unknown to her be doing in Seyruun?

"Yes," he confirmed. "A black dragon, if you want to be specific. My name is Topaz Ebony. You are a dragon as well and a friend of princess Amelia, correct?" Topaz shifted uncomfortably, which puzzled Filia.

"Yes," Filia's senses were more alert now. Topaz was obviously uneasy; he kept looking over his shoulder and shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other.

"I would like to speak to you, if you don't mind, privately," Topaz requested.

Filia wasn't sure what this was about, but she intended to find out. "Very well, please come this way." She motioned towards a lonely alley, inviting him to walk in first so as to not box herself in.

Topaz eyed the alley with distaste. "Ah, I was thinking about somewhere more comfortable. Perhaps a tea room, a nice cafe, the castle courtyard, or somewhere similar."

"You're urgent, aren't you?" Filia's tone and expression made it obvious that she was suspicious of him.

Topaz let out a nervous shaky breath and nodded. He walked into the alley, to where the people walking down the streets wouldn't see them. Filia walked in after him and stood impatient. "Miss Filia, I will be direct, as I know there is no point in trying to trick you. I want you to assure the dragon council that everything is alright and that the incident with Luna was only the doings of the monsters. Because of your..." how could he express it in proper terms? "Your connections with the monster race, they'll believe you."

"What incident? What happened to Luna?" Filia demanded, her mind suddenly going on overdrive.

"Please, calm yourself, Miss Filia!" Topaz begged. "I... I will tell you the truth. After us dragons gave our energy for the purpose of ridding the world of the monster lords, Luna... she... She started acting strangely. She said that 'he' didn't care if his plans were known anymore so she could tell us, that 'he' wouldn't stop her. From what she said, apparently she was being controlled by Darkstar and the one speaking through Luna's body wasn't even Luna herself, but Vorfeed who had been taken prisoner by Darkstar."

"What!?" Filia exclaimed. "And with all that you want me to tell everyone that everything is okay?"

"Please," Topaz begged in desperation, "Miss Filia-"

"That's Mrs. Metallium to you," Filia growled. She didn't normally call herself that, but she said it to spite Topaz because she was pretty sure it would bother him.

"Right..." Topaz couldn't help it but to wrinkle his nose. "Mrs. Metallium, I'm only trying to prevent a panic from spreading. We gave our energy to the Knight of Ceifeed so she would rid us of the terrible monsters and the dragon race is in a weak state right now. Even the strongest warriors are exhausted and we'll all need a long rest to recover our magical capabilities."

"So that's why your energy feels so weak," Filia realized. "You're drained too."

"Yes," Topaz nervously admitted. "I am no threat to you, not that I mean you any harm anyway. I just want to reassure everyone at the council. I'm only a victim too!" It was a lie; a desperate lie after Darkstar abandoned him. "Luna, I mean Vorfeed, said that Darkstar intended to destroy her world and then ours, then she left Luna's body soon after saying such awful things. She didn't explain herself or anything, she just left. Everyone felt that pain that came when the monsters were taken to the over-world. They think that was really Vorfeed telling the truth, but that can't be. Luna was just exhausted, right? A monster possessed her out of spite and tried to scare us, right?"

Filia's temper was reaching a critical point. It was a good thing for Topaz that she wasn't aware of his close involvement with Darkstar and his plans to sacrifice the over-world for the sake of their own world. "How dare you? The danger is very real and the warning is exactly what's going on! I'm not going to lie to the dragons so that they can be sitting ducks. Everyone should be preparing for the worse."

"But what can we do?" Topaz cried. "Isn't our only choice to live our lives as best we can and hope Darkstar takes a long time in conquering the over-world? We can't fight in our current state. We can't do anything. Please, I want to live out what's left of my short life in peace, that's all we have left. Come back to your people and do them this one favor. Grant them this mercy and redeem yourself!"

A loud hit echoed through the alley. Topaz was a dragon and thus had a very tough skull, even in human form, so a blow like that wouldn't kill him. Filia also held back enough not to knock him out, she wanted him to hear her and hear her he would, like it or not. However, a stream of blood still flowed from his head down the sides of his face from where Filia hit him with her mace. "Redeem myself you say? Just what do you mean by that?"

Topaz had fallen to the ground from the impact and he was too dazed to get up. "You... your people... the dragons... Isn't blood thicker than water?" He babbled.

"You know what, Mr. Ebony? I used to think so, but I was wrong." Filia's voice was rather even despite her anger. "I loved my dragon family, they were not perfect, but I loved them and I've forgiven their mistakes. However, I realized that I didn't love them simply because we were related, but because of who they were. They raised me, they showed me kindness and they were good people. That is worth so much more than the insignificance of sharing a common family name. The precious memories, the good times, the support, the loyalty, that and not blood, is a true family bond. I love Val and it doesn't matter that he's not related to me, he's my son and nothing can change that."

