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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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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

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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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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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Lunaescence: [link]
Beloved Enemy: [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

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: 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

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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]
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To Live Another Day

Episode Fifty-Six: Get Along, Try Again

Lina, Xellos and Gourry, still in their disguises, made their way back to town. Gourry was all too eager to get there and change, Lina told him to wait until they reached the inn. After all, a guy walking around in his underwear would probably attract more strange stares then a woman in a pink dress, provided that no one knew the so called woman was actually a man.

"What happened to the plan?" Gourry inquired. The plan was not too clear for him, as nothing ever was.

"It was canceled," Xellos replied, seeing no need for further voice acting, since no one aside from Gourry and Lina were close enough to hear him anyway.

"Who was that Celestina anyway? She wasn't normal," Lina shuddered.

"She seemed powerful," Gourry agreed.

Curiously, Lina inquired, "what did she say to you?"

"Um..." Gourry tried hard to remember, his memory was generally very short term. "She said... Oh yeah, she said I was peculiar. Then she said something about my voice calling someone's name or something. Then she told me to stay strong and... and pure... and then... and then... and then... then she told me to go and I did."

Gourry's explanation was vague at best, not that Lina expected much else. "She told me that she allowed me to live after I gave up everything and woke her. She warned me not to expect it to happen again. It's almost as if she was..." Lina didn't finish.

"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." Xellos quoted. "Those are the words she told me. She also said that her dream would continue for the time being, everything is a part of her dream."

"Her dream?" Lina put all the pieces together and got the same result as her initial theory. The time when she gave up everything, the battle against Fibrizo, Gourry's voice calling out to her. A dream that could be a nightmare for some. "Do you think she's really...?"

"Some time ago, Celestina Ilumina was said to have been killed by Fibrizo," Xellos revealed. "Then shortly after Fibrizo's defeat, she returned alive and well. She had apparently distanced from all those she used to know and many dragons feared her. Maybe the real Celestina really was killed and the one we saw is only borrowing her identity to observe this world up close."

"Then she really is..." Lina looked back in the direction of the villa in the distance.

"I don't get it," Gourry predictably commented.

"I saw it," Xellos confessed, "it was only for a split second, but I saw it. The gold that shines upon the sea of chaos..."

"The Lord of Nightmares," Lina whispered.

"Let's not go back there," Xellos grinned with an exaggerated amount of cheer. It was his way to deal with the overwhelming discovery.

Lina laughed to contribute to lightening the mood. "I agree; there are things we're better off not getting mixed up in."

Gourry had his eternal expression of confusion firmly in place. "I don't get it. What does the Lord of Nightmares have to do with anything?"

Lina sighed, making Gourry understand certain things was simply impossible. "Never mind, the point is that the kidnapping has been cancelled. By the way, Xellos, as deadly dangerous as the Lord of Nightmares is, I can't help it but to think there's a bit of mercy in her. Of course, that is only as long as people don't push it. I have no intentions of disregarding her warning. What I'm trying to say is, she told Gourry and me something related to when we first met her, so to speak, and gave us advice. What if she was giving you advice too?" Though the memories of that occasion were hidden from Lina's conscious mind at first, they resurfaced when she saw Celestina. Those memories felt like a dream, yet Lina knew them to be true.

"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." Xellos repeated what he was told. The truth was that he agreed with it. What he wouldn't normally admit was that he too was one of those creatures that brought unnecessary complications upon himself.

"Maybe there's an easier way to go about this curse thing. Maybe the answer is right in front of you," Lina suggested.

"Maybe," Xellos agreed. Unless the Lord of Nightmares was referring to the other part of the curse he needed to work on. The part about figuring out how to truly love Filia enough so that it wasn't just attraction or affection, but something strong enough to break the curse. He was at a blank there. He cared about her and he managed to accept that, but how could he make it enough? Wasn't this thing that supposedly wasn't love strong enough already? Maybe all he had to do was stop questioning it. Or maybe what he needed to do was change his angle.

How to achieve love... how to find his cure... how to... Xellos paused his train of thought as he arrived at the needed answer. He was trying to survive, he went as far as temporarily forgetting his curse when Filia first accepted her love for him, but he was back to thinking about it again soon after. He was disappointed, he accused her, blamed her, he was selfish. Love wasn't supposed to be selfish, love was supposed to be mutual... If Filia had to play her part with no ulterior motives then he had to do the same thing.

A yellow and white bird flew towards them circling around Xellos until he woke from his thoughts and held out his arm. "What are you doing here Jarde?" The bird, who was carrying some kind of rolled up piece of paper, chirped as if laughing. "Don't tell me you came all this way just to mock me."

Lina blinked in perplexity as she witnessed the odd exchange. "I take it you know this bird?"

"Jarde is a courier bird that can be summoned with a spell that borrows power from Lord Beast Master." Xellos took the paper from Jarde and let him perch on his shoulder while he examined the letter. "Dear Mr. Xellos, I regret to inform you that Miss Filia has found a new love. If you do not wish to lose her forever, you must apologize for taking her for granted and win back her heart. Good luck, you'll need it, Amelia." Xellos stared at the letter in disbelief.

"I didn't know Amelia could summon birds," Gourry casually commented. He made an effort to pay attention to what was being said in case he later got more random questions about what someone told him recently. He caught all the main details, so he felt accomplished. 'Amelia summoned a bird and Filia got a new boyfriend,' Gourry repeated in his mind, trying to retain the facts for more than thirty seconds.

"A good courier bird could come in handy now and then, but that aside, what's more interesting is what the letter says," Lina gave Xellos a severe look.

"You don't think it's true, do you?" Xellos considered the possibilities. Amelia would probably say a false letter like this one was an unjust cruel joke. She wouldn't lie...

'Amelia summoned Filia. A bird got a new boyfriend,' Gourry repeated in his head, but that didn't sound quite right. How did it go again?

