The peaceful slumber of those inhabiting the wooden clock tower was interrupted in the night by the violent shaking of the structure. The group was quick to assemble at the base of the tower and rush out to face the enemy that simply couldn't wait until morning. The many trees that surrounded the tower were shaking their roots unnaturally, threatening to bring down the entire structure. "Everyone fight back! Defend the home base!" Lina shouted her commands, playing her rehearsed par perfectly. It was time to put on a show.
"Terrible villain who uses innocent trees as helpless pawns for your evil ways!" Amelia shouted dramatically from the ground, since climbing a tree was too dangerous given the situation. "Feel my justice! Elmekia Lance!" Amelia's attack collided with a tree, causing substantial damage. Another tree extended its branches, trying to reach Amelia from behind, but Zelgadis swiftly cut the branches with his enchanted sword.
Gourry was doing some intensive gardening of his own, swinging his new sword around in every direction, which Celo had provided claiming it to be of top quality. It indeed was, even if it didn't measure up to the sword of light, but for a normal sword to match that sword was definitely too much to ask. Nonetheless, Gourry was making short work of the trees that dared to attack him.
"Fireball!" Lina set another tree on fire, albeit Celo wasn't too happy about sacrificing the dark forest, he accepted the necessity of putting up a show. Likewise, Celo and Xellos defended against the trees with their monster energy, while Filia, Tiffany and Phythan got them with their laser breath. "Let's draw out the puppet master controlling these trees, everyone advance!" At Lina's command, the group boldly rushed deeper into the forest. The time to put their strategy into play was near.
Phythan purposely got close to one of the trees, while pretending to lower his guard backing away from another attacking tree. As expected, the tree behind him grabbed him and tried to absorb him in an unusual type of forceful teleportation that would transport him to the location of the main tree that passed the magic to the others. Phythan immediately started trying to push out the monster with Filia, Tiffany and Amelia assisting him with exorcisms and white magic.
Lina focused on sensing the flow of energy around her. "Invisible links of the chain, which binds all in this plane, make the target's struggle vain, follow the inescapable lane, Pursuit!" The monster's energy was linked to the energy controlling the tree, but it wouldn't be long before the link was broken, so everything needed to be done before the puppet master had time to react. Xellos was already in position with a barrier of black energy around Phythan and the tree, with Filia, Tiffany and Amelia casting their healing magic that passed through the barrier and reached Phythan within. "Multiply my humble speed, let all my energy be freed, to quickly do as I please, accelerate all my deeds, Hastega!" Lina repeated the speed spell aimed at the area contained in the barrier.
The flow of energy within the barrier kept increasing with each fraction of a second. "Miss Filia, Miss Tiffany, we're losing him!" Amelia intensified her white magic, pushing herself to the limit.
"I won't allow this plan to fail!" Filia continuously healed Phythan, even if it felt like his energy was being consumed faster than they could replenish it.
"We can do it!" Tiffany assured. "The monster is being pushed out, Phythan's energy is being purified, we're making progress!"
All the while Gourry, Zelgadis and Celo kept the busy spell casters safe from the wrath of the Green Alchemist, though so far, they had not been able to spot the puppet master among the attacking trees, even if he couldn't be too far. At the same time, Xellos found that the barrier wasn't as easy to maintain as he thought. Keeping the spells in created a tremendous pressure. Add to that the strain of the separation of Phythan and the monster and the amount of energy released was colossal, fueled even more by the sparks of fusion magic that occasionally formed inside the barrier with the mixture of dragon and monster energy. He could feel traces of the Hastega spell trying to escape the barrier with Lina's constant casting. Trusting in his own strength in a moment of rushed actions and confident pride, Xellos gave the barrier everything he had, making it so that anything that escaped from it was redirected at himself and didn't affect the others.
After a short moment which felt like an eternity, all of the monster energy was extracted from Phythan. The strain of the separation was felt by all the trees that were linked together in the Green Alchemist's control and the entire forest dried up. The trees' once green leaves turned brown, their bark becoming brittle as if it were ancient. The spell finally faded away as the exhausted casters fell to their knees. Phythan opened his eyes for a moment, both the purest violet, then closed his eyes again with a serene and accomplished expression. Filia checked his vital signs just to be sure and nodded in relief. "It worked."
