"Zangulus!" Filia recognized the waiter and rushed to him desperately. "We need a table right away!"
Zangulus' eyes were not on Filia, who was speaking to him, but rather on someone behind Filia. Lina had a rather fierce expression that called all attention towards her. She almost glowed with chaos and looked as if she would pounce any second. "Is something wrong with her?"
"Yes, she's hungry and she wants to eat me!" Filia gushed out before she even had time to properly phrase her reply.
Zangulus' eyes bulged open wide for a few seconds; he blinked looking back and forth between Filia and Lina. "Cannibalism," he finally concluded adopting a 'should have known' expression. "I wouldn't really put it past Lina."
"She might also Dragon Slave this place to dust," Filia urged, making it clear that Lina wasn't just her problem; she was everyone's problem in the ten mile radius. Sure, Lina had been without energy before, but if it involved food she could make some pretty amazing recoveries.
"Martina will be upset if I lose this job," Zangulus worried. He glanced around the restaurant, but it was full. "How about I escort you all to the special table?" He didn't even need to wait for a voiced reply as Lina and Gourry's stomachs growled and Filia nodded quickly. The entire time Xellos only watched quietly.
Zangulus led the group to the kitchen where they were met with the chefs' critical eyes. Even so, he settled them into a table where dishes were set to be taken out as a set and food was prepared, it wasn't a table for the purpose of eating at. "Zangulus, what do you think you're doing?" The head chef complained with a disapproving expression.
"Saving our lives and unless you want my efforts to go to waste, you need to start serving the food," Zangulus urged. "That girl over there is Lina Inverse!"
"Lina Inverse!" The main chef exclaimed, joined in his surprise by the voices of several others. The rumors of Lina Inverse the bandit and pirate killer, dragon spooker were quickly spreading beyond the world outside the barrier and all around the globe. That was all the motivation the chefs needed to start feeding Lina and her traveling companions immediately.
"By the way, Filia," Lina inquired with a steak in her mouth. "What's that on your neck? It looks like a hickey."
"What's a hickey?" Gourry predictably asked.
"A love bite," Lina explained simply, with her mouth still full of food.
"Oh, you mean how I bite this food because it's so delicious and I love it?" Gourry gave Lina his usual look of ignorant bliss.
"It's a couple thing, never mind." Lina decided to leave it at that and turned her attention back to the mortified Filia. "Is it?"
"No!" Filia loudly denied it. Doubtful, Lina glanced at Xellos, who gave her a toothy grin as if inviting her to make a visual comparison of his mouth and the mark left on Filia's neck. Catching on to the silent implications, Filia defended, "it's a bug bite!"
"That was a pretty big bug," Lina suspiciously commented. "I would say it was a monster of a bug." The obvious reference to Xellos, which was the monster part albeit Filia thought both terms fit him, made the golden dragon blush even more. At least, to Filia's benefit, the subject was dropped shortly after that comment and no more was spoken of it as Lina accused Gourry of stealing her roasted potato.
After calming down sufficiently, Filia let out a breath of relief, though she was still self conscious about the mark on her neck. Maybe she should buy a scarf, she didn't care that it was warm there. "Thank you," she told Zangulus with all honesty once the worse had passed.
"No problem, it was a survival effort on everyone's part anyway." Zangulus replied with relief, seeing that the possible catastrophe was adverted.
Observing the scene, Xellos concluded that there was no immediate danger to Filia's life. Lina was there to fight off any attacks and she was rapidly replenishing her energy so any future attempts at casting the Dragon Slave would be nothing short of absolutely destructive. He could leave without worries for the time being, thus he faded away, teleporting to a different location.
After a while, a few tables in the restaurant became unoccupied, though Lina and Gourry were still consuming dish after dish. With some persuasion from Zangulus, saying that the chefs would be able to work faster if they had more room to work in, the group was moved to a table in the official eating area of the restaurant. The chefs were a little less uneasy after the move, but they were still exhausted, yet willing to survive.
During the entire process, Filia took a moment to notice that Xellos was gone. He came and went whenever he wanted, for which teleportation came very much in handy. It wasn't really surprising that he would disappear without a warning, thus for the time being she just disregarded the fact and tried to enjoy her peace while it lasted. She had even managed to get her order in and have a good meal. Despite being a dragon and having a healthy appetite, Filia still didn't eat anywhere as much as Lina and Gourry, who were still absorbing all the food placed before them at an alarming rate.
Time passed until finally, Lina and Gourry leaned back in their chairs with satisfied expressions. "Ah, what a good meal..." Lina sighed contently. Filia thought they were done until Lina added, "now for some dessert!" She began to scan the menu.
Filia let out a breath; she should have known this was coming. She idly thought that instead of sitting around she should try to do some match making. Although it looked like Lina and Gourry were more focused on the food than each other, she could at least give them some privacy. "I'm going to... stretch my legs. Enjoy your dessert."
Just when she thought she had not been heard, Lina looked up from behind her menu and voiced a simple, "okay, see you later."
Gourry smiled and added his own, "later, Filia!" Before both of them turned their attention back to their menus. What was the point of browsing? They were going to order everything anyway and in triple portions, just like they always did.
Filia exited the restaurant and mused over her matchmaking strategy. Given the extreme focus on food that Gourry and Lina possessed, a meal was not the ideal atmosphere for matchmaking. She reasoned that a resort as big as this, which was love-themed in many ways, should have an activity similar to a ball going on. In the stories she had read romantic things always happened in balls. If she could find out about the time and location of a ball in the resort, she could invite everyone to go and maybe even get Amelia to help out if any additional convincing was needed.
