Xellos and Filia went further away from the resort, flying at an amazing speed. Any passing boats in the ocean below would just see a golden blur and wouldn't even notice the other blur next to it. "Getting tired?" Xellos teased as he watched Filia flap her wings, her blond hair blowing in the wind.
"Not a chance!" Filia gasped prideful. She pushed herself to go faster. The world around her was a complete blur, but at least she wasn't feeling sick anymore, she couldn't spare the energy to feel sick. The pink bow on her tail came undone and the ribbon fell off.
Xellos disappeared from in front of Filia, reappearing soon after with the ribbon in his hand. "You dropped this." He held out the accessory. "Want me to tie it on your tail for you?"
Filia allowed herself to slow down, coming to a soft glide. "I don't want you touching my tail," she snatched away the ribbon. "Or any part of me," she specified as an afterthought, then tied the ribbon securely back on her tail. She gasped for breath, "where are we going anyway?"
Knowing that it would annoy her to no end, Xellos smiled raising his index finger and moving it left and right lightly. "That is a secret."
Filia growled in vexation. "I should have known you'd say that, but I'll know where the place is when we get there anyway, so why not just tell me?"
With his smile intact Xellos repeated, "it's a secret."
Filia frowned, "you just like being difficult," she concluded what she had already been aware of for a long time.
"We can try teleporting a little more, but the greater the distance the more affected you will be," Xellos warned with clear amusement.
Filia considered her options. She didn't know how far the place Xellos wanted to investigate was, but she knew that she would get motion sickness from his teleportation. Even so, she was gasping for breath from flying for so long as it was and that wasn't exactly a pleasant feeling either. "Okay," she finally agreed. Even if she regretted it, she could at least catch her breath a little.
Xellos hopped on Filia's back much to her annoyance and in a somewhat cowboy-like tone he loudly declared. "Giddy up, Filia!" Then they disappeared.
When they reappeared, Filia pushed the sick sensation of her stomach aside and began making wild motions in mid air, "I'm not a horse!"
Xellos kept one hand on Filia as if holding on to imaginary reins and raised his other arm. "No, you're a rodeo dragon."
"You're infuriating!" Filia dove into the cloud banks below, at least it wasn't raining, just cloudy in that area. Behind the cover of the clouds, she changed into her human form in hopes of making Xellos fall off, then suddenly felt like she was being choked. "Let go of my cloak, you're choking me!"
"You're the one who put us in this situation," Xellos pointed out with amusement. He was caught under Filia's cloak, his neck and hers tied to each other by the cloak's bow.
"Ugh!" Filia untied the cloak and let the fabric fall gently to the approaching ground below, only to realize that she was falling none too gently towards the same brown rocky terrain of a little island. She couldn't transform in mid air, she had no cover, but she didn't want to go splat on the ground either. Her first automatic and definitely irrational instinct was to hold on to the closest thing to her, which happened to be Xellos.
Xellos turned over in mid air so that Filia was laying on top of him and slowed his fall to gently land on his back on the ground. Filia's cloak, which was lighter and falling at a slower pace held up by the wind, landed on top of them blanketing the pair. "Comfortable?"
Filia fought to get the cloak off herself and finally tossed it out of the way. She sat up on her knees, her hands in front of her to push herself up. "What..?" She couldn't finish voicing her half coherent question as she looked down and saw him.
Xellos grinned seductively, "do you want me that bad?"
Filia then realized that her hands were on his chest and she was sitting on top of him. She scrambled off him, tripping and falling backwards in the process, then drew herself to her feet, picking up her cloak angrily. "You!" She pointed at him with a scarlet face. Xellos merely winked which sent Filia into a bigger rage than any words could have. She expressed her whole repertoire of remarks, out of which, raw garbage was by far the nicest.
"Tsk, tsk..." Xellos shook his head, waiving his index finger back and forth. "I thought a golden dragon would have more decorum than that. How many times did the dragon elders have to wash your mouth with soap when you were at the temple?"
"Never," Filia growled, then her countenanced changed drastically as her eyes became teary. "What have I become?" She looked positively miserable.
"Less naive?" Xellos offered.
Filia sniffled, "what have I become?" She dramatically screamed, raising her arms to the skies. "I'm hanging out with a monster, helping him investigate and I'm using vocabulary that I shouldn't even know! Where in the world did I pick up those words anyway? It's all your fault!" She pointed angrily at Xellos.
Calmly, Xellos pointed out with an amused smile, "I don't think I've ever called you a-"
In a lightning fast motion, Filia slapped her hands over his mouth, "don't repeat it!" She exclaimed in embarrassment. "Maybe I heard that one in town," she realized, releasing Xellos after a few seconds to make sure he would remain silent. "Maybe I should think about moving to a new town, if people there have language like that, it can't be a good place for Val to grow up."
"You'll find language like that everywhere," Xellos rolled his eyes at her paranoia. "Unless of course, you manage to track down a town full of mutes and move there," he paused then added with a cheerful smile, "but you'd still see writing like that."
Filia sighed hopelessly, "is there not a single decent place left in the world?"
"You mean a place full of uptight extremists?" It was obvious what Xellos was referring to before he even spoke the next part. "I thought you said you wouldn't go back there."
Filia glared and placed her hands on her hips. "The golden dragons are not all uptight extremists and no I'm not thinking about going back to one of the temples."
"Then you can't expect to shelter Val, maybe you shouldn't," Xellos suggested. "Even you had to wake up from your dream at some point and it didn't look like you were having a grant time doing it. Do you want Val to go through life thinking it's perfect only to harshly realize it's not, or would you rather him be prepared?"
Filia opened her mouth to deliver a comeback, an insult, something, preferably a semi-civilized insult, if there was such a thing, that didn't involved vocabulary that was too sinister. She stopped, realizing that she had no negative comebacks to throw at Xellos, negative comments yes, but those were not retorts. What he said actually made sense. "I guess it's best if he's prepared. Maybe moving won't benefit us after all and when it comes down to it, the town is overall a nice place, a lot nicer than other towns I've been to."
