by on May 16, 2015
Slayers: Alive

Episode 069: Unclear! Disarranged Puzzle Pieces

Lina stood in the middle of a large crater with small pieces of gold falling around her, which she gathered. "The golden pyramid is a powerful artifact capable of enslaving high level monsters that can be ordered into battle by the holder of this device. It doesn't hold enough power to work on a monster lord, general or priest, and one would have to be skilled in sorcery to activate it. The pyramid itself is a three dimensional puzzle about the size of a fist when put together. It is made of gold pieces with magic sealed in them. When it is broken as it is now, it cannot be used to enslave monsters. Nonetheless each individual piece works as an amulet to guard against middle rank monsters."

Lina continued her explanation. "Overall, it's a fairly useful device that can turn the tides in a battle, even if perhaps not in a war." The redhead finished gathering the pieces of the golden pyramid as her friends approached and Zelas returned via the astral side. Lina held the golden pieces in her hands towards Zelas, "for you."

Zelas accepted the pieces of the golden pyramid puzzle, nonetheless pointing out, "this is hardly a sufficient bribe." Even if she spoke those words, Zelas had a peculiar grin on her face, as if a hidden purpose had been accomplished.

"It's not a bribe," Lina mirrored Zelas' expression. "It's only something that you wouldn't have if you had not come along with us. Something that you wouldn't have even heard we obtained."

"So it would seem," Zelas agreed, so far it appeared that the monster lord and the sorceress had reached a silent understanding that remained partially hidden to the rest of the group.

"About those renegotiations," Lina brought up the subject, "or rather, about the point I was trying to prove..."

"You've done a fine job as a bodyguard, even when all was seemingly lost, you provided a valid argument," Zelas acknowledged. "However," she warned, "my choice had been made from the start, thus you have no real influence on me."

"I noticed that," Lina accepted, "I think it was still worth proving the point though. I wouldn't want anyone to say I'm a lousy bodyguard who gives up on her clients, that's bad for business."

"Of course," Zelas grinned, "you truly are a peculiar being, Lina Inverse. Pact or not, I might still call upon you in the future, my amusing pawn."

Lina huffed, "I'm no one's pawn," she insisted, though she had been used as such in the past, thus she clarified, "but I'm a sorceress for hire on occasion. I accept payment in gold and don't forget to include a courtesy meal!"

"I'll remember that," Zelas ran a perfectly manicured fingernail over the smooth surface of the black cone jewel on her necklace. "I will release Xellos in a few days. You may carry on with your journey; I'll catch up to you when the time comes." With her final choice made, Zelas gave one last quick glance to Phythan, "your next assignment is to travel with Lina's group and report what you witness to me." Then she faded away to the astral side.

Phythan made a little salute, though Zelas had already disappeared, "yes, Lord Beast Master!"

Lina stretched her arms over her head, "that takes care of that. Let's find a good place to eat."

"Wait a minute!" Filia protested. "What just happened? What made Zelas want to release Xellos and why is she waiting a few days?"

"That I don't know," Lina admitted, but she at least could explain the rest. "Throughout our travels we come across a lot of places, people, things and situations. Zelas might want to be informed of all that for various reasons. I wanted to prove that it was worth keeping an eye on us and who better to do that than Zelas' most trusted minion? If she sends someone different who is not a monster, it wouldn't be the same to her and if she makes a new general priest, it wouldn't be the same to us, thus affecting our actions."

Filia's eyes widened in realization. "I understand; you were trying to prove to Zelas that Xellos is still useful to her. That's what this whole trip was about. But what if your theory about the mountain was mistaken?"

"I would have to figure out something to do," Lina grinned, disregarding the risk. "Don't I always?" She paused, with her face taking on a more thoughtful expression. "Nonetheless, Zelas' choice had already been made. She never intended to destroy Xellos. Galathia mentioned a secret mission; I believe this is all the same thing. The reason why we haven't been getting a whole lot of trouble from monsters, though we did have to face the Green Alchemist, the reason why Zelas reduced the amount of danger Xellos was exposed to... she must have had plans for him. Whatever those plans are, they must have involved trapping him in that crystal for a while. Zelas' plans have not yet been fulfilled though; it is probably something that takes time."

"That's why she won't release Xellos for a few days," Filia agreed. Her face was filled with horror as she considered the possibilities. "What if this is all part of some kind of plot to launch a full scale attack? What if she's trying to doom the world?" She rushed over to Phythan, shaking him by the shoulders. "Do you know something? Speak!"

"I don't know anything!" Phythan insisted. "This is my most exciting mission yet. All I ever do as an intern is groom Fang, clean Lord Beast Master's lair and carry her gigantic purse when she goes somewhere."

"This could mean trouble, but we know so little it's hard to think of what to do," Amelia worried. Attempting to break into Lord Beast Master's lair was out of the question. Not only would that be a suicide mission that was doomed to fail, but they had no idea where exactly the lair was located anyway and Phythan probably got teleported there by monsters, rather than being informed of the location.

"Then we'll just have to wing it!" Lina concluded with more optimism than the situation probably deserved.

xoxox xox xoxox

The group continued their journey, locating the nearest restaurant from the sky, riding on Phythan. Unlike Filia, he didn't mind carrying the group and still had no problems with transforming in front of people. After they had a good meal, the journey continued with occasional stops at inns and restaurants for sleep and food respectively. They were heading back to Seyruun; they weren't sure what to do next, so they resolved it was best to regroup there.

After a particularly long day of traveling, they stopped to camp out, as the next town was still a considerable distance away. Nothing appeared to be out of place as they sat around a campfire roasting marshmallows, until an unknown being materialized before them. He was obviously a monster, judging by how he moved through the astral side, albeit he resembled a human chimera in appearance. He had black hair and silver eyes; he was wearing black clothes in the style of a classic evil wizard, with silver armlets, belts and boots. Filia could perceive that he had plentiful monster powers at his disposal. Another noticeable trait was the spiky collar he wore around his neck, which was something one would expect a pet to wear.

The main differences that gave him away as a non-human to those who couldn't sense his energy, were his fox ears and tail, which were covered in black fur. Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia jumped to their feet, taking on fighting stances, ready to combat the monster if he attacked. The fox creature appeared to ignore the aggressive atmosphere, instead keeping his eyes on Amelia and taking a step towards her. "Amelia... Would you scratch me behind the ears? I really like it when you do that!"

The group nearly fell over in shock. "Just who do you think you are?" Zelgadis angrily demanded.

"I'm Fang and you're Zelgadis!" The fox creature pointed out in a carefree tone.

"Fang?!" Lina, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia chorused the surprised exclamation.

"Who's Fang?" Predictably, Gourry didn't remember.

"This is Fang's human form... or rather, his human chimera form," Phythan calmly explain. He had seen Fang's alternate form so it did not come as a surprise to him. "You know how it is, monsters can take on human disguises, but since Fang is a monster fox chimera, his human disguise is a fox chimera too." Fang was a chimera created much more recently than Celo, with improved methods that prevented his power from noticeably decreasing.

"I guess Zelas wanted to send a monster along with us." Lina sat down again. At least when Xellos returned, things should go back to normal. Or rather, things should be restored to their usual level of insanity.

The group settled down and went back to enjoying their roasted marshmallows, albeit Zelgadis wasn't pleased with Fang trying to lay his head on Amelia's lap. That wasn't so bad when he was just a fox, but now he was different. In an attempt to make them get along, Amelia pulled out a hairbrush from her cape and offered it to Zelgadis, "why don't you brush Fang's hair?"

"Brush his hair? But he's-" Zelgadis' argument was interrupted when Fang half laid on his lap.

Unlike in his fox chimera form, when in human chimera form, Fang had one tail instead of two, which wasn't as huge as his two tails in his alternate form. None the less, he could certainly wag that tail. "Brush my hair Zelgadis, I like having my hair brushed!"

Zelgadis felt his eye twitch and gave Amelia a desperate look. The princess smile encouragingly and nodded, while Lina snickered in amusement and Filia shook her head hopelessly. Gourry was as confused as usual, so he had nothing to offer Zelgadis beyond a blank look. "I can't believe this," shocked with himself, Zelgadis began to brush Fang's hair.

Other than that, it seemed that the camping trip would be relatively uneventful as the marshmallows were consumed and sleeping arrangements were made. Then in the middle of the night, Fang woke up. "I taste it, it's strong!" He exclaimed loud enough to wake the others. "I want it, I want it! Can I go? Can I have a snack now?"

"We already ate all the food, shut up and go to sleep!" Lina scolded, not pointing out that she had consumed the largest portion of their supplies herself.

Fang whimpered, "no snack?" He pouted cutely, his silver eyes looking similar to Phythan's when he was complaining.

"I don't think he wants normal food," Phythan commented sleepily. He yawned and allowed himself a moment to become fully alert. Then he leapt to his feet in determination. "Monsters feed off negative emotions, Fang must be able to taste the feelings of someone who is in peril! I cannot overlook this injustice!"

"Oh no..." Zelgadis muttered under his breath. Phythan was giving a justice speech; that would be sure to get Amelia riled up.

"Neither can I!" Amelia energetically jumped to her feet. "Fang, lead us to the source of the taste you perceive, we must find the person who is in need of assistance. We must defend justice!"

"Snack!" Fang took off in an all out dash, followed by Phythan and Amelia.

Since Amelia was going, Zelgadis ran after her as well, "wait for me!"

"Yes, Zelgadis, let us defend justice together!" Amelia took his hand, pulling him along to go faster. She was an amazingly speedy runner when it came to rushing to defend justice.

"Can't we defend justice in the morning?" Lina begrudgingly followed them.

"I guess that's a no?" Gourry hurried after Lina, not understanding the significance of the sarcastic rhetorical question.

"I might as well go," Filia joined the mad chase as well.

xoxox xox xoxox

Fang led the group towards a patch of vegetation. Not too far away, the crunching of the first few fallen leaves of autumn could be heard. The footsteps were unsure and unsteady, not following a firm rhythm. They were not too fast, yet there was a feeling of despair to the ragged breaths that accompanied them. The forested area was dark, the trees blocking the light of the moon and stars, but up ahead there was a bright unnatural golden glow. It was the gold that shined upon the sea of chaos.

Fang stopped his tracks several feet away from the Lord of Nightmares. "I smell power, I smell a lot of power," his black fox ears twitched as he lowered himself to hide behind some bushes, keeping his voice in a whisper. "That person knows we're here," he realized, "so much power, is this the one master calls Lord of Nightmares?"

Amelia, Zelgadis, Lina, Gourry, Filia and Phythan took cover along with Fang. "It's a warning," Lina guessed. "She wants us to hang back," albeit her voice was only a quiet whisper; she knew the Lord of Nightmares could hear her. The golden glow faded and everything was left in darkness once more.

"Who's there?" A weak voice called from the darkness. "Is anyone there?" It was the tired voice of a young woman.

Gourry was about to open his mouth to reply, but even if she couldn't see it in the darkness, Lina knew it. She simply knew him that well. The redhead reached out blindly and felt his shoulder, from there on finding his face and holding her hand over his mouth was easy.

"Answer me!" The female voice called out again.

Zelgadis could feel Amelia tensing up next to him. A seemingly defenseless person was in need of help and it was difficult for her to hold back the need to provide assistance.

"I'm not going back! I'm not going back!" The unsteady steps continued in the darkness. "I'm not going back, I'm never going back, there's nothing for me there. I'll seek my own happiness, they who give me nothing will not get anything from me. I can start over, I'm not going back," desperate sobs mixed into the words. "I'm not going back-ah!" There was the sound of someone falling on the ground and Amelia tensed further.

Then the brightness returned as the Lord of Nightmares once more showed her light. "You are weak."

On the ground in front of her there was a human woman. She seemed to be in bad shape with stained and ripped clothing, dirt and mud clinging to her, a few visible cuts and bruises and long tangled up black hair. "Who are you?" She looked at the being before her with curiosity, yet oddly there was no fear."

"You fear entrapment, you fear suffering and yet you do not fear me?" The Lord of Nightmares spoke. "You who despises the tranquil struggle, you who wishes to live outside the cycle of the masses, your weakness prevents you."

"No..." The girl looked as if the words spoken to her struck a chord. "I'm here now, I left, I started over, I'm not going to be weak anymore."

"You do not fear the embrace of death for it will spare you the pain," the Lord of Nightmares raised her hand. "Is your spirit as weak as your body?"

Amelia started to get up, but Zelgadis stopped her. She tried to move nonetheless, yet he held her in place. She stopped struggling and didn't say anything. What good could it do?

"Farewell," A silver orb of light floated on the Lord of Nightmares' hand. She held the orb in her hand, watching as the girl's black eyes stared at it, the darkness of her eyes and hair contrasting with her pale face. Then the Lord of Nightmares released the orb and it collided with the girl, trapping her in silver flames that electrified her.

"Stop!" Amelia cried out, but the sound was only a distant echo.

"Can't... move..." Phythan tried to jump into action but could not, none of them could.

Paralyzed and unable to even speak loud enough to be heard, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Phythan and Fang watched on until the silver light faded and the girl fell unconscious. The Lord of Nightmares disappeared and Lina's group was released, once again able to move around and be heard normally.

"I'm telling... I'm telling master!" Fang loudly declared, fading to the astral side instantly.

"Fang, no!" Lina reached out to the space where Fang was, but was unable to grab hold of him before he was gone. "Great, now Zelas is coming."

"Then we need to hurry!" Amelia rushed towards the unconscious young woman.

Phythan and Filia joined her, attempted to use healing magic on the girl, but soon Filia stopped them. "Don't!"

"Why not? She needs to be healed!" Amelia didn't understand.

"Look at her, her face is getting flushed, her breathing is uneven, her heartbeats are wild, our healing is making her worse" Filia explained. "Her energy waves are definitely human but they're different. I've heard about this, it's a rare condition that sometimes occurs in the lands that were outside the barrier. She will always react adversely to magic and is unable to cast it herself. It's a sort of genetic disease that can be inherited."

"Then we'll have to heal her the old fashioned way," Amelia concluded.

"It looks like there's no choice," Filia agreed.

Before anything could be done about the unknown girl, Fang reappeared with Zelas. "There she is," Fang pointed. "That's the girl with the yummy desperate emotions, but she's not yummy anymore. Now she's empty, she has no taste at all. She's alive, how come she has no taste? How come?"

"So the Lord of Nightmares threw a sort of spell into this girl?" Zelas curiously approached. "Are you glad Lina? Your point has been further proven. It is worth it to keep an eye on your group." She looked at the unconscious girl commenting with distaste, "she's filthy, it is as if she has been wandering around for a while, possibly lost. Perhaps no one cares for her, or perhaps she has been trying not to be found. Nonetheless, there is something there; the Lord of Nightmares sealed something in this girl, I wonder what that something is? I suppose I'll find out soon enough. Fang, be a dear and fetch the girl. Try not to get too messy handling the filthy creature."

"Yes master, right away!" Fang cheerfully agreed, wagging his fox tail.

Fang approached the girl, but Amelia stood in his way. "You can't just take her away!"

"It's okay, Amelia," Phythan encouraged. "Lord Beast Master wants to know what is sealed in her, right? She won't risk losing it if she dies. That's why I know she will be healed. Besides, she has a negative reaction to magic anyway, we can't heal her."

"I know, but..." that didn't make it any less frustrating for Amelia. She was a kind person who didn't like seeing others suffer.

"But you don't get a say in it," Zelas smiled smugly. "Fang, take the girl to Tiffany, tell her I said to keep her alive. Stay with her and come get me as soon as it looks like she's about to wake up."

"Yes master!" Fang carefully picked up the unconscious girl and disappeared into the astral side.

"Intern, you may continue to travel with Lina and the others for a while and assist Xellos in compiling his reports," Zelas ordered.

Filia gasped, catching a very important detail, "Xellos?"

"I was going to wait until morning, but it's been long enough." Zelas took off her black cone jewel necklace as it began to glow. Black light emerged from it, forming into a shadow that took the shape of Xellos. In seconds he materialized completely, still in the form of a human, albeit he had recovered enough for his hair to be black again. He was unconscious when he fully emerged and fell forward, though Filia was quick to catch him. "He is alright, only sleeping," Zelas stated. "Well then, I leave Xellos in your care for the time being. However, make no mistake, my patience is not infinite. I have obtained what I wanted, so this time we play for keeps. If Xellos is unable to break his curse and recover his monster powers in a reasonable amount of time, I will destroy him." Leaving a heavy feeling of foreboding in the air, Zelas disappeared.

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 070: Doubts! Go On A Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxox xox xoxox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 071: Terrible! Cruel Tactics

"It's such a nice day," Lina observed as she looked out the window at the end of the inn hallway. Her and Gourry's rooms were just across from each other. "I kind of want to take a nap and relax before whatever is to come comes, but at the same time I don't want to stay indoors."

"How about we go up to the roof?" Gourry suggested, "I bet there's a nice breeze up there."

"You do have good ideas sometimes, Gourry," Lina opened the window. "Here's a shortcut, levitation!" She took Gourry along with her as she floated out the window and landed on the roof of the inn. She gazed at the town's landscape as the calm breeze played with her fire colored hair. "It's pretty relaxing," she looked at where Gourry was standing next to her a second ago and found nothing.

Lowering her gaze, Lina saw that Gourry had already lay down on the roof and seemed comfortable enough to actually fall asleep. "Hey Lina, doesn't that cloud look like a sheep? And that one over there looks like a sheep too. One, two, three, four, five... There are so many clouds that look like sheep it's making me," he yawned, "sleepy."

"Of course you'll get sleepy if you count them," Lina looked up at the fluffy white clouds; some of them actually did look like sheep. She sat down next to Gourry. "The atmosphere up here is relaxing enough, but I don't think I'll be able to sleep laying my head on the hard roof. Maybe I should go get a pillow." Gourry began to remove his armor, which made Lina blink in confusion. "Why are you taking off your armor?"

"So it's comfortable for you," Gourry smiled innocently.

"Comfortable how?" Lina questioned in puzzlement.

"If you don't want to lay your head on the roof, you could just rest it on my shoulder, I don't mind," Gourry offered with a sweet smile.

Lina's face was instantly scarlet. "Rest my head on your shoulder? How did you come up with an idea like that? I mean c'mon, I could just go back to the room and get a pillow. Besides, the roof isn't that hard anyway, it's not so bad."

"Oh," Gourry seemed disappointed. "If you don't want to..."

"I didn't say I wouldn't do it!" Lina immediately argued. With her face still burning red, she snuggled close to Gourry, remaining perfectly still.

Gourry was more relaxed than Lina was at first, his eyes closed as he looked at the sheep shaped clouds passing through the skies above, gently moved by the breeze. "Hmm... Li... na..." He muttered quietly.

Lina looked at Gourry, but he was already asleep. A well hidden part of her thought it was sweet that he would say her name in his sleep. She felt his arm unconsciously wrap around her waist and her blush intensified. Yet Gourry was already asleep and no one was there to interrupt their moment alone. Feeling herself finally relax, Lina cuddled against Gourry's chest, made herself comfortable and entered into peaceful slumber.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia slowly opened her eyes; she got her nap after all, but only after using up a considerable amount of energy. Xellos was still sleeping next to her, his arms tightly around her body. He was warn, perhaps too warm. It was odd, the temperature of a human shouldn't be warmer than that of a dragon. She touched his forehead curiously, a fever? But why? He was perfectly fine before, in fact, he was full of energy, a thought that made her blush. Perhaps the strain of being trapped in a crystal for several days was having some delayed side effects.

Maybe it was best to get him some medicine just in case, to make sure his fever didn't worsen. Except it would be difficult to get him to actually take it. Maybe if she added some sugar to it he wouldn't protest. She paused in her action of attempting to get up; Xellos was sleepily pulling her back as if unconsciously seeking the heat of her body. "Xellos?" He was awake, she settled back into bed, she could take care of finding a remedy later. "How do you feel?"

Xellos rubbed his eyes and stared at her. "It's cold for it to only be the start of fall," he observed tiredly.

"That's because you might be getting ill. I suppose it's just a random autumn illness. It's probably due to being exposed to the cool wind when we travel or possibly due to having only recently been released from the crystal. Maybe your body needs to get accustomed to the outside world all over again," Filia theorized.

"Muttering gibberish? Really Filia, you're turning even more rude, you stupid dragon." Xellos blinked and rubbed his eyes some more. "Why is everything so blurry?"

Filia frowned, "you must be really sick if it's affecting your senses!" She spoke louder that time, expecting Xellos to complain about the volume of her voice despite their close proximity.

"What kind of an illness causes blurry vision? And why are you whispering?" Xellos attempted to rub his eyes again, but Filia stopped him.

"Don't do that, it'll just make things worse," she shook her head emphasizing the message," I'll get you a remedy, wait here." She tried not to show it, but she was worried. What if Xellos somehow caught some strange decease? It seemed that one thing was solved only to give way to another problem. Filia got dressed quickly, signaling to Xellos once more to stay in the room, making sure he understood, then she left.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia hurried out to that little herbal remedy shop down the street she saw when they arrived in town, walking briskly. She felt almost short of breath, not in the physical sense, but metaphorically. She shook her head to clear it as she hurried down the street. This was probably just a common ordinary human illness; it was nothing to worry about. Xellos would be fine.

The little bells on the door chimed as Filia entered the herbal remedy shop. She approached the counter to find an old lady flipping through a book. The elderly woman noticed the customer and seemed to wake up from her concentration. "Hello, welcome to Healing Herbs, how may I help you?" She was wearing a green dress with red details and a red headband.

"I'm looking for a remedy for..." Filia had no idea what Xellos had and she knew dragging him to a doctor unless he was in extreme pain would be impossible. He wasn't happy about seeing a physician during that octopus allergy incident, albeit he couldn't do anything to stop Filia from taking him to the hospital. "Something that's good to cure blurry vision and a hearing loss."

"That would be the fountain of youth dear, and as you could probably guess, I have no idea where it is." The old woman replied jokingly, gently pushing a strand of long white hair over her shoulder. "I can offer you something that can help against those conditions, but not entirely cure them."

Filia laughed, clarifying, "he's still too young to be feeling the symptoms of old age." Well technically, Xellos was over a thousand years old, but his human body appeared to have started out as twenty-something. If he aged normally from there, he should still have plenty of youthful years left, plus he didn't show any signs of having aged.

"A bad cold or perhaps an infection?" The old lady held a long wooden cane, which was noticeably taller than her. She balanced herself on the cane, climbing it to reach a bottle of liquid on a high shelf behind the counter.

"Isn't that dangerous?" Filia observed with worry.

"Don't worry; I still have some balance left in me." The old woman hopped on her cane as if it was a pogo-stick, reaching for another bottle on the high shelf on the opposite side. She jumped down with ease and placed the two items on the counter. "This one," she pointed to a light blue liquid, "is an extract that can clear one's vision. If your friend really has some kind of eye infection, it will be most effective. This here," she pointed at a thicker pink substance with yellow dust particles, "is good for hearing."

The old woman appeared to be healthy enough despite her advanced age, thus Filia assumed she could trust the remedies to be effective. "Do you have anything good against a fever?"

"Of course, do you prefer pills or liquid?" The elderly shop keeper inquired.

"Pills," Filia replied without a second thought. At least then Xellos wouldn't complain about the taste of the remedy. After all, the best medicine usually tasted bitter.

The old lady reached for a bottle of pills, much lower on the shelves, thus she didn't need to use her staff to reach this time. "Is there anything else that ails your friend?"

'Yes, a curse that changed him from a monster to a human, which can only be broken by the willing kiss of a golden dragon. Except it's actually some kind of puzzle that's turning out to be really hard to solve.' "I don't think so," Filia replied, keeping her truthful thoughts to herself.

The old lady tallied up the purchases and placed them in a bag, with a few instructions for each item. She picked up a pen from the counter, quickly writing on a notepad as she spoke. "The dosage for the pills are two every eight hours until the fever is gone. The light blue liquid for the eyes has a dose of one drop on each eye every four hours. The pink and yellow medicine for the ears has a dose of one drop on each ear every six hours. Even if only one eye or ear is affected, I recommend using the medicine on both as a precaution to stop the infection from spreading." The shop keeper tore the sheet off the notepad and handed it to Filia.

"Thank you," the golden dragon voiced politely as she paid for her purchases. She stopped on her way out, noticing the vase near the exit. "This vase..."

"It was a gift from my granddaughter," the shop keeper explained. "We used to run a restaurant together, but I've since retired from that busy atmosphere and left the Cat Cafe to my granddaughter. She bought that vase when she was on a trip some time ago. Ah, but I'm probably boring you with my stories."

"Not at all," Filia smiled fondly, not revealing that she was the one who made the vase. "Have a good day."

"The same to you," the old lady replied.

As Filia exited the shop, she caught sight of a peculiar woman with pointy ears and pale platinum hair. She was very short, though she wasn't a child; Filia could tell she was probably a little over a thousand years old. Why was a dragon in town? Feeling uneasy, Filia hurried back to Xellos.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia headed back to the inn with her purchases, swiftly making her way to her room where she expected to find Xellos. Maybe he had fallen asleep again by now. She opened the door and entered the room, not bothering to close it as she caught sight of Xellos seemingly searching for something by feeling for it on the floor. He was fully dressed, save for one missing shoe and he also didn't have his cloak. "What are you looking for?"

Xellos didn't answer. His hand touched the texture of fabric and he picked up the item, feeling it. A cloak, was it his? He assumed it to be and put it over his shoulders, but then something felt off. The gems on his cloak weren't there and there was a bow to be tied. This was Filia's. She got dressed so quickly that she only put on her pink dress and white boots, leaving her cloak and mace in the room. She would be back in a short while anyway. Xellos dropped the white cloak and resumed his odd search.

Filia blinked in confusion and glanced at the other side of the room. "It's right there," she pointed, blushing slightly at their previous lack of organization.

Again Xellos ignored her. His hand reached something small and soft. He examined the thing in his hands, identifying it as the so called holster of Filia's mace. He quickened his search in the area around the item, until he reached her mace. He ran his gloveless hands over the handle and picked it up with some effort. He held on to it, gripping the handle with an impatient look on his face, almost as if he expected to be attacked.

"Why are you acting so oddly?" Filia asked, starting to get really annoyed. She approached, setting her medicine bag on a table. "You could at least answer me raw garbage!" She yelled loud enough so that if his hearing was failing he should still hear her, unless his sense of sound was completely gone. The thought worried her, "Xellos? Can you hear me? Can you see me?" There was no reply, Xellos just stood there gripping the mace and looking tense. She cautiously approached him, walking a full circle around him. She stopped directly behind him and reached out to tap him on the shoulder.

Xellos jumped in surprise and swung the mace at whoever was behind him in an automatic motion. Filia saw it coming and easily caught the handle of the weapon, taking it away from Xellos and tossing it behind her back. The mace damaged the floor as it fell, but Filia wasn't paying attention to the property damage at the moment. She tried to hold Xellos still; he struggled for a few seconds, then stopped. "Filia?" He reached out, fingers going up her arm, to her shoulder, neck and finally her face. He held her face with both hands, tracing over her features, then her pointy ears and at last running his fingers through her hair. "You are Filia," Xellos finally ascertained beyond a doubt.

"What happened?" Filia asked in worry, "can you see me? Can you hear me?" There was no response beyond a blank unfocused look. "Xellos!" She shook his shoulders, trying to get some form of reaction from him.

"Are you yelling?" Xellos finally spoke. "Are you throwing a temperamental hissy fit? Of course you are, because that's what a stupid dragon would do. If you're still yelling, don't waste your breath, I can't hear you. I can't see you either; I guess looking at your ugly face for so long finally had consequences." He had a mocking expression, but it didn't come as naturally as before, it was forced.

"You piece of raw garbage! This is no time for a petty argument!" Filia yelled into Xellos' face, receiving no reaction from him what so ever. "Stop trying to act like this is no big deal!" She felt warm tears run down her face; she was scared for his well being. His behavior when she returned to the inn room made sense now. His fever was gone, but that was probably just a side effect while the real problem developed. Xellos managed to find most of his clothes, except for that missing shoe and the cloak that was still on the other side of the room. He finally got a hold of Filia's mace and held on to it, ready to fight anything that might try to attack him while he couldn't see it or hear it coming. Then he waited, he waited for Filia to return.

Filia hugged him tightly, just when she thought they could finally take a break from most of the tension, at least for a short while, something like this had to happen. Just when she thought she could find a moment of peace in the middle of her chaotic life. Did that dragon she saw in town have something to do with this? They all ordered different things at the restaurant; it wouldn't be difficult to figure out what was intended for Xellos. What if this was some kind of poison? Worse yet, what if it wasn't? Most types of poison had antidotes at least.

Xellos' empathy was gone; it was like an extra sense to him. What if it was all connected and all his senses were fading away for some unknown reason? What if he was stuck like this until he became a monster? They still didn't know how to change him back. Did Zelas know this would happen? Why would she give Xellos his job back if she expected him to be rendered unable to properly perform it? Was that why she sent Phythan along? But if that was the case, wouldn't she have also sent Fang? Maybe Zelas didn't know about this. There were too many questions and not nearly enough answers.