With that plan in mind, Filia set out to seek information. She entered a random souvenir shop not a far walk away from the restaurant and took a moment to admire the multitude of keychains. They were pretty, but ridiculously pricey. "Excuse me," Filia addressed the shop keeper, a girl not much older than Lina with a freckled face and wavy brown hair. "Do you happen to know if any balls are celebrated at the resort?"
"Of course!" The girl cheered in an overly sweet voice, her green eyes lighting up in excitement. "We have balls every night. The biggest one is a masquerade ball held at the dome at the north end of the main road."
A dome, huh? Not a castle? The resort was certainly large enough to have a castle and a dome didn't seem too romantic. Then again, Filia didn't want to shoot down the plan so quickly. "Thank you, I'll make sure to check it out." With her plans for later decided, Filia exited the keychain souvenir shop and made her way down the street. Lina and Gourry were probably still eating dessert and she didn't know were Amelia and Zelgadis were at.
Filia saw a free bench not too far away from the fountain with the cupid in the middle and sat down. It was the same bench where she sat when she was talking to Xellos. He was such an annoyance, she was glad he was gone and hoped he would never return. The nerve of him, kissing her without permission, it didn't matter if it was for the sake of survival. She never thought she would kiss, or be kissed by, a monster once, let alone so many times. How many had it been? She blushed and decided not to count them; it was too many, end of story.
"Would you like some ice-cream?" Filia jumped at the sudden voice and turned her head to look at the man sitting on the bench beside her. She had not even noticed his arrival. "I apologize if I startled you," he smiled in a friendly way, his wine colored sharp eyes projecting an alluring atmosphere. He had golden hair and elongated elf-like ears, he was a golden dragon. He wore the classic white and gold robes that many golden dragons favored.
Filia managed to pry her eyes away from his handsome face to the cookies & cream ice-cream cone the unknown dragon was offering her. She accepted gratefully, "thank you."
"You're welcome," the golden dragon smiled. "You seemed as if the warmth of the day was getting to you. I thought some ice-cream might help you cool off."
"I'm grateful," Filia smiled, "but I don't think I know your name." She was starting to feel a bit awkward and perhaps just a tiny bit intimidated. There was something about this guy... "Um... I'm Filia..." no doubt about it this golden dragon was from a different temple as her, she had never met him before.
"My name is Phythan; it's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Filia." His eyes seemed to focus for a moment on the still visible mark on Filia's neck. It was only for a second, but Filia noticed it.
Feeling self-conscious, Filia's unoccupied hand went to her neck covering the spot. "Bug," she muttered before licking her ice-cream as a distraction and hopefully a clear enough hint that her mouth was busy and couldn't utter any further explanations.
"Oh? That looks painful." He couldn't have believed it, no one was that stupid. It was obvious that Phythan was just humoring her by pretending to take her word for it. He gently touched her neck, causing Filia to tense up at the sudden contact. "The neck is a sensitive area, it should be protected." he untied the sky blue bandanna he wore around his own neck and tied it around Filia's in a more scarf-like manner. "Keep it," he smiled charmingly.
Filia blushed scarlet and nearly buried her face in her ice-cream. Why was she so nervous? "Thank you," she finally managed to say. Feeling as if it wasn't enough she added, "you're very kind."
"You're welcome," another charming smile. "Are you enjoying the resort? I came all by myself and it has been fun, but it would be more enjoyable with some good company. How about you?"
"I came with a few friends," Filia tried to get her voice to work naturally. "It's been fun," it had in deed been fun sometimes, but had also been stressful because of that nuisance Xellos. "Although, my friends are a bit busy at times and I don't want to be in the way."
"Dates?" Phythan guessed and Filia nodded. "So your friends have dates, but you don't have a date of your own?"
"No..." Filia admitted, focusing once more on her ice-cream. If their group was on a triple date, she would have gotten paired off with Xellos. She wasn't sure why her brain kept reminding her of him, Filia just wanted to forget he existed, she honestly did.
"I can't see why, you give off such a nice aura, even so soon I can tell you're pleasant company." Yet another charming smile, Phythan gave those away quite often. "And dare I say it? You're very beautiful."
"Thank you..." Filia pushed herself to speak. It was polite to thank people for their compliments after all. Unlike Xellos, who always insulted her, Phythan was very nice.
"You seem a little bit shy." Yes, you guessed it, another charming smile, it was something Phythan did constantly. "But I think it's cute."
"Thank you..." Filia had finished consuming the top part of her ice-cream and was now biting the edge of the cone. She watched Phythan with the corner of her eyes; he had amazing eyes, piercing, intelligent and captivating.
Phythan laughed in a melodious, yet still distinctively masculine voice, "you're certainly very grateful."
Filia had to stop herself from automatically saying thank you again. "I... um... think you're very nice..." and handsome, and gallant and polite, and respectful, and considerate, and kind hearted, unlike Xellos, who was a monster and didn't have a heart anyway. Her eyes were caught by his, so that's what was so familiar about him; the shape of his eyes was kind of like Xellos' eyes when he opened them. It was just the color that was different, though the two shades, Xellos' lighter purple and Phythan's darker wine, could probably be fitted into the same color wheel. Wait a minute; didn't she just think not long ago that Phythan had attractive eyes? How could she then compare them to Xellos? That was a huge contradiction!
"I think you're nice too, and I would like to see more of you if that's alright." Was that the hint of a seductive undertone? Maybe she just imagined it. "There's a masquerade ball at the north dome tonight. Well, not just tonight, they have it every night, but if you're free tonight, then maybe you would consider going with me?"
Filia reasoned that she was planning to go anyway and she didn't have a date, while Amelia and Lina did. If she was going to play matchmaker she might as well contribute to the feeling of a triple date. If she was the odd one out, it would be more of a friendly outing. Besides, Amelia might feel the need to keep her company so she didn't get lonely and that meant she would have less time to dance with Zelgadis. "I would love to," Filia agreed, pouring as much confidence as she could into her acceptance. "Actually, I was planning to go with my friends. It would be nice if there are six of us, since that's an even number." She refrained from going any further so as to not babble any more about odd and even numbers.