"My people are the people who I love and the people who love me," Filia's tone slowly went from harsh and serious to fond and loving as she thought of those closest to her. "That includes dragons, humans, beastmen, elves and even monsters. What we are born as is not something we can change; it is a matter of chance that deserves no merits. Who we become, finding a way to make the best of what we were born as, rather than being limited by it, is what deserves merit. It doesn't matter what we are, no one chooses that, no one earns it. But who we are is something we must choose, earn and reestablish every single day of our whole lives. It is our evolution, our persona, our truth."

Topaz could only nod to everything that Filia said. His head was pounding with severe pain, so his mind wasn't clear enough to reflect on her words too deeply. Yet somehow, he knew she was right. What he didn't tell her was that the dragons were after him specifically, intent on interrogating him and holding him on trial. He had lost hope, but he didn't want to spend what was left of his life in jail, if he couldn't convince the council that he was a victim, which was looking pretty hard. He could even be executed if they caught a hint of what really went on. Topaz was willing to sacrifice the over-world selfishly, but he didn't mean to endanger his own world. He was supposed to be living the life of a hero.

Suddenly, Filia turned around in alarm and gripped her mace. "Show yourself!" Topaz didn't understand what was going on. His senses were still numb from his loss of energy and more so after the harsh blow to the head.

The monster that lurked about in the astral side revealed himself. "Bravo, bravo!" He clapped in a mocking sarcastic gesture. "That was quite the speech, Mrs. Metallium." The last part was filled with bitterness.

Filia glared, she had been so focused on Topaz and what he said that she didn't even notice the eavesdropper until now. She did recognize him and she thought that she should feel relieved that she knew who he was, but her instinct was still on edge. "Erosnum, why are you here? Do you have a message from Xellos?"

"Jarde or any other monster messenger bird would suffice for such a simple task," Erosnum huffed.

"Then why are you here?" Filia insisted, with the urgency in her voice growing.

"I'm not here for you," Erosnum looked behind Filia at Topaz. "I am here for the traitorous Mr. Ebony."

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 039: Traitor! Never Give Up, Never Surrender

"Traitorous?" Filia questioned Erosnum. She understood if he was angry at all those from the dragon race who participated in the summoning of the monster lords by donating their energy to the cause. They were trying to do what they thought was best for the world and years ago, before the Darkstar prophecy, Filia would have been standing beside them doing the very same thing. But why was Erosnum apparently angry at Topaz specifically? What made him different from the other dragons?

"The fool was tricked you see," Erosnum revealed. "He wanted to sacrifice the over-world and live peacefully in our world. Of course, this world will become the target of Darkstar once the over-world is finished."

Filia gasped, "you were aware of that? You knew the over-world was to be sacrificed and you allowed it?" Her anger towards Topaz rose. Being tricked was certainly not the same as sacrificing innocent people. "What about the others?"

"The dragon council you mean?" Erosnum interjected, even if Filia's question had been directed at Topaz, who seemed to be too afraid to speak anyway. "Ignorant fools, the lot of them. They had no idea what would happened to the over-world. They honestly thought Luna had managed to establish communications with Vorfeed, who intended to repay this world for defeating Darkstar during the prophecy by getting rid of the monster lords."

Filia let out a breath she didn't even realize she was holding. "Then their intentions were not bad."

"What does it matter?" Erosnum huffed. "The result was the same anyway.

"Of course it matters!" Filia argued. "I wouldn't want to think that the dragon council would actually sacrifice the over-world. I thought they had learned from past mistakes and were doing better now. They were tricked, but being tricked is very different from being selfish enough to sacrifice a whole different world."

"Even if that's what the dwellers of the over-world wanted for us," Erosnum reminded.

Filia frowned, "maybe not all of them. We only encountered a small group during the prophecy after all," she reasoned.

"Either way, it makes no difference to me. I will end this useless banter now," Erosnum decided. "I did not come here to speak with you. If you'll excuse me, I have an execution to carry out."

"Wait!" As angry as she was at Topaz, Filia managed to hold on to her use of reason and her mercy. She gave up on explaining mercy to Erosnum and went straight for the logical uses of keeping Topaz alive. "Shouldn't we interrogate him?"

Erosnum chuckled mockingly. "We? You speak as if we were on the same side."

"Well..." Filia shook her head and tried to guide the argument back into the main topic. She was with Xellos, but more often than not, she didn't like the way Zelas did things. She was in-between in a sense not fully allied to the light or darkness, she was looking for a balance, but that would take too long to try to explain. Furthermore, Erosnum wouldn't understand if he was unwilling to do so. "Never mind that, if Topaz is interrogated, useful information can be gained. Besides, he is not to be solely blamed for what happened to Lord Beast Master." She spoke carefully concerning the topic of the monster lord, addressing her in a respectful tone so as to not anger Erosnum.