Xellos' fingers brushed the moisture away from Filia's face. "Why are you crying, stupid dragon? It's not like I'm dying. This is probably just some random human illness." Xellos knew it wasn't true, what illness could have such terrible symptoms that acted so quickly? There was probably someone behind this, someone who was purposely causing trouble. He just didn't know who, how or when it was all set up. Filia could feel Xellos' warm breath on her neck, his body pressed against hers. "You still smell just as bad," he teased. He nibbled her neck gently, "you taste just as disgusting too. I'm sure you're just as loud and hideous. What insults are you yelling at me now, stupid dragon? Something along the lines of raw garbage? How unoriginal."

"Idiot..." Filia whispered bitterly. "Why are you consoling me? Why are you trying to reassure me when you're the one who's in danger? I'm supposed to be supporting you. You're the one who's in the most danger." She sobbed almost uncontrollably for several more seconds, letting it all out. Then she took a deep breath and looked at Xellos' face, his eyes were closed and the tension in his features seemed to fade when the shaking of her sobbing stopped. She kissed him and he eagerly responded to it. After they parted, she observed his face again; he looked almost relaxed, much calmer than when she found him gripping her weapon almost desperately. "Is this really enough to calm you?" There was no response as he did not hear her question. "I guess you must really trust me if you're so calm even if you can barely perceive the world around you..." The last few tears escaped Filia's eyes, but she quickly dried them. "I'll find a way to heal you, I promise."

Filia led Xellos to sit down on the bed, "it might not help much, but I got you some medicine." She let go of him for a moment to go pick up the bag she had brought. She hurried to his side again as if she couldn't stand to let him go for too long. Since he didn't really have a fever anymore, maybe he didn't need the pills, she didn't want to overload him with medicine. The remedies that specifically targeted his most prominent symptoms might as well be worth a try. Filia sat down on the bed next to Xellos. Feeling the motion, he turned his head towards her general direction, but he was only staring blankly at the wall behind her. Filia bit her lip and told herself she wouldn't cry anymore, it wouldn't help the situation anyway.

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 072: Truce! An Unlikely Alliance

"These drops might help... maybe... But even if I say that you can't hear me..." Filia took the eye drops out of the bag. "Okay, just one drop for each eye... Right, lay your head back." Of course, there was no reply, so Filia gently pushed Xellos back until he lay down on the bed. "Don't start squirming now, you have to stay still." She exhaled, "but of course, you can't actually hear me. Right, just stay still." Trying to communicate like this was very difficult. She climbed on top of him, one leg on either side.

"Really Filia, this is hardly the time, but I'm not complaining." Xellos ran his hands from her knees to her thighs, before they were slapped away.

"Stop it! I'm trying to give you some first aid over here!" Filia argued uselessly. At least Xellos seemed to somewhat get the message from getting his hands slapped away, since he stopped being so grabby. Filia applied one drop to his right eye. Xellos immediately reached over, but Filia stopped him. "Don't rub your eye!" He didn't hear her, but he got the message from having her stop him from reaching his face.

Xellos blinked a few times in rapid succession. "Eye drops? That does feel refreshing, but I still can't see anything. It's all pitch black, not even the faintest hint of a shape or color." He expected another drop to be applied on his left eye, so he didn't move. He blinked a few times, then kept his eyes closed for a few seconds. Filia guided Xellos to turn his head to the side and brushed his hair out of the way of his ear. "Ear medicine too? I don't think something you got at the local pharmacy will be of any use." He paused, then hastily added, "not that I'm suffering from a horrible deadly disease. I'm sure it's nothing too serious, so don't start crying again, stupid dragon."

"I'm not crying," Filia argued, though her retort fell, literally, on deaf ears. She leaned forward and kissed him. It was her way of letting him know that she was okay, or at least not panicking.

"Miss Fi-eek!" Amelia's sudden presence at the door made Filia fall off the bed as she tried to get off Xellos in a hurry. "I'm sorry; the door was open so I didn't expect to see anything too personal. Please remember to close the door next time!" The Seyruun princess closed the door in a rush, blocking the suspicious view from herself and Zelgadis, who was standing in the hallway right behind her. Their investigation was not going so well, but Amelia wanted to share what they heard from the townspeople anyway.

"Wait a minute!" Filia hurried to the door, opening it and calling out to Amelia and Zelgadis, who were hastily making their way down the hallway. "Please come back, I need your help with something!"

"Filia? Were you just clumsy or are we under attack?" Xellos asked with unsure urgency.

"It's okay, no one's attacking," Filia hurried back to Xellos' side and kissed him to let him know that everything was fine.

At that moment Amelia and Zelgadis had returned to the room at Filia's request. "Excuse me, Miss Filia, but it doesn't look like we should be here."

"I really don't want to witness this," Zelgadis added with distaste.

"It's not like that; I really do need your help!" Filia insisted. Before Amelia and Zelgadis decided that they've seen enough and got themselves out of there, Filia hastily explained, "I don't know how, but Xellos can't see or hear right now. I saw a dragon in town a short while ago and suspect the golden dragons might somehow have something to do with this. They could have poisoned his food back at the restaurant. I don't know what exactly is going on, but I'm going to have a word with that dragon I saw. I need you to keep an eye on Xellos until I return."

Amelia gasped in worry, "this is serious, Miss Filia, you shouldn't go alone!"

"It's okay, I won't leave town," Filia assured. "I'll try to talk things out first and see if this can be resolved peacefully," and if that didn't work she would beat the antidote out of the sneaky dragon, if her theory about her involvement was correct. "If I get into trouble I'll send out a super charged light spell as a signal. Then you can follow the flare to my location, okay?"

"Things might get hostile if too many of us show up," Zelgadis understood the point. "Even so, it might be a trap, not that I'm concerned about him of all people," he still didn't get along with Xellos, though he seemed capable of tolerating his presence.

Amelia quickly diffused the situation before Filia could go from pouting to speaking a few upset words in Xellos' defense. "I guess that's alright, but please be careful. Leave Mr. Xellos to us, we'll make sure he's safe."

"Thanks Amelia, I'm counting on you," Filia looked at Xellos; he didn't return her gaze, holding the same blank look in his eyes. She let him go, gave him a quick kiss and patted his shoulder, hoping that he understood that she had to leave his side for a while, but that she would be back as soon as possible. Then she walked out of the room, giving Xellos one last glance before she left.

"Don't you worry, Mr. Xellos, I'm sure Miss Filia will be alright. Who ever did something so cruel to you will surely receive the punishment of justice! Miss Filia will be back soon and she'll bring an antidote for you. Life will be wonderful again!" Amelia tried to cheer him up.

"Um... Amelia," Zelgadis quietly pointed out. "He can't actually hear us."

"Oh, right..." Amelia looked disappointed, but then cheered up again. "I'm sure he can hear us in his heart!"

"Filia?" Xellos inquired unsure. "Are you still here?"

"How to let him know that Filia will be back soon?" Amelia wondered. She placed her right hand on her chin, her left hand resting on her right elbow in a classic thinking pose. "I know!" She approached Xellos, took his hand and placed it on her bracelet. "Do you recognize this?"

There was a hand, fabric and a smooth sphere. It reminded Xellos of something, it was like Amelia's bracelet. "Amelia? I guess this means Filia has gone off somewhere? She's probably off hunting for an antidote. Does this mean she somehow found a clue? Don't bother explaining it, I wouldn't hear you anyway. Although I can almost imagine your justice speech, not that I want to imagine it."

With the idea that justice was something that could magically reach people's hearts, Amelia gave her justice speech anyway. The speech had no effect what so ever on Xellos, but at least she did something a little more useful by showing him to a chair so he could sit around and wait impatiently for Filia's return with no idea of what was really going on. Needless to say, Xellos was quite displeased with the situation.

"Zelgadis, could you help me find Mr. Xellos' shoe?" Amelia requested with her big and shiny, pleading eyes. "He only has one shoe on, so I guess that means he couldn't find the other."

"I thought we only had to make sure he didn't get into trouble," Zelgadis made a brave effort to resist Amelia's pleading face.

"Please, Zel, pretty please?" Amelia insisted, her eyes appearing to be about three times the size they normally were.

Zelgadis couldn't resist, he looked around the room, trying to spot the shoe. "I don't see it, but I'll find it." Great, all Amelia had to do was look sweet and call him Zel, then he was willing to make it his life's mission to track down Xellos' shoe. Yet he had to draw the line somewhere, he would not put the shoe on Xellos' foot, he absolutely refused to do that. Unless Amelia asked him nicely, then he knew he couldn't refuse even that. He peeked under the bed and finally found the shoe, reaching over to retrieve it. "Here it is."

"Thank you!" Amelia took the shoe and rewarded Zelgadis with a kiss. If that's how it went, then Xellos should misplace his shoes more often. "Here you are Mr. Xellos, it's your other shoe."

Something was handed to Xellos, which he identified as being a shoe, his shoe to be specific. He assumed that Amelia must have noticed the missing shoe and located it for him. He put on the shoe; at least he wouldn't feel silly wearing just one, though that minor development was hardly enough to make an improvement on his overall mood. "I'm bored," Xellos declared, interrupting Amelia in the middle of her words of encouragement which made use of shoe metaphors. "And I'm thirsty," he added. Perhaps Amelia would feel it was just to get him something to drink, maybe even whatever he wanted. "I want some cold lemonade." The information was passed along, now he just had to wait for kind Amelia to place a glass of lemonade in his hand.

"Don't worry Mr. Xellos, I'll get your lemonade right away and I'll make sure it's nice and cold!" Amelia purposefully declared, in the same tone she would use for her justice speeches. Filia had entrusted her with taking care of Xellos in his time of need and Amelia believed it was her duty to make sure he endured the situation as pleasantly as possible. "Zelgadis, please keep Mr. Xellos company and make sure he's as comfortable as possible." After entrusting her beloved chimera with a mission that he was not exactly thrilled to receive, Amelia leapt out the window, "levitation!" It seemed like the fastest route to go out to find some cold lemonade.

"I want chocolate ice-cream pie too," Xellos continued, not realizing that Amelia was already gone. "Don't forget to put extra sugar on my lemonade."

Zelgadis frowned, he didn't want to be stuck babysitting Xellos. He got up from his seat across from Xellos abruptly and walked around the table, while Xellos kept going on about the snack he wanted. He tapped Xellos on the shoulder, making his speech about snacks pause.

"What is it? Did you bring it already?" Xellos carefully reached to the space atop the table in front of him, slowly so as to not knock over the lemonade glass if it was there. "Where is it?" At least Zelgadis could get a little bit of payback out of this. He stood to Xellos' right and tapped him on the left shoulder annoyingly. "What?" Xellos automatically turned his head to the left, though there was nothing there. "What are you trying to communicate?" He paused, realizing something. That poke on the shoulder was too solid to be Amelia. Where Amelia was, usually Zelgadis could be found not too far away. "Zelgadis? You're just trying to be annoying, aren't you? My guess is that Amelia is gone, or she wouldn't let you act in such an unjust way."

"Unjust? You don't deserve all the help you're getting," Zelgadis argued angrily, though Xellos didn't hear him, thus presented no reaction.

Xellos waited a few more minutes. Why was Amelia taking so long with his snack? More importantly, why was Filia taking so long with his antidote? "I'm going out," he finally decided and stood up. He walked a few steps, reaching in front of him until he found a wall. He followed it until he found a door and opened it. Then he walked into the closet. Zelgadis watched the scene, his previously upset face changing into a growing smile until he was laughing. He could hardly remember the last time he laughed that hard. Xellos couldn't perceive Zelgadis' laughter, but it was easy to guess it was there. "I meant to do that," lame excuses aside, Xellos managed to find the actual door and exited the room.

Finally calming his laughter, Zelgadis declared to no one in particular, "good riddance." He sat down and leaned back, rocking back and forth slightly on his chair. A few seconds passed and he swiftly got up. "What was I thinking? If Xellos gets into trouble Amelia will be very upset!" Not to mention that though Zelgadis would gladly accept the title of heartless mythical swordsman, he was not actually heartless and deep down thought it was kind of mean to let Xellos wonder around in his current state. He had to admit that the monster turned human had his fair share of bad times lately and his trials weren't finished yet.

xoxox xox xoxox

Zelgadis arrived just on time to see Xellos reaching the bottom of the stairs, using the banister to guide himself and making his way towards the inn's exit. At least he didn't trip and break his neck or something. The chimera was wondering how he should go about bringing Xellos back to the room, since if he was feeling particularly stubborn he might make the task of being dragged back rather difficult by throwing fireballs at the one doing the dragging. Plus fighting back would defeat the purpose of keeping Xellos safe to avoid the heartbreaking disappointment of failing the mission entrusted to Zelgadis by his beloved Amelia.

Then something peculiar took place near the inn's main entrance. There was a rather short woman standing there. She was just going in when Xellos was making his way down the stairs doing an admirably fine job of pretending he could see exactly where he was going. She had paused and waited for him, this was almost too easy. She glanced around the establishment; there were too many unrelated people there. Thus she took Xellos' hand without warning and proceeded to try to lead him away down the street. The woman had pointy ears; maybe she was the dragon Filia saw earlier, though she appeared to be a particularly tiny one. Her full height would barely reach Lina's shoulders. None the less, Zelgadis followed them.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos made his way down the street, led away by an unknown person. "Who are you supposed to be?" The hand was small and somehow feminine, but ordinary little girls didn't try to steal strangers away. "Are you with the Green Alchemist?" If she replied, Xellos wouldn't hear her, not that she had said a word anyway. Her grip was consistent as if Xellos' words weren't getting to her. "Are you a monster?" There was no reaction. "Are you a dragon?" Her grip tightened and her pace quickened. "So you are a dragon. A golden dragon I presume? What are those dragons thinking, sending children to do their bidding?"

The dragon woman glared, she was well over a thousand, certainly not a child despite her small stature. She tried to ignore Xellos' words. He couldn't hear her even if she did give him a piece of her mind anyway.

"Don't worry kid, I have no intentions of making you mess up your mission," Xellos grinned smugly. "I'll let you take me to your superiors. Then I'll beat them all." This was better than sitting around in a room, being guarded as if he was helpless, while Filia was off somewhere, probably getting into trouble without him. She might be stomping around in annoyance and screaming out insults directed at him in the public plaza because she was frustrated that she couldn't find an antidote. Or maybe she was crying, or maybe she was both throwing a temper tantrum and crying at the same time. Either way, Xellos wasn't going to sit around doing nothing. He didn't need a babysitter and he would prove it.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos and the unknown dragon made their way a considerable distance away from the town. Once there, the dragon let go of Xellos' hand and looked back at the roadside bushes. "You can stop hiding, I know you're there."

Zelgadis jumped out to the open road. "Don't misinterpret, I wasn't planning to stay hidden, I just wanted to see what your intentions were."

"Is it not obvious? I plan to kill Xellos," The dragon revealed.

"You're no child," Zelgadis observed.

"Indeed, I am over a thousand years old." The golden dragon recalled being seen by Filia, though it was only a quick glance. "Filia must know I was around, she looks so much like that other person, just as he resembles... Never mind, it makes no difference."

"What are you talking about?" Zelgadis demanded to know. "You sound almost as if your reason to do this is beyond the enmity between the golden dragons and the monsters. Who are you?"

"My name is Cleo," the dragon woman revealed, though it didn't provide any information for Zelgadis. "The golden dragons decided not to interfere with Xellos. Even if he is in a weakened state, he's still not helpless and he has strong allies. Furthermore, it seems Beast Master would prefer to keep him alive, thus the dragons decided not to pick a fight."

"Then this is a personal grudge," Zelgadis concluded.

"It doesn't matter if you understand or not, I only wish to know the truth. I wish to know if they are the same," Cleo roared. "If Xellos is really the same as him, he'll somehow overcome this!"

"The same as who?" Zelgadis demanded in confusion. He didn't have the slightest idea of what Cleo was going on about and she seemed more interested in fighting than in talking. She appeared to be tiny and almost fragile, but Zelgadis knew not to underestimate her, especially since she was a dragon.

"Fireball!" Xellos shot out a fireball that flew past Cleo, missing her by several feet. The flame rushed by close to Zelgadis, crashing into the bushes on the roadside and setting them ablaze.

"Watch where you're aiming at!" Zelgadis shouted in annoyance, his cape had been close to catching on fire.

"I don't know what's happening, but it's suspicious that I haven't been attacked yet," Xellos voiced. "Are you still here, dragon child? Hurry up and get the one behind this!"

"As tempting as it may be to sit back and watch Xellos helplessly get beaten up by a dragon, while he can't even hit a target point blank with a fireball, I can't really do that." Zelgadis unsheathed his sword and casted Astral Vine on it. "I promised someone that I would keep Xellos safe and I intend to keep that promise."

"Your face tells me you're not particularly fond of him, and yet you'd still take his side in battle? Why would such a terrible monster deserve such treatment?" Cleo growled in anger, her long fangs and sharp claws starting to make an appearance.

Impatient with the lack of response he was getting, or rather because he couldn't perceive any sort of response save for the scent of something burning near by, Xellos casted another spell. "Freeze arrow!"

Zelgadis had to jump out of the way of Xellos' spell, something that he was not happy about. "Stop it! If you can't aim, don't fire!" Of course, it was useless to say that, since Xellos couldn't hear him anyway.

"We've wasted enough time. If you choose to defend that terrible creature, then you'll die along with him!" Cleo was surrounded by a bright golden light as she transformed into her dragon shape, ready to put up a fierce fight.

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 073: Gigantic! Size Matters

Zelgadis had seen a few golden dragons before, with Filia and Phythan being some of them. By his calculations, Filia must be of average size in dragon form. Phythan was as tall as Gourry in elf form, but he was relatively small as a dragon. He was still large enough to carry the whole group on his back with ease and compared to a human, he was huge, but he was noticeably smaller than Filia. That was a sure hint that a dragon's size in elf form couldn't be used to determine their size in dragon form. Even if Zelgadis knew not to underestimate his opponent, he wasn't expecting this. Cleo was huge, much larger than any other golden dragon Zelgadis had ever seen. "You've got to be kidding me, this is her true form?"

Xellos didn't know exactly what was going on, but he knew there was a battle. There were several dragons stomping around judging by the vibrations on the ground, or at least that was his theory. He didn't know it was only one huge golden dragon rather than a group of dragons. Strangely, no attacks had reached him, thus he theorized that the dragons were distracted with someone else, though he didn't know who. If they weren't paying attention to him, thinking that he was harmless in his current state, then this was his opportunity to get ready to attack. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows, buried in the stream of time is where your power grows."

With a mighty roar, Cleo stomped towards Zelgadis, "it will be your end!" She let out a massive beam of laser breath that left a deep indentation in the land.

"Levitation!" Zelgadis dodged the powerful beam and retaliated with "Elmekia Lance!" Cleo easily countered with a laser that canceled out the Elmekia Lance and continued on a collision course with Zelgadis. He dodged the remainder of the laser breath, using the bright light of the attacks when they collided as a distraction to charge forward with his sword. Zelgadis only managed to make a small cut on Cleo's hand, as she quickly reacted by trying to claw him. She growled loudly, shooting out another laser breath that sent Zelgadis on the retreat once more.

While Cleo was focused on fighting Zelgadis, Xellos continued casting the Dragon Slave. "I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands. Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess."

Cleo stumped on the ground making it trembled as she dashed forward, slashing away at Zelgadis who kept narrowly dodging. She suddenly spun on one foot, swinging her tail. The long tail of golden scales collided harshly with Zelgadis, sending him to land hard on the ground. If he wasn't a chimera, he would have probably broken a bone. With another loud roar, Cleo tried to sink her claws into Zelgadis. His skin proved to be resistant enough, but the chimera was still in pain. He knew he better move when he saw Cleo raising her massive clawed foot to stomp on him. "Ray Wing!"

"Dragon Slave!" Zelgadis had retreated just in time to be out of the way of the Dragon Slave that caught Cleo unprepared. The effect was as usual, with a large crater on the ground, but the foe was not disintegrated this time.

The injured golden dragon emerged from the crater in bad shape, though she wouldn't be that way for long. "Resurrection!" Releasing a massive amount of healing magic, Cleo restored herself back to fighting conditions.

The enraged golden dragon targeted Xellos next, who felt the vibrations on the ground and knew there was something coming. He attempted to retreat enough to dodge it, but didn't get far away enough to avoid the hit from the dragon tail that threw him several feet away. Then a very large scaly claw picked him up from the ground.

Zelgadis realized that this battle would be even more difficult than he thought. Any opponent capable not only of surviving a Dragon Slave, but also of using high level healing with such speed and affectivity, was an extremely deadly foe. "Source of all souls which dwell in eternal and infinite. Everlasting flame of blue, let the power in my soul be called forth from the infinite..."

"What are you? Some kind of giant dragon?" Xellos struggled to get free, but could not. At this rate, that big dragon would crush him to dust. Where was the distraction from before? Did the dragons get rid of it?

"Ra Tilt!" Zelgadis released the powerful spell, which hit the target right on. With another loud roar, Cleo was forced to release Xellos, who was caught by Zelgadis' Ray Wing, which provided a much softer landing than he would have otherwise had. "You better not be hurt too badly or Amelia's going to be really upset."

There was someone casting a Recovery spell on Xellos. As soon as he had recovered a little, he also casted Recovery on himself to make the process faster. "Who are you?" He couldn't help it but to wonder. Filia would have given him a panic filled kiss by now, so it wasn't her. Lina would focus more on the fight than on the healing and Gourry couldn't use spells. Maybe it was Amelia who had come to find him.

"As if I can actually answer that right now," Zelgadis grunted.

"Resurrection!" After a repeat performance of the powerful healing spell, Cleo was once again on the attack. She charged towards Zelgadis and Xellos wildly.

"We have to move!" Zelgadis levitated away, grabbing Xellos by the wrist as he moved. At least there was just enough time to heal him.

Xellos only knew one person with such a stone-like grip. "Zelgadis? I never would have guessed."

"I wouldn't have guessed either," Zelgadis admitted, though he wasn't heard. "You need to get out of here; you can't fight this dragon if you can't see her coming."

"I'm going to cast another Dragon Slave to get rid of the reinforcements," Xellos decided. "By that I mean stop trying to drag me around and go create a distraction." Since when was he willing to team up with Zelgadis anyway? Well, he wasn't, it was more like he had no choice, though he hated to admit he wasn't going to get through this battle without help.

"Reinforcements? There are no reinforcements, just one ridiculously strong golden dragon," Zelgadis uselessly pointed out. 'The Dragon Slave and the Ra Tilt alone won't work. We'll have to hit her at the same time, but synchronizing our spells won't be so easy, especially because casting them is near impossible while we're stuck dodging lasers, claws and a tail like this,' Zelgadis thought.

"Didn't you hear me?" Xellos insisted impatiently, "let go of me, I'm going to cast the Dragon Slave."

"This would be easier if we could communicate somehow," Zelgadis was very frustrated with the way things were going. He would exhaust his energy before he managed to land an effective hit if things went on this way. Cleo flapped her large wings, creating a wind current strong enough to blow Zelgadis away, despite his considerable weight, being part rock golem.

"Fireball!" Xellos threw out an attack when he felt a strong wind that blew him away and would have thrown him further if not because Zelgadis still hadn't let him go. The fireball surprisingly hit its target, though with little effect.

"Wind..." Zelgadis got an idea. He moved away from the line of incoming laser breath attacks, creating a wind current in the same direction as they went. "You're terribly annoying, but you're not stupid, so you better understand this." He stopped, let go of Xellos, gave him a little push forward and created another gust of wind in the same direction. Then he created another minor wind current like a miniature whirlwind and placed it on Xellos' hand.

"What are you trying to do?" Xellos paused, giving the situation some thought. "I get it..."

"Let's see if it's true," Zelgadis created another gust of wind that moved upwards.

"Hit the dragons from above? Easy! Ray Wing!" Xellos flew straight up very high beyond the clouds.

xoxox xox xoxox

Back at the inn, Amelia returned with a picnic basket in her hands. "Sorry I took so long. One of the shops in town just imported supplies from far away. They were a bit pricey since this land is still recovering from the famine, though it's not as bad as the towns closest to the main farm lands. They had such yummy looking ice-cream sandwich cookies that I decided to bring some to go with the cold lemonade." Amelia paused in the middle of her speech.

The princess had entered the room and started talking immediately, focusing on trying to fill the atmosphere with positive emotions, since she expected the area to be tense, given that Zelgadis and Xellos had been alone in the room for a while and they didn't really get along. She didn't notice until she was done with her speech that there was no one there. "Zelgadis? Mr. Xellos?" Where could they have gone?

Without another second to waste, Amelia went down stairs, asked the inn keeper to please place her basket of snacks in the icebox for a while, then went off to search the town. She knew she could trust Zelgadis to try to get along with Xellos for her sake, but she still had an uneasy feeling about this. On the bright side, the room's condition had not shown any signs of a battle taking place, thus the apparent fact that they left willingly was at least somewhat comforting.

xoxox xox xoxox

Cleo charged forward, she swung her massive tail at Zelgadis, who dodged skillfully and responded with "Bomb Di Wind!" The wind attack hit Cleo head on, but it wasn't enough to damage her. Her attention stayed focused on Zelgadis, as she went on an angry rampage of wild claw slashes, until three subsequent Flare Arrow spells hit her from above. Zelgadis took the opportunity to send a Blade Haut attack Cleo's way, following up with yet another Blade Haut and finally Bomb Di Wind again. The wind attack hit Cleo with a remnant current flying past her as a signal of her location.

Cleo was once again focused on Zelgadis, assuming that Xellos' earlier Flare Arrows were just a lucky shot. Then another trio of consecutive attacks came from the sky, this time Freeze Arrows. The distraction was enough for Zelgadis to go all out, attacking with consecutive successions of Blade Haut. Cleo finally decided that staying on the ground was too troublesome. She didn't know how Xellos was managing to hit her from above, but she could take him down more easily and at the same time free herself of being the target of Zelgadis' Blade Haut, plus have better mobility, if she was flying. Thus the large golden dragon flapped her massive wings and took to the skies.

Flying was exactly what Zelgadis wanted Cleo to do. Zelgadis followed with Levitation, flying several feet above the ground, but still remaining below the dragon, trapping her along with Xellos, who was levitating above Cleo. Zelgadis sent out another Bomb Di Wind, this time making it noticeably stronger. He then aimed at Cleo's wings with a series of Flare Arrows.

Xellos could tell her position from the wind current created by the movement of her large wings and knew she was moving around, angrily chasing after Zelgadis most likely. The wind target signal was stronger this time, which meant it was time to cast a bigger spell. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows, buried in the stream of time is where your power grows. I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands."

Cleo was focused on Zelgadis' rapid attacks, trying to knock him out of the skies. The chimera had to put every bit of effort he had into dodging, sending out attacks as often as he could. Cleo appeared to be unaware of it, but several feet levitating above them, Zelgadis saw that Xellos had began to cast the Dragon Slave, which meant he understood the signal and it was time for Zelgadis to add in his own half of the battle tactics. Just as Cleo angrily reached forward to shoot a laser breath attack at point blank, Zelgadis let out a super charged light spell.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia was hurriedly making her way through the town streets, when she spotted a frustrated looking Filia, "Miss Filia!"

"Amelia?" Filia turned around at the voice, following the sound to spot Amelia making her way over down the street. "I've been searching for that dragon I saw earlier all over town, but I can't find her anywhere. I asked around and people say they saw a pointy eared blond leave town with a man, it was probably her." Filia didn't consider the possibility of Xellos being the man people saw, because he was supposed to be guarded by Amelia. Except for the fact that Amelia was right there without Xellos. "Where's Xellos?"

"Don't worry, he's with Zelgadis," Amelia assured. "I just went out to get a snack for Mr. Xellos. I'll try to help him endure these hard times as best I can."

"Thank you," Filia sincerely voiced. "I appreciate that you're keeping an eye on Xellos and being so helpful, but I thought Zelgadis didn't really get along with him."

"I'm sure they've put their differences aside and become friends by now." Amelia had a look on her face similar to the one she had when giving a justice speech. "In fact, even if the shadow of doubt invades my mind whenever I think about it, even if I can't help it but to feel a little concerned, I know it deep down in my heart that Zelgadis and Mr. Xellos have become great friends! That's why they weren't at the inn when I got back from the store. They must have decided to go out for a walk and get some fresh air like good friends would!"

Filia stared at Amelia. The golden dragon's face went from relatively calm, to concerned, to panicked. "They're gone? We don't know how strong the enemy may be! What if they both got kidnapped?"

"I really don't think that's what happened," Amelia assured. "The room showed no signs of a fight happening there."

"No fighting..." Filia couldn't really imagine Xellos and Zelgadis calmly going out for a walk. Xellos couldn't even tell where he was walking and Filia couldn't imagine Zelgadis being willing to lead him by the hand, very much less Xellos allowing it. Before Filia could decide if she should calm down or worry even more, a brilliant flash of light in the distance outside of town caught her attention. "What was that?"

"I don't know, but my sense of justice tells me that we should investigate!" Amelia bravely declared.

xoxox xox xoxox

Cleo was temporarily blinded by the bright light, her movements losing their accuracy, making it easy for Zelgadis to dodge her and cast a spell at the same time. "Source of all souls which dwell in eternal and infinite. Everlasting flame of blue, let the power hidden in my soul be called forth from the infinite..."

