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To Live Another Day

Episode Fifty: Undeniable Emotions

At the moment, according to Filia, everything that went wrong in the world was Xellos fault. Xellos, the most infuriating living creature in the universe, the one who turned her world upside-down and made her throw all logic out the window. The golden dragons had to be wrong about their naive theories of love, they simply had to be. It made a lot more sense for the ancient traditions to be a bunch of lies than for her to be loved by Xellos, consciously or not. It was just lust and Filia was a golden dragon, she couldn't be influenced with only that, she refused to be.

The door to her room was quietly opened, though it wasn't silent enough to be constituted as sneaking. The person invading her Seyruun quarters was purposely making his arrival known as he joined her by the window. "What are you staring at out there?" Xellos casually inquired.

"Nothing," Filia truthfully answered and moved on to more important observations. "Your hair is black and your tail is gone. You're human again," she concluded.

"Yes," Xellos never did manage to get any sleep, but he did calm down in time. By then dinner had passed. Not the double banquet, that had been set up for the next day, though Filia observed that Philionel looked nervous upon the announcement and he did emphasize the word maybe. Xellos had been absent from the dinner table, instead taking a detour to the kitchen before going over to see Filia. He needed a full stomach to have the energy to argue with her. Lina would probably be angry if she found out he ate the last pie, but she didn't need to know.

Filia remained silent. She was simply too confused to get into an argument with Xellos at the moment. At least he was sane again... mostly... if randomly kissing her out of nowhere could be counted as sane. "Xellos!" Filia fixed him in a firm glare. She could tell the difference though, this wasn't the crazy Xellos from when his dragon form was troubling him, this was the cool, calm and collected Xellos who was always in control of every situation. He was the Xellos that knew exactly what to do to push her over the edge. The Xellos who made her hate him with a passion one second and kiss him passionately the next. This was her Xellos... Wait, where did such a terrible thought come from? He wasn't her anything!

Filia needed to focus. She needed to find the malicious cruel intent that she knew was lurking in Xellos. She needed to get a good feel for it and convince herself beyond a doubt that he was pure evil and that nothing but the most painful of heartbreaks awaited her if she didn't kill her feelings for him soon. "Could you..." How could she properly phrase it? Could you quit pretending you like me and show me all the horrible thoughts about how terrible you're planning to be to me? No, that was too specific. Yet she had no patience left to be anything other than direct. "Focus on being evil."

"What?" Of all of Filia's random strange requests, this one was definitely the most unexpected. She was so full of surprises; it made her unpredictable and strangely addictive.

"Humor me," she insisted. "Just focus on being evil. Think of something traitorous. Imagine that Zelas ordered you to exterminate all the remaining golden dragons in the world. Picture that."

"Okay..." Xellos gave Filia a look that clearly communicated he thought she was insane, but humored her none the less. He remembered his previous mission involving the destruction of many golden dragons several years ago and used that as a reference to imagine this new mission that Filia proposed.

Filia shuddered; there was cruelty and an absolute lack of mercy. Then the initial reaction wore off and she felt no fear. "You're not doing it right, you're murderous and I'm not scared."

"Maybe because this is only an imaginary mission?" Xellos suggested. "Besides, why do you want to be scared?"

"I don't, I just want the truth," Filia argued nonsensically. "Now do what I say and focus on killing me, in your imagination that is."

The strange suggestion triggered memories from when Lord Beast Master ordered Xellos to kill Filia. Those were unpleasant memories. He was completely at Zelas command; Xellos knew it and he accepted it. It didn't really bother him most of the time, except for those rare occasions when he was stuck doing something he didn't want to do.

"Don't get sad, you're supposed to be a vicious monster!" Filia scolded.

Xellos ran a hand through his hair in exasperation, "I really don't know where you're going with any of this, Filia. Yes, I killed a lot of golden dragons in the past, and yes, I might have to do something like that again in the future, though I can't imagine why Lord Beast Master would give me such an order any time soon. If this is some strange tactic you're using to try to guilt trip me, then it's not going to work. I know you're a wimp who seems to care about every living creature under the sun, but I'm not. Those dragons were nothing to me."

"Just like I'm nothing to you..." Filia whispered, though she was still not convinced. Her logic was telling her one thing while her empathy sang a whole different melody.

A theory to explain Filia's random behavior emerged in Xellos' mind. "I see, so that's it. You're angry at me because I was going to Dragon Slave you back at the Beast Master Spa. I didn't have a choice! Zelas ordered me to kill you and if I didn't she would have killed us both, very painfully. Giving you a swift painless death was all I could do for you back then. If you would put that one and only brain cell of yours to work, you would understand that! Idiot dragon, what did you want me to do? Say let's be tortured and die slowly, agonizing together? You were the one who told me to do it! I thought you understood the situation!"

Filia stared at Xellos through his entire outburst until he fell silent giving her a frustrated glare. The sorrow she had seen in his eyes when he began to cast the Dragon Slave resurfaced. She could feel it now, as it was recorded in his memories, it was as if he was reliving the moment. He was right and she knew it, back then he was giving her the only mercy he could possibly give her. She wouldn't have wanted him to fall with her; that had been her biggest fear. She felt cruel for making him remember that frustrating helplessness. "What would you have done after I was gone?"

"I don't know," frankly Xellos was sick and tired of this topic. "Continue looking for a cure I suppose, a disposable cure I could use and throw away." She didn't understand the meaning behind those words or the contrast they presented. "Maybe I wouldn't even find it, a cure such as the one I need is... extremely rare, more so than I initially thought. Maybe it's even impossible to obtain." He thought Filia would be an easy shortcut, but she wasn't. "Then again, maybe I'm just as stubborn as you are for taking this route, for all I know; there could be far easier possibilities out there."

He knew much more about his cure than he hinted at. Maybe he knew enough to find it on his own, or perhaps it was something that he had to do alone. He hadn't really revealed the specifics about his mysterious cure in all this time since his curse was revealed to the group. "Why don't you take an easier route then? I think you've made it clear that you really want your monster powers back. Furthermore, you need to be a monster or Zelas will kill you. What are you waiting for? Get your cure and get out of my life!"

Xellos gave Filia an interesting look, the way she said that last part almost made it sound as if she knew. How could she? "Do you know what my cure is?"

"I don't," Filia replied truthfully. "You've always kept it a secret. Why won't you tell me?" He kissed her in a silent reply. She considered pushing him away, but she simply didn't have the will to do it. They parted several minutes later. Though her thoughts were not as focused anymore, Filia wasn't going to let things go. "Don't try to change the subject. Why won't you tell me what your cure is?"

"It's not something I have to look for, it's something I have to... achieve, figure out. I think it will only count if I do it myself, it's the only way it would be... genuine," Xellos vaguely explained.

"I see," Filia accepted the answer, "then I won't ask you to tell me anymore, for now at least. I suppose I'll know it when I see it happening. What are you going to do after you're cured?"

"I'm sure Lord Beast Master has a huge pile of assignments waiting for me." Xellos grimaced just thinking about how busy he would be. Some missions were fun, most of them amused him, actually, but not when he had a dragon pet to play with. Zelas kept dragons as pets, sort of. Rather than an intern, Phythan was no doubt a pet from Zelas' perspective and Tiffany was kind of a pet too. Maybe he could say the same about Filia, then it wouldn't be odd if he popped up for a visit far more often than ever before. "When I'm done with work, I'll be sure to get back at you for being so random and annoying. You better be ready for some frequent visits and don't try to hide because you know I'll find you." He joked trying to add some of his usual sarcastic mockery to a situation that was too serious for his liking.

"Why don't I feel disregarded, used or betrayed?" Filia thought aloud.

"Maybe because no one in the immediate time and place is disregarding, using or betraying you?" Xellos suggested. Then again, wasn't he using her as a cure? Well, yes, technically he was. Yet accepting some survival assistance from Filia without her knowing she was assisting him, given the fact that she did want him to live, didn't seem like something particularly traitorous. It's not like it was counterproductive to her purposes. As for being disregarded, haven't they been spending a lot of time together lately?

"I see..." Filia allowed everything to sink in. She had hit a wall trying to get her way with her heart a long time ago. Then when she finally tore that wall of impossibilities down, she found that the other side of it was exactly the same as the side where she stood. The so called lies, the truth, the perceptions, the possibilities, the hope, the plan, it was all too similar. He couldn't care less about the dragon race as a whole, but she was different. He would keep her safe if it was within his power to do so and it would deeply hurt him if it wasn't. She couldn't explain it, yet if she had changed so much, then maybe so had he. "I give up on being stubborn. I'll trust what I feel... what you feel."

"What do you... mean? ...Filia?" Something changed in her and it was too sudden, too powerful. His empathic abilities were overwhelmed. What was this deep affection that was unleashed? Where did it come from? Was she hiding it all along? "What did you do just now?" It was so strong it was almost frightening, yet trilling and irresistible.

"That's right, you're an empath. You can sense what I feel. All my stubborn confusion must have been stressing," Filia admitted. She loved Xellos and she wasn't trying to change that anymore. Instead, she embraced it. "I'm not running away anymore, I love you." She kissed him before he could voice any reaction to the revelation and from that point on, they didn't hold back.

xoxox xox xoxox

A loud insistent knocking on the door woke Xellos and Filia from their comfortable sleep the next morning. The knocking was followed by the insistent voice of Lina Inverse. "Filia, Xellos, hurry and get up! Phil doesn't want us to start eating breakfast until everyone is at the table. He said he had to tell us something and won't let us start eating until he does! Get over here, I'm hungry!" More knocking followed, a little more and she would tare down the door. She probably already would have if it was a flimsy inn door rather than a sturdy Seyruun castle door.  

"We're coming!" Filia called out, then covered her mouth in realization. She didn't mean to use a plural.

"Hurry up!" Lina insisted one last time, before her footsteps echoed down the hall as she marched away in a stomping fashion.

"You just messed up your chance to keep it all a secret," Xellos teased.

Filia, who honestly wasn't in the mood to get up yet, laid her head back down on his chest and closed her eyes for a few more seconds. Her tail had come out at some point during last night and she never bothered making it disappear, it was currently wrapped around Xellos. "It doesn't matter. It couldn't have been a secret forever anyway. Besides, if I said, let's keep this a secret, you would just blackmail me."

"Maybe you know me better than I imagine," Xellos grinned.

Filia's empathy was gone; it had worn off at some point after she fell asleep. At least she got to keep it for most of the previous night, that certainly made things interesting and insightful. The ability that Filia had once thought was flawed, because she didn't sense what she expected, had become a source of security for her after she completely let go of the broken pieces of her denial. It was okay though, maybe she didn't need that ability anymore. Maybe she should just keep practicing reading between the lines and figuring out the difference between what Xellos said and what he meant. To look beyond what he appeared to be doing and catch a glimpse of what he actually intended to do.

"Let's join the others for breakfast before Lina breaks down the door and drags us to the table." Filia suggested, finally making herself get untangled from Xellos and out of bed. She was tempted to take the sheet with her, but Xellos ripped it out of her hands, "Xellos!" She instinctively tried to cover herself with her hands and tail.

"What?" He feigned innocence as if he had no idea what he did to provoke the annoyed tone in Filia's voice.

"Nothing," Filia decided it was best to just get dressed and not mind Xellos too much. There was nothing new to see anyway. She still dressed in record breaking time, even if she felt a little silly for rushing so much. She glanced at Xellos, who was still only half dressed. "I clawed you again, didn't I?" She admitted, more so than inquired, with a certain amount of embarrassment in her apparent lack of control. Her face was flustered at the memories from the previous night.

"It's okay, I caused it," Xellos seductively admitted, which made Filia blush deeper.

"Either way, let me heal you," said and done, Filia casted a recovery spell on Xellos.

Something was off, something was definitely very out of place, something made no sense what so ever. His hair was still black, his body still human. Distractions aside, the realization hit Xellos like a ton of bricks. Why wasn't he a monster? Why wasn't the curse broken? Filia claimed to love him and kissed him immediately after. That was basically the best example of a willing kiss and there was a lot more than just kissing afterwards. He decided not to let things get to him yet. No one ever said the curse would be broken immediately. Maybe it took a little more time or maybe there was some kind of loophole that he still remained unaware of. Whatever it was, he had a feeling that Zelas' patience was at its end, so he better turn back into a monster soon.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia joined Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Philionel at the breakfast table. "Finally!" Lina loudly exclaimed and immediately picked up her silverware.

"Miss Lina!" Philionel scolded, making the redhead freeze. "I must insist that you listen to what I have to say before you begin eating."

Lina frowned and put down the silverware, she didn't want to upset Phil into canceling the double banquet. That would be horrible. She just kept focusing on the banquet being tonight. "I'm listening," she prompted impatiently.

"Thank you," Philionel nodded formally and cleared his throat. "I'll keep this short and to the point."

"Please do," Lina muttered in a barely audible tone.

Philionel continued as if he had not heard Lina. "As I'm sure you are all aware, helping each other is a vital part of building a better world. As the crown prince of Seyruun, it is my duty to teach such a lesson to my people with the example." Amelia's eyes shone in admiration as she listened to her father's speech. "Our neighbors from the outer world are suffering the effects of a bad harvest. The spring crops were scarce and the summer crops almost non-existent. As a result of the dying vegetation, the livestock has also been severely affected. Their land is being hit by a terrible famine and one farmer after another has been forced to sell or even abandon their land to try to earn sustenance for their family elsewhere. We who have the privilege of sitting at the table with all this delicious food before us must give thanks for our blessing."

"Amen!" Lina exclaimed and once again attempted to begin eating.

"I'm not done yet!" Philionel insisted and once again Lina paused. "It is my duty not only as the acting monarch of Seyruun, but also as a living being," because to say human being was considered politically incorrect these days, "to give help to those who are in need. In light of the situation, I have made the choice to postpone the promised double banquet until further notice, so that Seyruun will have more food to share with those who are in need of it."

Amelia wiped a tear, "that was such a moving speech, daddy, I'm with you all the way!"

"What?" Lina's furious voice echoed all over Seyruun castle and beyond. "You're giving away my double banquet to a bunch of strangers? Unacceptable! Isn't celebrating the engagement of your own daughter and dear friends, to whom you owe your life may I remind you, more important? You made a promise as the ruler of Seyruun to give me a double banquet and you must keep that promise!" Lina was now standing on her chair in absolute fury.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Looks like it's bad news for everyone. More about Xellos' situation will be explained in the next chapter. Wow 50 chapters, when I started I didn't think the story would turn out this long. We're at the half point! Since I'm not a lemon writer and this is rated T, I skipped ahead to the day after, though it should be obvious what happened. If anyone wants to fill the blank with a lemon of their own, go ahead.
Story: Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows... XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

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Slayers Alive

Episode Sixty: Painful Grudges

Xellos and Filia made their way out of the town and towards a field of flowers that reminded Xellos of the garden in Celestina's villa. She was no doubt responsible for this, but why? "I have the key," Filia revealed a small key that could remove the magic suppressing collar Xellos had and he was all to glad to be rid of it. "This may sound crazy, but I think we're in the past. The buildings look like ancient structures, the dragons are dressed like in the past and I think I saw my grandmother."

"Then that man who said the War of the Monsters' Fall happened over a hundred years ago wasn't crazy after all," Xellos concluded. He had noticed the style of the environment being similar to the past as well, even if it was hard to believe.

"How could this have happened? I only remember seeing that light that came from that dragon and we were here," Filia recalled. "Who was that white haired dragon?"

"A descendant of one of the few survivors of the war within the barrier, which must still exist in this time. She was supposedly killed by Fibrizo, but reappeared after his death. Her father was quick to climb the ranks after Fibrizo's defeat and holds an important position with the golden dragons now, or I should say in our time." Xellos explained, "that's the official version at least." He knew it was best to tell Filia the whole truth, or at least as much of it as he knew. "She was supposed to be the person Lina, Gourry and I set out to capture to get your golden dragon citizenship back, but the real Celestina really was killed. That woman is someone else, so we retreated."

"She's someone powerful, I assume," Filia's face turned serious as she thought about the situation. "Who's powerful enough to time travel? That's supposed to be impossible even for the strongest dragons and monster lords."

"Yes, I believe the only being in existence who is that powerful is the Lord of Nightmares and that is who she is," Xellos revealed. As expected, Filia only stared at him in disbelief. "I know it's hard to swallow, but that's the truth. You've heard stories about Lina's adventures before, during those campfire nights when she's not in the mood to sleep. After we left Celestina's villa, Lina mentioned her first meeting with the Lord of Nightmares, which happened during the battle against Fibrizo, as if she could remember it, but she had claimed to hold no memories of it before. I didn't inquire too much about it, I didn't need to. I somehow caught a glance of the Lord of Nightmares, or I was allowed to see her for a split second. A bright golden light shining upon an endless sea of chaos. A golden light, that's her true form, or perhaps her form is something beyond our comprehension and we simply see her that way. She's been partially awake since Lina's fight with Fibrizo, but she doesn't seem to be planning to return the world into chaos just yet. Of course, she could have changed her mind and in the end, even if she doesn't destroy the world, she can do as she pleases with it."

Slowly allowing the truth to sink in, Filia managed to find her voice, "why would she send us here?"

"I don't know," Xellos admitted, "maybe for amusement. This is the Lord of Nightmares we're talking about. A being of infinite power who just woke up from a very long nap might be in the mood for some amusement."