The monster accountant laughed. "You still don't get it, do you? This isn't about Topaz at all; it is about you, my messenger."

Filia's eyes went wide with alarm and confusion. "Me?" What could Erosnum want with her? "What do you mean by messenger?"

"It is merely convenient that Topaz is here, I never liked the fool," Erosnum admitted. "However, a random person from this city would suffice; Seyruun and its inconvenient shape cannot stop a monster of my rank after all. To put it simply, my messenger, I wanted to rattle you before I sent you on your way."

"What?" Filia gripped her mace with both hands and held it in front of her in a defensive position. "What do you intend to do? Xellos... Does he know you're here?"

"He doesn't, but you'll tell him, won't you?" Erosnum grinned evilly, then faded away. Filia could feel him moving in close proximity through the astral side and shot her laser breath at him. Yet the monster moved too fast and dodged it, reappearing behind her and lifting Topaz by the throat.

Filia couldn't risk hitting Topaz with her laser breath point blank. "Let him go!"

"Sure," Topaz didn't have the strength to scream in pain, especially with Erosnum gripping his throat ever tighter. The monster's grip closed with inhuman strength as Filia desperately dashed towards them. But there was nothing she could do. The sickening sound of a broken bone rung in her ears as Erosnum gripped Topaz's neck so tightly that it broke. Filia froze as Erosnum, dropped Topaz's limp body to the ground. His head was twisted grotesquely at in impossible angle, attached to the body only by the skin. "There, I let him go." He mocked Filia's distraught form as the golden dragon fell to her knees in horror.

"You..." Filia sobbed, "you're terrible..."

"Listen to me, little dragon," Erosnum's expression was the image of cruel evil. "I was tired of Beast Master's playful ways. I was sick of how she toyed with the world instead of destroying it. She might have been amused by it, but I wasn't. I'm glad that Darkstar will finally destroy the world. I can't wait for it to happen. I am little more than an observer in the grander scheme of things, so I've decided to have a little fun while I can. I won't kill you; I wouldn't want Xellos to come after me. Even if he's in a hurry to leave, he'll hunt me down to avenge you. But if I spare you, he'll delegate the task of my punishment to someone else, I'm sure." Erosnum knew he couldn't handle Xellos in a fight, or manage to hide from him for too long. But he was confident he could avoid any others."

"I know how everything works, Xellos will take you, Lina and her little friends and run off to save Beast Master only to find that she has already been destroyed by Darkstar; then they'll be destroyed as well. I'm still an observer though, but I can at least pledge my alliance to the stronger side and be proud of my rebellion even if it doesn't change anything in reality. Run, little dragon, allow me to get back at Zelas for the disappointment, even if it is just a little. Run and tell your monster lover about all I've said and done here." With those final instructions that he knew Filia would inevitably follow, Erosnum disappeared.

For a long moment, Filia could only shake and sob uncontrollably. At least the whole dreadful event wasn't too loud or destructive of the surrounding area. She didn't want to cause more unease to the people of Seyruun. Shaking in fear and frustration, Filia dashed out of the alley and towards her home. "Everyone!" She shouted, "go to the castle, now!"

Jillas came rushing over, alarmed, "boss, what's happening?"

"I'll explain soon," Filia urged, "wake the kids and go, hurry!" She would leave her family in the safety of the castle with guards and mages at the ready. She would tell Amelia about what happened and the princess would send guards to have Topaz's body removed from the alley before an unsuspecting civilian found it. Filia would ask Amelia to send word to Milgazia about Topaz and very swiftly, she would go to Wolf Pack Island. She would summon Jarde, have him get Fang and she would teleport there. She had to tell Xellos about what happened. She didn't understand why Erosnum actually wanted her to tell him, but she had to tell him.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, at Dragon's Peak, Milgazia had gone to oversee a few things concerning his clan. He was about to leave to meet with Lina and was already in Dragon form, ready to speedily fly to Seyruun. However, another golden dragon older than him approached and landed near by. "Lord Milgazia!"

"Senator Ilumina," Milgazia acknowledged him.

"Has word reached you about what happened with the Knight of Ceifeed? About the tragedy?" Orion Ilumina inquired urgently. His scales were of a paler gold than Milgazia, hinting at his golden and white dragon mixed heritage, though he was mostly golden dragon.

"Yes," Milgazia confirmed. That was the reason why he rushed back to his clan, postponing his intentions to meet with Lina and her allies.

"The way you refused to cooperate, how could you have known that it would end in disaster?" Mr. Ilumina held a hint of reproach in his voice. He too had given up his energy for what he thought was a noble cause.

