Slayers: Chaos

Chapter 5

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 041: Explorers! Inter-Dimensional Travelers

Fortunately, the magical traps in the temple that held Luna's body were not made to be set off by a dragon. They were guarding against the monsters after all, not their own kind. Thus Milgazia could easily walk across the room, move all the traps one by one and release Luna. He didn't deactivate the chambers and runes around the room, but rather carefully moved them so that they still gave off a steady stream of energy for the guards to sense, but were not shielding anything. Once the runes and charms were enclosing nothing but empty space, rather than the whole inner chamber, Milgazia knew that an astral path was open for a monster to teleport in and out unharmed.

This was the tricky part. He had contacted Galathia in secret, a monster that he could best in battle, aided by the power of distraction if it came to that. She was creepy with how she flirted with him, but as sneaky as it was, he could use that in his favor. She was strange though, perhaps she wasn't originally a true monster, but that wasn't the real point. She could teleport through the astral side and that was all he needed to know.

Galathia was a last resort to escape of course. A clear path into the structure through the astral side would be her signal to proceed. It was the only way he could get out of there with Luna as he noticed the seal on the door that would activate when Luna went through. The door was the only way out, aside from teleportation, as he couldn't exactly blow a hole on the wall and expect it to go unnoticed.

Not too far from the temple, but far enough not to alert the dragon guards, Fang observed everything from the astral side. A web of light in tiny triangles that his astral body couldn't fit through was surrounding a space large enough to signify the inner chamber of the temple in the physical plane. The web of light moved to the side and that was the signal Fang was told to watch out for. He teleported, spotted Milgazia carrying Luna and without a word, he swiftly teleported again.

xoxox xox xoxox

Fang, Milgazia and Luna, or rather her empty body, reappeared in the location where Fang was instructed by Galathia to transport Milgazia and the vessel of the Knight of Ceifeed, Zephilia. Milgazia thought that the safest place to leave Luna was in the care of her own family, in the land that produced so many skilled sorcerers and heroes. The golden dragon elder could only imagine the tumult that was forming in the temple at that very moment. The guards must have sensed Fang, though it all happened too fast for them to do anything about it.

The dragons would blame the monsters, but that would only serve in Luna's favor. If that piece of information got out, and it probably would somehow reach the ears of a monster spy, they would be looking for her in monster territory, maybe even in Zelas' territory specifically. Milgazia thought he could figure out a way to coax, or force, Galathia into silence, but the one who came to his assistance wasn't Galathia.

Fang stood there in his semi-human form, twitching his black fox ears eagerly and wagging his tail. "Galathia said you would give her something good if she did what you asked. She got beat up to an inch of death and is recovering now so she couldn't be here. I was supposed to deliver Galathia's reward to her but I don't want to. I did the teleportation work so I should get the treat!" Fang exclaimed. "Give it, give it! Give me the something good!"

Milgazia smiled with sweet victory. "I already have."

Fang blinked in confusion. "Where is it? I don't see it." He had a bad feeling about this.

"I give you..." Milgazia paused dramatically, "the opportunity to realize that you are deep down very kind and my thanks."

Fang cringed. "Monsters are not very kind and monsters don't like gratitude," he pouted. At least it wasn't too bad since he was a monster fox chimera, rather than a pure monster. "You tricked me!" He pointed at the golden dragon accusingly.

"Yes, I did," Milgazia admitted unfazed.

Fang looked surprised. "Why do you confess it so easily?"

"You were tricked by a dragon," Milgazia emphasized. "That's not very monster-like of you, how disappointing. Tell you what, Fang, if you keep our little venture a secret I will keep this a secret too."

Fang thought about it for a moment. He didn't want to be a disappointment, especially when Xellos was so cranky. "So if I don't tell anyone about the teleportation, or about Luna, or about any of this, you won't tell Xellos I was tricked by a dragon?"

"That's right," Milgazia agreed, this was a lot easier than tricking Galathia. He should have called for Fang from the start. He was a strong monster, but monster chimeras always sacrificed some of their monster aspects. In this case it was his sense of malice. "Don't forget, if you reveal any of this, you'll just be making yourself look bad and I'm sure Xellos will be very upset at you," he warned.

"I won't tell anyone!" Fang insisted. "In fact, I'll say I bailed out and didn't do what I was told. None of this ever happened and I was never here!" With those final words of parting, Fang teleported back to Wolf Pack Island, off to pretend he never left.

Milgazia chuckled lightly to himself. He wasn't sure when he became so tricky, but it was useful. Maybe he had spent too much time playing brass rackets in their odd definition of diplomatic meetings with Zelas if her tricky ways were rubbing off on him. He mused on it for a while and surprisingly decided that it wasn't so bad. It was about time the monsters got a taste of their own medicine anyway. Without further ado, Milgazia headed towards the Inverse residence with Luna's uninhabited motionless body.

xoxox xox xoxox

Light and Labyrinthine were certainly surprised to be visited by a golden dragon elder carrying their unconscious eldest daughter. She had been gone for a long time, but it didn't strike them as odd, as she was the Knight of Ceifeed and had duties to perform. Plus their younger daughter, Lina, was always running around all over the place. Luna was placed in her room where she looked as if she were sleeping.

"Thanks for bringing her here," Labyrinthine pulled the blankets over her daughter and stepped back, watching her unmoving form.

"I'm very sorry things ended up like this. Action is being taken," Milgazia assured. "Luna will recover if her soul is found and returned to her body." Except he had no clue about where it could be.

"You mean when," Light corrected. "I know my girls are strong. Luna's not going to fall so easily. She'll be back."

Milgazia nodded, the Inverse couple was certainly confident in their daughters' abilities and they had good reasons to be. Speaking of which, it was about time he met with Lina Inverse.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later at Seyruun, Milgazia landed at the royal courtyard and in a flash of golden light, the large dragon was gone, replaced with Milgazia's human form.

The first one to reach him was Xellos, who was not happy to see him. Then again, Xellos wasn't happy about anything these days. "Why are you here?"

Milgazia remained unfazed by the fact that Xellos actually looked like an obvious monster in his current foul mood. "I came to speak to Lina."

"She's busy," Xellos warned. He wanted to go to the over-world and didn't want any distractions getting in the way.

"Oh, c'mon, let me hear what he has to say." Lina and the others gathered in the Seyruun royal courtyard where Milgazia was. Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Philional, Naga, Gravos, Filia, Val, Fili, Palou, Jillas and Elena were all present.

Surprisingly, Phythan was also present among the group. "Milgazia!" He called out urgently, making his way to the front of the crowd. "I was trying to contact you, but Jarde kept ignoring me. I think he's being all rebellious and cranky because he misses his monster lord mommy. I was trying to tell you that Luna's body was stolen by monsters. That sucks, doesn't it? Just when we won the voting to keep her safe. I wasn't sure what to do, so I came here. Then when I was about to explain everything, you got here. Looks like it was a good thing I came here after all. Justice is a fine guide to follow!"

"What's this about Luna's body?" Lina demanded to know.

"What's this about winning the voting?" Milgazia added urgently.

"We won," Phythan simply stated. "I sent you a message about it."

"The message I got only told me to get Luna out," Milgazia frowned. He should have known nothing good came out of dealing with monsters. "Which means that all of that was completely unnecessary and utterly useless."

"All of what?" Lina insisted impatiently. "What's going on? What happened to Luna?"

"Luna's soul is not currently in her body," Milgazia explained. "The whereabouts of the soul are unknown, but the body is safe so that she should recover if the soul is restored."

"Safe?" Lina questioned. "Didn't Phythan just say her body was stolen by monsters? How is that safe?"

Milgazia shook his head and let out a hopeless breath. "That's a lie. I thought her body was set to be destroyed to prevent it from being possessed, but it turns out I was misinformed. I took Luna's body to Zephilia to keep her safe, not knowing that she wasn't in any danger anyway. There's nothing that can be done about that now, we might as well just leave things as they are. Luna's body is at Zephilia with your parents, she should be safe there."

Lina looked relieved, "that's good to know," she breathe. "If anything happened to Luna's body, her soul would somehow come back to haunt me and blame me for it."

"Kidnapping the vessel of the Knight of Ceifeed and blaming it on the monsters?" Xellos observed with a slightly teasing tone. Stressed as he was, this was just priceless. "Since when are you so tricky, Milgazia?"

"I'm not," Milgazia frowned. "But speaking of tricks," he pulled a card out of his sleeve.

"You cheat at cards too?" Xellos shook his head in mock disapproval. "Tsk, tsk, you really are a tricky dragon."

"I don't cheat; this is something Zelas dropped when she was summoned." When Milgazia revealed that detail, Xellos' attention was instantly caught.

Xellos' slightly improved mood hit rock bottom again. "What were you doing with Lord Beast Master when she was summoned anyway?" He growled threateningly. He wasn't allowed to be there, so he didn't want some dragon being there.

"I thought that if I watched I might be able to learn something useful," Milgazia was still unfazed by Xellos' anger. "I didn't really get much out of watching the summoning, but I did get an interesting history lesson from the Lord of Nightmares." The mention of the name of the Lord of Nightmares made everyone instantly become serious and alert. "You know what this means, if the Lord of Nightmares is out and about this is something big. But I got the impression that she has no intentions of interfering like she did last year. This time we'll have to figure out what to do on our own. As for the card, I thought it was ordinary, but after carrying it for a while, it feels like there's something in it."

Xellos took the card from Milgazia. "It's a good luck charm." He surrounded the card with dark energy, which caused an otherwise invisible shiny violet rune to light up. "It's a simple luck rune, nothing too rare. Though it does tend to favor the dealer in a game." He pocketed the card and ignored Milgazia's disapproving look. "If that is all the news you have to share, we'll be on our way now."

Lina stepped forward, claiming her role as the leader of the group. "Alright, it's time to go to the over-world!" "Naga, Gravos, Phil, Val, Jillas, Elena, Palou, and you too Algar, keep Seyruun safe and start getting ready for a major victory banquet on our return! Sylphiel, Pokota, Martina and Zangulus will be keeping an eye on any suspicious activities in Sairaag, Taforashia, Zoana and the nearby territories. From what I've heard, Memphis and Onyx are with the elves and Phythan and Milgazia will take care of the dragons. As for us, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, our mission is to be... Darkstar's worse nightmare! He won't know what hit him. To the over-world, to the battle field!"

"Justice will prevail!" Amelia cheered; Lina's speech was certainly inspirational.

Before anyone got further carried away and decided to add more to the speech, Xellos teleported the chosen group to Wolf Pack Island.

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos reappeared at Wolf Pack Island. Celo was waiting with the machine ready. He was wearing an odd metal headband with a glass orb with wiring in the middle, which in another time might be described as resembling a lightbulb. "Welcome to the over-world express! It's the fastest and safest way to get to the over-world."

"Not to mention the only way," Lina added with a touch of sarcasm. "Well, let's get this show on the road." She hopped on to the platform next to which Celo stood, followed by Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos.

"Join hands everyone, I wouldn't want you to get separated between dimensions," Celo reminded. "Here we go!" He chanted a spell to activate the magical device and the gears beneath the platform spun faster and faster, accumulating energy. The crystals of chaotic energy around the platform shone brightly and the atmosphere became thick and heavy.

It felt as if they were being electrocuted, but those standing on the platform had no choice but to bare it and hope the trip was over soon. A bright pillar of light rose from the platform at the same time as the lightbulb on Celo's head lit up. The six travelers faded away into the light that disappeared into the distant skies from whence it came. When the light was gone, Celo disappeared as well, leaving only the odd head accessory on the ground where he once stood.

xoxox xox xoxox

A violet light surrounded Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia as they held on to each other, trying not to become lost in the chaos that screeched in their minds and threatened to rip them apart. The violet bubble of energy at last wrapped itself completely around them, lessening the impact of the trek. The energy felt peculiarly like Celo, but he was fading fast. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, but was actually only a few minutes, the chaos gave way to a vast darkness with points of light in the distance and a brown sphere that got closer and closer. The blackness faded to an odd shade of blue-green cloud-less sky. The brown rocky ground was approaching fast. The violet energy burst around them and slowed their fall sufficiently, then it faded away completely.

The six travelers of worlds fell to the rocky brown ground with a thump. It hurt, but it wasn't enough to cause any serious injuries. Lina was the first to return to alertness and look around. The land was barren, devoid of trees, grass or plants of any kind. On the bright side, there didn't seem to be any ferocious otherworldly animals trying to eat them. She got up and dusted herself off, gazing into the skies. The heavens above were an usual shade and the rocky ground beneath her feet had wavy lines of pale and dark brown that were rather odd. "Looks like we made it to the over-world." Not that she knew what the over-world looked like, but she had not been to a place that looked like this before. The redhead looked around to the distance. "Unfortunately, it looks like we're far away from any settlements. Or maybe I should say it's fortunate, we wouldn't want our arrival to spook anyone." As she adverted her curious eyes away from the landscape and towards her companions she found them staring at Xellos and Zelgadis for various reasons.

Xellos looked like he was fading, trying hard to stay with them, but being pulled afar. "Xellos, what's happening to you?"

"I don't know!" Xellos' voice was echoing yet cut off. "I can't-" before he could finish what he was saying, he was gone.

"Xellos!" Filia yelled in alarm, but he wasn't answering. "What happened to him? Where did he go?"

"Calm down," Lina cautioned. "I'm sure there's an explanation for this."

"What if monsters can't survive here?" Filia panicked.

"I don't think that's it," Lina tried to calm her. "If that was true, then how is Darkstar supposed to steal the monster lords' power if they simply disappear?"

"Maybe he didn't plan to steal their power," Filia worried. "Maybe he wanted to kill them by luring them here. Maybe he already has and Xellos is-"

"Don't be so pessimistic!" Amelia suddenly interrupted. "We can't lose hope, we'll find Mr. Xellos, I'm sure of it!"

"Right... right..." Filia tried to calm herself and stay focused. Panicking wouldn't help the situation at all.

"Now, about that armor..." Lina looked at Zelgadis oddly, at least that person sort of looked like it was Zelgadis.

"I can't take it off!" Zelgadis kept pulling at the metal that covered his whole body, but it wouldn't come off. He couldn't even remove the odd mask over his face. "It's stuck, all of it!"

"I wonder if that armor has something to do with your being a chimera?" Amelia examined the metal, but could find no place where it looked like it could be pulled off. It all fitted Zelgadis' measurements perfectly, unlike any knightly armor, however customized, ever could.

"Does that mean I'm stuck like this?" Zelgadis didn't like it at all.

"I don't really know..." Amelia admitted.

It was up to the leader to once again try to keep things in order. "That armor is something of this world. I'm sure someone from here will know how it works and will be able to get it off. In the mean time, try to use it to your advantage. At least you're fully protected with it and it doesn't look as bulky and hard to move in as the armors from our world."

"I suppose there's no other choice, and surprisingly it really isn't hard to move in," Zelgadis accepted.

"Okay then, let's start walking." Lina decided. "There must be a sort of settlement around here. I'm sure we'll see some people soon, the over-world can't be that under-populated, right?" Unless the barren appearance of the landscape was due to Darkstar exterminating everyone and everything in that area already; but Lina decided not to voice such a grim theory. "As soon as we find people," and hopefully not corpses, "we'll find information."

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 042: Metamorphosis! Uncover the New Power

After their confusing arrival at the over-world and Xellos' mysterious disappearance, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia, set out to find a settlement of people from whom they hoped to obtain information. However, things were far from going their way as Gourry noticed with a sad and worried face that "the sword of light is gone!"

Lina took it as a suspicious event. It was too convenient that the sword of light went missing just when they arrived at the over-world. They were tossed around during the trip between the worlds, but she didn't think the case of its disappearance was that Gourry simply dropped it. It wasn't anywhere to be seen in the brown barren rocky ground. She supposed that it could be floating endlessly lost between the worlds, but she doubted anything could remain between the worlds for long. It felt as if they were breaking free from a gravity-like pull in their world and giving into the pull from the over-world. Lina theorized that Gorun Nova must have fallen to one of the worlds. "This is the place where the sword of light was made," she tried to make Gourry cheer up. Maybe we'll find another one."

"I know... It won't be like Gorun Nova, but I guess it'll have to do," Gourry accepted.

'Not like Gorun Nova...' Lina mused. Gourry had a point, even if there were other weapons of light or similar devices in the over-world, she had a strong feeling that Gorun Nova, Bodigar, Nezard, Galveira and Ragudo Mezegis were all special, even in this world. She was still thinking about it when a shadow overtook the group from overhead.

"What is that?" Filia pointed at the flying thing in alarm.

It was rather large, black and grey. A somewhat triangular structure as big as a building, much wider than tall seemed to be the main piece, with another longer smaller structure attached to its front with a sapphire like material at the tip. Metal wings and spikes extended from the sides, top and back of the vessel and six gems like giant pearls floated in front of the main piece. It was like a sort of flying ship that was fully covered in armor all around. "Your journey is now over." A male voice came from the ship, a voice they did not recognize.

"Mr. Captain," Amelia tried to reason with whom she assumed was the captain of the strange flying vessel. She didn't like the aggressive tone in his voice. "Please allow us to explain ourselves. We are in a very important mission for the good of both our worlds!"

"I know that, I know all about your intentions, I've been listening the whole time as I traveled with the human called Gourry," the vessel replied. "You need not address a captain, for there is no such being within me. Plus it wouldn't matter anyway; a captain is a mere source of power, a disposable and replaceable element. Not that I actually need one to kill all of you. My name is Gorun Nova."

A chorus of "what?!" Overtook the group.

"Gorun Nova! Am I glad to see you!" Gourry stepped forward happily. "Wow, you've certainly gotten big; the over-world must have something that changes weapons of light, huh?"

"This was my original form with which I was created here," Gorun Nova revealed. By now he was used to Gourry's antics and didn't bother explaining things too much, he intended to kill him and his friends soon anyway. "The last thing you should feel is glad to see me, human. My power is no longer yours to wield!" Gorun Nova opened fire with lasers.

Upon yelps of surprise and hurried dashes, the group ran to take cover in a nearby cave. Gourry kept complaining the whole way about why the noble sword of light was attacking them, visibly upset about the ordeal. The cave entrance was destroyed by Gorun Nova's lasers, causing the rocks to block the exit and cut out their source of light. But it also made them see another dim light up ahead, towards which they ran. "We'll sneak up behind him and I'll get him with my Dragon Slave!"

"Don't be too harsh..." Gourry requested sadly.

"Are you kidding me, jellyfish brain? That thing wants to kill us!" Lina argued. "You may have wielded it in the past, but Gorun Nova has a will of its own in this world and it's the enemy." She began her concentration to cast her signature spell. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows," they were almost to the other cave exit. "Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows... I don't feel Shabranigdu at all!" Then it hit her, of course she couldn't borrow power from Shabranigdu, his remaining pieces were sealed back in her world and the over-world was too far to try to call his power from there. "How could I have forgotten? I can't use the Dragon Slave here, Shabranigdu's too far away!"