Xellos was almost done casting the Dragon Slave. "Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess..." Finishing the spell, he released its powerful force, "Dragon Slave!"

At the exact same time, Zelgadis released his spell as well, "Ra Tilt!"

The two powerful spells collided with Cleo simultaneously, attacking her from the physical and astral plane, leaving her with no escape. After the attacks had passed, the powerful dragon was surrounded by a bright light as she reverted to her elf form and fell to the ground below. She knew this was her end and she didn't want to die as a dragon, she didn't want the world to witness the death of another of her kind in their true form. She lay motionless in a pool of blood on the ground, feeling as if the broken pieces of her mind were fading.

"Zelgadis!" "Xellos!" Amelia and Filia arrived at the scene, rushing over to hug their respective boyfriends. All four of them landed, watching Cleo with perplexity. Except Xellos who couldn't actually look at anything for the time being, but he was glad to have Filia back. Though he would never admit it, if he was caught in the middle of a fierce fight, he was worried about her being caught in the middle of something worse.

Filia was the first to break the silence and address the dieing Cleo. "Were you the one who poisoned Xellos?"

"Poison?" Cleo choked out. "I didn't poison him, I cursed him. It seems he was already under the effects of a stronger curse, so it is no wonder that he didn't sense mine. It's his own fault for accumulating bad karma; I used the negative energy to curse him. Who knows for how long he would have to remain like that if the curse was only to run out when his bad karma does, a very long time, I would guess. However, it seems he will be undeservingly spared, because the death of the curse caster signifies the end of the curse."

Filia stared at the fallen golden dragon, who looked familiar somehow. "Cleo?"

"My name is Cleo Von Rupee, though I was born Cleo Ai Kant..." She closed her eyes as she continued speaking in a strained whisper. "Are you and him the same? Are you the people who freed that town? How could you be? Was it by the legendary Temple of Chronos or by some other means that you made your way to the past? I must know, before I die." The few people who had heard about the Temple of Chronos had various theories about it. Some said it was a time travel device, while others ascertained that its true function was to connect paths between alternate worlds.

"You really are the same Cleo," Filia realized. "You're the Cleo who was there with my grandmother and my father; you knew them before I existed. That time over nine hundred years ago... Yes, we're the same. We didn't find the Temple of Chronos and I cannot fully explain the means by which we were sent to the past, except by saying it was the will of a being of great power. That was not something we planned, we weren't thrown to that era of our free will, but we ended up getting involved. Are you here because the golden dragons sent you? Have you come alone?"

"The golden dragons are staying out of this, my actions are only representative of my own will," Cleo confirmed. Her voice became weaker and more strained as she went on. "After that time over nine hundred years ago, Narez continued to hold a great admiration for the mysterious human sorcerer and his golden dragon companion. You must have heard the name of Narez Von Rupee before..."

"Of course, who hasn't heard about the mysterious Narez?" Amelia immediately recognized the name. "He's never been known to have public autograph signings, but everyone knows the author of the Fluffy and Ice-cream comics."

"Bad things came from that occasion even if it looked as if it was good," Cleo bitterly revealed.

To be Continued

My Main Site: http://azurelight.net
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Slayers: Alive

Episode 074: Teasing! Among Friends

Clinging to life by a thin, breakable thread, Cleo made her final revelations. "Some of the humans that were released from that town nine hundred years ago were terribly bitter and wanted vengeance. They became the Dragon Slayer clan, which has existed through the generations. They especially hated Narez who wished to encourage the peace between humans and dragons through his art. Eventually, they killed him. Long before that, we feared for our son's life because of our past, so we kept our egg a secret. I gave the child to my cousin, thus Phythan Von Rupee took on the name of Phythan Ai Kant. Ironically, he doesn't resemble either Narez or me, but he is the splitting image of Narez's father when he still lived. How did he end up teaming up with a group that protects Xellos? I suppose I don't have the right to complain, since I was not the one who raised him, despite it being my duty as his mother."

Feeling her life extinguishing, Cleo slowly reached for a scroll she kept in her dragon robes. She was half golden dragon and half dimos dragon, albeit she looked like a golden dragon. The mixed blood gave her amazing strength, which was why she had survived that long after the deadly attack that pushed her to an inch of death. Despite the blood on her hands, the scroll strangely remained a pristine white. "I who have worked as a secretary in various aspects of the golden dragons' business for years, became the keeper of the main archives. The magical lists of golden dragon citizens revealed your name for a day not too long ago. I was the only one who noticed, as it was my job to watch over such things. I do not know why you wish to be a citizen of the golden dragons, Filia, but this scroll will grant you that if you sign it. It has no time limit, thus it will be valid until someone discovers you and removes you from the archives."

"With no current keeper on the job, it is likely that your name will slip by unseen. When you are removed from the archives, the signed scroll will disintegrate." Cleo took one last ragged breath. "In the end, I do not know what I was fighting for. To avenge my husband by condemning the one who saved the ancestors of his murderers long ago, since I knew I could not take on the elusive Dragon Slayers myself? Because I was frustrated at what my son had become? Or maybe because I had fallen into despair?" With those final ominous words of parting, Cleo's life finally ended.

As a result of the curse caster's death, Xellos recovered. He blinked in confusion as his sight returned to reveal an unexpected picture. "Just one? Did the other dragons escape?"

"There were no others," Zelgadis revealed. "We were only fighting this one the whole time."

"One dragon gave you this much trouble?" It looked like Xellos was back to his sarcastic mocking self. "I guess that's how it is for a weakling."

"You should talk! If it weren't for me, you'd be dead!" Zelgadis argued reproachfully.

"It was my Dragon Slave that defeated the enemy," Xellos retorted.

"No, it was my Ra Tilt that got her!" Zelgadis defended, though he knew it was actually the joined forces of both spells that were effective.

"The enemy wasn't defeated by the Dragon Slave or the Ra Tilt!" Amelia loudly declared with a definite voice that left no room for arguments. "It was the power of justice and friendship that made this victory possible!"

"There's no way..." Xellos felt his eye twitch in annoyance.

"Absolutely no way..." Zelgadis had a similar expression to Xellos.

With matching faces, they both declared in unison, "we're not friends!" The chorus caused them to glare at each other and reproach the other in a simultaneous, "don't copy me!" It was made funnier by the fact that even their expressions and twitching were in perfect synchronization.

As soon as Amelia managed to calm the fit of laughter that assaulted her and Filia, the Seyruun princess smiled happily. "You really have become friends, or close enough. I can tell that you've at least made peace with each other. I'm so proud of you Zelgadis!" Amelia had her shiny eyes expression of sweetness; it was Zelgadis' absolute weakness. Then she kissed him.

The chimera blushed as he returned the affection. He had a silly smiled on his face when they parted. "If it makes you happy, I guess it's okay."

Xellos snickered as he playfully elbowed Zelgadis, though he did so gently, remembering he was still human and Zelgadis was still part rock golem. "She's got you completely tamed."

Zelgadis returned the mocking expression, "you should talk."

Xellos held a look of unawareness that was probably real, "I have no idea what you're talking about." Never mind that his arm was currently around Filia's waist and he had not let her go for even a split second since she arrived. At least he could see and hear normally again, even if his empathy was still gone. Xellos assumed that it was something separate from the recent curse, something that he couldn't really explain, but was probably related to the time he spent trapped in the black cone gem.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia, Xellos, Zelgadis and Amelia returned to town among the snide remarks of Xellos and Zelgadis about who was being bossed around the most by their respective girlfriends. "Whatever I may do for Amelia, I do it of my own free will, because I want to make her happy."

"I don't even have to do anything for Filia, she does stuff for me," Xellos replied with what he thought was a smart comeback. If he still had his empathy, he would have sensed Filia's increasing anger and realized it was a very stupid comeback. The fact did eventually sink in, but it was too late, as Xellos' indication that he might have said something wrong, was Filia's action of giving him a nasty glare as she removed his arm from around her waist and quickened her pace to walk ahead of the group. "Moody dragon..." Xellos muttered in annoyance.

Zelgadis gave Xellos a smug look as he placed his arm around Amelia's waist and she immediately snuggled up close to him, leaning her head on his shoulder. Xellos, who knew he was being mocked, decided that a classic all purpose retort was in order and he stuck out his tongue. A look of disbelief invaded Zelgadis' features, before determination shone through and he responded in the same way.

Amelia sighed and slipped away from Zelgadis, who was surprisingly so absorbed in the task of blowing raspberries at Xellos that he didn't even notice. The Seyruun princess hurried ahead to catch up with Filia. The two women looked back one last time to find that Xellos and Zelgadis had stopped walking and where locked in a raspberry blowing glaring contest in the middle of the town's main street. Shaking their heads hopelessly, Amelia and Filia went on their way, leaving Zelgadis and Xellos to resolve their differences on their own.

Several minutes passed before Xellos and Zelgadis noticed that Filia and Amelia had left. They looked around their surrounding area and noticed that people were giving them odd looks. Then they finally spotted their missing girlfriends a considerable distance away, almost all the way back to the inn. Taking off in a desperate mad dash after them, they only managed to further convince the local town residents that they were both insane.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the inn, Filia borrowed a pen and signed up for a golden dragon citizenship in hopes that the name would slip by unnoticed in the magical lists of the archives, while Cleo was without a replacement. That wasn't enough to break Xellos' curse and Filia wasn't even sure if it was even necessary, but she might as well get that detail out of the way just in case. "I feel bad for Cleo. I wonder if Phythan has any idea about his parents."

"I don't know, it would be difficult to tell him, but he has the right to know the truth," Amelia voiced. "Maybe we can ask him about his family in friendly conversation and see how much he knows before deciding what to do with this information. A family are the people who help, protect and care, it doesn't matter if they're not related."

"I agree," Filia couldn't help it but to be reminded of her own family and the new family she had now, they were all the same to her.

Xellos and Zelgadis arrived, hurrying up the stairs to catch up with Filia and Amelia. They both stood at opposite sides with the two women in-between. They glared at each other, then wordlessly looked away, while Amelia and Filia exchanged knowing looks. Seeking a way to break the tension in the air, Amelia remembered her snack basket. "I got some refreshments earlier and left them in the icebox. Why don't we all have a nice snack now?" The suggestion was met with immediate unanimous approval, thus Amelia went off to get the basket with Zelgadis trailing behind her.

A few minutes later, Amelia and Zelgadis returned with the snacks to find Xellos and Filia kissing in the hallway. Accompanying them were Phythan and Onyx, who had just arrived at the inn after their little tour of the town. "It's the same..." Onyx quietly commented, while holding a comic book open to a certain page. The page depicted the main hero and heroine, Ice-cream and Fluffy sharing a moment of affection much like this one.

"They really are the same!" Amelia squealed with joy, which made their arrival obvious, thus Filia parted from Xellos and tried to pretend that she had simply been innocently standing next to him the whole time. "That reminds me, I need to get your autographs! To think that Fluffy and Ice-cream were both here all along!" Amelia gave the comic another glance, "that issue..."

"It's a special edition," Phythan explained. "Many artists have added to the comic series with their own interpretations of what Fluffy and Ice-cream looked like. In many versions, Fluffy is said to be an elf who was granted shape shifting power. It's kind of annoying how they censored the whole dragon and human thing when they realized where things were going with the two main characters. This issue is different, it's an original version with no edits where Fluffy is actually referred to as a dragon and they don't cut out the dramatic kiss scene right before Fluffy and Ice-cream go off to face the evil monster that has challenged them to a duel to the death!"

"You certainly know a lot about comics," Amelia observed.

"That's because my father drew the original version of the Adventures of Fluffy and Ice-cream," Phythan revealed with a noticeable sense of pride. "Many other artists have contributed to the series over time, but my father was the one who started it all, my biological father, I mean."

Amelia and Filia were immediately in attention. "Your biological father?" Filia questioned. She had thought that Phythan didn't know about his parents. Then again, that was before Filia and Xellos messed around with history, leading to the creation of the Fluffy and Ice-cream comics.

"I was raised by my mother's cousin, so Tifa is still related to me, though a little more distantly, but it doesn't really matter," Phythan explained. "My biological parents passed away a long time ago, their names were Narez Von Rupee and Cleo, who was previously of the Ai Kant family before she became a Von Rupee. So technically, even though I've always gone by as Phythan Ai Kant, my real name would be Phythan Von Rupee. I guess that doesn't really matter since I'm not inscribed as an official golden dragon anymore anyway. That was all supposed to be a secret before for some reason, but I think my mom and dad, the ones that raised me I mean, were probably just worrying too much, thinking I would get picked on for being an orphan or something."

Phythan knew part of his origin, though not the whole story. Amelia and Filia nodded to each other in a silent agreement that what he knew was enough for the time being. Xellos wasn't sure what kind of hidden communication was going on between Filia and Amelia, but he had something to inquire about from Phythan, which did not include learning about his family tree. "Phythan, report on Onyx's progress."

"Yes, sir!" Phythan did a funny little salute. "We went around town and Onyx said she was very bored. I showed her to a comic shop and she seemed right at home there. We talked about comics and she knew a lot about the characters and plot for someone with amnesia, I mean for someone who was only recently created. Then when she saw the special edition of the Fluffy and Ice-cream comic she smiled and I got it for her-ow!" Phythan's hastily spoken report was interrupted when Onyx stepped on his foot, an action which surprised everyone.

Onyx didn't even look annoyed, she had the same blank look she always had in her face, though her dark eyes looked a little more focused. "I guess no one likes being spoken of as if they're not even present," Xellos stated while he tried to look for any further indications of a thought process reflected on Onyx's expressionless face. She liked comics and some of her memories about them resurfaced. Maybe having Phythan keep an eye on her turned out to be a better idea then Xellos expected. He had to admit that figuring out the amnesiac girl would be easier if he could sense her emotions, or whatever small traces of emotions she might have.

Yet with his empathy gone and giving no signs of a possible return, Xellos would simply have to rely on more conventional observations. "We're making progress." Xellos said more so to himself than anyone else, with Onyx's response consisting of giving him a blank look before going back to flipping through her comic. This was Xellos' first mission since he started working for Beast Master again, and he certainly didn't want to mess it up.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, up on the roof of the inn, Lina and Gourry had slept through all the most major happenings of the day. They had actually woken up a short while ago, but they were very comfortable so they didn't move. It was good to take some time off to relax every now and then.

Gourry seemed skilled in spotting all kinds of shapes among the clouds, many of which Lina didn't quite understand. "That one looks like you casting the Dragon Slave."

Lina tried to see herself in the clouds but couldn't. "It looks more like cotton candy to me, all of them do."

"That's because you're always hungry right after waking up," Gourry concluded.

"I guess it could be that," Lina agreed. She had gotten comfortable enough with her current position so that she could talk to Gourry without having her face turn into a fireball, despite the fact that she was still half laying on him. "You know me pretty well." She shifted slightly to see his face, hovering over him.

"You know me really well to," Gourry smiled up at Lina.

"I guess so," Lina felt her blush coming back. It was more difficult to control the coloration of her face when she was actually looking at Gourry straight in the face. She found that she couldn't go back to her previous position and stop looking at him either. Then she realized she wanted to kiss him and the second the thought even began to cross her mind, her blush went from clearly noticeable to alarmingly red.

"Are you okay, Lina? Your face is very red," Gourry inquired with concern as if he had no idea that he was the cause of Lina's current facial pigmentation. "Are you hot?" He was referring to the weather of course.

"Ho-hot?" Lina questioned in a nervous stutter.

"Are you?" Gourry innocently asked. "Because it feels like there's a nice breeze."

Lina shook her head trying to clear her thoughts. "I'm not hot, just hungry!" She snapped defensively. That's right, she was hungry and it was probably the lack of food that was giving her those crazy thoughts about kissing Gourry. Then again, he was her fiance and he had kissed her before. Given all those circumstances and the convenient fact that they were alone, there really would be nothing wrong if she did kiss him. He was obviously okay with having her close to him, a thought that made Lina take extra notice that she was somehow now completely on top of Gourry and he had both his arms wrapped tightly around her. When did their positions change to that? She could feel her heart pounding wildly as if it wanted to burst right out of her chest.

Finally, Lina couldn't stand it anymore. She went ahead and kissed Gourry. He seemed to be taken by surprise for a split second that Lina would actually take the initiative, but he soon gladly responded, intensifying their kiss. That was how they were found when Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Phythan and Onyx arrived at the rooftop. Amelia thought it would be the perfect place to have a snack while enjoying the nice weather, the relative calm of the town and the cool autumn breeze. It was just Amelia and Zelgadis' luck that day that they kept walking in on kissing couples.

Feeling the unmistakable sensation of being watched, Lina parted from Gourry and slowly turned her blushing face towards the others. "What are you looking at?" She jumped to her feet immediately and went on the offensive, "Fireball!"

Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos, Filia, Phythan and Onyx went on an immediate retreat back down stairs, away from the wrath of the embarrassed Lina Inverse. In her haste, Amelia dropped the snack basket, which Lina picked up. Without another word, Lina began to devour its contents relentlessly, while Gourry nervously looked on. He wanted to ask her to share, but wasn't sure if it was the safest thing to do right now.

xoxox xox xoxox

After the peculiar detour was done and over with, the group later left town, to continue on their way to Seyruun. Thus Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Phythan and Onyx were on the road again. There was an unspoken rule that no one dared to reference, but everyone knew and followed, that the event they witnessed between Lina and Gourry at the roof of the inn should by no means be brought up or even hinted at. It seemed that Lina was content enough with pretending she wasn't caught kissing Gourry and everyone else was content enough with pretending they had no reason to fear for their lives to be ended at the hands of the fiery redhead.

Time passed with stops at inns and some camping along the way, until eventually the group reached the majestic kingdom of Seyruun. Happy to be home, Amelia led the way to the castle where Philionel welcomed his daughter and her friends. Introductions were exchanged in relation to those who had not met Phil before and the whole group settled comfortably into their usual rooms at the castle. They weren't sure what course of action they should take next, but knew that the way would somehow present itself as it always did. For the time being, they would relax for a little longer.

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 075: Ghost! Unfinished Business

The sun sunk in the horizon and night fell over the majestic kingdom of Seyruun. Lina and Gourry were happily raiding the kitchen determined to consume everything that had not been sent off to help supply the other lands. Amelia and Zelgadis were taking a moonlit walk through the gardens, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. Phythan and Onyx had been given permission from Amelia to delight in reading her comic book collection, including her priced special edition full series of 'Fluffy and Ice-cream: Justice For All'. It was a peculiar side story where the duo acted as both detectives and lawyers, solving various crimes and defending the innocent.

With everyone occupied in their own tasks, that left Xellos and Filia with some rather peaceful free time on their hands, or so they thought. Xellos finished writing a few notes to send Beast Master, as she wanted him to keep her informed in Onyx's process. He was seated at a desk in his purple decorated room at Seyruun castle, which was filled with too many hints of pink for his liking, thanks to Filia moving most of her furniture there.

Filia claimed it was so that Onyx could take her room and that they wouldn't occupy too many rooms in the castle, which had plenty of vacant guest rooms anyway. She also claimed it was so that she could keep an eye on Xellos, to make sure he didn't cause trouble. Xellos knew it was simply because, one way or another, they always ended up sharing a room somehow, so she finally figured it was useless to try to pretend it wasn't true. His dear dragon was getting smarter...

Filia was brushing her hair in front of a mirror, humming cheerfully as she did. She set the brush down, put her hat on and got up, making her way to the window so she could gaze at the calming night sky. She peeked out and saw something unexpected, there was an adorable little kitten, small enough to fit in the palm of her hand, sitting on the windowsill. The tiny creature was white with brown and black spots and had golden eyes. "Aw," Filia reached out to pet the calico kitten, but the little one swiftly climbed up her arm, to her shoulder and jumped under her hat. Before she could retrieve the kitten from under her hat, Filia saw something else that took her by surprise. There was a semi transparent figure outside, floating near the castle. 'A ghost in Seyruun? I thought such beings would have trouble entering here.' Filia mused. Then the ghost headed straight for her all of a sudden at full speed and she didn't have time to dodge it as it flew, literally, into her.

Xellos took a moment to look over his finished report while the shadow of Filia could be seen from behind over his desk. He didn't move, pretending he didn't notice her. Maybe she wanted attention, which he was all too willing to give. The lighting spell, which was much better than candles to be used as light for writing, was starting to ware off. The brightly glowing orb floating overhead finally flickered and went out. Xellos felt Filia's hands on his shoulders from behind. He relaxed into her touch, but only for a few seconds before it became apparent that there was something wrong.

A pained whisper escaped Filia, "no..." Then her hands tightened around Xellos' neck as she lifted him off the chair. He tried to make her let go, but it took a few seconds for her grip to be loosened. "Run," Filia breathed, "run away!" She held her head in pain, screaming at the top of her lungs.

Xellos lit up the room with another light spell. The orb floated over their heads producing enough brightness for it to be easy to see Filia's face going from desperate to enraged, from fighting, to possessed. "Let go of her!" Xellos wasn't sure who or what was possessing Filia, but he wasn't about to let it take her. Besides, how was this even possible in Seyruun? Shouldn't the city have defenses against this?

"Xellos..." Filia spoke in an ominous voice. Her fangs were showing, her eyes were glowing, her tail was out and her hands were covered in golden scales, culminating in sharp claws. "My Xellos... join me in death!"

She tried to slash at him, with Xellos narrowly avoiding the attack. An exorcism spell would be good right about now, which meant finding Amelia was probably a good plan. "If you want to kill me so badly, you'll have to catch me!" Xellos taunted as he hurried out of the room and down the dim hallways of the castle with Filia close behind.

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Kally was walking down the hallway with a basket of various medical herbs in her arms when Xellos saw her. "I need an exorcism!"

"Oh, hello Mr. Xellos, Miss Filia," Kally cheerfully greeted. Though she was terrified of octopi, she wasn't easy to scare otherwise and she seemed to be a bit slow in taking notice of things, despite being such a genius with medicine.

Xellos ducked as Filia tried to claw his head off, then jumped when she attempted to trip him with her tail. "Never mind the greetings, exorcise her!"

"My apologies Mr. Xellos, I cannot remember why, but I have a feeling I should be upset at you for some reason." Kally mused, she had ran around in a panic after Xellos had said 'pulpo' on that day some time ago, a word that translated to octopus and made Kally think of her fears. All her wild running and screaming eventually made her pass out. She remembered everything up to the last few seconds before Xellos said the terrifying word, but her rampage was a blank. Even so, she did hold a certain amount of inexplicable resentment towards Xellos. "I'm afraid you'll have to endure your relationship troubles on your own."

Xellos narrowly dodge Filia's laser breath. "I'm not having relationship troubles. Filia is having possession troubles!" He argued.

"Nonsense," Kally shook her head in disbelief. "Ghosts cannot easily enter Seyruun and possess someone. This city is protected. I'm sure Miss Filia is simply angry at you. If you think hard you might be able to figure out why. Have you forgotten any birthdays, anniversaries, or any special dates recently?" Kally paused, realizing that Xellos was several feet away, dashing down the hallway with Filia still following him. She shrugged and continued on her way, this was none of her business anyway.

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Kally was of no help, though Xellos was reasonably sure that she did know a few exorcism spells. Of course, that was useless if she wasn't willing to cast them. He made a mental note to say octopus in her presence at some point in the future. Xellos ran for his life, then rolled for his life when he reached the stairs and tripped on them, wishing he had casted a levitation spell instead. He painfully scrambled to his feet and continued his dash through the lower levels of the castle. Wasn't the kitchen near by? If there were evil spirits in Seyruun, then something had to be wrong. It might be a good idea to share this information, thus Xellos hurried into the kitchen where he knew he would find Lina and Gourry.

"Back off, Xellos!" Lina didn't even give Xellos the chance to speak. "The chocolate ice-cream pie is mine and so is the rest of the food!" Lina loudly growled as she aggressively hurled silverware at Xellos. The knives, forks and even the spoons, became embedded on the wall behind Xellos in a shape outlining his silhouette.

Realizing that he would be in double the danger with not one, but two wild women trying to assassinate him, Xellos hastily retreated out of the kitchen.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos continued his run for dear life with Filia still chasing after him. He hurried out of the castle, running past Kalio, who was standing guard at the back exit that led to the royal gardens. The castle guard sighed sadly, "it seems that everyone has a special someone except me. Maybe one day I'll have someone to lovingly chase me under the moonlight."

Not catching anything from what Kalio said, as he was far too focused on the task of making a speedy get away, Xellos ran across the royal gardens. He jumped over the sign that read 'Don't step on the flowers. -Aeris' disregarding the gardener's request by trampling several white and yellow flowers as he hurried away.

Xellos finally spotted Amelia and Zelgadis, happily walking around at a slow pace, hand in hand; laughing about some joke only they could understand. "Amelia, exorcise Filia!" Xellos ran in circles around Amelia and Zelgadis, with Filia still chasing him.

"Mr. Xellos, what did you do to make Miss Filia so upset? You should apologize at once!" Amelia commanded.

"I'm telling you, she's possessed!" Xellos argued, still running in circles around Zelgadis and Amelia, with Filia continuously chasing him.

Amelia placed her hands on her hips in an upset way. "How could Miss Filia be possessed here in the heart of Seyruun? Not only that, but I'm sure she knows exorcism spells. Miss Filia would not be an easy target to possess. I think you just don't want to admit you've done something to upset her!" Amelia adamantly insisted.

"Filia really is possessed!" Xellos argued uselessly. Why was it that no one believed him? Just because he often upset Filia enough to make her look as if she was possessed by something fierce, didn't mean people should disregard it when he told them she really was possessed. "Can't you cast an exorcism spell just in case? If it turns out I'm wrong then I promise to apologize!"

"Somehow, I don't think you're going to keep your word," Zelgadis doubted.

"I don't think so either," Amelia initially agreed, before giving it some further thought. "Even so, it's only fair to give Mr. Xellos a chance." She casted an exorcism spell on Filia. If she wasn't possessed it would be harmless anyway.

Filia stopped running suddenly in front of Amelia and Zelgadis. Xellos was so focused on keeping his legs moving that he finished running the full circle around them until he bumped into Filia's back. He stumbled back and watched Filia as she stood there with her fists clenched, tail swinging left and right, her whole body twitching with tension. "Get out!" The golden dragon screamed at the top of her lungs. A ghostly figure floated out of Filia, but it was only visible for a moment before it went back in. "No! Get out! Get out... Let me go..." Filia's countenance changed to pure evil and she let out a mighty roar worthy of a golden dragon. "Join me in death, my Xellos!"

Saying 'I told you so' was usually very satisfying, especially for Xellos, but not on that occasion. "You see? I told you she was possessed, I told you so!" After making such a declaration, Xellos resumed his previous activity of running for his life.

Amelia and Zelgadis watched on in shock as Xellos ran all over the gardens, being chased by a murderous Filia. "She really was possessed," Amelia reiterated.

"That was unexpected," Zelgadis admitted.

Amelia nodded, still in shock. "I guess that means we should help out?"

"If you want to," Zelgadis voiced.

"Coming through!" Xellos was running right towards them, causing Zelgadis and Amelia to jump left and right so Xellos could run past them, with Filia chasing him closely.

"Wait up Miss Filia! Let me try that exorcism again!" Amelia joined the mad dash, with Zelgadis tagging along after her.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos entered Seyruun castle once again, in hopes of losing Filia in its many hallways. Lina and Gourry were just coming out of the kitchen, with Lina holding a chocolate cake, covered in sugary white frosting, with cherries on top. "This will be my midnight snack later," she happily decided in a song-like voice as she practically skipped back to her room with a satisfied stomach.

Lina was about to turn the corner, when Xellos suddenly showed up running as if his very life depended on it, which it did. "Out of the way!" Xellos was followed by Filia, who was followed by Amelia, who was followed by Zelgadis, all of them running in a wild stampede.

"Eep!" Taken by surprise, Lina jumped in a startle and tossed the cake she was carrying into the air. "No!" The world seemed to move in slow motion for the gluttonous sorceress as she watched her precious cake land on Gourry's head. "My cake! You'll pay for this!" The furious Lina ran after the group, with a cake covered Gourry following after her.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the Seyruun castle library, Onyx was situated at one of the tables reading a comic, while Phythan sat next to her drawing. He was rather talented in art and enjoyed it very much. It was his dream to become a famous comic artist like his father. His only problem was that though his art was beautiful, he wasn't very good at coming up with interesting stories to tell and often ended up drawing random scenes.

Phythan paused and examined his pencil. He glanced around for a pencil sharpener and spotted one on a neighboring table. He walked over to get it, picked it up and quietly stood over the trash can, that was easily visible next to the entrance, and proceeded to carefully sharpen his pencil. He softly tapped his tail on the floor while his attention was focused on his pencil sharpening task. His tail sometimes came out when he was drawing. It was an automatic habit akin to someone sticking out their tongue on the side of their mouth when in deep concentration.

Xellos continued his desperate exploration of Seyruun castle, arriving at the royal library. He dashed in and accidentally stepped on Phythan's tail as he went, causing the dragon to let out a very loud painful roar. Phythan's pain was made worse when Xellos' little parade of chasers mimicked the action. Filia, Amelia, Zelgadis, Lina and Gourry all dashed by, following Xellos' every step a little too closely. They didn't seem to notice their action in their haste and continued chasing after Xellos between the book shelves with no librarian working after hours to tell them to stop running and be quiet.