"I think you got exactly what you deserve!" Lina placed one hand on her hip, while she pointed at Xellos with the other, waving her index finger back and forth in an accusing fashion.

'Filia summoned Amelia to give her boyfriend a bird,' Gourry thought. But why would Filia want to give Zelgadis a bird?

"Filia's been super nice to you," Lina continued scolding Xellos. "She's been taking good care of you and helping you learn to survive as a human. You haven't exactly been grateful to her."

Gourry knew there was something about Amelia, Filia and a bird, but it was too complicated. Some kind of love triangle? No, Amelia had Zelgadis, the bird was Filia's boyfriend. That's it, 'Amelia's bird is Filia's boyfriend!' "Lina's right," Gourry finally voiced. "You should have been nice to Filia, then she wouldn't have dumped you and started dating Amelia's bird instead."   

Xellos and Lina both stared at Gourry, "Who ever said anything about Filia dating a bird?" Lina hopelessly asked. "She's dating a man. A man who's probably kind, respectable, polite, selfless, handsome and rich. A man who lives in a mansion where Filia will invite us to have dinner every now and then. Yes, a rich man with lots of food. Way to go, Filia!"

"I'll believe it when I see it," Xellos grumbled as he quickened his pace to town. Jarde chirped in his laughter way and flew off, disappearing among the clouds above, since his job was done.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos was swiftly on his way to the inn, to change into some clothes that did not include a dress, before going off to search for Filia. He didn't want to think too much about it, but he was worried. Lina brought up a valid point, he had not really given Filia much appreciation and despite how far she had gone to ignore him, Xellos kept thinking she would come around. He even went on to take care of the other preparations for his cure, leaving amending his break-up with Filia for later. He felt guilty; it was an odd and unpleasant sensation.

Lina and Gourry entered the inn, with Gourry running like a mad man because he couldn't spend another second in a dress. Lina rolled her eyes and walked after him at a more civilized pace, making a point to give Xellos a guilt tripping glare before she left. Xellos would have followed Lina and Gourry into the inn building, if not for the fact that a familiar voice caught his attention. There was Filia, it didn't look like Lina and Gourry had noticed her, and Filia had not noticed any of them.

Filia was sitting at an out door table across the street in a structure that looked like someone's personal residence, if not for the tables identifying it as a cafe of sorts. It was made to look homey rather than commercial, as part of the message of peace between the humans and dragons it carried. Albeit that made the Golden Dragon Cafe very easy to miss, as it had no signs with its name anywhere. Never mind the cafe, who was that man in the fuchsia shirt standing up along with Filia and offering her his arm? The nerve of him!

Ignoring the fact that he was still in disguise, Xellos made his way to Filia and Arcius. Filia saw the approaching angry woman and after a double take realized that wasn't actually a woman. Her eyes grew wide in shock, her expression causing Arcius to follow her gaze, curious to see what had surprised her so much. "Xe... Xe..." Filia couldn't get her voice to produce any complete words.

"Xexe," Arcius repeated, adding a barely audible 'rawr' at the end. With an, according to him, seductive grin, he eyed 'Xexe' up and down. "Miss Xexe, I take it you are a friend of Miss Filia. It's a pleasure to meet you. I am Arcius Evergreen, yes, that Evergreen, the one with the big fortune," he laughed as if being a millionaire was no big deal. "I would be more than happy to show you around the town and maybe we can get to know each other better while we-" Arcius was silenced by a solid right hook to the face which carried such a furious force that it threw him to the ground in a daze. "What a woman!" He exclaimed dreamily before passing out.

Filia was still staring in shock, unable to speak or move. Thus Xellos took it as his cue to say something. "Can I talk to you... at the inn?"

Filia nodded her head somewhat unsure and pushed her voice to produce a doubtful, "be right there." She didn't know what was going on, but ignoring Xellos wasn't going to solve anything. Besides, she simply had to know what explanation he had for parading around in a dress.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few minutes later, Filia found herself standing in front of the door to Xellos' room at the inn. She knocked gently, almost unsure if she wanted her presence to be known or not. Xellos opened the door right away, letting her in. Thankfully, he was wearing his normal clothing again and the pretty makeup was gone. "First I would like an explanation," Filia began.

"Our painful break-up was too much for me and I can never look at a woman the same way again. I thought that if I became one, no one would be able to hurt me anymore," Xellos dramatized.

Filia let out an exasperated breath, "and the truth would be?"

Cutting the drama, Xellos grinned in his usual fashion. "I wanted to pressure an influential figure among the golden dragons into restoring your citizenship by kidnapping his daughter. In order to do that, I had to sneak into her villa where only women are allowed to study magic."

Filia was glaring in fierce disapproval. "Not only do you cause trouble for me, but you get some poor innocent girl involved too?"

Xellos tried to look innocent, "there's no need to get jealous. I assure you that my interest in her was purely for business purposes. It's a thing of survival and nothing more."

"Just like your interest in me," Filia reproached, though a part of her kept saying that it wasn't as simple as that.

Xellos paused. He was a trickster, but he couldn't brush this off with a few sarcastic remarks. "It started that way," he admitted. "But it's... or if not, it will be, different."

"Because if you don't return my feelings you'll die? That's a hostage situation if I ever saw one, except the hostage is yourself. It's deadly blackmail, it's not willing," Filia insisted. "What about the dragon girl? What happened? Are you holding her hostage somewhere?"

"The dragon was... not who we thought she was. We realized she was the wrong target and retreated without incident. The kidnapping plan was canceled," Xellos explained while withholding his response to Filia's other remark.

"Furthermore, even if your crazy plan to get me a golden dragon citizenship did work, it won't do a thing if you end up hurting me so much I start to hate you," she accused bitterly. "You assumed I would help, didn't you? You self centered egotistical piece of raw garbage!"