"Ah yes," Phythan looked satisfied, almost smugly so, kind of like Xellos, but in a charming way that was nothing like Xellos. "Then everyone would have someone to dance with."
"Yes," Filia agreed, mentally adding 'except Xellos' but he wasn't supposed to be in the picture anyway and she didn't know why she kept thinking of him. It was creepy, she should be more than happy to forget about him. Maybe she was afraid he would show up and ruin everything, since he's Xellos and ruining things is something he has a lot of talent for, but life is for the brave. Filia was resolute not to worry; she would just enjoy her time at the ball. Filia stood up from the bench. "See you tonight?" It sounded as if she was pushing him away, she didn't mean to, but she needed a breather and more so she needed to stop thinking about Xellos.
Phythan stood up as well. "I will look forward to it, Miss Filia," he took her hand and placed a kiss on it, then dramatically walked off with an ever present charming smile.
Filia sighed, the odd feeling she got went away when Phythan was gone. She wondered what it meant. Did she like him? Probably, he was a golden dragon and a very nice one at that. He had a number of positive qualities, or at least it looked like he did. She would just have to keep talking to him and learn more. Eating the last bit of her ice-cream cone, Filia walked off with a confident pace. Maybe after all her trials and tribulations, fate was finally smiling upon her.
"Miss Filia!" A familiar voice called, originating from near the fountain with the cupid statue. Filia looked over to see Amelia waiving one hand towards her, the other arm linked with Zelgadis'.
She walked over to them, "did you two have a nice lunch?" Filia asked cheerfully.
"Oh yes," Amelia blushed.
"It was... good," Zelgadis commented with a similar reaction, though it wasn't clear if he referred to the food or the experience as a whole, probably the latter.
"I'm glad," Filia smiled, she was feeling rather cheerful all of a sudden. She wasn't sure where her shyness came from before. "Lina and Gourry are eating at a restaurant near here. They were ordering desert when I went for a walk, so they should be done by now."
As if on cue, a well fed and thus cheerful looking Lina and Gourry approached the fountain. "Hey everyone, any ideas on where to go next? There are a lot of tourist attractions around here, but not the roller coaster since we just ate. Besides, it probably still has an impossible line anyway."
"I don't know about right now, but how about attending the masquerade ball tonight?" Filia suggested. "It will be held at the north dome."
"Oh, that sounds like fun!" Amelia instantly cheered. "Let's go!"
"A ball..." Zelgadis voiced unsure, though the masquerade part was something he could normally use to his benefit, no one seemed to be bothered by his appearance at the resort, though they sometimes mistook him for a hired entertainer.
"Let's go, please Mr. Zelgadis?" Amelia gave Zelgadis her best cute pleading expression, her big blue eyes appearing to be even bigger and shinier, accentuated by her long lashes.
"Um... okay..." Zelgadis finally managed to agree.
Lina nodded, "it might be fun, what do you say, Gourry?"
"Jellyfish!" Everyone stared at Gourry, he could be random at times, but this was too random.
"What?" Lina slowly asked.
"When you asked if anyone had any ideas where to go next I tried to remember an idea I had a while ago," Gourry explained. "I remember walking past some place that I wanted to visit, but I couldn't remember what it was. I just remembered it was a place with jellyfish!" He smiled an accomplished smile.
"You mean an aquarium?" Lina inquired with a bit of annoyance twitching in her eyes. "Did you hear anything that was said after that question? Did you hear anything about the ball?"
"Ball?" Gourry tilted his head to the side in confusion. "What ball? A round ball? Oh wait, all balls are around, aren't they?"
Lina brought her palm to her face. "Not that kind of ball, we were talking about the kind of ball where there's music dancing and food!"
"Oh!" Gourry didn't see the logic in calling a party, a ball, why didn't they just say party? That's what it sounded like it was. "That sounds like fun too. Can we do both?"
Lina let out a hopeless breath. "The ball isn't until tonight, so I guess we could check out the aquarium now." With a plan decided upon, the group went on its merry way towards the aquarium so Gourry could befriend the local jellyfish.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 011: The Nerve! Of Fish And Flirting
Thankfully, the line to enter the aquarium wasn't particularly long and the group, consisting of Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia, was able to go in fairly quickly. They made their way through the hallways, slowly examining the large tanks all around. Gourry tapped on the glass of a tank that took up an entire wall and made funny faces at the jellyfish swimming behind it. A particularly large jellyfish approached and waved its tentacles along with several other small ones more shyly waiving from behind the first. Gourry waved back and continued his jellyfish bonding.
Lina looked into another tank, a bit smaller than the jellyfish one taking up only half of the adjacent wall. It was a good thing she just ate, or else she would be fireball frying all the fish in the tank. She made a mental note just in case, that if she was starving and no restaurant took mercy on her, she should go to the aquarium. She tapped on the glass with half interest and noticed that a yellow fish followed her finger. Amused, she spun her finger around until the fish was dizzy, spiraling away in the water and crashing into an orange fish. The orange fish looked angry and slapped the yellow fish with its fins. Maybe the aquarium was also an amusing place for people who, unlike Gourry, didn't have a fixation with jellyfish.
"Look at this Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia cheerfully announced as she pointed out a sign propped up on a sort of easel. The sign depicted a dolphin with an anonymous young couple at the edge of the pool playing with it. "I want to go see the dolphins; I heard they're really smart."
Despite not finding a single tiny clue about his cure, for once Zelgadis thought it was alright to let it go and simply enjoy his time with Amelia. "Let's go see if it's true." The pair walked off happily, not even realizing that though they were all at the aquarium, the group had split apart again.