"Isn't life easier when you just agree with me?" Xellos grinned that infuriating grin of his.
Filia was determined not to let him get to her and instead walked past Xellos. "Are we close to the place you wanted to investigate?" She returned the subject of conversation to the more pressing matter at hand.
"We're here," Xellos pointed towards a rocky mountain in the center of the little island, which was severely lacking in the vegetation department.
"There's nothing here," it was just some little island with nothing but rocks, rocks and more rocks. The place didn't even have grass.
"Appearances can be deceiving," with a merry mocking tone, Xellos approached the mountain and pushed a loose stone in. A sliding door of stone perfectly camouflaged on the mountain side was revealed. A dark tunnel lay behind it, with no visible end to it.
Filia looked into the dark tunnel with perplexity. "What is this place?"
"I was hoping you would know," Xellos voiced, though his tone made it clear he wasn't. "Alas, it's too bad my possible guide failed me," he pretended to be disappointed, albeit his act didn't fool Filia for a second. "I guess the golden dragons really do work in a need to know basis after all."
Filia raised a suspicious eyebrow. "The golden dragons?" She looked back and forth from Xellos to the dark tunnel. "Are you saying this place belonged to the golden dragons?" She knew not of the existence of such a place, whatever it was. But then again, there were many things that for most of her life she was ignorant of about her race. "It looks deserted," she pointed out, hoping that it was. If there were any dragons in there, they wouldn't take kindly to Xellos or to her, given that she arrived with Xellos.
"It is," Xellos agreed, much to Filia's visible relief. "This place was managed by the golden dragons of the fire temple. It used to have a lot of spells to protect it, so keeping guards here wasn't a necessity. However, when the casters of those spells died, the spells were broken. There might still be traps left in there, but it's nothing we can't handle."
"This place belonged to the golden dragons who served the Fire Dragon..." Even if she was no longer one of those servants, Filia couldn't help it but to be curious. She realized with the entire Darkstar and Val incident that she knew very little about her people and a part of her wanted to know more, even if she didn't like what she found out. "It doesn't look like a temple."
"It was an archive," Xellos revealed. "If the golden dragons who were followers of the Fire Dragon knew anything about Phythan, then they would have recorded it here."
Filia's eyes shone with curiosity. Technically this was trespassing. Theoretically this was a terrible unlawful act that could be classified as espionage. But she didn't care. She didn't care if she could be considered to be corrupt for her actions; she wanted to know more truths. She wanted to see history for what it really was. "Let's go."
"You're very eager to commit an act of trespassing." Xellos grinned teasingly as he stood next to Filia, who was focusing on a light spell. "Maybe I am corrupting you."
Filia didn't even flinch at a comment that would normally severely disturb her. "I'm trespassing, I intend to look at information I wasn't meant to know existed and I will not regret it," she was determined. "I want to know more truths even if they hurt. It's for Val, in order to protect him. If worse comes to worse, I need to have a clear idea of what I could be up against."
"You really took my comment about naivete to heart, did you?" Filia didn't reply to Xellos' remark and they both walked on in silence through the cave tunnels.
Eventually, the brown cavern floors faded into dark yellow bricks that formed a deep tunnel sloped downward. The slope became spiraling stairs with the bricks presenting various carvings on the walls. They appeared to be spells that were no longer active as they were linked to the life of the caster. It was a double-edged sword so to speak. Linking a spell to the caster's life would make them nearly impossible to break unless the caster was killed, but if the caster died, that would be the end of the spell.
"There should be traps around here," Filia brought up an important point that Xellos had already mentioned before. She was prompting him for information. He knew about the location of the archives, so he might know more about them.
"There could be," Xellos nodded nonchalant. "I might have missed a few when I first came to explore this place, but I doubt they'll give us any trouble as long as we're careful. I got rid of all the important traps anyway."
"So you've been here before," there was an accusing edge to Filia's voice, yet it also lacked surprise. "That means you have an idea of what's down there."
"Profiles," Xellos answered simply instead of letting the suspense hang. Before Filia could ask him, or rather order him, to elaborate, they reached the bottom of the spiraling stairs. There they found themselves in a large chamber with shelves containing scrolls as far as the eye could see.
"Profiles?" Filia repeated as soon as she recovered the power of speech.
"There are no war records or big secrets here," Xellos confirmed. "I doubt any of this would be all that interesting to you or to anyone for that matter. The golden dragons of the Fire Temple wrote what they thought was worth remembering. Of course, they stopped writing when they were all wiped out. I think the most recent entry in your profile was when you were sent on your mission to find Lina, or Luna as it originally was."
"My profile..." Filia looked at the vast collection of scrolls on the tall wooden shelves. The ceiling of the chamber was quite high and levitation would be needed to reach the top of the full shelves.
"It was boring," Xellos commented dismissively. "Of course, I didn't read all of these. I soon realized how useless this archive was and left. But we can still find a small clue about Phythan here. His profile should be around here somewhere. We can at least find out what temple he came from and a little about his past, if that's even his real name. If not, then that pretty much serves as proof that he's lying, so the search won't be in vain."
Filia frowned as she looked at the mountains of scrolls, "this will be exceptionally tedious."
Xellos shrugged as if he was used to it, "it has to be done. You can't expect information to just fall on your head, you lazy dragon."
Instead of coming up with a counter argument to Xellos' jab about her laziness, albeit she was certain she was not slothful thank you very much, Filia's train of thought went towards another detail. "You must do a lot of reading and spying to get all your information," she noted. "Maybe more reading than I thought."
"Spying needs to be conveniently timed," Xellos made no attempt to deny it. "As for reading, looking at records that I'm not supposed to be looking at can be done at just about any moment."