"But we're not her toys!" Filia argued.

"To her, we might be," as much as Xellos hated to admit it, he knew it to be true. "There's really not much we can do except to play along and make the best of it."

Filia let out an anxious breath. "First things first, let me heal you." She began the process to heal Xellos with her magic, spending some time on the task.

"Don't look, but there's someone coming this way," Xellos quietly whispered, just as Filia was finishing up with her healing.

"Who is it?" Filia pretended not to notice.

"A dragon lady that was at the station earlier. She took away Sakel, that big stupid guy that got us mixed up in this," Xellos explained.

Filia's eyes widened. "I saw her," she whispered urgently and discreetly glanced at the approaching dragon woman, who was walking nearer to them in elf form. "Don't say anything, but that's my grandmother."

Xellos managed to contain his surprise and remained silent as Faili approached them, examining him with critical eyes. "Excuse me, travelers; do you have a place to rest? It might be best to wait until morning before you are on your way. I hope it is not to forward of me, but you are welcomed to stay at my place."

Filia thought it was a bad idea to get involved, but she couldn't resist, this was her dear grandmother whom she missed. "If it's not too much trouble, but we really must be on our way early."

"I understand, please come this way," Faili invited. "Perhaps you already know," because everyone who visited that town seemed to have heard of her and the rumors that she was freeing humans, albeit there was nothing illegal about it, it was her money to spend as she wanted. "I am Faili Ul Copt, may I inquired your names?"

"F-" Filia froze, she couldn't tell her grandmother her name, that might make a mess of things.

"What's wrong? Have you forgotten your name, Fluffy?" Xellos smirked.

Filia felt her eye twitch, but she needed an F name to go with so that it matched the sound she started to produce. Then again, perhaps the fact that she didn't want to reveal her identity had become too obvious already. "Fluffy? That's a cute nickname. If you prefer not to say your names, that is alright with me. What should I call you then?" Faili asked Xellos.

"Ice-cream," Filia replied for him. It was the first thing that popped into her mind.

xoxox xox xoxox

Faili led Xellos and Filia to an estate that served as the foundation for Arcius' estate centuries later. The structure had been enforced and practically rebuilt time and again over the years. The interior decorating was in much better taste than anything Arcius would choose, giving the building a calming atmosphere. Faili showed her guests to their rooms. "Please make yourselves at home, friends."

"Thank you," Filia nervously replied, she was happy to see her grandmother, but afraid of having an emotional outburst that would mess up history somehow. Xellos played his part by remaining silent, though he wasn't happy about it.

"If it is alright, Miss Fluffy," Faili couldn't help it but to giggle at the nickname, though she tried to contain her reaction. "I would like to have a word with you."

"Of course," Filia agreed, though it was clear she was still jumpy. Maybe she shouldn't have come. "You should go ahead and get some rest, Ice-cream."

"Don't stay up too late yourself, we have an early start tomorrow, Fluffy," Xellos replied, before going into his assigned room.

Filia twitched at the name but disregarded it quickly enough and followed Faili.

xoxox xox xoxox

Faili and Filia sat at a tea room where Faili insisted on making some tea. "This tea is good for relaxing, you seem rather troubled."

Filia wasn't sure how to reply to that. She kept switching between staring at Faili and trying to hide her face behind her hair. "I'm not exactly comfortable with what's happening in town."

"I understand and I'm glad you would say that. I wasn't sure about you, given the state of your human companion, so I set out to find you. Please pardon my intrusion; I knew my doubts were baseless after I saw you healing him. He really seems to trust you." Faili spoke with a kind tone as she served the tea. "The law will be passed soon to end the activities in town, I'm sure of it. Yet I wish something would happen that could show the golden dragons who have doubts or who quietly accept the happenings of this town that dragons and humans should live in peace as equals."

"Something will happen!" Filia encouraged before she could stop herself. "A dragon and a human will prove that the two races can live in peace and the dragons will acknowledge humans. Maybe if you work as a team with Mr. Sakel..." Filia stopped, she was saying too much.

Faili laughed, "that fool doesn't know what's good for him. I've freed him countless times and he keeps coming back saying that he wants to prove that a human can also be the one to free the ones held captive here. He's far too stubborn and doesn't know how to accept help. It will take quite a cunning and convincing dragon to make things change around here."

Filia's face fell. Though Faili did have mercy for humans she didn't really acknowledge them as strong. She sheltered them and pitied them without realizing it. It was all done with good intentions, but Filia still thought it didn't quite fit in with the ideals of equality she claimed to defend. "I think..." How could Filia properly phrase this? "I think that in order to achieve equality, humans will have to stand up for themselves. It will take more than just an eloquent dragon, it will take teamwork. It will make forgiveness easier if the humans see that a member of their own kind is trusted and acknowledged."

"Forgiveness is never easy," Faili bitterly voiced with a grave expression. "These people have lost loved ones. Only after losing someone myself did I understand that kind of pain."

Realization hit Filia harshly, "your husband..." She knew about this, she had heard about the fact when she inquired about her grandfather as a child.

"Yes," Faili sighed sadly. "My beloved husband fell in battle fighting against that fiend, the monster known as Xellos, shortly before the barrier was completed. It's been over a hundred years, but it is a pain that my son and I will forever remember."

Filia felt her eyes water. Xellos was Beast Master's loyal minion, he killed countless golden dragons in the past, he caused a lot of pain and suffering. He was an enemy to her race. She might not be an official citizen of the golden dragon race anymore, but she was still a golden dragon, she still carried the same blood as her family. "I'm sorry," looking at Faili's hurt expression, seeing the pain in her eyes, it made Filia feel like a traitor.

"Don't cry, dear, we all regret the terrible losses that out comrades suffered and that horrible barrier is still there. Who knows if it will ever be lifted? I can only pray that I will live to see that day." Faili's face went from sad to defiant. "If I could, I would tare that barrier down myself and hunt down that monster. I would avenge my people."

"If you had the chance..." Filia's voice was barely audible. "If you were given the opportunity, you would kill Xellos?"

"Painfully so!" Faili assured with a temper similar to an angry Filia, though with a little more control. "Ah, my apologies for the outburst. Realistically, there's no way a single dragon can slay the horrible monster who destroyed so many of our kind."

Filia was trembling, unable to contain her tears from flowing abundantly from her pain filled eyes. "Revenge never accomplishes anything. It only brings more pain. If I had that chance, I would... I would..."

"Spare him?" Faili huffed. "I was innocent like you once. I thought that all creatures had good in them, even monsters. I know it's a shock for a golden dragon to say such a thing, it's even blasphemous, but I believed. He proved me wrong, Xellos changed my mind about monsters and made me see them for the horrible creatures that they truly are. What sets us dragons, humans, elves and even beastmen apart from monsters is that we have feelings. We feel love and pain, but monsters feed on hate and hold no feelings of their own. They cannot learn from their atrocious actions, they know no guilt, no regret. The only thing left to do to preserve ourselves is to destroy them."

"So it would be different if they had feelings?" Filia insisted in a barely audible voice.

With the bitterness of broken hope, Faili voiced a soft, "if only that were possible." She let out a breath that seemed to carry all her tensions as she tried to get her turmoil of emotion under control. "Back to the subject at hand, I think I see your point. If the humans see that we dragons can understand their pain and stand side by side with them, then maybe they'll forgive." Filia nodded her head, though she kept her eyes low. She tried to dry her tears as best she could, an effort that did not go unnoticed by Faili. "I apologize for upsetting you. I'm sure you must have lost someone in the war too, there doesn't seem to be a golden dragon in existence who has not. Please, get some rest. I'm sure you'll feel better after a good night's sleep."

"Yes," feeling quite shaken, Filia returned to her assigned guest room. Filia knew that she had picked after her grandmother in many ways. Their resemblance had been pointed out by family members in the past, but it wasn't until now that Filia saw how similar they were in more than just looks.

xoxox xox xoxox

Although she was tired, Filia couldn't get to sleep. After her family passed away in the Darkstar incident and her citizenship as a golden dragon was annulled, she eventually moved on and it no longer mattered to her that she was a golden dragon. She was no longer a part of the group and she would carry on minding her own business, leaving the official golden dragons to mind theirs. However, she was still a golden dragon of birth. Her family was gone in her time, but their existence was still important to Filia and she felt that she wasn't honoring them. What would they think if they saw her now? What would they say if they knew how close she was to Xellos? She could disregard the opinion of the dragon race in general, but not that of her closest relatives whom she grew up with.

The movement of the sheets in the dim room, got Filia out of her thoughts. The light of the full moon that seeped in through the glass windows revealed the identity of the familiar shadow getting comfortable next to Filia. "Go away Xellos, I'm not in the mood to... keep you company."

"You're certainly in the mood to give me insomnia," Xellos retorted without much of an edge. He caught the hint of a puzzled look appearing in Filia's obscured features. "The walls aren't thick enough here, I can sense how upset you are from the next room. What's your problem this time? You weren't this scared when we first realized we're in the past."

"It's odd, you're such an annoying trickster that it's easy to forget that you've been around for such a long time. Zelgadis has a lot more maturity than you, even if he's a whole lot younger," Filia began ambiguously. "You're sarcastic, you make mocking jokes and you... you get chocolate all over your face when you eat chocolate ice-cream pie. You can make yourself appear to be as harmless as a child if you want, but you really do have the cunning of all your years, even if some experiences might still be new to you as things stand now."

Xellos really didn't know where Filia was going with all of this. She wasn't exactly criticizing him as much as stating facts, though he could argue that he only got chocolate on his face when he had to rush to eat his pie because it was in danger of being stolen by Lina and that he was a perfectly neat eater when no one was trying to steal his precious pie. It felt all too natural to reply with a sarcastic comment. "Yes, I get it, I'm charming, you adore me, thanks for the reminder." Filia burst into all out crying, which was certainly not the reaction Xellos was expecting her to have to such a light remark. "What's wrong with you, stupid dragon? I sense that you're angry at yourself, but I don't understand why."

"Idiot! Filia got out of bed, pacing around angrily. "You're the one that killed grandpa, that's why I never got the chance to meet him. As for my other grandparents on my mother's side, they got caught inside the barrier, separated from their daughter and you probably killed them too."

Xellos followed Filia and held her by the shoulders to stop her frantic pacing around the room. "Are you realizing this just now? You've known about my past all along and you never made the connection? I don't have my full power now. You could rip my head off before I'm half way done casting a Dragon Slave. You can kill me and be a hero to the golden dragons; they'll welcome you back with open arms. If you want revenge that badly, why don't you take it? What are you waiting for, an apology? I'm sorry for killing a bunch of dragons long before I even met you and I'm especially sorry if any of them were your acquaintances. Oh wait, that's right, you didn't exist back then, well it's too bad you never got to meet any of my war victims." The slap that Filia gave him made it clear for Xellos that sarcasm was a very bad idea.

"You monster!" Filia growled. Monsters were cruel because they felt no pain; there was no guilt to hold them back. "Even if you were following Zelas' orders, you had no problems with what you were doing. Of course you didn't, you were created as her slave, that's who you are! More so that's what you are, not a real person, just a tool, a thing to be used for the convenience of someone stronger. You're nothing but a weapon and not even your master has any regard for you, she'll kill you soon because you're not beneficial to have around anymore. You're a useless broken weapon that was tossed away, a real piece of garbage!"

Xellos was shaking with anger, fists and teeth clenched, glare enraged. He wanted to say something that would make Filia shut up, something that would take away that fierce cold look from her eyes, but the only thing he could come up with was an unsure sounding, "I am... my own person... Stupid dragon, you wouldn't understand!" He was done arguing. He didn't want to look at her any more, so he left, he ran out of the room and out of the estate as fast as he could.

Filia stood frozen. Monsters don't have emotions, monsters don't feel pain. Monsters don't laugh, or get annoyed, or have a sense of humor, it's all just acting. Monsters feel no sorrow, monsters can't be hurt. But even long before he was turned into a human, Xellos could make stupid jokes, get annoyed and even be surprised. Humans were not all the same, dragons were not all the same, monsters were not all the same. Filia got her vengeance, she fought back. She knew she managed to hurt Xellos; she got back at him for all the pain she blamed on him. Yet it only made her feel worse, so much worse.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. As promised, here's some drama. ;) There's a reference to Hey Arnold! In that ice-cream is Helga's codeword for Arnold and it also fits with the ice-cream cone dream.
Story: Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows... XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

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Fanfiction Net: [link]
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Lunaescence: [link]
Beloved Enemy: [link]
Others: [link]
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Slayers Alive

Episode Sixty-Five: Hostages and Bargaining Chips

Filia and Xellos were trapped in an unstable area of astral space and knew that escaping would not be an easy task. "Constricting astral space is difficult to break through," Xellos stated. This was a death trap; it was all arranged so that Narcissus' destroyer would fall along with him if it came to that. Regardless of if the others became aware of their predicament, there was little they could do to get them out. Even for a monster, it would be extremely difficult to escape such a situation, but for a very strong monster, it wouldn't be impossible. Xellos still had the card Filia gave him, the card that would make her an official golden dragon and set her up to fulfill all the annoying technicalities of his curse. "I can get us out of this," there was no room for doubt anymore, he gave her the card.

Filia stared at the card for a split second before the realization hit her. This was the only thing that could save them. If Xellos regained his original monster powers, he would be strong enough to break out of the unstable astral space. She didn't have a pen and she didn't think Xellos was carrying one either, but something as simple as that would not be their doom. She ripped off her right glove and bit her finger, letting her partially transformed fang pierce her skin just enough to draw blood. She pressed her injured finger against the card. Though magical contracts could be signed with ink, they were originally signed in blood in the past. The red liquid was absorbed by the magically infused card, the name of 'Filia Ul Copt' appearing on it as if written in red ink. Then she kissed Xellos.

They waited, but no surge of power came to him. They parted momentarily and tried again, yet there was nothing. Disappointment invaded his features along with an air of frustration. Then he forced his face to take on his usual overly cheerful squinting eyes look, his mask. "It looks like I couldn't give you enough after all. It shouldn't come as a surprise, who could love such a stupid dragon?"

Filia wasn't sure what to say at first, a million thoughts ran through her head, then finally she smiled warmly. It was something that Xellos didn't expect. "Only a piece of raw garbage," she answered his question, fueling his confusion. "Haven't you changed your interpretation of your cure enough to conclude that it's very tricky? I don't think the problem is you, we're just missing some other technicality, I'm certain of it!"

"What more is there? How else can the 'willing kiss of a golden dragon' be interpreted?" It was all too much to deal with. Just when he thought he understood, it turned out that he didn't. Just when he thought he loved Filia enough, it wasn't enough. Maybe it was enough for her, but not enough for the curse, not enough to save his life... it was not enough to save her life.

"Say it," Filia voiced, almost like an order. She had stopped doubting Xellos and she wished he would stop doubting himself. That he would stop thinking that truth she saw was an impossibility.

"What?" He gave her a confused look, she was always such a moody puzzle.

Feeling the pressure of the electrifying astral walls crushing her; Filia gritted her teeth and forced the words out for one last request. "Just say it!"

Then he realized what she wanted. According to the curse it was a lie, but he could humor her with this much before they died. "I..." why was he pausing, the pain of being crushed alive was immense, but that wasn't what was holding him back. "I love you," strangely the words felt much heavier when he wasn't saying it as a joke.

"I believe you," Filia assured, "and I love you too." She had decided to trust him and she would trust him more than some curse. She kissed him again as if it was the last time, and it looked as if it would be.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Why aren't Filia and Xellos coming back?" Gourry inquired in his eternal confusion. There was always something around him that puzzled him. He was used to the feeling, but sometimes, especially when it concerned someone's safety, he simply couldn't overlook it.

The air around them was normal and there were no freaky monster plants leaping out to attack them. "I don't know," Lina admitted as she approached the dried up tree. "The tree looks dead." She peeked inside the hole in the bark, to see that it was hollow. She casted a light spell. "There's something here!"

Gourry, Zelgadis and Amelia hurried after Lina, joining her inside the massive hollow tree trunk. "What is that?" Amelia looked at the glowing sphere of swirling colors that seemed to be getting smaller.

"It might be some kind of pocket of astral space," Zelgadis theorized.

"Then that means that Miss Filia and Mr. Xellos might be in there!" Amelia concluded.

Lina tentatively reached over to the orb, retreating her hand when she got a shock of electricity. "I don't like the way that ball of astral space is shrinking. It's so unstable that attacking it might make things worse." She was at a loss for what to do to free Xellos and Filia. "At times like this having a monster on the team would be useful. If they're good for anything that's hopping in and out of astral space."

"I'm really worried!" Amelia frowned, her eyes showing vast concerned.

"It looks like the situation is hopeless," a voice from behind the gathered group was heard.

"It can't be!" Amelia cried out before realizing that though the voice was female, it wasn't Lina or Filia's voice.

The group turned around to find a woman standing behind them. She was wearing a dress in a similar style to what Xellos wore as Miss Xexe, though it was white, which accentuated her bronze skin. "We'll see," the woman approached the sphere of astral space and pushed her golden bangles up to her elbow, the ornaments making multiple cling-clang sounds as they bumped into each other. She then reached her hand into the sphere, phasing through it. Sparks of electricity flew from the unstable astral area, but she seemed unaffected by it.