"Isn't Beast Master here though?" Zelgadis reminded. "Since she is in this world, she should be in range for her spells to work now."

"Good idea!" Lina tried to focus on a different spell instead and chanted the words for Zelas Brid. "From the depths of the forest, awaken from your rest. I call upon the savage beast, on my enemies your fangs shall feast... It's not working!" Lina stopped near the cave exit in alarm.

"Does that mean that something bad happened to Miss Zelas?" Amelia wondered in worry.

"Let me try something..." Zelgadis began another chant for a different kind of spell. "Source of all souls which dwell in eternal and infinite, everlasting flame of blue, let the power in my soul be called forth from the infinite... I got nothing."

"Light!" Amelia gave it a try with a very basic spell that even some of the people from the outer continent could easily cast. "Oh, oh..." The theory that was forming in Amelia's head, which matched what Lina, Zelgadis and Filia were thinking, was not a pleasant one. "I don't think magic works at all in the over-world."

The cave shook and another avalanche of rocks ensued, as Gorun Nova caused the alternate exit to be sealed off as well. The minerals on the rocks where messing with his radar and camouflaging the group's heat signatures, but they were so close to the exit the dark vessel picked up their signal. The five travelers retreated deeper into the cave, bumping their heads on low hanging stalactites and tripping over stalagmites in the darkness.

Finally, there was light and heat. The cave walls shone with gem-like rocks and up ahead there was a cliff. As happy as she was to be surrounded by gems, Lina was too disappointed by the dead end to think about snatching them. She peered over the edge of the cliff and realized the heat was due to the lava below. "How in the world are we going to get across this if we can't even levitate?"

Tired of wondering if his targets had been crushed or not after they were hidden underground, Gorun Nova decided to make sure. If he had a power source it would boost all his systems, including the radar. Yet after being in sword form for so long, he was left weakened and couldn't stretch the sight of his radar beyond the energy charged minerals hidden within the cave walls. He would crush the targets anyway, or if the cave in didn't reach that deep, he would trap them and soon enough they would starve to death. Magic didn't work in that world and magic was their greatest strength from what he had witnessed. The ground shook with the force of Gorun Nova's lasers raining upon the area above. For good measure, he rammed against the ground protected by his shield, causing an even bigger earthquake.

Rocks fell from the ceiling of the cave and the ledge where Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia were on begun to crumble. They considered going back the way they came, but the tunnel had collapsed, leaving them trapped in a crumpling cliff next to a boiling lake of lava. "Filia, I know it's cramped in here, but it looks like the only thing that can save us right now is if you transform!" Lina urged.

"Alright, look away everyone!" They hastily followed Filia's request and she focused on changing to her dragon form. A moment passed and nothing happened, then suddenly, her back felt tight and bothersome. Her body wasn't responding like it should and she wondered if she would only be able to do a partial transformation. Normally, she would find it hard to control, other than her accidental tail only partial transformations, but for now it would do. She needed wings, she desperately needed them.

"Please hurry Miss Filia!" Amelia reminded them of their peril as more pieces of the ledge crumbled to the lava below, leaving them with less space to stand on and dodge the falling gem encrusted rocks.

"I'm on it!" Filia took off her white cloak, unzipped the back of her pink dress and adjusted the short sleeves on her shoulders to keep the top in place. "Wings... wings..." If only she could get at least her wings to pop out of her back. Something clicked within her body and with a peculiar mechanical sound; a compartment on her back opened and out came a bazooka-like structure. The thing was obviously made of metal, shining and silver, much like Zelgadis' strange armor, and it was attached to her back. "Ah! What is this?"

Filia's alarmed scream caused the others to look at her, with shocked expression soon overtaking their features. "Is that a bazooka?" Amelia theorized.

"Why is there a bazooka thing on my back instead of wings? What has the over-world done to me?" Filia cried out in frustrated desperation. "What has this crazy world done to all of us?"

The cliff-side finally collapsed completely and the group fell, yelling helplessly as the boiling lava below rapidly became closer with their speedy descent. Suddenly, blue fire emerged from the bazooka-like structure on Filia's back, which was actually a jetpack, and she found that she could use it to propel herself to fly, like those special fireworks Jillas knew how to make. Filia could only hope that she wouldn't explode like fireworks did. She grabbed Lina's hand, who held on to Gourry, who helped Amelia, who clung to Zelgadis, who was rather heavy with all the metal. Filia tried to pull the chain of people across the lava, making the blue fire from the bazooka on her back flare in effort.

Finally, they landed on the other side of the underground lava lake and the shaking ceased. Gorun Nova must have thought they were dead. "That was too close," Amelia breathe. "Are you okay Zel? Your hand was really hot at first and then it got really cold."

"I'm alright," Zelgadis replied, looking at his armored hands. "I think this armor somehow regulates the temperature so it doesn't overheat."

"That fire from the bazooka must be special too," Filia realized. "At least it didn't burn my dress." That would have been embarrassing, not to mention dangerous.

"Any ideas on how to get out of here?" Gourry inquired in confusion.

Lina walked to the edge of the cliff on the opposite side from where they had come. The lake of lava provided light, but there wasn't much to look at except a whole lot of rocks and a few gems that Lina began to tuck into her cape. "We'll find a way. After all that, I'm actually relieved."

"Relieved?" Zelgadis questioned with an 'are you insane?' tone of voice.

"How could any of that cause you to be relieved?" Amelia questioned with uncharacteristic pessimism.

"When I couldn't use my magic, I was worried," Lina admitted. "I've always relied on my magic to win, but none of us can use magic here. Judging by how Gorun Nova looks and the changes on Zelgadis and Filia, my theory is that the technology of this world is something far beyond our wildest dreams. In other words, plain old swords will most likely be just as useless as the magic we can't cast. The legendary weapons of light are the enemy and we can't even power a sword with Astral Vine. To put it simply, every fighting strategy we're used to is useless in this world. All the power we had before is gone."

The group only seemed to get more depressed by Lina's speech. If that was supposed to be a relief, then she really had lost it. "Um... Lina," Gourry whispered gently. "I think you're really cool when you go to leader mode and all. No offense, but this wasn't your best leader speech."

"I'm not done yet," Lina referred to both the speech and the war. "We're not done yet, far from it. I'm relieved because we're discovering new powers. We were strong in our world and we're strong here, we just haven't realized how to use our power yet. Zelgadis, there has to be more to that armor than meets the eye. When you master it, you'll be stronger than ever. Filia, your body has changed, but your power is still there and I'm sure it's not just flying. You must have a lot of special abilities just waiting to be discovered. The same goes for all of us. In fact, it's better this way. Our ways of fighting might be completely outdated by the standards of the over-world, but when we came here, we were not only brought to a new battle field, but we were given new abilities. The over-world itself has given us what we need to conquer any dangers we may face in it. We only need to master our new powers. This isn't a setback, it's a whole world of possibilities that we can take advantage of. We'll bring out our new power, get some new weaponry and win this war!"

Despite being buried alive, cheer invaded the group of five. "Well spoken!" Amelia commended, clapping and cheering enthusiastically. "I couldn't have said it better myself. You really are our leader, guiding us back to the path of justice when we need it the most!"

"Alright team, what do you say we get out of here?" Lina cheered.

"Yeah!" The others chorused.

"Stand back, I'm going to try something!" Filia stepped forward and took a deep breath. "Let's see if I have my laser breath in some form in this world too." She focused on making it happen and found that she could indeed shoot lasers from her mouth. She shot a beam of light up diagonally and began to make a tunnel they could climb out of.

"There must be something else to this armor that's useful." Zelgadis tried to figure out what he could do. Energy like a laser gathered in his palm, traveling through the armor's circuitry. "That's it! Filia, I'll give you a hand with that tunnel." He joined the front of the group, as the tunnel progressed faster with the team work.

xoxox xox xoxox

After a lot of digging with lasers, as the rocks were too hard to be broken with bare hands, Filia, Zelgadis, Amelia, Lina and Gourry made it to the surface of the rocky planet. The group sat on the ground to rest from the ordeal. It looked as if Gorun Nova was gone.

Unfortunately, the dark lost ship had remained in the atmosphere, waiting to pick up a signal from his allies for Darkstar so he would know to which coordinates he should travel. His radar picked up the life forms in the otherwise deserted rocky planet and he hurried down to finish the job. He reasoned that they must have escaped from their underground entrapment if they were no longer hidden from his sensors. Gorun Nova was a bit surprised by their persistence, but at the same time, he thought, however illogical such a thought process could be, that he would be disappointed if a cave-in was all it took to finish them off. "I see you're still alive. I should have known you wouldn't be so easy to kill. Resistance is futile; you don't have many places to hide in this deserted planet!"

Gasps of alarm were heard as Gorun Nova flew above the group threateningly. "What do you mean a deserted planet?" Amelia demanded.

"Simple minded fools who spend their lives in only one planet," Gorun Nova mocked. "This world is much bigger than yours. There are many planets here, some inhabited by humans, others inhabited by different civilizations, fauna or flora. There are also some planets, like this one, that are not inhabited by anyone or anything. There is no one here to help you."

Amelia let out a breath, "that's a relief," she smiled.

"What?" Gorun Nova questioned the seemingly nonsensical response of this human. He had observed the creatures for so long and could feed from their minds in ship form if one became his captain, but they still surprised and puzzled him in many ways.

"For a minute there I was worried that Darkstar destroyed this place before we came." Amelia wasn't the only one with that theory, though no one had dared to voice it. "It's good to know that this planet is not deserted because of Darkstar and it's also good to know that there are other planets out there. This sounds like a very interesting world and I'm looking forward to visiting it. I'm also even more inspired to protect it and all its different people, living things and cultures!"

"Your illogical determination is useless." Gorun Nova prepared to fire his main laser canon at close range, but it didn't look like his targets were even planning to make an effort to run. They had been so helpless such a short time ago. Why were they so confident now? They had to be bluffing; it was the only logical explanation Gorun Nova could come up with.

Lina stepped forward brave and determined. They couldn't retreat aimlessly, they needed to fight back. "Prepare yourself Gorun Nova, for the wrath of Lina Inverse!" She began to pull things out of her cape in search of something, anything, that could have been changed by the over-world and become unexpectedly useful. She pulled out a whistle and blew it, but accomplished nothing more than to annoy her companions. She threw that away and pulled out a bag of cookies, she gobbled them up speedily, but felt no different following the action. She pulled out a pink slipper and threw it at Gorun Nova, causing no damage what so ever. She threw its twin with a similar lack of effect.

"Fool! You're only stalling, prepare to die!" Gorun Nova flew lower, aiming his main cannon right at Lina.

The redhead stared into the metal barrel without flinching. She could see a faint light becoming brighter within it and she knew that it could reduce her to a pile of dust, but she showed no fear. She had power within her; she just had to bring it out. She pulled out a brass racket from her cape as her friends stood around her left and right. She could feel it, power flowing within her like magic, or at least the over-world's equivalent to magic, psy-energy. "Game over, Gorun Nova!"

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 043: Introductions! Allies From Another World

Gorun Nova shot a blast of regular laser energy point blank, but Lina's courageous psy-energy flowed through the brass racket and combined itself with the courage of Amelia, Zelgadis, Gourry and Filia as they too placed their hands on the handle of the brass racket. A bright light emerged from the end of the racket, the beam of psy-energy pushing back the laser energy of Gorun Nova's canon and causing it to explode within him. The brass racket was broken by the intensity, but the blast was effective.

"No!" Gorun Nova retreated as the light faded. He shook in the air as sparks and electricity surrounded the dark vessel. His main weapons system was completely put out of order by an internal chain reaction that also damaged all his systems. They were a lot stronger than he expected them to be in the over-world and they had a means to call upon psy-energy. Gorun Nova retreated beyond the atmosphere into space. His self repair and cooling systems were working at full capacity. He had underestimated Lina's little group, even though he should have known better after traveling with them for so long.

Yet the psy-energy wasn't pure, there was some fear and a lot of wrath mixed with the courage, thus regardless of the extremely close range, the hit wasn't fatal. Yet if they mastered their emotions and focused on his weaknesses as a dark lost ship, a hit at such a close range that went inside him would have been much worse. Gorun Nova wouldn't take that risk again. He wouldn't fight at such close range. They would have to find a way off that planet or they would starve. He would meet them again, in outer space where they could not move freely on their own for lack of oxygen. He would fight them where they couldn't get close to him. After all, no matter what kind of ship they could manage to get their hands on, a lost ship would always be superior.

After Gorun Nova left, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia sat on the ground resting for a while. They weren't sure how they were supposed to get off that planet. In a vessel similar to Gorun Nova, everyone save for Gourry would theorize, but where would they find such a thing on a deserted planet? How would they even find sustenance? What would they do if Gorun Nova recovered and returned or the other weapons of light turned vessels came looking for them?

Lina's quiet worries about food didn't escalate too far, as after a while of resting, just as they were getting ready to explore the planet they were on, a different concern occupied her mind. The shadow of not one, but two approaching vessels was casted upon them. They looked up to see two massive flying ships, noticeably larger than Gorun Nova, and wondered if they were the other weapons of light there to finish the job. "You guys don't happen to have any more brass rackets on you, do you?"

The group collectively shook their heads nervously at Lina's inquiry. The redhead was about to call for an emergency retreat, but paused when someone familiar reappeared before her eyes. "I'm back," Xellos announced casually, with a cheerful smile. His tone was just as carefree as the voice of one who is returning home from an ordinary trip to the store down the street.

"Xellos!" Filia exclaimed, rushing to him. "You had us worried you piece of raw garbage!" She yelled, speaking for the whole group of her own accord. She was very relieved to see him, though the ships overhead still made her nervous. However, if Xellos was so calm in their presence, then they couldn't be the enemy.

The two ships, one white and the other violet with golden details, landed a few feet away, just far enough to have enough space for their massive structures without flattening any of those present. As the wind created by the landing ceased, Lina asked about the two vessels, wondering if they had a will of their own like Gorun Nova apparently did. "About those ships..."

Before Lina could finish voicing the first of the many questions she wanted to ask, two others appeared before their eyes. The way they materialized out of no where reminded her of how monsters traveled through the astral side and teleported in different locations. She couldn't actually sense their energy, though that might be related to the lack of magic in the over-world, or at least, the lack of magic as she usually defined it. The incident with the brass racket had definitely been something powerful, yet strangely it felt very much like the game itself, as if the strength came from her persona rather than her magical energy.

Lina did not recognize the woman in the pink and white maid outfit with the long pale green braid pigtails, but she did recognize the other female who had appeared. "Zelas..." Though the name was spoken with a dread that was only proper when addressing the annoying monster lord, Lina was very relieved to see Zelas alive. A part of her feared that Darkstar, who logically had to be a lot stronger than Gorun Nova, had managed to destroy her and the other monster lords. That would mean the loss of a very powerful ally in the fight against their mutual enemy.

Two other people rushed to meet with the group. One of them, a red haired young man wearing a cape came out of the white ship and from the violet ship, a blond young woman. "Well, it looks like everyone is here," Zelas observed. "I suppose I should introduce you. Everyone, this is Canal, she is..." how to explain it in terms that they could understand? "The spirit of the white vessel called Swordbreaker as well as a part of Vorfeed, the part that isn't Darkstar's prisoner."

"Night Dragon Vorfeed?!" Filia suddenly exclaimed. Her hands flew to her mouth, trying to stop any further outbursts. "Sorry about that, it's just that I never thought I would meet you like this."

"And I never thought I would meet the most elite legendary warriors of the other world like this either," Canal chirped. She seemed to be a cheerful girl who would get along well with Amelia.

"Legendary warriors?" Gourry wondered in confusion.

"I think she means us?" Zelgadis whispered, though he wasn't entirely sure how he felt about that. Just what had Zelas been telling Canal?

"Yes, indeed, they are my Slayers, the most elite warriors who serve me in my world." Zelas assured with a tone that threatened that no one should contradict her.

Lina and the others held their peace in the matter, except for Amelia who cheered, "Justice Slayers!" If that meant that they slew in the name of justice or slew justice was up to interpretation. Lina quietly mused that perhaps this was a matter of pride for Zelas. After all, she had been basically kidnapped from her world and had to retreat from Darkstar's challenge. The elite force that came to her aid had to be under her command, it wouldn't look good otherwise. Technicalities aside, they were all against Darkstar, so Lina decided that for the time being the details were not too important.

"This here is Kain Blueriver, the captain of the Swordbreaker and its main power source." Zelas continued, basking in the sense of authority that came with being the center of attention as provided the basic information. "Vessels such as these feed on emotions, positive in Swordbreaker's case and negative in mine. However, my assigned captain doesn't have to be particularly miserable for it to work, as I have been feeding off Millie's kitchen frustrations just fine lately. Speaking of which, this is Millennium Nocturne, the second best cook in the universe."

Millie pouted at her introduction. Sadly this other-worldly beast had bested her in the kitchen, but she could at least claim to be the best in other areas, her aim for example, was still better via the manual controls of the Great Beast than Zelas' own targeting programs, which were part of her being. Then again, her aim was better than even Canal's automated system and she had a lot more experience in existing as a lost ship.

"You've already met Xellos, so let's move on to the rest of my elite task force," Zelas continued. "This carrot top little girl-"

"What?" Lina screeched loudly.

Zelas continued as if the interruption never occurred. "Is Lina Inverse, yes, the Lina Inverse. Which means that our cooking rivalry will have to continue another time, Millie. Since my crew is here I'm returning you to the Swordbreaker. Lina is the captain."

"That's fine; I want some time to work on some new recipes. I commend your creativity with ingredients you're not familiar with, but I assure you I'll recover my title as the best cook in the universe," Millie countered with mild amusement.

Lina was about to complain some more about the way Zelas' addressed her, but she quieted upon being called the captain. She was too proud of her leadership position being acknowledged to register that it meant Zelas would be feeding off her explosive temper, which would involve angering her for that purpose. The newly appointed captain snapped into attention as Gourry unexpectedly spoke up. "Wait a minute... Does that mean you're kicking Century off the team?" He frowned.

Millie wasn't sure who the blond man was talking about, until Zelas interjected. "It's Millennium, Millie if it makes it easier for you to remember and yes, I'm returning her to the Swordbreaker crew as I have my own power source now."

The implications of the aforementioned power source would have become obvious for Lina at that point, if not for the fact that her attention was transfixed on Gourry and his apparent sudden interest in this stranger. Why did he care so much about Millie if he didn't even know her? They were, literally, from different worlds, so there was no way they could have met before that moment. "She's a cook and you can never have too many cooks around," Gourry reasoned in typical Gourry fashion.