Filia thought about criticizing Xellos for it, but she was doing the same thing at the moment and she didn't want him to throw a comeback at her about hypocrisy. "It looks like the scrolls are arranged in order of rank and the shelves are labeled according to each temple. You can start searching in the Water Dragon section and I'll start with the Fire Dragon section."
"Looking to take a peek into your own record?" Xellos opened one eye, keeping it glued to Filia's face. "I bet you used to sneak into the teacher's office and look up test answers too."
Filia stomped her feet, pouting profusely as she placed her hands on her hips. "I did no such thing!"
"Sure you didn't," Xellos turned around dismissively, with a tone that made it clear he didn't believe her, though he actually did.
"I didn't!" Filia screamed, her voice echoing in the large chamber. Then suddenly the many shelves sunk into the floor leaving the surface flat and empty. "What just happened?"
Xellos looked smugly amused, "it looks like your loud voice activated one of the leftover traps."
"Why didn't you disable it?" Filia shouted angrily while the wall on the far end of the large chamber parted to reveal a dragon statue with glowing golden eyes and a jar held in its front claws.
"Why would I bother with a trap that only activates when one is rudely loud?" Xellos gave Filia a look of false innocence. "I'm never rudely loud; you're the one that's always yelling at me. You have terrible manners."
"Shut up!" Filia yelled. Sure, it was true that yelling was what got them into that mess, but they were already in trouble so there was no reason to hold back anymore.
The dragon statue looked like it would launch some sort of attack, then a voice echoed loudly, "quiet in the archives!" The roar of the recorded voice from the statue left Filia's ears ringing. The statue then made mechanical noises as the metal joints that held the stone limbs together demonstrated that they had not been properly oiled for far too long. "You must deposit a coin into the loud jar." That sentence was delivered with less malice then the request for silence, though still with a very commanding tone.
Filia and Xellos paused, looking at the odd contraction. "Loud jar?" Xellos tilted his head curious to the side.
Filia was surprise to find such a thing in a secret archive, but she seemed to know what it was as she fished around her pockets for a coin. "It's like a swear jar, but it's for when people yell, regardless of what they say. Of course if one were to yell a bad word, both penalties would apply." She tossed a coin into the jar and detecting it somehow, the statue went upright again and the wall slid back into place covering it, followed by the shelves reemerging from the floor.
Xellos looked like he was laughing behind his hand, somehow trying not to be too loud because he would rather blow up the mechanical librarian than toss a coin into the jar it held. He finally composed himself under Filia's disapproving glare. "You golden dragons have stupid rules and regulations for every thing."
Filia was tempted to blow up at Xellos again, but she didn't want to lose another coin. Instead she used a moderated but harsh tone of voice, "it's not stupid." She crossed her arms and pouted as Xellos prompted her to continue with his eyes as if waiting for her to explain why it wasn't stupid. "A monster wouldn't understand," Filia left it at that and approached the Fire section of the archives.
"Just so you know," Xellos voiced as he headed over to the water section. "Your profile isn't here."
Filia froze and turned around to glare at Xellos. "You stole it," she correctly concluded, pointing her accusing right index finger at him."
"Oh, don't worry, there are plenty of other profiles left for you to steal my delinquent friend," Xellos grinned like he always did.
Filia huffed in indignation. "I'm not a delinquent!" She turned around determined to ignore any further comments from Xellos and focused on the task of sorting through the scrolls on the shelves of the fire section.
Xellos watched Filia go about her work and gave her just a few more seconds in case she had something more to add. When ten seconds passed and she didn't say anything about not being his friend, he shrugged and began his own search for Phythan's scroll in the shelves pertaining to the water section.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 023: Discovery! The Truth About Golden Boy
"Found it," Xellos called out just loud enough for Filia to hear her, which wasn't too loud since he was standing right behind her.
Filia tossed the scroll she was reading into the air in a startle, then just as quickly she caught it and hid it behind her back as she swiftly turned to face him. "You found it?" She tried to look innocent.
Xellos gave her an 'I know what you did' look, but in his case it was more so commending than scolding. "Keeping up with the gossip? How interesting can it be, this is old gossip anyway."
Filia shook her head frantically, "these are lies," she held up a scroll. "Tiffany Ai Kant, murdered by a monster? I know for a fact that she ran away from the temple and married a human." She sighed in a bout of nostalgia, "she was a very dear childhood friend. I can't believe how mean I was to her." A layer of self loathing covered Filia's features, while Xellos watched on curiously.
"This Tiffany was discriminated over her human lover?" Xellos inquired with false dread. "How terribly cruel."
"Husband," Filia corrected though it didn't make a difference to the golden dragons who accused her. "Don't give me that look; I know you're only trying to guilt trip me." Tears started to fall from her eyes without her consent.
"It looks like you're doing a fine job of guilt tripping yourself," Xellos observed. "So, your friend was killed by the golden dragons, rather than a monster?"
"No," Filia sniffled, "she faked her death and went into hiding. I was so upset at Tiffany that when she confessed that she was in love with a non-dragon, I yelled at her and criticized her. I put her down when she needed my support. I felt so betrayed that she had been seeing him without telling even me. She told me she was sorry for her secrecy and that she feared I would disapprove. Dragons are only allowed to marry other dragons, so of course it was something to frown upon, or at least that's what I thought back then. Looking back on it, I should have supported her."
One detail stood out to Xellos and he curiously inquired about it. "You say that you know what really happened, that she didn't die. Does that mean you helped her? You have quite the delinquent past," he teased.