One second, Xellos was reflecting on how short his life felt even though he had lived for so long and regretting he had to drag Filia to death with him. The next, he was distracted by a sharp pain to his ear and found himself worrying that it would be ripped off. "Ow, ow, ow!" The pain ceased and Xellos instinctively rubbed the affected area, though he shouldn't have enough space inside the shrinking astral space to move his arm so freely. Then he realized he was no longer being crushed to death by electrifying astral walls, though his entire body still ached profusely from the near death experience.

Filia, who had been tightly embracing Xellos, was pulled out along with him, wondering how they managed to make it out of there. His hair was still white; he didn't have his monster powers back. Everyone's gazes were focused on them for a few seconds before they turned to look in a different nearby angle. Filia and Xellos followed the looks to... "Lord Beast Master?" The golden dragon stuttered in disbelief.

"It looks like you ran into some trouble with this fight. The Green Alchemist turned out to present quite a challenge, it would seem," Zelas chuckled in a tone much more mocking and superior than even Xellos' best attempt. She gave Xellos a critical look, "I see you're still cursed, what a pity, your time has run out."

"Wait a minute!" Lina protested, "I thought he had a year! It hasn't been a year yet!"

"A year was the duration of your bodyguard contract as offered by Celo," Zelas reminded. "That does not concern me. The fact of the matter is that I have grown impatient. It is time..." Zelas wore a golden chain around her neck, at the end of which there was a black cone-shaped gem that glowed in a shadowy light. "Xellos, will you face your end with even a shred of dignity?"

It was over, he was about to die anyway and Lord Beast Master saved him only so she could finish him off herself. He wasn't going to beg for his life, it was useless anyway. "Yes, Lord Beast Master." Xellos pushed Filia away, giving her a silent warning with his eyes not to say anything. At least this way she would be left alive, or so he hoped. He stepped forward, vowing before the monster lord from whom he originated.

The entire group was paralyzed in shock. They knew they were in no conditions to get into another fight when they barely made it out of that last one. Filia was almost dead on her feet and they were all terribly tired. Lina knew that if she kept on fighting, her hair turning white would be the least of her worries. She would probably breathe her last breath before that even happened.

"This... this is..." Amelia choked out a few syllables before Zelgadis wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close to him.

"Shh... I know it's not fair, but there's nothing we can do," the chimera tried to console his love. Zelgadis never liked Xellos, but for a short moment he could almost feel identified. He could see it, despite the circumstances of being a monster, Xellos respected Zelas, not only because he had to, but because he looked up to her. Being sacrificed by someone he admired, that was something that Zelgadis had experienced.

Zelas held her hand over Xellos' lowered head. The black glow in her palm matched the rhythm of the glow of the black cone shaped jewel on her necklace. "Goodbye Xellos..." An expression of inevitable pain edged itself across Xellos' face as he faded away, becoming an orb of black light that was absorbed into the black jewel. Zelas grinned evilly, waiting for some sort of reaction from the group that appeared to be too surprise at the twist of events to even form a full sentence.

"Bring him back..." Filia's voice was so low that it was inaudible at first, "bring him back..." The second whisper was just barely heard. "Please Lord Beast Master, bring him back!" Filia cried loudly as she fell to her knees with abundant tears rolling down her face like a river. "I beg of you, bring Xellos back. I'll try harder to cure him of his curse, I'll somehow guide him to being able to achieve his cure. Please give us more time!"

"Xellos' curse... the curse that made him human," Zelas paused with suspense. She quoted a certain key part of the incantation, "this curse shall only be broken by..." she paused and emphasized each word slowly, "the willing kiss of a golden dragon." Another moment of silence paused as the whole group mused over Zelas words. They knew that Filia and Xellos had done plenty of kissing and she was certainly willing. "Strangely, the cure doesn't seem to be working. Of course, I'm not expecting a stupid dragon to know why. A brain is necessary to figure out this puzzle. There are times when deception is all around and nothing is what it appears to be."

Zelas' words hit Filia hard. The fact that the cure wasn't working wasn't Xellos' fault. He loved her, she knew it and maybe in the end he knew it too. The problem had to be something else, something that they had not figured out. Yet no matter how hard Filia thought about the cure, phrased exactly as Zelas spoke it, she couldn't see beyond the obvious. What was the answer to the puzzle? Maybe there was a secret place and time where the cure had to be set in motion. Maybe there was a hidden metaphor. Filia didn't know, but for it to matter Xellos had to be brought back anyway. Then she realized something else, Zelas sounded well informed. "You know the answer," Filia realized.

"Indeed," Zelas confirmed. "However, it is of vital importance that Xellos should find that answer on his own. I have given him far too much help already."

"Then it was you!" Lina realized. "The reason why there have been few monsters attacking Xellos in the name of other monster lords. The reason why a lot of monsters attacked us when Xellos wasn't with us in the mountains. You were reducing the amount of danger he was exposed to down to a level that he, we, could handle. You allowed this, you tricked the Green Alchemist and his followers into thinking they could replace Xellos. Was this some kind of test for him?"

"The Green Alchemist is a hater of monsters who thinks he's deceiving the deceiver. Nonetheless, he represents a danger to the people of this world." Zelas changed the subject, as if it was far too early in her opinion to reveal much else beyond that. "Lina Inverse, you always held a prominent spot in Xellos reports and with a good reason, I'm sure. Allow me to offer you a place in my ranks. Would you agree to a pact in exchange for Xellos life? If not, I could always sacrifice his essence to make myself a new minion. It would be someone entirely different who will have Xellos' power but will not be Xellos; a replacement that will completely erase him."

"Using your own monster as a hostage against the enemy?" Lina chuckled, getting back some of her edge. "Do you really think that's going to work?" It at least made her a little confident to know that Zelas wanted her as a pawn; she wasn't completely dispensable in the monster lord's eyes.

"I'll do it," Filia offered without thinking.

"I'm not talking to you, dragon," Zelas waved her hand dismissively at Filia and once again turned her attention towards Lina. "There is the option of simply killing you, but to answer your question, no, I didn't really think it would work."

"That would be a waste," Lina pointed out almost challengingly. She paused as an idea sparked in her mind. Her brain had been working as fast as it could to come up with something before she found herself unable to stretch her conversation with Zelas any further. "I can offer you something else."

Zelas raised an eyebrow, curious about the source of Lina's confidence. "If not your allegiance or your life, what could you possibly offer me?" Xellos was right; Lina Inverse was a peculiar being.

"Join us," Lina stated simply.

While the group gasped at the audacity of their leader, Zelas chuckled in amusement. "Why would I join you?" She played along.

"Because it's worth it," Lina assured in her confident leader voice. "Travel with us for a while and you'll see exactly what I mean. I guarantee that the true meaning of my offer will shine through clearly before your patience runs out."

"I'm a little short on patience," Zelas warned.

"Lies," Lina boldly declared. "You're a good strategist, you think ahead, you plot and plan, you make sure to stay well informed. Someone who can do all that has a fair amount of patience. Someone of that level of cunning and intellect will see the benefits of my negotiations. When we renegotiate once you've had enough of traveling with us, I will present a suggestion, but when I do, it will be something that you would have already decided for yourself. You have my word on that."

"Such confidence," Zelas chuckled. "Very well, Lina Inverse, you've caught my curiosity. I perceive that you're not desperately buying time; you have a real strategy going on here. You truly believe that your word will be fulfilled. I should still warn you that I am no easy opponent to face in battle, but I'm sure the warning is unnecessary."

"That's right," Lina agreed, "I can keep my word, no use of force will be needed." Taking a deep breath, she tried to get things moving along again. "Alright everyone, we're going to continue with our business as planned. We'll search this land for any remnant allies of the Green Alchemist until there are none left."

"You can skip that step, I assure you, there's no one else left to find in this area who is an ally of the Green Alchemist," Zelas informed.

"Very well, then our job here is done," Lina conceded, though the others were giving her unsure looks as if she shouldn't take Zelas' word for it. However, the leader's choice had been made. "The locals can take care of restoring the town with the help of Seyruun. I'm sure the supplies must have been gathered and prepared. The Seyruun transports should be well on their way by now. On that note, we'll send a report about all that's happened to Phil via courier bird. As for our next move, we're going to keep traveling, but not only to face the Green Alchemist. It's been a while since I've done some good old treasure hunting. For the time being, let's head to town and rest at the inn. We have a long way to travel." Lina wasn't planning to ask for any clue from Zelas or any traveling assistance. If this was going to work, she had to prove that her band of adventurers were capable on their own.

xoxox xox xoxox

Though they still exchanged unsure glances now and then, the group followed Lina back to town along with Zelas. They rested for a while and later set out on their quest once again. Aside from the occasional mockingly sarcastic comments from Zelas, the travels were passing by relatively well, albeit unusually quiet in terms of casual conversation. "Do you mind?" Zelas broke the silence.

"Me?" Filia questioned, trying to keep her voice even. She knew it was a bad idea to anger Zelas. "I thought you didn't want to grant me the undo honor of addressing me directly."

Though Filia was sarcastic without noticing it herself, Zelas certainly did. "Funny, Xellos always said that you were direct and temperamental, but you seem to have a fair amount of sarcasm in you."

Pouting despite her better judgment, Filia truthfully replied, "I picked it up from him."

"And he picked it up from me," Zelas grinned annoyingly.

Filia gritted her teeth and swallowed an insulting reply. She did not want to be compared to Zelas. She didn't really want to compare Xellos to Zelas either, but that much was inevitable. It was impossible to ignore the obvious link between them. "What was it that you wanted?" Hoping to return to the previous silence as soon as possible, Filia steered the conversation back to Zelas' initiative.

"I was going to ask if it was possible for you to stop staring at my necklace." Zelas casually stated, with the same tone one would use to inquire the time from a random person. "It gives the impression that you want to steal it," she commented as an after thought.

"Fine," Filia looked away, yet she couldn't help it but to give the gem imprisoning Xellos a few quick sideway glances every now and then.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. What could Lina's plan be? Keep reading to find out. :D
Story: Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows... XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

Deviant Art: [link]
Fanfiction Net: [link]
Pirates Board Fiction: [link]
Lunaescence: [link]
Beloved Enemy: [link]
Others: [link]
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To Live Another Day

Episode Forty-Seven: Rain and Sunshine

The rain that fell over Seyruun had stopped and the skies became sunny and clear. It was as if the weather was mocking the travelers it soaked by turning nice shortly after they finally reached shelter. Weather sarcasm aside, Zelgadis and Amelia were in a good mood as they took to the streets of the fair kingdom with Fang by their side. The monster fox had curiously followed them out and Amelia, who was rather fond of animals, took it upon herself to show him around. Zelgadis didn't like the idea as this was Zelas' pet that Xellos was supposed to walk. Yet not even the chore could ruin his overall good mood as he walked through town next to Amelia.

"Can we stop here a moment? I need to get something." Zelgadis pointed at a large warehouse. It was mostly a place where merchants left their good, though it could also be used as a storage room for personal property. "I'll be right back."

"Sure," it didn't look like Zelgadis wanted Amelia to tag along inside, so she waited for him on the street, rocking back and forth on her feet. A few noises were heard from inside the storage as if an avalanche of things fell over. Fortunately, Zelgadis emerged unharmed soon after. "This is where you keep the things you've picked up on the road, right?"

"Yeah, I sometimes did a little treasure hunting on the side while looking for a cure," Zelgadis revealed.

"What did you need to get?" Amelia curiously inquired.

"This," Zelgadis showed her a map. "It's only a standard map of the continent, but it's good to have it on hand, just in case."

"You've always been a great navigator," Amelia recalled how Zelgadis would study their surroundings when they journeyed outside of the barrier for the first time.

The pair happily continued on their way until they reached the Seyruun main park. Zelgadis was a bit uneasy, but Amelia seemed to trust Fang to behave well enough. The kingdom's children recognized the princess and immediately surrounded her in hopes of hearing another of her adventure stories and more so hoping they could play with the big animal that accompanied her. The near by parents were a little anxious, but trusted Amelia's judgment.

It turned out that Fang was rather easily amused. He seemed to be pleased enough playing fetch with the kids and was seemingly strong enough not to be too bothered by their constant squeals of joy, despite being a monster fox. Who knows, maybe he wasn't even pure monster, but some kind of monster and fox chimera or something. Amelia and Zelgadis were too focused on each other to question Fang's nature as long as he didn't attack anyone.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia and Zelgadis spent a nice afternoon at the park while Lina and Gourry continued pigging out. As for Xellos and Filia, the side effects of the medicinal herb remedy they drank were already wearing off. Xellos has felt irresistibly sleepy, but his need for rest was satisfied after a short time. He was feeling much better when he woke up, his cold was gone. Unfortunately, that didn't mean he wasn't in pain, for it was precisely a jolt of pain which had woken him up. "Filia, wake up, lover..."

Filia opened her eyes and the first thing she saw was Xellos' face very close to hers. "Lo-lover? Liar!" She jumped out of the bed, no such terrible things had transpired, she had to reassure herself of it.

"It looks like I'm cured from my cold, but I need to ask a small favor of you." Xellos had the same tone of voice he used when he was pretending to be somewhat nice right before embarrassing Filia.

The golden dragon knew it was coming, Xellos was surely about to say something that would make her blood boil. "What?" She snapped angrily.

"Could you take care of this?" Lacking a proper explanation from Filia's point of view, Xellos began to take off his shirt.

"Take care of what? What are you doing?" Filia frantically questioned in a panic.

"This," Xellos pointed to his back where there were several fresh cuts.

"Oh," Filia examined the cuts in perplexity. "How did you get those? They almost look like claw marks." She reached out to gently touch the affected area and froze when she saw her hands. Her gloves were torn at the fingers. She must have slipped her hands into his shirt when she was hugging him in her sleep. Then she must have undergone a partial transformation, which was further emphasized by the fact that her tail was still out, though her dragon claws and fangs had shrunk into human nails and teeth. Filia felt her face turned even redder than it already was. She felt like all her blood had rushed to her cheeks.

"I think you know how this happened," Xellos teased. "Don't worry, when I recover my monster powers you won't have to hold back. Look forward to it," he winked.

With gritted teeth and a growing amount of mortification, Filia considered running away and finding a deep hole to hide in for the next decade or so. Yet she didn't, instead she forced herself to remain rooted to the spot and heal Xellos.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Where are you going, Filia?" Xellos inquired as he followed her like a second shadow.

Fed up with him and in desperate need of some breathing room, Filia quickened her pace across the Seyruun gardens until she came to stand in the shade next to a storage room. "Stop following me! Go away raw garbage, you're so annoying!"

"I know you don't mean that," Xellos gave her an infuriatingly flirty look, which made Filia growl loudly. "C'mon Filia, you know you want me."

A murderous glare with clenched teeth and fists was Filia's reply accompanying her threatening growl. Some time ago in the era of her grandparents' youth, some of the golden dragons made a movement that eventually banned human cuisine. Filia herself had never tried the delicacy, but she was sure some dragons were skilled in preparing it in secret. Right now, she was tempted to try. Since Xellos was fully human at the moment, she wouldn't even have to worry about him being a poisonous monster if she devoured him.

"You must really have a lot of bottled up passion," Xellos curiously observed. "You look like you want to literally bite my head off and your fangs are showing." He winked again, then kept his eyes open afterwards in an unblinking direct amethyst gaze that seemed to draw her in. "If you've truly fallen desperately in love with me, I might be willing to do you the honor of accepting your affections."

"I wish I knew exactly what you're feeling when you lie like that, you cold hearted trickster." Filia snapped, near the point of frustrated tears of anger. A pulsation of energy filled the air, ignored by both halves of the argument.

Filia was making even less sense than usual as of late and it was getting to Xellos. Her emotions were ever changing, a wild roller coaster that he couldn't keep up with. His empathy was making him dizzy. "I wish I knew what it's like to be a golden dragon, because then I might actually understand your nonsensical randomness. I'm offering to give you what you want, so why don't you just take it? Are you so obsessed with your golden dragon ideals that you can't even realize your own lust, even if it's so obvious." Another pulsation of energy occurred, making the storage room next to them tremble.

"It's not lust!" Filia yelled, lust was impure and unworthy of a dragon. Then again, to say she lusted for a used to be monster, might be less horrible than to say she felt an unacceptable love towards a used to be monster. Especially when sooner or later the human would become a monster again, and a high ranking one at that, with a long list of crimes against the dragon race. Both possibilities were terribly wrong by themselves, thus both possibilities occurring simultaneously were certainly too much to bear.

"Are you in love with me then?" Xellos argued back. His careful tone was gone as he got into the heat of the disagreement. Another pulsation of energy occurred, followed by a bright light coming from the windows of the storage room next to them. The light invaded their senses along with a strange kind of resonance that made them lose consciousness.

xoxox xox xoxox

"C'mon Xellos, if you die now, I won't get paid!" The upset greedy voice of Lina Inverse brought Xellos back from his short coma.

Xellos' eyes focused on the redhead hovering over his still form. "I'm alive," he stated the obvious.

"What happened? Did the bleach fumes make you pass out or something?" Lina curiously inquired, her question making no real sense to Xellos. "Filia was out like a light too."