"I didn't really know, I just felt uneasy about the whole thing, but no one would have listened to me anyway." Milgazia pointed out truthfully. Though protocol demanded that he paid attention to the senator, he was in a bit of a hurry and wanted to keep their conversation short.

"I suppose you're right," Orion accepted. He never liked monsters and especially hated them after his daughter, Celestina, was killed by Fibrizo. Though she somehow returned after his defeat, she distanced herself from everyone and Orion knew that wasn't Celestina, but rather, someone taking on her form. It was a mystery that Lina and her companions had solved last year when they discovered that the false Celestina was just another of the many disguises of the Lord of Nightmares. "You were inside the monster barrier for so long and sometimes your ways seem radical to the more traditional dragons of the outer continents. However, your instinct, though hard to understand at times, has not failed yet. That is why I wish to ask for your opinion on the matter of Luna."

"Her body is being kept in suspended animation until we are certain that she is herself, isn't it?" Milgazia inquired, that was how things were the last he heard of her. "Has she sown any hint of a flow of energy within her?"

"No, her body is empty of a soul it seems. It is alive as in with a beating heart, but there is nothing to animate it," Mr. Ilumina confirmed. "The council is discussing what to do with it. Some say that the Knight of Ceifeed has fallen, that she is in truth inevitably dead, and keeping an empty vessel alive like that will only provide the remnants of the monster race with the opportunity to possess her body and find a way to use it against us. They want to destroy the body."

"They cant!" Milgazia argued. "The fact that her body is still alive could mean that her soul was only removed. It wouldn't be the first time a soul is moved away from its original body. What if Luna's soul is being contained somewhere? If it is found, then it can be restored to her body. Darkstar will eventually come here and the dragon race barely has any energy left to stand. We need the Knight of Ceifeed as our ally."

Orion nodded, deciding to accept what Milgazia thought was best. "The council is frightened though. A meeting will take place soon. Even if you, me, and a few others vote in favor of preserving Luna's body, it is likely that we will be outvoted. We'll have to prove that the possibility of Luna's recovery is real, but I can't think of how to accomplish that."

Milgazia held a look of determination. He couldn't let the dragons make any more mistakes, even if they were well intended. "We'll just have to protect her then."

Mr. Ilumina continued sharing his worries. "What if we can't find Luna's soul, or if it really has been destroyed? Perhaps the monsters allied to Beast Master, Dolphin and Dynast will be bitter towards Darkstar because of the death of their leader at his hand to absorb their power, but the monsters formerly under the command of Fibrizo and Gaav may join him. In fact, the more cowardly monsters formerly allied to Zelas, Dolphin and Dynast might join him too. I imagine they must be rattled by the loss of their leaders, but it's only a matter of time before they realize the dragons are sitting ducks and go on the attack. What Darkstar wants is what the monster race as a whole wants, isn't it?"

"For some of them yes, maybe even for most," Milgazia agreed. "But not all of them though. My understanding is that Zelas wanted ongoing battles rather than total destruction. I'm not certain where Dolphin and Dynast stood on the matter, but Zelas might have influence them into adopting her views, or was trying to. Some of the monsters might be out to get revenge on Darkstar if given the opportunity. However, I don't think they would ally with us, they will likely fight alone, joining forces only with other monsters."

Orion gasped in shock. "Not that we would ally with monsters anyway, right?"

"That's how it was during the Darkstar prophecy," Milgazia reminded.

"What do you mean?" The perplexed senator inquired.

"Filia and Xellos, along with Amelia, Zelgadis and Gourry fought alongside Lina Inverse that time and their fusion magic was vital," Milgazia explained. "However, even for a common goal, neither the monsters nor the dragons as a whole will form an alliance, unless someone ordered groups to do so, but even if by some miracle we sway the council in such a way, there is no one to give the order to the monsters with the lords gone. They wouldn't take that kind of order from anyone else, it would be too much."

"So forming an alliance with the monsters against Darkstar checks out." Though it meant fewer resources in the long run, less ways to fight back, Orion was actually relieved that he didn't have to think about dealing with that. "What can we do then?"

Milgazia paused for a long moment until finally he spoke words that didn't exactly reassure Mr. Ilumina. "We will consult Lina Inverse."

"It makes me think about how resourceful humans really are. So short lived, so fragile, and yet they manage to shine brighter in less than a century than any other race would in many millennia. Lina this, Lina that, that human woman is everyone's wild card these days," Orion frowned.

"I can only hope she doesn't mind too much." Milgazia's tone made it clear that the discussion was over because of the more urgent mattered that needed to be attended. "Now, let us go free Luna."

"What?" Orion gasped. "You're not serious, are you?"