Filia shook her head, her tears flowing out even more strongly. "I didn't help her, I regret not helping her. I was out hunting her down along with a few others. I was dragged into it because we were friends, so they thought I would have a good chance to find her. I thought that convincing her to repent was the best thing I could do for her as a friend, but I was stupid. I saw her standing beside a human man, I saw the man giving commands to two monsters." Filia's abundant tears continued to flow through her sobs. Her memories of that event were blurred by the emotional scar they inflicted upon her. "There was some kind of spell in the air that hid energy. The two monster shape shifted into the forms of Tiffany and the man. The real ones escaped while I stood frozen, facing the monsters, until I managed to scream, releasing a breath of laser into the sky."
Filia was shaking in Xellos' arms as she cried. He wasn't sure when he started holding her and he especially didn't know why she had not pushed him away. She instead leaned on his shoulder and slowly wrapped her trembling arms around him.
"The rest of the search party interpreted what they saw as a beckon, a sort of flare of alert," Filia continued her narration. "I was too shocked to think my friend was running off with a man who made deals with monsters. I couldn't move, I couldn't speak, except to say, 'don't let them escape.' The others attacked the monsters and they put on a show. Once the monsters were killed, they somehow retained their false forms, probably due to some kind of cloaking spell that would last well until after their remains were cremated. I could only keep shaking and stutter 'don't let them escape' over and over. Then I passed out."
Filia allowed her crying to calm down a little. She felt one of Xellos' arms around her waist, his other hand caressing her back, but she didn't think about what he was. She needed the comfort and she didn't think it was so bad anyway. It was just a hug. Her past self would rather die than hug a monster, but she had changed.
Taking a deep breath, Filia finished her story. "The golden dragons saw my reaction as extreme disapproval for Tiffany's actions. My name was completely cleared and I was fully trusted, especially since I was the one who tracked them down and alerted the others. They even commended me for doing the right thing because I was the one who reported her to the elders in the first place. I felt awful because I was too scared to say they got away. I convinced myself of a lie. I told myself that Tiffany and her husband turned themselves in and that they were resting in peace after finding redemption. My memories are a blur even now, but I know I was lying to myself. Seeing this scroll, remembering so many pieces of this..."
Filia's crying intensified again, in desperate sobs just when it had looked like she was starting to calm down. She tightened her embrace around Xellos and he responded in the same way. A long moment passed and Filia finally let go, slowly parting from Xellos.
"Are you done with the waterworks and drama?" He spoke as dismissively as he could, but Filia was prepared for it.
The blond nodded gently, at least Xellos had reserved his comment for when after she was done sulking and listened to her whole story. She placed the scroll belonging to Tiffany back on the shelf where it belonged and dried her eyes. "So you found Phythan's scroll?"
"Here it is, as usual I have to do everything," Xellos declared in a victimized tone which Filia ignored as she snatched the scroll away. That left Xellos to dramatically make an offended expression, "how rude!"
Filia opened up the scroll and read through the basic information in it. "His name is Phythan Ai Kant..." she paused taken aback and looked at Xellos. He appeared to be interested, as if he had not messed with the scroll. There was no way he could know about Tiffany until she told him, unless something about her capture was written in Filia's profile. She gave Xellos a questioning glare.
He shrugged, "coincidence."
Filia decided to take his word on it for the time being and turned her attention back to the scroll, looking at the information about his family. "He was Tiffany's younger cousin; her uncle married a dragon from the Water Temple." Her eyes paused in his date of birth, "that young?" For a human, a dragon of Phythan's age would be far older than their lifespan, but from Filia and Xellos' point of view he was relatively young. "He's... he's still an adolescent! The nerve of him!" Filia's face turned red as she continued the apparently spontaneous criticism that was making a fine job of confusing Xellos.
"Would whatever it is he's trying to do be any different if he were older?" Xellos asked with true perplexity. There were things about Filia that he couldn't understand, a lot of things, actually.
"I thought he looked kind of small in his dragon form," Filia continued her growling and grumbling. "I was thrown off because he's tall as a human, but he's... he's..."
"The human equivalent of let's say, late teens and you're the human equivalent of, what? Early twenties?" Xellos rolled his eyes disinterested in the conversions; they made no sense any way since their rate of development was so different. A dragon could go from baby to child in a few years, then take decades to reach adolescence and centuries to reach adulthood. Overall, a young adult was at least five hundred, such as Filia who was just a few years over the mark, but Phythan was around a century short of it. "As I was saying, what does that have to do with anything?"
"When I was his age, I was still playing dolls with Tiffany, even though she was a few years older then me," a few years meaning over a century, "and she probably only played to humor me, but that's not the point." Filia pouted, "I almost dated an adolescent and adolescents are not allowed to date anyone, those are the rules at the temple."
Xellos seemed to choke on air. He could have made some wisecrack about the extreme rules of the golden dragons, but he was far more interested in the part about some annoying little golden dragon trying to steal his Filia, er that is, his cure. "So the sneak was trying to seduce you?" The question came out more so as a territorial statement full of venom.
Filia shook her head frantically, her cheeks ablaze. "No!" She clasped her hands over her mouth and looked at the wall frantically. At least her outburst wasn't loud enough to summon the mechanical librarian this time. "He bought me ice-cream and was supposed to go to the masquerade ball with me. That never actually happened, but it's not like he was being improper, he was respectful and polite, charming even. Except he's nothing like he used to be before," Filia watched as Xellos' expression shifted.
His eyes were open showing their alluring amethyst depths. He seemed angry, dangerous. He was a monster and an extremely powerful one, but he rarely looked like such an obvious predator.
Filia raised her hands, the scroll still held in one, fearing for Phythan's life. "That's the last thing on my mind, plus he's obviously not interested anymore." She paused and wondered why in the world she was trying to calm Xellos' jealousy if the concept of said jealousy was an impossibility in itself. Nevertheless, it was gold when it came to teasing. "Are you jealous?"
"No," Xellos forced his face to turn back into his usual smile. "In fact, you and Phythan can get together and make all the little golden dragons you want!"