Filia sighed and observed the swimming fish. Admittedly she was a bit bored. Lina looked happy enough picking on some poor fish and Gourry had his jellyfish fascination. Amelia and Zelgadis had walked off somewhere, but they were probably having a great time in whatever part of the aquarium they were in. As for Filia, she was almost ready to admit that she missed Xellos, almost being the key word. It's just that she had no one else to hang around with and sometimes silence got so long it wasn't relaxing anymore. Wait a minute.... Who said she had no one to hang out with? What about her new friend... um... Phythan was it? Yes, Phythan! After Filia saw him at the ball tonight she would invite him to hang out the next day, then she wouldn't suffer from the delirious desire to see Xellos.
"You look bored," Filia turned around from her position staring into a fish tank. "Xellos," she meant to sound furious, because his mere presence was infuriating, but she didn't.
"Miss me?" It looked like Xellos was back to being his cool, calm, collected, cheerful and overall impossible self. At least, it looked like it to those who didn't know him well enough, apparently Filia did.
Filia gave him a half curious and half disappointed look. "What's up with that half-hearted 'missed me?' Not that monsters have a heart anyway, but you know what I mean. What are you plotting?" She glared. "You don't sound as smug and annoyingly cheerful as usual."
Xellos' reply was a simple and utterly disappointing "I don't?" He was taken off guard by Filia's powers of observation. He was indeed not feeling quite in the mood to be as mocking as he usually was. That fact consisted largely on the reason of being unable to find any useful clues about the mysterious power that was at work in trying to end his existence. It was a power such as that of the monster lords, but he had no reason to suspect them. It was extremely odd that not even the smallest clue would slip up. Regardless, he couldn't very well have Filia thinking he was losing his touch. "The truth of the matter is..." he began seriously.
Filia was alertly paying attention with a suspicious look during the beginning of his long pause. Then an uncomfortable look invaded Xellos' face and he shifted, finally staring at the floor. Filia's mouth was hanging open by this point because Xellos simply didn't act like that. "What's wrong?" She tried to snap at him, she knew he was just acting, yet her voice came up with the flatness of opposing emotions that canceled each other out, with just a hint of concern.
Xellos looked up with a big grin, "that is a secret!" Filia wanted to punch him, which was normal. At least the order of the world was restored to what it should be with Xellos once again acting like a smug trickster, which he was.
"Idiot raw garbage!" Filia growled and walked past him. She glanced over at Lina, who had stopped picking on the poor stupid fish and was looking at them. Filia seemed to say 'what?' with her eyes.
If Lina was a telepath she would have replied, 'I know you were flirting.' But she didn't need telepathy because the look on her face spoke volumes. It was enough to make Filia blush and look away before promptly continuing the process of storming off with Xellos annoyingly following her. It seemed that Lina, from the perspective of an outsider noticed things that Filia did not. Those things included how close Xellos leaned in and how Filia didn't back away, although her back would have met with the glass of the tank behind her anyway. Filia had to sidestep around Xellos to get out of the position, that even after breaking from it she didn't seem to notice, much less be bothered by it.
Lina chuckled to herself and looked towards Gourry, freezing in place upon doing so. Gourry was right where she left him in front of the jellyfish tank, but he wasn't alone. He was talking animatedly to a... jellyfish person? She was different from the fish people, yes she, because if her sweet feminine voice and the yellow bows on each tentacle were any indication this jellyfish person was a girl, and she was flirting.
"You're so nice to the jellyfish; I really can't say it enough. How talented you are to be able to communicate with them." The jellyfish woman, aside from having a good number of tentacles, had a pair of human-like shapely legs that allowed her to easily walk on land; she was wearing yellow high heels that Lina would probably trip on.
Gourry was laughing sheepishly with a hand behind his head. "You really think so, Miss Medusa?"
"Oh yes," Medusa blushed and just about swooned. She giggled and batted her eyelashes, which were too long for a jellyfish, but accentuated her big blue eyes nicely, as if they didn't already stand out on her pink body. "It would be wonderful if I could get to know you better. Are you attending the masquerade party tonight?"
"Masque... Party? Sure, I guess," he obviously didn't know what it was and it looked like Miss Medusa was more interested in getting a date than in educating Gourry in the correct use of the word 'masquerade'.
Lina was fuming, but she didn't know why. She told herself she was being stupid. If Gourry wanted to go to the masquerade with some slimy jellyfish girl with too many bows, then that was none of her business. Throwing her head back in defiance, Lina bravely marched away from the scene, refusing to look back.
xoxox xox xoxox
Filia made her way angrily through the halls of the aquarium, lined with tanks containing different kinds of sea life. She stopped to look back and realized that Xellos wasn't following her. She approached a large tank ahead and tapped gently on the glass. A silvery colored fish swam near the glass. Filia smiled at it and tapped her finger on the glass again, then a shark came from behind and closed its deadly jaws on the fish.
Filia gasped startled and jumped back. She bumped into someone whom she didn't notice had been standing behind her and was surprised a second time. "I know dragons are naturally cowards, but don't worry, Filia, I'll protect you from the big bad shark that's completely harmless behind glass anyway." Xellos whispered in her ear. Why did he have to be so irritating?
"Get away from me!" Filia snapped and squirmed out of her entrapment between Xellos and the shark tank. This time she wasn't thinking about missing him so she actually noticed his proximity. She walked over to a stand which held several copies of the same book being sold as a souvenir. Filia picked up one of the picture books and examined the cover. There was a man dressed in royal looking attire facing towards the left of the page. He looked rather sad just standing there at a sandy beach, his back turned towards the other character on the cover. With her tail still touching the water, though deep enough into the shore to be easily seen, a mermaid looked longingly at the human prince.