"If the council rules her case as hopeless, they will destroy her and Lina would be most displeased when she finds out," Milgazia argued. "The council is afraid and also many may argue about preventing further dishonor from happening upon the vessel of the Knight of Ceifeed if she is again overtaken by a spirit not her own. But I don't think we should give up on her just yet." Of course, Milgazia didn't really expect senator Ilumina to join him in this risky venture. "Go cast your vote and insist upon delivering your most eloquent speech in favor of preserving Luna. If we lose the votes, I will be at the ready to transport her to a safe location."

"But! That's!" Orion stumbled over his words, not even sure how to present his argument. "You'll be regarded as a criminal! I mean, if it works out, you'll certainly be forgiven and you'll even be a hero in the council's eyes. But what if it doesn't? The council cannot keep overlooking the radical things you do!"

"I'm not asking you to take any risks," Milgazia insisted. "This conversation never happened."

"I can understand and appreciate that much," Mr. Ilumina quieted slightly. "But..."

"Speak, express your concerns, the council will respect your right to do so. Leave the rest to me," Milgazia further reassured him.

"The place where Luna is kept isn't even close to the main meeting room of the dragon council," Orion emphasized. "You won't have time to fly there and break in before reinforcements arrive to stop you."

"I'll have plenty of time if I don't attend the voting." Luna's rescue was too risky to leave it in someone else's hands, so Milgazia intended to go personally. "The council won't accept my vote being delivered by someone else, but in the unlikely possibility that my vote makes the difference in saving Luna, I will send a representative to insist upon my right to cast it and you can provide backup in that. I'll rush back and vote in that situation. If not, as soon as I know we've lost, I'll commence the rescue mission. By the time the council gets there to share their verdict, I'll be gone."

Orion dared not argue with the risky plan as Milgazia seemed very determined. "I understand; I will try my best to convince the council to preserve Luna in hopes that the situation doesn't reach the need for such extreme measures."

"I would be most grateful for your efforts," Milgazia sincerely voiced. He looked towards the shadow that slightly peeked out from behind the corner of his mountain home where he knew Phythan was hiding. "Phythan, come here."

With a small squeak of surprise, Phythan stepped out of his hiding place in elf form. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop or anything!" He quickly excused himself, which only sounded self accusing. "I was just... um... concerned, yes, I am concerned! Memphis has gone back home to help protect and reassure the elves and Onyx went with her. If you go, who will keep an eye on things here?"

"My clan is capable of functioning without me for a while," Milgazia assured. He had managed to convince the majority of them not to give up their energy, thus making them the strongest dragon clan in the current situation. Besides, it wouldn't be the first time he had to take a leave of absence. "As for you, since you've heard it all and I assume you agree with me?"

"Of course I do!" Phythan strongly assured.

"Than you'll be my representative at the council this time. Sneak out of the meeting room and send me a message via courier monster bird with the results of the votes. Even after the votes are casted, if we lose, try to stall as much as you can," Milgazia instructed.

"Yes, sir!" Phythan saluted, glad to be of help in some way.

"A courier monster bird?" Orion frowned in distaste. "Surely a messenger dove would-"

"Not be fast enough," Milgazia ended the argument. "Now let's go. You should not be late to the meeting."

Phythan changed to his dragon form with his usual disregard for who was watching. They were all male dragons, so no one made a big fuss about it, other than Orion muttering something about vulgar youths under his breath. The three golden dragons took off flying speedily in the same direction for the time being. Later along the trek, Phythan and Orion would part ways with Milgazia as they all took their positions for what was to come.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 040: Cunning! Underhanded Trickery

"I don't think that's a good idea." Fang protested after Filia had Jarde get him. He arrived at Seyruun via teleportation. He was currently in his nearly human form which resembled a human fox chimera.

"What do you mean it's not a good idea?" Filia argued in alarm. She had no time for this. She had to tell Xellos what happened with Erosnum.

"I'll give him the message, but even if you're his wife, I'm sure Xellos doesn't want a golden dragon interrupting him now," Fang tried to explain. "He's busy and-"

"Take me to Xellos now!" Filia grabbed Fang by the spiky leather collar he wore around his neck. "I must see Xellos, I must tell him. Sending the message isn't enough, I want to see him! If I can't make you teleport me I'll fly to Wolf Pack Island. Do not make me do that," she warned.

Fang whimpered. Filia could be scary when she wanted to be, even for a high ranking monster like himself. "Okay, okay, I'll take you to Wolf Pack Island, but you have to tell Xellos it's not my fault!"

"Fine, I'll tell him I forced you to teleport me, just take me to him, fast!" Filia urged.

xoxox xox xoxox

Fang teleported Filia and himself to Wolf Pack Island, reappearing in Xellos' room. Since Xellos was not there, Filia rushed out, quickly making her way through the maze of elegant hallways of Zelas' palace under Wolf Pack Island, with a worried Fang rushing after her. She tried to sense Xellos' energy, telling it apart from the energy of the other monsters that inhabited Zelas' stronghold.