"I did," Xellos admitted, "I did assume, but I shouldn't have." He could sense her pain, her anger, her frustration. "You've been helpful from the start and I've been... a selfish monster."

Filia continued frowning, her eyes analytical and focused. "Concentrate," she wrapped her arms around him without warning, allowing her full frustration and hurt to show.

"Filia..." It was at times like this when Xellos really hated his emphatic abilities. If he focused on himself hard enough, he should be able to distract himself from sensing someone else's emotions. But he couldn't, Filia's emotions were so intense they just flowed into him. It was over, he lost her. She was giving her a bitter farewell, showing him why he couldn't be forgiven.

Filia released Xellos and took a deep breath. "This town, it has a dark past in relations to the humans and dragons. In an effort to make amends, the Golden Dragon Cafe was established. It was built to look like someone's home in symbolic peace. They have cards there made of magically enhanced paper often used for legal contracts to ensure their authenticity. They are membership cards that each person can use once. The cards expire twenty-four hours after being signed and the magic in them makes them disintegrate into dust. For one day, the one who signs one of those cards is an honorary golden dragon, recognized as a legal citizen by the constitution of the dragon race." Filia took a small white card with golden lining from her pocket. She gave Xellos a serious look. "If you ever break my heart again, it's over for good, I mean it!"

Filia placed the card on Xellos' hand. In golden ink, the card read, 'honorary golden dragon' on top, with the silhouette of a dragon below the words and a blank space for a signature under it. "You mean I get another chance?" He wasn't expecting that.

"Only one," Filia warned. She allowed her positive feelings to shine through, no longer suppressing them with hurt bitterness. It was clear that Xellos was still able to sense it; it still shocked him that she cared so much.

"How do you do that? How do you change your mind like that, so suddenly? Which is real?" As a monster it was easy to perceive the predominating taste of emotions when all the tastes mixed together. But this was different, he sensed every feeling individually and sometimes it didn't make sense for certain emotions to coexist simultaneously. "And why... why did you...?"

"It's all real," Filia assured. "People don't feel good and bad exclusively, they can feel wonderful and terrible at the exact same time, sometimes even for the same reason. It doesn't make sense, but feelings don't always follow logic. As for why I'm giving you another chance..." Filia remembered the moment when she accepted her own feelings. "I went through ignorance, confusion, denial and a stubborn resolution to change before I finally accepted how I felt. Nonetheless, even when I was trying to change, it was all still real. I'm not going to hold it against you if you go through the same process a little slower. You were from the beginning very stubborn, selfish, self-centered, prideful, egotistical, overconfident, cold-hearted, malicious, obstinate-"

"I get the message," Xellos interrupted before Filia continued reciting the whole dictionary of negative adjectives.

"Arrogant, cruel, uncaring and all around annoying," Filia finished, ignoring the interruption. "So even if you do have feelings for me, you have a whole lot more to overcome before they can truly shine through, because real love is supposed to be pure. There's nothing wrong with wanting to live. Pure love is a dangerous weapon against a monster. It's your natural instinct to guard yourself from it, perhaps without even realizing it. Nevertheless, it's still real and I know for certain that it's there."

"So my love is poisoned?" Xellos found a creative way to describe it. "But it exists nonetheless?"

"Am I wrong?" Filia asked, her eyes gently demanding the truth.

Xellos gave it some thought and after a long moment of silence he voiced, "I think you're right, but is that enough?"

"It's something to hold on to, something that can grow," Filia replied with a smile. It was a real smile, different from the smile she made herself show for the sake of being polite and not worrying her friends. "Keep the card; I'll sign it when you're ready. Until then, let's just relax and not think about the technicalities."

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Jarde is from Valkyria Chronicles II. Xellos and Filia and finally back on track. That doesn't mean the surprises are over. The title of this chapter is based on the Slayers opening song. This was the promised jealous scene we discussed at Deviant Art. I said it would be unexpected and not one guessed it involved Xellos in disguise. XD
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-Five: The Birds and the Bees

Lina let out a breath she didn't even know she was holding, when she saw Xellos return without incident from his short meeting with Celestina. "We should leave," at least he didn't forget his voice acting for Natie and Cathy's benefit.

"Aw, you didn't pass?" Cathy asked, requiring no answer. "Let me guess, Lady Celestina took one look at you and said 'you are not ready'. Don't be disappointed, I'm sure that with some training, you'll improve your skills and be ready to join our class soon. I didn't make it in until my third interview."

"It took me five tries," Natie added with a light hearted laugh. "I didn't give up and it was worth it."

"We'll make sure to keep that in mind," Lina made herself smile for the sake of acting, as she, Xellos and Gourry were accompanied to the villa's gates by the two maidens.

xoxox xox xoxox

While Lina, Gourry and Xellos were off in their little quest, Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis were visiting the farmlands. There were few farmers actually still living there, as the majority of the land had been purchased by a young business man called Arcius. The farmers interviewed by the trio of justice, as Amelia would call them, were grateful to the mysterious business man who paid a full price for their land despite the lack of fertility of the soil. Finding the timing to be too convenient, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia headed to Arcius estate to have a word with him.

Strangely, getting to meet Arcius was very easy. They strode past the open gates of the estate and rang the bell, until a butler came to let them in, offering no arguments against Amelia's demands to see "Mr. Arcius." That let the princess, the chimera and the dragon to their current situation, seated at an elegant room with sweet tea and oversized chocolate covered croissants on the table in front of them. Lina would love those croissants.

The room had predominating fiery shades with long crimson and orange curtains all over the walls, even on the side that didn't have windows, making the room look like it was on fire. The plush orange carpet was so soft it made the visitors tempted to take off their shoes, but they resisted the urge. The gold plated table was certainly attention grabbing as well as the golden teapot, cups and plates. The room was a bit blinding, but still impressive in luxury.

"Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, Mr. Arcius," Amelia spoke, a bit embarrassed that she had assumed that the business tycoon who bought the far lands had to be the bad guy.

"It is no trouble at all," Arcius smile politely. He was a tall handsome man with curly blond hair and emerald green eyes. Though he was without a doubt good looking, his taste in clothing and interior decorating left much to be desired. "I try to make it a point to always have my doors open to guests. Is there a specific purpose to your visit? I don't believe I've seen you in town before."

"We're not from here," Amelia explained, realizing that she was yet to reveal their names, "I'm Amelia and these are Filia and Zelgadis, we heard there was a famine and hoped to help by blessing the land. Filia and I are skilled in white and holy magic, Zelgadis is our protector." It was best to steer clear of the princess deal or else Arcius might keep his guard up. Amelia was no longer assuming he was a villain, but she wasn't ready to trust him yet.

"I see," Arcius looked sad. "Many have tried to bless the land before, but nothing has come of it. If it will please you to do so, you are welcome to try. But do not be disappointed if it doesn't work. I'm afraid this land has simply given all that it can give. However, even if it can't produce crops, it might still be used for something else."

"Something else?" Zelgadis suspiciously inquired, "something lucrative?" He questioned boldly.

"Perhaps," Arcius admitted, "the land must be capable of sustaining its people, though I'm sure it will not be as beneficial as the farms that used to thrive here. Houses, storage rooms, maybe even an amusement park. There's plenty of room to allow various project to grow and produce jobs for the people who have lost their employment as farmers. The downside is that there's still the famine to consider. I've been importing food from far away, but with the losses from my investments in this land, I'm afraid that I have little to share. Hopefully, I'll be able to recover and help everyone else recover as well."

"Can you tell us anything else about how this started?" Filia asked, albeit she wasn't willing to let the previous thread of conversation end just yet. "What was your relation with this land before the famine?"

"I was a merchant who sold the produce of this land." Arcius replied as if knowing that he was about to clear his suspicions. "I don't blame you for finding my timing excessively convenient, but the truth is that if I were in it only for the economical benefit, I was better off keeping my previous position selling the goods that this land produced. As things stand now, most merchants would suggest I was better off retiring from the market and keeping my savings rather than buying barren land. Regardless of what projects I might work on in the future, they are far away and I'll be up to my neck in investment debts before I see any real profits. It's a gamble, but it's all I have to give these people. I am even under a contractual obligation to sell back the land for the same purchase price if any of the previous owners should so request it within the next year. If you are concerned about my actions, please feel free to examine the legal documents related to them."

Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis looked at each other. It appeared that Arcius' business was very much out in the open and no one had a bad thing to say about him. "It's okay," Amelia finally voiced. There was no need to get too technical in the legal aspects without a good reason.

"About your other question," Arcius continued, proving that he had no intentions of avoiding the subject, though he had little to say about it. "There is not much I can tell you about how the famine started. The produce decreased and the land died out in a gradual yet relatively fast pace. I have no explanation for this tragedy. As I mentioned, skilled magic users have tried to bless the land before, but they sensed no curses or monsters in it."

"Curses and monsters are not the only evil in the world," and cursed monsters didn't necessarily have to be detestable, but Filia decided not to voice that last part.

"That is very true," Arcius agreed, "sometimes natural disasters can be far more tragic. I've been investigating alternative solutions for the problem in hopes of saving the farms before I make any final choices to turn the land into something else. I was just about to try a new method before you arrived."

"Maybe we can help!" Amelia immediately offered.

"That would be most appreciated," Arcius glanced at the gray suited butler standing by the room's door. "James, could you please bring the magic book that arrived earlier today? I believe I left it on the desk in the study."

"Right away, sir," James swiftly exited the room, returning a few minutes later with the requested item. "Here you are, sir."

"Thank you," Arcius placed the old wine colored book on the table. It was worn and the golden lining that once adorned it had almost completely faded. "I believe this book contains the answer to our problems. It has many spells that borrow power from Lord Beast Master."

Filia read the somewhat faded title of the book. "The Birds and The Bees?" What kind of book was this?

"Yes, it's a compilation of summoning spells that call birds and bees for various purposes," Arcius explained as he flipped through the book. "This spell for example, can summon a large bird to carry things. It's quite good to have when going grocery shopping. That is when people actually have groceries to carry. This other spell summons a bird that can sing lullabies, very good against insomnia. There's one that can summon a bird that sings in the morning and works as an alarm clock. You can summon bees to produce delicious honey and even call a hive to aid in combat. I actually lost the auction when I first bid on this book. Then days later the one who beat me at the auction offered to sell it to me. He seemed rather disappointed in the book. I'm not sure what he was expecting from it and I can't imagine why it would be a disappointment. This book is certainly filled with many useful summoning spells."

"Interesting," Amelia commented, having an eagle sidekick to accompany her in her quest for justice was something she would really like. "What spell were you planning to use?"

"This one here," Arcius flipped the pages of the book and turned it over so that his guests could read it right side up. "The spell is called Busy Bees. It is used to summon bees that will help fertilize plants by carrying pollen from one to another." The words of the summoning were 'busy bees buzzing, bringing bright bliss, carry the pollen, the harvest assist.'

"What if there's no pollen or plants in the first place?" Zelgadis pointed out. The land was pretty barren, so there really wasn't much left for the bees to work with.

"These are special bees, I would assume," Arcius theorized. "I mean, they come from a summoning spell rather than just being regular bees. I thought they might be able to help. Unfortunately, I'm not a skilled spell caster, so I doubt I would be able to do the summoning myself. I've heard the people from the lands that used to be inside the barrier have much greater magical abilities. Perhaps I'll hire a sorcerer from there."

"I'll do it!" Amelia immediately volunteered. "I grew up in the land within the barrier and I have experience in magic. I can do this!"

"Really?" Arcius smiled gratefully. "Thank you so much, Miss Amelia! I will be sure to repay you for your efforts!"