"My tail, my poor tail!" Phythan cried pitifully. A loud noise invaded the library as a shelf was knocked over with books and dust flying all around. The shelf collided with the one next to it creating a domino effect that all those at the library scrambled not to be crushed by.

In the hallway outside of the royal library, the group took a deep breath of relief, with some coughing at the dust that was still in the atmosphere. The trance of relief at having escaped being crushed was soon broken when Filia once again growled, "join me in death, my Xellos!" She continued where she left off, once again trying to murder Xellos, who was once more running for his life.

The exasperated Xellos ran away followed by the murderous Filia, who was followed by the excited Amelia, who was followed by the vexed Zelgadis, who was followed by the angry Lina, who was followed by the confused Gourry, who was followed by the upset Phythan, who was followed by the curious Onyx, who was the slowest runner of the group.

xoxox xox xoxox

The sound of yelling in the hallway alerted prince Philionel that something was wrong. He sat up on his massive bed and adjusted his light blue hat with little yellow stars that matched the fabric of his pajamas. Curiously, Phil listened to the voices in the hallway, recognizing them.

"Snap out of it!" A desperate Xellos.

"Join me in death!" A murderous Filia.

"Stay still!" An excited Amelia.

"What could have caused this?" An annoyed Zelgadis.

"My cake!" A distressed Lina.

"Wait for me!" A confused Gourry.

"My tail hurts!" An agonizing Phythan.

"This is fun..." An amused yet monotonous Onyx.

All the owners of the voices invaded the royal chambers when Xellos dashed in, with the whole parade still after him. They ran around Phil's room creating a loud ruckus, knocking things over and making a big mess. Then just as suddenly as they arrived, they left, dashing out the door in the same order that they came. Philionel was left in open mouth puzzlement for several seconds before he cheerfully declared. "I don't know what's going on, but you're all so full of energy I want to join in!" Then he ran after them.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos' random running next led him to the Seyruun castle storage basement area. He reached out to open a large door, finding it to be locked. He turned around just in time to see Filia swinging her claws at him and dodged. Instead of reaching Xellos, Filia's sharp dragon claws collided with the lock on the door, breaking it. Xellos took the opportunity and dashed further into the deeper levels of the basement.

Xellos and all those after him arrived at a large storage room cramped with boxes. He ran for his life leaping and dodging the merchandise as if it was some kind of obstacle course. At the center of the storage room, protected by a magical barrier, there was the magical pearl known as the fickle wish granter, which was said to contain the spirit of a heartbroken mermaid. Amelia threw another exorcism spell at Filia, this time with a good amount of extra power to it. The possessed Filia dodged it and Amelia's magic collided with the force field around the pearl, causing it to short circuit and fade out.

The pearl glowed brightly as a ghostly mermaid appeared floating before it. Stunned beyond words, Xellos, Filia, Amelia, Zelgadis, Lina, Gourry, Phythan, Onyx and Philionel watched on in shock. "Lost spirit, I sense that your pain is very much like my own. You too suffer with a broken heart. I thought that no one could understand my sorrow, but you surely can. Allow me to call you my sister and let us find in each other the courage to finally pass on!" The mermaid ghost extended her hand towards Filia.

The ghost within Filia came out, finally releasing her from the possession. Upon closer inspection, the ghost looked familiar. "Saramina?!" Xellos jumped back. He thought she was gone forever, but she came back to haunt him after all.

"That mermaid... that peaceful light around her... I feel that this person truly understands me. Yes, dear lady, I shall call you my sister!" Saramina's ghost glanced at Xellos. "I'm done chasing after you Xellos, my heart will no longer be broken because of you. It is time for me to move on!" Saramina and the mermaid ghosts faded away, and the magical wish granting pearl dissolved into dust, which also disappeared.

"I'm finally free," Filia took in slow calming breaths. "It seems that when I exorcised Saramina, I only destroyed her zombie body and her spirit was left to wander."

"How did she enter Seyruun?" Amelia inquired in concerned confusion.

A little calico kitten popped out of Filia's hat and jumped down to the floor. The tiny creature was surrounded by black light as it took on a different form to reveal her true identity as Lord Beast Master Zelas Metallium. "The answer to that is quite simple, I escorted her here. As for my purpose in doing so, that holds an easy explanation too, I wanted some amusement. Well, it's been fun; I bid you all sweet nightmares!" Fading away to the astral side, Zelas was gone.

To be Continued

My Main Site: http://azurelight.net
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Slayers: Alive

Episode 076: Extras! More Side Quests

It was a brand new day in Seyruun, where Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Phythan and Onyx were, mostly, hanging around outside idly enjoying the nice weather. Onyx was reading comics inside the castle sitting next to the window, as she had stated that she disliked being outdoors. At least the window was close enough to the area where the others were, so that she was somewhat 'hanging out' with them, for the sake of humoring Amelia. Phythan was sitting outside leaning his back against the wall next to the same window, sketching on a drawing pad.

Lina and Gourry were happily devouring the contents of a picnic basket, though not with their usual rush, they were savoring the treats. Amelia was showing Zelgadis a family album and explaining who was who among her relatives. Filia was sitting under the comfortable shade of a tree with Xellos laying down with his head on her lap. They seemed to be locked in some kind of petty debate about if the current season could be more properly referred to as autumn or fall. Their arguments consisted mostly of insulting each other, which had little to do with the topic at hand. Even so, they weren't particularly loud this time, as there was a lazy and amused tone to their quarrel.

Kally arrived on the scene with an oversize backpack upon her shoulders. "Miss Amelia and guests, I have come to bid you farewell."

"The same for me," Kalio joined in as well, carrying similar luggage.

"You're leaving?" Amelia inquired in surprise. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to a far away place called Amor Resort to work as the local doctor!" Kally revealed with excitement. "It's always good to have a doctor in those big amusement parks, just in case. Plus the place gets so many different visitors from all across the land; I'm sure it'll be a very interesting and inspiring experience."

"I have decided to accompany my sister on her journey and hopefully become a better swordsman to serve Seyruun upon my return," Kalio added his purpose to the explanation.

"I wish you both the best of luck on your journey and quests!" Amelia happily declared. Thanking her for the words of encouragement, the siblings Kally and Kalio Kalamari went on their way.

"Amor Resort," Xellos mused aloud. "Maybe I should have a word with Celo about this curse." Said and done, Xellos summoned Jarde and sent him away with a letter to Celo. Several minutes passed as the group continued their previous activities, until Jarde returned with a reply letter. "Honorable general Xellos: If you have the time let us discuss the matters concerning your curse in person. Respectfully, Celo Metallium - Amor Resort Manager." Xellos crumpled up the paper and tossed it away.

"Don't litter, raw garbage!" Filia scolded him.

Xellos gave her an exasperated look from his position resting his head on her lap. "I don't want to go all the way back to Amor Resort."

"Too bad, because you're going!" Filia got up, which forced Xellos to get up as well. "Our progress has been lazy lately. There were no clues waiting for us here, we need to go out and find clues! We need to stop the Green Alchemist's evil plans and break the curse before Zelas loses her patience!" Filia determinately declared, her speech being received with groans from everyone else except Amelia. "I know you're all tired after all our adventuring and usually we get to take a break after fighting two major antagonists, but the big boss still eludes us. We need to settle this matter. For that purpose we must return to the place where our adventure began, Amor Resort!"

The speech at least had an effect on Amelia, "Yes, let us journey for justice!" The princess cheered loudly. "We should leave right away!" Thus it was decided and another journey began.

xoxox xox xoxox

After giving their farewells to Philionel, Filia and Amelia led the way out of Seyruun. Xellos and Zelgadis were following them, then Lina and Gourry and finally Phythan and Onyx. That was until Lina realized that as the leader, she should be the one walking first and hurried past Amelia and Filia. They passed through a park full of children that were playing and were joined by Fang, who abandoned his game of fetch to follow them in fox form. "Mr. Fang... I didn't expect to find you here, but if you want to travel with us, you're welcome to." Amelia petted his head, while Zelgadis pouted, but said nothing.

"Bye Mr. Fang! Bye Princess Amelia! Bye Miss Dragon Spooker! Bye everyone!" The kids gathered around to wave goodbye as the travelers continued making their way out of the city, with Lina twitching slightly in annoyance.

"I dislike children," Onyx muttered under her breath, which seemed to be a normal monster-like thing to say, except for the fact that she wasn't a monster.

Remembering that he was supposed to be figuring out what was sealed in her memories and if it was of any use, Xellos made a mental note to keep a discrete eye on Onyx and observe the details of her behavior. This was especially necessary with Fang around, as he would most likely be reporting to Beast Master. Xellos knew that his presence in Seyruun was no coincidence. In fact, the whole group seemed to be silently aware that Fang had to be there for a reason, though they didn't directly address the issue, instead allowing him to simply join their little traveling group. If he had any intentions of sharing information, he would do it of his own accord and if he didn't, then asking would serve no purpose.

"You don't?" Phythan asked somehow surprised. "I don't mind them at all," he smiled cheerfully. Ah yes, the dragon was useful after all, maybe he could bring out a little more of Onyx's past self.

"Children need but cannot give, for they are helpless to do so until they are old enough to be capable. I despise sacrifice without reward; it is unfair that they to whom one owes nothing dare to ask for something. Helplessness is not inspiring of true kindness but only pity and I hold no pity to give. Those who need are not more precious than those who have, simply because they need. Helplessness and misfortune are not crimes, nor are they achieved on purpose by any sane person, but they are not virtues to be rewarded." Those were probably the longest sentences Onyx had so far spoken outside the topic of comic books. "It is best to depart from such a place, to abandon the situation that can yield nothing." Depart from such a place? Was she almost remembering the place where she came from?

"What do you mean?" Phythan inquired in innocent confusion. "I suppose it's okay to wish for a fifty-fifty, give and take, but doesn't the satisfaction of kindness balance things out?"

"Those who are dissatisfied cannot satisfy others. It is what prevents them from achieving such a rare form of selfless satisfaction." Onyx frowned for several seconds before regaining her blank expression and saying nothing more.

'For someone without memories she speaks in an almost philosophical tone, when she does speak at all about something other than comics.' Filia mused while she gave Xellos a concerned look. Onyx had ran away from somewhere, but where and why? A soft breeze blew and Onyx automatically tugged a strand of wavy black hair behind her ear, before putting up the hood of her cloak over her head. She had white wing earrings that Filia had not noticed before. They looked like angel wings, but they were probably supposed to be crafted after Zelas' true form wings. Filia wondered what the Lord of Nightmares gave this girl, who she was before losing her memories and how she ended up in such a broken state as she was when they first saw her?

Just outside of Seyruun, Lina's group caught up to Kally and Kalio. Xellos took the opportunity to say the word 'octopus', which caused Kally to take off in a mad dash, screaming at the top of her lungs. "You shouldn't have said that! Wait up, sis, don't be scared, it'll be alright!" Kalio ran after her, while Xellos snickered and Filia gave him a nasty glare. Aside from that, the journey towards the port, then to Amor Resort. went by relatively uneventful.

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Onyx, Phythan, Kally, Kalio and Fang all arrived at Amor Resort in a seemingly peaceful day. They made their way to the main street where they would journey to find Celo. Kally needed to report to him about her job and Xellos had a clue to his cure to inquire about. It was true that when Celo first offered to reveal the cure, Xellos threatened to kill him, but now it seemed pretty obvious that he should ask about it.

The monster turned human let out an exasperated breath. Where did that sense of pride that pushed him to figure this out on his own disappear to? Since when was he willing to accept assistance, as opposed to manipulating others to fulfill his purposes? Maybe he had remained in human form for far too long, it was all the more reason to make haste and change back to his normal monster self.

The group made their way to the area where Celo's clock tower used to be, which was reduced to practically nothing after the battle against the Green Alchemist's minions when they were last at Amor Resort. The place had been seemingly restored to how it used to be, with a thick dark forest and a rickety clock tower in its center. However, upon closer inspection, it became evident that the trees were plastic.

Before they reached the clock tower, the group was interrupted by the arrival of a familiar jellyfish woman who attempted to tackle Phythan in an amorous hug. "My precious dragon has returned to me!"

"Oh no!" Phythan moved out of the way quickly and ran in circles around the rest of the group with Medusa chasing after him. "Stop chasing me!"

"Never! You are my destined one, I know it!" Medusa adamantly insisted. "Just give me a chance!"

"Maybe you should give her a chance, Mr. Phythan, it's only fair." Amelia suggested, though she wasn't sure herself if she was entirely serious about it.

"Fair?" Phythan came to a sudden halt, which caused Medusa to run into his back. The jellyfish quickly jumped to her feet and wrapped her tentacles around Phythan in a tight embrace. Yet strangely, he didn't seem to notice as he was in deep thought. "I don't want to be unfair, but I just don't like jellyfish people that way. Am I vain?"

Sensing an opportunity, Medusa feigned crying. "Oh, you're so terribly vain! How dare you call yourself an agent of justice? You're too cruel, superficial and absolutely unjust!" Never mind that her interest in Phythan was only based on the fact that he was handsome.

Phythan gasped in horror, "unjust?" He looked like he was having some sort of emotional breakdown. "I'm unjust? I thought that I was being fair and free of prejudice when I took on this internship to better understand monsters before judging them, but I've been deceiving myself all along. How can I uphold justice if I cannot look past species in the personal matters of my life? Alright, I've decided!"

Medusa's eyes turned into metaphorical hearts, while the group watched the strange twist take place with perplexed expressions. "Does that mean you'll become my husband?"

"Husband?" Phythan's look of horror returned to his face, overshadowing his determination.

"Yes, my husband, a good defender of justice needs a loyal ally," Medusa tried to explain as a matter of fact. "How can you defend justice without a suitable wife by your side to help you accomplish your dreams?"

"My dreams..." Phythan gave it some thought. "I dream to one day become a famous comic artist and inspire people to pursue noble adventures to spread goodwill and justice, just like my father did with his stories about Fluffy and Ice-cream. I can draw the comics, but I'm not good at coming up with interesting plotlines. Taking that into consideration, a suitable wife that will help me accomplish my dreams would be someone who's very good at coming up with interesting plots. If I choose a fiance based on talent rather than species, then no one can say I'm being vain, because intellect, creativity and imagination are not superficial traits. That's it! I'll become the fiance of the one who can come up with the best plot outline!"

"Good idea," Phythan jumped in surprise at the sudden voice from right next to him. Everyone else had seen Celo and Tiffany's arrival except Phythan who was so focused on his speech. "We can have a contest to broaden your options and people can buy tickets to listen to the contestants sharing their stories."

"You're a businessman to the end," Lina commented. "Speaking of business, how about giving me a raise in my bodyguard salary?"

"Let's go inside and have some nice tea and cookies as we get reacquainted with each other." Celo invited them in, immediately going on his way back to the wooden clock tower.

"Hey! Didn't you hear me?" Lina hurried after him, determined not to be ignored.

xoxox xox xoxox

Once inside the rickety clock tower, Lina was distracted by the yummy snacks that were waiting for them and occupied herself in eating, along with Gourry. Celo seemed all too happy to arrange things for the plot writing contest to take place as it meant an economical benefit for himself. Among the random pleasantries and unimportant small talk, Xellos brought up the subject of his curse and its cure with a simple and direct, "what do you know about the cure to my curse?"

"I know that I must remain silent or you'll kill me." Celo recited with an almost mocking amount of respectfulness in his voice.

"I changed my mind about that," Xellos grinned cheerfully, his eyes in his familiar squinting expression. "If you don't tell me, I'll kill you."

"I see..." Celo turned his attention to Tiffany for a long moment before speaking his words of parting, "farewell my beloved."

Tiffany responded with a dramatic, "you'll always be in my heart."

Celo looked at Xellos again, taking a deep breath. "You may ask me about the cure now."

Xellos didn't understand why Celo sounded like he was soon to die if he had not refused to reveal the secret. He felt like he was walking straight into a trap, but asked anyway. "What is the cure to my curse?"

Celo smiled with a seemingly infinite joy as he wagged his right index finger and voiced an amused, "that is a secret." The world stood still for several minutes in absolute silence as Xellos blinked in disbelief that his quote was used against him. Then Celo burst out in a fit of joy, "I did it! I said it! General Xellos, I have always admired how cool you sound when you say that and wanted to one day say it myself. I set things up to say it to you, the master of the phrase, when we had that conversation before on the night of the ball. Yet you threatened my life and refused to ask the question, so I did not have the chance to say it. But now that I have finally spoken the words that I longed to speak for so long, I can die a happy man. Go ahead, General Xellos, end my life if that is your wish. I will not resist, for I am eternally grateful to you for granting me the chance to speak your amazing words."

Xellos felt his eye twitch as he glared at Celo. "The willing kiss of a golden dragon... You know that the clue to the curse's cure is a puzzle, but you have no idea what the answer to that puzzle is!" Xellos concluded.

"That is correct, you truly are a genius, general Xellos," Celo smiled with admiration.

"I really should kill you for making me go through all the trouble of coming here." Xellos twitched in anger.

"Xellos," Filia frowned, speaking in a warning tone.

"I'll spare your life in one condition, an all expenses paid vacation for as long as we're here, no questions asked!" Xellos declared with an air of cruelty worthy of a monster. He needed to get back at Celo for all the expenses that he allowed Lina and the others to throw into his account during their previous vacation there.

"You want to vacation in my resort for free?" Celo cried out in agony. "My profits, my precious profits! General Xellos, you are far too cruel, it's no wonder you're Lord Beast Master's favorite monster!"

xoxox xox xoxox

With all the expenses taken care of for the duration of their stay, Lina and Gourry went to raid the restaurants and devour everything they could. Zelgadis and Amelia decided to take the opportunity to go on a romantic get away, while Fang ran off to play. Kally settled into her new position as the local doctor and Kalio decided to hang around to check out the various rides in the resort. Meanwhile, the plot writing contest was swiftly organized with Xellos and Filia being dragged into becoming the so called neutral judges.

Filia thought that if Phythan had such a deep appreciation for writing talent, then maybe being fair and neutral would be the best way to find a good fiance for him. Even so, she still thought he was being far too hasty about becoming engaged. Xellos on the other hand, was determined to vote for the least eligible bachelorette just so he could enjoy the amusement of watching Phythan being miserable.

Then again, maybe Phythan was already miserable. Medusa was seated at one of many desks in the large classic round arena where the contest would take place. Next to her desk, there were many others, occupied by all sorts of living creatures, humans, beast people, fish people, trolls, young and old, female and male. Watching on from a balcony reserved for important guests, there sat Celo, Tiffany, Filia, Xellos and Phythan. "Um... Mr. Celo, why are there so many different people here?" Phythan asked nervously.

"You want to be fair, don't you?" Celo spoke in his usual overly respectful tone that added to his mockery. "If you're going to be completely fair and neutral without a hint of vanity or prejudice, then you can't be swayed by your own personal preferences. That is why there are so many different people here, both females and males, of many different species and ages."

Phythan looked very much afraid as he sunk into his chair. "It's all for the sake of justice; I only need to keep reminding myself of that."

Filia felt truly sorry for him. She placed a comforting hand on her fellow golden dragon's shoulder. "Don't worry; I'll make sure to choose a good bride for you."

"Or groom," Xellos added just to annoy Phythan. "Like that one over there." He pointed at a particularly big and hairy wolfman that looked like he had not groomed his mud colored fur in years.

Filia glared at Xellos, "stop scaring him!" She continued trying to calm Phythan, who was scared out of his mind, but felt unable to go back on his word. "Look," she pointed at a figure in a black hooded cloak among the contestants. "I managed to convince Onyx to enter, just as you asked me to."

"Really?" Phythan leaned over the railing of the balcony to have a better look. He seemed to have cheered up considerably. "Maybe Miss Onyx will win. She's always so insightful about the stories and characters and often talks about situations that she would have liked to see happening in comics. I enjoy our discussions very much and she's so smart, even if she's kind of cold sometimes. But that's okay, I'm sure that she'll conquer whatever is bothering her and be the best she can be!"

"So you like Onyx?" Xellos asked in a mocking tone. "I'll make sure not to vote for her."

Phythan pouted and once again sunk into his seat while Filia reproached Xellos with a glare. "It's alright, don't listen to my bias, just vote for whoever you think is best," he sighed tragically.

To be Continued

My Main Site: http://azurelight.net
Deviant Art: http://mikaristar.deviantart.com
Fanart Central: http://fanart-central.net/user/AzureMikari/

Slayers: Alive

Episode 077: Random! Unforeseen Events

After an hour had passed, during which the writers got no silence to concentrate in, due to the crowd noisily yelling about the kind of stories they wanted to hear, it was time to put the pencils down. One by one, each person read their stories which ranged from alright, to pretty good, to copyright infringement. As a big fan of literature, Tiffany identified the rip-off stories and disqualified the contestants. When it came down to it, it seemed that Medusa was ahead in terms of what the audience thought, as they continuously cheered her name.

"Do you hear that, Filia?" Xellos teased Filia, who was starting to look as nervous as Phythan thinking she wouldn't be able to help him. "The crowd has already decided the victor. Who are we to argue?"

"It's not over yet! Onyx still hasn't read her story; she was a late entry so they left her for last. Look, Tiffany is approaching her in the arena right now," Filia held on to a thin shred of hope.

Phythan on the other hand, already looked half-dead. "It's okay, it's not so bad, given the proper time I'm sure we'll fall in love and live happily ever after... Miss Medusa and me... We'll be... happy... eventually... I hope..."

"What kind of story can an amnesiac girl come up with?" Xellos laughed, "I think I'll take a nap," he leaned back on his cushy chair and closed his eyes. "Wake me when the boredom fest is over."

At the arena, Tiffany was looking over Onyx' notes. "This story is..."

"It is a plotline, that is what the contest required, a plotline rather than a story, in other words, a list of events rather than a novel. I can narrate it in detailed prose using these productions notes as a guide, but writing it down will be time consuming, as it is made of many chapters," Onyx explained.

"You're right, the contest did ask for a plotline and it was explained that the contestants had to read it. Some people didn't even bother writing and just made a story on the spot while others didn't finish writing and continued without reading. The writing part was only for convenience anyway," Tiffany reasoned as she handed Onyx her notes back. "Okay, tell us your story and I will give you this! She took a book out of her cloak. Under the proper spell, this blank book will record your words so that you can write a novel in as little time as it would take you to speak the words, plus your hands won't get tired and you won't have to worry about grammar, which isn't your strong point, judging by the notes."

Thus Onyx began to narrate her tale. It started out with an introduction of a few characters and the presentation of a conflict with a few peculiar questions cunningly weaved into the plot that presented a scenario to generate curiosity. Several plotlines came and went as more characters were introduced, with the main plot and cast present through the whole tale. The key to it was that the hints of the next plot line began before the previous was finished, but the information of unsolved mysteries was balanced so that the story wouldn't be confusing with too many questions, but had enough questions to make people wonder about it. From drama, to humor, to unexpected plot twists, the tale presented well developed characters and an interesting plot with lots of adventure and just enough romance. Overall Onyx seemed disinterested in romance, but used it well as a tool of suspense, creating issues that would remain present through the story, developing as the adventure unfolded.

When the story finally reached its end, the crowd cheered and Xellos was no longer pretending to sleep. "She has more of an imagination than I thought. Not bad," he had to give her credit.

"Miss Onyx, she did it!" Phythan cheered happily. "This proves it, justice will bring good things to those who put their trust in it!"

"That was too much of a gamble!" Filia scolded. It might have been a happy occasion in the end, but she didn't want Phythan to get into trouble in the future for taking unnecessary risks. "Don't take risks like this again. Trusting justice is one thing and leaving things to chance is another. You have to be careful and work towards what you want to achieve instead of becoming a victim of circumstance!"

"I understand, Miss Filia," he didn't really, but at least he was trying to. From Phythan's confused interpretation, he assumed that Filia was somehow telling him to be a good husband, though he did not feel exactly ready to be a husband at all. Maybe Onyx would be okay with having a long engagement.

The judges casted their votes, which pleased the crowd. Xellos knew there was no use in arguing because if he voted against Onyx while Filia voted for her, the crowd would have to break the tie between their two selected candidates. Given that Onyx would win anyway, Xellos decided to join the winning team.

The losers were not pleased. They couldn't believe that this girl could weave such a wondrous tale out of her short notes with so little planning. They seemed to be just about ready to attack, but stopped when they were taken by surprise by Onyx's announcement. "My prize will be auctioned to the highest bidder!"

"What?" Phythan and Filia exclaimed in a shocked chorus.

Xellos laughed with real amusement. "She is a master of plot twists, so we should have expected the unexpected."

"She can't do that!" Filia adamantly declared, then she whipped her head around so fast that Xellos who was next to her, got a slap from her hair. She glared at Celo who had remained up on the balcony with them while Tiffany was on the arena with Onyx and the other contestants. "Can she do that?"

"Phythan's engagement is her prize to do with as she pleases. This is Onyx business," Celo approved. "Besides, it wouldn't' be fair to force Onyx into marriage, she wasn't the one to bet her freedom, Phythan was the fool."

Phythan looked like he was about to cry, "I'm doomed, aren't I? Oh what a fool I was to leave things to luck, my luck is usually decently good," which was a very subjective observation, "but it had to run out some time."

"This wasn't a battle of luck, it was a battle of talent," Celo corrected. "However, it wasn't your own talent that was being tested, so you never stood a chance. You left this in the hands of someone else."

"I think I understand what Miss Filia was trying to say. This really was a foolish risk. I should have simply escaped the situation by saying something neutral and ambiguous like 'I reserve judgment' or 'no comment' but it's too late for that now!" Phythan agonized.

"I bid a thousand gold coins!" Medusa called out.

"Two thousand!" The mud colored wolfman shouted.

"Two thousand and one!" A young human girl bid.

"What kind of a way to outbid is that, girly?" An old woman criticized, "I bid three thousand, five hundred and seventy two gold coins!"

"Four thousand!" The wolfman argued.

"Rats, those were all my savings," the old woman went away grumbling under her breath.

"Bid five thousand!" A voice shouted from the audience near the balcony.

A young woman with glasses far larger than what was needed to cover her eyes, in turn shouted, "five thousand gold coins!" Her hair was purple and she wore a helmet.

"Hmm..." Phythan looked thoughtful for a moment. "That purple haired girl is kind of cute. I do like intellectuals best."

"Whatever happened to not being vain? I suppose I should expect nothing less of a golden dragon," Xellos teased.

Phythan slapped both hands over his mouth, trying to pretend he had not said anything. He considered arguing that you couldn't see intellect, so it couldn't be classified as vanity, but then Xellos would probably just point out his comment about the woman being cute. Feeling that he had hopelessly lost the argument already, the distressed golden dragon decided to remain silent.

"Don't get your hopes up for her." The same voice from the audience near the balcony spoke again, this time directly addressing Phythan.

Phythan, Celo, Xellos and Filia recognized the owner of the voice, or at least they recognized her from the neck down as they couldn't see her face. It was a good thing they couldn't see it, or else they might have been turned to stone. "Galathia! Why are you here?" Phythan asked, already fearing the worse.

"I'm here to compete for you, of course. If I win you fair and square, I'm sure Beast Master will allow us to be together. She allows Celo and Xellos to have golden dragon lovers after all." Galathia revealed, speaking from behind her thick veil. "I'm not very good at coming up with stories myself, so I hired a representative. I didn't expect for her talents to be surpassed, though I'm sure we can all agree that she deserves at least third place after Onyx and Medusa."

"Seven thousand!" Medusa defiantly shouted at the arena below.

"Miss pretty nerd is your representative?" It seemed that Phythan couldn't catch a break. He would be kicking himself for his hasty action of giving his future over to justice probably for the rest of his life. "Isn't that cheating?"

"Not really," Celo smiled assuring, as if it was supposed to be good news.

"Eight thousand!" Galathia yelled, with her representative relaying the message. "I can't wait for us to get married, how I long for your kiss and so much more my sexy dragon!" The gorgon monster declared at the top of her lungs.

"Wouldn't that turn me to stone?" Phythan stuttered, though perhaps being turned to stone would be a mercy, given the circumstances.

"Not if you close your eyes, lover," Galathia winked though no one could actually see it. She tried to speak in her most seductive voice, which just sounded snake-like and creepy.

"Nine thousand and that's my final offer!" The mud colored wolfman declared.

"If you're not willing to go all the way, then move over, hairball!" Medusa challenged. "I bid ten thousand gold coins!"

"I grow tired of this," Galathia grinned confidently behind her veil. "Fifteen thousand!" The large bid was repeated and made official by her representative.

"I... I don't want to get married!" Phythan started crying an exaggerated waterfall of tears all of a sudden.

"You can't escape your fate, let's not forget you allowed me to place you under a magical oath as part of the final arrangements of the competition," Celo reminded. "If you break your word, there will be dire consequences." He revealed the scroll with Phythan's signature. "Even death..." Celo warned ominously, which only made Phythan despair even more.

"Twenty thousand!" Medusa shouted. Getting angry, Galathia made her way from the audience benches into the arena. "What are you doing?" The jellyfish woman gave the gorgon an accusing look.