Lina's small burst of possessive jealousy was extinguished before she could truly express it and she had to admit. "He does have a point."

"Actually," Kain stepped in with a laugh, "I'd like to have my cook back."

"A cook, that's all I am?" Millie pouted and with a resounding "hmp!" Crossed her arms and turned her head away from him, while Kain tried to appease her with excuses.

"This super smart swordsman is Gourry Gabriev." Zelas introduced him sarcastically, with only Canal really paying full attention at that point.

The green haired young woman stepped forward, past Lina and stood in front of Gourry. She looked into his eyes and took his face in her hands observing him closely, which caused Lina to shout. "What do you think you're doing?" And begin to stomp towards them.

As if reaching a conclusion in her examination, Canal released Gourry from her grasp and smiled in an expression that seemed to be unnervingly similar to Xellos' cheery face. "He's quite different after all!"

"Different?" Lina asked, some of her fury subsiding slightly. "Different from who?" She questioned with a good amount of remaining suspicion.

Amelia sighed as a crazy theory formed in her active imagination. "Your missing sweetheart who was lost in the other world, whose return you loyally await?" The Seyruun princess sighed dreamily.

"Oh no!" Canal exclaimed. "I mean no offense, it's just that Darkstar's preferred human projection and his appearance when he acquired a human body before the battle that I believe came to be known as the Darkstar prophecy was slightly similar. He took on the form of a man with long blond hair, blue eyes and a similar height and build to Gourry, but their faces and expressions are completely different. Gourry's face is the opposite of Darkstar."

"Really?" Lina tilted her head curiously. At least she realized she had nothing to be jealous about if Canal's examination was born from cautious suspicion, rather than sudden attraction.

"I look like him?" Gourry frowned.

Not wanting to offend one of her new allies by comparing him to the dreadful enemy they would eventually face, Canal shook her head vigorously. "Oh no, no, your faces are very different. As I said, your expression is quite the opposite to him." There were also other small details that were different, such as Gourry's bangs being longer and his hair and eye color being slightly lighter.

"Okay," Gourry smiled. "Thanks," when it doubt, just take it as a compliment.

"Um... you're welcome?" Canal smiled back unsure, but friendly. And she thought Kain and Millie where an odd bunch. At least she would no longer be the lost ship with the strangest crew if the Slayers were now Zelas' crew. "Let's move on with the introductions, shall we?"

"Yes," Zelas nodded. "This is Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, heir to the throne of Seyruun."

"And a warrior of justice!" Amelia cheered happily.

Before the conversation turned into a justice speech, Zelas quickly moved on to Zelgadis. "That armored man is Zelgadis Greywords... I think. He was a chimera in our world, but I suppose since he was created by magical alchemic methods that don't exist in this world, it caused certain differences."

"A chimera?" Vorfeed looked at Zelgadis curiously. "Chimeras can exist here, I've seen a few, they are created through genetic engineering science in this world. The process would be different, but I don't see why a chimera would turn into a cyborg by crossing to another world. As far as I understand, living beings only change when their particular forms don't exist in the world they traveled to, so they take on a sort of equivalent form; like you did."

"Does that mean there's something terribly wrong with me?" Zelgadis worried.

"Let's not be pessimistic now," Canal cheerily encouraged him in a very Amelia-like tone. "You can come on board and I'll do a basic scan to map out your biological and mechanical components. Then maybe that will clarify what's going on."

Zelgadis, or anyone for that matter, didn't quite fully understand what that meant other than it being a sort of examination. He nodded a little unsure, "I would appreciate that?"

"Last and certainly least, this is Xellos' pet dragon, Filia Ul Copt," Zelas introduced.

"I'm not his pet!" Filia defended. In a similar topic to Zelgadis' recent discussion she asked. "Are there golden dragons in this world?"

"Dragon-like creatures and dragon-like alien civilizations yes, albeit they are rare. We call them dragons, but they are probably different from the dragons on your world, similar in appearance, but different in essence," Canal explained.

"Why do you ask?" Kain joined in, remembering the taste of dragon meat he had tried. "Were you planning to bring a dragon over? That dragon meat Zelas had when she arrived was amazing!" Filia's angry glare nearly burned a hole through Kain's forehead and he jumped back in a startle. "When Zelas said pet dragon, she was only using a metaphor right? That's just a saying from your world, isn't it? A typical phrase?"

"Oh no, I was being quite literal." Zelas clarified with an amused expression of mischief lighting up her features. Her eyes had switched in a fiery orange hue probably denoting her determination in this war.

"I can't believe you corrupted the people of the over-world by making them eat dragon cuisine!" Filia exploded.

"I didn't force it on them, they were quite happy to devour the box lunch I happened to be carrying when I was brought here," Zelas clarified. "Sadly, I doubt the dragons available in this world are anything like golden dragons, nothing measures up to their delicious taste. No wonder they are called the dragon lords, they can make a meal fit for royalty!"

"My kind isn't food!" Filia complained.

"Right, right, if it talks, it shouldn't be eaten," Kain recalled. "Sorry about my earlier comment." He tried to appease the angry blond cyborg.

"It looks like you're a cyborg too," Canal brought the conversation back into the topic she thought Filia was trying to address with her earlier question about the possible existence of dragons in the over-world. "I'll give you a basic scan too and that should help us figure out the specifics of how your new form functions."

"Thank you," Filia tried to calm herself and give the over-worlders a good impression, if she could even begin to repair all the damage Zelas must have made. "I would be most grateful for your enlightenment Lord Night Dragon. I admit having a bazooka on my back like this is rather awkward."

"It's no trouble at all," Canal replied with a smile. "I'm pretty sure that bazooka is a jetpack and please, call me Canal. Well, shall we go on board the Swordbreaker?" She motioned to the white ship.

"Let's go!" Lina accepted the invitation, thinking it to be her duty to voice the reply as she was the leader of the elite force Zelas referred to as Slayers, as well as the captain of their ship. Speaking of ships, "if the white ship is Vorfeed's, I mean Canal's, then the purple one is mine?"

"It's me," Zelas replied as they made their way inside the Swordbreaker, towards the examination room following Canal.

"Yes, yes, yours," Lina pouted. "But I'm the captain." As she allowed Zelas' explanations and recent reply to sink in, there was something that she needed to hear directly to make sure it was perfectly clear. "The ship is... I mean, you are its spirit, that vessel is your form?"

"Yes," Zelas confirmed. "Xellos is a program in this world; he is purely digital, as I am. Digital is like the astral of the over-world, except digital beings must still have their data, their spirit, contained in a physical medium in order to exist here. That medium is the ship called Great Beast. Xellos is contained there as well."

"The forms you see are called holograms," Xellos added from what little had had the time to learn so far. "They are similar to the astral projections of monsters. Canal is a hologram too. However, we are still bound to the vessel where our essence is contained and cannot go too far away from it. Think of it as stretching the astral form without it coming detached from its container, it must always remain as a continuum."

"Nicely put, you're catching on," Zelas commended. Her mood had improved greatly since Xellos and the others arrived. She was tired of having to travel with Canal and borrow her human friend to feed on, while keeping her meal merciful so as to not provoke Canal's anger. Now she finally had her own crew and could part ways with the Swordbreaker and go off to become stronger. She had been studying the vast and complicated workings of the over-world through its massive digital public library called Internet and had learned a lot, enough she thought, to fend for herself in this strange world and guide her crew to adapt. Zelas wanted the Great Beast to surpass the Swordbreaker and then Darkstar, but she knew that would be a difficult task.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 044: Strategy! Negotiations And Plans

At the Swordbreaker, the scanner that Canal used to analyze Zelgadis and Filia was a human sized glass capsule where they stepped in one by one and a line of light passed over them. It felt a tad odd, like a light electrical surge, but it wasn't particularly bothersome. After Canal had the data in her systems, analyzing it was easy. "Let's see now... Zelgadis' mechanical components have been closely linked to his being. However, they are distinct from his human body in that removing them shouldn't cause any difficulties."

"You can remove them then?" Zelgadis was filled with excitement at the possibility. He had lost hope of finding a cure for his chimera condition in his world, but the over-world may be the answer.

"I could try, but why would you want that? You are stronger this way," Canal reasoned. "Besides, it looks like because of the magical and alchemic origin of your chimeraism all of it was converted to something that this world could fit in its logic. In other words, your genetics were in such a state that not even science could make them that way. If you cross over to your world without your armor, which represents your chimera components, you'll most likely end up as a normal human and all the hard work put into modifying your body will be lost."

"You think I did this on purpose," Zelgadis concluded more so than asked. "I don't want to be a chimera, being a normal human is exactly what I want!"

"Oh..." Canal blinked. She decided not to ask too much about the story behind all that, as it sounded complicated.

"Keep it," Zelas interfered.

"What?" Zelgadis didn't like where this was going. If Zelas stubbornly insisted that he shouldn't be changed, how was he supposed to oppose her? He didn't know how, but he knew he would. His cure was at last being handed to him and he wasn't about to let it go. Besides, surely Canal would take his side; she was a part of Vorfeed after all. Though Vorfeed's position was blurred at the moment, she surely wouldn't side with the cruel whims of a monster lord, or at least Zelgadis hoped not.

"For the time being," Zelas clarified. "That armor makes you stronger and you're going to need that. You're just getting used to this world and that means your inexperience makes you weaker. If you go back to being an ordinary human, your power will only decrease further and you don't have time to adapt right now. If you wish to bring that upon yourself when you return to our world that is not my concern, but keep the armor for the time being, or most of it at least."

"She does have a point," Amelia couldn't help it but to admit it. "How about we postpone the full armor removal and you stay as a," she recalled that word they called him, "cyborg for now?"

"Alright," Zelgadis logically agreed, "if it makes a difference." He had to remember that this was a war they were heading into and he would need all his power to survive, be able to protect Amelia and help their friends. He didn't like the idea of being another of Zelas' soldiers, but if it was an inevitable part of the situation, so be it. "Can you at least remove this part for now?" He pointed at the mask.

"Sure," Canal agreed. "I'll uninstall the mask and helmet for now and remove the rest before you make the trip back to your world. About that," Canal started getting to work on removing Zelgadis' mask. She pulled out a tool kit from a storage compartment on the Swordbreaker and began removing some bolts with an electric screwdriver. "How do you intend to go back anyway? Darkstar had to collect a lot of energy to summon Zelas, Dolphin and Dynast here, as his own power was only enough to transport himself and not completely."

"I was assuming that once we regrouped and won, Zelas could use her own power to get us home." Lina gave the monster lord a suspicious look.

"Your assumption is correct," Zelas agreed. "Although only the ultimate lords of the worlds have that kind of power to begin with, I will gain that power before we face Darkstar." Or at least that was the plan. "Of course, we can't expect such feats from Shabranigdu anymore. It's a pity he didn't discover the possibility when he was whole, though Ceifeed would have surely stood in the way anyway."

"So Shabranigdu and Ceifeed check out," Lina voiced. "What about you, Canal?"

"Vorfeed and I are divided, so as individual we do not have sufficient power for that." Canal's expression became saddened as she considered the possibilities. "I don't know if we'll be able to free Vorfeed from Darkstar, but she has told me that all that matters now is stopping him." It was something that filled Canal, Kain and Millie with worry, as they wished to save Vorfeed.

"To summarize," Kain spoke, "the only one who can travel between our worlds right now is Darkstar."

"What about the other lords?" Amelia inquired. "I don't know a lot about them, but aren't there at least four worlds?"

Lina touched her talismans. "Speaking of which, can you tell me anything about these talismans?"

Canal looked at the jewelry with curiosity. She knew the talismans were special only because of the way Lina made them sound as such, but she could sense nothing more about them. From what I can see those are devices of your world, they are powered by magic, right? If that is the case, I don't see how we could possibly activate them from here."

"I thought as much," Lina concluded. "What about the other lords from the other worlds though? Can't they help against Darkstar? I mean, for all we know he won't stop with our worlds. He's probably looking to find a way to continue gaining power and eventually move on to their worlds. What about Chaotic Blue and Death Fog? Or more likely, their lord of light counterparts, Blue Dragon and White Dragon? Where are Dynast and Dolphin anyway?"

"Dynast and Dolphin have been captured by Darkstar," Zelas revealed. "I doubt they will be able to join us."

"They are protected by a special program," Canal reminded hopefully. "Darkstar won't be able to absorb them into his being completely and as long as their AIs remain as individuals, separating them will still be possible. We don't have forever though, as Darkstar must be trying to break the code as we speak. I'm counting on Vorfeed to alert me when we start to run out of time. We'll have to head into battle then, in whatever conditions we are at the time, since waiting would make things much worse if Darkstar obtains the power of Dolphin and Dynast."

"As for the lords of the other worlds, I don't think they'll be involved." Kain spoke as if he had already discussed such things with his friends before. "Or maybe they can't be."

"When Darkstar and Vorfeed united and breached your world, they were not only summoned there, but they also wanted to go. It took that device that was in your world to guide them and their combined power to make the initial trip which left a sort of pathway behind," Canal explained. "Crossing between worlds for the first time is no easy task." There were rumors about a device called the 'Ruby Eyes System' capable of acting as a sort of connector of worlds, but those were only rumors that Canal thought were not real.

Seeing Lina's expression, Zelas knew that she was working to put it all together in her head and make sense of it. "Of course, you didn't think Celo's life would be enough to transport you between two completely separate worlds, did you? Rips between these two worlds had occurred before now, after the Darkstar prophecy, and others have crossed through those rips. If the worlds were still truly separate, enclosed as before, coming here wouldn't have been so easy."

"Celo's life?" Filia questioned. He had been Tiffany's husband and Tiffany had been her best childhood friend, so of course Filia was concerned about him. Besides, he was one of the few of Zelas minions, aside from Fang and Xellos, that Filia got along with fairly well.

"He powered your trip here with his sacrifice," Zelas confirmed.

Filia glared at Xellos, looking hurt. "You knew about that, didn't you?"

"Of course I did," Xellos made no effort what so ever to deny it. After all, it was only logical that he would know. "There was no choice."

"Believe it or not, I would have rather not lost him, he was useful," Zelas ascertained. Filia lowered her head in sadness and remained silent.

Millie sighed, "it sounds like we've all lost important people." She tried not to let her own memories get to her. "It's all the more reason why we need to stop Darkstar."

"And that's exactly what we'll do!" Amelia reaffirmed.

Canal finally finished getting all the small bolts off so that the helmet and mask on Zelgadis could be removed. After a silent pause, she announced, "Done! I finally got this off."

Everyone looked at Zelgadis in surprise. He was afraid to look at his own face, wondering what it could look like. Though in theory he was supposed to be a human and Canal's odd machinery seemed to indicate so, he wouldn't fully believe it until he saw it. Yet Amelia's face reassured him even before Millie handed him a mirror. "I'm... human..." It was so ironic that he found the cure when he was occupied on something else entirely that didn't involve obsessively looking for it.

"You did it! You found the cure!" Amelia cheered as she threw her arms around Zelgadis and kissed him, running a hand through his soft lavender hair. "Well, not really found it, since you weren't looking for it at the time, but you ran into it somehow anyway."

"Finally, after this is over, I'll be human!" Zelgadis was used to being disappointed, but he had a very strong feeling about it this time.

"Thank you Miss Canal for offering to complete the transformation later, and thank you too Miss Zelas, because if you haven't chosen us as your champions of justice that would journey to the over-world, this wouldn't have been possible." Amelia cheered gratefully.

Canal smiled, but Zelas glared. "Don't tempt me to kill you with such words," the monster lord warned.

Canal cleared her throat. "You won't be able to breathe under water and in space without the mask, but since you don't like it much, I could get you a replacement that's easy to put on and take off."

"I would be most grateful," Zelgadis sounded more cheerful than he had been in a long time.

"Consider it done," Canal assured. "I'll get on it as soon as I'm done with the other analysis. Now let's see... The system has processed all the possibilities but it looks like Filia is a cyborg for keeps." Canal looked at the golden dragon turned cyborg as she explained. "The mechanical components are so deeply integrated that they cannot be removed without a serious risk to your life. I'm not surprised though. Those components represent your dragon aspects and you were born a dragon, so naturally, it's not something that can be easily removed," Canal informed.

"Then I'm normal?" Filia breathed.

"Yes." Or as normal as any of them could ever be, Canal quietly mused. "Here I have some reverse engineered blue prints created from the data. With this we can figure out the specifics of your system so you can get the hang of your new functions."

"Speaking of new functions," Lina brought up the subject that was only a matter of time before she would speak of. "Cyborgs are pretty strong aren't they? Maybe you can help me carry these!" She pulled out some stones from her cape. They had been jewels she picked up at the cave, but now they looked like brown stones. "What? These were gems!"

"Did you pick those up from the caves here?" Kain laughed. "They only glow because of the radiation of the planet. If you drop them on the ground they'll start glowing again, but don't worry, the radiation is harmless. If you were planning to take them as treasure, unfortunately, they're worthless."

Lina grumbled as she began to empty all the useless rocks out of her cape. She found the broken handle of the brass racket and immediately asked about it. "What about this? It's a brass racket from our world. It's used for a sport there, but it was quite powerful against Gorun Nova!"

"Let's have a look," Canal examined the broken piece of brass racket. "This type of metal isn't ordinary brass, or at least not what we know as regular brass here. This is the type of metal use to channel psy-energy. It's very pure so it would be a powerful conductor! Psy-energy is the energy that comes from your very life and it is regulated by your emotions, which changes the type of energy it is. I can craft this metal into a weapon."

"Psy-energy, eh?" Lina mused aloud. "Well, we can't use magic, so we'll use that!"

"You're going to need more than one weapon though. I happen to acquire a good supply on my last job and could provide you with some weaponry... For a price," Kain offered.

Lina was on full alert with her cunning on high ready to try to get a good deal. "What did you have in mind."

"I'll give you an extra weapon aside from the one Canal will craft if you give me your cape as a souvenir!" Kain suggested.

Millie slapped her forehead. "I knew it! It was only a matter of time before he tried to obtain that cape! Really Kain, don't you have enough black capes already?"

"Shh! Quiet Millie, I'm negotiating here!" Kain urged.

"Her cape?" Gourry finally spoke up. "So that's what you were staring at!" He exclaimed with great relief.