"No monetary rewards will be needed for a defender of justice," Amelia proudly declared. If Lina had been there she would have gladly volunteered to take the reward in her place. "Although..." Amelia eyed the summoning book as she imagined herself in a blue, white and red super hero costume with a majestic eagle proudly perched on her shoulder. "I would really appreciate it if you would let me borrow the summoning book."

"Certainly!" Arcius agreed. "Thank you again for your kind help. If this works, the farms may be saved. Then the people can go back to cultivating the land, I can go back to distributing their wonderful products and the famine will finally come to an end."

"Yes, we can do this! We can save the farms!" Amelia happily declared in all out defender of justice mode.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Arcius went outside to put their plan into action. Amelia held the summoning book and began to chant the spell. "Busy bees buzzing, bringing bright bliss, carry the pollen, the harvest assist!" Out of thin air, a swarm of bees materialized, buzzing all around. The numerous bees flew in all directions, searching for pollen and plants.

The group watched as the bees buzzed around for a while longer before flying towards them as a group. The four dropped to the ground, dodging the bees. The swarm turned in the air and went on the attack again. "What are they doing?" Arcius demanded in a panic.

"I think they're mad!" Amelia exclaimed.

"Of course they're mad, there are no plants here, there's no pollen for them to work with. They were summoned for nothing!" Zelgadis insisted. "I knew this was a bad idea!"

"Run for your lives!" Filia interrupted with a very good suggestion.

The group dashed towards the estate, where James was watching from the door. The butler let Arcius and his guests in, before shutting the door. The noise of the bees colliding against the hard wood was heard as Amelia let out a breath of relief. "That was close..."

"It's not over!" Filia pointed at the large golden lined glass window next to the door. The bees were ramming it and making cracks on the glass.

"Oh no! The bees are about to break in!" Arcius exclaimed. "We must depart to a safe place at once. Come my guests, we must retreat deeper into the house!"

"No, if we do that, we'll get ourselves cornered," Zelgadis argued. "It's time to send these bees back where they came from!"

"I'm with you Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia cheered.

"Count me in too," Filia agreed.

The bees finally broke the glass window, pouring into the estate as the magic using trio shouted, "Fireball!" The spell reduced the bees to ashes, thus solving that problem. Even so, the fact remained that the farmlands were still dead.

"Impressive!" Arcius congratulated. "You are all powerful sorcerers indeed. Would you consider a long term contract as my employees?"

"We're not looking for a job," Zelgadis pointed out.

"But we'll still help with the famine problem," Amelia added.

"I understand, please let me know if you reconsider," Arcius offered. "Well, that was certainly an exciting event. Perhaps it would be best to rest before the next move is decided upon. I would be honored to provide you with rooms in my humble home."

"I suppose we should plan thins out better next time," Amelia agreed. "Taking a break sounds good, thank you Mr. Arcius. What do you think, Zelgadis, Miss Filia?"

"I guess we should take a break," Zelgadis agreed.

"There's actually something I've been meaning to check out in town if there is time," Filia revealed. "There's supposed to be a place called the Golden Dragon Cafe."

"Ah yes, it's a delightful place with the most delicious coffee, tea, juice and baked treats," Arcius smiled fondly, though his expression soon turned bittersweet. "Or it was when the harvest was good. Now their menu is limited, but it is still a good place to spend some time relaxing. If you would honor me with your company, I would be happy to show you to the cafe."

Filia blushed slightly and smiled, "I would appreciate it."

xoxox xox xoxox

After Filia and Arcius left, Amelia and Zelgadis sat down to talk in one of the estate's many guest rooms. "Did you notice, Zelgadis?" Amelia inquired with excitement despite how ambiguous her question appeared to Zelgadis.

"Notice what?" Zelgadis allowed his eyes to try to examine the room again before he had the need to blink as if to rest his vision. The theme in this particular room was green, blindingly bright lime green. "That Arcius is color blind? Yeah, I noticed alright, how could I not?"

Amelia examined the room, "well maybe... but that's not what I meant." She frowned in bitter sorrow, though there was fascination in her eyes. "It's so exciting, so amazing, so dramatic!"

"What is?" Zelgadis wasn't sure what Amelia was getting at and quite frankly, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.

"The love triangle!" Amelia loudly declared. "Miss Filia and Mr. Xellos have recently gone through a painful break up, but they both still have strong feelings for each other. Now, just as their anger was cooling off to give way to a new flame of love between them, the rival enters the scene! While Mr. Xellos is away, Miss Filia's heart is in danger of being stolen away by the dashing Mr. Arcius!"

"Dashing?" Zelgadis questioned with an almost amused laugh. "How can a man in a fuchsia shirt be called dashing?"

"He's dashing in the eyes of Filia's wounded heart!" Amelia insisted. "She blushed when he offered to take her out on a date, I saw!"

"Date?" Zelgadis questioned, where did Amelia get all these conclusions anyway? "Wasn't he just showing her the location of that cafe she was looking for?"

"He was going out with her!" Amelia insisted, "and she blushed!" The princess adamantly emphasized.

"Probably out of embarrassment at the thought of being seen in public with a man who dresses like a clown," Zelgadis concluded. The fuchsia shirt with ruffles around its V shaped neck was ridiculous and the impossibly tight black pants must have been horribly uncomfortable, albeit at least the color was normal.

"I don't think his outfit was all that bad. It reminds me of the cover art from a romance novel, though the shirt was white instead of fuchsia. I guess Mr. Arcius must like to stand out. Either way, everyone in town seems to be fond of Mr. Arcius, even if he's a bit eccentric. What makes it impossible for Filia to like him too?" Amelia might have an overactive imagination, but she brought up a strong argument.

"Good point, if Filia dated Xellos then her standards can't be all that high," Zelgadis concluded, feeling sincerely sorry for Filia. "Maybe you should have a talk with her about being more picky with who she dates. She'll thank you in the long run."