"This girl is my representative, so I have the right to be here!" Galathia defended. "I'll take it from here; I left your payment with that handsome blue haired man that was with you."

"You gave him my money?" The purple haired girl didn't seem at all pleased. "I better catch up to him before he spends it all buying cat toys for Alfador!" She ran off in a hurry.

Continuing with her business, Galathia made her next bid, "thirty thousand gold coins!"

Medusa rose to the challenge with great determination. "Fifty thousand!"

"One hundred thousand!" Galathia retorted confidently.

"Two hundred thousand!" Medusa doubled the offer.

"Five hundred thousand!" Galathia challenged. It finally looked like Medusa was unable to fight back.

The suspense hung in the air as Medusa gave the wailing Phythan a dramatic look and finally spoke, "one million, five hundred thousand gold coins!" Medusa tripled the offer and the crowd went wild.

"I refuse to lose, that yummy dragon is mine!" Galathia was ready to be buried in debt for the rest of her life all for the sake of catching a handsome husband that would be otherwise virtually impossible to obtain. "Two million!"

"Three million!" Medusa countered.

Galathia glared under her veil. "Fine, you win. That clumsy dragon probably would have opened his eyes at the wrong moment and gotten himself turned to stone anyway. I can get handsome statues for far less than this sum." Defeated, the monster faded to the astral side.

Unknown to his previous traveling companions, Kalio had made his way into the arena stadium to watch the show. 'Amazing, I have never seen a woman show such fiery determination for the sake of the man she loves,' he thought as he witnessed the events from the audience. 'Phythan doesn't know how fortunate he is to have such a devoted woman after his heart...'

"Three million going once!" Onyx announced, making a small pause before continuing, "three million going twice!"

"Ten million gold coins!" Filia shouted out from the VIP balcony.

"You can't bid! You didn't enter the contest and you don't have a representative!" Medusa argued defensively.

"The contest is over! Onyx has already won the prize and decided to auction it to the highest bidder. The auction has nothing to do with the competition, it's a separate business deal and I can bid if I want to!" Filia defended her point fiercely. She couldn't stand to see poor Phythan be forced to marry someone he didn't love. She intended to give him back his freedom. "In the same sense, once I win this auction I can do what I please with the prize, including returning his freedom. Phythan, the choice of who to marry and when to marry is yours, please don't risk it so foolishly again."

"Miss Filia, you're so kind, thank you so much!" Phythan cheered.

"Twenty million!" Medusa shouted back, refusing to give up.

"You don't have that much money!" Filia argued.

"You don't have enough money to back up your bid of ten million!" Medusa threw back the argument.

"Yes I do!" Filia presented a seal with the silhouette of a wolf's head with angry eyes and wings in the background. "This seal is proof of the Metallium family fortune!"

"Hey! That's my seal!" Xellos argued. "When did you steal that from me?"

"A few minutes ago," Filia confessed. "Don't tell me you didn't notice me sticking my hand into your pants pocket.

Xellos pouted in annoyance, with a hint of disappointment. "I did notice, but I never would have guessed you had such inappropriate intentions. Or rather, I thought you had inappropriate intentions of a different nature."

"Shut up raw garbage, you're the one who's always getting too grabby!" Filia accused.

"I really don't want to hear this!" Phythan protested.

"Honestly, neither do I," Celo agreed.

Blushing bright red, Filia tried to get back into topic. "Anyway, the point is that this seal serves as proof of my-"

"Lover's" Xellos inserted the word.

"Financial status," Filia finished with a glare. "What will it be, Onyx? Will you accept my offer, or waste the auction on a bankrupt false bidder?"

"Security is important in finances," Onyx determined. "Can you present proof of your economical standing?"

"I..." Medusa looked fearful and defeated as a few bitter tears escaped her. "I cannot..." The jellyfish woman gave Phythan one last glance before dramatically declaring. "I'm sorry I'm not good enough for you, Phythan, but even if I'm a poor insignificant jellyfish girl, I'll always love you!" Then she ran out of the arena crying loudly and abundantly.

"Ten million gold coins going once!" After Medusa's theatrical exit, Onyx continued the auction. "Ten million gold coins going twice!" There was a dramatic pause during which no one dared to speak. "Sold, to Filia Ul Copt!" Once again the crowd cheered wildly.

"Filia, do you have any idea how long it's going to take me to pay up the debt you just acquired in my name?" Xellos reproached in annoyance.

"I'm sorry, but I had to do something!" Filia kept her determination strong, though she still managed to look apologetic. "I'll pay you back if you give me a reasonable payment plan," she offered.

Xellos gave it some thought, "there are other ways for you to compensate me," he grinned mischievously with a wink.

Filia blushed, remembering that they had an audience, "let's talk about this later." Taking a deep breath to calm herself after the suspenseful auction, Filia tried to clear her head of the implications of Xellos' suggestion and addressed Phythan. "You're free now Phythan, you can follow your heart and fall in love naturally with no pressure. Just make sure you're careful in the future. As the new owner of your magical oath, I hereby free you from it!" On Filia's command, the contract Celo still held turned to dust and Phythan was freed from his promise.

"Kind Miss Filia, I'll make sure to pay you back for what you've done, even if it's little by little," Phythan assured. "Then if one day I become a famous artist and sell lots of comics I'll pay you the rest of the debt in one go with interest!"

"It's okay, you don't have to do that," Filia ruffled his hair like an older sister to her baby brother, never mind that he was taller than her.

"This isn't over yet!" Medusa suddenly levitated towards the balcony with a slingshot in hand armed with a very suspicious looking berry. "My beloved, give into the embrace of absolute passion!" Medusa shot the berry straight at Phythan with great speed.

"No!" Filia jumped in front of him, trying to save the innocent Phythan from falling pray to the lustful effect that those specific berries had on dragons. Unfortunately, other then jumping in front of Phythan, Filia didn't actually have time to raise her hand to catch the berry projectile and it flew right into her mouth. With an expression of horror, Filia gravely declared, "I swallowed it..."

"Was that what I think it was?" Tiffany levitated over to the balcony and seized Celo by the ear. "I told you to stop selling those dangerous berries at the resort!"

"Ow! Ow! I thought it would be safe enough as long as I kept them away from you!" Celo tried to excuse himself, but Tiffany kept angrily pulling his ear.

"Such underhanded tactics..." Tiffany growled menacingly, "guards, get her!" A group of guards dressed in classic gladiator armor levitated to try to arrest Medusa.

"You haven't seen the last of me! The flame of love still burns in my heart! Ray Wing!" Medusa made a speedy get away, with the gladiator guards chasing after her and disappearing in the distant sky.

"This is terrible!" Phythan grimaced. "I feel guilty about hurting Miss Medusa's feelings and I feel awful about you taking a poisonous berry for me."

"Don't worry about me," Filia forced herself to smile as serenely as possible. "I have an antidote."

"I guess you mean me," Xellos gladly volunteered.

"Don't complain, you were far worse as a golden dragon and that was without berries!" Filia retorted.

"As I recall, you weren't even kind enough to properly assist me with the problem until later, you inconsiderate stupid dragon. Besides, I'm not complaining," Xellos grinned mischievously. "I'm not complaining at all... Let's go find a private place to... heal you. Ray Wing!"

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 078: Vengeful! The Dragon Slayers' Secret

As Xellos and Filia flew away, Phythan couldn't help it but to innocently wonder. "Why can't Xellos give Filia the antidote here? Maybe it's some kind of complicated spell that requires a lot of concentration and that's why they need to go somewhere without any distractions." He theorized.

Celo laughed nervously, while Tiffany was still abusing his ear. "I just hope she doesn't kill him, dragons can be so sadistic sometimes..." he muttered under his breath.

"What did you say, Mr. Celo?" Phythan inquired as he did not quite catch the remark.

"I said my ear's about to come off!" Celo complained.

Phythan had finally learned his lesson when it came to letting his mouth run away with too many words. He didn't want Tiffany's anger to somehow extend to him if he pleaded for mercy on Celo. Thus he wisely declared, "no comment. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find Miss Medusa and properly apologize or this guilt won't let me live in peace." He transformed, once again paying no mind to the many witnesses, then flew off. At least most of the crowd appreciated the show.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, far away, for the purpose of furthering her training, a white dragon girl visited Celestina's villa one day. She was received by the girls who studied under her guidance and was granted an audience with the mysterious lady. The beautiful white dragon, who went by the name of Kirei Ivory, approached Celestina in her garden. "My lady, I have come to request your instruction." Her voice was clear, melodious and very formal.

"You think you have chosen power over reputation, but in reality you merely render a service. By forcing upon yourself discipline and artificial determination, you are killing the desires of your heart. Far from leading to balance, such mechanical pursuits lead to emptiness. A pity as you could, should you permit such a thing of yourself, have a very strong heart. Should you persist in acting rather than living, you are destined to be consumed." Celestina spoke calmly yet with great authority. "Go..."

Never had Kirei been so shaken in her life. She left the villa in disappointment and judged herself unworthy. Far from properly heeding the warning as it was meant, she returned to her secluded home with her clan and intensified her training.

xoxox xox xoxox

At Amor Resort, the day after the auction started out as a relatively peaceful one. Filia and Xellos were nowhere to be found. Those who knew nothing of the previous day's occurrences assumed they were somewhere around the resort and would turn up soon enough. Those who knew of the previous day's occurrences concluded that it was best not to bother them. Onyx had started working on some edits for her novel, while Tiffany dragged Celo around, making him get rid of all the dangerous dragon lust berries. With Amelia and Zelgadis still off on their romantic vacation and Fang taking a long nap after spending the whole previous night eating pet treats, that left Lina and Gourry as the most suitable candidates for a certain mission that Tiffany gave them before she went off with Celo.

The gluttonous duo had been assigned the task of finding Phythan and making sure he didn't stupidly get himself into more trouble than he could handle. Despite being good with luck spells, he was ironically, also good at getting into trouble. Perhaps he didn't cast those spells often enough. With a generous payment being offered half in advance and another half still waiting to be claimed, of course Lina was more than willing to help out. Thus she set out to track down the dragon that had apparently gone off to find the jellyfish that he was trying to get away from the previous day. It made no sense, there was something about apologizing to her, but since when would someone need to apologize to a stalker? Who cares, Lina got paid and that was all that mattered.

After levitating all around above the resort looking for clues, Lina was starting to get tired and of course hungry. She landed on one of a series of protuberant cliffs on the edge of the shores of the Amor Resort island. Taking in a breath of salty beach air, she loudly called out, "Phythan! Where are you?"

Kally and Kalio landed near Lina and Gourry unexpectedly, after having spotted them from the ground and followed them. Before they could explain why they were there, another voice replied. "Miss Lina?"

Those above the cliff searched around for the source of the voice, which seemed to be originating from below. They levitated under the beach-side cliff to find a cavity hidden under the shade of the long cliff with the calm ocean waves reaching into it. "Phythan, this is where you were all along? Why are you in this place?"

"I was flying around looking for Miss Medusa to apologize about hurting her feelings, then I felt dizzy and fell in the ocean. I would have drowned if not because a few friendly sea creatures help me reach this place," Phythan explained.

"Well, I found you, so that means my job is done! Tiffany's worried about you. She probably thinks that Medusa girl kidnapped you or something." When it was all said and done, Lina was glad to have gotten an easy job out of the equation after all.

"Actually, I wasn't able to find Miss Medusa at all," Phythan, who was looking feverish with a tint of red on his face, tried to get up but fell back into a sitting position. "I'm sorry, Miss Lina, could you tell Tifa I'm okay, I think I might have to stay here for a while. I have a really bad headache and the ocean waves help me relax."

Kally and Kalio had matching sour looks on their faces. "Sister, are you certain?" Kalio inquired about something that only the Kalamari siblings seemed to be aware of.

"There's no doubt about it, this is the will of Ceifeed, it is the guidance I requested as a shrine maiden. Brother, this is our answer, we must do this," Kally insisted strongly.

"Right, then I will fight with everything I have!" Kalio bravely declared.

Gourry blinked in his usual clueless fashion. "I'm confused," he informed with a smile. He was confused all the time anyway, so it was nothing to make a fuss about.

"Me too," Phythan added.

"Me three," Lina agreed, "which means the situation actually is confusing. It would be nothing if it was just these two getting lost, but if the brilliant Lina Inverse is puzzled, something strange is going on."

Kally and Kalio both looked unsure, as if they held a dark secret that was about to be revealed. "I'll tell them if you're certain," Kalio offered.

"I was the one who asked for Ceifeed's guidance and received it, I will tell them," Kally insisted.

"I don't care which one of you tells us whatever it is you're going to tell us, as long as you tell us fast!" Lina impatiently rushed, her face showing that it was not a good idea to make her wait any longer.

Kally took a deep breath and began to reveal the story that was a heavy burden for her and her brother. "A long time ago, around nine hundred years ago, there was a town in the world outside the barrier where a group of golden dragons kept humans as slaves, even when the majority of their race frowned upon it. Through a series of events that have received varied interpretations over the years, the town was freed by a pair of travelers, a dragon and a human. The town then became a symbol of peace between the dragons and the humans. However, there were some humans who wished for vengeance and were not willing to forgive the golden dragons. They unfairly judged their whole race as being as evil as the monsters and set out to form a clan of dragon slayers."

Though he had left the task of telling the story to his sister, Kalio couldn't resist but to add to it too. "The dragon slayer clan continued to exist through the generations, living up to its name. At some point, the clan was split into two. There were some who wished to make the dragons their servants and went to extremes with cruel methods. The other half of the clan only slew the dragons that got too close to human villages. The extremists were eventually found and punished by the golden dragons."

"Even so, some of their poisonous recipes were left behind," Kally continued. "That included some peculiar berries which I saw in this resort. They can be in a sense, rather dangerous if ingested by a golden dragon, but the effects are not deadly or permanent." She didn't think it was really necessary to elaborate beyond that. There were no more vital historical explanations for the time being, thus Kally moved on to the main point. "My brother and I are descendants of the Dragon Slayer clan." Rightfully so, both Lina and Phythan's surprise became visible in their facial expressions. As expected, Gourry was just as confused as ever, smiling dumbly.

"We disagreed with their ways," Kalio assured. "That is why we left as soon as the barrier fell and journeyed to the land that was within it before. We realized that the golden dragon race as a whole wasn't bad. The dragons that had been cruel to humans nine hundred ears ago were a minority. Plus in more recent years the golden dragon race has become more receptive to building peaceful relationships with humans."

Kally nodded in agreement as a specific event came to mind. "Prince Philionel sent out people to try to contact the golden dragons and ask for their assistance in helping the lands that were affected by the famine. They responded more readily than anyone expected and have been working alongside Seyruun, Taforashia and other kingdoms. After Princess Amelia's report was received, soldiers from Seyruun were dispatched and were told to be on the lookout for situations in which the land's nutrients were being drained away. They found lesser manifestations of the symptoms, but no culprits were identified."

"I see, then the Green Alchemist's minions are still out there collecting energy from the land. The only difference is that they're being sneakier about it, taking only a little from here and there," Lina concluded. "It might not seem like much right now, but the strain will pile up eventually and future harvests will steadily decrease. Plus the farm lands that were most severely affected were left in such a barren state that they'll be dependant on supplies from other lands for a while."

"Yes, they'll have to rely on a different form of commerce that's not based on the products of the land if they are to recover," Kalio agreed. "Not even the golden dragons can restore the health of the land fast enough for it to be possible to harvest any time soon. At least it has been reported that the magic of the golden dragons that blessed other lands less severely affected has proven to be beneficial."

"I confess we tried to run away," Kally revealed, going back into the topic they had started. "I wished for guidance and felt that my brother and I were destined to face our past. We were happy living in Seyruun, then Nai shows up, calling herself Onyx, with seemingly no memories about our clan. She's so different but I'm sure she's the same person!"

"Wait a minute!" The mention of Onyx caught Phythan's attention. "You know Miss Onyx, you knew her from before? Please tell us about her!"

Once again deviating from the warning Kally intended to give, she took a moment to elaborate upon the inquiry. "Nai was born in the dragon slayer clan; however, she cannot use magic. She also reacts negatively to it. Despite living in what is known as the outer world, the dragon slayers trained in magic, making us a rare group in a land were most people don't have knowledge of magic. Our ancestors originally gained the knowledge by observing the golden dragons while in captivity and developed it further from that basis. I believe the reason Nai cannot use magic is because of a genetic condition. As such, she would be at a disadvantage as a dragon slayer, a liability many would say, thus she was never trained to be one."

"I see," Lina allowed the information to sink in. She tried to understand Onyx, who was originally called Nai, to try to figure out what the Lord of Nightmares could possibly want with her. "It must have been hard for her then. Was she rejected by her clan?"

"Not exactly, though in a sense yes..." Kally elaborated, "she could never reach the rank of the magic users, the rank of a true dragon slayers. But she could help in other ways, working around the village, preparing the slayers equipment, meals and so on. Although, her father was a prominent dragon slayer, so she never had to do much. Her older sister who was capable of using magic, albeit she was only an average dragon slayer in terms of skill, was always praised for her hard work and dedication. Nai on the other hand was a daddy's girl whom her father always sheltered, perhaps he thought she needed more support from him because of her lack of magic and rank."

"Everyone knew that Nai didn't really get along with her sister," Kalio added. "I guess no one can blame Nai, she didn't choose to be born with her condition and it was her father who deprived her of the chance to become self sufficient with his well intended care. Even so, I think she was content to hang around her father's house and read comics all day."

"Until her niece and nephew were born," Kally followed up. "Kalio and I had already left by then, but Nai was my friend and I was secretly exchanging correspondence with her. With her father retiring to a peaceful old age and her sister and brother-in-law busy with work, Nai often got stuck babysitting. The twins were spoiled brats and Nai hated having to baby-sit, she always said she disliked children, but I think it was just those two hyper brats that she disliked."

After a bitter paused, Kally continued, "one day, a dragon attacked the village and Nai's house was burned down. They managed to slay the dragon, but Nai's father gave his life to make sure she and her sister's children were safe. Nai was never close with her mother, who always compared her with her sister, so with her father gone and all her possessions burned to ashes, she had no reason to stay with the clan. She said she was going on a journey to find a new life and that was the last I heard of her. She used to be such a dreamer, always hoping that her prince charming would take her away from the clan, although her luck with men was pretty bad."

Lina was perplexed. Onyx held no power or rank in her past and she didn't appear to be someone who could be used as a hostage for ransom either. What could the Lord of Nightmares want with her? Was it all random? Was Nai simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? What magic did the Lord of Nightmares seal in her? Was it only done because Lina and the others were near by, to play with their heads? If the magic was sealed into her memories, then it was evident that she would have to fully recover her memories to release it, but was it a trap? "Pandora's box..." Lina muttered in uncertainty.

Not understanding, Kally inquired, "what do you mean? What has happened to Nai?" Lina shook her head; there was no need to involve more people in the lord of Nightmares' business. Kally paused, thinking about insisting, but then let things be. Kally had chosen not to speak to Nai until Nai, or rather Onyx, spoke to her, so she shouldn't go asking someone else. "About what we were getting to before," at long last, she finally revealed what needed to be said. "After the attack on the dragon slayer village, we heard that the clan decided to adopt their ancestors' ways and once again become nomads."

"We kept in contact with the blacksmiths and suppliers that assisted the clan on occasion, as their numbers have decreased over time. More people kept getting tired of their senseless battles and abandoned the dragon slayers," Kalio revealed, adding with some bitterness. "But of course, anyone is willing to help their cause if the proper number of coins is given." Lina made no comment on the subject of monetary rewards, instead remaining silent to allow Kalio to continue. "Since dealings with people from outside the clan have increased out of the necessity of the smaller clan, rumors always run faster and money can also buy information."

"Even if they are wrong, what's left of the clan were once our comrades," Kally sadly declared. "There are certain golden dragons that grow a horn similar to a unicorn's horn. This doesn't happen to all golden dragons; it is a rare genetic trait of only a few golden dragons with mixed dimos dragon ancestry. This particular horn is different from the horns other golden dragons have and can be identified by its glow. If the horn is removed, a very sharp blade can be crafted from it."

Lina connected the dots and looked at Phythan, "the horn you have when you transform. It glows, but it's kind of small. Lately it's been glowing brighter though."

"Horn?" Gourry curiously voiced. "That thing on Phythan's forehead is a horn? Wasn't that just a zit?"

Pouting deeply Phythan argued, "how can anyone have such a big and pointy zit that glows? Although I'll admit it is small for a horn. Now that I think about it, I got a headache like the one I have now when that horn first started to grow out a few years ago."

"Since you've been giving us rides now and then, it stands to reason that someone could have seen it," Lina added.

"Exactly," Kalio confirmed. "The dragon slayer clan will come after Phythan. My sister and I did not wish to fight our past comrades and reasoned that everyone would be safe enough in Seyruun, so we both came up with reasons to leave. Then we met up on the road and ended up traveling here together. Maybe it is an inescapable sign that the time has come for us to face the past. The dragon slayer clan has surely followed Phythan here. It is only a matter of time before they seize the opportunity to attack."

"Than we have an upcoming battle on our hands," Lina concluded.

"I was still living with the golden dragons at the time when this horn first started to grow out and went to see a doctor about it. He said I shouldn't expect my horn to grow out completely until I was five hundred and that's still almost a hundred years away. I wonder why it grew out so soon..." Phythan mused aloud. Giving it some further thought, he added as a voiced personal musing more so than a piece of information, "maybe those vitamins Zelas gave me were better than I thought. Monsters have a good side to them after all."

"Vitamins..." Lina noted. Maybe the fact that Zelas decided to accept Phythan as her intern was no coincidence after all. Those vitamins couldn't have been something she gave him merely for his health either. No doubt about it, Zelas must have been trying to make that horn come out sooner, but why? Could she be interested in the weapon that could possibly be crafted from Phythan's horn if it were to be removed? Each new clue brought a group of questions along with it. One step forward and two steps back... "Let's be ready," Lina finally spoke. "When the dragon slayers attack, we can't let them slay Phythan and steal his horn. Gourry and I will help out too." Everything was connected somehow, Lina knew it was, she just wasn't sure how. 'The plans of the Lord of Nightmares...' the redhead sorceress mused, 'Zelas, how much do you know about it that you're not telling us?'

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 079: Thankful! Little Miracles

Lina, Kally, Kalio and Phythan were trying to come up with a plan to defend against the dragon slayers' expected attack. They remained in the small cave under the seaside cliff, planning and plotting, all except for Gourry, who just sat around relaxing to the sound of the calm ocean waves. The peace and quiet was interrupted by a sudden voice, which came from a certain troublesome jellyfish woman, who levitated just above the waves in front of the cavern's entrance. "Phythan, I found you! Oh, Gourry's here too, the pain of heartbreaks past and present."

"Miss Medusa, I was looking for you," Phythan wasn't sure how she managed to find him, but he might as well get his apology out. "I wanted to apologize for-"

"Don't lie to me!" The heartbroken jellyfish cried. "You weren't looking for me, you were hiding from me. Oh cruel love! If I can't have you, no one can!" She laughed insanely, in a far creepier way than Martina and Naga put together. "I've made new friends; they were the ones that told me where to find you. When I confessed what a horrible heartbreaker you are, toying with the emotions of an innocent maiden before cruelly abandoning her with an eternally broken heart, they agreed to assist me in your punishment!" Medusa shouted and sobbed at the same time as if it were all a scene from a very bad soap opera. "My heartbreaks past and present, you shell both drown!"

"Put a sock in it!" Lina yelled all of a sudden as she slapped Medusa across the face. "Are you going to spend the rest of your life whining because some guy dumped you? You're pathetic! Grow some guts and move on!" Lina's speech was interrupted by the arrival of a tidal wave that swept away all those inhabiting the area and threw them to the sea. Lina emerged from the water and started to levitate right above it. "Where did that gigantic wave come from?"

Gourry, who was floating in the water next to Lina, felt accomplished that he knew the answer. "It came from the ocean." Lina decided that such an obvious reply should not be dignified with a reaction beyond a simple groan.

"That wave was made by my friends!" Medusa victoriously declared as she began to levitate next to Lina. "Although, they could have waited for me to get out of the way..." She added addressing the ocean.

Several small rounded heads started peeking out from the waves where Phythan, Kally and Kalio were still floating in the water next to Gourry. "Sorry Miss Medusa, we'll be careful next time!" One of the sea creatures spoke as they became visible on the water's surface.

"Octopus..." Kally's eyes widened as all the color was drained from her face. "Octopi!" She screamed at the top of her lungs and Ray Winged her way out of there, throwing the levitating Lina and Medusa back into the sea.

"I don't know what that was," Medusa surfaced in the water, levitating once more. "But it doesn't matter, that girl has nothing to do with this anyway." She backed away in the air allowing her army of octopi to take the front lines. "Go my friends; drown the terrible men that broke my heart!"

Lina was ready to go on the attack, Gourry couldn't fly and fighting from the water would put him at a disadvantage. Phythan was ill, which left her and Kalio as the main attack force of the team. She glanced at the magic using swordsman about to mention something akin to a plan of attack, but it didn't look like Kalio was quite all there.

"I hate octopi," Kalio's voice was ominous and could be classified as murderous. "I hate octopi!" With some well controlled levitation, it looked as if he was running on the water's surface, swinging his sword wildly, slashing away at all the octopi that got in his way. There was no stopping him, he was completely berserk.

Severed tentacles rained upon the water, giving Lina an idea. "That's it!" She helped Gourry out of the water with one hand, forming a ball of fire in the other. "Hey, Phythan, do you think you can manage a levitation spell in your condition?"

"Yes, I can at least do that," Phythan joined Lina and Gourry in the air, levitating above the water, while Kalio still continued going crazy with his octopus killing spree. "I think there's something really wrong with Mr. Kalio," Phythan stated the obvious.

"Let's make the best of the situation, Fireball!" Lina shot several fireballs in rapid succession at the water below, where the octopi were being torn to pieces. Soon, a peculiar scent filled the air.

Gourry curiously grabbed one of the tentacles from the water, "it's octopus soup!" He bit down on the cooked limb. "The salty water really gives it a nice flavor!"

"Don't eat it all yourself!" Lina protested. She felt oddly proud of herself for having prepared a delicious meal that Gourry enjoyed.

"Here," Gourry held out a piece of octopus for Lina to eat. Without a second thought, she bit into the octopus meat, not thinking about how she might look being fed by her fiance.

Phythan looked at the banquet in the water and wrinkled his nose in distaste. "I think I'll pass. Besides, those octopi saved my life. I wouldn't feel right eating them no matter how good they might taste."

"Octopus! Octopus!" Kalio floated above the water, swinging his sword wildly at the empty air in front of him. "I hate octopi!" He looked around like a wild animal searching for prey to dismember, but he had already massacred all the octopi. "Octopus! There's one left, die!"

Medusa was levitating above the water a few feet away, trembling in fright, scared out of her mind. "No, I'm not an octopus, I'm a jellyfish!"

Kalio only partially heard Medusa; he was starting to wake up from his berserk trance, but his sword was already heading towards Medusa. He tried to stop himself, he tried to hold back, but his blade still reached her, albeit he managed to hold back enough not to kill her. The injured jellyfish woman let out an earsplitting wail of pain as the cold steel of Kalio's sword made a diagonal cut across her face, which was also her torso considering she was such an odd being. "What have I done?" Kalio cried out in horror, "what have I done?" He dived into the water to rescue the sinking injured jellyfish then quickly Ray Winged to another location to treat Medusa's wounds.

"They're gone," Phythan once again felt the need to state the obvious. Everything happened so fast. Medusa's arrival, her attack with the octopi, Kally's panic, Kalio's berserk rage, Medusa's injury, Kalio's retreat with Medusa... It was mind boggling and what was even more perplexing was that Lina and Gourry were so focused on the food and each other that they seemed to have missed the conclusion of the dramatic events. "Miss Lina, Mr. Gourry, Miss Medusa and Mr. Kalio left!"

"Thesh lash teh-tah-clesh ish minefh!" Translated, Lina's speech between her teeth meant 'The last tentacle is mine'. The sound impediment was due to the fact that she had said tentacle in her mouth as she spoke.

"Nofh fairsh!" Gourry retorted in the same way, which in normal speech would have come out as 'not fair'. They both kept competing for the octopus meat until they each consumed half of the last piece, their lips meeting after the last bite of food.

Phythan backed away slowly, then went on a full retreat. He remembered Fluffy and Ice-cream accidentally did something like that in a special edition Valentines' Day comic while distractedly eating spaghetti, but he had never seen it being done with an octopus tentacle. Either way, he figured Lina and Gourry were busy, so it was time for him to leave and let his cousin know that he was alright. That dip in the ocean seemed to wake him from his dizziness enough to journey back to the wooden clock tower at least.

xoxox xox xoxox

For what was left of the day, Kalio and Medusa remained missing, while the disoriented Kally didn't remember anything past the point of the tidal wave. She regrouped with the others at the wooden clock tower, where she learned of the happenings as eloquently told by Lina when she showed up to collect her pay. Of course, the word octopus was conveniently omitted from the narrative for Kally's benefit. As a result of the recent events, Kally resolved to go search for her brother.