The sound of a loud slap pierce the air as Filia's hand collided with Xellos' face. The hand shaped imprint on his cheek matched the scarlet color of her face. Then the shelves sunk into the floor again and the mechanical librarian reemerged, speaking its usual recorded lines just as before.
Filia let out a low offended growl before fishing another coin from her pocket and tossing it into the loud jar. The scenery then returned to normal with the mechanical librarian out of sight and the shelves back in their proper place. "Don't even joke about that," she finally voiced, offense evident.
Xellos wasn't sure if he should get angry because of Filia's daring move to slap him or feel somewhat triumphant or maybe even relieved because of her apparent disdain for the prospect of some alone time with Phythan. "To clarify, are you getting angry because of what I suggested or because of who I suggested to be involved?"
"Both," Filia grumbled. "Honestly, if it takes that long for me to meet my destined one and he arrives when I'm twice as old as I am now, the same age as I am now, I won't mind. If the situation is reversed and I'm the younger one, I also wouldn't mind. I don't care if the man is older or younger as long as he is of adult age. The temple might not approve, but I don't live in the temple anymore. Still, the part about adolescents being too young is something to be taken into consideration. I know I certainly wasn't ready for love when I was one."
"That's because you're especially naive," Xellos rolled his eyes. He didn't see the logic behind young adult plus near middle age being okay, but not young adult plus adolescent. Then again, monsters didn't need to be in any kind of couple regardless of how many years or centuries they've been around for. "So, you're saving him for later then?" He questioned with suspicious insistence.
"Who? Phythan?" Filia glared, "of course not. He's sweet, but not my type, at least that's what I've realized. Anyway, I don't want you to be mean to him, I think I might grow to see him as the little brother I never had, given the right time."
"You're only developing a soft spot for him because he's an Ai Kant," Xellos theorized. Showing kindness to beings that had things in common with beings that produced guilt served to ease the guilt of humans. If dragons were just as emotional, then it would work for them too.
Filia looked distressed, then went back to reading the scroll, speaking as she scanned it with her eyes. "I want to be Phythan's friend regardless of who he is. He has a good heart, I just know it." She continued looking through the scroll until she found something useful. "Here we go, he was sent on a special mission to the Fire Temple to work guarding the Genie's Lamp as..." Filia's eyes grew in indignation as she frowned. "As punishment for being caught reading comic books during his Water Temple guard duty!"
"Well it's not like the Water Dragon is around to punish him," Xellos chuckled. Maybe the current Phythan was the real Phythan after all, as opposed to whatever act he tried to show Filia.
Filia let out an exasperated breath. "His people hold the memory of the Water Dragon; he should have been more responsible!" She continued reading, "what's this?" She raised a suspicious eyebrow at the information. "Killed by a monster who was trying to steal the Genie's Lamp?"
"He probably slacked off again and got sentenced to death, but escaped, or maybe he was exiled," Xellos theorized. "Anyway, wasn't the Genie's Lamp just a rumor?"
Filia nodded, "the lamp contains a ghost that is so strongly attached to it that it can't be exorcised without damaging the lamp itself. The lamp has some historical value since it originally belonged to a very illustrious golden dragon who-"
Xellos yawned profoundly, "boring! Would you mind cutting the history lesson short?"
Filia glared and allowed herself a small growl before she continued. "Since the lamp has a historical value, it cannot be destroyed, so no one was willing to risk breaking it with a strong exorcism. Instead the ghost was left to dwell in it and the lamp was placed behind a protective barrier in case the ghost decided to come out on his own and cause trouble. The barrier would exorcise the ghost instantly, but he never came out anyway. Stupid stubborn ghost not wanting to rest in peace."
Xellos grinned, "annoying the golden dragons does seem like a worth purpose for haunting."
Ignoring his comment, Filia continued her explanation. "The lamp was to be kept in different temples for a few years. When it was being transported from one to another, the dragons ran into some troublesome monsters and the lamp was lost in the battle. It turns out it wasn't destroyed and it was found by a human who thought the ghost was a wish granting genie."
Xellos chuckled in amusement, "humans will believe any stupid myth."
Once again ignoring the interruption, Filia went on. "The ghost made all sorts of excuses and gave warnings about regretting certain wishes, speaking of the unwanted side-effects that they might have. As a result, by the time the lamp's holder even came close to deciding upon a wish, rumors about the lamp would have already spread and the lamp soon ended up in someone else's hands. Since the wishes kept being delayed by the tricky ghost, the humans never realized that there was no genie and they kept on fighting for the lamp. Fortunately, the golden dragons eventually recovered it and kept it safe."
"They probably burned a whole human village to get it back too," Xellos chirped cheerfully.
Filia groaned, ignoring Xellos' vexing nature was an increasingly difficult task, especially when she was talking to him. "According to the date Phythan was in the Fire Temple while I was away, so it's no wonder we missed each other. This means that he was telling the truth according to the scroll, even if he sounded confused about it."
"Except for the part about him being alive," Xellos pointed out with annoyance. "I could fix that."
"No," Filia insisted. "Whatever happened, I want to help Phythan recover his memories. Unfortunately, the golden dragons were more prejudiced than I ever wanted to admit before. If not because of the fact that I was commended for my participation in the mission against Tiffany, I would have been shunned for having been her friend. The news about her must have surely reached the remaining followers of the Water Dragon and with Phythan's record being less than merit worthy, he had nothing to fall back on to prove his loyalty. He was from a different temple and was not directly involved in anything, so they couldn't just kick him out, but they must have confined him to a lower rank with no hopes of ever being promoted. That must have been hard."
"It's just as I said, you're trying to be kind to him to ease your own guilt." Xellos didn't like the prospect. "What's next? Are you going to fly off in search of Tiffany and her monster contractor of a husband to make peace with them?"