"Where am I?" Filia started waking up, feeling rather disoriented. She was arguing with Xellos, the atmosphere felt heavy, there was a bright light from the storage room and that's all she remembered. The next thing she knew, she was waking up and Lina and Gourry were already there.

"Lina and I saw a light, so we came to see what it was," Gourry explained. "Was the light from a spell? I didn't know there was a bleach spell."

"Bleach spell?" Filia blinked in confusion.

"What's all this about bleach?" Xellos inquired, he couldn't find a way to link something like bleach to the current situation.

Filia stared at him, "your hair," she reached over to pet his hair with her gloveless hands. "You're blond now."

"Blond?" Xellos allowed a strand of hair to fall over his face, looking a little cross-eyed as he attempted to examine it. Now the bleach comments made sense, except he held no memories about bleaching his hair. "I don't know how this happened. Filia?"

"Don't look at me, I was unconscious too ever since that light came from the storage," Filia reminded. Her confusion had a companion in the shape of more confusion. She blinked, that was odd; aside from her own feelings it was as if she felt someone else's. It was as she imagined empathy to be, except there was only one extra set of feelings, even though there were three people in the immediate area next to Filia.

"Maybe the light had something to do with it," Lina theorized. "Let's go ask Phil what he's keeping in the storage."

Xellos and Filia got to their feet and walked off with Lina and Gourry, off to find Philionel. They had only taken a few steps when a ripping sound was heard like torn fabric. All eyes landed on Xellos who shook his head, though he was well aware of the fact that the sound came from behind him. Everyone was staring with slacked jaws and wide eyes. He could barely find a way to discretely confirm if his pants had a hole in them or not, though at that point he was pretty sure they did. It wouldn't make any sense; the pants fit him just fine a few minutes ago. Even if Filia turned out to be right in her warning about the eventual consequences of his growing sweet tooth and recent pie addiction, his pants were baggy to begin with, so there was no reason for them to stop fitting all of a sudden.

"Tail?" Xellos grabbed the appendage, feeling his own grasp, confirming that it was indeed a real tail attached to him in the area where tails are usually attached. The tail was long enough to touch the ground if he let it down. It was a dragon tail very similar to Filia's tail covered in golden scales, minus the pink bow of course. "Why in the world do I have a tail?" Xellos looked rather comical running in circles trying to get a better view of the tail's origin. "Where did it come from?"

"Your behind, apparently," Lina pointed out the obvious with a very Gourry-like tone of voice.

"I know that," Xellos snapped, "but why is it there?"

Filia placed her hand on Xellos' shoulder, her expression still frozen in shock. She took a deep breath and looked into his eyes. "Listen carefully," he nodded; she sounded serious, as if she had a theory about what was going on after all. "Take a deep breath, like this," she demonstrated the breathing exercise which Xellos copied. Filia then placed a hand on his chest. "Do you feel that warmth in your diaphragm?" Again Xellos nodded. "Focus your energy there, then look straight up to the sky and exhale strongly."

Xellos followed the instructions exactly as he was told, with Lina and Gourry watching the scene unfold with curiosity. A beam of laser was shot straight up into the sky from Xellos' mouth. "Was that a laser breath?" Now it was Filia's turn to nod silently. This couldn't be happening. Being turned into a human was one thing, but this was too much. If Lord Beast Master heard about it, she might be angry, probably, most likely furious. "I'm a..." Did he even dare to say it? "I'm a golden dragon? How is this even possible?" The curse was supposed to turn him into a human. He could still feel the curse, but it was being suppressed by another magical force. It was a powerful force that kept him as a member of the golden dragon race.

"Wow, can you give us rides like Filia?" Gourry's well intended question was met with a piercing glare from Xellos and not further dignified with a verbal response.

"This is some twist," Lina observed. "We better hurry up and find Phil. He should be able to tell us what's in that storage that could have caused this, assuming the timing of the light wasn't just a coincidence... Nah, it would be too convenient to be just that." The group hurried away to pull the monarch away from his duties and seek a much needed explanation to this new development.

xoxox xox xoxox

"In conclusion, it is Seyruun's duty to help the outer world towns that are suffering as a result of this year's spring and summer harvest, or lack thereof." Philionel was just finishing off an inspiring speech to his royal council, at the head of a long meeting table.

"You can't go in there!" The voice of the guard at the door was heard.

"It's an emergency!" Xellos pushed past the guard with ease, literally pushing him into the opposite wall of the hallway.

"Control your strength!" Filia scolded, as she, Lina and Gourry followed Xellos into the meeting room.

"Believe it or not, that wasn't on purpose," Xellos had become used to needing to put extra effort into everything to get his human body to respond and the additional strength of a dragon came too suddenly for him to be immediately adjusted to it. He didn't even want to think about what it would be like during his first few days as a monster again, because he was still determined to return to his original species.

Would he go around clumsily breaking things until he relearned to control his massive monster power? If he broke one of Zelas' favorite bases she would have his head... Then again, if that happened, maybe he could teleport over to Filia's shop, as he would once again have easy access to the astral side, and get her to fix the vase or make a replica. Then he could replace it before Zelas even noticed... Albeit she would probably notice anyway, but maybe she would forgive him since it was already fixed. Okay, now he was getting way ahead of himself.

The meeting room was filled with urgent and alarmed murmurs as all those present wondered about the emergency. "What happened?" Philionel urgently asked. He blinked as he did a double take on just who had arrived. "You're Xellos, aren't you? I almost didn't recognize you with your new hair color; I wasn't even completely used to picturing you with black instead of purple yet. You have a tail too, is that the latest fashion among monsters lately?" The crown prince spoke very casually for someone who was addressing a monster general, whom he thought was still a monster. He seemed to realize he was getting off topic and quickly returned to the discussion of the apparently urgent matter on hand. "You said there was an emergency?"

"Yes," Xellos replied with emphasis, "I'm a golden dragon."

Philionel blinked in confusion, mimicking Gourry's expression. "You're not Xellos? You look just like him, except for the hair and tail."

"I am Xellos!" His fangs and claws started peeking out as he became exasperated.

"Calm down or you'll transform!" Filia warned. She had a feeling that Philionel might want to keep the ceiling of his meeting room exactly where it was. The royal council members didn't look too eager to become close witnesses of a fully transformed golden dragon throwing a hissy fit over his current species.

Xellos took a deep breath and paused before exhaling. Maybe it was too much of a deep breath. He could feel the same warmth as before crawling up his throat. He raised his hand in a sign of 'just a moment' and approached the nearest window. He opened it, released an accidentally charged laser breath into the sky and returned to his previous position addressing Phil. "I suspect a light that came from the storage room near the garden is responsible for turning me into a golden dragon," Xellos half growled and half spoke. He tried to force himself to appear cool, calm and collected but something was bothering him. It was Filia; she had a rather peculiar scent to her that he had not noticed before. It invaded his senses and was driving him crazy. "I would appreciate it if you could explain what's in there that could have caused this." Xellos finished with forced politeness.

"What about the emergency?" Philionel questioned with fading alarm.

"That's the emergency," Xellos confirmed.

"I see," Philionel looked at one of the guards, who was standing around idly in a corner. "Kalio, please fetch me the key to the storage in the garden and bring it to me there."

Kalio, a young man with light brown hair, blue eyes and a rather silent personality, nodded quietly. Unlike his sister, Kally, he wasn't allergic to octopus or afraid of them. He did have a deep hatred for the sea creatures because of the pain his dear sister had to endure. The mere mention of an octopus made him feel angry and on edge. He became a vicious berserk swordsman if he ever saw an octopus and would stop at nothing to slay it. He ran off to accomplish his assigned task swiftly.

"Let's go, I'll show you what's in the storage," Philionel offered.

"Your majesty, what about the meeting?" One of the royal council members seated near Phil's place on the table inquired.

"We will continue it once I return, I won't be gone long. Let's take a fifteen minute break everyone!" Once the crown prince announced the break, the royal council members were all too eager to shuffle out of the meeting room and get themselves some coffee refills for their cups and perhaps donuts.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Yay, another cliffhanger! What caused Xellos' sudden transformation? Will he be able to undo it? Though these last few chapters are mostly focused on Xellos & Filia, there will be some fluffy scenes with Amelia & Zelgadis, Lina & Gourry too.
Story: Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows... XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

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To Live Another Day

Episode Forty: Out Of Control

The clock had just struck midnight and all of Filia's emotions became suddenly imperceptible. Xellos thought he was close to breaking the curse that turned him into a human, but he was in truth in mortal danger. Filia's hands traveled to Xellos' neck where she grasped his throat tightly. He tried to get free but her grip was impossible to break. He tried to tell her to stop, but he couldn't breathe a word. Then he was able to sense Filia's emotions again, but only faintly.

There was a strong desperation making it's way to her once empty eyes. This wasn't love, Filia was being controlled, she had become nothing but a puppet without a say on what her body did. Yet her will was strong, it couldn't be suppressed completely and tried to make its way to the surface. She could see what she was doing. She could see Xellos' face becoming deadly pale, his eyes dangerously tired. She didn't want to do this. She tried to loosen her grip on his neck, if she didn't control herself, she would literally rip his head off before he could even choke.

'Please, stop,' she pleaded with her eyes. 'I don't want to hurt him... stop!' The force had a tight grip on her body, even when her mind forced itself to wake up. She could feel tears cascading from her eyes and running down her face. Who was controlling her? How were they doing it?

With the last of his strength, Xellos raised his hand towards the blurry image of Filia's glowing pink heart crystal on her necklace. He focused on a spell, though he could not even speak its name aloud, 'freeze arrow!' An arrow of ice collided at point blank with the glowing crystal, causing it to shatter. Filia immediately let go of Xellos and they both fell to the floor panting for breath.

Filia shivered as she cried. She took off the remains of her necklace, letting the chain fall to the floor along with the pink pieces of the crystal. She was very cold from having been hit with an ice spell at such a close range, but a dragon was able to withstand it. "Xellos..." She stared at him with worry as he finally caught his breath.

"I'm fine," He looked at the broken pieces of the crystal. "Who do you think was controlling you with that?"

Filia considered the question. "I don't know..." Then she remembered what Hanna had mentioned about the merchant. "The merchant?"

"I find it very suspicious that a merchant would just give something away." Xellos observed. "Hanna said it was probably to gain recommendations, but why would he need any? People can see the products and try them on, they can see for themselves if they are of good quality or not. Plus his business seemed to be doing just fine if it's the same merchant we saw on the way to Hanna's house. He looked like he was selling accessories with crystals like this."

"I don't know him, he probably just arrived in town," Filia stated as she tried to warm herself.

Xellos hugged her without thinking, she didn't resist, she didn't think about it, she was just cold. "A traveling merchant who happens to arrive in town not long after we do? That sounds very suspicious." Xellos concluded. "It's worth investigating." It was best to strike down the enemy before he had another chance to attack.

"Let's get this over with; I can't stand for there to be a dangerous person in this peaceful town." A terrible thought occurred to Filia. "He saw me with Hanna, what if he goes after her and takes her hostage to try to turn me against you? We have to stop him! He must be one of those who we were expecting to be after your life."

"It's possible," Xellos acknowledged both theories. "I'm certain the merchant was human, but it's not rare for monsters to use humans. He might be working for a monster under the command of another monster lord. Or maybe the minions of the Green Alchemist followed us here. Either way, something must be done." They both stood up, ready to put up a fight.

"Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis are off in the mountains. Naga and Gravos are probably drunk," Filia observed. If the enemy was truly strong, going after him on their own might be dangerous.

"We need to strike fast, this is our best chance," Xellos insisted. "The enemy probably knows the others are away and expects us to be weaker without them." The thought of being catalogued as a weakling bothered Xellos. "I have a good amount of magic at my disposal now, I can take him."

"I'll be there too," Filia reminded. "But I don't want to risk Val. I'll leave his egg with Jillas; he can take care of protecting Val, Elena and Palou with that 'bazooka' invention he's been working on. Then we'll go hunt down the evil creature that did this and bring him to justice!"

"You sound like Amelia," Xellos knew that Filia was all fired up to hunt down the culprit. But why was she so eager? They had faced dangerous enemies before and though Filia was motivated to fight, it wasn't this intense.

"That horrible being almost made me kill you, I could never live with myself if I did that." Filia frowned, glaring at the walls. "There's no time to waste." She strode into Val's room and gently picked up the egg. "Don't worry, Val, you'll be safe with uncle Jillas until mommy takes care of business."

"And daddy will make sure she doesn't mess up," Xellos added with a mocking grin.

"This is no time for jokes," Filia growled. "Don't listen to him, Val. Xellos is just annoying."

"It's not like he can hear either of us," Xellos pointed out.

"Yes he can," Filia insisted as she headed out of the house and towards Elena's place. "It's a proven fact that baby dragons can hear what's being spoken around them before they hatch.

"Really?" Xellos gave the egg in Filia's arms a curious look.

"Don't get any ideas," the protective mother warned, to which her companion only grinned.

xoxox xox xoxox

They finally reached Elena's house and Filia knocked on the door urgently. In a matter of seconds, Elena and Jillas were at the door wondering what in the world this was about. Palou was so fast asleep that the noise didn't wake him. "I'm sorry to come by so late, but I need you to protect Val while Xellos and I go take care of an enemy before he causes more trouble around town. You should keep the bazooka on hand just in case." Filia had seen the cannon-like weapon at work during a test just outside of town. For a non-magical device it certainly packed a lot of power.

"An enemy, boss?" Jillas questioned, as Elena held the small egg protectively with fascination.

"Don't worry, we can handle this, I'll explain the rest later. We need to go while the element of surprise is on our side. He won't expect us to retaliate so soon." Filia insisted.

Jillas nodded and trusted her judgment. "Most of my weapons are stored in the basement," he noted.

Elena nodded in understanding, "then it would be easier if we go to Filia's house. I'll go wake Palou so we can leave right away."

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia spent the rest of the night searching the town and its surrounding areas for any sign of the merchant. No further disturbances occurred in the peaceful little town and there was no sign of the enemy. They returned at dawn, exhausted and with no progress to show for it. Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis were still away. For a moment Filia worried about them, but then realized there was no need to. They were probably just taking a little while to find the proper spicy herbs. They were all skilled in battle and could certainly take care of themselves.

Jillas took the guard duty upon himself while Xellos and Filia got some much needed rest. Gravos and Naga returned from the bar late that night and were not informed of the happenings until the next day when Gravos was drinking coffee to get over his hangover and Naga was merrily making little golem figurines with Filia's vase making supplies. The eldest Seyruun princess appeared to have enough experience with alcohol not to be bothered by anything resembling a hangover.

Gravos was upset that he wasn't there to help and drank cup after cup of black coffee until he felt ready for battle. Naga gladly offered her help and though no one was sure if that was good or bad, they accepted it nonetheless. The day rolled by with the group at Filia's house. When Xellos and Filia had rested, they went off to gather clues around town. Since they were only out on an investigation, not off to battle, Filia suggested that the others should stay at the shop. If too many people were running around town asking questions, it might cause a panic.

On the previous night before returning home from their rounds, Filia had checked on Hanna's house and confirmed that there were no signs of anyone breaking in, thus she left the old lady to get her rest. As it was now the afternoon, Filia decided to drop by and actually talk to Hanna to inquire if she had noticed anything suspicious. Strangely, the old lady didn't answer when Filia knocked on her door. Assuming she had gone to the market, Filia headed there as well, with Xellos accompanying her in the investigation.

The marketplace was buzzing with activity not due to the products themselves, but due to gossip. The harvest had been bad and there was not much to buy, but people visited the marketplace as a way of social entertainment. "Did you see it?" A blond woman in her late thirties pretended to whisper to another similar woman, except her voice was so loud that everyone around them could hear their conversation. She did it on purpose to give her speech the feel of secrecy that would make people want to listen, while at the same time making it easy for any passer-bys to hear and become motivated to add something. "Did you see the fight?"

The black haired gossiper nodded energetically, "I saw it, I saw it all! Aya and Kyle's families got along just fine and had no problems with their son and daughter dating each other, until she decided to run away."

"That's what they say at least," the blond pointed out. "Her boyfriend ran off to find her with little explanation. The girl's parents blame him for her having left, but I don't think he broke her heart."

"I don't think so either," the dark haired woman agreed. "It wouldn't make any sense for him to break up with her then go out to find her. Besides, I didn't see them fight or anything. She just ran off this morning without listening to anyone who tried to stop her. I heard she was visiting Hanna for breakfast, but Hanna told me she never showed up."

"From then on no one could find her," the blond sighed. "I wonder what happened to the poor girl."

Filia and Xellos' eavesdropping on the conversation about the missing girl was interrupted by a little boy calling out, "Alys! Alys!" He stopped as he spotted Filia. "Miss Filia, have you seen my sister? She went to the market this morning and didn't come back for lunch. Mom said she must have gotten distracted talking to her friends, but I can't find her."

"Sorry, Chaz, I haven't seen her, but I'll be sure to tell her you're looking for her if I do." Filia tried to keep a straight face for the little boy. She gently ruffled his golden hair and sent him off with a reassuring smile.

After the little boy was gone, Xellos gave Filia a meaningful look, "you think it's suspicious too?"

"I do," Filia agreed. She wanted to find Hanna and make sure she was alright. She wanted even more so to find the culprit and make sure he wasn't alright. Two missing girls, one was around eighteen and the other close to fifteen. When young girls go missing it's always a bad sign, after all young women seem to be the preferred sacrifice for most evil villains.