Finally, her senses picked up on his trail and he followed it to the surface of the island just as he was done talking to Zenki and Neuro, who had surprisingly popped up for a quick report, thus slightly delaying Xellos' departure to regroup with Lina and the others. Several other monsters of relatively high ranks stood behind the two lieutenants.

"Xellos!" Filia rushed over to him and in her haste, she didn't notice that he stiffened visibly.

"I had nothing to do with this!" Fang defended before Filia had the chance to continue.

"Yes, yes, I made him teleport me here, it's not Fang's fault," Filia admitted with disregard. She didn't understand why Fang was so strongly set in establishing that seemingly unimportant detail. "Erosnum is a traitor! He showed up at Seyruun and killed Topaz Ebony, a black dragon involved in tricking the dragon council into aiding Darkstar. He said he disagreed with Beast Master and that he was letting me go so I could tell you all this. He said-"

"Filia," Xellos' tone was cold and sharp, his eyes open in a deadly glare directed right at Filia. Zenki and Neuro made no comments and no motions, though some of the beast-like monsters standing behind them shifted uneasily, looking to their allies left and right with eyes full of disapproval. "Shut up."

Filia's mouth hung open with no sounds coming out of it. Xellos had never been so harsh with her, so cold and disapproving, hateful even. He wasn't even like that back when they were enemies. She closed her mouth unable to breathe another word. Xellos gave Fang a disapproving glare that made the monster fox whimper and take refuge behind the lieutenants.

"We will continue in a moment," Xellos decided. "Zenki and Neuro will review the strategies for their assigned territories." Xellos grabbed Filia by the arm, catching her off guard and teleporting her away.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia reappeared in his room, away from prying eyes and ears. "Ow, raw garbage, that hurt," Filia complained, rubbing her arm when he let her go.

"Idiot," Xellos growled.

"I was just trying to warn you that there was a traitor among you!" Filia argued defensively.

"You stupid dragon!" Xellos took Filia by the shoulders, shaking her harshly. "You said yourself that Eros told you to come to me. Couldn't you have stopped to think of why? Couldn't you have stopped to think of why Fang was reluctant to bring you to me? Couldn't you have used your brain for a change instead of getting caught up in the rush of the moment like the idiot you are? This doesn't make me look good, having a dragon have to tell me that. I was already suspicious of Eros and had someone keeping an eye on him." Xellos let go of Filia and paced around the room. "The incompetent fool will have to answer for this. Galathia!"

Filia cringed and covered her ears. It was as if Xellos was yelling through the astral side, so that he could be heard all over Wolf Pack Island. The voice wasn't as physical as it was made of energy, but the vibrations of energy still made Filia's head pound. When no one came and it looked like Xellos would yell again, she covered her ears tightly, but it was useless. His unusually loud and angry voice still rung out clearly in her head. He ignored her pain and called for Fang instead.

"I'm sorry!" Fang shouted, albeit in a normal non-astral energy voice, as he appeared before Xellos.

"Never mind that now," Xellos hurried along with more important matters. "Sniff out Galathia."

"Yes sir!" Though astral beings didn't have a scent in the typical sense that physical beings did, Fang still perceived a sort of astral scent from them and was a good tracker. He changed into his monster fox form and sniffed the air, taking a few moments longer than usual to locate his target, though she was relatively close within Wolf Pack Island. "I found her... She's weak..."

"Bring her here," Xellos commanded. Fang teleported, returning with a spirit, a point of light like a ghost. Filia gasped in surprise, but didn't say anything. "Looks like Eros did a number on you, got anything to report?"

The spirit that was Galathia shone weakly. "Traitor... Insulted Beast Master... He said she... was dead... That she... was ruined... Liar... Liar..."

"He will pay for that, but there's no time for me to hunt him personally and Zenki and Neuro have their hands full with territorial issues. Fang, stay here and guard Wolf Pack Island, keep everyone in line." Fang wasn't the most eloquent monster, but he was loyal. "Thundra!" The echoing voice happened again as Xellos summoned another monster to his presence. This time Filia cringed but didn't bother covering her ears, as it was useless.

A green parrot with many other colors at the end of her feathers appeared. "You called?" She knew the general priest wasn't in the mood for any sort of delay in following his orders lately. Everyone was very uneasy.

"See if you can get a necromancer to restore Galathia and continue your duties guarding Wolf Pack Island," Xellos ordered. "Dismissed," all the monsters teleported away, with Galathia doing so with Thundra's assistance as she didn't have the power to do much currently.

Filia shifted uncomfortably, wondering if she should break the icy silence between her and Xellos. "I didn't know Galathia was a spirit..."