"He was staring at my cape?" Lina blinked. "I didn't notice." She looked at the others and their knowing expressions told her that they had noticed. She thought about Gourry's relief upon learning that Kain's interest was on her cape and her heart skipped a bit. Was he actually getting jealous for a minute there? As much as she wanted to focus on that and explore the possibilities, Lina had some business to conduct first. "I might not be very willing to let go of this cape. It's quite sturdy and durable; it's seen a lot of adventures." She spun around, modeling the cape and tempting Kain with it. She had found his weakness and she was certainly willing to take advantage of it. "But since I'm feeling particularly generous today, I'll let you make a few offers and we'll see where that goes." Kain had a bad feeling about this.

xoxox xox xoxox

While Zelgadis and Filia studied the abilities of their new forms with Canal, Millie occupied herself in chatting with Amelia, not wanting to witness what Kain would do to get his hands on Lina's cape. At least Canal reminded him that she owned the Swordbreaker and most of the things inside it, so he better not offer them out. Millie warned him not to offer any of her things either.

In the end, Lina obtained a good haul of supplies, which was good, since the Great Beast wasn't exactly equipped to support a crew living within it. Zelas was a dark lost ship, she was expected to torment her captain and drain their life away, then find another one, though she intended to keep the ever useful crew alive. After all, she planned to return alive and well to her world and there would surely be other occasions in the future when Lina Inverse and the others would prove to be useful. Among the things Lina obtained, there were various weapons that she couldn't wait to see in action.

After the dealings were complete, the two ships decided, by Zelas' choice mostly, that it was time to part ways for the time being. Thus the Swordbreaker left in one direction with Canal, Kain and Millie, while in another direction there went the Great Beast with Zelas, Xellos, Filia, Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis.

Zelgadis had a new helmet, which had to be larger to make it easy to put it on and take it off. The shade of blue was darker than the blue parts of his armor, but he didn't mind, though he thought the cat ears were a bit much, but it was a useful piece of equipment so he shouldn't get too picky. Shades and a mask could be used to cover the face and retracted at will. Apparently Canal had installed the helmet's control drives, whatever that was, into the armor's system, which was already linked to Zelgadis' psy-energy. Zelgadis reasoned that her explanation meant something along the lines of him being able to control the helmet's mask and visor being opened and closed over his face by thinking it.

Zelas was holding a small item, which in that world would be called a microchip, as the group traveled through space. Most of her crew was occupied in looking out the window, fascinated by the seemingly endless blackness with the blurred lines of light, which were actually the points of light of stars that looked like lines because of their motion speed. The chip was an item Xellos happened to be carrying when he arrived. The drawing on the back of it looked like the picture on the back of Zelas' deck of cards. Though she had managed to hold on to the box lunch, she dropped all her cards when she was summoned so she did not obtain an item like this from any of them.

Zelas reasoned that if the chip had come from her cards that hid luck runes, then it would be alright to install it. She had been studying her vessel's inner workings since she arrived at that world after Canal's assistance concerning Darkstar. It was complicated, but she was understanding it, she was a sort of computer after all. She opened a panel under the main controls of the vessel and searched for a place to fit the chip until she found one. Once it was adjusted, she closed up the panel. It was only a small luck rune, but something was better than nothing, a small improvement would still be an improvement after all. That was what Zelas planned to do. She would upgrade her vessel with the technology of that world and gain power for the coming battle.

There was also another issue she needed to take care of. The negative psy-energy that powered her also empowered Darkstar. She couldn't effectively fight him in the way Canal could with the Swordbreaker's ability to feed on and attack with positive energy. Albeit, peculiarly, the white lost ship was also able to run on wrath. Zelas had heard the story of a vast burst of power Kain experienced upon channeling pure rage through Swordbreaker's main psy-energy canon. It was very strong, but ultimately useless against Darkstar when they faced him before. Even so, if a lost ship of light could work with wrath, than perhaps a dark lost ship could channel something like courage, for example.

Darkstar's Dugradigdu couldn't work with positive psy-energy, but maybe Zelas could find a way for her Great Beast to accomplish wielding courage without injuring herself. After all, courage had been instrumental in battling Darkstar in the over-world before, so it would probably be vital this time around too. Yet how could she ever use it as a weapon if in her current state it weakened her? She would just have to find a way, but whatever she did, she would not change. Zelas was determined to remain as a being of darkness, a pure monster, or for now a pure dark lost ship. That made her mission much more difficult, but what was life without a challenge?

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 045: Disguise! The Art Of Being Unrecognizable

While Zelas, Xellos, Filia, Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis were traveling through space in the over-world, their world was at a standstill of sorts where neither the monsters nor the dragons dared to make a move. Milgazia found himself wondering how things were going in the over-world one quiet afternoon as he went for a walk around Dragon's Peak in the Kataart Mountains to see up close how the members of his clan were doing and reassure them. Although he wasn't keen on the idea of fighting alongside a monster lord, he didn't want to entrust the fate of the world to her either. Zelas would be fighting Darkstar with everything she had, he had no doubts of that, but it would be for revenge. That meant that as long as she accomplished her goals and enough of the world survived to provide sustenance for her and her monsters; that would be enough for her.

Yet it wasn't enough for Milgazia, he didn't want any sacrifices that could be avoided. He looked up to the skies again and really wished he was there to oversee the whole mission, even if he wouldn't be able to do too much against the monster lord if she got too stubborn. Maybe his words would make a difference if he phrased things cleverly enough or came up with some kind of strategy. He knew that though tedious and annoying, even monster lords were not impossible to deal with, albeit more often than not negotiations of that kind would turn aggressive. Since when did he get so involved in matters so far beyond the immediate business of his clan?

Milgazia found himself remembering his past self, a much more reclusive dragon who was very reluctant to associate with humans. Yet now, he considered Lina and several of her traveling companions to be his friends. It was a change that occurred over time, starting with his travels with the warrior of light, who was also known as the swordsman of light, despite actually being a woman. Yet the warrior's legend was obscured and filled with rumors, so her real identity was lost to tales of grandeur. Even so, at least her mark was remembered in some way, even if it was with the name of a faceless legendary hero. His mind went back to those days traveling with her, the human who made him open up to the world around him.

There were two others who had been present during that fateful series of events that ended with Flagoon being planted at Sairaag after the Zanaffar's defeat well over a hundred and twenty years ago. Those others were not aware of each other's participation in the event and perhaps the only one who was aware of the irony of it all was the Lord of Nightmares herself. This was the tale of an event from long ago that had seemingly no consequences towards anything beyond it, but in reality it did. After all, life is like a row of dominoes and once they're set in motion, falling one after the other, there's no stopping it.

That occasion when Xellos and Filia met for the first time, that is to say, when they truly met each other as each other's true selves, Filia had a very negative reaction to Xellos. She wanted to stay away from him. Naturally, a golden dragon was supposed to hate monsters, but her over the top reaction left Xellos in a state of surprised intrigue that would eventually lead to an irresistible curiosity and to a long series of events culminating in an unlikely union, and continuing on beyond it.

Yet why was her reaction so panicked, so extreme, so memorable? Perhaps because of something hidden away in her past; something that might have been overshadowed by the grander scheme of things and tugged away in memories that were no longer visited. If for her the memory was not something to be disturbed with remembrance, then for him even more so. After all, that human girl whom Xellos never knew was in fact a golden dragon should be long since dead by now. The event in question happened well over a hundred and twenty years ago.

Rumors of a defective Zanaffar armor that would soon become a Zanaffar beast reached Zelas Metallium at that time in the past. Naturally, she welcomed it as good news. There was also another piece of information that stood out to her from Xellos' recent report, which she was discussing with the general priest at Wolf Pack Island at the time. "So a representative for the dragons unfortunate enough to live within the barrier has been trailing that human who goes around displaying acts of heroism with the sword of light?"

"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos confirmed. He knew that Zelas had heard him perfectly well when he shared the information the first time. She was stressing her curiosity on the matter and asking for more information with her inquiry, instead of requesting a clarification. "His name is Milgazia; he is the elder of the water clan."

"Ah yes," Zelas nodded, recalling the name of an earlier tale of Xellos. If anyone told her that she'd be playing brass rackets regularly with that very same dragon over a century later, she would laugh, express that such a thing wouldn't happen in a hundred, thousand or even a million years and then kill the fool who dared to suggest such a joke in such poor taste. But then, that was what made life interesting, it's plethora of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. She recalled Milgazia from Xellos' report of the War of the Monsters Fall. The now dragon elder, formerly a high ranking general, had taken over the leadership of the clan after the previous leader had been killed by Xellos. The purple haired general priest had mentioned Milgazia a few times as being one to have no qualms about wielding black magic if it was necessary and was rather skilled in strategizing. "A little spitfire, is he?" Zelas had asked with a chuckle.

"Pretty dull, actually," Xellos had informed. "Or maybe he was masking his emotions so as to not feed me with rage. That dragon has the dullest taste I've ever had the displeasure to try." Yet somehow, he lived, through the many disastrous battles he challenged the odds and lived.

Focusing her mind away from the past war and on the current conversation, Zelas inquired. "Why is Milgazia trailing the hero instead of directly searching for the Zanaffar?"

"I have not been able to acquire that information." Xellos admitted with disappointment.

"It puzzles me," Zelas emphasized, meaning that she wanted Xellos to find out. Having to spend all her time cooped up at Wolf Pack Island, so as to not leave her position in the barrier's formation, was rather annoying at times. She was bored and this news about the Zanaffar was the most interesting thing she had heard in years. "I'm sure Milgazia must have heard about the rumors concerning the Zanaffar. Even a good amount of humans have heard. We can assume that he doesn't know where it is," and neither did they. "After all, if he knew where to find the Zanaffar, it would make sense to hurry towards the armor now and prevent it from becoming the beast. Yet why, instead of actively searching for it, is this dragon trailing the hero?" Zelas threw the questions around as if the answers would be revealed if she pondered them enough, yet they weren't.

"The hero isn't a particularly big threat to the monster race, nor do I believe she could be of a significant use to the dragons," Xellos theorized. "I doubt Milgazia is after the legendary blade of light, or else he could have easily taken it. He seems to be interested in observing her though, not really interfering much with what she does and allowing her to call the shots. If I hadn't faced off against Milgazia before and seen he is more cunning than most dragons, I would think this is the case of some mindless dragon following a human like an idiot." He frowned upon being unable to decipher the actions. Milgazia was a tricky one alright. "The Zanaffar and Milgazia's sudden interest in following the warrior of light might not even be related at all. Why he's wasting his time following her instead of looking for the armor is a true puzzle, which I intend to solve."

"Go and do just that," Zelas decided. "However, I don't want Milgazia to know that he is being trailed. You mentioned before that he was hard to read and rather cunning for a dragon. I don't even want as much as a rumor about a purple haired traveler reaching him. With the rumors of the Zanaffar going around among humans, their gossip mill is unusually active and surely Milgazia will be attentive to it. He must be out to find information somehow, though his true purposes remain unknown to us. We can't discard the possibility that his interest in the warrior of light is nothing but a ruse to make us think he's not actively searching for the Zanaffar. Blend in among humans and observe, but do so in disguise. I know you are attached to your current projection, but this time, I want you to alter your appearance as the one you usually have is one that Milgazia would without a doubt remember."

"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos teleported away after the final instruction from his master. His mind was occupied in thinking what he would make himself look like. His usual appearance was cheery and harmless, it went well with humans, but it was too Xellos. Maybe something less cheery would be best, something more sinister so as to very ironically, hide in plain sight. But not too sinister, he had to look human after all. No purple... Perhaps black or red?

xoxox xox xoxox

Far away from the peninsula, in the land that would be known as part of the outer continents later on, a younger Filia sat sadly on a lonely hill. Her dear friend Tiffany had broken countless dragon rules and everything ended in what was from Filia's perspective a tragedy. She would never see her friend again, or at least she thought she wouldn't. Tiffany had said that she would understand when she was older and fell in love, but Filia never thought she could challenge her race's rules like that. She found no comfort in her rock dolls; as they only reminded her about how Tiffany would always play tea party with her, despite the older dragon female being more interested in other things that had little to do with tea, or more like preoccupied. It would be well over a century before Filia truly understood her childhood friend and her actions, but for the time being, the adolescent dragon was just sad.

She had some time off from her studies and chores at the temple, but that didn't make Filia feel any better. In fact, she felt worse, having less to occupy herself with. Looking to understand Tiffany's fascination with humans, which led her to run away with a human lover, Filia decided that she would observe humans herself. In truth Tiffany's lover and eventual husband was a human and monster chimera, but Filia didn't know that at the time. In a rush of sadness that made her act rashly, Filia hurried away, further and further from dragon lands until she eventually reached a human town.

Filia had been traveling for days and her body was a little stiff from maintaining a human form for so long. She was supposed to be on vacation though, so the others at the temple would probably assume she went camping or something, or perhaps off to visit another dragon clan. She stretched, arching her back and her tail popped out. A merchant was leading a mule to pull a cart full of crops, the animal struggling to pull its weight down the street of the small town. The merchant, a man in his early thirties with dark brown hair and small green eyes, was holding a sack of more precious wares over his shoulder. He, among a few other random passers, saw Filia's tail pop out. His shock caused him to drop the sack, which fell on the mule, startling the animal. With new found strength originating from the fright, the mule jerked so strongly, that the old worn belts of the harness broke.

Leaving its cargo behind, the mule dashed away from its shocked owner, who could only stand there staring. The animal ironically ran in Filia's direction, startling her into screaming and jumping out of the way. A blond young woman holding a basket of newly purchased goods, screamed "monster!" At the top of her, rather healthy and loud, lungs, pointing her accusing trembling finger at Filia.

Filia gasped and jumped again in fright, thinking that there was a monster behind her. Yet there was nothing there, she would have sensed it if there was. The market place erupted into a frenzy, as the golden dragon realized that she was the monster the humans were making a fuss about. "Please stop! I'm not a monster!" She stomped her foot for emphasis, and shook her head. As her golden hair bounced from side to side, her long ears became apparent, but the tail had already made the humans conclude that she was not an elf. The exasperation made Filia's fangs grow as she strongly denied having any affiliation to monsters. Her finger nails became claws as she further lost control over her form due to the stress.

Before she lost her human-like shape entirely, Filia ran away. She ducked into a lonely street, pushing her legs to carry her away at full speed. She turned a corner down a dark alley and saw a humble dark blue tent with yellow stars sewn into it, the fabric faded from being exposed to the elements. Without thinking about where she was going, Filia stumbled inside and stopped to catch her breath.

"Hello, young one," the voice made Filia jump. Seeing her frightened expression, the old woman tried to soothe her unexpected visitor. "Calm yourself, young one. I will not bring any harm to you."

Filia nodded, her chest still heaving with deep unsteady breaths. She closed her eyes and steadied her breathing, then finally spoke. "I apologize for barging in like this. The people out there," she frowned, her eyes brimming with tears. "They called me a monster."

"How mean," the old woman was wrapped in an odd attire, which consisted of many different fabrics sewn together in multicolored robes. Her eyes were blue and her hair gray with age. "It is clear to me that you are not a monster, but a dragon."

Filia nodded, then shifted uncomfortably. "Are you okay with that?" She inquired shyly. "I heard that there are humans that fear dragons as much as monsters, regardless of how ridiculous the notion may seem."

The old woman chuckled; clearly, this young dragon was unaware of the darker side of human and dragon history. Yet she wasn't here to educate the girl in the ways of the real world. She was only a traveling merchant and nothing more, though she had been a powerful sorceress once and in truth, she still was, albeit in a less flashy way. Ah how she missed those days, what she wouldn't give for her youth. Then again, maybe she could have it back, then she would be beautiful again and she would be able to serve Gaia and... She was getting ahead of herself again. "Indeed," the old woman laughed.

"Oh, I'm sorry, ma'am, how rude of me not to introduce myself," Filia formally apologized. "I am Filia Ul Copt, apprentice priestess for the Flare Lord."

"It is good to meet you Miss Filia, I am known as Venus." The old woman introduced herself. "May I ask what brings you here?"

"Ah yes, my visit is rather unusual," Filia admitted. "I do not wish to cause any disturbances. I only wish to observe humans and get to know their culture."

"I think I can help you with that," Venus offered. A little mischief might just cheer her up. At first Filia assumed that the elderly lady would share tales of human wisdom, but instead she dug into an old trunk in a corner of the tent and pulled out a golden choker with a ruby at its center. "This is a special magical amulet that will disguise your energy. A sorceress would use this to hide her true power, or in your case, your identity as a dragon. With this, you will also have full control over your human form." It was a lie, as even if Filia would indeed appear human, that wasn't the real purpose of the amulet. The choker was a trap, something to seal away one's magic, cursed so that it could not be removed. "With this you can blend in and observe the human race freely."

"Really?" Filia received the choker, her eyes shining with innocent curiosity. "May I purchase it then?" Filia paused with a sudden realization. She had left in a hurry without preparations and had no human currency with her. A dragon could obtain such things, but not without a good reason, thus trying to come up with an explanation to get it would have been impossible. "Oh wait, I can't buy it, I have no human money."

"I will give it to you, albeit I must charge you if you wish for any service to be performed on it," Venus offered.

"Really? Wow, that's so kind of you!" Filia happily exclaimed. Sapphires and emeralds were more so her preferred gems, but the ruby would do just fine. She wouldn't ask for any alterations on the jewelry charm's appearance, as that was what she thought Venus referred to when she said service.

"Don't mention it," Venus gave her a deceiving smile. "Enjoy it; I'll even give you this." She pulled out a bottle from the trunk. "It is a potion to change the color of your hair temporarily, in case you wish to change your appearance so that the townspeople won't recognize you."

"You're really too kind, thank you so much Lady Venus!" Filia cheered.

"You are quite welcome," Venus replied.

Without giving it much thought, Filia drank the potion, which thankfully did only what Venus claimed it would. Except by temporary she meant that her hair would be back to its original color when it grew out, but a different hair color would be the least of Filia's worries. Her golden hair turned chestnut brown. Her clothing was nothing that stood out, just a simple pink dress, as Filia had left her white cloak and jewelry behind. Now she could blend in perfectly. She then put on the choker and felt her energy constrain. She gasped, but withstood it and suddenly felt somewhat fragile. Perhaps this was all part of the human disguise. "Thank you again, Lady Venus, I'm sure this experience will be most enlightening!"

"Oh yes, I'm sure it will be," Venus agreed. She laughed maliciously as soon as Filia had gone away down the alley and was out of earshot. "Most enlightening indeed," at least the dragon girl would learn not to trust strangers.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 046: Stranded! Struggling Against The Merciless Sea

Thanks to the chocker and the new hair color, Filia managed to blend in at the human town. A few people gave her a second glance, but they moved on after concluding that the similar pink dress was just a coincidence and this girl was not the same as the one with the tail. Even the top of her ears were perfectly rounded like a human. She still felt a tad fragile, but she figured it must be the magical pressure the choker made on her to keep her form perfectly human.

After some observation, Filia noted that humans weren't so unusual after all. They had a town, a market and they went about their business. They were loud and somewhat unruly by her standards, but whatever qualities had apparently attracted Tiffany still remained a mystery to Filia. She did notice that there were great variations from one human to another. Maybe she just wasn't observing the right type of human, maybe she just had to keep looking, she had the time after all.