Amelia shook her head. "Love knows no boundaries!" She heroically declared. "If Miss Filia believes that Mr. Xellos has earned her heart, then he has. Who are we to judge the reasons one has to be in love. Love cannot be stopped! Miss Filia is opening her heart to another man too soon; the wound from her previous relationship is still fresh. She might mistake her remaining feelings for Mr. Xellos as feelings for Mr. Arcius. That will only bring pain to both of them when she realizes the truth. I know Miss Filia still has feelings for Mr. Xellos, that's why she's hurting, that's why she's going out of her way to give him the cold shoulder. Mr. Xellos also has feelings for Miss Filia, that's why he's been trying to get her attention even if she's doing everything in her power to ignore him."

Zelgadis was about to present a counter argument, but stopped. Who was he, a chimera with an expertise in robbery and property damage all for the sake of finding a cure he didn't know existed, to judge Filia for falling in love with an obnoxious monster? If Amelia could love Zelgadis, then the chimera concluded that maybe it wasn't so horrible for someone to love that idiot Xellos. Plus Amelia did have a point, if Filia was over her ex, she wouldn't have been making such an effort to pretend he was invisible. As for Xellos, maybe horrible monsters had some semblance of feelings after all, if only a little. "I can't believe I'm saying this but... I'll help you get them back together, granted that we don't get too involved."

"Thank you Zel, you're awesome!" Amelia tackled Zelgadis in a big bear hug and planted a kiss on his lips. "Don't worry; I have a plan that requires minimal involvement. I'll write a letter to Mr. Xellos telling him about Miss Filia and Mr. Arcius' growing romance. Mr. Xellos will then realize the error of his ways by taking Miss Filia for granted and rush back to town, determined to win her heart again!" Amelia finished her dramatic speech and watched for a reaction from Zelgadis, who was just smiling and spacing out, "Zel?"

"Oh, yes, that, right, great plan, Amelia!" Zelgadis didn't quite hear what Amelia's plan was, but in his current state, he would agree to do anything she asked him to.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Xellos and Filia will come face to face again in the next chapter. I wonder how that will go...
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-Eight: A Golden Opportunity

Xellos kept annoyingly wagging his dragon tail with every step he took alongside Filia, Lina, Gourry and Philionel. The group was almost to the storage at the Seyruun royal garden when Filia finally stopped and grabbed Xellos' tail. "Would you stop that already? Why are you so fidgety? Even if this is unexpected, I can't imagine the," cue heavy sarcasm, "great Xellos getting nervous."

Xellos cringed at the sudden contact and gave Filia a rather predatory look that instantly made her let go of his tail. As soon as he was free from her grip, he went over to the opposite side of the group, which put Lina and Gourry between him and Filia, while Phil continued to lead the way. He stopped the wild tail movements, but the appendage still twitched now and then.

Filia couldn't help it but to stare. She felt as if he was fighting against something he kept well hidden. Why she had such a feeling, she didn't know. It couldn't be simply because Xellos was a golden dragon, Filia had been around plenty of golden dragons before and they didn't give off such a clear aura that resonated with her own.

"Here we are," Philionel announced as he stopped in front of the storage. Kalio was already there, ready to hand the monarch the requested item, the storage key. "Thank you Kalio, that will be all for now." Kalio nodded and went on his way to do his castle guarding rounds. Phil held the small key to the lock on the storage door. Though the keyhole was appropriately small, the lock itself was rather large, making the lock and key seem mismatched. His large hands grasped the key too strongly and it snapped in half. "Oops..." Phil examined the smaller half which went inside the lock. He wouldn't be able to push that end of the key far enough into the lock to make it work now that it was broken. It would probably make things worse if a piece of key got stuck in the lock.

"Forget the key, I'll break down the door!" Xellos snapped, stepping forward to do the offered deed.

"Stop it!" Filia slipped his arms under Xellos' from behind, holding him back. "You're giving golden dragons a bad name!"

"The golden dragons have done enough of a good job giving themselves a bad name!" Xellos retorted. Filia's closeness bothered him for some reason. It was a sensation that was not alien to him, but felt amplified and out of control. Then there was that scent, was it some kind of perfume he never noticed? It was all over Filia and it was pushing him to the edge of insanity. It's not that it was unpleasant. The problem was that it was too pleasant, too attractive. He was supposed to make Filia go to him, he wasn't supposed to... Wait a minute, was that lust? Well it wasn't a virtue, not that a monster would care, but Xellos was collected enough to keep such things under absolute control. He simply had no time for distractions in his line of work. This was different, it was instinct, he realized. His face turned scarlet against his will.

"What's wrong with you?" Filia released Xellos as she realized he had stopped struggling against her grip. "Do you have a fever?" She touched his forehead with one hand and her own with the other to compare the temperatures. "You're warm, but that's normal for a dragon. Are you in any pain?"

Yes, not that Xellos would ever admit to it, plus it wasn't pain in the usual sense. "Hands off," Xellos growled.

"Hmp!" Filia made an exasperated sound and threw her head back in indignation, hands on her hips.

This dragon instinct or whatever it was, it was terribly annoying. Sure, Xellos was a monster. Who cares about being proper? But that wasn't the point. A conscious decision to throw all restraint out the window, while retaining the ability to summon it back at a moment's notice was one thing. Giving into some wild uncontrollable animal instinct was a very different thing. It was... it was... degrading. 'No wonder golden dragons are so repressed,' Xellos mused. 'It's their means to retain some dignity and be civil. Who wouldn't be temperamental like this?'

"Hi, what's everyone doing?" Amelia approached with a friendly smile, Zelgadis and Fang next to her. After letting Fang play for a while, they returned to the castle. Her eyes landed on the blond Xellos with the dragon tail and she blinked in confusion. "Mr. Xellos?"