Amelia let out a breath of exhausted relief. She, Filia and Tiffany were all ready to collapse next to Phythan. Zelgadis, Gourry and Celo were also catching their breath after the battle, but the spell casters were definitely suffering from the most severe exhaustion. Lina fell down on one knee, struggling to push herself back to her feet. "Lina, are you okay?" Gourry helped her up, allowing her to lean on him.
"It's not over; the Green Alchemist still hasn't shown his face!" Lina cautioned.
The group remained on their guard, but nothing happened. "He must have fled," Zelgadis finally concluded. "He does strike me as the cowardly type hiding and using trees to fight. The forest is useless to him now; he must have realized trying to pick a fight with us is suicide."
"Even if we were unable to apprehend the Green Alchemist, at least Phythan has been cured," Celo pointed out. He glanced at Zelgadis with an apologetic expression that the chimera didn't quite believe but disregarded it anyway, since pointing out a monster's possible lack of sincerity felt too much like stating the obvious. "My apologies Mr. Zelgadis, but I very much doubt recreating this situation for you would have any effect. It would sooner tare you apart than cure you, as your chimera parts are so deeply integrated into your being, where as the monster in Phythan kept a limited separate identity as the union was never properly completed."
Zelgadis let out a dismissing huff, "I wasn't expecting much anyway."
"Well, since it doesn't look like the Green Alchemist will be showing up for round two of this fight any time soon, we should be heading back to the clock tower now. I'm starving!" Lina loudly declared. She had used up a lot of energy and needed a good meal to replenish it, or she wouldn't be able to get any extra sleep before morning. Just as Lina was musing on such thoughts, she saw the sun rising in the distance, its light more noticeable in the forest now that the trees had dropped all their leaves in a massive blanket of brown that crunched with every step. "It's already morning, time for a big breakfast!"
The group resolved to return to the clock tower and once again Zelgadis got stuck carrying the unconscious Phythan on his back. He had offered to carry Amelia, but ever the trooper, she sprang to her feet fueled by the power of positive thinking and justice, ready to proudly march back to the lopsided clock tower. The wooden structure appeared to be ready to collapse, but it held precious food and shelter and the extremely weary are not generally picky.
The unusual surprise came when Xellos appeared to be lagging behind the group. This caused Filia to glance back at him and give him a tired suspicious look. Strangely, he looked exhausted himself. She kept looking at him as he made his way forward several feet behind the group. He looked like he was struggling with every step until he collapsed. "Xellos!" Filia rushed to his side with a deep worry that she told herself over and over was pointless, even if it felt too real to be. "What are you doing? Get up!"
Xellos stayed still for an excruciating moment, then pushed himself to his feet with a tired grin. "Are you worried about me, Filia? You're such a stupid dragon."
Filia glared and hurried away in a huff, as fast as her tired state allowed her to move. "Stupid monster and his stupid tasteless jokes!" She muttered angrily with every step.
Xellos caught Celo giving him an inquisitive yet knowing look, which he returned with the most intense threatening glare that he could muster. Celo decided it was best not to say anything to Xellos, but his expression made it clear that he knew what was going on.
Once inside the clock tower, Phythan was taken to a room to rest, while Celo ordered some food to be delivered to the tower while Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Tiffany sat around the table ready to replenish their energy. No one seemed too concerned about Xellos' disappearance, because this was Xellos and he did this all the time. Even so, Filia had a bad feeling about it, but kept telling herself that Xellos' unusual behavior when she last saw him was only another trick to annoy her.
After the breakfast uproar had settled down and even the fierce appetites of Lina and Gourry had been satisfied, Celo brought an earlier business proposal to light. "Miss Lina, if you are still interested, the circumstances have made it so that I must offer you that job I spoke of earlier than I expected."
Glad to hear the imaginary sounds of coins jiggling in front of her, Lina gave Celo a wide grin, "I'm all ears."
"Excellent, but be warned that this job will be a difficult one and your life might be in danger." Celo knew that the warning would not deter Lina Inverse from her greedy ambitions, but he mentioned it anyway, if only to be able to say 'I told you so' if any future situations merited such a famous phrase.
"What else is new?" Lina laughed dismissively. "My life is always in danger for one reason or the other. At least this way I actually get paid for it."
"Very well," Celo considered his options, this was a very important matter, so he couldn't spare any resources in making sure the vital task was accomplished. "I will pay you one thousand gold coins every month for the duration of the year, assuming that it takes that long for you to complete the job." Though the time that the job could last was indefinite, Celo didn't want Lina to purposely prolong it, thus he added, "one year, that is the duration of our agreement. However, if you assist in the correction of the problem and it is solved before the end of the year, thus ending the necessity for your continued services, I will still reward you just the same. But rather than a monthly payment, I will hand over the remaining sum in full as your final payment."