Xellos and Filia continued looking into the matter, pretending to be curious and talking to the two gossiping women at the marketplace. As nice and talented in art as Hanna was, she too was also an avid gossiper. It was always the four of them at the marketplace discussing everything and everyone. Sasha with her blond hair and pointy little nose, she was always at the marketplace since she and her husband were some of the local merchants who sold imported crops. Anna, the wife of the local botanist, she had short black hair and a sharp look in her eyes.

There was also Manna, who seemed to be running late today, she was a woman with black hair slightly longer than Anna's, a contrasting relaxed, cheerful yet sleepy look permanently edged on her face. Her husband ran a winery which Gravos was rather fond of. Hanna was the oldest member of the gossiping quartet. Though her once raven hair was now gray, her bright blue eyes stood out like jewels. Sasha would always joke about changing her name to something that matched better, since her friends all had rhyming names, Anna, Manna and Hanna.

Manna arrived a little while later and joined Anna and Sasha in talking to Filia and Xellos. Though the golden dragon showed curious interest in hearing about the missing girls, the traveling merchant and any news that made its way to the local grapevine, Sasha, Anna and Manna had a different topic of conversation in mind. They kept bringing up Filia's relationship with Xellos and inquiring about it.

"Yesterday I saw the two of you go into Hanna's house together," Manna teased. "How sweet of you to visit her as a couple! By the way, isn't Hanna running terribly late to our meeting today? I thought for sure I would be the last to get here, where has my time gone today?"

"I haven't seen Hanna since early this morning," Anna noted. "What ever happened to her anyway? It's like she vanished into thin air."

"Oh Xellos, you better hold on to Filia nice and tight, it sounds like women are disappearing all over the place." Manna winked.

While Xellos humored the gossiping women by placing his arm around Filia's waist and assuring them that he would make sure to keep her close, Filia decided she had heard enough. It was obvious that the masters of the rumor mill only knew what happened, not how it happened. Though they did mention something about Aya leaving as opposed to being kidnapped, she was probably being controlled by one of those accessories from the merchant.

In the end, Filia had no doubts about it, Alys and Aya had to have been taken away for some evil purpose and Hanna was taken as a hostage. They had to be rescued! "It was nice talking to all of you," Filia suddenly interrupted Sasha, who was in the middle of a rather personal interrogation with Xellos. The color of his underwear was seriously none of her business. "We have to be on our way now, see you later!" With that said, Filia rushed away, dragging Xellos along since he still had a firm grip on her waist, which she was conveniently ignoring.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and Filia regrouped at the Vases and Maces shop. Palou was taking a nap next to Val's egg, Elena was occupying herself in dusting the shelves, Jillas was polishing his bazooka, Gravos was looking every which way in the alertness of a caffeine high, and Naga was happily putting up the little golem figurines she made on the shop's display shelves. Filia had no time to defend the integrity of her store at the moment, so she just let her be and went straight to discussing the more imperative business.

"We found out that there are several people missing since this morning." Filia felt bad for assuming that Hanna was okay just because there were no signs of anyone breaking into her house. She might have been alright the previous night, but their guard was lowered in the morning. Before going off in their investigation around town, Filia had taken the time to describe the events concerning the necklace and her suspicions about the merchant, hence she brought it up. "I think that Hanna might have been taken hostage because that merchant saw me with her earlier." Her voice began to shake as she imagined the poor old lady being taken away forcefully.

Filia continued, "two young girls, Aya and Alys are also missing. It hasn't been a full day since they disappeared; they were all last seen this morning, so people are not in a panic yet, but it won't be long before things get worse. I don't want the townspeople to be dragged into this. After we have rescued everyone and put a stop to the merchant's plans, as soon as Lina and the others get back, we're leaving town. Jillas, Gravos, I will entrust the safety of Val and the town to you once more when I leave. It's best this way, at least until things settle down."

"What about the coming battle," Gravos inquired. He saw the stubborn look on Filia's face, as if she was planning to go fight without him.

"I can help," Naga offered. "I'm Lina Inverse' greatest rival, my magic is super powerful! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"

"I would like for all of you to protect the town," Filia requested. Before anyone could protest, she added, "it has to be this way. We've been looking for the enemy for a while and he has slipped away. He's after Xellos, so if he thinks he has a chance, he'll attack. If all of us are there, he'll lay low and who knows how many more people will be in terrible danger from now until we manage to catch him. Who knows if we'll even be able to rescue them."

"I'm the bait," Xellos realized.

"I'll be there to back you up," Filia assured. "Please, trust me; we need to face the enemy as soon as possible!"

"He doesn't have to know we're all there, boss, we could make an ambush!" Jillas suggested.

Gravos nodded and was about to express his agreement with the ambush plan, but just as he spoke, he was interrupted by an earthquake. A series of screams from the streets of town woke Palou and made the group rush out to see what was going on. What they saw was impressive to say the least.

Large trees could be seen in the distance surrounding the town, trees that were certainly not there a few minutes ago. The roots reached into the town coming out of the ground in the street with heads like snakes. Filia gasped "They're..." she could hardly believe it, "they're tree snake chimera!"

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. There's a small reference to Parasite Eve in the names of Aya and Kyle for the background characters. A similar reference goes to Phantasy Star IV in the names of Alys and Chaz. Those are just the same names, not the same characters. Harvest Moon's Sasha, Anna and Manna are the same characters.
Story: Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows... XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

Deviant Art: [link]
Fanfiction Net: [link]
Pirates Board Fiction: [link]
Lunaescence: [link]
Others: [link]
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To Live Another Day

Episode Fifty-Two: Show Me How To Care

Lina's not so merry band of travelers was fully aware of the lovers' spat, or perhaps ex-lovers' spat, between Xellos and Filia. The same fact applied to the majority of the inn's current guests, yet the shouting had been so fierce that they dared not complain. At least the quarreling couple had quieted by now. While Filia enjoyed her stolen ice-cream on a rooftop somewhere in town, Xellos proceeded with his investigation. Sure, why not? He had already dragged his stubborn pride through the mud and danced a stupid little dance on top of it. So why shouldn't he ask all sorts of mortifying questions for the sake of survival?

Besides, he was Xellos; it took a lot to embarrass him. The part that really bothered him was how exposed he had been lately. It wasn't like back when they infiltrated that all female kingdom. He didn't have a big problem with parading around in a pretty dress, because back then he was still the trickster who was somewhat in control of the situation behind the scenes.

Okay, no more hesitation, Xellos knocked on Gourry's door. The sleepy blond opened it and blinked in surprised confusion. After a few more seconds of trying to figure out why Xellos was visiting him so late and failing miserably to do so, Gourry finally settled for voicing a simple, "hi."

"Hi," Xellos replied with a painted cheerful smile that was only all too fake. "Can I talk to you?"

"You already are," Gourry pointed out. He did have times when he came up with smart observations. They were very rare times that came once upon a blue moon.

"True," Xellos agreed without losing his grin. "I mean that I want to ask you something, not out in the hall."

"Okay, come in then." Gourry stepped aside, allowing Xellos passage into his room. "So what did you want to ask?" He curiously inquired.

Xellos figured that he might as well be direct. "How does one go about falling in love?"

Gourry tilted his head to the side in confusion. "Don't you already know that from experience with Filia?"

"Apparently not," Xellos admitted, "and I'm afraid I've heard nothing but bad things about the guidebooks they have available in libraries and cheesy bookshops." He was back into trickster mode with his usual abundant cheer and sarcastic remarks. He needed some familiarity in his own behavior if he was going to keep his sanity while facing all these insane hardships.

"Oh well, let's see," Gourry looked like he was thinking really hard, his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth in deep concentration. "You're in love when you want to be with someone, a lot. The one you love is like a part of your life that you would miss too much to let go of."

Did Xellos miss Filia? It was a bit soon to tell, he had seen her not too long ago. He did occasionally get a whim to visit her for no reason other than to annoy her in the past, but that certainly couldn't have been akin to love, not back then anyway, it was more like entertainment. As for something more recent, he had come up with a plan to continue seeing Filia even after he obtained his cure. Maybe that counted for something. "I see," it had taken Gourry a lot of effort just to come up with that reply, so Xellos decided not to push the poor guy into working too hard, least his single lonely brain cell die out on him. "Thanks for the information," Xellos smiled cheerfully like he used to do as a monster and let himself out of the room.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos then proceeded to knock on Lina's door and wait. He knocked again until the door was finally opened by a furious redhead. "This better be important!" She growled dangerously.

"Hello to you too, Lina," Xellos smiled, though he knew he better stop pushing his luck. "I wanted to ask for your insight about something."

"Something that couldn't wait until morning?" Lina demanded angrily.

Xellos ignored the complaint and continued. "How does one go about falling in love?"

"Excuse me? Why are you asking me such a thing?" Lina blushed, her face becoming as red as her hair.

"You're in love with your boyfriend, aren't you?" Xellos teased. "Oh, sorry, I meant to say that you're in love with your fiance. Lina Inverse loves Gourry Gabriev," Xellos couldn't help it, Lina was too much fun to tease sometimes.

"Go take out your heartbreak on someone else!" Lina shouted loudly, then slammed the door closed and locked it. Xellos was left standing in the hallway amused by her reaction, but knowing he just wasted his opportunity to get more information.

xoxox xox xoxox

Next in the agenda was visiting Zelgadis for more information on the same subject. Xellos knew that Zelgadis wouldn't be eager to talk to him, let alone in the middle of the night, but he would try anyway. Thus Xellos knocked on Zelgadis' door. Zelgadis opened the door with a noticeable red tint on his face, "Ame... Xellos?" The red color in Zelgadis' face went from representing infatuation to representing anger. "What are you doing here?"

Xellos found that maintaining his cheerful expression had become a little easier for the time in which he could witness Zelgadis' embarrassment with mocking eyes. "Why were you expecting Amelia here in the middle of the night?"

Blushing even more deeply, Zelgadis growled threateningly, "none of your business!"

"I'm sure it's not," Xellos grinned teasingly. "I don't want to end up playing the third wheel if she does come, which I honestly doubt will happen in spite of all your mischievous wishful thinking, so-"

"It's not like that!" Zelgadis snapped.

"Temper, temper, I just wanted to ask you a quick question, then I'll leave you to your much needed rest. You're so very grouchy right now," Xellos shook his index finger at Zelgadis, who was quite tempted to rip it off.

The chimera glared in a no nonsense sort of way, "ask your question and leave."

Again, Xellos tried to seek more information about the same matter. "How does one go about falling in love?"

"What?" Zelgadis snapped in annoyance. "What kind of a question is that?" He soon came up with a theory fueled by his lingering discomfort in his appearance, which Amelia was slowly healing. "Are you trying to tell me that no one could love a hideous freak like me?"

Xellos had to wonder where did Zelgadis get all that. The chimera had issues. Then again, Xellos was a mocking trickster, except this time he wasn't even trying. "That's not what I said."

"But you were thinking it!" Zelgadis yelled.

"No, I wasn't," Xellos pointed out as a matter of fact.

"Yes you were and I don't care!" Zelgadis shouted at the top of his lungs. "I don't care what you say, Amelia said I was cool, she accepts me as I am and I... I love Amelia!"

From Amelia's room, the princess loudly declared at the top of her lungs, "I love you too, Zelgadis!" The inn was feeling very much like a soap opera to those unfortunate enough to be stuck spending the night there. Zelgadis' blush deepened as he spaced out for a few seconds, then realized Xellos was staring at him and promptly closed the door on his face.

The randomness didn't end there, as Gourry suddenly called out from within his room, "I love you Lina!"

"What?" Lina exclaimed from her own room.

"I said I love you Lina!" Gourry repeated.

"Did you eat a poisonous octopus again? Why do I have to pay for the inn?" Lina argued loudly.

"I'm not speaking octopice, I really do love you!" Gourry replied, yelling to be heard from his room.

"Why are you yelling that out, you jellyfish brain?" Lina argued in the same shouting fashion that was keeping the whole inn awake.

"Because Zelgadis and Amelia did," Gourry explained. "Isn't that part of the game?"

"We're not playing any games! Those two were just being annoyingly random!" Lina yelled in exasperation. "Go to sleep, Gourry!" A few seconds of blissful silence passed before Lina added with a red face that the whole gang could clearly imagine, "I love you too!"

xoxox xox xoxox

The last person that Xellos had left to interrogate was Amelia, the ally of justice. Xellos knocked on her room and watched as she opened the door as if she was expecting him. "Come in, Mr. Xellos."

Xellos stepped inside wondering how Amelia had concluded that he would be coming by. "Was I expected?"

"Sort of," Amelia motioned towards the table where there was a large bowl of cookie dough and a pile of books. "Actually, I was expecting Filia. I picked out a few chick novels for us to read and got some cookie dough so that I could properly console her. I guess I'll console you instead. It must be hard going through difficulties in your love life while everyone else is so in love!"

"Maybe coming here was a bad idea," Xellos theorized.

"Poor Mr. Xellos!" Amelia dramatized with big shiny eyes. "I feel so sorry for you even if this whole painful break up was very likely all your fault!" She placed her hand on her forehead as she threw her head back dramatically.

"Coming here was definitely a bad idea," Xellos concluded.

"Don't be afraid to cry on a friend's shoulder! I'm here for you!" Amelia insisted.

"You know what?" Xellos tried to talk some sense into the imaginative hyper princess. "I feel better already just knowing I have the support of such a good friend. In fact I feel well enough to go get some sleep right now." Xellos picked up the cookie dough and took it with him. There was no sense in letting Amelia's kindness go to waste. "I'll see everyone in the morning and I'll be ready to face a brand new day and all that stuff."

"That's the spirit Mr. Xellos!" Amelia cheered with unnecessary loudness as Xellos made a hasty retreat. At least he got some cookie dough out of his otherwise unsuccessful venture. "Oh, wait Mr. Xellos!" She called out as he reached the door. "Before you leave there's something else I have to say." Taking a deep breath, Amelia dramatically confessed, "I lost the game."

"You did?" Well, that was random, but then again, Amelia was a very random girl. Even if Xellos knew it, her comment still felt like it came out of no where.

"Yes, when Mr. Gourry said 'the game', even if he wasn't talking about that game, it made me think of the game," the Seyruun princess explained.

"I see, that game." The game was something invented by humans. The goal of the game was to not think about the game itself. Ironically, trying to avoid thinking about something, often leads to thinking about it, hence the challenge. Some claim that everyone in the world is constantly playing the game, while others say that only those who know the rules of the game are playing the game. When one thinks about the game, that person must announce to someone else that they lost the game. The game would go on for all of eternity, for as long as a living creature still exists, some would say. Others claim that one day the Lord of Nightmares will publicly announce that the game is up and that will finally be the end of it. Then Xellos realized something, he was thinking about the game too. "I lost the game," he admitted before finally retreating, this time without any further interruptions.

xoxox xox xoxox

The next day, the group got up bright and early with a chorus of yawns. They checked out of the inn among the glares of other sleepless guests, had some breakfast and left town. Filia was still giving Xellos the silent treatment and refused to look at him, while Xellos had made little progress in devising a strategy to ensure his survival. It looked as if the trip would be quiet and tense, yet uneventful. That perception changed when two fully transformed golden dragons landed on the path in front of Lina and company.

"Filia Ul Copt," one of the dragons on the path spoke harshly, his voice full of bitter anger. They were both clearly warriors, more ferocious than most golden dragons. "When you left the golden dragons we cut all ties with you and left you for dead. However, the stain you have placed upon the golden dragon name is too great! How dare you spread the word that the priest of Beast Master is under our protection during his inexplicable time of weakness?"

"Yeah, how dare you?" The second dragon appeared to be even more ferocious than the first with bulging muscles well marked under his golden scales. Unfortunately, he didn't appear to have the brains to match his brawn.

"That's a lie!" Filia yelled bitterly. "I hate that piece of raw garbage! Besides, the whole misunderstanding started because he disguised himself as a golden dragon. I had nothing to do with it!"

"Silence traitor!" The leader of the two dragon warriors roared.

"Yeah, shut up you!" His muscular comrade added.

"We will clean the name of the golden dragons by destroying the beast priest!" The smarter of the two declared, though given his intended goal, one would have to question his intellect.

"We sure will, you just watch!" The other dragon emphasized.

Seeing that this argument would be pointless, Lina quickly devised a plan. She really didn't need the golden dragons making her bodyguard job more difficult than it was. Besides, what if they showed up while she was visiting her family? Luna wasn't supposed to know she was playing bodyguard for a monster! "Excuse me! Can I point something out?"

"Lina Inverse," the smarter dragon warrior recognized her with disdain. "If you wish to defend the traitor, don't bother wasting your breath!"

"Yeah, don't bother!" The muscle-head dragon echoed.

"Actually, I have an interesting piece of information for you." Cue some exaggerated melodrama from Lina. "We're all this horrible monster's hostages! His lack of power is all a lie. Xellos is stronger than ever, he's just hiding his power. Oh please mighty golden dragons, save us from annihilation! Though you might get annihilated yourselves in the process of our rescue, I know you'll be willing to make that noble sacrifice."

Xellos tried to look as confident as he always was as a monster, hiding his frustration well. He began a quiet inaudible chant. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows, buried in the stream of time is where your power grows."