The constrained feeling in her body was getting to be annoying. Maybe she could duck into an alley and stretch her tail a bit where no one could see her. She found a suitable place for that, glad that the structures of the little town were so tightly packed, however, she was unable to remove the chocker. 'Don't panic,' Filia thought to herself. She walked out of the alley and tried to find her way back to Venus. The temple where she lived was a lot larger than this town, but it had a very organized symmetrical structure that the human town lacked. The place was small but built like a maze of confusing winding streets that turned narrower and wider without warning, full of turns that made no sense to Filia. It was as if they just kept on building wherever and didn't plan out the town's structure at all.

After some time of wondering, Filia found her way back to where Venus' tent had been. There was a long line of people standing in front of it now, waiting to have their fortune read. Filia sighed and reasoned that cutting in line would be terribly rude, thus she waited. Finally, her turn came and she was able to speak to Venus. "Lady Venus, I seem to have a small problem," she spoke calmly as she didn't know the extent of her problem just yet. "The choker is stuck, or maybe I just don't understand the proper way to remove it."

"I shall provide the removal service for a price," Venus offered mockingly.

"Removal service?" Filia didn't like where this was going.

"That will be a hundred gold coins," Venus informed with a serious face and a malicious stare.

"What?" Filia loudly exclaimed. It was no wonder she was told to be weary of the world outside of the temple walls. "You can't do that, this is a rip off!"

Filia was just about ready to throw a tantrum when Venus called out to a new arrival who stood just outside her tent. She recognized him as either Biggs or Wedge, one of the pair of twins who were madly in love with the mayor's only daughter, who showed no interest in either. Venus had profited from their rivalry, setting them up to one up each other in a series of useless competitions that did little to amuse their beloved. "Is that you my boy? This young lady is causing trouble, please see her out."

Biggs or Wedge, which ever he was, stepped forward towards Filia. His dark brown messy hair spoke of another sleepless night contemplating his heartbreak. Big amber eyes looked at Filia with disapproval as he pouted. "Miss, you shouldn't cause trouble for Venus, please leave now."

Filia could just about explode with anger. "She tricked me!"

As if wanting to shield the tricky old woman from the sheer volume of the girl's voice, the young man stepped between them. "Please leave!" He insisted sternly.

Filia growled and in a rash action attempted to push the nosy young man out of her way so she could give Venus a piece of her mind. The problem was that he wouldn't budge. Gritting her teeth, Filia took the young man's arm and pulled with all her might, feeling her energy constrain as she did. She finally let go, out of breath, while the young man stood firm and smug. Realizing that this human body was limited to the strength of a human, Filia glared, threw her head back and walked away. She wished she had a weapon or something, then again, even if she carried a heavy weapon with her, she wouldn't be able to lift it right now. But if for whatever reason she ever had to go out among humans again, not that she ever wanted to, she would definitely be armed with a mace or something.

Her angry stride turned to a desperate run. Filia's distraught running led her to the pier. She allowed her tears to flow out freely. How could she go back to the temple now? She was stuck in a human body, surely the dragon elders could removed the choker, but what would they say? She couldn't let them know! She had to get out of this terrible problem on her own. Humans were tricky and terrible creatures. She didn't like them at all. She pulled at the choker, but no matter how hard she tried, she wasn't able to get it off.

"Hey there missy," a gruff voice made Filia jump. "You okay, girly?"

Filia looked up to see a tall muscular man with tanned skin, dirty blond hair and piercing brown eyes. He appeared to be a sailor. "It's not every day some pretty girl is found crying like that, with no one to console her. You okay, missy?"

Lacking a sense of malice at such an early point in her life, Filia sensed no danger from this man, who might have caused the mental alarms of any other girl to go off full force. "I'm... in need of currency," she confessed. She had no choice but to pay Venus to remove the choker. Or remove it by force, "actually, could you help me with something? You seem strong," or strong for a human at least. She was certain she was far stronger as a dragon, even in elf-form, but right then, she was a human.

"So you like muscles, miss?" The man flexed his arms. The girl was shy and young, but quite pretty and she showed no apprehension towards him.

"Um..." Filia decided not to comment on the ridiculous display, which the sailor interpreted as awe and fed his ego. Finally she requested. "Mister, you see this choker on my neck, it's stuck and I wish to remove it. Could you please get it off? It doesn't matter if you have to break it, just please, get it off."

"That's a strange request, but alright." The man placed his large hands on the choker, making Filia finally start to feel uneasy around him. He pulled at it from both sides, but it didn't come off. He turned the jewelry around on Filia's neck, looking for some sort of clip or something. The golden piece was soldered together somehow though he did see a thin line where it looked as if it once opened up. Yet there it was, like a bangle around the neck in a size that couldn't have possibly fit over her head. "This thing's stuck good! Did they craft it on your neck or what?"

"Um..." Filia didn't think she should reveal she was a dragon, so she limited herself to saying, "it's an amulet, but I don't want to wear it anymore."

"Ah, so it's a magical device," the man realized. "Those are pretty rare; it would fetch a mighty price."

"You can have it if you get it off," Filia offered, hoping that it would serve as a motivation.

The sailor tried to get the chocker off again, but after much effort, his arms dropped to his sides. "Missy, you're going to have to see a magic user for this. There's one in town, an old hag by the name of Venus."

Filia frowned, she didn't even bother to point out one's elders should be respected, because that terrible Venus was no kind and wise old lady, she was a con artist. "She said she would charge me a hundred coins to remove it and I don't have any money."

"Ah, so that's what you were talking about before," the sailor realized. "Well that's pretty much all you can do missy, I can still help you though. Some friends and I are going on a little voyage to investigate an area out at sea. There's treasure to be found there, precious treasures that were lost and have no owner. Valuable gold and jewels that are just waiting to be claimed!" The area he spoke of was the island vaguely visible beyond a barrier that he foolishly believed he and his crew could break through. It was Wolf Pack Island, where nothing but doom awaited, if they even managed to get close to it, but the sailor foolish thought it was the perfect hiding place for pirate treasure. "How about you come along on our ship? I can offer you a job as a cook. The guys and I are tired of eating our own lousy cooking. I assume you can make a decent meal? Take this job and you'll get more than just a hundred coins!"

Filia nodded eagerly, she wasn't an expert in the kitchen, but she knew how to cook. "Can I have the job, really? Oh thank you mister..."

"Joe, just call me Joe," the sailor replied. "And drop the mister stuff; it's not fitting for a ship captain."

"Thank you Captain Joe," Filia replied.

"Just Joe, don't be so formal with me, cutie," he winked.

Filia found the behavior to be quite odd but paid it little mind. "Very well then, Joe." She wouldn't be tricked by a human again. This was different as far as she knew. She wasn't accepting any convenient favors from strangers; she was doing a job, she was giving him something in exchange for what she would receive. "Will the trip be long though?"

"Oh no, we should be back in a week or so," Joe replied. "We're leaving right away." He pointed to a modest medium sized ship anchored at the docks. "Got any luggage to pick up, missy?"

Filia smiled, relieved. "No," Filia replied, "and my name is..." she paused, should she really be giving away her name? Maybe she should be more careful with her identity. What should she call herself then? This was lying, but if she could think of it as a nickname it felt less like a lie. She recalled a book Tiffany had snuck into the temple and showed her. It was human literature about romance and it was rather scandalous by the standard of the stricter dragon clans. Even so, the name of the female protagonist was perhaps common among humans. "My name is Juliet," Filia finally finished, "sorry to have taken so long to introduce myself."

"No worries, Juliet," Joe voiced, "you're cute being all shy."

"Um... ah... thank you," Filia answered unsure.

"Hey Joe! We're ready over here!" A man with long hair tied in a low ponytail and a clumsily trimmed black beard waved to Joe from the other side of the pier, near the ship.

"We're coming!" Joe called back, leading the way, with Filia wordlessly following him.

As Joe and Filia boarded the ship, the other sailors took a notice of her immediately. A younger man with short auburn hair, black pants and boots and a bare toned tan torso approached her curiously. "Well hello there cutie-pie."

"Um... hi..." Filia's uneasiness grew. She didn't like the way these men were looking at her. She didn't like how Joe looked at her either, but this one was half naked. She looked away shyly. Perhaps this wasn't the best crowd of humans to associate with, yet she needed the job. She needed to get that choker off her neck and put this terrible mistake behind her. She should have never ran off.

"Hold it there, Rick, can't you see the girl is shy?" Joe interfered. "Besides, she's under the captain's protection, if you know what I mean."

"Aw c'mon Joe, share with your crew," Rick joked.

"The only thing you'll be tasting from her is her cooking," Joe laughed.

Filia let out a breath she didn't even realize she was holding. Even if the humans were rather rough and strange, maybe they weren't so bad. Maybe Joe was one of the good ones, even if he looked a little wild and made her feel uneasy as she spent more time with him. He said he'd protect her, so maybe he was a responsible captain after all.

xoxox xox xoxox

The ship set sale on a strong wind and by the time night fell, they were a good way far from the shore. Filia busied herself in the kitchen below deck, where thankfully no one bothered her. She wasn't very pleased though, as the kitchen was rather dirty and she thought such an environment was very improper for the preparation of food. She tried her best to clean it, though the cleaning supplies available were next to nothing. Eventually, she served out some food in the dinning area where the sailors talked loudly and made a ruckus drinking beer and stuffing their faces with her cooking.

"Hey, cutie, come and sit next to your captain," Joe called out, motioning for the chair next to him.

Filia was reluctant, but told herself she was being silly. The humans were odd and at times a little unsanitary, especially the men from what she'd seen, but this was part of their culture and she had to respect it. This was nothing like in the story Tiffany showed her, but that was called fiction for a reason. After a pause, Filia took a small step forward, not wanting to offend the captain. She stumbled suddenly as the ship violently shook.

"Get out there men!" Joe suddenly commanded as he jumped out of his chair. The ship rocked violently again and Filia fell to the floor as the sailors stumbled to get above deck leaving the dinning area in a mess of spilled food and drinks.

Above deck, the sailors found that the cause of the disturbances was not the anger of the sea, or a storm of the skies, it was the rage of a living beast. A giant squid was wrapping its massive tentacles around the vessel! Filia managed to get herself above deck and gasped. That squid was not a normal sea creature. She focused on sensing it while the men wielded spears in a fruitless effort to fight it off. She couldn't sense it at all; the amulet stuck on her neck prevented her. Yet when the creature spat out flames, she didn't need to sense its energy to know what it was. That thing was indeed not an ordinary sea creature; it was a monster that had wondered off from Deep Sea Dolphin's territory!

In desperation and alarm, Filia tried to cast a spell but found that she could not. Filia saw her life flash before her eyes. She didn't know what she could do; she didn't know how she could ever survive this. Suddenly the monster's strong tentacles broke the ship in half. Filia fell to the water, struggling to reach the surface. The ship's mast had fallen, broken into pieces. Filia held on to one of the portions to stay afloat. The disturbed sea pushed her and her floatation device away from the battle that had quickly turned into a massacre. Filia could only kick her legs in the water and keep trying to propel herself further away from the monster.

Thankfully, the squid was occupied with the men and didn't notice Filia slip away. Terrified, Filia kept on advancing through the water for she didn't know how long. Albeit her body was no longer as strong as a dragon, in terms of defense it was at least a little more resistant than a human, but still relatively fragile. At least she had a little more energy to spare than a normal human girl would have. Even so, exhaustion eventually overtook Filia and she fell asleep with her arms and head on the piece of mast and the rest of her body floating in the waters that had eventually turned still.

Filia wasn't sure for how long she had been floating as she had gone from sleeping to unconscious, but she eventually floated close to the monster barrier. Though Zelas couldn't leave her island, she could at least walk along its surface and gaze into the distance. She looked beyond the transparent glow of the barrier and saw a girl floating just outside. She could feel that there was still life left in her and wondered how in the world that was even possible. Where did she come from anyway? Regardless of that, this was an unusual occurrence and therefore welcomed by Beast Master, who had become bored again, waiting for Xellos' next report. "Fang!"

A black sphere appeared next to Beast Master, morphing into a human shape. The monster looked like the fox chimera of the later days in human form, except for the lack of fox tail and ears. His expression was also noticeably different with ferocious silver eyes that strongly resembled the eyes of his master, a sharp contrast to his innocent silver eyes of later times. "Yes, Lord Beast Master?" Though the studies were on their way after noting how things went with Celo's transformation a few years ago, Fang had not yet been united with a fox. Thus he was still a pure monster that held malice, rather than playful innocence. He respected Xellos as his master's general priest and his superior, but did not yet have the friendly attachment he would develop in the future.

"Fetch me that girl, I will open the barrier for you, but be quick about it," Zelas instructed.

"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Fang approached the barrier as Zelas focused. Even an astral being couldn't go in and out of the barrier which went beyond the physical plane.

At Zelas' command, a hole appeared in the barrier while the rest of it remained untouched. Fang swiftly retrieved the unconscious girl from the sea and returned to his master's side. As soon as her minion and the strange visitor were within the barrier, Zelas closed it up again and allowed her energy to continue flowing into it as it had been doing for centuries since the War of the Monsters' Fall. "You may go now." Fang placed the girl on her back on the ground at Zelas' feet and teleported away, leaving his master to whatever she was going to do with the girl he assumed to be a human.

The monster lord knelt beside the girl curiously. There was something about her that was unusual for a human. She reached to touch the choker and sensed its magic. The monster lord placed a hand on Filia's forehead and tried to sense what she really was. Zelas' lips curled into a curious smile. So the girl was a golden dragon disguised as a human, the choker made her appear as such, at the price of locking away her power. It was cursed so as to not be removed. A monster lord like Zelas could sense all that with a good amount of focus, but an average and even a high ranking monster wouldn't be able to. Even Xellos wouldn't notice this girl's true nature unless he was purposely looking for it. The adolescent dragon girl would surely be distraught when she woke up and realized where she was, but there was no reason to kindly inform her. Maybe it would be more fun if she didn't know where she was and helplessly tried to get rid of the cursed choker and go home. In fact, maybe it would be more fun if even Xellos was oblivious to her true nature.

A wide amused smile full of mischief overtook Zelas' elegant features. She would send this girl to Xellos to snack on her emotions, as she would surely be distressed. She would tell him to travel with her as part of his disguise and listen to his reports about it later. It would be both useful and hilarious. Besides, as bored as Zelas had been until recently, she was in the mood to play a joke even on her own general priest. It wouldn't be harmful to his mission, it would actually be useful, and most importantly, it would be fun.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 047: Partners! Pick Your Team, The Race Begins

Filia slowly opened her eyes to an unfamiliar ceiling. Her head hurt, her whole body was sore and she was very hungry. "Ugh, where am I?" She sat up slowly, wondering if everything had been a bad dream. The room she was at looked rather plain and simple, the room of a humble seaside inn at the Coastal States at the peninsula. Yet all that Filia knew was that she wasn't at the temple and that was all she would know for now.

"You're at an inn, miss. Are you quite alright?" A voice inquired from next to her.

Filia turned her head to see a man sitting on a chair next to her bed. After her negative experiences with humans, she was weary of them. Her memories flooded back into her mind and she realized the last thing she remembered was swimming endlessly after that monster sunk the ship she was on. The strong sent of the sea and a quick glance out the window confirmed that the inn where she was, was located close to the ocean. Logically, she concluded that she must have washed up on the shore and brought there. Yet one apparent act of kindness would not make her trust a stranger again. She backed away against the bed's headboard, clinging to the blanket as if it were a protective shield. "Get away!" She screeched at the stranger.

Xellos was doing mostly the opposite of what he usually did. Milgazia would probably be attentive to rumors of anyone with purple hair going through towns, or any peculiarly harmless looking strangers. Thus the general priest decided to blend in with the crowd of bounty hunters and mercenaries that were out and about following rumors about the Zanaffar, treating it like a massive treasure hunt. His black and violet clothes denoted him to be a sorcerer specializing in black magic if one was to follow the stereotypes. His hair was now long and black, though just as silky soft as ever. His eyes lacked the hue of purple he was so attached to and were instead a brilliant red. His outward appearance screamed, 'sorcerer not to be messed with,' which was how most of those who were searching for the Zanaffar made themselves look.

"Calm down miss, I've done nothing to hurt you." He smiled, though he tried to keep his eyes open. This girl, a human as far as he knew, most likely had no idea who Xellos the monster was, thus he didn't have to put up much of an act for her, but he did anyway, just to get into the habit of not being his spontaneous, deceiving and tricky self. Well, he would still be deceiving and tricky, but in a different style. This girl's emotions were very intense and tasty, he was glad Beast Master sent him this snack.

Filia reluctantly lowered the blanket, not that it could serve as a shield for any sort of attack anyway. "Did I wash up on shore? Did you bring me here?"

"Yes," Xellos replied with a deceiving truth. She was sort of washed up on the shore of Wolf Pack Island, or at least as close to it as the barrier allowed. Then Fang had delivered her to Xellos along with Zelas' message and Xellos took her to the inn.

"Thank you..." Filia was still uneasy as she shakily got up from the bed. She was feeling distrustful of all humans. "I must be going now," her stomach growled loudly and she stumbled weakly.

"It doesn't look like you're well enough to go anywhere beyond the restaurant downstairs," Xellos observed.

Filia bit her lip, "I don't have any money," and trying to earn some only got her into bigger trouble than she was already in.

"I'll pay," Xellos offered.

Filia gave him a distrusting glare. "No," she firmly voiced. "I've had enough of strangers trying to trick me!"

The girl was rather amusing, there was something very peculiar about her too, but Xellos couldn't quite place his finger on it. One thing caught his attention though; he didn't expect any damsel to address her savior in such a way. Did he look that much like a trickster? "I assure you, I'm not trying to trick you. You may go and order any meal you wish." After all, she had to eat in order to live and produce monster food for him with her stress.

Filia wasn't sure of what to do, but she knew one thing for sure, if she was going to get out of this, she might have to stoop to the human's level and be tricky. That was it, she was determined. She would eat to her heart's content and afterwards run off. That way, if this stranger intended to abandon her with the bill, she would give him a taste of his own medicine. "Alright, I guess I could use a meal."

xoxox xox xoxox

Some time later, at the restaurant in the inn's first floor, Xellos was surprised at how much this girl ate for a human, but he reasoned she must have gone days without food. "Would you like anything else?"

"No thanks," Filia replied, finishing her dessert. The cake wasn't as good as what dragons usually ate, but it was alright for it having originated in a modest human establishment. Xellos signaled for the waitress and paid the bill. Filia paused remembering her plans and realized they were not needed after all. She finished her cake while unknown to her, Xellos contemplated how to make her follow him willingly and be a part of his cover. "Um..." Filia spoke, waking him from his thoughts. Now that she was fed, she was in much better spirits than earlier. "I'm sorry I was rude before. I really am grateful for your help, sir." She was about to inquire his name, but decided that she should give him hers first. "My name is... Juliet." Cautiously, she gave him her fake identity.