Lina took in Celo's terms with full attention. "In other words, the worse case scenario is that I get one thousand golden coins for the next twelve months, adding up to a total of twelve thousand gold coins in the end. The best case scenario is that I set things right within the first month, be free of my duty and get the whole twelve thousand gold coins early on." Lina could feel her excitement grow, but tried to keep herself in check with a business woman's neutral expression. "I'll admit that's quite the generous offer, so I can only assume that it comes with a hefty catch. You still haven't told me what exactly this job is about."
"Ah yes, about the job... Before I reveal the particulars, allow me to make a small correction upon your interpretation. The worse case scenario is that you fail at your job, in which case I will immediately discontinue the payments." Celo made a pause before proceeding with the revelation of the mysterious job. He knew that he was about to shock his guests. An amused, yet at the same time troubled smile surfaced beyond his constant mask of respect. "Your job would be to guard Xellos' life."
There was a collective gasp from the audience. Though Gourry's attention was lost earlier when they started talking about numbers, as he was not very good with math, he seemed to tune into the conversation again when he heard something about Xellos' life being in danger. It made no sense and this time Gourry knew that he wasn't the only one who was deeply confused.
Filia automatically stood from her chair and demanded to know. "What do you mean by that?"
"The curse," Tiffany revealed, causing the group's collective attention to shift towards her. "This is supposed to be classified monster information. Xellos received a terrible curse with a top secret cure," which Tiffany was aware of but chose not to reveal so as to not ruin Xellos' chances by making things more awkward between him and Filia. "The effect of Hastaga must have seeped through Xellos' barrier and he ended up absorbing it himself. Phythan was okay because we gave him our energy, but at the pace Lina was casting Hastega again and again, the equivalent to a month must have passed. If Phythan wasn't a dragon descendant from a long line of strong warriors, with three capable healers at his side, he wouldn't have survived. I bet he'll be ready to devour as much food as Lina when he wakes up!" Which explained why he was eating so much during dinner the previous night, he was getting ready.
"Are you saying I eat a month's supply of food in a single meal?" Lina interrupted with a vexed expression.
"Oh, don't worry sweetie!" Tiffany laughed in good humor. "You're a growing girl, so you need your vitamins." Lina found herself wondering just how old Tiffany assumed she was. The redhead didn't say anything about it, but thought the dragon's guess was probably younger than her actual age.
"Continue," Filia commanded almost desperately.
Celo took a small moment to note the intensity in her eyes and wondered if Xellos had been closer to his cure than even the general himself knew. "Basically, what happened was that time was sped up for Xellos in a sense. Because of that, the effect of the curse happened sooner than expected."
Seeing Filia's distraught expression, Tiffany elaborated, "it's not so bad. Xellos isn't going to die or anything, well not unless someone goes and kills him. He can still break the curse upon him and regain his full power becoming just as he was before. Even if the curse has taken it's effect, it can still be broken. He'll just have to put up with being as fragile as a human until he finds a cure... because he is a human."
The room was filled with wide eyed, open mouthed, wordless, shocked expressions. Celo took the moment of silence to bring forth his business proposal again. "This is the reason why I wish to hire you Lina Inverse. The news of Xellos' curse must have already spread through the monster race. They are biding their time and hoping that Xellos will fail to find his cure on time. They don't know about the earlier arrival of his weakness, but they might find out. In order to gain power over Lord Beast Master, other monster lords might send their minions on the attack."
Filia regained the capacity of speech as she struggled to let the outrageous revelations sink in. They had reached a victory that day when they cured Phythan, but it had been at the cost of a sort of defeat for Xellos. "If his life will be constantly hunted, then he won't be able to live as a human. As much as I don't like the idea of Xellos being a monster, regaining his power is the only way he can survive."
"Not to mention that if Master Zelas grows tired of waiting for Xellos to recover, she might take him out herself for his disgrace." Celo added a valid point.
Filia felt her eyes water with worry. "He's in danger and we left him out there!" She hurried towards the door.
"No one knows yet!" Tiffany tried to comfort Filia as the group followed her out to search for Xellos.
"Risking my life playing body guard for an arrogant annoyance that everyone will be out to get as soon as they figure out he's exposed," Lina mused aloud. "Furthermore they expect him to be weakened in a month, so even if this inconvenience of timing remains a secret, it won't matter before long."