Amelia realized what Lina's plan was as well. If the golden dragons thought Xellos was as powerful as ever, they wouldn't dare go after him. "It's terrible, Xellos is too strong for us, but you might stand a chance, with an army or two... maybe." She glanced at Zelgadis to play along.

Xellos continued his quiet chant while the others distracted the dragons. "I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands."

Though Zelgadis wasn't particularly fond of Xellos, since Amelia was asking him to play along, he did. "There was that incident in the War of the Monster's Fall, but I'm sure the dragon race has learned from it and has much better battle tactics now, please save us!"

Xellos was almost ready to cast the spell. "Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed, by the power you and I possess."

Gourry wasn't sure what was going on, but that was normal for him. "We're Xellos' hostages? I thought he-" Before Gourry could mess up the act, Lina and Amelia, who were standing in front of Xellos, jumped to the left and right of him, allowing him a clear path to his target. Amelia and Zelgadis Ray Winged themselves away, taking along the distraught Filia. In the opposite direction, Lina casted Ray Wing as well, taking Gourry to safety with her.

"Dragon Slave!" The massive explosion of Xellos' spell left a large crater on the ground, filled with the ashes of what once was a very buff golden dragon.

The other golden dragon just barely survived, since he wasn't the primary target. He would be the messenger who lived to warn the golden dragons that Xellos was too strong to pick a fight with. The charred injured golden dragon, got up with some difficulty and a look of horror. "Lina Inverse, you and your perverse companions are on your own. You got what you deserved for siding with that monster. Miss Ul Copt, it still stands that you are not recognized as a golden dragon and I'm sure you will never again be a citizen of our race. None of you are worthy of being rescued by the golden dragons!" With that final declaration, the injured dragon warrior flew away as fast as he could.

Once the danger of being caught in the blast from the Dragon Slave had passed, the group rejoined Xellos in the middle of the path. There was something that the cursed monster turned human thought was peculiar about what that so called golden dragon warrior had said. "Filia, why did he say you're not a golden dragon?"

"Because I'm not, but what's it to you?" Filia exploded in anger. "It's not like you care about me! Why would it matter to you that I got kicked out of my own race after the Darkstar incident? I don't need my golden dragon citizenship anyway." She had lost her health plan along with her golden dragon citizenship, but she no longer needed to fill up a yearly income tax form for the golden dragons, so it all worked out in the end. Golden dragon tax rates were killer, how else would they afford all those fancy temples after human slavery was outlawed? Filia knew that managing her shop would be a lot more difficult if she was still a golden dragon citizen.

"You're not a golden dragon," Xellos repeated. Sure, she was of the golden dragon species, but not officially recognized as one of their own by her race. There was the loophole. His cure was the willing kiss of a golden dragon and since Filia wasn't legally a golden dragon, she didn't count as a golden dragon for the curse. Stupid picky curse.

Filia decided that she wouldn't dignify Xellos with any more words and set out ahead of the group. Gourry was looking around confused. "Are we really hostages? Because I don't feel like a hostage."

"No, Gourry, we're not hostages, that was just an act, but it's over now," Lina explained.

"Really?" Gourry blinked in his usual clueless fashion. "That's too bad, if I knew we were supposed to be acting I would have put up a really good hostage act!" Oh well, maybe next time he could participate.

Amelia looked at Filia as she wordlessly moved forward. One way or another she would help Xellos and Filia fix their problems and get together again. She didn't know how, but she would accomplish it. She would have to be sneaky about it, given how stubborn those two were. Perhaps she should let their anger cool off before making a move. The right moment to interfere would eventually present itself. Amelia was sure that she would know it when she saw it.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. The title of this chapter is from Sweet Kiwi by Maroon 5. I must confess that when I was writing this I lost the game. ^^;; Sevichan drew another fanart based on this story, golden dragon Xellos! You'll find it in my Deviant Art favorites.
Story: Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows... XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

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To Live Another Day

Episode Fifty-Four: The Mysterious Lady

In another inn that happened to be in the way to the next town in the journey, Lina and company were sitting at a table surrounding the map that Amelia had kept safe from Xellos. The monster turned human, had run off somewhere in town, joining his companions a while later with his own map in hand. "Since Zelgadis is so terribly selfish and wouldn't let me borrow his map, I got my own," he placed the map on the table. "You're going here," he pointed out the farming village were they were traveling to. I'm going here," he pointed at a location near the village. "So I guess we'll be traveling down the same road for a while."

"What's there?" Lina curiously asked. It didn't look like Xellos was actually pointing at anything on the map, or maybe something was missing from the depiction.

"I'll tell you later. We might as well stop at the village next to our destination," Xellos replied ambiguously. "And Lina... you might have to earn your payment when we get there."

Filia didn't like where the conversation was going. Xellos must be planning to cause trouble if he needed Lina's power to back him up. She frowned, but refused to speak to him.

xoxox xox xoxox

The journey continued normally until eventually, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos reached the farming village they had been heading for. The place was indeed lacking in food, it was Lina's worse nightmare. There were no crops to be seen anywhere and the numerous healthy cattle that once roamed the land was few and sickly. "Lina," Xellos got the redhead out of her pitiful daze, "it's time to work."

"I'm not in the mood," Lina groaned. "This place is so depressing!"

"Come on, Lina, just think of all the money you're being paid for this," Xellos motivated. "If something goes wrong during my mission and I'm outnumbered and killed, you won't get paid anymore!" He reminded with more cheer than anyone should have when discussing their own death.

"Alright, alright, I'm coming," Lina noticed that Filia was giving her a meaningful look, as if trying to silently communicate that she should keep an eye on Xellos. "You guys can get started with blessing the land and what not. We'll catch up later."

Amelia nodded, all too eager to get really started with her mission, "good luck!" She wasn't sure what she was giving them well wishes to achieve, but she wished them success nonetheless.

Thus Lina and her inseparable companion, Gourry, followed Xellos to his room at the local inn, where they could privately discuss the plan Xellos had devised. In the mean time, Amelia and Filia went off to try to bless the land with their white and holy magic, with Zelgadis tagging along.

xoxox xox xoxox

In Xellos' room, he, Lina and Gourry sat around a small table listening to Xellos' explanation. "Though it's not on any map, there is a small villa in the plains south-east of here. That villa belongs to a golden dragon by the name of Celestina Ilumina. She is the only daughter of Orion Ilumina, a rich golden dragon, closely related to the dragon elders, who commands a vast portion of the golden dragons' market share. He also has participation in the councils of several dragon temples. In other words he's a note worthy politician and a wealthy business tycoon."

Neither Lina nor Gourry questioned Xellos' information. Lina knew that it was Xellos' business to know these things when he was spying for Beast Master and Gourry never got far questioning anything anyway. "Go on," Lina prompted, indicating with her eyes that she already knew what was coming. Xellos was going to pick a fight with the dragon, though she was yet to understand why it would benefit him to do so.

"My plan is to kidnap Celestina and hold her hostage to pressure Orion," Xellos revealed. "By those means, Orion will use his influence and bribery to return Filia's citizenship as a golden dragon."

"But Filia herself said she didn't need it," Lina reminded. "Besides, why would you want her to be a golden dragon? I don't get it. What are you trying to achieve with all this? I thought you might want to stay away from the golden dragons, given your current situation. If a large number of them come after us, I might not be able to effectively play my part as your bodyguard."

"We should have Celestina in our custody before the rest of the golden dragons even know what's going on," Xellos insisted.

"What's the point?" Lina demanded. "So what if Filia becomes a golden dragon citizen? Her race might try to take that citizenship away permanently by other methods, meaning by attacking her. Sure we can also use Celestina to protect her, but what would that accomplish? We can't keep her hostage forever, just as I don't intend to keep playing bodyguard for the rest of my life. Don't forget, my contract has a set expiration date."

"I haven't forgotten," Xellos kept his cheerful expression intact. "After Orion passes the bill to restore Filia's citizenship, we'll only need to keep Celestina for a short while longer. By then I should have accomplished what I need to do to recover my monster powers." That or Zelas would have lost her patience and killed him. "Once I'm a monster again, the golden dragons will not present a problem."

Lina gave Xellos a suspicious look, "Okay... Now you need to explain that in a way that actually makes sense. There's something you're failing to tell us."

"My cure..." Xellos half confessed. "Filia can cure me if she's an official golden dragon. There's another detail I need to take care of too, but it's..." complicated, confusing, impossible to explain. "It's nothing I can't handle," hopefully.

"All of this will be accomplished by some kind of magic, I take it?" Lina theorized. "Have you even told Filia that her participation is eventually expected?"

Xellos grinned with overconfident mockery, "she'll help out, she loves me."

"That's going a bit far," Lina couldn't help it but to shake her head. "None the less, Filia is pretty merciful, even if I doubt she still loves you after your harsh break up, she would still help. I guess that even if she's hurt, she doesn't need to be in love to want to save your life. She's helped out before your short relationship after all." Xellos was giving Lina a critical look which made her wonder what she could have said wrong. "What?"

"Nothing," Xellos pushed the thoughts away. Of course he could still count on Filia; he could always count on Filia... But that didn't mean she would always love him, she was merciful, not stupid, even though he called her a stupid dragon quite often. "This town used to be a place where human slaves were traded by dragons many years ago. In some kind of good will propaganda, it ended up as a town protected by dragons. Celestina trains maidens in magic in her villa, however, only women are allowed in."

Gourry's face paled as a cold chill went down his spine. "I don't understand what's going on, but I have a bad feeling about this."

"You're going to have to bear with it, Miss Lala," Lina warned Gourry.

"You call me Lala when you're about to make me dress as a girl," Gourry grimaced. "I don't want to!" He whined.

"Too bad, because you have to. If Xellos gets himself killed in this operation, my money's going down the drain!" Lina argued. "Besides, he'll have his monster powers back by the time we're ready to release Celestina." Xellos opened his mouth to suggest something rather Xellos-like, but Lina guessed what it was and shot down the suggestion before Xellos could even make it. "We're not getting rid of Celestina when we're done. I'm not going to pick a fight with the golden dragons for no reason. Besides, I'm pretty sure that would really make Filia reconsider helping you. And if you dare to ditch us after you get your powers back, I will find a way to survive, hunt you down and slay you, even if I have to call upon the power of the Lord of Nightmares and destroy the world along with you! Do I make myself clear?" Lina slammed her fist on the table with a fierce expression.

"Crystal clear, Miss Lili," Xellos calmly replied.

"Good to hear that, Miss Lulu." Lina nodded. "Okay, let's go get our disguises ready!" Lina exited Xellos' room, dragging a complaining Gourry along.

xoxox xox xoxox

Some time later, three beautiful women, out of which only one was an actual woman, left the town and headed for the villa. Gourry was wearing a pink dress, similar to the kind of dresses he was forced to wear in the past for similar situations. His hair was in pigtails and his face was adorned with bright pink lipstick and an expression of misery.

Lina had simpler attire, though she did change into a light blue skirt to enhance her feminine side, a white top and matching white boots. Her hair was up in a ponytail with a sky blue ribbon and her bangs styled to the side to make her face look somewhat different. To add to that effect, Lina wore some light makeup as well, with pale blue eye shadow and natural pink lipstick. "Seriously Xellos," Lina marbled as she stared at his feet. "How can you walk in those heels?"

Xellos, who was wearing a rather form fitting red dress with golden lining and a generous slit on the side of the skirt, grinned. "It's Lulu, remember?" He reminded in very girly voice, batting his long eye lashes, the amethyst color of his eyes standing out against the hint of gold around them. The whole perfect face look was completed with red lipstick.

Lina rolled her eyes, that model walk of Xellos was simply too convincing. "I'm left wondering if you're a really great actor or..."

"I'm sure Filia will be able to answer that," Xellos winked. As it was obvious what he was hinting at, and Lina definitely didn't want to talk about it, the redhead decided to drop the subject.

After a relatively short walk, the three so called girls reached the villa, where they proceeded to call out a greeting from the front gates until a young woman came by to see what they wanted. "How may I help you, visitors?" The girl was a brunette with shine maiden robes and a cheerful attitude.

"We're here to learn magic from Lady Celestina," Xellos, alias Lulu, innocently explained.

"Ah, more students for Lady Celestina's class, how nice." Taking a key from her pocket, the shrine maiden opened the gate. She was very easy to convince. Then again, few people were crazy enough to carry out ill intentions in the home of a dragon, especially in the outer world where magic wasn't as developed as in the lands previously inside the barrier. "Please follow me. My name is Catherine, or Cathy for short," she introduced herself as she led the three guests into the villa.

"Nice to meet you, I'm Lili," Lina cheerfully declared, as part of her act.

"I'm Lulu," Xellos added with a cute little giggle.

Gourry did his voice acting the best he could, albeit he knew it wouldn't be as good as Xellos'. "I'm Lala."

"Lili, Lulu and Lala, you have such cute names," Cathy commented with a cute giggle of her own. "Are you siblings perchance?"

"Yes, we are, that's why we look so similar to each other," Xellos, alias Lulu, was being sarcastic, but he didn't allow the sarcasm to become audible past his sweet feminine tone.

"I knew it!" Cathy dumbly exclaimed, she was a kind girl, but not too bright.

"Who are the guests, Cathy?" A girl with long blond hair inquired curiously.

"They're here to become Lady Celestina's students along with us. This is Lili, Lulu and Lala," Cathy introduced them.

"Nice to meet you, I'm Natalie, but you can call me Natie," it seemed that everyone except Lady Celestina had a nickname in the villa.

"Natie, could you keep our guests company while I informed Lady Celestina of their arrival?" Cathy requested.

"I would be happy to. In fact, I just finished baking some cinnamon bread." Natie's words immediately caught Lina's attention. "Would you like to come to the tea room for some tea and cinnamon bread?"

"We'd love to!" Lina and Gourry chorused, with Gourry's real voice being heard.

Gourry cleared his throat in the most girly fashion he could. "Oh my, I'm so thirsty my throat feels terribly dry."

"I'll make sure to add a few drops of medicine to your tea, Miss Lala. We wouldn't want you to lose your voice to a sore throat." Natie kindly offered.

"Thank you, I appreciate it," Gourry giggled, but really, his voice acting would never be as good as Xellos'.

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina, Gourry and Xellos, alias Lili, Lala and Lulu, were happily enjoying some tea and cinnamon bread, when Cathy returned to let them know that Lady Celestina was willing to interview them. The interviews would take place individually in the garden. "Why don't you go first, Lulu?" Lina suggested.

"If that's alright," Xellos agreed, exchanging a plotting look with his bodyguard. The tea room was conveniently located near the gardens that were visible from the tall glass window. In the garden, there was a woman in dragon robes with ankle length white hair, facing away from the window as she tended to the flowers. They concluded she was Celestina. Lina and Gourry would be able to watch Xellos from there and be ready to play their part in their get away.

"Actually," Cathy interrupted. "Lady Celestina has asked to see Lala first, then Lili and finally Lulu."

"Sounds like she wants to go by alphabetical order," Lina alias Lili, laughed with slight nervousness as she gave Gourry, alias Lala, a warning look. He better not blow their cover. "Go on ahead, Lala."

"Yes..." Gourry tried his best to keep up a good act. He could only hope that the questions Celestina asked in the interview were not too difficult.

After Gourry was gone, Lina casually voiced, "those flowers out there are very pretty. It's too bad flowers won't grow anywhere else around here."

"Oh yes, Lady Celestina tends to the gardens herself," Natie explained. "It is because of her power that those flowers are able to grow."

There was a moment of silence in which Lina and Xellos both debated how to carefully inquire about how suspicious that was without directly accusing Celestina and alarming the maidens. "You're wondering why Lady Celestina has not cured the famine of this land, aren't you?" Cathy suggested. "The question is written all over your faces and you wouldn't be the first to ask it. Lady Celestina has told us she is an observer and that should she interfere, all will be lost. I think she means that people need to learn to overcome hardship on their own, rather than relying on the power of the golden dragons for everything."

Natie nodded in agreement. "It's a valuable lesson."

xoxox xox xoxox

Gourry had gone out to the garden, occasionally glancing towards the window from which he knew that Lina and Xellos were discretely watching him. The garden was full of beautiful flowers in every color imaginable, making a deep contrast with the lack of vegetation that was all over the rest of the land. "Lady Celestina?" He asked quietly in the most feminine voice he could manage.

"You are a peculiar being. It was your voice calling her name which gave her the strength to cling to life. Stay strong and pure." Celestina didn't move from her position on her knees tending to the flowers, her back to Gourry, "go."

Gourry felt strange, as if he was in the presence of a very powerful being. He had this feeling before, but he couldn't remember when. He dared not say any more and simply returned to the tea room.

xoxox xox xoxox

Gourry quietly returned to the tea room and sat down looking kind of pale. Lina wondered if he had somehow managed to mess up in the short time he was out there, but no one was yelling or freaking out. Next up it was her turn, thus she went out.

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina approached Celestina, "Lady Celestina?"

Once again, Celestina did not move or look at her visitor. "I once allowed you to live even after you gave up everything and caused me to awaken from my slumber. Do not expect it to happen again... go."