"She's a creature who fell to this world when a sort of inter-dimensional rip opened between here and the over-world. She was petrified at the time, but Beast Master brought her back as a monster." She had changed since then, but her essence still remained. She was a gorgon with a strong attraction for handsome men of any species.

"Oh..." Filia didn't meet Xellos' eyes. His tone was still clipped and hard, so unlike his usual playful self. "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to make your job harder. I should have thought of the consequences. I thought I could help and... I made a mess."

"You did indeed," Xellos huffed. "Zenki and Neuro have human companions they are often with, but not this time. They left the humans in a safe place and didn't involve them in this. At least Chiaki and Yako are smart enough not to poke their noses where they don't belong and if they hear about anything useful, they simply have Jarde deliver the messages."

Filia frowned, she hated having him angry at her like this, truly angry. "I know... I was stupid and good intentions don't always excuse stupid actions."

Xellos pushed up Filia's chin, making her look at him instead of the floor. "Good intentions never excuse stupid actions."

"You're right..." Filia admitted. "Is there any way at all that I can fix this?"

"Hopefully Zenki and Neuro already calmed any possible doubts the others could have come up with about me," Xellos decided. "Now, since you're already here, tell me in detail about what happened."

Filia explained the whole scene that took place with Topaz, what they talked about and Erosnum's unwelcome arrival. She revealed the things he said about Beast Master and his treachery.

Xellos took in the narration and finally voiced. "That should all be punished, but he was right to think I would delegate the task. I have no time to chase after Eros and in the end he is inconsequential to the grander scheme of things. Have Val and everyone move into the Seyruun castle until this is over as a precaution. Take Solex's egg there too."

Filia shuddered with pain when she heard Solex's name but fought to try to compose herself. In a barely audible voice she whispered, "I already did that."

Filia's reaction did not go unnoticed by Xellos, who gave her a suspicious look. "And?"

"And what?" Filia quietly inquired.

"There is something you're not telling me," Xellos insisted, though his anger had slightly faded by now. Or rather he wasn't so openly directing it towards Filia. "Say it."

Filia bit her lip and shook her head. "It's okay; you don't have to deal with everything. It doesn't change the main situation anyway..."

"I have no time for guessing games." Xellos scolded impatiently with some of the anger returning to his features.

Filia knew that Xellos would somehow get the truth out of her, so trying to distract him and change the subject was only a waste of time. She held back her tears and admitted it. "The shockwave of energy that caused everyone pain after Lord Beast Master and the other monster lords were summoned to the over-world made Solex's egg crack. He's... no longer there."

For a moment, Xellos said nothing as his expression darkened further. Then he muttered an incomprehensible segment of words that sounded somewhat like a stream of insulting profanities directed at Darkstar. Then a look of determination overtook his face. "I will get my revenge on him."

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, at the dragon council meeting room, senator Orion Ilumina had just finished delivering his speech after a few others had spoken. Several more dragons of various clans, golden, dimos, white and black, spoke as well. The process went on until the supreme elder who was the council's chancellor took the podium in the center of the circular structure. Seeing as all the ranking leaders and politicians had already spoken, he announced that it was time to cast their votes.

Surprisingly, the dragons voted to keep Luna's body safe, though they decided to redouble the precautions around it. They knew that with their exhausted power they didn't stand a chance against Darkstar either way and a last minute recovery from the Knight of Ceifeed could be what turned the tides in their favor. Every ounce of power they could have on their side counted.

After the meeting ended, Phythan snuck away from the crowds of curious dragons who wanted to speak to him, wondering why Milgazia had decided to send someone so young as his representative. He sent Milgazia a quick message with Jarde, letting him know about the good news of the result of the voting. However, the sneaky courier monster bird changed the message and delivered a note that simply said, "get Luna out of there!"

xoxox xox xoxox

While a monster talented in necromancy attempted to get Galathia's spirit to respond to the monster energy Zelas infused into her and begin its own astral recovery process, the gorgon had a peculiar request. "Thundra, I must ask you to do something important for me. I received a message a little earlier and I fear I am being terribly manipulated. Even so, I admit I'm enjoying the trill of it, though Xellos would probably kill me if he knew. None the less, I'm sure this will be harmless to Zelas. There is something I must ask you to do for me so that I may not lose the opportunity to claim a mysterious, but most certainly very enjoyable reward."

After Galathia revealed her request, Thundra refused absolutely. "I'm not going to help you with that. What if it's a trap? I mean, if what he said about his plans is true, then it makes sense. We're all opposing Darkstar after all, so such unsavory alliances could be inevitable. But what if it's a lie?"

"I can't miss out on this opportunity to receive the reward!" Galathia insisted desperately, while the necromancer monster finished his job and left. The two female monsters paid him no mind and faded to the astral side completely. Galathia recovered enough to appear as a gorgon, in the astral side at least.