"Is the mission too much to ask?" Celo inquired with a hint of disappointment behind his respectful acceptance of her perceived refusal.
"Are you kidding me?" Lina's face went from serious and calculating to confident and cheerful. "I thought you were well aware of who I am when you decided to offer me this job. I'm Lina Inverse; I've fought against monster lords before. I'll take the job! Besides, it'll be priceless to see Xellos' expression when he finds out I'm his bodyguard."
"I might have some comments to make about his newfound humanity," Zelgadis agreed.
"Now that I think about it," Amelia voiced thoughtfully. "Having been such a strong monster his whole life, Xellos must be used to having power handed to him in a silver platter. He'll probably overexert himself and will be helpless to deal with the aches and pains of being human."
Lina and Zelgadis cheered in unison, surprising each other, "awesome!"
"You guys are so cruel!" Filia scolded, though her reprimand was made ineffective by her amused expression as if barely containing laughter. She was sincerely worried about Xellos' safety, but picturing him not knowing how to deal with a boo-boo was simply too hilarious for words. "Poor Xellos must be terrified by his new found humanity. His body has gone through a lot of changes that were sudden and unexpected. He's confused and in need of guidance to better understand his human body and how to keep it healthy."
There was a long communal silence among the group, until Lina finally came up with the courage to point out the peculiarity of Filia's chosen words. "You sound like you're teaching sex-ed."
Filia's face turned crimson, "dragons don't get educated that way, it is taboo!" She stammered in embarrassment.
"I'm sure there's a book on the basic principals of human anatomy back at the tower," Tiffany recalled. "Maybe we can give that to Xellos and wish him luck figuring things out. Unless you had something else in mind, sweet Filia."
Filia's face turned an even brighter shade of red as she caught what Tiffany was hinting at. She finally pushed her voice to work and with a tone that begged for this to be the end of the conversation she stated, "I'll just make sure he eats nutritious meals..."
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 032: Revenge! Bandits, Dragons and More
"Stay alert men!" Miss Medusa, the self proclaimed beauty of the jellyfish people, arrived at the area where the forest used to be. She found nothing but a vast wasteland of dead trees and fallen dried leaves. "This place used to be a forest, can you believe it? All of this is that witch's doing, no doubt. That terrible redhead is exposing my beloved to all sorts of evil dangers. I must save him! That is why I hired you mercenaries for this mission."
Following Miss Medusa, there was a troop of men. The small army consisted of scruffy bearded muscular humans, beastmen and trolls. Among the beastmen the majority seemed to be of the wolf-like variety with fur in varying shades of brown, gray and black. The trolls were mostly gray and green, following the commands of the beastmen and beastly humans that made little contrast to their beastmen allies. The entire group was at the command of Miss Medusa and the considerable sum of money that she paid them.
The jellyfish girl spotted a familiar sight. She had been spying on her beloved Gourry and the last time she saw him, he had headed into the forest, while the forest was actually still there, in the company of several others. "Over there!" She raised one of her tentacles to point at the man, who was walking out of the wasteland with some difficulty, minding his own business and trying not to draw attention to himself. However, being the only person walking around the wasteland he would inevitably draw attention to himself, especially since his bright purple hair was a sharp contrast to the dead shades of dull brown in the wasteland.
"Is that the guy you're trying to save?" It was hard to tell if the one who asked was a human or a beastman. By the amount of facial hair he possessed he could have been a wolfman, but his face lacked the snout-like shape of the beastmen, instead possessing a more rounded shape, akin to the shape of a human head.
"No, that's not him," Miss Medusa clarified. "He's one of my beloved's friends, I saw him with the group earlier. Quickly men, capture him! If the red haired witch gives us any trouble, we can use this strange man as a bargaining chip!"
Xellos noticed that there was a jellyfish woman and a group of hairy males of various species near by. He tried not to stare, he really didn't want to attract attention from bandits in his state and those men really looked a lot like bandits. He knew he should have followed the group back to the clock tower and gotten some rest, but his pride told him to run away as fast as his tired legs could carry him, which was not very fast. The suspicious group led by the jellyfish was too far away for Xellos' human ears to pick up their conversation, but he could see that the woman was pointing at him and the men were heading his way. Those were definitely bad signs. Xellos tried to hurry away to no avail, being quickly surrounded by the tall and muscular hairy males.