Xellos had heard the name before in some silly human story, although it had a nice ending at least, from a monster's perspective anyway. As a joke he decided to tell her his name was, "Romeo Wolf, pleased to meet you miss Juliet." Wolf was his treasure hunter alias that he was going by while blending in with the crowds, Romeo was just a joke.

"Oh..." Filia remembered the name from the story, but didn't comment on it as she assumed that names such as Romeo and Juliet were very common among humans. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Wolf."

A short silence passed between them until Xellos broke it. "May I ask where you're headed, miss Juliet?"

Filia touched the chocker around her neck and felt bad with her coming lies. She thought she had no choice though, she couldn't tell this human she was a dragon and as long as she had the choker on, she wouldn't be able to sense he wasn't a human. "This is a good luck charm, but I am quite tired of wearing it. Unfortunately, it is cursed and I cannot remove it. I suppose I should find someone who can take it off and then head home." She reasoned that she must be far from the town where she met Venus, but she didn't really know where she was.

Xellos saw his opportunity and made an offer. "I don't know of anyone who could remove that," he lied. "But maybe you'll find someone if you travel around. I'm on a journey myself. I'm looking for a valuable magical armor called the Zanaffar."

"The Zanaffar?" Filia gasped.

"You've heard of it?" Xellos wasn't really surprised, as the rumors were all over the place.

"That's a dangerous thing," Filia frowned. She had to investigate this; it was her duty even if she was on vacation. Maybe this way she could make up for her past mistakes. She would take away the Zanaffar armor from the inexperienced hands of the humans and get rid of that troublesome choker in the process. But she couldn't do much without her strength and magic. She would need help for this.

"Oh, don't worry, I'm a skilled sorcerer, I can take care of myself and you if you need an escort," Xellos assured.

That was it, Filia had to go with him and get the situation under control. She couldn't fight at the moment, so she would have to rely on him. "Mr. Wolf..." He was only human, so she didn't imagine him to be too strong, but it would have to be enough. "Please allow me to travel with you."

'That was easy,' Xellos mused. The girl tasted stressed and worried, she would be a good snack indeed. "As you wish, miss Juliet."

"Thank you," Filia smiled and a part of her thought that maybe there really were good humans out there, though another part of her was still reluctant to trust him.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Milgazia was walking across the marketplace of Seyruun. Xellos was in disguise, but Milgazia could still sense him, so he made sure to keep his distance. The dragon elder was following a human woman with a sword strapped to her waist and a confident stride in her step. "You still insist on following me, Milgazia?"

"I am only here to oversee your journey, I will not be a bother, I assure you, Lady Gabriev." Milgazia repeated his previous explanation.

The woman chuckled, "you're so formal, I told you to call me Flagoon." She stopped to examine the goods in a booth, while Milgazia hovered about feeling quite out of place.

"I do not wish to be disrespectful, Lady Gabriev," the stubborn yet serene golden dragon replied.

Flagoon Gabriev shook her head. "More like you don't want to be friendly, Mr. Dragon."

"Lady Gabriev, please!" Milgazia urged her to be silent about his true nature, cautiously looking at the multitude on the streets. Fortunately, no one seemed to be paying any attention to them.

"Lighten up!" Flagoon purchased a couple of apples, tossing one towards Milgazia and taking a bite of the other. "Call me Flagoon and I'll call you Milgazia, if not, then you're Mr. Dragon."

Milgazia sighed as he looked at the fruit he had caught. "Very well, if you insist." He wasn't sure why the human was so insistent on such details. "Where are you headed next, miss Flagoon?"

"Just around town, Dragon," Flagoon replied.

Milgazia was annoyed by her stubbornness but decided to humor her at the cost of proper speech. "Are you planning to stay in Seyruun tonight, Flagoon?"

"Possibly," Flagoon smiled; at last she was making progress with him. "If a certain stubborn man by the name of Milgazia would join me for dinner, that would be nice. These appetizers are far from filling me up." She threw the apple's core in a trash bin on the side of the street. "Speaking of which, finish your apple Milgazia, we must be done with the appetizers before we get started on the main course." Milgazia looked at the apple and back at Flagoon. He didn't eat while walking. She let out an exasperated sigh as if catching what he meant. "Keep acting so royal and you'll raise suspicion in no time."

"My apologies, it was not my intention to belittle your race in any way." Milgazia wasn't sure if he had offended her or not. If he did, it was accidental, but that's what he concluded he did, given the tone of disapproval in her voice, mixed with annoyance.

"Of course not, you've allowed me to fend for myself alright, standing around while I do everything," Flagoon chuckled.

"I apologize for that too, but I cannot interfere." Milgazia repeated, though he still kept his reasons to himself, Flagoon didn't question him. In truth, he wanted to show humans not to mess with things like the Zanaffar, while at the same time not allowing the lesson to become so severe it would result in tragedy. At the same time he noticed that the human race was going through a bit of a tough time. After the War of the Monster's Fall ended, they recovered and flourished in unity over time. Now the humans were doing well enough, but the unity among them was lost and battles between villages and even kingdoms became more frequent. Hopefully, if the humans were inspired by a hero of their own kind, they would recover that sense of unity again. That hero was the traveling swordsman, er swordswoman, of light. Milgazia was just there as an observer who would interfere only if absolutely necessary. This would be Flagoon's time in the spotlight and besides, he didn't want to attract too much attention from the monsters by making a direct move. He was technically going out of his way to do what he thought was convenient for the humans, but he felt it was the right thing to do.

"It's fine, it's fine," Flagoon waved off the apology. She had received too many of those from Milgazia even if she was very light hearted and never showed him signs of true anger. "You can be my, um..." She paused in deep thought. "What do you call it? I mean, every hero in stories has one to protect, but what would it be called in this situation?"

Milgazia tilted his head in confusion. "What do you mean?"

"Gentleman? No, that goes with lady," Flagoon mused aloud then finally explained. "I was going to say you can be my damsel in distress, but instead of a damsel, a man, whatever you call a male damsel. A lad? No, that goes with lass. What's the male word for damsel anyway?"

Milgazia sighed. "I don't think-"

"Squire!" Flagoon interrupted. "Since I can't think of a damsel word to call you that doesn't sound girly, I'll call you my squire in distress."

Milgazia sighed for the millionth time that day, "very well." He wasn't a squire and certainly not a damsel, but he was definitely getting to be in distress.

"Ah, here we are, this restaurant looks good, follow me, my noble squire." Flagoon entered the establishment, followed by Milgazia. Finding a table and ordering food was a simple process that went by uneventfully. As they ate, Flagoon started up a conversation, throwing out a question seemingly out of the blue. "Is it because I'll live less than you?"

"Pardon?" Milgazia looked up from his meal in confusion.

"Is that why you're so distant? Because you'll miss me when I'm gone if we're friends?" Flagoon inquired, adding her musings as she continued. "You said you didn't look down on humans and you've proven you're not one of those stupid guys who just gets in the way when I'm trying to cut down some villains. You know how to sit back and watch like a gentleman, allowing the lady to lead the first beat down and I commend you for that."

Milgazia let out an unsure "...thanks?" He doubted that the rules of human chivalry dictated that when in the presence of bandits a gentleman should step back and allow the lady to beat them up first, not stepping in until she was satisfied. He doubted ladies and gentlemen were expected to beat up bandits anyway.

"Milgazia, you're a good man, I can tell." Flagoon paused to gulp down her drink, setting her mug down in an unladylike manner. She was what humans called a tomboy. "But you're so secluded in yourself. You always have your duties on your mind, don't you? Always taking care of the whole world and not allowing anyone to take care of you. I know that you're here to take care of me too, without getting in my way, and I appreciate the sentiment, but sometimes you should let someone take care of you too. I'm sure you're a good protector, but let someone wash your back now and then too."

"You mean watch my back?" Milgazia offered.

"Yeah, that too. I was just remembering my childhood when the kids would jump into a pond together and wash each other's backs because they were friends," Flagoon smiled fondly.

Milgazia raised an eyebrow at her reply, but decided not to inquire about it any further. He had no intentions of allowing her to wash his back though. He was perfectly capable of cleaning himself thank-you-very-much.

Flagoon took a big bite of roasted chicken and leaned back on her chair as she swallowed it. "It must have been hard and I'm no one to speak. After the War of the Monster's Fall, after the tragedies, because you're alive and a leader you feel that you must protect everyone. That's fine, but don't seclude yourself. Open your heart for someone who wants to stand by your side and protect you too. Dare to trust, dare to fall in love."

Milgazia's eyes widened and if not for his ever present diplomacy, his jaw would have been hanging open. "How... how do you know about the war and my position of leadership?"

"I've read a lot of history books looking for information about my sword, but it's been a fruitless search," Flagoon explained. "At least I learned a lot of other stuff; stuff about the war and other things. I figure anyone of," she lowered her voice to a whisper, "your race." Then she continued speaking at a normal volume again, "who lives inside the barrier must have been in it somehow. As for your leadership, I didn't know, I just guessed you were a leader because of how you act. It's like you've gotten used to calling the shots and following another seems a bit odd. But because you're able to follow another, I know you're a good leader. You listen to those who follow you and take them into consideration."

"That's kind of you to say..." Milgazia voiced quietly. Compliment or not, this woman was much more perceptive than she first appeared. She was well traveled, within the territories that the barrier allowed her to explore at least, and well informed, even if her behavior was a bit odd. She was very observant and knew how to draw conclusions from the smallest behavioral patterns, such as when guessing he was in a position that involved leading others.

"Like I said," Flagoon emphasized with a smile. "You're a good man, but you keep everything bottled up. Just you wait, Milgazia. Even if it takes over a hundred years, which might not be so long for you after all, one day you'll run into a woman who's just as stubborn as you, if not more. Then she's going to persist until you let all your emotions out and since you've been keeping them bottled up for so long, it'll all be one big explosion!"

Milgazia couldn't help it but to smile a little at her dramatics. "I doubt that," he voiced honestly.

"Oh trust me, she's out there," Flagoon chuckled.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 048: Abduction! Sneaky Thieves and Tomboy Maidens

After dinner was done, Milgazia and Flagoon went around the Seyruun kingdom, passing the time at her leisure. After the sun went down, Flagoon stopped in front of an inn. "Shall we get a room?"

It was the easiest question Milgazia had received so far since he started traveling with Flagoon. "Yes." He answered simply.

They went into the inn and Flagoon only said, "give us a room." With a carefree friendly smile.

Milgazia remained oblivious to the assumptions of the inn keeper for a moment until the elderly lady spoke. "A suite for a couple?"

Milgazia choked on air, "no, two rooms please." He spoke as soon as he regained his voice. Diplomacy, diplomacy, he had to remember diplomacy and not make any shocked faces. He would have to do this with a mindset as if facing a monster, trying not to feed it, if he was going to keep his expression on check. But wouldn't that be disrespectful? None the less he clearly had to try harder.

"If you want to pay extra," Flagoon rolled her eyes. "There's nothing wrong with two friends sharing, I thought the slumber party would, if anything, help you open up a bit. You're still kind of avoiding me and I want to be your friend."

Milgazia closed his eyes for a moment before replying. Flagoon seemed to be semi-unaware of gender differences sometimes. "It's just not proper."

"Race?" Flagoon inquired with a frown. She didn't think the fact that she was human and he was a dragon should be such a wall between them.

"Gender," Milgazia didn't really expect her to fully understand.

"I can wield a sword just fine," Flagoon pouted, while the inn keeper watched the exchange with perplexity.

"That's not the point," Milgazia sighed.

"You remind me of the kids from the village I grew up in, always fussing about cooties." Flagoon recalled with a small laugh and the slight wrinkling of the nose. "Have it your way mister, but I thought falling asleep exchanging tales of adventure would be fun. We'd be like real comrades then. I'll get you to come out of your shell yet." Flagoon's words, though will intended, left Milgazia with a heavy feeling of foreboding.

xoxox xox xoxox

At an inn at the Coastal States, different from the one they had been at before, Xellos and Filia were spending the night. Xellos could still taste her uneasiness seeping through the thin wall that separated their neighboring rooms. It was delicious, yet it also made him curious about her full story. She had a charm to remove, which he had no intentions of helping her with, though he was pretty sure he could take it off if he really tried. She also mentioned having a home to return to, even if she didn't say where it was. By the way she glanced around as they walked down the streets earlier, he gathered that she was lost. The name of the 'Coastal States' meant little to her, as she had only giving him a look of confusion when she asked where they were and he gave her that information. She was obviously not from that area.

Another mystery was how Zelas found her. Xellos didn't ask for the details, but he assumed that another monster, possibly Fang had fetched her at Zelas' command, since Beast Master herself could not leave Wolf Pack Island for the reason of the barrier. She might have been a random girl. Well, not entirely random, if he gave it some further thought. She did conclude that she was rescued from the sea. Maybe she was among the crew of one of those crazy voyages to try to get past the barrier. The ship must have been destroyed by Deep Sea Dolphin and maybe the remains were thrown near Wolf Pack Island, where Zelas could have found the girl herself, then sent her over.

Yet the girl, sweet and innocent as she appeared to be, had shown no signs of mourning lost family or friends. Why else would she be on that ship if not because her parents, or siblings, or family, or friends, were on the ship? She wasn't a sailor, or at least she didn't appear to be one. She seemed to be a stay at home damsel that spent her time walking through her garden and putting flowers in her hair. A delicate pretty girl to be betrothed to a rich family and... And now the theory was turning into a novel. Yet it could be the answer. A pretty, innocent girl had little reasons to be lost and alone, if not because she ran away and that could explain the taste of guilty betrayal and quiet resignation to deal with the situation that radiated off her. She regretted running away and wanted to return to her family and earned their approval again.

Perhaps that choker, which she claimed was a good luck charm and Xellos didn't bother to check if it was, served as proof of her willingness to run away, hence why she wanted it so badly gone. It was silly indeed that humans thought that by powering up their feeble existence with amulets they could actually break through the barrier. Maybe that was her story, Xellos quietly mused on it. Moving his thoughts to a more imperative topic, he thought about Flagoon and Milgazia.

She was leading the way in her unpredictable traveling pattern, full of unnecessary twists and turns, random stops and senseless back tracking that was nothing like the systematic Milgazia. Though he changed his patterns of travel as needed, he at least stayed clear on the goal, which would hint at said goal and once Xellos knew it, his movements would be easier to predict, though the dragon elder didn't stray from his clan's home at Dragon's Peak at the Kataart Mountains often anyway. Flagoon was a wanderer and an unpredictable, peculiar one at that. This mission was becoming most interesting indeed.

xoxox xox xoxox

It was a new day and Xellos moved into the southern region of Ralteague. Filia was still following him with little ideas on what to do beyond a very general plan. He needed to get some news on Milgazia and Flagoon to know he was close enough not to miss anything too important, but not too close so he wouldn't be noticed. A group of men suddenly approached Xellos and Filia as they entered the town. "Stop right there, you fiend!"

Filia looked around in confusion; unsure about who they were talking about. Then she noticed they were glaring at Xellos. He wondered if they had somehow seen through his disguise and knew he was a monster. Yet the men in front of them were humans. How did they figure it out? Maybe if he put up a big enough act he could change their minds, then again, they looked pretty convinced and tasted quite angry.

Filia mused that these humans must be weary of the one she knew as Romeo Wolf simply because he was a stranger. With how tricky some humans could be, if they were anything like Venus, she supposed that they had to be careful with who they trusted. "Please stop, Mr. Wolf is a good person!"

The group looked at each other unsure, but Xellos could taste that the seed of doubt was already growing in their minds. For him it was the benefit of the doubt. "Young lady, the leader of the group looked at Filia, are you sure he's not kidnapping you?"

Filia blinked in confusion, "no?" That was certainly an unexpected question.

"You're not sure?" The leader of the villagers asked suspiciously.

"Yes, I mean no, I mean I'm not being kidnapped!" Filia tried to clarify. "I am traveling with Mr. Wolf of my own free will," she assured.

"Oh..." The defensive men looked at each other unconvinced. "Mr. Wolf, was it? Would you mind telling us what your relation is to the lady?"

They didn't look alike, so Xellos couldn't say they were relatives. He was curious about why the mob felt complied to question him like that, but first things first; he had to get rid of their suspicions. "I'm her protector." That wasn't entirely true, but it wasn't entirely false either. She was traveling with him and if he was going to keep up appearances he'd had to keep her safe from any dangers they encountered on the road. Besides, it sounded like a more solid story than simply saying they were random traveling companions, with the villagers' initial reactions to them.

The leader of the mob seemed to mull over the answer he received and finally he decided that it sounded true enough. "I see... In that case, I apologize for our accusations. A lot of young girls have been getting kidnapped recently and we're suspicious of all strangers. I don't mean to judge a book by its cover again so soon, but you appear to be a sorcerer."

"I am," Xellos confirmed, curious about what the villagers mentioned about kidnapped girls. It didn't sound like it was a single incident, but rather something that had been happening for a while. "What's that you mentioned about girls being kidnapped?"

"It's been terrible," the villager revealed. "For the past two weeks the young women of our town have been getting kidnapped. At first we thought it was some crazy cult, you know they seem to have a thing for young maidens, such as the lady traveling with you. But then adult women, some of them married, began to disappear too. Not only adolescents, but women in their twenties have gone missing as well. We haven't seen any weirdos in town so the cult theory checked out, but we don't know who could be behind the incidents. Since you are a sorcerer, would you consider taking a job guarding the town? Even if we've been guarding it ourselves, the women keep disappearing as if they've vanished into thin air."

"That does sound terribly worrisome." Yet it was none of Xellos' business really, though he was curious about why this was happening. He quickly came up with a theory, there was no way that people could simply disappear, but they could be taken away via the astral side if a monster was involved. He wondered if it was just a trouble maker looking for food or a monster who actually had a plan that involved kidnapping those women.

"He'll take the job," Filia suddenly declared.

"I will?" Xellos questioned, curious at the usually quiet Juliet's outburst.

"Yes," Filia nodded.

"Thank you very much miss! I do apologize that we busied your bodyguard in the middle of his escort job, but maybe a well traveled sorcerer will be able to solve this dreadful mystery once and for all!" The leader of the villagers exclaimed. "We'll provide you with food and accommodations for the duration of your stay here of course."

xoxox xox xoxox

A short while later, Xellos and Filia were at an inn waiting for nightfall when the abductions usually occurred. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this, Mr. Wolf," Filia apologized. "I shouldn't have agreed to take on this job in your name like that, without consulting you first."