Filia opened the book and began to read it to calm down. "Once upon a time, there was a prince who lived near the ocean." The page was illustrated beautifully in full color, depicting a castle near the beach. "A mermaid who liked to swim near the area had fallen in love with the prince." The next page depicted the mermaid, watching the prince from the beach as he went for a luxurious stroll at the shore. Filia turned to the other page, each one only had a short sentence and beautiful picture. "One day, the prince organized a ball and invited all the ladies in the land, in hopes of finding true love." The castle was drawn in detail on the page, its lovely crystal decorations standing out with elegance. "The mermaid desperately wanted to go to the ball, but she could not walk on land." There was a picture of the sad mermaid at the beach.
Filia felt that she was calming down as she focused on the story, keeping her thoughts away from Xellos. "A kind fairy saw that the mermaid's love was sincere and granted her a wish." The picture of the fairy was mostly made of light with a faint silhouette in the middle and the wings more noticeably originating from the light. She turned to the next page, which held a picture of the mermaid with human legs, wearing a beautiful dress. "The fairy transformed the mermaid into a human; however, the spell would only last until midnight."
Filia felt that the story was very similar to two other stories she had read before. One was about a mermaid and a prince and the other about a peasant and a prince. It seemed that the stories were combined to form a new tale. "The mermaid was able to attend the ball and had a wonderful time with the prince, who couldn't help it but to fall in love with her." The page depicted the prince and the mermaid, for the time being human, dancing at the castle with elegance and splendor. Filia had to admit that though the story wasn't exactly original, the artist was very talented. She was already smiling thinking that despite the cover, the ending would be happy.
Filia focused on finishing the story, all annoying thoughts about Xellos gone for the time being. "At the stroke of midnight, the mermaid ran out of the castle, regretfully telling the prince that she had no choice but to leave him." The human mermaid was depicted running down some stairs, which Filia mused must be quite tricky in her high heels, especially for someone who's used to swimming rather than walking. "The love-struck prince followed the mermaid and, refusing to lose sight of her, he ran all the way to the beach." The prince stood at the beach, his hand outstretched to a doubtful looking still-human mermaid.
"When the twelfth bell echoed loudly from the palace clock tower, the mermaid regained her original fish tail form." The astonished prince was drawn staring at the fish woman that was before him in place of his human love. "Angry, the prince accused the mermaid of being a deceiver and would not hear her plight, refusing to spend another minute in her presence." The prince was angrily walking away as the mermaid was left crying at the beach. "Neither the prince nor the mermaid ever fell in love again, for their love was a destined one that their foolishness kept them from enjoying... the end." Filia sighed and sniffled, "such a tragic story."
Xellos rolled his eyes; he had been looking at the book over Filia's shoulder the entire time. "Such a melodramatic dragon."
Filia closed the book. This time she didn't jump at Xellos' presence because in the back of her mind, even if she was blocking him out, she felt he was there. "I think it's a lovely story, in a bittersweet kind of way and I'm buying this book."
"So being specist and deceptive is romantic?" Xellos mocked, referring to the prince who wasn't fond of mermaids and the mermaid who went to see the prince in disguise. "Here I thought those human-made fairy tales were all about the perfect woman meeting the perfect man, not that I have ever wasted my precious time in reading them anyway."
Filia hugged the book to her chest as if it were a very precious treasure. "It goes to show how much you know. No one is perfect in the world, even if they might think they are," that last part was obviously directed specifically at Xellos. "It's about finding someone who is pleasant to be with and trust worthy. Of course, you wouldn't understand that or the fine lesson this story teaches."
"Enlighten me," there was something unnerving about the way Xellos could request to be 'enlightened' with a tone that screamed 'you're so stupid!'
Filia frowned as her glare intensified. "The prince lost his chance in love because he was too focused on the fact that the lady was a mermaid, rather than seeing her for who she was on the inside. It means that people should look on the inside because that's what counts. Of course, I wouldn't expect you to understand any of this, because monsters only have pure evil on the inside!"
"Specist aren't we?" Xellos mocked with the same smug grin that characterized him. Whatever sour mood he was in before was slowly taking a turn for the better, despite his continual lack of information.
"Shut up!" Filia reprimanded and walked off again with Xellos still following her. She did her best to ignore him, which sometimes worked, but mostly didn't.
xoxox xox xoxox
Some time later, the group met up at the exit of the aquarium where all the souvenir items picked up through the experience were tallied up and paid for. Amelia and Zelgadis were in exceptionally good spirits, Filia was kind of annoyed, but surprisingly not too badly and Xellos was amused.
Lina looked dangerously grumpy as she made her way out of the aquarium with the group. She was determined not to look at Gourry even if he kept trying to get her attention by tapping her shoulder repeatedly. "Lina, Lina, Lina..."
"Stop that, Gourry!" Lina slapped his hand away, no one in the group understood what her problem was and they dared not ask.
"But Lina, don't you want it?" Curiosity won her over and Lina glanced at the item Gourry was holding out to her. He gave her a big smile, "It's a marshmallow on a stick, I got it for you." Without waiting for any further reply, He placed the stick between her reluctant fingers.
Lina glared at the large marshmallow, which was at least three times the size of a fist. The sweet treat was shaped like a jellyfish and it reminded her of that flirty jellyfish girl, Medusa. Lina glared angrily at the marshmallow before devouring it with malice. Tossing the bare stick in a pink trash can decorated with red hearts, she took a deep breath. Gourry got her candy; maybe this was a sort of apology from him, which she should accept. With her best forgiving smile, she finally said, "thanks."