Tiffany advised Phythan to remain at the clock tower, where Onyx also was. That left Lina with yet another overpaid job as a bodyguard, which meant she got to laze about eating snacks and reading comics along with Phythan and Onyx, while accumulating more coins to her name. Life was good, for her at least.

xoxox xox xoxox

A new day began at Amor Resort with Kally still out looking for Kalio and Lina still enjoying her easy employment. Elsewhere, at one of the resorts many luxurious honey moon suites, Filia parted the curtains, moved the glass door aside and stepped into the balcony of her and Xellos' room. She took in a deep breath of morning air, feeling revitalized after taking some time to... rest. She felt Xellos coming up behind her, but before he could throw out some kind of snide remark about her hair being messy since she just woke up, never mind that his hair had not been brushed yet either, a familiar melody invaded the sound waves. A small bird perched himself on the balcony, chirping contently.

"Delivering news of an emergency in such a cheerful tone?" Xellos inquired. "Who said you could copy me?" Curious to see what could be annoying enough to have Jarde in such a good mood, Xellos took the small paper the bird carried. "This isn't for me."

Filia caught sight of the name on the envelope and snatched away the letter. "Last time I wrote to Jillas and Gravos I included instructions about how to summon courier birds, I guess this means they figured it out. I can't wait to read what they have to say!"

"Judging by how happy Jarde sounded, it has to be pretty bad," Xellos reminded.

"Maybe he wasn't copying your sarcasm," Filia refused to believe anything could be wrong with her family until she confirmed it, though a part of her was starting to worry.

"He was chanting 'emergency, emergency!' I'm pretty sure that's what he was saying," Xellos insisted with a cheerful grin.

Filia huffed, her best plan of action was to simply open the letter and prove that there was nothing wrong. But that wasn't good enough; she had to throw some kind of comeback at Xellos. It had to be something that would really annoy him. Something that he couldn't counter with criticism of his own, something like a compliment. "It's really cute that you can understand Jarde," she petted the small bird gently. "He's a monster, but he's so cute and it's just adorable when he communicates with you."

Xellos crossed his arms and glared, "stupid dragon," he grumbled in annoyance while Filia grinned victoriously.

Unfortunately, Filia's victory was short lived, because the letter she held really did bring news of an emergency. Her eyes widened as they took in the words written on the letter. Her expression became a sharp contrast to what it was before, she was worried, perhaps even terrified. "Something's wrong with Val," her hands trembled as they gripped the sheet of paper. "Jillas and Gravos can't figure out what to do, but they think something's really wrong. I need to go home right away!" Without waiting for Xellos' reply, Filia ordered Jarde, "find Fang and tell him to come here!" The bird was too small to transport her via the astral side, but Fang should have enough power to take her the long distance with ease.

Jarde chirped indignantly and turned his back on Filia, standing on the balcony railing. He was a courier; he delivered letters and occasionally small packages. It was true that he could communicate with Fang well enough to get the fox to follow him, but that wasn't what he did. He delivered written messages.

Filia grabbed the stubborn bird, holding him tightly in her hand and shaking him. "Go get Fang this instant or else!"

Jarde squeaked in fear and faded to the astral side while Xellos gave Filia a nod of approval. Only a few seconds passed before Jarde returned with Fang, though it felt like much too long for Filia. Once Fang had arrived, Filia wasted no time in demanding to be taken to her home town. Thus Filia, Xellos and Fang, faded into the astral side for a trip that Filia knew would turn her stomach upside down, but this was the fastest way to go and there was no time to waste.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia faded into existence in her living room, stumbling around with her hands on her stomach. "Going through the astral side always leaves me disoriented, but the longer the trip the worse it is." She soon became alert to the sounds coming from Val's room and hurried over, followed by Xellos and Fang. "What's happening?"

Filia's sudden entry startled Jillas and Gravos, who were crowded around Elena, with Palou running in circles around them as if that would help the situation in any way, though one couldn't blame an energetic child for being an energetic child. Fortunately, Elena was able to stay calm and keep a gentle hold on the glowing dragon egg that had been given to her to watch over. She was a mother, thus Jillas and Gravos assumed she would know what to do about Val's glowing pulsations, since she had experience taking care of a baby. Never mind that this baby was of an entirely different species. "Val is glowing and pulsating, I told Jillas and Gravos that I thought he was hatching, but they're afraid it might be some kind of serious illness."

Filia observed the glowing and pulsating egg. She carefully cradled little Val in her arms as Elena gently passed him over, while Jillas and Gravos waited with baited breath for Filia to give her verdict. "Calm down," the golden dragon finally spoke with a smile, which caused the collective held breaths of Jillas and Gravos to be simultaneously exhaled in relief. "Elena is right, Val is about to hatch," Filia gently caressed the smooth see-through surface of the egg and the pulsations seem to increase in a happy rhythm. "It's alright, mommy's here to welcome you into the world," she sighed happily as she cradled her precious child.

"And so is daddy," Xellos added in his most teasing tone.

Filia pouted, a part of her thought it was cute that Xellos called himself Val's father, but the reasonable part of her that still subsisted past the warm and fuzzy feelings reminded her of how mischievous Xellos was. Filia loved him, but that didn't mean she should lower her guard around him and allow Xellos' mischief to run loose. That could only end in troublesome chaos, but she didn't have the heart to snap at him, not this time, not in front of Val. "You just focus on hatching, my little Val, daddy will come visit you again soon. Your aunt, uncles and cousin will make sure he stays out of trouble in the mean time and mommy will be here to guide you through everything."

Xellos raised an eyebrow in curiosity. The aunt, uncles and cousin were Elena, Jillas, Gravos and Palou. Who knows, maybe Filia even counted Fang as another uncle since he was technically a relative of the father, though blood relations obviously weren't important in this peculiar picture. "Why must daddy be kept out of trouble?" Xellos innocently asked.

Filia's pout evolved into a frown, "you know perfectly well why. The first living being a newborn dragon sees is the one the baby will listen to the most. Both my parents and my grandmother were there when I hatched, but since I caught sight of grandma first, I would always listen to her the most." Of course, Filia was a generally obedient child who listened to everything her mother and father said too, but what her grandmother said was always special in a way she couldn't explain. "That's the way it is for golden dragons, so I can only guess it's the same way for ancient dragons."

"Thanks for that valuable piece of information, stupid dragon." Xellos purposely grinned mischievously, getting on Filia's nerves. "Although, I must say, I fear for Val's safety if he only has you to count on through his hatching. It would be for the best if I saw to it that he makes it out alright."

"That shows how much you know!" Filia held Val's egg protectively as she snapped at him and began to share the facts as if giving an academic lecture. "I have experience; grandma told me all about how my hatching went." Albeit Filia obviously didn't remember any of it, since she was a newborn and all. "I know what to do and I know you're not supposed to help the baby dragon out of the egg; that could hurt him. Val needs to overcome this first trial of life on his own and though I want to help him, I will do what's best and allow him to hatch at his own pace. I'll only cheer for him. As for you, I'm not letting Val see you first and listen to you when you tell him to misbehave like a mischievous boy more that he'll listen to me when I tell him to behave like a good boy!"

"If I leave him to you, he'll grow up to be gutless," Xellos continued his teasing.

The pulsations of the egg increased, getting Filia's attention. "He's hatching! He's hatching! Get out!"

"I'm not-" Xellos was going to say that he was not going anywhere, but the combined strength of Gravos, Jillas, Elena and Palou forced him out of Val's room.

Fang stood around wagging his tail, his ears twitching curiously. "Fang, please get everyone. Tell them Val is hatching and help them teleport to the living room, then wait there with them." Without question, Fang did as he was told.

xoxox xox xoxox

It took only a few round trips through the astral side and some minutes for the whole gang to gather at Filia's home. Fang sniffed out Kally, though she seemed too preoccupied with the search for her brother to give Fang more than a split second of attention, excusing herself by saying that an ex-dragon slayer wasn't worthy of witnessing the miracle of a new dragon life. She didn't even try to ask the fox to sniff out her brother's location, almost as if she was afraid to find him before she was ready to face him after all that happened.

In truth the Kalamari siblings shared a special almost psychic connection and the search was just an excuse for Kally to go off and try to compose herself, though she actually could easily locate Kalio if she tried. Thus with the exception of Kally and Kalio, everyone else was there: Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Phythan, Onyx and even Celo, Tiffany, Zangulus and Martina were present.

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 080: Rebirth! The Light Of New Hope

Gravos, Jillas, Palou, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Zangulus, Martina, Phythan, Onyx, Celo, Tiffany and Fang watched as Xellos paced across the living room for the twenty-something time. Elena emerged from the hallway with all eyes immediately landing on her with curious expectant gazes. "It will be a little while longer, it seems that first hatching was a false alarm, but it's definitely happening soon. I just finished setting everything up so Filia can bathe him when he hatches. Val needs to concentrate to find the strength to break out of his egg. If there's a big crowd when he comes out of the egg it can frighten little Val."

"Yes! You can do it Val! Keep going, that's it! Go Val!" Filia's voice was heard from Val's room, catching everyone's attention. Val was hatching, this time for real. Xellos attempted to head over, but Gravos blocked the hallway, shaking his head in a silent indication that Filia's wishes should be honored.

"Filia told me where she kept the baby dragon formula, I'll go prepare it." Elena headed over to the kitchen to prepare a bottle for Val.

The rest of the group remained in the living room, listening to Filia's cheers and watching Xellos pace impatiently. Unable to take it any longer, Lina paused her activity of stuffing her face with the potato chips she stole from the pantry and warned, "you're going to make a hole on Filia's rug if you keep pacing around on it like that."

Xellos looked down at the pink oval on the living room floor. "It's an ugly rug anyway," he remarked with his usual squinty eyes grin, though his expression showed impatience shining through the cheerful mask. A well hidden part of him couldn't help it but to wonder what this would signify for him and Filia. It was obvious Filia intended to raise Val and she was being extra careful with that task. Surely she knew better than to actually expect Xellos to behave, he was a trickster, it was in his nature to cause annoyance. Given those two seemingly incompatible facts, where did he stand in all of this, where did they stand? He wondered what Filia expected of him, or if she expected anything at all. "Why must that stupid dragon be so loud?"

"Don't worry, Mr. Xellos, child birth is supposed to be loud, that's perfectly normal," Amelia assured.

"Filia isn't actually giving birth," Xellos pointed out, "or laying an egg for that matter. She's just watching over an egg that's hatching."

"Regardless of the technicalities, when a baby is born a mother is loud," Amelia insisted. "That's just the way it is, I've seen a few births in Seyruun, it's always good to have someone who knows white magic near in those cases and I volunteered to help. I've never seen an expectant mother who isn't loud... or an expectant father who can sit still," the princess added with a smile.

Xellos knew Amelia was referring to his impatient pacing around, though he decided he was probably better off pretending he didn't catch the hint.

xoxox xox xoxox

The glow of Val's egg slowly faded as the sphere cracked and the baby inside it fought to make his way out. He could hear the familiar voice that spoke to him gently in the past now cheering loudly, as if she wanted him to go to her. Answering to his mother's calls, Val clawed at the egg shell with his tiny arms, pushing a portion of the egg aside and sticking out his neck. He finished making his way out of his confinement, crawling out into a soft material, and slowly opening his small eyes. The world was bright, but it didn't bother him, his egg had a see-through shell thus he was used to the light.

"Val," the baby ancient dragon focused on the source of the voice, the image forever recorded in his mind. "I'm so happy you're here, my little Val." Filia gently held her child in a soft blanket. Everything was silent as the world seemed to stop on that very moment. "Let's get ready to meet your family." She set him down next to the small container of water. "The water is nice and warm, whenever you're ready, honey."

The tiny black dragon curiously crawled out of the blanket cocoon. He stretched his small arms and legs, he could move around easily enough, as it was natural for a baby dragon, though it would be a few days before he was ready to fly. He kept his small wings close to his body and was yet to try to extend them. It would probably be a while before he attempted his first transformation into a human-like form. For the time being, he would remain in his true form until he gained enough control to change. Val dipped his tail into the warm water and looked at Filia, who had an encouraging smile on her face. He slowly went into the container, splashing around a little and making a giggling sound, with more of a dragon-like tone to it, though it was still baby-like in pitch.

Filia watched Val play for a few more seconds before she got to work on getting him all cleaned up. He didn't seem to want to extend his wings yet, though she would have to get him to do that soon as the thin membranes of the wings needed to be properly cleaned so as to not risk infection. The black feathers that characterized the wings of the ancient dragons would grow out in a few days. Debating on it for a second Filia, finally called out, "Xellos, come help me get Val ready!"

xoxox xox xoxox

The living room was filled with mutterings about what was happening and why everything was so quiet all of a sudden, until Tiffany spoke up. "Just so you know, dragons don't usually cry at the top of their lungs when they're born."

"Then Val hatched," Xellos assumed. That would explain why Filia had stopped cheering him on, the trial of breaking out of his egg had already been accomplished. He didn't waste another minute, making his way to Val's room as Filia called him, while everyone waited with excitement until Val was ready for them to see him.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos entered Val's room, spotting the tiny dragon splashing around while Filia carefully cleaned him with a soft sponge. "Filia?"

Filia received him with a smile that was absolutely radiant. "Look Val, daddy's here." Xellos approached them under Val's curious gaze. "Could you help me finish bathing him? I have to clean his wings."

"I knew you wouldn't be able to do such a simple task on your own," Xellos teased, as it was expected for him to do. Nonetheless, he was secretly glad that Filia trusted him enough to call him over to help her take care of Val. All that teasing Filia by calling himself Val's father was in the past, because somewhere along the way, Xellos ended up being given the role for real.

"I knew you would have something like that to say," Filia retorted, though she was in too much of a good mood to sound annoyed. "Just hold Val still and comfort him. His wings are a little stiff and stuck together. It might annoy him to stretch them out, but it needs to be done."

Filia's request seemed easy enough to accomplish. Xellos removed his gloves and rolled up his sleeves so as to not get them wet. He tried to hold Val still, though it didn't really seem necessary, as Val was only lightly splashing around anyway. Filia gently tugged on one of Val's wings and the little dragon, growled in protest. Filia looked heartbroken. "Is something wrong?" Xellos inquired.

"No, Val is alright, it's just that I know this is going to be uncomfortable for him but I need to do it anyway." Filia frowned. "C'mon, sweetie, please bear with it, your wings will feel much better when they're not stuck together anymore. I'm trying to help you, honey."

"You're a wimp," Xellos teased with a mocking grin.

"Be quiet, I have to be careful. Newborns are fragile," Filia argued with a slightly more defensive tone. As strong as dragons were, their young were exceptionally fragile right after hatching. She tugged on Val's wing again, applying a pale blue baby soap as gently as she could. His wing extended a little, though Val still squeaked in protest and squirmed in Xellos' hands. "Keep him still," Filia reminded.

Xellos attempted to do so, but he realized that Filia wasn't kidding when she said newborn dragons were fragile. Val felt almost disturbingly breakable with such a small body that could only house thin bones in his diminutive size. Surely he would grow and become far stronger than any human could be, but for the time being, he was more fragile than a human baby. Keeping Val still would be a lot easier if accidentally crushing him wasn't such a real and present possibility.

"There, I'm all done with this wing." Filia finally released Val's right wing from her hold. The tiny ancient dragon stretched it fully and flapped it in relief. "See? I told you it would feel better. Now be a good boy and let me clean your other wing." More willing to cooperate now, Val didn't put up much of a fight, instead trying to willingly stretch out his other wing. It wouldn't move so he tried harder, ending the attempt with a cry of complaint. "It's alright, honey, don't push yourself. Mommy's here to make it all better," Filia cooed. She took an extra moment to observe Val's wing. "The wing's membrane is stuck with the fluids from the egg. I'll have to be extra careful."

"How come his wings are like this?" It was obvious that this Val didn't have the memories of his past existence, or else he wouldn't be so calm to be near Xellos. But Xellos did remember that Valgaav's wings were different, they weren't so paper-thin and fragile.

"It's because he just hatched, his wings will develop over the next few days, then he'll be able to fly," Filia explained.

"With how thin his wings are right now, I'm surprised you haven't poked a hole through them with how clumsy you are." Xellos teased with his usual mocking sarcasm.

Filia froze, unable to continue the task at hand. She pouted and glared at Xellos, finally snapping, "don't make me more nervous then I am!" Then she took a deep breath and counted to ten to calm herself before continuing.

Filia was finally done with the cleaning. She gently tugged on Val's wing. He tried to extend it again and succeeded, though it stung, causing little Val to squeak in discomfort and bite Xellos' hand. Xellos immediately moved his hands away from Val in an automatic motion. "He bit me!"

"Don't make a scene, you'll upset him!" Filia warned with emphasis.

"I'm not making a scene," Xellos argued. Val seemed to disagree, as he was letting out a series of upset sounds. "Don't blame it on me; I wasn't the one who hurt him."

"He's not injured, he's upset!" Filia argued. "He only bit you by accident because his wings were stiff and stretching them out hurt. He's upset because you let him go so suddenly."

"It's not like I dropped him," Xellos pointed out. He noticed that Val was looking at him with sad eyes. Dragons could be pretty sensitive at times, if Filia was any indication. "It's okay, I'm not mad at you." Xellos reached out to pet little Val, touching the top of his head and his long neck with the end of his fingers. Val produced a giggle-like sound and happily snuggled against Xellos' hand as if wanting to be held again.

"Here, you can dry him." Filia handed Xellos a towel, though on second thought she added, "just leave the wings to me."

"That might be best," Xellos agreed, missing a chance to tease Filia, albeit there would be plenty more opportunities.

After Val was dry, he was placed into a new soft blanket, snuggling comfortably into the cocoon of baby blue fabric with yellow stars in Filia's arms. "Are you ready to meet the rest of your family?" Filia smiled at the tiny bundle in her arms, the baby gazing back at her with curious loving eyes.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia made her way back to the living room with the newborn Val in her arms. Everyone curiously surrounded her, saying something or other about how cute the baby was. The noisy crowd made little Val retreat further into the cocoon of the blanket, only peeking out slightly. "Aw, it's okay Val," Filia tried to coax him out. "Everyone is just excited to see you, don't be shy." Val peeked out from under the safety of the warm soft blanket and curiously examined the multitude before him.

"You're so cute!" Amelia squealed with joy as she slowly reached out to Val. The tiny dragon observed the approaching hand but decided not to retreat. The following touch on the top of his head was gentle and soft. Val shifted around in the blanket and peeked out further, with growing curiosity about the world around him.

Feeling him squirming around, Filia decided to set him down. "Here you go Val, go greet everyone." The little dragon crawled out of the blanket and took a few steps as the room was invaded with a chorus of "aw!" Val retreated to the safety of his soft blanket for a moment before peeking out again with another similar reaction from the people around him. He journeyed out again and the next thing he knew, everyone was on their knees calling him over.

Val made his way over to Lina, who petted him like Amelia had done before. The little dragon curiously sniffed her hand then eyed the bag she held on her other hand, making a little noise in indication that he wanted it. "What? You want my chips? Do baby dragons even eat chips?"

"They're baked chips, it's okay for Val to have some of those," Filia approved.

"Really? Well okay," Lina took some chips out of the bag and offered them to Val who gladly ate them from her hand.

"Wow, Val is so cute you're even sharing food with him, that's really something," Gourry commented while he gently petted his new little nephew on the head.

"Be quiet jellyfish brain! I'm always a very generous person," Lina defended, everyone knew it wasn't true, but nothing beats the power of cuteness.

In a similar way, Val curiously approached every person in the room one by one. Jillas and Gravos were all too happy to see Val hatched and in such a cheerful mood. Elena was reminded of when Palou was born and treasured watching the two little boys as the young fox told the little dragon about how they would be great friends, promising to come play with him often. Zelgadis was reluctant to hold Val at first, fearing that the tiny creature might dislike the less than soft texture of his skin. Amelia picked up Val and held him close to Zelgadis, then the little dragon playfully jumped on the chimera's shoulder, dissipating any self-conscious doubts Zelgadis might have had.

Tiffany was reminded of her days living among dragons, it had been a long time since she had seen a baby dragon. Celo was quite curious, as a high level of curiosity was in his nature. He also had a feeling that a certain someone would show up soon, which he quietly communicated to Xellos with the look in his eyes. Xellos nodded in understanding, though he made no attempt to give Filia a heads up. Fang was happy to have one more potential playmate, so he was quite cheerful with the event. Phythan was all too glad to be another honorary uncle and thought it would be lots of fun to have a nephew to visit and play with now and then.

Onyx watched in silence until Val curiously approached her. She studied him and he studied her. "Not a drooling screaming creature but a quiet, well behaved elegant being from the start... I like dragons." She finally concluded.

"You like dragons? As in dragons in general or just Val?" Phythan inquired like a little boy with a crush, which he in certain ways was.

"I have not met a sufficient number of dragons to generalize. However, I do not dislike the dragons I have met so far," Onyx replied in her usual monotone, albeit sometimes a hint of emotion shone through.

"That's good, I think," Phythan concluded.

Val had continued his exploration of the living room and examination of its inhabitants. He was a bit startled by Martina's sudden joyous squeal as she loudly exclaimed, while pointing her index finger at him, "I want one!" Deciding to be brave, Val curiously approached the loud creature that luckily turned out to be gentle after all. "Aw, how cute, I want one!" She insisted, while she cradled Val in her arms.

"You want a baby dragon?" Zangulus asked. "Even if dragons have some sort of adoption program, I doubt they would let a couple of humans raise one of their own."

"No silly, not a dragon, a baby," Martina giggled. "It doesn't matter if it's a dragon, a human or a spawn of Zoamelgustar. As long as it is our child, I'll love it with all my heart!"

Zangulus blushed slightly, "our child?" Then he went over Martina's words in his head again, "why would our child be a dragon or a spawn of Zoamelgustar?"

"Well, maybe not a dragon, but Zoamelgustar is kind of like a part of me in a sense, so that might interfere in terms of genetics," Martina mused. "It would be all of our child, yours mine and Zoamelgustar's!"

Zangulus gulped in worry, "great, we'll be a happy little family." He hoped that if they did have a child, the part about it having Zoamelgustar as a sort of third parent was only Martina's active imagination and not an actual possibility.

After having satisfied his curiosity, Val returned to Filia, eyeing the bottle she held curiously. Filia once again wrapped her baby in his blanket and offered him the bottle. "Here's some yummy dragon formula for you, say thanks to aunty Elena for preparing it." Val made a pleased sound as he drank from the baby bottle.

The living room once again fell mostly silent as everyone seemed to be entertained by watching Val drink the milk-like substance that was the dragon baby formula. It seemed thicker than regular milk though, due to the added extra proteins. The quietude was shattered by a loud voice calling out from the front entrance, "Gravy!" The voice got closer as its owner found that the door was unlocked and let herself in. "Gravy, I came to visit! Ah ha ha ho ha ha!"

"Naga," Gravos went to greet his dear Naga, while most of the others present wondered quietly about how such an odd pair could work. "You're just in time to meet Val."

"Val?" Naga curiously approached, making a pause to look around the room. "Everyone is here; this must be quite the occasion."

"It is," Amelia smiled happily; she rarely got to share any special occasions with her sister lately, so she was thankful for this. "Val is our nephew too."

"Aw how cute!" Naga gently tickled little Val who giggled. "Auntie Naga is very happy to meet you! Ah ha ha ho ha ha!"

To be Continued

My Main Site: http://azurelight.net
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Slayers: Alive

Episode 081: Dramatic! Building Up Tensions

"That laugh, that style of clothing..." Martina commented as she observed Naga.

"Yes? Did you say something to me?" Naga inquired.

There was a certain challenging tone to the atmosphere which was beginning to worry all those present. "I am Martina Zoana Mel Navratilova, the queen of Zoana!" The pale haired woman loudly declared with abundant pride. "Ah ha ha he ha ha!"

With the same volume and pride, Naga answered to the challenge, "I am Gracia Ul Naga Seyruun, the legendary White Serpent! But you can just call me Naga... Ah ha ha ho ha ha!"

You could cut the tension with a knife. Amelia wasn't sure if she should interfere with the possible war that was apparently about to break out, or advise everyone to run for their lives. This could potentially be as deadly as a pissed off Lina's Dragon Slave. Time stood still as Naga and Martina stared each other down, until they both loudly declared in unison, "best friends!"

The rest of the group stared in disbelief, with Lina solemnly muttering, "we're doomed." The newly acquainted best friends began to laugh together. Val produced a little high pitched growl of discomfort and hid himself in the blanket, holding his tiny paws on the sides of his head. Then the earth suddenly began to shake, causing Lina to yell, "shut up, you're making an earthquake!"

Martina and Naga quieted, coincidentally just as the earthquake ended. "Such is the power of our combined laughter!" They unanimously cheered.

"I'm pretty sure that was just a coincidence," Xellos pointed out. Albeit no one seemed to be listening to him, as their ears were still ringing from having heard the two most annoying laughs in the world simultaneously.

"It could be a bad omen," Jillas frowned.

Then suddenly, another person joined the already crowded living room, teleporting out of the astral side right in the middle of it. Before Filia could stop herself, she voiced, "oh no, you were right, that was a bad omen!"

"What did you say, dragon?" Zelas glared in Filia's direction.

"A good omen, that earthquake we just had was a great omen, because the wonderful Lord Beast Master is honoring us with her presence." Filia laughed nervously, fearing for her life and most of all for Val's life. If she had to take a guess, she would conclude that Fang told Zelas about what was happening.

"It is an honor for you indeed," Zelas agreed with a mocking expression. "Don't worry, I'm not here to put on a pair of white gloves and run my fingers on every dusty surface of the house just so I can criticize how filthy your living quarters are. Maybe I'll do that in another occasion, but right now I'm only here to see Val." Zelas approached Filia, who held Val in her arms, while giving Xellos worried looks. Val peeked out from the blanket now that things had quieted down and stopped shaking, staring curiously at the lady who wasn't there before. "I see..." Zelas muttered mysteriously. Then she stepped back and announced, "well, I've seen Val, so I'll be going now."

"That's it?" Filia inquired in disbelief. This was far too easy and it worried her.

"I did say I was simply here to see Val, have you forgotten already?" Zelas feigned surprise. "There are things that science cannot explain. The fact that you're still alive despite not possessing a brain is one of them," she smiled a mocking smile.

Filia felt herself twitch in annoyance. "Oh yeah, now I remember," she growled through gritted teeth. Zelas wasn't there just to see Val; she was there to bother Filia and the golden dragon knew it. In a grim corner of her mind, Filia knew that she better get used to occasional visits from Zelas, who was without a doubt the most fearsome mother-in-law in the known universe.

"Wait a minute!" Naga and Martina exclaimed in a chorus. Lina wished they would stop being so synchronized, it was creepy.

"There's a certain elegance to her," Martina observed.

"Yes, and I must say I really like the jewelry," Naga added.

Martina and Naga nodded to each other before unanimously inviting, "join us!"

Zelas blinked, finding herself face to face with two of the few humans who were strange enough to surprise even a monster lord. "Join what?" She curiously inquired, while Xellos, Celo and Fang shook their heads frantically, but were ignored.

"Join our group of best friends," Martina explained.

"Of course, you must have the laugh for it," Naga elaborated.

"Laugh..." Zelas grinned, "so you want to hear my laugh?" Celo and Fang exchanged looks, then looked at Xellos, who had a horrified expression upon his face. They had the so called honor to hear a real loud all out laugh from Zelas in the past and it was an experience they would not soon forget. Letting the suspense hang in the air for a few more seconds, Zelas finally spoke. "Perhaps in another occasion, this is a busy time for me. I need to prepare for the winter holidays and all." With that said, Zelas disappeared, fading away into the astral side.

"That was close..." Xellos breathed in relief.

"What's her laugh like full force?" Filia felt compelled to ask.

"It's like a mix between a roar and a howl that makes entire armies run away in fear," Xellos explained. Filia shuddered as she thought about what they almost witnessed.

"That sounds pretty cool," Naga observed.

Martina nodded, "I agree, I would like to hear her laugh one day." Martina and Zangulus had become aware of Celo and Tiffany's true nature, but they didn't know who Zelas really was yet. Albeit they might find out sometime in the near future.

"Me too," Naga concurred among the hopeless head shaking of most of those present.

A few seconds of blissful silence passed before Gourry made a seemingly stupid observation that took him way too long to analyze. "It's still fall, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's fall," Xellos confirmed, remembering his little argument with Filia about the use of the words fall and autumn. "The trees are drying up, the leaves are falling off. All the vegetation is falling and dying." The remark was, as expected from Xellos, spoken full of cheer.

"Actually, it's more proper to say it's autumn," Filia argued. The word autumn was much more elegant in Filia's opinion and less gloomy sounding than fall. Plus it was more season exclusive than fall in terms of what it could mean.

"Oh," Gourry dumbly acknowledge. "I thought so. I guess Zelas must be planning a really big party for the winter if she's getting ready for the holidays this early."