"I'll have an explanation just as soon as your father decides to share it." Xellos gave Philionel an impatient look.

"I would, but the key is broken," Philionel showed the tiny remains of the small broken key in his massive hands.

"That's no problem," Amelia removed a hairclip that was unnoticeable on her hair and began to work on picking the lock. She twisted the clip this way and that, until a click was heard and the lock was open. "There," the princess happily announced.

"That was unexpected," Lina commented.

"Just like you sharing your cheesecake." Gourry added something to the list of unexpected events.

"What's this I hear about Lina sharing?" Zelgadis made a surprised expression. "You're joking, right?"

Lina pouted, "what's that supposed to mean? I'll have you know I'm a very generous person!"

Gourry nodded in agreement, "she's usually very selfish, but today she improved. She let me have a slice of cheesecake. It was a small slice and she ate the rest, but that's more than she would normally share with anyone."

"He kept giving me the most pitiful look!" Lina pointed at Gourry while reenacting his expression with big sad eyes.

"The greedy Lina shared food, the justice obsessed Amelia picked a lock, the gloomy Zelgadis is cheerful, the virtuous Filia is bursting with lustful desires." At that point Filia interrupted Xellos' speech to protest, but he ignored her and continued. "And Lord Beast Master's general is a golden dragon. The world has been turned upside-down and it makes no sense what so ever. What can I say? Gourry, you're a genius!"

As expected, the obvious sarcasm flew over Gourry's head, at least that much still made sense. Gourry didn't know why Xellos was giving him a compliment, but like a polite person would do, he said "thanks," with a smile.

"How did you learn to pick locks, Amelia?" Philionel curiously asked.

"Zelgadis taught me," the princess smiled and blushed.

Zelgadis wondered if he should start coming up with an excuse for teaching Phil's daughter skills that were usually associated with thieves, but it didn't look like it would be needed as Phil laughed in good humor. "You must teach me that trick one day, my son. It would be quite useful since I'm always accidentally breaking these fragile little keys or losing them and I wish I didn't have to trouble the local locksmith so often." Not that it was any trouble at all for the locksmith to get hired for a relatively simple job and earn some extra coins ever so often.

"Sure," the world was definitely smiling on Zelgadis at long last.

After the, in Xellos' opinion, unnecessary suspense, Philionel finally opened the door to the storage to reveal a world of crates and dust. "Amelia, do you happen to remember where that glowing pearl-like jewel was?"

"The fickle wish granter?" Amelia inquired, wondering why her father needed such a thing. She soon connected the dots when she took into consideration Xellos' appearance. "It's way in the back. Did something happen with it?"

"Maybe," Philionel began to move large crates around with impressive strength. "The story goes that there was a light coming from the storage when Mr. Xellos over there got his makeover. I thought it might be related to the jewel. To think it would still perceive the wishes of people outside the storage room even if it's buried under all these crates. Maybe we should move it to the deepest castle basement and put it under a magical barrier."

"If it's still causing trouble, I think that would be best," Amelia agreed.

Philionel managed to reach the proper crate containing the jewel. It was easy to tell apart from the other wooden brown crates due to the word 'danger' being written all over the crate in red paint. "Ah, here it is," though the crate was nailed shut, Phil easily opened it. Inside there were ribbons of paper and a massive amount of cotton.

"Be careful, daddy," Amelia cautioned.

Philionel took a deep breath, rolled up his sleeve and reached into the box. He retrieved a glowing pearl-like jewel about the size of a marble.

"That's it?" Lina frowned in disappointment at the anti-climatic device. Sure, it was glowing and it looked pretty, but bigger more valuable jewels could be made to glow like that by embedding a light spell into them. Jewels made excellent containers for spells.

"This is it," Philionel announced ominously. "Amelia, would you like to tell the story?"

"Of course," Amelia cleared her throat and began the legendary tale. "As you might already know, pearls are formed by clams as a defense mechanism against an irritation. There is a legend that a mermaid once cried a bitter tear and it fell into a clam. The clam defended itself against it, but the mermaid tear was so pure despite its sorrow that instead of a white pearl, a crystal clear pearl was produced. The mermaid wished that no one had to suffer as she did, that tear, was the last tear she cried before she died of broken hearted sadness. The tear carried her will and her spirit before she banished in the bottom of the ocean. The tear became a wish granting pearl. However, the pearl which held the mermaid's spirit would only grant the wishes that she believed were necessary. The legendary clam holding the magical pearl had been sought out after for a long time, until one of Seyruun's fishing boats finally found it."

Filia sighed deeply, she was reminded of the mermaid story that she read back at the aquarium. "What a tragic story."

"What a stupid story," Xellos just had to ruin the moment for Filia, who gave him an intense glare. "So the mermaid cried, her tear fell inside a clam and somehow this all happened under water? If the mermaid was under water, what difference would it make if she cried or not? She would already be wet. Besides, wouldn't the tear dissolve as it mixed with the sea water around her? Plus tears are just salty water anyway, why would it irritate the clam?"

"It's magical!" Filia argued. "It's hard to explain, that's why it's a legend, but the pearl jewel is real enough if it did this. It granted your wish when you said you wanted to know what it's like to be a golden dragon."

"That was sarcasm!" Xellos almost yelled. "Stupid mermaid spirit, I wish I was a monster again!" The pearl maintained its relatively dim glow and ignored Xellos' wish.

"It doesn't work that way Mr. Xellos, the mermaid spirit will only grant the wishes she feels like granting," Amelia pointed out.

"I want to try it," Zelgadis saw it as an opportunity to be cured of his chimera condition and wondered why Amelia had not mentioned this to him before. "I wish I was human! I wish I wasn't a chimera! I wish you would grant my wish!" It figured, the pearl completely ignored him.