Gourry cheered up instantly, "I'm glad you liked it." The tension that Lina projected into the group was gone and the atmosphere felt much easier to breathe in. "You know, Miss Medusa said there was a party going on tonight." The atmosphere darkened again. "She said I should go and I told her I would. It's a marque... masquee... ma-something party."
"Masquerade!" Lina angrily supplied, while no one else in the group dared to say anything, after all Lina was glaring at them not to. "By the way, Gourry, doesn't that remind you of something you might have forgotten?"
Gourry thought for a moment. "Now that you mention it, did we have plans for tonight? I keep feeling like I've forgotten something I was going to do, but I can't remember what it was. Oh well, maybe we can do that and still have time to go to the party. I promised Miss Medusa I would be there."
Lina was fuming again. If she got her hands on that sly wicked little jellyfish witch she would... she would... She wouldn't do anything; after all, it wasn't like she was jealous, it wasn't like Gourry was her boyfriend. "Do whatever you want!" Lina growled and began to walk at a faster pace. "I'm going to the masquerade ball tonight in a pretty dress and I'm sure I'll meet a mysterious prince from a distant land!"
"Oh, that's right," Amelia nervously commented; the tension in the air could be cut with a knife. "We need to go dress shopping and the guys need tuxedos."
"Tuxedos?" Zelgadis nervously asked; he wasn't sure he liked the sound of that. Uneasiness invaded him, how would he look in the middle of an elegant ball? He had not really allowed it to fully sink in until now. But it was a masquerade ball, so his chimera condition wouldn't be too noticeable. He held on to that ray of hope and nodded, "I guess we should go to the stores if we're going to be ready on time."
"We're not going to have time to visit all the shops," Lina stated as a matter of fact as she stopped in front of a poster containing a map of the resort. "Look, here are the fancy clothing shops; that's a pretty far walk. Puffy dresses and beach clothes is all they sell around here, no middle ground what so ever. These all look like they're boutiques for women's clothes and there are jewelry shops next to them," Lina pointed them out on the map. "They take up most of the streets. The tuxedos stores are over here," she pointed them out on the map as well. There were definitely many more stores dedicated to female attire.
"Then the girls and guys should split up for shopping," Filia caught where Lina's logic was going. "It might be best that way anyway." Then she could go dress shopping without Xellos and still charge it to his account, since he was the one who made the initial vacation reservation.
"Then our dresses can be a surprise," Amelia seemed to be the only one who saw the positive side of splitting up with no ulterior motives. Lina and Filia just wanted to get away from Gourry and Xellos respectively. With that plan agreed upon, men and women went their separate ways off to shop for ball worthy attire.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 012: Get Ready! Preparations For The Ball
Given the limited time available until that night's ball began, the men and women of the group decided to take their separate ways in shopping, so that they wouldn't have to wait for each other, as there would not be enough time for that. As expected, the men finished their tuxedo shopping swiftly. There were only so many variations of the classic suits and all they really needed to do was find some in the appropriate sizes.
"This is a masquerade ball," Zelgadis reminded as if it was a vital fact and it was.
"Indeed," Xellos agreed in his usual annoying overly friendly tone. "Well, it's been fun shopping with you, friends," he added for the purpose of annoying Zelgadis, who would not so freely use the term of friend, especially when referring to Xellos. "Now if you'll excuse me, I will embark on the journey to purchase an appropriate mask on my own, farewell." He did a mock bow like an actor in a theater thanking the audience for their thundering applause, then he faded away.
"Good riddance," Zelgadis muttered under his breath. Gourry, as expected, just looked confused. If he showed up short of a mask at the masquerade ball, surely Zelgadis would get blamed for not reminding him. It wasn't so bad really, Zelgadis was annoyed by Xellos, a lot of people were, but Gourry, jellyfish brain aside, was an okay traveling companion and thus shopping companion. Besides, Zelgadis wouldn't admit it, but he would get terribly bored on his own, after all, hunting down vague clues that might lead to his cure and pillaging, without burning, random temples and museums of magical artifacts, was much more entertaining than plain and simple shopping. Shopping was an activity best endured with some form of company. "Let's go get ourselves some masks."
"Masks?" Gourry asked in puzzlement, which came as no surprise to Zelgadis. "Why do we need masks?"
"It's a... a mask party," it was a simple small word translation to the oh so complicated term of masquerade ball.
"Oh!" Gourry exclaimed in understanding. Then smiling in more amusement than the realization was due, he followed Zelgadis out of the store with their purchases neatly folded in bags. They went hunting for a mask shop and were able to find several down the street. They went in and started to browse, observing the vast assortment of masks available.
"Cats, rabbits, birds..." Zelgadis didn't seem too fond of any of the masks right away, but he knew he couldn't reject them all.
"How about this one?" Gourry picked up a mask and handed it to Zelgadis.
"A peacock?" Zelgadis didn't think it fit him at all. He looked back at Gourry, trying to discern if the blond was joking or not. "Really?"
Gourry nodded, sticking to his suggestion. "It has nice feathers and the colors stand out and kind of match."
It was true that the colors of this particular peacock mask did match him in a sense. They weren't exactly the same colors as one would find in a peacock, perhaps feathers of different birds were mixed in. The blue was a more intense shade than Zelgadis' skin and lavender details that matched his hair along with glittery traces of silver adorned it. The rest of the masks were just as colorful and glittery, so he couldn't reject it on those reasons alone, or he would reject all of them and remain mask-less, which would be unacceptable for a masquerade.
"I think it's cool," Gourry commented.
"I suppose I'm never going to find one that I actually like." He stroked the soft feathers, it honestly wasn't so bad and it wasn't as elaborate as some of the other masks which bordered being full hats. He tried it on and felt oddly empowered. Zelgadis, though he would deny it if anyone pointed it out, had a fair amount of shyness. The feeling of hiding his face without having to look away was subconsciously comforting. The mask wouldn't hide his chimeraism as he had the silly notion to think for a wishful moment, but it didn't matter. Maybe this odd sensation that he felt upon wearing the mask was part of the mystique of the masquerade, regardless of how cheesy that might sound. "Actually, I think I might like this one after all."