Of all the places to find a clue, in the words of Gourry Gabriev was the last place Xellos would expect it to appear. What looked like too much stupidity to be capable of interpreting sarcasm could be a stroke of genius in disguise... or just a useful observation fueled by dumb luck. Xellos glanced at Fang, who looked like the possible hidden meaning of Zelas' words had gone clear over his head. Then he looked at Celo, who shook his head lightly, in an indication that he did not know what was going on. Xellos couldn't draw much information out of this, but whatever secret plans Zelas had that she couldn't even share with her own general and priest were to take place no later than in the coming winter.

xoxox xox xoxox

Things had calmed down at Filia's house. Celo and Tiffany had returned to their duties at Amor Resort. That meant that Zangulus and Martina had to return to work as well. Phythan, who had been feeling better, got another wave of annoying dizziness and decided to retreat to the Amor Resort wooden clock tower to try to sleep it off. Though one would have to wonder if he wasn't just running away from the possibility of being auctioned again. Onyx's payment didn't go through, thanks to Xellos halting the transaction, leaving Phythan in her property once more. She had a word about it with Xellos, though that was not the only topic of conversation, nor was it the most interesting one.

"I'm not going to approve the transaction, even if Filia gets angry. She's in too much of a good mood to get really annoying right now because of Val. If anything, this is the perfect time to cancel that stupid shopping spree of hers. If you want money, you could track down that jellyfish or I could call up Galathia. I'm sure either of them would be all too happy to purchase that useless dragon Phythan, they both have such bad taste." Xellos stated his case while Onyx remained silent. She had requested to speak to her so called brother privately, though Xellos wasn't sure what sort of argument she couldn't speak in front of everyone else. Perhaps she thought she had blackmail material in her hands, albeit Xellos couldn't imagine what it could possibly be.

"I see..." Onyx didn't look like she would put up much of an argument about her lost fortune.

"So, what was it you really wanted to tell me?" Xellos inquired curiously, maybe she had remembered something. Maybe she knew what the Lord of Nightmares sealed in her.

"I'm a defect, aren't I, brother?" Onyx finally asked. "I have this amulet to rely on for self defense," she referred to the winged wolf necklace Zelas had given her. "Yet I have no power of my own. My monster power has not awakened and it doesn't feel like it will any time soon, perhaps never. I'm a failed experiment, the human side somehow poisoned the monster side, maybe even erased it from existence. Why was I made into a chimera? Why such a weak creature? I'm certain I would have been better off as a monster. What is my purpose, why did Zelas create me?"

"I can't give you that answer," just when Xellos thought he might be getting a good clue, it turned out Onyx had more questions than answers. "Finding yourself and all that cheesy stuff is something you need to do on your own. You should go with Celo and the others and take some time to think, figure out your existence and all that meaningless and insignificant stuff," he smiled like he always did when mocking someone.

"Very well," Onyx replied in a monotone, though there was a well marked hint of angry and sad frustration in her eyes. In the end, Onyx tagged along with the group that headed back to the resort.

A day passed and by then Lina and Gourry had consumed all the food at Filia's house, thus they returned to Amor Resort as well, along with Amelia and Zelgadis. Naga's urge to wander around kicked in and she said her farewells, continuing her trip around the world again. That left a relatively calm atmosphere at Filia's house with just Filia, Xellos, Val, Gravos and Jillas there, plus their close neighbors Elena and Palou. Needless to say, Filia was all too happy to have the chance to relax and enjoy taking care of little Val, even if relaxing with Xellos around often proved to be a difficult task.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Amelia and Zelgadis were going around Amor Resort enjoying their time together. Things had slowed down for the group once again, though they deep down knew the peaceful and calm atmosphere wouldn't last for long. The princess and the chimera were enjoying a picnic in the park area of the resort, with a checkered blanket on soft grass beside the shade of a tall tree surrounded by fallen leaves and a basket full of delicious goodies. They spotted two familiar faces not too far away, where Phythan was playing fetch with Fang, who was in his fox form.

Everything was peaceful until a loud voice called out, "there he is!" As a tentacle pointed at Phythan. Medusa was back, having survived her seemingly mortal wound with a scar that went down diagonally across her face to show for it.

Medusa only had one companion as her ally this time. He was a young man, whom Amelia immediately recognized and called out to him. "Mr. Kalio! Where have you been? Miss Kally has been worried about you!"

"My sister can find me when she so pleases." Kalio didn't lift his gaze from staring at the ground. "I'm not surprised she hasn't come to face me, after all, I'm a traitor to everyone. I'm a traitor to my promise; I'm a traitor to Seyruun and a traitor to justice!" He dramatically declared.

Amelia gasped with equal drama, her expression filled with disbelief. "This cannot be! Mr. Kalio, you always worked hard at Seyruun and followed the path of justice! Why do you call yourself a traitor?"

Inpatient and angry at the prolonged exchange, Medusa interrupted. "Kalio, if you have truly sworn your loyalty to me, you'll kill that cruel heartbreaker!"

"Miss Medusa, I've actually been meaning to apologize," Phythan began, though no one seemed to be paying any attention to him.

"I'm sorry princess Amelia," Kalio still didn't look up, his eyes sad and ashamed. "I injured this innocent maiden and endangered her life. Though she survived, she has been scarred for life by my lack of control. That is why I must swear my loyalty to her, to compensate her. My life now belongs to Miss Medusa, so I can no longer serve the fair kingdom of Seyruun. Please forgive me, your highness, but I must do as Miss Medusa tells me to. Kally, dear sister, wherever you are, I'm sure you can sense the suffering of my tortured soul. I'm sorry, but I must raise my sword against a dragon once again, even if I swore never to do that." Kalio finally lifted his face and glared at Phythan, drawing his sword. "En guard dragon!"

Phythan stood still like an idiot in shock as Fang kept tugging at his clothes with his paw, trying to get him to notice the little ball at his feed so he could throw it again and continue their game of fetch. With the same exaggerated dramatic flare with which he had delivered all his lines thus far, Kalio charged forward, sword in hand, aiming to pierce Phythan's heart.

"No!" Amelia dramatically cried out, while Zelgadis was the only one who actually moved to do something about the situation.

The chimera unsheathed his own sword and soon the clash of metal against metal echoed all over the park. The clueless bystanders assumed that this was one of the many shows that the resort had to offer and formed a circle around the battle zone to watch the sword fight. "Stop this nonsense!" Zelgadis demanded. "If you don't really want to betray justice and kill Phythan, then don't do it!"

"I have to!" Kalio stepped back, freeing his blade from its lock against Zelgadis'. "Don't you see? This lovely dedicated maiden has stolen my heart, but hers is broken. If Miss Medusa is to gain the strength to love again, her past heartbreak must be avenged!"

Zelgadis blinked with a weirded out expression, "what?"

"Hey, wait a minute! I thought Miss Medusa liked me!" Phythan protested like a child whose candy was stolen by a classmate.

Amelia gasped loudly, "it's a love triangle! How romantic!" She was in her soap opera fan hyper mode, a side of her that shone through on occasion. Such as that time when Gourry was dragged to be involved in that strange dramatic incident with a family of fish people.

Medusa got a starry eyed look with metaphorical hearts floating all around her. "My dear Kalio, I had no idea you felt that way about me! End the life of that horrible dragon so that I can forever put the memory of his hot naked body out of my mind and focus on my new relationship with you!"

Kalio's jaw dropped, his face turned red and his eyes twitched wildly in an alternating rhythm of left and right. "Just what kind of relationship did you have with Miss Medusa you... you... you... you beast!"

"I'm a dragon, not a beast," Phythan pointed out. "Although I am Beast Master's intern, so maybe that makes me like an honorary beast? Anyway, I have no relationship with Miss Medusa what so ever, so you don't have to get all jealous."

"Calm down, Mr. Kalio," Amelia tried to solve the situation as peacefully as possible. "Mr. Phythan is completely innocent in every way. It's just that he has no modesty what so ever when it comes to transforming. In fact, we've all seen him," she paused, noticing that Zelgadis was frowning and looking generally annoyed. "But it was such a long time ago that I barely remember anything," the princess quickly added with a hint of embarrassment.

"I see..." Kalio was visibly relieved, but he wasn't about to back down from the fight. "None the less, I must carry out this battle to the bitter tragic end! Please step aside princess Amelia, I must fight this dragon!"

"I won't!" Amelia adamantly argued. "Mr. Phythan is an ally of justice and I cannot allow you to harm him! Besides, if you act in such an unjust way you'll be hurting yourself too, Mr. Kalio. The terrible regret of injustice will consume you!"

"The terrible regret of injustice is already consuming me!" Kalio stubbornly insisted.

Zelgadis huffed in exasperation, "Amelia, if they really want to fight, let's just let them fight and get it over with. There's obviously no reasoning with this guy."

Amelia looked as if she was about to disagree, but before she could voice her thoughts, Phythan stepped forward. "A brave warrior of justice never backs down from a challenge. I will defeat Mr. Kalio in battle and prove to him that justice always wins against injustice. Then he'll leave his unjust ways behind and once again become an ally of justice!"

Feeling all excited and inspired by Phythan's little justice speech, Amelia joined in with a few encouraging words of her own. "Yes, go forth bravely into battle, Mr. Phythan. The power of justice is with you to help save Mr. Kalio and guide him back into the path of justice!"

Without any further warnings, Phythan transformed into his dragon shape, roaring a loud battle cry. Zelgadis was a moment too late in covering Amelia's eyes, which left him grumbling in annoyance. Medusa wasn't making things any better by shouting out, "kill him dead, very dead! Because otherwise such perfection would be impossible to forget!"

Amelia moved Zelgadis' hand away from covering her eyes, repositioning his arm around her shoulders. He blushed, seeing that though she, naturally, didn't want a hand obstructing her view of the battle now that Phythan was fully transformed and modesty issues didn't apply, she didn't really push him away either. Amelia always made it clear that she very much enjoyed having Zelgadis near her and that made him fall in love all over again every time it happened. "I can't believe how big it is," the princess commented with amazement.

Zelgadis nearly choked on air, almost too afraid to ask. "How big is what?"

"Phythan's horn," Amelia innocently pointed out. "It was barely noticeable before, but now it's like a really big sword."

"You're right," Zelgadis acknowledged and it looked as if Phythan was putting that horn to use by parrying Kalio's sword with it. The golden dragon's movements were clumsy at best, since he wasn't use to wielding a horn like this, but it was somehow effective against every blow. For the eyes of a skilled swordsman such as Zelgadis, it was easy to detect that Kalio wasn't really trying. It was clear he didn't want to fight Phythan, even if he was compelled to do so by some odd sense of obligation mixed with a strange crush on an even stranger jellyfish girl.

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 082: Unpredictable! Impulses Of The Heart

"Go Mr. Phythan! Justice is on your side, you can't lose!" Amelia loudly cheered.

"Not to mention that Kalio isn't actually trying to win," Zelgadis pointed out, taking a moment to examine the battle more closely. "Actually, Phythan isn't trying to win either. Even if he's inexperienced fighting with a horn, Kalio is purposely leaving himself wide open for an attack."

"How tragic!" Amelia gasped. "Mr. Kalio feels guilty and believes the only way to atone is to fall in battle, but Mr. Phythan is an ally of justice who wishes to save Mr. Kalio and will not strike him down no matter what!" Just as Amelia's hyper excitement grew, the ground beneath her feet began to vibrate in a barely perceptible way at first.

The movement soon evolved into all out shaking, which had Amelia clinging instinctively to Zelgadis with the chimera returning the gesture in a protective embrace. The crowd of onlookers that had formed a circle around the fight started running around wildly and stupidly seeking shelter under the near by trees. Phythan's horn was about to collide with Kalio's sword when the shaking incremented, causing the golden dragon to stumble, momentarily losing his balance. Then the sharp horn broke Kalio's weapon as he attempted to instinctively block and stabbed him on the chest. "No matter what?" Zelgadis ironically inquired.

Amelia gasped tragically, as the earthquake finally subsided and the land was once again still. "Oh no!" Amelia tragically declared.

"Mr. Kalio?" Phythan removed his horn from the victim as gently as he could. Kalio collapsed with both hands trying to hold back the abundant blood coming from the wound on his chest. "I didn't mean to hurt you! The earthquake made me lose my balance, it was an accident!"

"Kalio!" Medusa hurried towards her fallen comrade, immediately casting a Recovery spell, joined in doing so by Amelia. "Hold on Kalio, just hold on!"

Phythan looked like he was just about ready to cry, but before he started, Zelgadis pointed out something helpful. "You're a golden dragon; don't you know how to cast a Resurrection healing spell?"

Phythan's mood suddenly changed from tragically sad to energetically hopeful. "You're right, I do!" He focused his energy, calling forth all his power, "Resurrection!"

A warm and gentle golden light surrounded Kalio, whose wound was miraculously healed. "I'm... still alive... Why have you saved me, golden dragon? Do you not understand that my only destiny is to slay you? We must fight until one of us falls!"

"That's enough fighting," Medusa spoke solemnly, with a few tears of relief escaping her big expressive eyes. "Your loyalty has truly touched my heart. I am forever grateful to you Kalio, the amazing man who's willing to give even his life for the sake of my wishes. Right now, my wish has changed, I no longer want revenge, I want you to stay by my side, my beloved!" Medusa dramatically announced at the top of her lungs, adding an after thought in a quick muttered whisper. "Besides, now that your shirt's been ripped to shreds and your wound has been miraculously healed, I can see that you're pretty hot yourself..."

"Do you mean it, Miss Medusa; you're willing to return my affection?" Kalio's eyes were all starry with metaphorical hearts floating around him too.

"I mean every word!" Medusa assured. The happy couple looked like they were about to kiss, which was something that Amelia was anticipating like the final chapter of one of those romance novels she liked to read. Zelgadis really didn't want to witness this and Phythan was too innocent to see it coming. As for Fang, he just wished that someone would throw the ball so he could fetch it.

Fortunately for those who didn't need to see a human and a jellyfish kissing, the scene was interrupted by the arrival of Kally. "Kalio, dear brother!"

"Kally!" Kalio was filled with both tension and relief at the arrival of his sister.

"I felt your very life fading away, it was so painful!" Kally hugged her brother, sobbing lightly. "I feared you would die!"

"I'm so sorry, Kally, I've been terribly selfish, I'm the worse brother in the world. I know you feel my pain because of our special connection, yet I..."

Kally stopped him from going any further, "don't say anything else, you're safe and that's all that matters. After the pain subsided, I sensed that you were filled with joy. What has happened?"

Kalio's face turned scarlet, "I... I have found true love!" He announced much louder than necessary, reinforcing the crowd's theory that this was all an act for their entertainment. "This is my beloved Miss Medusa. Miss Medusa, this is my dear twin sister Kally."

"It's wonderful to meet you," Kally greeted, "or rather to meet you in a better situation."

"I say the same," Medusa agreed, "let us leave the past behind and live peacefully and happily."

"Life is wonderful!" Amelia cheered.

Zelgadis felt himself almost twitch in disbelief. He wondered if some giant tidal wave would show up to return all the fish people to the sea again, but none came. "Life is a soap opera..."

"Princess Amelia, I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused. I go berserk when I see those creatures," Kalio apologized. "I hope you can forgive me and not exile me from Seyruun."

"I'm the one to blame for Kalio's state. It is because of the pain of a past experience I had, which I rather not think about, that he ended up like that," Kally explained. Due to the connection they shared, though Kalio was not poisoned by an octopus allergy directly and thus presented no physical symptoms, he felt Kally's pain and suffered along with her. Instead of developing an acute fear like Kally's, Kalio wasn't affected by verbal references to octopi, but if he ever saw an octopus he went into a crazy fit of rage.

"It's okay," Amelia assured. "I will gladly welcome all of you at Seyruun whenever you're ready to return, you too Miss Medusa."

"Thank you!" Kalio, Kally and Medusa chorused happily.

"If it is alright with you, princess, I would like to continue my journey," Kalio requested. "I feel that I still have much to learn about life, love and justice. Miss Medusa, are you willing to come with me on this journey?"

"I will, I'll go anywhere with you my love!" Medusa gladly agreed.

"Then I will remain here and work as a doctor," Kally decided. "I'll make sure to report my findings to Seyruun."

"I wish you all the best of luck in your chosen paths and don't forget, you'll always have a home in Seyruun." Amelia happily send them off with radiant joy. After one last farewell, Kalio and Medusa went off in one direction, hand in hand, or rather tentacle in hand. Kally walked off in another direction, while Phythan, Fang, Amelia and Zelgadis remained. "Everything worked out well in the end."

"Yeah," Phythan agreed, transforming back into an elf and raising his fist into the air victoriously, "justice always triumphs!"

Zelgadis slapped his own forehead and shook his head hopelessly, "you're never going to learn your lesson when it comes to modesty, are you?"

Phythan looked clueless, as if he didn't even know if Zelgadis' vexed mutterings were directed at him or not. Then he adopted a thoughtful expression as he came up with a rather stupid theory. "Do you think that if I get injured and I'm an inch from death, and Miss Onyx sees it, she'll suddenly realize she likes me?"

"I don't think being injured is a good thing," Amelia warned. "I'm sure Miss Onyx will be sad if you're hurt, we will all be sad, so please don't take such a risk."

"It wouldn't work," Zelgadis added, his next words taking everyone by surprise. "You're not the problem, she's the problem. The way Onyx is now, she cannot love anyone."

"Because of her amnesia?" Phythan sadly inquired.

"No," Zelgadis insightfully replied, "it's because she doesn't believe she's good enough to be loved. I heard her talking to Xellos. When she asked to speak with him alone, I thought they might be discussing some kind of plot from Zelas, so I eavesdropped. I think Xellos noticed, but he didn't say anything about it. Onyx probably didn't know." Zelgadis confessed. "Onyx thinks she's a defective chimera, she's unhappy with herself. That's why she can't accept anyone's feelings, not unless she accepts herself." It was something that Zelgadis knew from his own personal experience.

"I see... I won't give up, but I'll take things slowly. I'll try to let Miss Onyx know how much fun it is to be around her. Then she'll accept herself and maybe even like me. Then we'll be best friends!" Of course, one couldn't expect anything too deep or serious to be spoken by Phythan, who still had the innocence of a child.

"We'll be cheering for you, Mr. Phythan, just take things slowly and be patient," Amelia smiled encouragingly. She understood that Zelgadis was referencing his own personal experiences with his interpretation of Onyx's situation. The princess leaned her head on the chimera's shoulder lovingly, which caused a blissful red tint to invade his face.

"I won't give up!" Phythan was determined. The golden dragon's blissful expression slowly evolved into a doubtful one as a particular thought reemerged in his mind. "I have a feeling that I've forgotten something important," he gave it some more thought and finally reached a conclusion. "Oh yeah, now I remember, since my horn has grown out completely, a clan of dragon slayers might come to kill me soon. Mr. Kalio and Miss Kally said they would help me out with that, but I guess that with all this excitement they forgot. It's okay, I feel much better now so I can take care of myself, and I have Fang to help me out if I need backup."

"I'm sure they didn't mean to forget," Amelia assured. "Kally has a lot on her mind worrying about her brother and getting ready to face her new career. Kalio is in love and that can be pretty distracting. Just make sure to be careful not to go off into any lonely dark alleys and if anyone attacks you, shoot a bright light to the sky and we'll follow it to you right away!"

"Thanks, I appreciate it," Phythan smiled, while Fang tugged on his clothes with his paw impatiently. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Fang." Phythan picked up the little ball they were playing fetch with and threw it far away. By then the crowd of spectators had dissipated, since it looked like the dramatic show was over.

"Where should we go next?" Amelia inquired, cuddling Zelgadis lovingly.

Zelgadis happily embraced her, giving the question some thought. "I'm getting kind of hungry, do you want to find a nice restaurant and sit down for a good meal?"

"That's a great idea, I'm getting hungry too," Amelia agreed and the happy couple walked off.

Phythan blinked in confusion, debating if he should call out to them or not. He finally decided to let them go, they looked so happy walking away arm in arm that it felt wrong to disturb them. The golden dragon glanced at the white and red checkered blanket as Fang brought back the ball he fetched. "It looks like they forgot about their picnic. I guess love really is distracting. Oh well, there's no sense in letting a perfectly good picnic basket go to waste. What do you say we have a snack, Fang?" Naturally, the energetic monster fox was all too happy to agree.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few days passed in relative peace. Nothing seemed to be disturbing the quietude of the world, save for the occasional earthquake. Actually, the earthquakes were becoming a little too occasional, which began to make Lina and her traveling companions grow suspicious, especially Xellos, who secretly wondered if the earthquakes were somehow connected to Zelas' winter plans, whatever they might entail. Currently, Xellos was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a bowl of cereal after having slept in, never mind that lunch time was right around the corner.

The proximity of the next meal time was made more obvious by the fact that Filia was slaving away at the kitchen, trying to prepare something especially delicious for her family. Xellos watched her from the corner of his eyes, yawning slightly. It wasn't that Val cried in the middle of the night to be fed, the real problem was that Filia woke up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, wanting to check on Val to make sure he was alright. Every time, the baby dragon would be sleeping soundly and Filia would blissfully return to the warm comfort of Xellos' arms in her room. Then after an hour or so, she would wake up again and wake Xellos with her motions to get out of bed so she could once again check on Val.

The same scene was repeated over and over, until Xellos finally had enough of it and the next time Filia got up, he accompanied her. Without a word, he picked up the comfy basket crib where Val slept and moved it to their room, where Filia could keep an eye on Val without having to get out of bed and wake Xellos in the process. As for Val, he had a great night's sleep and was full of energy, ready to pounce on his parents and jump on them continuously at the crack of dawn in hopes of getting some breakfast. Though he was still quite small, Val's wings had developed and he learned to fly on instinct.

The tiny ancient dragon swooped into the kitchen and landed on Filia's head, curiously stretching his neck down to look at the pleasantly aromatic contents of the pot his mother was steering. "Val, honey, it's not nice to land on people's heads. Plus it's dangerous to lean into a boiling pot of food like that." Filia carefully removed Val from her head and placed him on a high baby chair next to where Xellos sat at the kitchen table.

"Have you ever heard about dragon cuisine?" Xellos inquired with an infuriatingly sweet smile. "Lina and her friends once hunted down a dragon for its meat, but it turned out the cuisine took too long to make so they had to move on with their journey. That's too bad, because they were really looking forward to tasting dragon."

Filia glared in annoyance. She was mostly used to Xellos' taunts, but sometimes he still managed to tick her off. This was one of those times when she didn't know if he was kidding or completely serious, as his tone could never really be used as an indication. "You're lying!"

"Not at all," Xellos mocked with a wide grin and cheerful squinty eyes. "You can ask them yourself, unless you really don't want to know."

Before Filia could come up with a proper retort to Xellos' taunts, Val flew from his baby chair to Xellos, landing on the top of his head and snuggling into his hair. "Xellos, we need to teach Val not to land on people's heads. I don't want him to grow up to be rude and inconsiderate like you."

"That last bit was uncalled for," Xellos feigned hurt. He then proceeded to take another spoonful of cereal, not doing anything about Val who was still happily perched on his head.

"Xellos!" Filia scolded, "you're not being helpful!" She growled impatiently. "Val, sweetie, please get off daddy's head." Val looked at Filia, making a little confused and pleading sound as if asking if he really had to and pointing out the fact that his father didn't seem to mind. "Come on, honey, I already told you it's rude to stand on people's heads." She worried that one of these days Val would fly out the window and land on some bad tempered person's head. "You need to respect people's personal space."

Without any further protests, Val hopped off Xellos' head and landed on the table. "Want some cereal? I put extra sugar in it," Xellos offered, pushing the half eaten bowl towards the baby dragon.

Val curiously looked at the substance, before sticking his head into the bowl and eating some. "Xellos!" As expected, Filia had something to say about that too. "Don't encourage Val to stick his head in dishes, that's terrible table manners! If you're going to feed him cereal, then set a good example and contribute to teaching him how to use a spoon!" As a second thought, she added, "actually, don't feed Val cereal now, I'm about to serve lunch in less than ten minutes and you're making him lose his appetite."

I wouldn't be a very good father if I didn't make sure my child is fed," Xellos gave Filia his usual cheerful expression that seemed to be painted on his face. "You're such a cruel dragon, letting a baby go hungry."

"You're lying!" Filia defended. "I gave Val a good breakfast while you were sleeping in late!"

"Whose fault was it that I had to sleep in late?" Xellos teased.

"It's not my fault that you're a light sleeper," Filia retorted.

"It's not my fault that you're clumsy getting up," Xellos countered. "Every time you would get out of bed you would slap me or kick me."

"Not on purpose!" Filia argued. "I was sleepy and stumbled around a little." She took away the super sugary cereal and offered Val a bread biscuit. "Here, Val, have an appetizer instead." She tossed away the remainder of the cereal, ignoring Xellos' exaggerated hurt expression and picked up a basket full of similar bread biscuits to place it on the main dining table. On her other arm, she balanced a stack of plates, exiting the kitchen.

Val picked at the bread biscuit, but it wasn't as sweet as the extra sugary cereal, so it didn't really interest him s much. Xellos got up from his seat and rummaged through the pantry until he found what he was looking for, a bottle of hot sauce. "Let's help mommy with her cooking." Xellos walked over to the simmering stew with Val curiously joining him, perched on his shoulder. Then the earth shook again to the sound of a few vases falling and breaking in the shop area. The tremor wasn't too long, but it was stronger than the previous ones.

The bottle of hot sauce slipped out of Xellos' grasp and fell into the large pot of stew. Val was taken by surprise and lost his balance, falling off Xellos shoulder, too startled to remember to flap his wings. Fortunately, Xellos caught the baby dragon, before he fell into the boiling pot. Filia rushed back to the kitchen in a panic. Xellos quickly stepped away from the stew and pretended to be innocent. "Is everyone okay?"

"Of course we're okay; it was just an earthquake, no big deal, stupid cowardly dragon." Xellos grinned teasingly.

Filia let out a breath of relief. She had heard some vases breaking, but no pained voices, so she concluded that the shattering objects didn't hurt anyone at the shop. Plus it only sounded like one or two vases, so the property damage was minimal. She noticed that Xellos was holding Val protectively, which further calmed her down. She gently caressed her son's head. "It's okay honey, mommy and daddy will keep you safe." Filia smiled at the baby ancient dragon, before turning a critical look towards Xellos. "Although, there have been far too many earthquakes lately."

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 083: Official! Smoothing Out The Technicalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxox xox xoxox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxox xox xoxox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Seyruun?" Xellos questioned.

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

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

To be Continued

My Main Site: http://azurelight.net
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Fanart Central: http://fanart-central.net/user/AzureMikari/

Slayers: Alive

Episode 084: Poison! Prepare For Trouble

The preparations for Xellos and Filia's wedding were quickly started. Amor Resort had plenty of shops to purchase all the needed items, so finding things was not difficult. Sylphiel had agreed to officiate the marriage ceremony and Amelia would approve it in the name of Seyruun. As part of the preparations, Filia and the girls were getting dresses with Amelia, Lina and Tiffany playing the role of bridesmaids, soon to be joined by Elena when she, Jillas and Gravos arrived.

"Filia," a particularly annoying tone adorned the sing-song voice of the mysterious woman who appeared, literally, out of nowhere, or rather, out of the astral side if you want to get technical.

"Zelas..." Filia was taken by surprise, dropping her arms which she had previously held outstretched for Sylphiel to measure her. She wasn't expecting Zelas to cause trouble until the actual wedding.

"What do you think of this dress?" Zelas spun around to show off her elegant dress. It was strapless with small diamonds all around and a low cut that was open on the back leaving most of it bare. The skirt had multiple layers of shiny fabric adorned with more diamonds that matched the rest of her expensive jewelry. Her hair was done up neatly with a few strands elegantly framing her face. Zelas grinned her most annoyingly mocking grin. "Pretty, isn't it?"

The dress was indeed pretty, it was beautiful, it was gorgeous and it was white. Filia knew she should have seen this coming; of course Zelas wouldn't miss the opportunity to show up at her wedding wearing an extravagant white dress. "Very nice," the angry golden dragon finally spoke, careful to keep her voice even, or at least as even as her burning rage permitted. Then she turned to Sylphiel and casually declared, with more sharpness to her tone than any casual statement should merit. "Make my wedding dress pink."

A deadly silence invaded the atmosphere. Sylphiel dared not to protest, it was obvious that this lady was a monster, given her peculiar entrance, and she seemed to be a powerful one. That aside, people didn't always follow the white dress tradition and Filia could get married in pink if she so wished it. Then Lina, who was feeling particularly brave, decided to speak up. "Weren't the bridesmaids supposed to wear pink?"

Filia frowned and Lina quieted. "You can wear pink; I'll wear... lavender..."

"Dark purple," Zelas dictated, causing Filia to twitch at being told what to wear in her own wedding. "Xellos would like that, but of course; I can't expect such an uncaring bride to even remotely consider what her unfortunate groom would prefer." Zelas made a dramatic motion with her hand over her forehead as if pretending to faint.

Filia debated if she should reply or not. Zelas would no doubt be very difficult to argue with, being both cunning and annoying. Worse yet, if Filia did manage to get her point across, that might mean death. On the other hand, Filia wasn't sure what her point was anyway. "Dark purple it is!" Filia knew that there was no way she could beat Zelas in the art of being annoying. She was pretty sure no one could do that, not even Xellos. Perhaps her best survival strategy and hopefully the key to having a somewhat decent wedding was to play nice. "Lord Beast Master, would you pretty please, do me the great honor of designing my wedding dress?" Filia batted her eyelashes, her voice coated in a thick layer of sugar, while her aura screamed bloody murder.