"I was curious about that, miss Juliet," Xellos inquired. "Why did you take such an interest in this case? You do realize that you are putting yourself in danger by remaining in an area from which young women are said to mysteriously disappear."

"I know, I guess I wasn't thinking about that." She still wasn't used to being a fragile human who was unable to use magic. "Even so, we can't abandon these people."

The taste of her conviction and desire to help others was strong, and Xellos didn't like it. This wasn't how his snack was supposed to be. "I will investigate the strange occurrences in this town. I don't mind making a short stop, but what about your family? The more stops you make, the more worried they'll be in your absence."

Filia frowned, she had to get rid of that choker and go home eventually. She also had to figure out in which direction home was, but that wasn't her biggest worry. She reasoned that the sea must have carried her far away, but things might look different from the air. Once she was able to transform again, she could fly around until she figured out where she was and where she needed to go. She only hoped that she managed to do that before her little vacation ran out and the dragons at the fire temple started wondering why she had not returned to her duties. It would be a terrible disgrace, she thought, if anyone from the temple found out about what was really keeping her away. "I'm on a vacation of sorts," Filia finally replied. "Although it will run out and I hope to get home before then."

The stress that reminding Filia of her family produced was nutritious to Xellos. He took it in pleasantly and smiled. Filia thought he was only trying to cheer her up and smiled back, though she was still worried about the situation, thus her taste remained pleasant to him. At least Xellos would know what to do to shift her taste in a way that was favorable to him. She was guilty and frustrated, it was delicious.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Flagoon and Milgazia had made it out of the Seyruun borders and into central Ralteague. They were in a different town as Xellos and Filia, though both towns were under the jurisdiction of the same Kingdom. There seemed to be a lot of activity in the border town that morning as a carnival of travelers passed by amusing the citizens with their elaborate costumes, juggling acts, singing, dancing and magic tricks. "It looks like we came by just on time for the fun!" Flagoon cheered. "This is perfect, it's just what you need to loosen up and cheer up!"

"I am not particularly stressed, nor am I sad," Milgazia tried to point out to no avail.

"You're indifferent and that is sad enough," Flagoon insisted. She suddenly spotted a magic show, going on further down the street and dragged him over there.

"Flagoon, you don't need to pull me by the hand." Milgazia tried to keep up with her while avoiding bumping into anyone on the street, which was turning out to be quite difficult since the area was so crowded.

Suddenly, Flagoon released Milgazia's hand and turned abruptly, shouting at the top of her lungs, "come back here!" She darted in the opposite direction, pushing people aside in her frenzy.

"Flagoon!" Milgazia called out to her, but she wouldn't respond. He saw her turn into an alley and out of sight, thus he tried to hurry after her, but getting through the crowds without rudely shoving people aside was nearly impossible.

xoxox xox xoxox

Night fell in Ralteague and at the south of the kingdom; it was time for Xellos to get to work. Filia would play a key role in their plans to lure out the culprit of the abductions as bait. She hummed to herself pretending to be distracted as she walked down the empty streets of the town at night. All the women were in their homes, hoping that they weren't the next to disappear while their worried and frustrated male relatives guarded them with great anxiety, as if the blink of an eye was enough time for them to vanish.

As Filia made her way down the street, her heart pounded with anticipation. She was putting herself at risk and in her current state; she would be defenseless against the abductor, whom she suspected might be a monster. She had mentioned her concerns to the one she knew as Romeo and he had assured her that he knew how to deal with monsters. She knew that he was watching her, but she was still becoming increasingly impatient.

A figure made her way down the street in the darkness and Filia froze. Was that the kidnapper? She stood still as the person stopped and she could see that it was a woman, not likely the kidnapper. "Excuse me, miss," the woman stopped to ask. "Have you seen a cat beastchild run through here? I've been running after the slippery little guy since this morning. The dirty little thief stole my sword," Flagoon grumbled.

"I haven't seen anyone like that," Filia truthfully replied. "Although, I should warn you, it's dangerous to be out at night. Women have been disappearing from this town."

"Is that so? Well maybe if I disappear, I'll end up in the same place that my sword disappeared to," Flagoon chuckled.

"This is serious!" Filia insisted.

"It's not a big deal, miss," Flagoon dismissed the danger. "Anyone who tries to kidnap me is looking for trouble. Sword or not I can still fight." She caught her fist in her hand in a challenging motion. "I would advise that you learn to fight too. A woman's got to carry a weapon to get some respect these days; otherwise the bandits are all over her, mistakenly thinking she's easy prey. By the way, are you okay to go home on your own with all the kidnappings you mentioned?"

"Oh yes, I'm fine," Filia lowered her voice to a whisper. "I'm actually the bait, there's a skilled sorcerer keeping an eye on me so he can save me when I'm abducted and catch the culprit. I think it's a monster."

"That's pretty interesting," Flagoon whispered back. "If I wasn't in such a rush to recover my sword, I would join the hunt too. Well good luck."

"Thank you," Filia smiled pleasantly and went on her way as the woman continued on hers. The conversation was pretty casual despite the topics it held.

After a few minutes had passed, Filia started to feel uneasy. She wanted to call out to Romeo just to make sure he was still watching her, but that would blow his cover, so she knew she couldn't do that. She hummed nervously, now trying to distract herself from the worries, rather than simply pretending to be distracted. Then suddenly, the air around her felt thin and a cold chill ran down her spine. She stopped walking as a dark cloud moved past the crescent moon in the sky, obscuring the street further into a deep darkness. Then suddenly, a pair of glowing green eyes appeared before Filia and she screamed in startled surprise.

The cloud over the moon was moved by the breeze and its dim light shone on the street once more. Filia found herself staring at a strange creature. It had green eyes that glowed in the dark and it was covered in blue and green scales with webbed clawed feed and hands. This was no ordinary water dwelling creature; it had been clearly mutated by the possession of a monster. Filia let out another panicked scream, wishing she could cast a Chaotic Disintegrate spell on that thing, or at the very least blast it with her laser breath; but she couldn't. The creature's hideous amphibian face twisted into a sneer as it showed its pointy teeth. "Are you the maiden of light, little one? Are you the one who extinguished my troops?"

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 049: Implacable! Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?

"I don't know what you're talking about," Filia glared bravely at the monstrous sea creature before her. "Have you been the one kidnapping girls?"

"I seek vengeance and I will not stop until I find it!" The creature yelled.

"Your evil ends here!" Filia paused in a very Amelia-like pose, though she had not met the Seyruun princess yet, as the justice loving human princess did not yet exist in that era. Yet the pose didn't last long, as no one came to back her up. "Um... Mr. Wolf?"

"Calling for your boyfriend?" The monster, a subordinate of Deep Sea Dolphin, mocked.

Filia's face turned crimson, "unthinkable!" He was a human, and a young adult, she was a dragon in her late adolescence, but still none the less not at an age when she should be looking at the opposite gender in such ways. Although, in the deepest corner of her mind, the thought seemed rather pleasant, or at least it would be very pleasant if it wasn't ever so forbidden.

"Your relative then?" The creature laughed. "It doesn't matter who you're calling, it's obvious he's not here." The monster stepped forward, it's eyes glowing brighter, more sinisterly.

"My..." Filia paused as if the detail was of importance, which anyone else may think it wasn't, given the nature of her situation. She was indeed aware of the danger, but her emotions could be quite distracting at times.

"It doesn't matter what he might have been to you, he abandoned you and now you'll die like the others!" The creature was ready to take her to the astral side and rip her apart.

Filia saw her life flash before her eyes. The fact that she had been in grave danger all that time sunk in like a rock. She had no means to fight this creature and she somehow knew she couldn't outrun it. Had Mr. Wolf truly abandoned her? "He was my protector, he was..." He was the one who rescued her from a death at the beach as far as she knew. Even if he didn't stick around, he did that much at least. She couldn't expect a human to be as noble as a dragon would be in the same situation, or as she imagined a proper dragon to be. "He was my..." Friend, she was going to say, but then she suddenly caught sight of someone behind the monster, someone she had not seen before as her view was obstructed by the towering creature. "Romeo!" She exclaimed when she saw him.

The sea creature monster saw and tasted the hope and relief that was reflected on the girl's face. He turned around and caught sight of the sorcerer standing behind him. The creature was unfazed at first, but then Xellos stopped hiding his identity from him and the sea monster's eyes grew wide. "You're...!"

Before the creature could speak the general priest's true name, Xellos dragged it into the astral side, making it look as if the other monster was taking him into the astral side. "Romeo!" Filia yelled, in her worry she had forgotten her usually formal way to refer to him as Mr. Wolf. She had even doubted him although in truth he stood there behind the enemy watching over her and, she assumed, ready to protect her at any time. She was never in any danger, he was a noble and kind human sorcerer, he didn't abandon her. Yet there she was fearing and making it clear that she didn't believe in him. Time passed and Filia remained alone in the dark streets. "Where are you Romeo?" The monster didn't come back, but neither did Romeo. Did they kill each other? Probably... "Romeo..." He sacrificed himself to defeat the monster and now he was gone thinking that she didn't believe in him. "Romeo..." He was proof that there were good humans out there and now he was gone, unappreciated. If only he came back, she would tell him how grateful she was.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, at the astral side, Xellos was having a talk with the creature. There were actually two monsters there, the one who had threatened the girl he knew as Juliet and another very similar monster with dark green scales and glowing red eyes. Neither of them were high ranked and Xellos could take them out easily. A well powered Chaotic Disintegrate from Filia, if she had access to her power, would have been enough too. "So what's your story?" Xellos asked conversationally. Since they were on the astral plane where humans couldn't see them, Xellos projected himself in his usual preferred human form with purple hair and squinty eyes.

"My name is Blissrock," the monster that had threatened Filia revealed obediently. He didn't know why Xellos had a different appearance before, but he didn't think it was wise to question him in any way, even if it was out of simple curiosity.

Xellos rose an eyebrow at the ironic name of the blue-green monster. "And you?" He glanced at the green one.

"Joyrock," the green monster with red eyes replied simply.

"Creative," Xellos chuckled. "Why have you decided to kidnap girls?"

"A woman wielding a sword that shone with a deadly light eradicated most of my minions. I'm seeking revenge." Blissrock explained with a hint of pride and a fragile courage that was obviously fake.

"So you're kidnapping girls to get back at the warrior," Xellos voiced. "Is the warrior aware of that?"

Blissrock shifted nervously. "Well... I was away at the time and my subordinate here seems to be having trouble identifying her."

"Then you ran away and now you're saving your pathetic ego by pretending to hunt for the female warrior who wields a sword of light by a process of elimination, though it should be obvious who she is," Xellos concluded.

Blissrock gulped, becoming visibly nervous as Xellos' violet eyes opened to glare at him in disapproval of his cowardice. "I... was away and my minion here said we should hunt humans, so I thought... I thought..."

"If you were hunting humans for fun I wouldn't mind, but doing so out of falsehood is another story. Monsters should be prouder than that," Xellos closed his eyes again in his usual cheery expression. "I doubt Lord Deep Sea would miss you." He moved with amazing speed to appear above Blissrock in a blur of dark colors that became a black swirl. The cone shaped tornado crashed down on Blissrock destroying him and ruining him instantly with more force than needed.

Joyrock backed away trembling. He knew it would be useless to try to escape from Xellos if he had decided to destroy them. He watched as the black cone stopped spinning and once again assumed Xellos' usual form who stared at him curiously.

Xellos tilted his head, his unreadable expression still cheery. "Although you're supposed to be his minion, he was taking suggestions from you. Care to explain?"

Joyrock let the words spill out of his mouth, even if they might be his last. He wouldn't dare say such things when Blissrock was alive, but now his superior was destroyed and his own destruction waited with certainty in the near future as far as he knew. "Blissrock was indeed full of false pride. But the truth is that I knew the two of us were not a match for the warrior of light. There we were, tormenting innocent villagers and minding our own business when that nosy woman came and slew most of our group. The other survivors decided not to seek vengeance, but I wanted vengeance as did Blissrock, though in his case, it was only about false pride as you noted."

"You make it sound as if you're different," Xellos pointed out, opening one eye momentarily. "Do you claim to be?"

Joyrock pause before cautiously replying. "I'll let you be the judge of that, General Xellos. My plan was to feed from the distress of the humans. Young girls have especially strong emotions; they are the ones capable of feeding us the best out of all the humans in my opinion."

"I agree," Xellos nodded. "Young girls do tend to be the most savory. Go on."

"If I fed on enough negative energy, I would eventually become strong enough to take on the warrior of light. That was my aim," Joyrock explained.

"It is a logical plan," Xellos observed. "You were using Blissrock to keep yourself safer, manipulation him as if he was your minion instead of the other way around. You seek vengeance but not stupidly. However, weak as you are now, it will take a very long time for you to gain the needed power to take her out. Why not begin by attacking her family? That sounds like a good way to attack her without actually fighting her directly before you're ready and it might help weaken her emotionally and make her lose her focus."

"That is a grand idea, General Xellos." Joyrock respectfully acknowledged. He was starting to think that he may survive this encounter after all and didn't want to mess up his chances. "Although, I do not know the identity of those close to her, I will definitely investigate."

"Don't bother, she's a loner, she hasn't seen her relatives for years since she became a nomadic warrior and probably wouldn't remember them," Xellos chuckled.

"Oh..." Joyrock realized that Xellos was only toying with him and again he feared that he would be destroyed. Was there anything at all that he could do to make Xellos spare him? Not begging, not with what Xellos said about monsters and pride, begging for his life would only doom him faster. Realizing that Xellos was silently looking at him through cheerful squinting eyes waiting for him to speak, Joyrock cautiously voiced. "Well, in that case I'll just keep on gathering power until I'm strong enough to beat her. I'll keep causing trouble, but I won't focus on a single area so as to not attract unwanted attention before I'm ready. Then when I have the power, I'll strike."

"It might be too late for that," Xellos eyes opened again, in a fierce violet glare.

Joyrock backed away automatically. Was Xellos going to destroy him now? "Why is that?" He pushed his voice to work with great effort.

"You are so weak that by the time you become strong enough to defeat her, many years would have passed." Xellos closed his eyes again and chuckled at Joyrock's nervous torment. "The warrior of light is only human. She will not live for many years. By the time you're strong enough to even begin to put up a fight, I'm sure she would have retired by then and there wouldn't be much of an accomplishment in her death. In fact, she might have already passed away of old age."

"Oh..." Joyrock paused again, unsure of what to say and again he noticed Xellos waiting for him to speak. "Then I'll kill her descendants. Humans skilled in swordsmanship and humans who have some kind of special magical device often train their child into continuing their legacy. She fits both categories, so I would say it's likely."

"Yes, very likely," Xellos agreed. "Well then, in sounds like you're all set for the next few decades. I'm sure you're anxious to be on your way, so goodbye." Xellos faded back into the physical world leaving an awestruck Joyrock in the astral side.

Joyrock wasn't about to further question his good luck. It was obvious that Xellos didn't want him in the area, so he left without a second to spare. He would continue with his plans as he said, attacking humans here and there. Maybe he would even find a hidden elf village and attack them too. Then eventually he would have the power to take on the warrior of light, or at least the warrior of light of that time.

xoxox xox xoxox

When Xellos reappeared in the physical world, he was back in his disguise, his eyes red and his hair long and black. He made a show of looking tired and beaten. Albeit the scrapes, bruises and injuries were all false, they looked very real in Filia's eyes. "Romeo!" She threw her arms around him sobbing. "I thought you were killed by that monster!"

Guilt, worry, stress and relief all flooded into Xellos at the same time. The relief was unpleasant, but it was significantly diminished by worries that his apparent injuries caused. "I was dragged into the astral side, but I was thrown back here after I managed to slay the monster." Xellos spoke with feigned difficulty between heavy breaths. "Are you alright?" Before the girl could reply, he collapsed, or rather pretended to collapse from his injuries.

Filia gasped, "Romeo!" She struggled to carry him to safety, but there was only so much she could do with her strength being limited to that of a young human girl. Although Xellos was astral, his projection was very detailed and weighed as much as a human man. Silently, Xellos was enjoying the taste of her panic and inwardly laughing at her efforts to half carry and half drag him to where he could receive medical attention.

"Nya!" A cat beastboy rushed down the street with frightened tears in his eyes, running in a panic as if Shabranigdu were chasing him. He almost bumped into Filia, but managed to dodge her at the last second and dash past next to her.

"Yeah, you better run, you little rascal!" Flagoon ran after him, waving her sword of light around. "Don't let me catch you stealing again!" She had no intentions of killing the little brat, but she wanted to give him a good scare to teach him not to steal. She huffed and put away her sword, then took a moment to notice the scene on the street. "Wow, your friend's pretty beat up."

Filia snapped out of her surprise and curious daze after seeing the peculiar sword that the woman wielded. "Please, could you help me carry him back to the inn? He's hurt badly and needs a healer!"

"No problem, I'll give you a hand with him." With ease, Flagoon lifted Xellos into her arms bridal style. "Just show me the way to where you're staying."

Filia really missed being a dragon; she could carry Romeo just as easily if she was. She had to admit, this woman was very strong for a human. "Oh thank you, this way!" She hurried back to the inn.

Xellos was aware of just who was carrying him, but he didn't want to blow his cover. His mind was working on overdrive, wondering if Flagoon's presence meant that Milgazia was near by. But if that were so, then the dragon elder should have already sensed him and done something. Perhaps Milgazia and Flagoon had gone their separate ways? Why?

xoxox xox xoxox

At the inn, Xellos had to admit that it was very annoying having the town's doctor power healing spells into him. The magic was extremely bothersome and it certainly didn't heal him as he had no real injuries to begin with. Still, he changed his projection slowly to appear to be healing, though perhaps a little faster than a normal human would heal because he wanted to get it over with. "You're quite responsive to white magic," the doctor observed. "Very good, this is all I can do for you, Mr. Wolf, now you must rest."

With his eyes half closed as he lay on the bed feigning exhaustion, Xellos gave a weak smile. "I thank you."

The doctor nodded, "I thank you for ridding us of that monster."

After the doctor left, Filia looked at Flagoon who had waited with her as she watched the doctor heal Xellos. "Thank you for helping me bring him here. Romeo might have bled to death if not for your assistance." She shuddered at the thought.

"Oh yes, thank you very much, you've saved my life." Xellos smiled in such a way that no one noticed his words were sarcastic.

"It's no trouble at all," Flagoon returned the gesture.

"By the way, I still don't know your name, I'm..." Filia almost spoke her real name in a moment of distraction, but quickly corrected herself, "Juliet."

"My name's Flagoon, the traveling swordswoman," she introduced herself. Though she was better known as the warrior of light, she wasn't one to brag about her reputation, besides, true fame wouldn't reach her until after the Zanaffar incident. Albeit even then she wouldn't be too recognizable, as the warrior of light with become a legendary figure with many faces and stories. "Now I really wish I had gotten my sword back sooner, then I could have helped out with the monster."