"I thought you would," Gourry grinned, happy that his suggestion had been useful. He picked up a few different masks and tried them on. "What do you think?" Gourry tried on a white rabbit mask with ears that were so long that gravity pulled them in front of his vision. He pushed the ears back, but if he tilted his head forward, they would fall in front of his eyes again.
Considering how Lina was noticeably shorter than Gourry, if he intended to dance with her, and Zelgadis wasn't sure why he assumed he did, then the ears might be an obstacle. "Troublesome," was Zelgadis' summarized verdict.
Without being discouraged, Gourry put the rabbit mask back in its place and tried on a calico cat mask, then sneezed. The mask' synthetic material was exceptionally fuzzy. "This one makes me sneeze," Gourry took off the mask and put it back on its previous place on the shop shelves without even waiting for Zelgadis' judgment on it. It was a troublesome mask too.
Zelgadis spotted a peculiar mask and picked it up, not sure if he would seriously suggest it or not. It at least fit Gourry. "What about this one," he passed the mask over to Gourry.
The blonde swordsman's face lit up as he received the mask. "It's perfect!" He put it on and grinned big. The glitter covered plastic accessory was shaped like a jellyfish, it's decorative tentacles enforced to defy gravity with wires, while still being arranged nicely and out of the way left and right on the sides of his face rather than falling in front of his nose and mouth, which would have also been troublesome. "It feels so natural to wear it, I'm buying it. Tonight's party is going to be so much fun!" Gourry held what might appear to be too much joy over such a small achievement, but his general optimism was welcomed by his shopping partner.
Things had been going very well between Amelia and Zelgadis. He was taking a break from everything and though ever so often he would feel a bit of self inflicted guilt over the time he wasn't spending looking for a cure, he told himself that it was okay to take a break and that he should just take that piece of advice Amelia had given him while they were sharing a meal at a restaurant. Sometimes it really was best to live the moment. Zelgadis let go of a considerable amount of his usual gloomy mood over the course of the day. "I think it will be," he agreed.
With their masks chosen and purchased, and no sign of Xellos, Gourry and Zelgadis walked along the street looking for something to do to pass the time. They both knew that the girls couldn't possibly be done with their shopping already. Women tended to take much longer than men to shop, which wasn't all that surprising when one took into consideration that there seemed to be more attire related products out there marketed towards women than what was marketed towards men. They had more to choose from and thus more to examine before making a choice, unless they simply choose the first thing they liked... But Lina wasn't like that; she would want to make the best purchase she could possibly make, even if she got away with charging it to Xellos.
The two passed by in front of a casino and eyed it curiously. "This place looks fun," Gourry pointed out with the innocence one came to expect from him. He proceeded to walk inside, or at least tried to.
"Gourry, no!" Zelgadis desperately pulled Gourry back. "You can't go in there, it's a trap. You'll lose all your money and be forced to make a hasty escape when you become buried in debt."
Gourry blinked, Zelgadis certainly looked serious about this. "It's that bad?"
"Yes," Zelgadis gravely nodded. He was remembering an experience he had regarding a casino and the rumors of a mysterious price. Some said it was a rare and powerful magical artifact and that was enough to drive Zelgadis to gamble away his last coin like a moth to a flame. In the end he lost all his money and fled from the establishment, only to return later that night to sneak into the vaults and steal the mysterious magic item.
The item in question turned out to be an ordinary playing card. The ace of spades was apparently the lucky charm of a legendary gambler that never lost a single game... until he got caught cheating with that same card. It wasn't even a magically powered lucky charm, just a card that used to belong to a casino celebrity that ended up broke after his underhanded tactics were discovered. The venture was a frustrating waste of time and money for Zelgadis and he decided there and then that he did not like casinos.
"Um... okay, thanks for the warning." Gourry replied good naturedly, though he would probably forget about Zelgadis' advice in the not so distant future. "How about we go get flowers instead? We're going to need them anyway, aren't we?"
"Flowers?" Zelgadis questioned, wondering where the seemingly random suggestion came from.
"My grandmother once told me that if I was going to a party with a girl, I should bring her a corset." Gourry recalled, almost accurately, but not quite.
Zelgadis blinked, "A corset?" That seemed like a rather personal thing to gift a girl just because they were going to a party together. Besides, that had nothing to do with flowers.
"Yeah," Gourry nodded, "it's like a flower bracelet," he explained, assuming that Zelgadis' confusion was due to not knowing what the word meant. That happened to Gourry a lot.
"You mean a corsage," Zelgadis corrected. That made a lot more sense than getting a corset and it explained why there would be flowers involved. "I suppose we might as well get some." Though they had no idea what the girls' dresses looked like, they might be able to find some nice, match-anything, corsages. "I'm sure there are some shops selling them near here, since all the fancy party themed stuff is in this area."
The thought of giving the corsage to Amelia made Zelgadis blush. He could almost picture himself stammering as he attempted to put it on her wrist if she asked him to. At least Gourry would be doing the same, Zelgadis assumed with Lina, so he might not be so embarrassed by comparison. Everyone knew that Lina had a shy side to her, but no one was suicidal enough to say it to her face. If she turned as red as her hair, Zelgadis might be encouraged to face his own corsage related trials. Everyone knows there's nothing like someone suffering a misery greater than your own to make you feel better.
The two men were indeed able to find a store that sold corsages. With some advice from the clerk they were able to choose some nice ones that would match regardless of the color of the girls' dresses and that officially finalized their ball preparation journey. They still had some time to spare, and were still pretty sure that the girls weren't done with their shopping yet.