Amelia sighed and soon revealed the reason why she had not bothered telling Zelgadis about the fickle magical artifact. "I already tried that. I thought it would make you happy if I could cure you with a wish and spent a whole week wishing day and night, but the pearl ignored me."

"I see," Zelgadis let out a breath of resignation. "It's okay, I appreciate that you were trying to help."

"Does this mean I'm stuck like this?" Xellos complained.

"Being a golden dragon isn't a bad thing. You might get to like it," Filia teased.

"Lord Beast Master would not agree," Xellos reminded. It was the main reason why it was necessary for him to return to his monster form as soon as possible. He wasn't just in danger of being killed by other monsters, but also by Zelas herself when her patience ran out. Xellos knew that she didn't have much of that left.

"Right, she might kill you for this," Filia realized, feeling Xellos' frustration pour into her. She decided not to point it out aloud, but her wish was apparently granted as well. It wasn't granted to the whole specifics of her words, but it was more or less granted in the fickle style of the mermaid spirit. She was a Xellos exclusive empath. This would be both interesting and insightful. Maybe if she saw how much he didn't care, how he was cruelly using her, then she would successfully rid herself of her unacceptable feelings for him.

"You shouldn't worry too much," Philionel assured, "the effects are only temporary, or at least they have been so far."

"That's right, when I was sitting in the garden with the pearl in my hand, wishing and wishing, a few people came by," Amelia recalled. "I remember Kalio passing by, saying he wished he had a bigger sword and his sword turned huge. He couldn't even lift it. Then just as suddenly it turned back to normal. Then Kally wished that a tree near by would grow plums and it grew a lot of plums for the next four days, which is odd, since it was actually a young oak tree. In other words, the effect of the granted wish can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days."

"Then I just have to wait it out," Xellos concluded. He could live with that... hopefully. "This was a most informative chat. I guess I'll be on my way now." With those parting words, Xellos walked away from the group.

"I'm coming with you!" Filia was quick to follow. "I know what you're planning to do." There was a certain edge to the way Xellos felt. Maybe he was plotting something. Once that theory formed, a theory about what he was plotting was easy to come up with. "You're going to use this change of species as a disguise to cause all sorts of mischief and give the golden dragons a bad name. I will not allow that!"

Xellos felt his eye twitch in annoyance, his dragon tail swishing from side to side. "No, really, I just want to be alone right now, as in away from smelly dragons like you."

"I don't smell!" Filia glared. "And I won't be tricked," she added adamantly. "Like it or not, I'm sticking to you like glue." With her determination firm in place, Filia followed Xellos as he walked away.

Xellos quickened his pace across the Seyruun garden and Filia matched it. He moved faster and so did she. He finally broke into a run, as did Filia, and they stubbornly ran out the castle gates and into the city.

xoxox xox xoxox

After Xellos and Filia were gone, Philionel went to see to it that the pearl jewel aka the fickle wish granter, was locked away as planned. He had a meeting to go back to after that, as it had been more than fifteen minutes already. Lina and Gourry went their own way, off to pester the castle kitchen staff into giving them more food. Fang found a comfortable spot under the shade of the young oak tree that once produced plums and lay down for a nap.

Zelgadis and Amelia took a walk around the Seyruun royal gardens and hung out together for a while. She noticed that he was kind of uneasy and nervous, even if she had thought he was over that. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine," Zelgadis blushed. "Your father thinks we're engaged," he brought up a subject that he knew they would have to discuss eventually.

"He does..." Amelia asserted with a blush of her own. "Is that okay?"

"Yes," Zelgadis immediately nodded, his blush deepening. "I mean, if it's okay with you, to be engaged to me."

"Of course it is!" Amelia exclaimed all too eager. "Um... but... you know... it's not like I'm trying to rush you or anything. I mean, I'm happy with dating, and daddy isn't going to rush us into getting married. We could go on the crusade anyway and get... you know, engaged for real later down the line."

"Or sooner..." Zelgadis' hint was barely audible.

"Yes..." Amelia nodded lightly, "sooner or later or sooner..." Zelgadis said something that Amelia didn't quite understand. "Excuse me?"

"Right now?" Though his tone was still barely audible, Zelgadis' words reached Amelia that time.

"Really?" Amelia gasped in joyous surprise.

"If you want to," Zelgadis offered, finally gaining the courage to stop staring at his feet and look at Amelia's loving eyes.

"I do," Amelia smiled, her eyes never leaving his.

"Then I should do this properly," Zelgadis went down on one knee, taking Amelia's hand in his and slipping a beautiful diamond and sapphire ring into her finger. He had that ring for a while, secretly fantasizing about giving it to Amelia one day. When he left it along with a few other belongings at the Seyruun storage he didn't think the thought would ever be anything other than a distant fantasy. "Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, will you marry me?"

Amelia let out a happy squeal of absolute joy, "I will!" As Zelgadis stood, she tackled him in a hug with such a force that they both fell down. Deciding that they were comfortable enough, they stayed there, laying on the ground at the royal gardens in each other's arms.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Xellos and Filia had prolonged their stubborn race to the edge of the city and beyond. Xellos exited Seyruun territory with Filia still chasing after him. The citizens would speak of the speedy golden tailed blurs that passed through the streets without stopping for anything until they had left the city.

There was a group of monsters waiting in the outskirts of the city. Xellos came to a full stop when he saw them, which caused Filia to stumble as she tried to halt her own advance. She collided harshly with his back, causing them both to fall in a heap on the path. They got to their feet as quickly as possible, with Xellos looking especially irritated and somewhat twitchy.

A considerable amount of frustration was emerging from Xellos, there was something he was strongly holding back, something that he wanted to hide even from himself. Filia was determined to find out what it was, she just had to get the hang of her newly granted emphatic abilities, learn to interpret them and read between the lines. A lot of reading between the lines was needed with Xellos. However, for the time being, it looked like they had some more murderous monsters to deal with.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Xellos, you are so much fun to torture!
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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