"Romeo was dragged into the astral side, so that would have been hard," Filia mused aloud.

"That's very interesting," Flagoon observed. For a moment Xellos thought that Flagoon was becoming suspicious of him. For a human to be dragged into the astral side just like that, especially a sorcerer who turned out to be strong enough to defeat his captor was unusual enough. But for a human to be dragged into the astral side and come out of it alive was even stranger. "There's something I've noticed."

'This is it, my cover is lost,' Xellos thought. He didn't think he would be so easily discovered. Though maybe Flagoon didn't know he was Xellos, the general priest of Lord Beast Master, perhaps she had figured out he was a monster and she was about to voice her suspicions.

"You..." Flagoon looked right at Xellos who was by then convinced that she had become aware of his true nature. "Have the same names as the main characters of the play Romeo and Juliet!" She smiled in amusement. "Quite a coincidence, isn't it?"

For a moment, Xellos' jaw dropped involuntarily. He quickly regained his composure and laughed. "Yes it is."

"Well, it was nice meeting you two. Have a fast recovery, Romeo. I must be going now; I ditched my friend when a thief ran off with my sword. I could think of nothing more but to recover it. Well, I'm sure he's fine. I should go find him though. I wouldn't want him to think I dislike him or something," 'just because he's a dragon,' she added in thought. Flagoon headed for the door of the room. "Good luck, see ya."

"Have a safe journey!" After Flagoon was gone Filia went back to sit next to Xellos' bed. "You should get some sleep now," she smiled gently. "I'll stay here in case you need anything."

"You don't need to stay up watching me," 'especially not with such annoyingly loving care,' Xellos mentally added. "Go get some sleep, I'm sure my discomfort will subside soon," 'when you are your protective attachment are gone.'

"Discomfort? Pain?" Filia frowned. "You're still in pain? But I thought your injuries were healed and you only needed to rest."

"My dear Juliet, it is not that simple," and it wasn't, because he was a monster.

Filia jumped to her own conclusions and though Xellos didn't directly lie, he let her think whatever she wanted. "That terrible monster did something to you before he died, didn't it?" She frowned and furrowed her brow in anger and frustration. "Maybe a curse of sorts to cause you pain when your injuries are gone. Oh Romeo, I'm so sorry, I was the one who volunteered you for this."

Juliet was certainly a rollercoaster of emotions, Xellos observed, but at least she was back to feeling guilty and worried now. She was delicious and with such thoughts in mind he pretended to sleep.

To be Continued

Slayers: Chaos

Episode 050: Decisive! The Moment of Truth

Flagoon chuckled, while Milgazia seemed displeased. Or at least she assumed he was displeased. Though his expression wasn't particularly expressive, her guess was correct. "Aw, c'mon, I didn't run off for that long, and besides, if I stayed to explain, I wouldn't have been able to catch that thief."

"Yes, that would be troublesome," he stopped questioning how she could be so oblivious one second and so perceptive the next. That was simply the way she was, this was relaxed yet capable Flagoon. "Please do not lower your guard," Milgazia advised. "Though I should be saying that to myself too, I shouldn't have lost you in the crowd."

"No big deal," Flagoon smiled. "We're together again and on the road! Speaking of which, I'm surprised you picked our next destination. Usually, you just follow me."

"The critical point is near..." Milgazia quietly voiced as they made their way down a dirt path towards a town called Sairaag.

"Oh... interesting..." Flagoon didn't know what exactly that meant, but it sounded exciting.

Suddenly, from the bushes ahead there jumped out a band of thieves comprised of wolf and fox beastmen. "What do we have here, two lonely humans. How interesting... Alright you two, hand over all your valuables!"

Flagoon stepped forward and drew her sword, though she kept a metal blade attached to the handle, so it looked like an ordinary sword. "I think not," she grinned, this would be easy. "Here I go!" She dashed right into the midst of the group of bandits.

A cloud of dust took to the air as the clank of metal against metal echoed. One of the fox beastmen crawled out of the dust cloud and looked at Milgazia. "Aren't you going to do anything?"

"I must not, the human heroine must conquer these trials on her own, it is for the best." The dragon elder replied calmly.

The red-brown fox tilted his head to the side in curiosity. "I get you, you're a spoiled aristocrat and this lady's your bodyguard. Yeah, it all makes sense now, the fancy white robes, the golden hair and all. But there's something about your face that's not quite princely." The bandit mused.

Milgazia raised an eyebrow. "What's wrong with my face?"

"Must be the eyebrows, not princely at all," the fox beastman muttered. "Anyway, no matter, if you're a rich brat then we're kidnapping you." He glanced at his comrades, who were having trouble keeping up with the swordswoman. "We'll do that right after we get rid of your bodyguard." He took a small sack out of his cape. "I bet a sheltered boy like you has never seen this."

"A sheltered boy?" Milgazia questioned. He didn't think he looked like a child. Furthermore, he didn't think he was sheltered, he had experienced the War of the Monster's Fall firsthand after all. Though he might seem a bit out of touch with the outside world, as he kind of was, in terms of human culture.

"This here black dust is special, if I light it on fire it makes a big explosion, like magic," the fox laughed. He lit the end of a string tied to the sack and the flame moved ever closer to it. "It's over!" He threw the sack.

In the off chance that the black dust was actually special and did indeed cause an explosion, Milgazia shot a small laser towards it, cutting the string and causing the flame to fall and extinguish on the ground while the sack fell harmlessly next to it.

The fox's jaw hung open. "How did you do that? You shot magic out of your mouth, you're no ordinary sorcerer!"

"Hey Milgazia, are you watching!" Flagoon carelessly waved at him while the bandits pulled themselves back to their feet and charged at her again.

"Flagoon, watch out!" Milgazia rushed to her aid, "Fireball!" He noticed that she was grinning at him and not at all alarmed. "You did that on purpose!"

"I know you're only traveling with me on a diplomatic business trip of sorts, and that I'm the one who must fight. But if we fight as comrades, even if these guys are no challenge to either of us alone, then maybe we'll become better friends." Flagoon smiled while slicing to pieces the handle of a spear a gray wolf beastman tried to attack her with.

"If you insist..." Milgazia started to cast another spell.

"At it, Milgy, you go!" Flagoon cheered.

"Milgy?" The dragon almost lost his concentration on the spell.

"Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" A very annoying and loud, yet still somehow masculine laugh pierced the sound waves. Everyone was drawn to pause their fight and stare at the source of the sound as he repeated the annoying noise. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" The man was rather well built, not overly muscular but pleasantly toned. He had deep violet near-black hair and blue-green eyes. What made his anatomy so easy to perceive was his peculiar attire. He wore a black cape with spikes on the shoulders and matching boots and gloves of black leather. Those elements were rather ordinary among sorcerers, but it wasn't what he was wearing that caught the group's attention as much as what he wasn't wearing. Aside for the aforementioned items, he wore black leather speedos and nothing more.

"Flagoon," Milgazia whispered discreetly. "I know I must be respectful of other cultures and I'm not exactly an expert in human customs. Yet somehow I don't think this man's attire is exactly... normal."

Flagoon shook her head. "Nope, I can't say that's how people usually dress around here."

"Who's this weirdo?" A tall wolf beastman with black fur, the leader of the gang asked with distaste.

"Weirdo?" The scantily dressed young man looked offended. "I am the greatest sorcerer that ever lived!" He exclaimed fiercely. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Fear not, innocent travelers, I will not allow your sweet elopement to be ruined by these foul bandits! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

"Elopement?" Milgazia questioned.

"Come forth my golem!" The man casted a type of summoning spell and a golem began to emerge from the ground, formed by the rocks in the surrounding terrain. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Show those bandits not to mess with love! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Unfortunately, the golem was out of control. The thirty feet tall stone creature began stomping around aimlessly, attacking the bandits, the travelers he was supposed to save and even his master.

There was a flash of light in the distance in the direction of Sairaag, could the time have come? "We don't have time for this. Flagoon, it's time for you to become a legend, there is a beast you must slay and this time I will fight by your side, we must hurry!"

"Alright! A real challenge!" Flagoon cheered.

With no time to waste, Milgazia left the strangely clad sorcerer and the bandits to deal with the rampaging golem. He transformed into his dragon form and allowed Flagoon to jump on his back, then took off towards Sairaag. Once in the air, he noticed that he had an extra passenger on his tail. "You shouldn't have followed me." The golden dragon warned the fox beastman.

"I just wanted to get away from the golem, but maybe a dragon would be worse. I was only kidding about kidnapping you, really! Please, oh please, don't eat me!" The fox beastman held on to Milgazia's tail tightly to avoid falling and also in hopes that if the dragon tried to eat him, he would bite his own tail and spit him out.

"I'm not going to eat you," Milgazia assured. "But I am in a big hurry, so I can't land to let you get off right now."

"Oh that's okay merciful dragon! I'm happy as long as you don't eat me, or otherwise end my life," the fox exclaimed.

"Speaking of big," Flagoon voiced, "you sure are big, Milgazia."

"Big dragon..." Jullios muttered in fright.

"I take it this is your first time riding on a dragon?" Milgazia replied with an almost conversational tone that didn't really fit his rush as he flapped his wings to go faster.

"Big claws..." Jullios shuddered.

"Yes, and this is a ton of fun!" Flagoon was enjoying the ride even if they were heading for a hard battle, though she was looking forward to that too. "You're really talented though, to become human like that. I thought you'd have a tail or something hidden in your robes. I mean, I had never seen you with as much as short sleeves before. But no, not a single golden scale anywhere on your skin, before the transformation at least."

"Big teeth..." Suddenly, Milgazia dropped several feet in the air and Jullios screamed.

Flagoon giggled at the drop as if she was in an amusement park ride, while the fox beastman yelled and clung to the golden dragon's tail for dear life. The dragon elder regained his bearings and flapped his wings, his face taking on a slight shade of red, which he was trying to suppress. He really needed to get around to researching a light screen spell to cover up while transforming without having to take the time to find a private spot to do it. "Let's not speak of my human form..." he nearly begged.

"But it's so believable!" Flagoon commended. "It's so-"

"Please," Milgazia insisted.

"Oh, I get it, you're just being humble," Flagoon concluded. "I'm not an expert on the subject of male anatomy, since I'm female and all, but-"

"Flagoon!" Milgazia half growled. Of all the times she could pick to start acknowledging the existence of physical differences between the genders, why did it have to be now?

"Okay, I guess I can drop the subject for now. It looks like we're almost to Sairaag anyway and there's definitely something going on there. Hey you back there, we'll be landing soon! What's your name anyway?"

The frightened beastman trembled as he clung to Milgazia's tail. "Jullios Jillious Jollios..." he voiced his full name between scared shallow breaths.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, further back, Xellos and Filia were rushing through that same road. "Romeo, wait up, why are we in such a hurry and what's that light in the distance?" Filia called out to her protector, who seemed just about ready to leave her behind.

"The reason why I am in a hurry is because of that light and that light is very likely a Zanaffar beast," Xellos revealed.

"Zanaffar!" Filia exclaimed in shock. She bumped into Xellos' back when he stopped suddenly to observe the spectacle before them.

"What the...?" There was simply no expression in any language he knew that could accurately describe what he saw. There was a rock golem about thirty feet tall, stomping around aimlessly like a toddler with a tantrum. Atop the golem's head there was a man with a very peculiar attire, or rather lack of attire, making similar tantrum stomping motions in an effort to stop the creature's rampage. He wondered if Lord Beast Master would even believe him if he told her what he saw.

Filia stumbled back and walked around Xellos to see what had made him stop so suddenly. "Eek!" She jumped back and dove under Xellos cape.

"Do you have a golem phobia or something?" Xellos inquired. Strangely, her emotions didn't really taste scared as much as outraged and embarrassed.

"Such indecency!" Filia cried out while she covered her face with his cape.

"You mean the guy in the leather speedos? It is a rather poor choice of apparel," Xellos agreed. But really, this wasn't the time to be dwelling on such things. Actually, no time should ever be used to dwell on such bizarre things. Thus without another moment to waste he disappeared, teleporting to Sairaag.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos reappeared in Sairaag. The town was still whole and there were no casualties yet, just as Milgazia planned it. Of course, Xellos intended to interfere with those plans. Filia peeked out from under Xellos' cape and found herself in a whole new location. "This is a town... How did we get here?"

Xellos smiled wickedly, while Filia gave him a confused look. "We went through the astral side," he explained, though she evidently didn't understand the implications of that. He tilted his head to her eye level and grinned mischievously, his red eyes looking into her innocent blue. "I'll let you in on a secret, Juliet, I'm a monster."

Filia's expression showed strong disbelief. "Don't say that, Romeo, you're a human, you're a good human. You're not a monster!"

"I am," Xellos stepped back, surrounded by dark energy.

Filia didn't have the ability to sense his energy because of the amulet that was still stuck around her neck, but she could no longer question what she saw. "No... no! You're not Romeo. That monster that Romeo fought, you're that monster, aren't you? You hid inside Romeo's body consuming his energy, that's why he came back from the astral side like that. Oh Romeo, if only I had known the true nature of the terrible curse upon you," Filia lamented.

"Denial," Xellos mocked. "Your distress is indeed very delicious, girl. Since you've fed me so well, I'll let you live." He walked away towards the other side of town where the big fight was taking place.

"Romeo... Romeo..." Filia cried. He was gone, the monster had consumed him.

Jullios, the same fox beastman that had arrived with Milgazia and Flagoon, was in a hurry to leave the dangerous town. He stopped as he saw the crying girl that looked like a human. "Hey miss, you better get out of here." She wasn't getting up; she only kept crying for a 'Romeo' her lost lover perhaps? A casualty of the battle? He had thought there were no casualties yet, as the fight was taking place in the outskirts of town.

"My Romeo is dead!" Filia cried loudly.

"Aw, c'mon miss, I'm sure your boyfriend wouldn't want you to cry for him to the point where you're risking your life." Jullios exclaimed.

"He wasn't my boyfriend!" Filia cried, her face red. She sniffled and sobbed quietly admitting, "but I liked him." There could have never been anything between them, she reasoned, but for him to meet such a terrible fate was too cruel. "Monsters are the worse! Monsters are horrible, terrible, cruel creatures! They're rotten, they're disgusting! Monsters are the worse kind of raw garbage!"

Just as Filia yelled, a loud growl echoed from the outskirts of town. "Yes, yes I agree with you, but right now we have to get to safety!" Jullios insisted. "This may sound unbelievable, but the female sword fighter that just arrived in town, is actually the famed warrior of light! It's true, I saw her unsheathe her sword's real power. Plus that guy that was traveling with her is in fact a golden dragon!"

"A golden dragon!" Filia jumped to her feet. She couldn't let one of her own kind see her like this, she simply couldn't. "I have to get out of here!" She started running away, in the general direction of the coast in the far western edge of the peninsula.

"Now you're talking sense!" Jullios followed Filia, assuming that she actually knew where she was going.

xoxox xox xoxox

Flagoon stood at the ready with the sword of light in her hands. Milgazia stood beside her ready to cast another spell as the Zanaffar stared them down. "We can do this; the final strike will be yours." Milgazia stopped all of a sudden his eyes wide. "No! Why did he have to come now? Reveal yourself Xellos, I know you're here!"

Xellos faded out of the astral side and back into the physical plane. Since he was done hiding, he took on his usual form with the purple hair and the cheerful expression. "Why Milgazia, you don't seem very happy to see me. Is this how you greet an old war buddy?"

"What do you want, dragon slayer?" Milgazia growled angrily, while Flagoon kept the Zanaffar at bay, not wanting to interrupt the tense exchange between the two men... or man and dragon... or dragon and monster.

"For starters, you can stop calling me that, I was never too fond of that nickname," Xellos replied. "You knew I would interfere if you tried to obtain the Zanaffar armor before it reached its critical point, so you decided to distract me and destroy it when it became the beast. It's too bad I wasn't late enough for your plans to work. I won't allow you or the warrior of light to finish off the Zanaffar." As for my second request, you can... Die!" Xellos' dark energy waves stretched to wrap around Milgazia's dragon body. The monster became black energy that spun in the shape of a cone as he charged to collide with the entrapped golden dragon.

Despite being stronger in dragon form, Milgazia knew that his larger form would make it more difficult to dodge hits. He could move more easily in the air, but he had no intentions of leaving the battle grounds in case Flagoon needed backup against the Zanaffar. Plus Xellos' energy was wrapped around him and he needed to break free of the net of monster power. Thus Milgazia changed back into his human form. Xellos zoomed past his smaller body and rammed right into the Zanaffar beast, injuring it.

Xellos regained his usual human form, glaring at Milgazia. "You..." That dragon tricked him! Now he had injured the Zanaffar beast that was supposed to be left to rampage.

"Flagoon, take advantage of the injury Xellos has so usefully inflicted on our foe!" Milgazia knew that his words would provoke Xellos to anger and that was exactly what he wanted. At the risk and perhaps the cost of his own life, he wanted Xellos to focus on him, so that Flagoon would be free to defeat the Zanaffar while the monster was kept occupied.

"I will not," Flagoon replied, shocking all those present. "In fact," her eyes met the glowing red eyes of the silver beast. "This is a one on one duel between the Zanaffar and myself. Milgazia, I will assist you with the monster if need be, but the Zanaffar is mine!" There was a strange connection between the opponents, as an unusual pride rose in Flagoon's chest.

"So you want to fight that thing alone?" Xellos watched with curious interest for a moment, then he grinned in amusement. "Alright, it's a deal, Milgazia and I will stand back and watch." He nodded at the human then looked at the dragon elder. "I won't do anything if you don't. Though I could certainly defeat the silver beast, a mere human even with a special sword, should not be able to single handedly do so. We'll watch the embodiment of the hope of human kind fail, and then after she dies at the hand of the Zanaffar, you will die at mine."

Milgazia glared at Xellos, but before the dragon could speak, Flagoon agreed to the terms. "Fine by me, this way I can focus on the Zanaffar, it would be disrespectful to my first worthy opponent in a long time to divide my attention during our decisive fight. Stand back and make a truce you too." Flagoon decided, smiling confidently. "Milgazia, after I beat the Zanaffar, we'll beat that monster together!"

Milgazia couldn't explain why, but somehow, he found that he could believe Flagoon's words. "Let's do it!"

Xellos huffed, "some confidence." Their emotions tasted so strongly of security. Flagoon's emotions were very strong and now even the well guarded Milgazia was letting his hope and expectations shine. He never showed his emotions so freely at their encounters during the War of the Monster's Fall. He never relied on anyone with such confidence. What was it about Flagoon that made even Milgazia so strongly believe in her?

To be Continued

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