Filia stared at the stone floor as she rolled up the scroll absentmindedly. "I probably wouldn't be able to find them." She looked into Xellos' eyes. "You're a monster, you don't understand about guilt, kindness and mercy, but I won't let you ruin this for me. I need to make up for what my people did in anyway I can. Not just with Val, but with every opportunity that presents itself."
Filia placed Phythan's profile scroll on the shelf nearest to her, which was in the fire section instead of the water section where it belonged. Then once again the shelves sunk beneath the floor and the walls parted to reveal the stone dragon with the metal joints, screeching in a recorded voice that was defective due to lack of maintenance. All that Filia and Xellos could understand was something about a "proper section."
Filia's surprise had made her jump into Xellos' arms. She was more emotional than usual and thus jumpier. Her tail popped out while the rest of her body remained in human form, the tail wrapping itself around Xellos in an automatic motion. Realizing what she was doing, Filia unwrapped her tail from around Xellos blushing profusely, and tried to find another coin to pay the fee for placing a scroll in the wrong place, though apparently the mechanism couldn't detect if a scroll was stolen.
Xellos produced a coin from his pocket and tossed it at the jar without looking, his open eyes focused on Filia who held her tail in her hands muttering something inaudible as if trying to coax it into disappearing. The shelves sprung up once the payment was received, causing Filia to stumble forward, once again in Xellos' arms, her tail automatically wrapping around him. She blushed as she tried to find something to say to defuse the peculiar tension that came from their frequent hugging and perhaps more so from the fact that they were able to have an almost civilized conversation.
Of all the people Filia could talk to about Tiffany, Xellos just happened to be there, but there was more to it than that. The conversation they had about her keeping an open mind had rattled her more than Filia could ever admit. Her postponed research about a good, or at least decent, monster didn't seem so absurd anymore, even though most would say it was. The deeds of the golden dragons, her childhood friend, Val's future, the mysteries of Phythan, it was all too much.
Filia felt overwhelmed and in the face of everything she couldn't get her body to properly respond and get her away from Xellos. Instead she drew closer, he didn't move, though he was inviting her with his eyes, silently telling her to take the initiative if this was what she wanted. She stopped thinking and focused only on sensations as she closed the distance between them and their lips met.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 024: Disaster! Casino Calamities
Xellos and Filia walked out of the archives in absolute silence. She kept her eyes on the dark yellow stone stairs as they made their way to the surface of the little island of brown rock. "Filia..." Xellos began, or tried to.
"Don't say anything!" Filia snapped again. Ever since they parted from their most recent kiss, which was somewhat different from the others, though neither could precise why, she had been unwilling to communicate.
Xellos felt his trademark grin melting off his face, he was still cursed and it made no sense. "Back there-"
"I don't want to talk about it!" Filia snapped, refusing to look at Xellos. Couldn't he understand that she was too confused and didn't want to be bothered with anything that required thinking?
"You don't have to say anything," he grumbled with more irritation than Filia had heard him express before. This was real annoyance and a hint of frustration. "Just listen."
Filia stubbornly placed her hands over her ears and began her frantic loud singing of "la, la, la, I can't hear you, la, la, la, la."
Xellos raised his voice, they were far enough from the annoying mechanical librarian anyway, not that he cared. "I told you that you didn't have to kiss me until you were willing. Don't tell me that I somehow tricked you because I didn't do anything. You were the one who hugged me, you were the one who kept rubbing my leg with your tail, you were the one who kissed me." At this point Xellos was yelling to be heard over Filia's stubborn effort to cover up his voice with her own.
Giving in to the necessity to rest her throat, Filia stopped straining her vocal cords and took a series of deep breaths. She finally removed her hands from her ears as they reached the surface of the little island and closed the secret passage behind them. "I know," she accepted all the charges, sounding mortified.
Xellos approached her, lifting her chin with his index finger so she was looking at him. He needed answers. Why had not her kiss cured him? "You're agreeing with me?"
"I was... not myself so don't give it too much thought." Filia tried to excuse herself. The last thing she needed was Xellos bringing up her very confusing action. "I was just... sad."
"Somehow, I doubt you'd throw yourself into the arms of a random man to seek consolation, even if he happens to be the only one who's conveniently around." He sounded somewhat frustrated and it puzzled Filia. How could Xellos know if she was being sincere, why would he care? Filia stared at Xellos for a long moment unable to come up with a reply, thus instead he spoke. "What would you classify as a willing kiss?"
Filia continued her blank staring until it donned on her that the question wasn't full of mockery as she would expect it to be. There was also something about it that hinted at more than just idle curiosity. She mulled on it before replying truthfully. "A kiss full of love; one that isn't inspired by circumstance or the rush of the moment."
Xellos was sure his eye was twitching in annoyance and his teeth were clenched but he didn't have the energy to force the automatic reaction to cease. "Love..." he repeated the dreadful word. He remembered what Celo had told him about the cure. 'The cure will bring you to your weakest state before freeing you from the curse...' A kiss full of love, full of positive emotions, such a fully charged direct hit would certainly weaken even a strong monster, more so since he would have to be exposed to all those positive feelings during the process of making it happen. "I see..." Things were far more difficult than Xellos ever expected them to be.
Filia watched as Xellos made his way to the shore where the salty water of the sea met the brown rocks of the island. The sky was no longer full of clouds, it was clear but a long time had passed and the afternoon had gone by. The sun was setting in the horizon as Xellos levitated above the ground. He looked back for a second, "coming?"
Filia woke up from her pensive state and nodded quickly. "Yes, of course!" She ducked behind a rock formation and changed into her dragon form, following Xellos into the horizon.
xoxox xox xoxox
During the time that Xellos and Filia spent on their investigation, Lina occupied herself in ordering a ton of food via room service. Gourry eventually smelled it and joined her in eating, his sickness not slowing him down one bit. In the mean time, Amelia and Zelgadis strolled around the casino, looking around as people jumped and cheered or cursed and cried with the latter reaction being far more abundant than the former.