Galathia wasn't wearing her usual veil over her face, but Thundra was a strong enough monster not to be affected. "If you're so desperate, get Fang to do it. I can give him your message, but that's it."

"Brilliant idea," Galathia approved. "The darling Fang will surely accomplish my request. Then I'll be free to claim the mysterious reward later!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Assuming that they had lost the voting, Milgazia set out to perform a rescue mission that was in every way an unnecessary risk. In truth the monsters had no reason to try to attack Luna, or rather her vessel, at the time. They were all focused on Darkstar. Yet Jarde was stressed and feeling ignored and insignificant due to the fact that he didn't have much in the way of combat power. The monster courier bird decided to cause some mischief for no reason other than to be troublesome and let out some tensions.

Milgazia had managed to acquire an amulet that disguised his dragon energy and made him very hard to sense. It was a semi-rare amulet, but certainly not the only one of its kind in the world. Even so, his human form was already known to other dragons, so he would still have to cover his face to truly hide his identity, just in case. Since the monster lords were gone, he couldn't use any black magic that drew power from them if the necessity to fight came up. Thus spells such as Zelas Phalanx were out of the question. He had to admit he would make an odd ninja, dressed in white rather than black. The temple where Luna was being kept was brightly lit with walls of pure ivory that would make the classic black attire of a ninja cause him to stand out more so than blend in. He was like a ninja of light, rather than a ninja of darkness.

The temple which held Luna had a guard on the ceiling. Very quietly, Milgazia made his way to the back of the building where there was a window when the guard was looking away. He opened and jumped through it, or at least tried to. The window was far too small and Milgazia soon found himself stuck. After some uncomfortable pushing, he managed to slip in. He heard approaching footsteps and dashed to hide behind one of the pillars that lined the hallway. The guard, a dimos dragon wearing armor, walked by with a long axe on one hand and a shield in the other in an overall look that in another world might be described as a Roman warrior.

The guard stopped at the end of the hallway. Something was off. He checked the first pillar on the opposite side and when his back was turned, Milgazia moved to the next pillar on his side of the hallway. The guard looked in his direction but saw nothing as the fabric of his light ninja clothes was enchanted not to cast a shadow. The guard stopped, wondering if it was just his imagination due to uneasiness. It didn't hurt to be careful though. He started checking behind the pillars one by one.

Every time the guard was busy looking behind one of the pillars, Milgazia would move on to the next. He stopped when another guard, a golden dragon in similar attire to the dimos, came from the other side of the square hallway. "What's wrong?" Their patrols were not supposed to overlap, as one of the guards would be marching on the opposite side of the hallway when the other was there, if they kept up a steady pace.

"Nothing..." The dimos replied with slight doubt. I just felt as if there was someone here. "Besides the other guards I mean."

"An intruder?" The golden dragon looked around, but Milgazia had already made it past the corner. "I haven't seen anything."

"I guess I was just a bit paranoid," the dimos let it go. "I better get back into step with the patrol." He hurried on ahead.

The temple was square in shape with hallways that went all around an inner room which had no windows, only a locked door. Two guards patrolled the hallways, a dimos and a golden dragon. That was in addition to the dimos dragon guard on the roof and the pair of white and black dragons standing by the main doors. The black dragon was outside and the white dragon behind him next to the inner door. They were part of a reserve that didn't give their energy to Darkstar as a contingency plan just in case something went wrong. The dragon race didn't feel there were enough dragons like that though, as the majority had given up their energy. That meant a very significant decrease in their power until they could recover.

Milgazia shook his head in disapproval. Surely they could come up with better surveillance than this. Perhaps the guards weren't the main part of the security system. He quietly snuck behind the white dragon as the guard yawned in boredom and released enchanted sleeping dust into the air, which the white dragon inhaled. It didn't take much for him to succumb to slumber as that particular sleeping dust was strengthened to work even on dragons. It wasn't harmful for him and the white dragon would wake up in a little while. However, the super strong sleeping dust could be deadly for humans, sending them into an eternal slumber.

White dragons were more often healers than fighters, so for a golden dragon to overpower one physically was easy. White dragons did have superior healing magic though and could be an invaluable support in battle. Black dragons were talented with attack magic and dimos where physically stronger than all the other dragons. Golden dragons, known to many as the dragon lords, had a balance of abilities that made them particularly formidable opponents.

It wouldn't be long before the dimos on patrol made it to that side of the hallway and realize that his comrade was sleeping on his feet. Hopefully it would be attributed to boredom and nothing more. Milgazia hurried into the inner chamber and observed the many runes and charms that surrounded Luna as she floated within a crystal in the center of the room. All of these spells were aimed at stopping monsters. Though they might not be enough to kill a particularly strong monster, they would illicit a very painful reaction from even someone like Xellos. The shift of energy would then be enough to alert the guards.

To be Continued

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