"Don't even think about running away!" A black wolfman with an eye patch over his left eye and a scar that was barely visible under his thick fur ordered.
Xellos looked around, he couldn't outrun the group in his exhausted state and he knew he couldn't possibly overpower them as he was. Yet he felt a strong determination to live that was far more impressive than any rush of survival instinct he had felt before. Maybe this is what they meant when they said humans were survivors. Humans are so fragile, yet so stubborn not to be erased. "Bandits," Xellos tried to keep his cool and put up his usual act, he really missed being able to teleport away from annoying situations, though if he had his monster powers, if he was still a monster, this situation would be nothing for him. He smiled to try to throw them off guard, "I have nothing of value for you to steal."
The wolfman with black fur looked hurt as his grey colored brother placed a comforting paw on his shoulder. "We're not bandits," the gray wolfman corrected. "We're mercenaries; we're making an honest living now. Please don't call us bandits, it brings back unpleasant memories!"
Sensitive bandits, er... mercenaries? Great, it was just Xellos' luck, maybe he could get out of this. "My apologies, Mr. Mercenary. Well then, since you're clearly not bandits, I'll be on my way."
"Not so fast!" The big brown bearded human stood in Xellos' way. "We're not bandits, but we're going to have to hold you hostage for a while anyway, since it is an order from our contractor. I hope you won't take it personally, we have nothing against you, little man."
"Little man?" Xellos questioned slightly annoyed. Then again, in comparison to that hairy beast of a man, even Gourry would be a little man. "Kidnapping is a very bandit thing to do."
"Oh no, it's not like that," the big man insisted. "We won't hurt you. In fact, you'll be part of a rescue mission. Think of this as it being for a good cause and take it easy."
Xellos remained silent for several seconds as the men waited for his reply. He debated on his next action and finally made a desperate choice. He took in as much oxygen as his lungs could carry and shouted with everything he had, "bandits! Bandits! Bandits!"
The big man jumped back in fright as if being accused of being a bandit was a very scary thing. "No! No! We're not bandits! Please stop yelling!"
"Oh for crying out loud!" Medusa snatched away a club from one of the trolls and smacked Xellos on the head with it, effectively silencing him with a big bump on his head. "I don't get it, a bunch of big tough mercenaries so terrified of getting accused of being bandits. What's wrong with you guys?"
"You don't understand!" The black wolfman dramatized. "We're not bandits, we have left our bandit ways in the past forever!" He insisted desperately.
"Hold it right there you bandits!" A new voice joined the conversation as the group followed the sound to the source. It was a young woman wearing white, making her way towards them through the wasteland. "I will not tolerate your injustice!" She loudly declared.
"We're not bandits!" The gray wolfman snapped, then took a moment to draw something from his memories. "That girl... she kind of looks familiar."
As if on cue, the young woman introduced herself, "I am Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, defender of justice!"
"Did you find him, Amelia?" Another voice entered the conversation as a blond woman made her way past a group of dried up trees and spotted her companion.
"I sure did!" Amelia happily declared. "Mr. Xellos is being held hostage by these bandits. Poor Mr. Xellos was desperately calling for help."
"I was not!" Xellos yelled, still rubbing the sore spot on his head where Medusa hit him.
"We're not bandits!" The gray wolfman insistently corrected.
It wasn't long before the commotion and Amelia's yelling, "over here!" drew the attention of the whole search party that assembled on the spot.
Zelgadis, Gourry, Lina, Tiffany and Celo arrived on the scene, with Lina stepping forward menacingly. "So Xellos got caught by a bunch of bandits?"
The black wolf adamantly yelled in frustration, "we're not bandits!" Then he realized just who he was talking to. This is why the girl in white looked familiar, she was one of the traveling companions of Lina Inverse, the merciless bandit killer, dragon spooker, who terrified the band of ex-bandits into becoming mercenaries instead. "It's her! It's Lina Inverse!"
"Oh No!" The bearded man yelled in fright. "Please Miss Lina, don't hurt us, we're not bandits anymore! We promise!"
"Is that so?" Lina took a menacing step forward. "you sure still look like bandits to me," she observed.
"We're not bandits!" The men pleaded.
"What do you think, Xellos? Are they bandits?" Lina inquired knowing all too well what his answer would be.
Xellos held up the suspense to get back at the mercenaries and pretended to consider the situation. The men looked at him with expectant pleading expressions until he finally replied, "yes, they're definitely bandits."