Amelia leaned over to Lina and quietly whispered, "she lost it."

Then the next thing Amelia knew, Zelas had disappeared from in front of Filia only to reappear next to Amelia and whisper to her, "she never had it." Which caused Amelia and Lina to jump back and stumble like dominoes, knocking down Sylphiel in their path.

Zelas' silver eyes focused on Filia, the golden dragon noting the change of color which was all done probably just to better match the many diamonds and the ivory white of the dress, which any honest person had to admit looked good paired with Zelas' radiant tan. "Good to see you're learning your place."

Filia visibly shook with anger. Through clenched teeth she pushed out her reply. "I'm only all too happy to be a part of your lovely family." She wouldn't let Zelas drive her over the edge. That would mean that she lost and Filia simply couldn't give Beast Master this victory.

xoxox xox xoxox

After the measurements were taken, Zelas disappeared with the notes, claiming that she was off to create a masterpiece. Filia didn't even want to imagine the dress she would have to wear. While Amelia tried to console Filia with one of her positive thinking justice speeches, Lina and Sylphiel moved to the balcony of the atelier which resided on the second floor of a boutique. "Um... Sylphiel... about Gourry..." Lina brought up the difficult subject that she simply had to get off her chest. Sylphiel was an important friend to Gourry and she was Lina's friend too, she even saved her life in the past.

Sylphiel leaned on the balcony, closing her eyes in thought for a moment, before looking out in the distance at the busy crowds making their way through the resort. "It's okay; you don't need to sound so apologetic. I took a lot of time to speak up and maybe it's because I knew the two of you belonged together. My dear Gourry is happy," this time Sylphiel attached her usual way to refer to him in front of the name, because he was still someone dear to her as a friend. "That's all that really matters, one day, I'll find someone too. I'll be patient until then."

Sylphiel smiled so sincerely that Lina's worries evaporated. "I'm sure you will," the redhead smiled back.

xoxox xox xoxox

While the last few preparations for the wedding were still taking place, Lina suggested that they should rehearse to make sure everything went just right. At first Filia was surprised at how eager to help and thoughtful Lina was being, though she soon realized she should have seen it coming when the actual rehearsal took place that evening. It was held in the same location of the ball where Lina and Gourry got married, which turned into getting engaged. The dome was as elegant as ever, with its white marble walls round about, impressive glass ceiling and gorgeous levitating chandeliers.

Yet the locale seemed empty with its few occupants when it was built to house a large crowd. Lina certainly wasn't complaining, that meant more food for her. Which brought Filia back to her main argument, that she proceeded to state while cradling little Val in her arms. "Why do we need to have a banquet rehearsal, I thought this was supposed to be a wedding rehearsal!"

"Why would we need a wedding rehearsal? Don't you know how weddings go, stupid dragon?" Xellos teased. "I'm a monster," or he was originally and would hopefully become one again, "and even I know how weddings go."

"I know how weddings go, raw garbage!" Filia countered. "And I also know that no matter how we rehearse, it in the end it will only go any way Zelas wants it to go." She sighed, defeating her own point. Searching for something in the surrounding area that would distract her enough to calm down, Filia spotted Phythan following Onyx around like a lost puppy. The comparison was made more vivid by the fact that his tail was out for whatever reason, wagging slightly now and then.

Noticing what Filia was looking at, Xellos teased, "I bet she hits him in three... two... one..." Onyx turned around, glared at Phythan who tried to smile to soothe her anger. She walked around him and stomped hard on his tail. He yelped in pain, while she walked away. Xellos grinned proudly, even without his ability to sense emotions he could still guess what people were about to do at times. It probably came from his expertise in temper tantrums, which he obtained thanks to Filia. "Did you see that? I'm a genius."

"Anyone somewhat observant would have guessed that," Filia argued. "I knew she would hit him too. Onyx had that look in her eyes that's like..."

"Like when you're about to try to hit me with your mace?" Xellos offered, his expression still amused.

"Exactly," Filia agreed. "But she hasn't auctioned him again yet," Filia pointed out, glaring at Xellos suspiciously, while he tried to play innocent. "Don't give me that look as if you don't know what I'm talking about, I know you didn't let the payment go through. I guess it's okay as long as Onyx doesn't try to auction Phythan again. Maybe she likes him; she did kick him pretty hard." Filia mused aloud, not realizing that her theory was not exactly the most logical.

Xellos raised an eyebrow, one eye open and one closed, "I knew it, you're a sadist."

"No I'm not," Filia pouted, then went over her words again. "I meant it in a completely innocent way. It's like how a child would poke another child because of a secret crush. It's kind of like how you would always get on my nerves."

"A monster isn't exactly an innocent child," Xellos pointed out. "And neither is a grown human, but dragons are... pathetically innocent."

Filia huffed, "stop twisting things around! Anyway, I don't think Onyx is so bad. She's picky with who she graces with a few words, but her ego isn't as big as yours. I know because Zelgadis and I eavesdropped on your conversation with her. I thought you might be plotting something that I would somehow have to stop. Zelgadis muttered something about Onyx not accepting herself, but I didn't quite catch all of it. It didn't look like something he wanted to elaborate on at the moment, so I didn't ask."

Xellos pretended to be hurt, "don't you trust me at all?"

"When it comes to causing mischief, I only trust you to cause a lot of it," Filia retorted. She watched Onyx sneak away from the banquet uncomfortably, she had been in a bad mood since the whole event started. From a certain perspective it could be considered as an improvement from her usual monotone, but from the perspective of Phythan's aching tail as he followed her unsure of why she was angry at him, it was not an improvement. "Which is why I'm not leaving you here unsupervised to get into trouble while I go do something about those two."

"Matchmaking?" Xellos laughed mockingly. "We both know how your past attempts turned out."

"They were perfectly successful!" Filia emphasized. "All the couples that I tried to match-make for ended up together!"

"Not as a direct result of your actions," Xellos reminded.

Filia glared, maintaining her position, "I'm sure I contributed." She strolled over to Tiffany, who was making her way around the dome playing hostess. "Tiffany, can you keep an eye on Val for a little while? Xellos and I need to take care of something real quick."

Tiffany grinned mischievously, "I completely understand. Come here little Val, let's give mommy and daddy some time to do mommy and daddy things."

"Be good to aunty Tifa," Filia kissed Val's forehead and went on her way with Xellos.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia didn't quite catch the meaning of Tiffany's words until she and Xellos were already out of the dome heading towards the forest of plastic trees that surrounded the wooden clock tower. She stopped, suddenly realizing, "I think Tiffany got the wrong idea about why we left."

Grinning in vast amusement, Xellos winked, "we could always make it right."

Filia blushed, "focus, raw garbage, we're here to make sure Phythan doesn't get auction away and to make sure Onyx has a trustworthy companion nearby for whenever whatever was sealed in her by the Lord of Nightmares finally manifests itself. Most of all, were here to make Onyx and Phythan realize they like each other!"

"You sounded like Amelia giving a justice speech, only worse, because your speech is about matchmaking," Xellos mocked.

"Don't worry, it'll work, I'm feeling optimistic. Look, there they are!" Filia pointed to a clearing ahead, where Onyx had stopped walking and Phythan had caught up with her. Filia ducked behind a line of plastic bushes, signaling for Xellos to quietly join her.

"I have an odd feeling..." Xellos whispered. He had never felt so in danger without his ability to sense the life forms around him. It was almost as if some kind of obscure survival instinct was setting him on edge.

"I'm feeling pretty relaxed," Filia yawned. "In fact, I've been feeling extra relaxed and kind of sleepy since we entered this fake plastic forest. There's something calming in the air here that I didn't quite notice before."

"Maybe it's that strange perfume lingering in the air?" Xellos suggested, "it's unusual, I don't like it." He glanced at where Onyx was yelling at Phythan not to follow her, while he grinned stupidly. "Phythan seems to agree about this place being relaxing, he's got such a stupid smile on his face." Xellos paused, taking note of Filia's expression, "It's just like the stupid smile on your face. I really don't like this, something is wrong, someone is here!"

Filia giggled, "oh, relax, Xellos, there's no one here but us." She didn't seem to care if Onyx and Phythan discovered them. Then a strange fog like a Dark Mist spell began to invade the atmosphere, but instead of getting alarmed, Filia giggled some more and cuddled Xellos. "Isn't that mist pretty? It's kind of romantic."

"Either that strange smell is toxic to dragons, or you've gone insane," Xellos had a strong feeling that it was the first possibility. Then he remembered the impending danger that everyone knew was to come but had been procrastinating to do anything about, since no real clues were available anyway. "The Dragon Slayers," Xellos blew away the strange mist with a Diem Wind spell. He hurried out of the false bushes to join Onyx and Phythan.

Xellos led Filia away by the hand, while she only giggled in response. "Aw, Xellos, are we going for a nice stroll? That's so sweet."

"C'mon stupid dragon! Don't let that lonely single brain cell of yours die!" Xellos tried to make Filia snap out of it to no avail.

"I love you too, raw garbage," Filia chirped happily.

The whole while, Phythan kept poking Onyx annoyingly asking, "Miss Onyx, Miss Onyx, will you be my best friend forever?" No amount of insults or getting his hand slapped away seemed to be able to stop him.

"I know you're there! Come out before I Dragon Slave you out!" Xellos threatened.

About eight people in black ninja-like clothing came out of hiding from several locations behind the plastic vegetation. They surrounded Xellos, Onyx and the two golden dragons. A tall one who appeared to be the leader, spoke from behind the black clothe covering his face. "Powerless monster, you should die along with the dragons you allied yourself with, I've always known the dragons are just as bad as the monsters and the fact they stand together proves it! We, the Dragon Slayers will rid the world of such creatures in the name of our great leader the Green Alchemist, the Mother of all Things!"

"I stand for justice!" Phythan nonsensically yelled.

"Me too," Filia joined in with a giggle.

'They're insane if they think some alchemist is the Mother of all Things... Or maybe just stupid enough to be tricked,' Xellos mused. "What did you do to them?" He growled angrily. "It better not be permanent."

"It's not, but what does it matter? You're all about to die anyway." The leader confidently declared. "Dragon Slayers, attack!"

The eight slayers threw chain kunai simultaneously at their primary target: Phythan. 'As I thought, they want to force Phythan to transform to defend himself and slay him for his horn,' Xellos concluded. After all, even in their unguarded stupefied state, they would still fight back if they felt enough pain, though it would most likely be with brainless raw power, which could be handled with the proper strategy. "Diem Claw!"

The chain kunai were pushed upward by a vertical gust of wind, rather than back towards their owners, who would have probably just caught them and thrown them again. In the few seconds of time it took the Dragon Slayers to pull back their weapons by the chains, Xellos took the opportunity to fire a rapid succession of Flare Arrows that caused the Dragon Slayers to jump away to dodge, taking their weapons off the intended target course with them.

"Onyx, don't just stand there slapping Phythan silly. You have Beast Master's amulet that's infused with her power, use it!" Xellos ordered.

"Yes, brother," Onyx released Phythan. Both sides of his face where bright red from the angry slaps he received because he wouldn't stop poking Onyx.

Xellos looked towards Filia, but realized that she was not where she had been a mere split second ago. Instead she was recklessly charging against the enemy, stumbling around in a drunken stupor. "Filia!"

Filia was exceptionally easy to capture and be held hostage, which was certainly not the way Xellos envisioned this battle to progress. "Get yer hands off me!" Filia slurred. "Only me fiance can like hold me like close. He's a jealous one, he's gonna rip yer head off... hee hee hee."

"I would rip his head off," in a much more literate fashion, "if you haven't gotten yourself captured, stupid dragon!" Xellos growled in frustration.

"Order the male dragon to transform," the Dragon slayer leader commanded, holding a sharp dagger dangerously close to Filia's neck. It was always 'the dragon' for the Slayers, they never used proper names when it came to the creatures they hunted. The dagger was coated in some green syrupy stuff. It was probably some kind of poison particularly effective against dragons.

"Onyx, tell that idiot to transform," Xellos relayed the order.

"Yes, brother," Onyx roughly pulled Phythan's ear so he would lean closer to her and whispered something to him.

Phythan nodded eagerly, stumbled in place trying to regain his balance and did a silly little salute. The whole time he was laughing stupidly as if he had heard the funniest joke in the world. Then he transformed, the horn on his forehead appearing to its full length. It was so large that it made his head feel out of balance, as if he didn't have enough of that as a result of the gases he was exposed to which affected dragons. "Now we play!" He picked up Onyx and literally threw her away into the distance, hopping around and clapping afterwards.

"Just when I thought he couldn't get more stupid!" Xellos grumbled angrily.

"Sir?" One of the Dragon Slayers inquired to the leader. "Should we pursue her?"

"Forget the girl, she is of no use to us," the Dragon Slayer leader still kept a firm hold on the squirming drunken Filia. "Monster, keep that beast under control while we cut off its horn and your little pet might live."

Xellos glared murderously, they would pay for this, he would make certain of it. But he couldn't take action while they were holding Filia hostage like that. For the time being, he would have to cooperate.

To be Continued

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Slayers: Alive

Episode 085: Antidote! A Classic Fairytale Legend

To say Xellos was very enraged would be an understatement. No one bossed him around... except maybe Beast Master, but that was a whole different story.

"That's it, dragon, eat it all up," one of the Dragon Slayers was giving Phythan some strange gummy things that Xellos knew were not regular candy.

Phythan wasn't in any conditions to tell the difference though. "Hee hee, yummy candy!" Before he knew it, he was sound asleep.

"Knock that horn clean off with Flare Arrows!" The Dragon Slayer leader commanded, still holding Filia hostage.

"Hey Xellos," Filia was starting to get impatient with the situation. "How come yer not rescuing me like like like a damsel from those romance novels?"

"Maybe because the villains in those novels are polite enough to tie the damsel over a boiling pit of lava instead of inconveniently holding her hostage with a poisonous dagger to her neck?" Dire situation or not, Xellos was still Xellos and he had plenty of sarcasm to show for it. "It's rather uncomfortable for the protagonist to do battle in these conditions; it won't do for the co-star to get beheaded."

Just as the Dragon Slayers were about to shoot their concentrated Flare Arrows at the sleeping Phythan, the earth shook violently, causing the near by wooden clock tower to become lopsided and many of the resort's buildings to get cracks crawling up their walls. The crowds ran around like little ants after someone poured water on their ant-hill all over the resort. Most importantly, the Dragon Slayer leader was taken by surprise enough for Filia to slip away. Unfortunately, the Dragon Slayer leader swung his dagger at her as she ran, the blade making a small but dangerously poisonous slash on her exposed tail. Further action from the enemy leader was prevented by Xellos' Freeze Arrow being shot directly at him, which encased him in a block of ice.

"He hurt me!" Filia complained loudly, with a waterfall of exaggerated tears that dried up just as quickly as they came. "I'll get my revenge!" She took in a big breath and shot out a powerful laser from her mouth right at the frozen leader. Another of the Dragon Slayers jumped in front of him, holding an enchanted glass bottle as a shield. The laser entered the bottle and spun around inside it like a miniature thunderstorm without an end.

"No worries, I'll get revenge for you," Xellos offered, his expression becoming even more dangerously enraged.

Before Xellos could cast any spells, a familiar voice was heard near by, "Zelas Brid!" A line of light invaded the battle zone, striking the surprised Dragon Slayers, who had been focused on defending against Xellos. Onyx revealed herself beyond the plastic vegetation, keeping up the spell until her amulet shattered.

"That was an ambitious spell," Xellos commented. "But an incomplete one at best, you can't expect to cast a spell like that with just an amulet. You'd need to have some power of your own too."

"My apologies for taking so long, brother," Onyx excused herself. "I was thrown further away than intended. Fortunately, the amulet allowed me to levitate to safety, but it's broken now. I no longer have any power..."

Xellos smiled mockingly, "don't be too disappointed, you never had any power to begin with." He glanced at the Dragon Slayers that were injured on the ground but still alive. "Like I said, that spell wasn't as powerful as it should have been. If not because the amulet was made by Beast Master herself, it wouldn't have worked at all. It looks like I'll have to finish them off."

Again Xellos was interrupted by the arrival of a new person. "Filia, Phythan! Take a deep breath now!" Kally arrived on the scene and threw what appeared to be some kind of smoke bomb that released a golden mist.

When the mist cleared out, both Filia and Phythan were awake and sober. "What just happened? Was I acting like a stupid damsel in distress or was it a dream?" Filia looked at the cut on her tail. "Oh no, it was real, wasn't it?"

"Every bit of it," Xellos mocked. "You're a very troublesome stupid dragon."

"I have a headache!" Phythan complained. He transformed back into an elf so that his large horn would disappear. As usual, he didn't really bother finding a private place for the transformation, never mind that there were plenty of nearby plastic bushes to hide behind.

"Kally, you traitor!" The injured leader of the Dragon Slayers accused.

"Father..." Kally recognized him, surprising all those present. "The ways of our people are wrong, we must not hunt the dragons, they're not our enemies!"

"I will not hear another word from a traitor!" The stubborn leader growled.

Kally turned her back on him. "Filia, Phythan, please allow me to conduct a medical examination on you both to make sure everything is alright. If you were poisoned, I'll make an antidote. I'll be waiting at the clock tower, or what's left of it. As for him," she looked at the man she would never again call father with angry bitterness. "Do as you please with these evildoers." Kally stormed off, disappearing between the fake vegetation in the direction of the lopsided wooden clock tower.

"Now without further ado, you'll finally get what you deserve!" Xellos cheerfully announced. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..."

"Stop!" Filia intervened.

"How many times is someone going to stopped me from disintegrating these idiots?" Xellos glared in annoyance. "What is it? Do you think the Dragon Slave is too messy? How about some Fireballs instead?"

Filia shook her head, "that's not it." She glared at the Dragon Slayers with absolute anger. "I don't want any of you to go after another dragon ever again."

"I was about to make certain of that," Xellos pointed out with a cheerful grin. Their destruction had been delayed for far too long and he was impatient to get it over with.

"Don't," Filia insisted.

"Are you going to lecture them first?" Xellos rolled his eyes.

"No, I'm going to let them go," Filia surprisingly revealed, receiving a puzzled and disapproving look from Xellos. "Dragons are not evil, cruel or merciless; I want to show that with facts. Please Xellos, spare them, do it for me." He seemed unconvinced so she added, "I'll put up a fight if I have to, either you do what I say or you go through me."

"Stupid stubborn dragon!" Xellos growled in absolute frustration. "Next time they attack-"

"I'm not going to protect them anymore," Filia interrupted. She glanced at the Dragon Slayers, "one chance is all you get, just so you know dragons are not evil. Now go, leave this island!"

Without another word, the Dragon Slayers healed themselves as best they could, picked up their frozen leader and went on the retreat. They didn't obtain the horn, but those golden scales stuck to the dagger used to attack Filia and her laser which was still in the enchanted bottle might be useful for something...

xoxox xox xoxox

After the battle had ended, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Phythan, Onyx, Celo, Tiffany and Kally gathered at the wooden clock tower. Fang, Martina, Zangulus and Sylphiel were left to clean up after the banquet rehearsal while Pokota entertained Val.

"It sounded like you were affected by a special alchemical mix that clouds a dragon's senses. With this vaccine you'll be immune to it from now on, so you won't have to worry about being sent into an almost instant drunken state anymore." Kally explained, presenting the results of her alchemic medicine. "It's magic and medicine mixed together. The proper herbs are needed along with an incantation." That was one problem out of the way, but there were more.

"As for the poison..." Kally continued. "Phythan was made to consume it in the shape of candy and it entered Filia's blood stream through the wound on her tail." The injury was healed, but it was too late to stop the poison, now only the antidote could help, which brought Kally to her most bitter revelation. "This poison is extremely dangerous; it can kill a dragon in a day. However, after you've been cured of it once, your body will become immune. Most of the substances the Dragon Slayers use are like that, super effective, but only once. Dragons have a very strong immunity system after all."

"Kally," Amelia spoke up, looking for an answer that she knew she wouldn't like, but needed to hear anyway. "If everything will be okay, why do you look so sad?"

Kally let out a frustrated breath, "I'm sorry, I was only able to make enough antidote for one. I don't have the proper ingredients for more and they're not in season. It would be virtually impossible to find the needed rare herbs to make more antidote on time before the poison's fatal effects come to pass."

A tense silence passed, until it was broken by Phythan. "It's okay, Miss Kally, at least you tried to help. I have nothing to look forward to in this world but the pain of constant migraines, frequent obsessed stalkers and occasional rejections. It's a pity I didn't get to accomplish my dream of finishing and publishing my own comic, but alas, my time has come to an end."

"Well, you heard him," Xellos picked up the little vial with the antidote. "Drink up, stupid dragon."

"No," Filia adamantly refused. "I can't drink the only available antidote knowing that someone else will die if I do!"

"It's okay, Miss Filia, you don't have to feel guilty," Phythan insisted. "You have a loving fiance with whom to share a happy life with, so you should be the one to survive. Besides, Mr. Xellos might get all depressed if you're gone and throw away all the progress he has made in leaving behind his evil ways to walk down the path of justice."

"I don't walk down the path of justice!" Xellos defended, sounding offended.

"All the more reason why Miss Filia needs to stay and help you reform!" Phythan argued.

"I have no intentions of reforming, but you're welcome to uselessly try, Filia... especially with bribery," he winked and Filia blushed. Everyone except Phythan caught the hint. "Now quit being a stubborn stupid dragon and drink your medicine," Xellos insisted.

"I refuse!" Filia maintained her position, even if Xellos looked like he was dangerously close to forcing the antidote down her throat.

"What about the enchanted kiss of healing?" Tiffany suggested.

"The what?" Gourry asked in confusion, he wasn't actually following any of the important details so far, but this sounded like something out of a children's fairytale, so it might be easy enough to understand.

"I've heard about it," Amelia elaborated. "The enchanted kiss of healing can cleanse the body of most illnesses and curses."

"How come you never mention that before?" Xellos inquired in annoyance. By now everyone was aware of the specifics of his curse dilemma and Amelia had not said anything about that enchanted kiss of healing when she first found out about it.

"Because it's only a legend, possibly even a myth," Amelia explained. "Besides, a curse that's strong enough to take away your monster powers and already has a specifically assigned cure, even if it's some kind of puzzle, probably wouldn't be broken by alternative means."

"Indeed," Celo agreed. "In fact, I am ninety-nine percent certain that the enchanted kiss of healing will not be able to break your curse. It is quite unfortunate, General Xellos. However, I am also ninety-nine percent certain that it can cure Filia's poison."

"Then it's real?" Amelia gasped. "Wow, I thought it really was a myth."

"Not at all," Celo elaborated. "The book containing the proper spell is kept right here on this island. It is the very spell that inspired many fairytales such as Sleeping Beauty and many others."

"Could it...?" Zelgadis began to ask.

"Chimeraism isn't a curse or an illness," Celo guessed what his question would be and replied before Zelgadis was even done asking. "It's supposed to be a beneficial combination of different aspects so no, this method wouldn't work on you."

"Well, it's settled, Phythan can have the antidote and I'll be healed with that spell," Filia concluded. Before Xellos could protest that a ninety-nine percent of a survival probability wasn't good enough, Filia snatched away the vial and forced Phythan to drink the antidote.

Phythan made choking noises until he finally fell into a suspenseful silence that culminated in very a whiny, "it's so bitter!"

"Filia!" Xellos scolded, "your stupidity never ceases to amaze me."

"Quit complaining!" Filia retorted, "it'll be okay. Let's just get the spell book."

"Alright, let us journey to the entrance of the caverns." Celo led the way down some stairs that conducted to a hidden basement under the lopsided wooden clock tower...

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Phythan, Onyx, Celo, Tiffany and Kally found themselves face to face with four caves in a rustic basement under the clock tower. "The vault containing the spell book is through the tunnel in the far right. However," he revealed three keys. "These keys must be inserted into the slots at the end of each of the three first tunnels in order for the vault to be opened. Forcing it open will result in its defense mechanism destroying its contents. That terrible miracle cure is not a good thing from a monster's perspective, so making sure the book was locked up was important. It was fortunate that it wasn't destroyed instead. You never know when you might be glad to have something that you might have wanted to destroy in the past. It's like the mirror of truth, but that's not even dangerous enough to be kept in the vault."

"Filia and I will go through the tunnel in the far right, of course, the rest of you grab a key and get going," Xellos ordered.

"Wait a minute!" Lina protested. "I'm the leader around here!"

"Then by all means, lead us," Xellos had his usual cheerful mocking grin.

Lina felt like she was losing somehow, maybe because she was technically doing free work, but she was too stubborn to back down now. "Gourry and I will go through the first tunnel. Which key needs to be used there?"

"The golden one," Celo explained as he gave Lina all three keys. "The silver key is for the second tunnel from the left and the bronze key is for the third one. The last tunnel in the far right only has the magic vault."

"Alright, listen up everyone; we'll be dividing ourselves into teams of two. That should be more than enough to accomplish the simple task of using some keys," Lina commanded in her 'I'm the leader' tone of voice. "Naturally, Xellos and Filia will go through the forth tunnel since they're the ones who will be using the spell book. Gourry and I will take the golden key through the first tunnel. Amelia and Zelgadis will journey through the second tunnel with the silver key."

Lina gave Amelia the key and the princess saluted in response. "I will accomplish this mission of love and justice!" She bravely declared.

"As for the bronze key that must be taken through the third tunnel..." Lina paused, considering her options.

"Onyx and Phythan can go," Filia suggested with a grin that revealed her matchmaking intentions.

"Alright, then it's settled," Lina gave Onyx the bronze key. "Onyx and Phythan will journey through the third tunnel. Everyone move out!" All the assigned pairs marched through their respective tunnels aiding themselves with light spells to see where they were going.

"I guess I'll return to my duties as a doctor now," Kally announced, making her way up the stairs and out of the basement area.

A quiet moment passed with Tiffany and Celo alone in the basement. Tiffany gave Celo a peculiar look, "didn't you forget something, dear?"

"Did I, my beloved?" Celo innocently inquired with a clear hint of mischief in his eyes.

"Yes you did, lover," Tiffany returned the expression. "You didn't tell them anything about the guards."

"You're right, sweetheart, it must have slipped my mind," Celo grinned in a way that made him look similar to Xellos. "I suppose they'll figure that out soon enough."

Tiffany nodded, "I'm sure they will, honey."

xoxox xox xoxox

Lina and Gourry quietly made their way through the first tunnel. It had been a while since their trek started, showing that the tunnel was far longer than they had anticipated. The passageway became narrower as they went along, until Lina had to squeeze in first with the taller Gourry making his uncomfortable progress with more difficulty than the petite redhead.

At long last the pair arrived at a larger chamber where Gourry was all too happy to stretch. "It was sure cramped back there! I feel stiff after all that. Lina, would you mind giving me a shoulder massage? I kept bumping on the cave's sides and ceiling, an ice pack for my head would be nice too."

Lina's face instantly turned red at the request. "You can get your ice pack when we get back to the tower," she replied in a hurry.

"And the massage?" Gourry innocently inquired. He thought it was a reasonable enough request to ask of his fiance. He wouldn't complain if Lina didn't want to do it, but he was certainly hoping she would agree.

"Yeah... that too," Lina agreed. "Let's just get our mission done and over with for now. I'll give you a massage after I'm done giving Celo an earful for not warning us about how long this tunnel was. He could have given us a snack basket for the way." Never mind that Lina had a feast not too long ago during the banquet rehearsal, she never turned down food.

The large chamber was as rustic as the rest of the pathway with plain brown cavern walls and a rocky dirt ground. There were torches round about, which suddenly became lit. Lina dispelled the orb of light that she was holding, seeing as it was no longer needed, though the torches lighting up by themselves were certainly suspicious. The redhead sorceress spotted a keyhole on the opposite wall of the chamber upon a golden tile. In front of it there was a large black jar with red drawings of octopus silhouettes. "There's the keyhole."

Lina approached a few steps, but stopped when the jar in front of her intended path began to shake as smoke came from it. In a matter of seconds the smoke became the shape of an octopus that towered in front of Lina and Gourry, occupying most of the spacious chamber with its colossal size. Just as the two humans prepared for battle, the strange octopus began to sing and dance, waving its tentacles around. "Octo, octo, octopus! Octo octo octopus! Octo, octo, octopus!" It bellowed in a terribly off-key voice surrounded by a strange glow.

Tired of the terrible singing, Lina shouted, "dance like a lobster!" She immediately covered her mouth in horror. She had been trying to say 'shut up already' and she certainly didn't want to encourage more dancing like an octopus, lobster or otherwise. That strange song and dance was a spell that made her speak in octopice. Perhaps getting rid of the octopus would get rid of the language problem, but how could Lina even begin to test that theory if she couldn't cast her spells? "My cookies are happy!" Lina cried out in frustration.

"I saw a pie flying through the sky?" Gourry attempted to ask something, albeit it was impossible to figure out what it was in his current condition.

"The sunflowers are coming!" Lina shouted in reply.

Seeing that he couldn't understand Lina and Lina couldn't understand him, Gourry sighed, "flat-chested." The remark earned him a slap from Lina, who was, understandably, in a very bad mood with the entire situation.

To be Continued

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