Simultaneously, Phythan was knocking on doom's door as Martina's elite poker table filled up with guests. "So you're in the White Rabbit rank," Martina observed curiously. She didn't recognize the blond man, but if he was wearing the clothes of a master gambler then he must be one. She would have to be on her guard. "I am the Red Queen; no one can beat me at poker!"
"Poker..." Phythan repeated with curiosity. "A card game of human origins. I do like games. Okay, I'll challenge you Red Queen Martina!"
Martina's mocking laughter echoed for a few seconds before she paused and inquired. "Are you a fan of mine to know my name beyond my alias of Red Queen? What is your name, White Rabbit?" She believed she was admired by many, so this wasn't a surprising development.
"I'm Phythan and I heard about you from Miss Lina. Miss Amelia and Mr. Zelgadis are around here somewhere," he looked around, unable to spot them. "Miss Lina is nursing Mr. Gourry back to health from his terrible cold and Miss Filia and Mr. Xellos are... somewhere." What ever happened to those two anyway?
Martina looked rather angry; her teeth were clenched as she squeezed the deck of cards in her hands. "I will win," she declared firmly without any further elaboration upon her determination. Then she held the cards to her chest and loudly called out, "give me luck Lord Zoamelgustar!"
"Luck spells are allowed?" Phythan's question was ignored as all the players seated on the table took a moment to cast their own luck spells and brandish their charms and talismans for protection against the Red Queen's winning streak. Wasting no more time in waiting for an answer, Phythan focused his energy in a whispered chant. "Fate, destiny, chance, clock of shifting sand, commanding time's advance, heed my will, my stance, deliver triumph to my hand... Fortune Luck!" his eyes flickered violet then returned to brown as he felt a sharp pain in his head. He ignored it, attributing it to the needed strength of the spell for it to work in the current circumstances.
"The time is now!" Martina raised her hand signaling that the interlude for prayers and luck spells was over. "Let us begin!" She dealt the cards swiftly, each person looking at their hand with unreadable focus.
xoxox xox xoxox
Amelia kept pointing out different things to Zelgadis as they walked along the casino, though he discouraged her from betting. Finally tired of only looking, Amelia gave Zelgadis her best pleading look. "Just one little bet, one little coin. If I lose it it'll be worth it for the amusement. It's like paying a ticket to see a show."
"Why do you even need my approval?" Zelgadis realized. "It's your money, you can bet as much as you want."
"I don't want to bet anything if it makes you feel uncomfortable." Amelia kept giving Zelgadis her adorable pleading look, which would soon either make him beg her to bet something or cause him to melt into a blushing puddle of goop.
"Alright, alright," Zelgadis tried to get himself to calm down. Amelia's charm was stronger than usual in that bunny costume and his eyes kept wondering even if he was trying to keep them looking ahead. "One coin won't hurt."
With a bright smile like a child that had been promised candy, Amelia skipped over to the nearest roulette table with Zelgadis in tow. She looked at the numbers and finally decided, "one coin on lucky seven!" The others who were betting kept mumbling about how in the world someone naive enough to think the number seven was actually lucky could have possibly earned the rank of White Rabbit as her outfit suggested. Furthermore, for a master gambler her bet was sure small.
The roulette master, a tuxedo clad red-haired young man with blue eyes, accepted the bet. Zelgadis gave him a suspicious look, though he appeared to just be doing his job. There was something about his good boy face that rubbed Zelgadis the wrong way and he could have sworn he saw some hidden mischief in his eyes. He could be the underling of someone powerful masquerading as a casino employee. The owner of the resort might have a special guest visiting the casino, some super powerful mafia lord or something. The visitor had his agents scattered all over the place keeping an eye out for their boss' enemies. Maybe it was even a trap to bring them out, thinking they could knock out the mafia boss when he was on holiday outside of his territory. Or maybe Zelgadis just had an active imagination.
Zelgadis constructed a soap opera of a mafia drama in his head to serve as a background for the roulette master. He had been labeled as an elite spy and swordsman able to cast a few spells, partnered with a sorceress, that when provoked, or ordered, had a mean streak that rivaled Lina's, casting terrible electric spells. She had blue hair, because it would contrast his red hair while matching his eyes and style was important in the mafia. Her eyes, Zelgadis' imagination decided, would be pitch black to show her status as a sorceress and give her an extra edge since she wasn't much of a swordfighter, even if she could kick pretty hard.
The pair would be occasionally joined by a healer who dedicated most of her time to the collection of national secrets, blackmail and other such troublesome information through the seduction of unsuspecting men. She would be blond with green eyes. Then there's the knight in training that's secretly the son of the mafia lord and... and Zelgadis was getting carried away. He realized that the whole story must have been something he read at the library while taking a break from his fruitless possible cure research. Something about family secrets, conspiracies and diamonds. He was just passing the time and not really paying all that much attention to the story anyway.
"I won!" Amelia suddenly cheered, which brought back Zelgadis from his gangster novel induced day dreams. She smiled happily as against all odds she held up her obtained coins. "That was fun, wasn't it, Mr. Zelgadis."
"I guess so," seeing Amelia smiling made Zelgadis happy, though he also felt silly for discouraging her bet so adamantly. Lina might get herself neck deep in debt, she constantly was in such a situation with restaurants, but Amelia was a responsible girl who wouldn't get carried away. She knew when to stop gambling. "Why don't you go ahead and try again? You got all those coins; it won't hurt to bet a few since you would leave with more than what you came anyway."
"I did promise I would bet only once," Amelia recalled while the other gamblers grumbled about the amazing luck of those few fortunate enough to reach the rank of White Rabbit.
"It's alright," Zelgadis looked encouraging in his own way. "One more won't hurt."
"If you say so," Amelia smiled and tried to get him to join the fun. "Why don't you try it this time?"