From lack of something better to do, Gourry and Zelgadis decided to idly walk around the resort. The place was huge and they haven't really explored it fully yet. Besides, this way they could get ideas about where they wanted to go later even if they might not have enough time to visit right away. There were certainly a lot of rides, though the lines were huge, so those were events to be tackled with a lot of time on their hands if they decided it was worth it later.
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, Lina, Amelia and Filia were indeed taking their sweet time trying on dresses for the night's main event. Lina came out of the dressing room in a bright red dress with a slit on the side that made her feel uncomfortable and a cut that made her feel the vexing need to tug the fabric up her chest constantly. She looked at the poster of a red haired woman wearing that same style of dress on the wall. She didn't know what made her think that because she and the model both had red hair she should try on that dress. It simply wasn't her style and it wouldn't be any more her style even if she put on a pair of elbow length purple gloves like the ones the model on the poster was wearing.
Lina shook her head vigorously, being joined in the motion by her judges, Amelia and Filia, who were providing Lina with shopping support instead of making good use of their time by shopping for themselves. Determined to correct her mistake, Lina grabbed the next dress from the bunch she had picked out to try on and entered the changing room again. A few seconds later, a few obscene words were heard directed at a particularly evil zipper. A few minutes later, Lina emerged wearing a new dress. This one was pink with big puffy sleeves that looked more so silly than elegant. "I kind of like the color, but I don't know about the sleeves..."
"It's kind of cute," Amelia commented with the tone one would use when referring to a little girl playing princess.
Filia gave her prospective comments some thought. She didn't want to say the dress looked ridiculous and anger Lina. How could she explain that she was disagreeing with the dress and not with Lina? "Maybe you should try on something else?" Filia gently suggested.
"I guess it wouldn't hurt," Lina returned into the dressing room and the rustling of fabric was heard as she fought with the big puffy gown in the enclosed space that was certainly not large enough to properly try on this sort of space consuming attire. She tossed the mess of pink fabric over the dressing room's door, which thankfully didn't reach all the way to the ceiling or else more than a few unfortunate women might have suffocated while battling their potential dresses. A few more minutes passed and Lina finally emerged wearing a different dress.
The two judges looked at Lina, at each other and finally nodded in agreement. It seemed that the third try was the charm. The dress Lina was wearing was made of a shimmering white fabric that a poet would describe as being crafted from melted pearls and that's exactly what it looked like, if such a thing was possible outside of a metaphor. The white fabric was glossy enough to bring attention to the dress, without the look as a whole being too visually loud given Lina's vibrant hair color. The dress had an elegantly folded line of fabric that went below the shoulders and wrapped itself around the gown above the chest, accentuated with a line of pearls round about. Though Lina would never admit it, and she would kill anyone who pointed it out, it did a good job of making her look... well, not flat.
Lina's dress had another line of pearls around the waist hiding the seams of the secondary layer of fabric that lay on top of the first. That extra layer was see-through and additionally glittery, but not overly so. Lina entertained the notion of wearing high heels, but remembering how difficult it was to walk in them, she decided to discard the possibility. Besides, she would have to wear ridiculously high platform shoes if she was going to be anywhere near as tall as Gourry. Lina's thoughts had unconsciously wandered away from him as she focused on choosing her attire for the night. Then her thoughts had, without her authorization, unconsciously wandered back to Gourry as she considered what he would say when he saw her in that dress. Then she remembered that rotten jellyfish girl, Miss Medusa and her blood instantly boiled with anger.
A sour look invaded Lina's face, which made Amelia and Filia glance at each other in nervous confusion. Wasn't Lina happy to have found a pretty dress to wear that fit her so well?
Just as quickly as the fearsome look appeared on Lina's face, it faded away and her expression turned plotting. Sure, this facial feature was less menacing, but considering the fact that this was Lina Inverse, the Lina Inverse, it was perhaps more dangerous than the first. Lina threw her head back determined. If Gourry wanted to dance with some ditzy jellyfish girl, let him! She would find some other charming, nice, amusing, handsome and all around pleasant guy to spend the ball with... Not that she thought Gourry was any of those things anyway. Oh no he wasn't, certainly not when she was mad at him and especially not when he was too stupid to realize why she was mad at him, or that she was mad at him at all. Lina twirled around, showing off for the judges one last time before looking at her reflection in a conveniently placed full length mirror. "This is the one."
Even if they didn't know what came over Lina in the past few seconds, Amelia and Filia remained optimistic. "You look lovely, Miss Lina!" Amelia complimented.
"Yes," Filia agreed with a smile, "this dress definitely fits you beautifully."
With a triumphant smile Lina gave herself one last look in the mirror before declaring, "I'm going to have all the guys staring at me at the ball." She laughed evilly as she imagined herself being the center of attention of many imaginary ultra handsome men, while Gourry sulked jealously in a corner. She retreated into the dressing room and changed back into her vacation clothes, carrying the dress out with care. She treated the chosen dress a lot more nicely then the rejects, after all it didn't really mattered if those got wrinkled. Who would want to wear them anyway, if not even the beautiful Lina inverse could make them look good? "Who's next?"
"Me! Me!" Amelia raised her hand, waiving like a student desperate to be chosen by a favorite teacher, to answer a very easy question worth a good deal of bonus points on the next test. Then she calmed down and looked at Filia with a bit of sudden shyness as it wouldn't be just to be selfish. "That is if Miss Filia doesn't mind."
Filia laughed in good humor, "not at all. Lina and I will help you choose a dress, then you and Lina can help me choose too."
"Right!" Amelia cheered and brought forth her own selection of dresses, taking the first one in the pile to the dressing room.
To be Continued