This feeling, this sensation of power, she had felt it before, but didn't know when. Lina couldn't talk, she simply didn't have the strength to say anything. Celestina was definitely not an ordinary golden dragon. She probably wasn't even a golden dragon at all, but not a monster either. Lina somehow knew that she should heed the warning and quietly retreated back to the tea room.

xoxox xox xoxox

When Lina returned to the tea room she had the same pale complexion Gourry displayed. She discreetly shook her head at Xellos, warning him with her eyes. He gave her a hidden look of puzzlement before venturing out to see what had shocked them so much about such a short meeting.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos approached Celestina just as Gourry and Lina had done before him. His empathy appeared to get a clear signal of Natalie and Catherine's innocent cheer, but even when he was only a few feet away from Celestina, he couldn't sense anything at all. There was no emotion coming from her what so ever, but she still held a very strong presence, stronger than anything Xellos had ever felt. He doubted the maidens and townspeople were aware of this, it was as if Celestina was allowing her three special visitors to see her in a different way than everyone else.

Celestina slowly moved her head to glance at Xellos. Her eyes were a stunning golden color, as if they contained an endless galaxy of golden stars. Then he saw it, a vast blackness with no logic or harmony. In the mist of the chaos there was a single golden light shining brighter than anything he had ever seen. Xellos blinked and the vision was gone, he was in the garden once more and Celestina was once again looking at the flowers.

"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." A silent pause passed until Celestina spoke again. "Even so, my dream will continue for the time being. This is all a part of it as well."

"You're..." Xellos couldn't finish, he simply dared not voice it.

"Go," Celestina bid him farewell in the same way as the others. Without another word, Xellos retreated to the tea room, where Lina and Gourry were waiting.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. You know a season of Slayers wouldn't be complete without Gourry being forced to wear a dress. XD Congratulations if you figured out Celestina's real identity. It will be confirmed soon.
Story: Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows... XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

Deviant Art: [link]
Fanfiction Net: [link]
Pirates Board Fiction: [link]
Lunaescence: [link]
Beloved Enemy: [link]
Others: [link]
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Slayers: Alive

Episode Seventy: When In Doubt, Go On A Journey

Once again like many other times, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos, found themselves on the road to Seyruun, simply because they were not sure of where to go next. Seyruun seemed like the obvious choice since it always had food waiting for Lina, or so she hoped, in spite of the kingdom's generous efforts against the famine. It would take time, but the land was set to recover, so maybe Phil would still be willing to generously feed them.

Unlike in other past occasions, this time around, the group had an additional companion, a golden dragon by the name of Phythan who was ironically Beast Master's intern. There was also a lot more uncertainty in the air, due to the unanswered questions in regards to Zelas' plans, which even Xellos himself was unaware of and even more uncertainty related to the Lord of Nightmares.

Uncertainty or not, however, Lina was still Lina and she still had a monstrous appetite to feed, metaphorically speaking, since an actual monster would be easier to feed than Lina Inverse. Given that circumstance, the travelers found themselves stopping at another restaurant where their discussions went in circles to the background sound of Lina and Gourry's loud and fast chewing noises.

"What I can't understand is why, if Zelas knows the answer to the curse, she can't just say it." Filia was feeling frustrated. "She wants to have her general priest back, but she's making things awfully difficult and throwing threats around. She said herself that she already got what she wanted, whatever that is, so why all of this?"

"A test I would assume," Xellos theorized, though Beast Master had never tested him in such a way before. He had always done well on his assigned missions, so she had no need to provide him with a test. He glanced around the restaurant as if looking for something, though it was something invisible. He then stared at Filia, who was still muttering under her breath in frustration, possibly fearing for his life. She appeared to be debating how truly valid Lina's point was about Xellos still being useful in the long wrong as seen from Zelas' perspective. "Filia..."

"What is it? Can't you see I'm trying to vent my frustrations?" Filia growled threateningly.

"You're as moody as ever, stupid dragon," Xellos observed. This was a big difference from waking up to be hugged, cuddled, kissed and overloaded with affection before he even got the beginning of an explanation about how and why he was back. Yet there was something different, "I thought I was just tired, but if it's not back by now, it might not come back at all. It was annoying, but insightful. It's like losing a sense I was accustomed to having, albeit in a different form than what I originally had."

Filia gave him a curious look, "what are you talking about?"

"Empathy," Xellos simply voiced. "I can't tell how anyone is feeling right now. At least not beyond visual conclusions, but that can be misleading."

Filia huffed, "it's not like you were considerate to other's emotions anyway, raw garbage!"

"I was very considerate... in properly manipulating people, stupid dragon!" Xellos argued smugly.

"Quite an interesting conversation to be sure," the sudden voice at the sudden arrival of Beast Master made the occupants of the table jump in their seats. "Yet I must interrupt." No one seemed to be screaming among the other clients of the establishment; hence they concluded that she teleported out of sight and quietly, very quietly and sneakily, walked over to their table. She raised her perfectly manicured right index finger, slightly pointing towards the front entrance of the restaurant. "Xellos, a word."

"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos got up from the table among the curious stares of his companions and followed Zelas outside.

The minutes ticked away as Filia drummed her fingers against the table in an increasingly faster rhythm. The action was getting on everyone's nerves, but they dared not complain to an upset Filia. "What's taking him so long?"

"Relax," Lina tried to diffuse Filia's growing anger, though she was far less effective as she paused to stuff her mouth with more food after each word. "He's just having a word with his mommy, he'll be back."

"Zelas said not to call her that!" Filia reminded.

"She told you not to call her that," Lina clarified and ended the argument in favor of focusing on her eating.

Filia pouted and sunk into her chair. If Xellos was a monster she wouldn't worry as much. Surely Zelas could see his usefulness more clearly if he recovered his powers. Then the danger of not being able to constantly keep an eye on him would be less. Not that Filia could do anything to defend him against Zelas anyway. The golden dragon sighed hopelessly. She actually liked Xellos as a human and a part of her was afraid that all the... development, he had accomplished would be lost when he became a monster; after all, he would be a full monster, not a chimera like Celo. Yet, she knew it was necessary for him to go back to the way he was and that was what he wanted.

The minutes dragged on until Xellos finally returned, followed by an unknown yet somehow familiar girl. "I'm back and I have another traveling companion for our little group. Tell them who you are and why you're hear."

The girl had black hair and eyes with a distinctly blank look upon an expressionless face. Her bangs and hair length were similar to Xellos', although the hair that reached to her shoulders was noticeably wavy. "I am Onyx, a monster human chimera created by Lord Beast Master. I am here to train so that I may learn to properly serve Lord Beast Master."

The group stared at the girl, blinking in confusion at the unexpected twist. "She kind of looks like..." Amelia left her observation hanging, though it became apparent that the others understood her message.

"Huddle!" Lina declared loudly and urgently like some kind of football captain trying to come up with a strategy to win a decisive game. The group moved from the table to the corner as Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos and Phythan formed a tight circle. "That girl is the same one that had the run in with the Lord of Nightmares, isn't she?"

"What did Zelas do to her?" Amelia asked with worry. "She seems almost brainwashed."

"Believe it or not, that wasn't Zelas' doing. When she woke up she had amnesia," Xellos explained. "Zelas only had Tiffany take care of her wounds and give her a little makeover. It seems that whatever magic the Lord of Nightmares placed in her, it was sealed in her memories."

"Kind of like how a piece of Shabranigdu was sealed in Rezo's eyes," Lina recalled. It was a foreboding theory.

"It's a similar concept, but I don't think Shabranigdu has anything to do with this." Xellos smiled cheerfully, "it might be something much, much worse. My mission is to keep an eye on her and figure out what that something is. In other words, I'm back on the job curse and all, at least I have my spying budget back."

Lina's face became a predatory grin, "does that mean you're treating your amazing bodyguard to a meal?"

"That means I'm not going to let you dry up my account ever again," Xellos assured with his usual squinty eyes grin.

"I don't think it's right for us to lie to that girl," Filia frowned in disapproval. "She's a human, even the part about her being partially a monster is a lie. What if she tries to use her monster powers and finds out too late she has none?"

"She thinks she was just created and that the process of uniting her with a human part left her weak. She's not expecting to have any monster power now; she's hoping that it'll awaken soon. Besides, Zelas provided her with an amulet that can simulate magic without being harmful to her so she'll have a means of defense, but I'm sure that won't be necessary." Xellos pulled an envelope out of his cloak and handed it to Lina.

"A letter for me?" Lina opened it and read. "Dear pawn:
Since it looks like the moody dragon is doing a good enough job of guarding Xellos' body, probably in more ways than we want to know, I'm assigning you to be the bodyguard of this girl for the time being. Good luck, Zelas Metallium - Lord Beast Master. PS: I'm sure the two of you will be great friends, since you're both just as flat-chested." Lina let out a loud ferocious growl and tore the letter apart into tiny confetti pieces, throwing them on the floor and stomping on them in rage.

"I guess that's the whole story, Onyx, as Zelas has called her, will be traveling with us for a while. Let's be on our guard for random strange occurrences, though there's no guarantee that anything will actually happen," Xellos cheerfully concluded.

Filia pouted as she gave Xellos a sharp look. "You're actually happy; you're not just acting cheerful, you're really glad."

Xellos' replied with a cheerful yet confused look. "Happy to play big brother to an amnesiac girl who could be a time bomb waiting to explode for all we know? I suppose that could be entertaining."

"Not that," Filia clarified, "it's not about the mission, it's about the fact that you have a mission. You're glad to be working for Beast Master again." Deep down, Filia was glad about it too. She wasn't fond of Beast Master, but Xellos working for her carried a sense of comforting familiarity. It was as if things were slowly going back to normal and Xellos' life was in less danger.

"I think I said it before that I actually like my job most of the time," Xellos reminded. It was reassuring to have been assigned a mission. It confirmed that Zelas did see his usefulness, which made the test theory seem further off. If she was testing him, why would she entrust him with a mission before the test was completed? If this mission was really that important, why not end the test and return his powers? What kind of strategic gamble was Zelas getting herself into? Furthermore, what was that secret that exposed him to choose dare and be cursed in the first place? The willing kiss of a golden dragon... What did it all mean? What was the hidden secret?

"Let's be positive, if there's something going on with that girl, isn't it better to keep her near by, so we can help her if needed?" Phythan tried to brighten the situation by looking at the good side.

"I suppose so," Amelia agreed, "she does have amnesia, so I guess it might be okay to treat her as Mr. Xellos sister for the time being. This way she can feel the security and comfort of having a family, even if it is a rather unusual adoptive family." Not that Amelia should be talking about unusual families.

"That girl is Xellos' sister?" Gourry caught up a little too late, sort of.

"Something like that," Lina decided it was best to keep things simple and not try to explain the whole situation to Gourry. He wouldn't understand it anyway.

"So that's why she's dressed like that," Gourry concluded.

"Dressed like what?" Xellos inquired. "Zelas said something about her probably tripping one too many times as a kid and her scratched knees not looking good with her dresses. So she gave her that sorceress outfit."

"It's like your clothes," Gourry observed, displaying a power of perception far beyond his usual attention span. "Does that mean you're identical twins?" Then again, maybe he had not surpassed his limitations after all. "Don't mothers dress their kids alike when they're twins?"

Xellos' eye twitched and Lina rolled her eyes while Filia attempted to explain, "she's a she, he's a he, they can't be identical twins. Besides, twins don't just dress alike, they look alike. The only thing Xellos and Onyx have in common is the hair color, they don't even look similar."

"If they're not twins, how come they dress like twins?" Gourry curelessly inquired. "It's confusing."

"We're not dressing like twins," Xellos argued. "Our clothes are completely different."

"Yeah, real different," Lina laughed, "her shoes are black, her shirt is light blue and her cloak has sapphires instead of rubies with an added hood. Other than the colors and the hood, you two are dressed exactly the same. Oh yeah, and there's that wolf head amulet with the wings that looks like that seal you have. I take it that's her power amulet?"

"Yes, you are correct about the amulet, but wrong about everything else. How can we be dressed the same if you just listed all the differences?" Xellos argued in his 'I'm smarter than you' voice.

"They're only small differences!" Lina insisted.

"She even has the same purse as Mr. Xellos," Amelia pointed out, soon realizing her mistake and trying to repair it, "I mean the same bag in a different color."

"It's not a purse," Xellos emphasized, despite Amelia's correction.

"Ii sure looks like one," Zelgadis pointed out with a... mocking grin?

"You were much less unpleasant when you were gloomy," Xellos glared.

"Forget about Xellos' purse," Filia tried to get the derailed conversation back on track, causing Xellos' to twitch at the mention of his 'purse'. "We're getting weird looks from everyone because we're huddled up in this corner. Let's go back to the table."

Said and done, the group moved back to the table. Onyx had stood motionless the entire time with the same blank expression, seemingly not caring about the oddities of the group she would be traveling with. After joining the table, she ate with them, thinking that it was for the sake of feeding her human part, not realizing that she was completely human. The meal finally came to an end with the group debating on what to do next.

"Rather than rushing to Seyruun, I think we should gather information as we go along. Who knows when and where the Green Alchemist will strike again," Lina stated. "Let's spread out through town and have a look around," she yawned. "I'll join you right after I'm done with my nap; they say people shouldn't be running around right after a big meal."

"Really? Then I should take a nap too," Gourry concluded.

"I don't mind getting started on the investigation," Amelia kindly offered.

"I'll go too, someone has to get things done." It was obvious Zelgadis' comment was directed at Lina, who was clearly throwing the work at everyone else.

"Onyx, you can hang around with Phythan, he'll show you around the town," Xellos suggested, giving Phythan a meaningful look that warned him to notify him of any peculiar happenings immediately.

"Huh? Me? Um... okay," Phythan looked at Onyx, who said nothing to him.

Instead she voiced a monotonous, "yes, brother," at Xellos.

With the group taking their separate ways, that only left Filia and Xellos at the table with a grim apprehension. "Lina dumped the bill on us, didn't she?" Xellos realized.

Filia shook her head in disapproval, "we should have seen it coming."

"I'm so used to getting a warning in the form of sensing the sneaky plotting feeling Lina gives off when she's about to do something like this that I missed it." Xellos never thought he'd see the day when he actually missed his empathy this much.

"I guess you're stuck interpreting the world with as little information as the rest of us," Filia concluded. "I think I'll go take a nap too. It's a pity that you're putting a dent on your allowance so soon." Her one was far from pitying and suspiciously close to amused. She got up from the table, glancing towards the door.

"Mission funds! It's not an allowance, they're mission funds," Xellos corrected before signing the bill and leaving the restaurant with Filia.

xoxox xox xoxox

Back at the inn, Xellos followed Filia to her room, an action that she did not try to prevent. "Filia... be honest," there was that serious look with his eyes open. Filia could clearly imagine what was to come. Xellos would switch his expression to his squinty eyes, smug grin as he completed his sentence with a confident 'you want me'. It would make her pout, glare and call him raw garbage, but she had no intentions of refusing him this time. Then he took her by surprise by holding out his bag for her to have a clear look at it. "Does this really look like a purse?"

Filia opened her mouth but no sound came out, as her planned response did not fit the occasion. She closed her mouth again and tilted her head, observing the bag from different angles. "It looks like a normal unisex bag to me. It could be a pretty purse if I tied a few pink bows on it."

"Not happening," Xellos immediately warned. He gave her his smug, mocking squinty eyes grin. "I appreciate your honest opinion, have a nice nap." Then he turned around and walked out the door, closing it behind him.

Filia stood in her inn room blinking in confusion. That was random. Maybe Xellos decided to stop being so annoying and give her some time to rest and relax. Maybe his lack of empathy prevented him from realizing he just missed his opportunity to... enjoy her company. She shrugged, it was alright, she could use a nice relaxing nap anyway. She laid down on her bed and stared at the ceiling for several minutes. Her expression turned into a pout, that stupid piece of raw garbage, being so randomly unpredictable. She got up, knowing that she would not be able to fall asleep. She was going to give Xellos a piece of her mind. She marched towards the door determinately, planning all the insults she would throw at him in her head.

As soon as Filia opened the door to her room, she saw Xellos leaning against the wall in front of it in the hallway. He had a very familiar smug look on his face. "It took you long enough, stupid dragon." He couldn't read her emotions as he did before, but if he was observant enough, he found that he could still predict her behavior.

Filia's face turned red in anger and she clenched her teeth and fists, "you piece of raw garbage!" She punched the wall next to his head, leaving a hole in the shape of her fist. Of course, for those who didn't know she was a dragon, they would never guess that the pretty blond in the pink dress was the one to damage the wall in such a brutal way.

Xellos didn't move an inch, his expression frozen in his usual smug grin. He knew that she would miss on purpose and was entertained by her temper tantrum. After amusing himself with Filia's absolutely murderous expression for a few more seconds, he kissed her, just as she appeared to be preparing to throw out her next argument.

The next thing Filia knew, she was walking backwards. She was retreating back into her inn room. She was unable to say anything because Xellos had her mouth occupied in activities that did not include the formation of words. Then there was the sound of a door being closed. It was followed by the click of a lock being secured. After that, Filia stopped paying attention to the world around her, instead focusing only on Xellos.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Filia's explanation of "she's a she, he's a he" is a reference to when Yusei meets Leo and Luna in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds. I was going to write a separate story for my original characters, but I decided to unite the plot concepts to the final saga of this story and modify it to give the main cast the spotlight. This means that the OCs will be hanging around the background for a while (as they had done before), but Xellos and Filia will still be the main focus. I also have some scenes planned for ZelgadisxAmelia and GourryxLina.
Slayers: Alive
Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows... XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

Deviant Art: [link]
Fanfiction Net: [link]
Pirates Board Fiction: [link]
Lunaescence: [link]
Beloved Enemy: [link]
Others: [link]
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Slayers: Alive

Episode 083: Official! Smoothing Out The Technicalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxox xox xoxox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxox xox xoxox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Seyruun?" Xellos questioned.