"I'm not as lucky as you," Zelgadis replied quietly, he had a bad feeling about gambling. Amelia knew when to quit, he could trust her with that, but he was stubborn about achieving what he wanted, he couldn't trust himself the same way.
Then out of nowhere, one of the gamblers gathered around the roulette, a wolf beast-man. He pulled out a long double barreled gun and pointed it clear across the room at a fancy exclusive-looking poker table in the corner, at the head of which sat a man in an orange suit. "Die, Giovanni!"
Before anyone could even blink, the roulette master had pulled out a conveniently pre-enchanted sword from under the table and sliced away both long barrels of the gun in half. Then a blue haired woman who was managing chip exchanges in a nearby table sent a precise shot of electricity at the offending beast-man, leaving him twitching on the floor. A blond woman in a tight revealing dress pointed at the scene and the two men previously standing left and right of her picked up the fallen wolf person and took him away.
The red-hared roulette master smiled innocently. "It's all part of the show." Zelgadis thought the show was way too much like that novel he partially read, yet the situation fit so well, he had to wonder if the man in the orange suit really was a mafia lord.
"Mr. Zelgadis?" Amelia looked at him with a hint of worry.
Zelgadis shook off the impression he was left with and decided to place a bet. Just one coin, only that. "One coin on lucky seven," it was unoriginal, but he fully expected to lose no matter what he picked, so it didn't matter.
The other gamblers grumbled about how there was no way lucky seven could win twice in a row and questioned how a gambler so lacking in skill could have possibly earned the rank of White Rabbit. Then the roulette landed on seven again.
"Congratulations Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia cheered happily. "You've won a lot of coins. This must be your lucky day!"
"Maybe it is," Zelgadis' eyes shone with ambition. He wasn't usually greedy, but if he had a ton of money, he could post an offer for a reward for information about his cure, perhaps going as far as finding someone who would offer the cure itself given the proper incentive. "Time to raise the stakes!"
"Mr. Zelgadis?" Amelia tilted her head to the side in confused worry as Zelgadis seemed to glow with determination.
"This table is for small bets. I'm going to the highest rank roulette table to place my next bet and I'll win!" Zelgadis bravely declared, sounding much more like a White Rabbit gambler now. "For the larger bets chips are required, so I'll need to get some chips!" Without a second thought, Zelgadis bolted towards the chip exchange stand with a worried Amelia following him.
"Maybe we shouldn't get so excited," Amelia cautioned ineffectively.
"It's my lucky day, Amelia!" Zelgadis insisted as he positioned his earnings plus all the traveling money he had on the chip exchange table. The blue haired sorceress gladly exchanged all his money for chips, depositing the coins in the safe under the table. Then the eager chimera ran off to gamble everything he had, with an apprehensive princess trailing behind him.
xoxox xox xoxox
"You cheated!" Martina pointed at Phythan who had been winning one game after another. He was wiping the floor with the other unlucky gamblers; the table having switched players several times as they went broke and left.
"No I didn't! An honorable ally of justice would never cheat!" Phythan argued back defensively.
"It's time for a special challenge!" Martina loudly declared, raising her index finger to point at the ceiling and lowering her hand in a swift motion so she was pointing at Phythan. She then spread the deck of cards on the table like a fan face down. "It's an all or nothing special challenge and a White Rabbit should know that when the Red Queen issues a challenge, it cannot be denied. You must pick the cards I command or lose it all!"
The other gamblers began to mutter to themselves, glad that they were not on the receiving end of Martina's challenge. White Rabbit or not, no one had been able to defeat the Red Queen's special challenge. The key to gambling is knowing when to quit and quitting is a must before the anger of the Red Queen is provoked.
"You will choose the jack of diamonds..." Martina commanded with a fierce glare.
Phythan had not heard of this particular game before, but it appeared to be simple enough. He was good at games though other aspects of life sometimes escaped him. From what he understood, he needed to choose the card that Martina told him to, obviously without looking. It was a very easy game of chance, since his turn was his alone without someone else's luck to push away his own. He moved his hand forward confidently; eyes closed in concentration and picked a card. It was the jack of diamonds.
"You got lucky," Martina growled. "Alright, challenge me if you dare!" She let out a stream of obnoxious laughter.
"Since you're the Red Queen, I'll challenge you to find the queen of hearts." Maybe picking a card that suited the challenger so well wasn't Phythan's best move, but he wanted to see how far Martina's powers over chance really went.
"That's easy!" Another round of loud high pitched laughter from Martina followed. Then she paused and took a deep breath. "Guide me oh great Zoamelgustar!" with the outmost confidence she picked a card and it was the queen of hearts.
The gamblers, who had been left as spectators to the showdown between the Red Queen and one of the White Rabbits marbled at their skill. When the word spread through the casino that the Red Queen had issued a direct challenge, more people gathered around her table to watch the rare occurrence. The Red Queen usually cleaned out the savings of all her challengers, even the White Rabbits of the past, without having to resort to the special challenge. In the few rare occasions when she had issued it in the past, the challenger fell to her superior luck after a mere few turns. This particular showdown was just getting started and it didn't look like it would end any time soon.
"Seven of spades!" Martina called out defiantly.
Phythan picked the correct card, showing it to her. "Ten of clubs!" He challenged.
Martina chose a card without a hint of doubt and revealed it to be the ten of clubs. "Three of spades!" So it went on and on until all fifty-two cards had been chosen and the challenged ended in a draw. Of course, the great Red Queen wasn't going to take that. She shuffled the cards and set them out again as the spectators continued to marvel. The challenge was again restarted and one after another each card was correctly chosen with each combatant empowering their own stream of good luck.
"Enough," an old man, or rather a monster chimera disguised as one, made his way through the crowd; it was Celo, the resort owner. His attention had been captured by the showdown of chance.
To be Continued