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

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

To be Continued

Has Xellos finally discovered his cure? :o
Slayers: Alive
Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows and chaos is in the air! XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

Deviant Art: [link]
Fanfiction Net: [link]
Pirates Board Fiction: [link]
Lunaescence: [link]
Beloved Enemy: [link]
Others: [link]
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To Live Another Day

Episode Fifty-Three: An Interesting Detour

Time passed and eventually, the journey towards Lina's village, Zephilia, was over. Filia was still avoiding Xellos, making a prominent point of ignoring him. In the last inn they stopped at before reaching the village, he had snuck into her room, sick and tired of being ignored and laid down next to her on the bed. Filia's only response was to rudely comment about the foul scent of the sheets wondering when was the last time they were washed and proceeding to sleep on a chair, not even directly looking at Xellos during the entire incident.

"Everyone better behave!" Lina warned as they entered the village. She eyed Xellos and Filia each individually for an extra long ten seconds. "I mean it!" The worried redhead emphasized. "If anyone asks, you're human and you've always been human," she warned Xellos.

"Understood," Xellos chirped in an overly cheerful voice, though he was actually feeling quite annoyed. Not only was Filia's stubborn choice to ignore him seriously getting on his nerves, but he was already weary of Luna. She was skilled in magic as the initial choice to take care of the Darkstar problem, though she ended up passing the task to Lina. She was said to be loyal to Ceifeed, thus wasn't supposed to like monsters. If she was as fearsome as Lina claimed her to be, then Xellos knew he better keep his mouth shut about his real identity or he wouldn't have a bodyguard to back him up if he got in over his head.

The group continued through the village until they came to a charming house with a charming dog house labeled as belonging to 'Spot' next to it and a charming... Wait a minute, that wasn't a charming dog! It was Dilgear in beast form, sleeping with half his body inside the dog house and half out. "Is that...?" Zelgadis couldn't even finish the question.

"Looks like him," Lina replied quietly. "I told you Luna's dangerous." The door to the house was opened and Lina jumped into Gourry's arms with a loud, "eek!"

"Lina, it's so nice of you to come! I calculated that you would arrive just about now," Luna greeted, ignoring her sister's obvious bout of fear. "It's a good thing I was right about your time of arrival. It would have been a shame if you kept your family waiting for too long. I even took the day off from my job today so we could all spend some time together. Let us go inside."

The group followed Lina inside the house, where a man old enough to be Lina's father was happily polishing a sword and a woman old enough to be Lina's mother was humming as she arranged flowers on a vase that Filia recognized. It was the vase she had mailed over to the Inverse household as thanks for their recommendation for Lina who, although she ate all of Filia's food budget in a very short time and ended up being rather unorthodox, eventually helped solve the Darkstar problem in the end. The man placed the sword on a display on the wall, which featured many other swords and bladed weapons that Gourry was eyeing with fascination. "Lina! How have you been doing, kiddo?" He patted her on the head like a father who thinks his daughter will forever be his little girl as most fathers do.

"I'm so glad you've come to visit, honey," Lina's mother gave her a gentle hug before taking a step back to get a good look at her daughter.

"Well, Lina? Aren't you going to introduce your friends?" Luna prompted with a carefree polite tone, yet despite her friendly smile, Lina's nerves were on edge.

"Of course!" Lina began the introductions as Luna would say is proper. "Father, this is Princess Amelia Wil Tesla, Amelia, this is my honorable Father, Mr. Light Inverse. Mother, this is Princess Amelia Wil Tesla, Amelia, this is my honorable mother, Mrs. Labyrinthine Inverse. Luna, this is Princess Amelia Wil Tesla, Amelia, this is my honorable elder sister, Miss Luna Inverse." Proper titles needed to be included of course. Lina continued with the introductions without even stopping to catch her breath. "Father, this is-"

Light laughed in a very Philionel-like fashion, though his proportions were those of a normal, though well built, man. "I'm glad you remember the good manners your sister taught you, but you don't have to be so formal, not to mention so repetitive."

"Oh, right," Lina laughed, relieves that she wouldn't have to say such a mouthful of individual introductions and finished summarizing the rest. "This is Lady Filia Ul Copt, whom I think you already met." Filia was a golden dragon, in species at least, thus she should have an easier time getting on Luna's good side. Plus Filia had already survived an earlier encounter with Luna during the start of the whole Darkstar incident and was evidently not traumatized by it. Filia was certainly a very brave soul, Lina mentally noted.

"Oh yes, we had such a lovely time baking cookies when Filia was last here." Labyrinthine giggled like a school girl at the fond memory. "Dear Filia kept saying she had to hurry on her way, but I talked her into staying for some fireball baking. Nothing like magic to bring out the flavor in food!"

"I agree!" Filia decided that she wouldn't let her rotten mood concerning Xellos ruin her visit to the Inverse family. "Thank you so much for teaching me that super chunky chocolate chip cookie recipe."

"You're welcome; I do hope we all get the chance to bake something delicious again. Ah, but we can talk after we're done with the introductions." Lina's mother smiled as she prompted her youngest daughter to continue.

Lina went on with the introductions. "This is Sir Zelgadis Graywords of Seyruun." Because in Luna's book, the fiance of a princess had to be addressed at least as Sir. Never mind that Luna herself was often less formal than that. Lina didn't want to risk Luna criticizing her if she didn't stretch politeness to the extremes. Zelgadis wasn't sure where Lina got the knighthood from, but he decided it was best not to contradict her and took his turn to smile and nod as everyone had done during Lina's little role call.

Deciding that it was best to leave her fiance for last, Lina continued on with Xellos. "This is Xellos Me-" oh no! She almost called him Xellos Metallium.

It wouldn't do to introduce him just as Xellos, Luna would ask with a critical tone 'doesn't Mr. Xellos have a family name? How could you not know the full name of your traveling companion? That's so terribly irresponsible of you, Lina!' Then again, Lina's fearful mind might be exaggerating, but she didn't want to take any chances!

"Metalburger," Lina finished, which prompted a discrete raise of the eyebrow from Xellos. He understood why she couldn't use Metallium as his surname, but couldn't she think of something better than Metalburger?

"Xellos," Luna mused, why does that name sound familiar?

"I'm sure it's only a coincidence!" Lina frantically insisted.

"Ah, yes, I remember now, that little girl that lives down the street has a cat named Sollex," Luna concluded casually. Lina let out a breath of relief, which she thought came too soon, as Luna was still giving Xellos the critical eye. "By the way, Mr. Metalburger..."

Xellos could feel his eye twitch in annoyance at the silly surname, "just Xellos is fine, Miss Inverse."

"Likewise, you may call me Luna," she replied still studying him. The group collectively held their breath fearing Luna's conclusion. Then she finally said with a fond smile. "Your hair is very nice."

"Thank you," Xellos replied with cautious politeness.

Lina observed Xellos, then Luna, then Xellos, then Luna again. She couldn't help it but to blurt out, "of course you like his hair, it's almost exactly like yours!" Just as quickly as the outburst came, Lina slapped both hands over her own mouth. "I mean, your hair looks very pretty today, Luna."

"Why thank you, Lina," Luna smiled, "however," her expression morphed into a frown. "I'm afraid I see some split ends on your hair. You must take better care of it. Just look at this young man's hair," she looked towards Gourry, "it's shiny and I'm sure it's silky soft as well. You should follow his example. By the way, you haven't introduced him yet, could he be..." Luna gave Lina a look that told her that this better be her fiance because if he was too cowardly to go meet Lina's family, then Luna would surely hunt him down.

"Yes," Lina nodded, blushing scarlet. "This is my fiance, Gourry Gabriev."

The atmosphere stood heavily still as Lina's parents and sister stared at Gourry waiting for him to say something. Finally, he spoke, "Elsydeon, Espelancer, Masamune, Muramasa, Tessaiga."

'Oh no! All this pressure made Gourry go insane!' Lina thought in agony. 'Poor Gourry, this was too much for him.' A silent moment passed as Lina quietly mourned for Gourry's dearly departed sanity.

Suddenly, Light loudly exclaimed, "exactly!" In a very cheerful voice and Lina had to wonder if her father had gone crazy during her absence, though neither her mother nor her sister appeared to be alarmed. "You have a good eye, my son. You recognized my best swords right from the start. I have lots more in the basement. I used to be a mercenary, you know. I've amassed quite the collection of swords and other bladed weapons over the years. A swordsman who knows his swords this well must be skilled. What do you say we have ourselves a little spar for old time's sake, my boy? I still got some skill left in me. You might learn a thing or two."

"I would be honored, sir," Gourry politely replied with a friendly smile, while Lina and the rest of her traveling companions stared in awe.

"Oh, such a smart young man!" Labyrinthine exclaimed.

"Thank you,..." The name of Lina's mother was too long and Gourry couldn't remember it. He was sure it was impolite to forget the name of one's mother in law, thus he tried to fix his shortcoming as best he could by calling her "Lady Inverse."

"Aw, and he's so polite too," Labyrinthine giggled. "It's no wonder you've charmed my little Lina. "Please call me mom!"

"And you must call me dad!" Light added.

Gourry smiled, glad that things appeared to be going so well. "If it is alright with you both." He was being polite just like his grandmother taught him; she taught him a lot of things that she assured him would be useful to him later in life and this was one of those times. "I appreciate your kindness."

Lina's jaw was nearly touching the floor, metaphorically of course, though her mouth was literally wide open. She didn't even know Gourry could act this civilized or manage to make himself sound smart by sprouting random sword related facts. She supposed that everyone had to have some subject they were good at, even Gourry.

"Let's allow the boys some time to talk about swords. Goodness knows that men are always thinking with, I mean about, their swords." Lina assumed that her mother meant to point out that, generally speaking, men were faster to pick fights then women. Although that wasn't really the case in the Inverse family, where the females were considerably more temperamental than the males. "Meanwhile, I can share some recipes with all of you."

A chorus of agreements followed from the girls who would be all too happy to personally investigate the sources of the appetizing scents drifting into the living room from the kitchen. Meanwhile, the men journeyed to the basement, where Light kept most of his sword collection, though the only one truly enjoying Light's lectures about each individual sword was Gourry. As for Xellos and Zelgadis, they just smiled and nodded politely as they assumed it would be best to do.

xoxox xox xoxox

The short visit to the Inverse household was much more pleasant to Lina than she imagined it would be. Though Luna did scold her for trying to eat the ingredients when they were cooking, Lina wisely ceased her gluttonous behavior and no real incidents occurred during the cooking process. Several hours later, the whole group consisting of Lina's traveling companions and family, gathered around the table to feast. Lina's table manners were surprisingly perfect. Thankfully, Gourry's survival instinct was strong enough to make him follow the example and behave well on the table too.

Though Lina was ready to leave right after dinner, her parents insisted that she should stay the night. Honestly, the thought of a delicious home cooked breakfast was very pleasant, thus she stayed. While the guys were given the little house' only guest room to share, the girls roomed with Luna in what Amelia happily declared to be a slumber party. Hair was braided, stories were told, snacks were eaten, teasing was done and there was much giggling. The whole experience helped Filia's mood improve considerably and by the following morning she didn't hold the same amount of bitter anger towards Xellos anymore.

After a delicious breakfast prepared by Labyrinthine's magical cooking techniques, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia were ready to hit the road again. According to the plan, not wanting to push her luck with Luna, Lina used their noble mission to investigate the famine affecting the outer world farm lands in the name of Seyruun as their excuse to leave without any further delays. As goodbyes were exchanged and the charming little house was left behind, Dilgear was content with pretending he didn't know Lina and company, though judging by his expression, he clearly did. The travelers returned the favor by pretending they only saw him as Luna's pet, Spot.

xoxox xox xoxox

The gang was on the road again, going further away from Lina's home village, back on their way to the farm lands where Elena and Palou used to live. In fact, Zephilia was no longer visible in the distance, proving that they were making steady progress, though a long journey still lay ahead. The trip was made more pleasant thanks to the large load of grapes the travelers were given to consume on the trip. Grapes were Zephilia's signature product after all. The group walked on quietly for the most part, munching on grapes as they went along, trying to protect their portions from Lina's voracious appetite and discussing how delicious Labyrinthine's grape pie was.

Further along the way they stopped at inns in each town they passed and continued making steady progress day by day. It seemed that neither the golden dragons nor the monsters were in the mood to attack Xellos lately. Lina had brought up the incident that occurred during their herb hunt at the mountains, now plains, near the town where Filia's shop was located. Yet Xellos was quick to assure that it must have all been some kind of misunderstanding and that there was no way Zelas could be secretly guarding him from the shadows. Maybe she even wanted to get rid of him, but if she did, she could have done so easily already. Also, if she wanted to keep him safe, there was no reason why she would have to be sneaky about it. Except maybe for the part about having a weak underling that needed protection being rather embarrassing.

Yet, if Zelas didn't want Xellos gone, why did she put him in such a risky situation in the first place? Why did he have to choose a dare and get cursed? He couldn't think of any piece of information that was vital enough to be worth his life to protect. What could he possibly know that not even he was aware he knew? He had been so focused on breaking his curse; he had not had time to think about that aspect. What could Zelas' plan be? Whatever it was, Xellos knew it was his role to follow it, but he still wanted to know. After stopping to think about it, the question plagued him constantly.

Xellos tried to focus on the present. Whatever Zelas wanted from him, she would get it. All he had to do was stay alive and he would eventually become aware of her plans. Assuming he could stay alive. He had been plotting about that too and had a plan in mind. He caught up with Zelgadis, who was holding the map and examined it.

Zelgadis glared in annoyance at Xellos purposely getting his head in the way, though he was certain that he could see the map just fine without having to lean over it like that. "Do you mind?" The chimera growled.

"Not at all," Xellos grinned and didn't get out of the way.

"I know how to get to where we're going," Zelgadis insisted.

"Can I borrow the map?" Xellos asked, still smiling obnoxiously.

"No," Zelgadis rolled up the map and put it in his cloak.

"C'mon, let me borrow it," Xellos tried to steal the map from Zelgadis' cloak.

The attempt caused Zelgadis to take the map out of his cloak and hand it to Amelia. "Please keep the map safe from Xellos; I'm sure he only wants to tare it apart."

"Why would you make such a cruel assumption?" Xellos made a dramatic sad face. "You're so mean!"

"You're so annoying!" Zelgadis mimicked the dramatic tone. "You've also been known to rip apart important documents in the past and you know that's our only map."

"It wouldn't do me any good for us to get lost," Xellos logically pointed out. He extended his hand towards the map that Amelia was holding. "Let me borrow it, just for a little while."

"No!" Taking her map protection mission seriously, Amelia tugged it into her shirt in the old trick many women used throughout the ages to keep small items away from men.

Xellos frowned, "that's not fair."

"Let's just trust Zelgadis' sense of direction, he's really good at navigating," Amelia encouraged, with Zelgadis clearly appreciating the compliment.

A few minutes passed in silence until Xellos asked. "Isn't the map kind of heavy, Amelia?"

"It's made of paper," Amelia pointed out as a matter of fact.

"If you don't trust me with it, why don't you let Filia help you carry it for a while? It's about time that lazy dragon did something to help out," Xellos slyly suggested.

"No way!" Amelia refused, "you'll try to steal it from her!"

"And she'd probably let me," Xellos winked at Filia, who was red with anger. At least she wasn't ignoring him completely. She was making furious faces at him again, that was some progress, even if she still wasn't at the point of words just yet. He could still sense her hurt frustration; she was not ready to excuse his past secrecy and ulterior motives, but she was considering it.

"I'm keeping the map," Amelia stated emphatically, hoping to stop another fight between Xellos and Filia before it truly began.

"Fine, be selfish," Xellos pouted with a sad face, hoping that would soften Amelia's determination, but it didn't. He decided to drop the subject for the time being. There would be plenty of time to get a map and elaborate on the plan he had in mind when they reached the next town.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Since Luna doesn't actually appear in the anime, I'm basing her off the information I could gather from the Kanzaka Wikia. I couldn't find any official names for Lina's parents. I named her father after Light Inverse, one of the protagonists from the Slayers Light Magic manga. I named her mother Labyrinthine to represent the mystery of her parents and because I thought it would be funny if they all had simple L names, except for one with a complicated L name that's too long for Gourry. The sword names are from: Elsydeon (Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium), Espelancer (Legend of Heroes: Tear of Vermilion), Masamune (Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, others), Muramasa (Samurai Deeper Kyo, others), Tessaiga (Inuyasha).
Story: Due to peculiar circumstances, Xellos ends up with a deadly curse that can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. To complicate things, a tricky conspiracy lurks in the shadows... XellosxFilia, ZelgadisxAmelia, GourryxLina

Deviant Art: [link]
Fanfiction Net: [link]
Pirates Board Fiction: [link]
Lunaescence: [link]
Beloved Enemy: [link]
Others: [link]
Show
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