The men panicked as Lina grinned and Xellos ran for cover. "Fireball!" Several fireballs later, the so called super strong mercenaries were all charred and defeated.
"No!" Miss Medusa dramatized in agony.
"Hi, Miss Medusa," Gourry greeted her as if nothing had even gone wrong between them. "Don't worry, Lina saved you from these bandits, you're okay now. Let's all be friends." He paused as if trying hard to remember something. "Oh, that's right, I haven't told you yet, Lina is my fiance," he spoke naturally as if catching up with an old acquaintance.
Medusa was horrified. "Fiance!" She loudly exclaimed. "This carrot top flat-chested little girl is your fiance?"
Knowing of the terrible danger that had been summoned, Lina's companions were quick to run for cover as the infamous bandit killer was surrounded by a red hot aura of rage. "Darkness beyond twilight, flat-chested she says... Crimson beyond blood that flows, she's a jellyfish it's not like she has a chest herself! Buried in the stream of time, I won't stand for this offense, is where your power grows! Like it or not, you'll have to deal with it, I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand... Gourry is my fiance, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands, he'll never be yours! Dragon Slave!"
An explosion of colossal magnitude enveloped the area. The charred bandits were blown away, becoming distant specs that landed all over the resort, while Miss Medusa was thrown straight up into the air by the force of the blast. The wasteland of trees was no more; instead a large crater on the ground took its place. The lopsided clock tower was obliterated along with the dried up forest in a brilliant show of Lina's destructive powers.
A moment of silence passed after the loud blast of the Dragon Slave, which was shattered by Xellos' complaining voice. "You can put me down now, Filia." In the mad dash to get to safety, Filia had picked up Xellos bridal style and ran away with him in her arms. She set him down gently on his feet as if he were made of the most fragile glass. She knew the truth and it was painfully apparent to him that she did. He directed an angry glare at Celo, whom he concluded must have opened his big mouth about the situation.
Before Xellos could throw out any sort of excuse or accusation, very much less attempt to come up with a plan to pretend everything was normal, Filia's shrill scream right next to him made him jump. "You're hurt!" Xellos cringed as his ears rang from the intensity of the shriek, as if his headache wasn't bad enough already. Filia reached to the area on Xellos' head where he had been clubbed before. A patch of dried blood clung to his purple hair. "Let me heal you."
Xellos had no time to protest before Filia immediately started healing him. He would never admit that the recovery spell was a great relief. Instead of resisting, he limited himself to pointing out an obvious lie, "I don't need any help."
Just as the group was settling down, a loud roar echoed through the sound waves as a very angry looking Phythan stomped his way over to the posse. His dragon robes were stained and charred in several places and his tail was sticking out from under them. He was a fully purified dragon, but he looked more enraged than a full breed monster. "Who interrupted my meal?" He demanded to know. "I woke up a little while ago and found myself alone in the clock tower. I was raiding the kitchen to recover my energy and then everything blew up! Who is responsible for this?"
Lina gulped, even if the Dragon Slave earned it's original name of Dragon Slay due to a dragon being slain by the spell, this was one very angry dragon. Besides, she couldn't help it but to feel identified with Phythan's tragic dilemma. Lina knew that she would be royally pissed off if someone blew up her food. There were rumors going around that some less civilized dragons still ate humans...
Miss Medusa was finally brought back to the ground by the force of gravity after having been thrown straight up into the skies by the force of Lina's Dragon Slave. She landed right in Phythan's arms, who was so surprised that he was distracted from his deadly rage. "Where did you come from, miss?" He gently set her on her feet, looking over her many burns. "You're injured, I don't have a lot of energy to spare, but allow me to heal you."
After receiving Phythan's healing magic, Medusa was as good as new. "You saved me!" She exclaimed with a dreamy expression.
"There's no need to thank me, miss." Phythan smiled. "This is all part of my duty as a crusader of justice!"
"My heart was broken before, but it has been healed by a new love!" Medusa loudly declared as she tried to wrap all her tentacles around Phythan. "My love, let us marry at once!"
"What?" Phythan looked very much terrified at the prospect. "You got the wrong idea, lady. Like I said, I'm just doing my duty as a crusader of justice. There's no need to jump to conclusions!" Phythan tried to get untangled from Medusa, but she had quite a grip.
"Should we help him?" Amelia inquired unsure.
"This is a personal matter, it's best if we don't interfere," Zelgadis advised.
"Aw, my sweet cousin is such a fine prize; it was only a matter of time before someone noticed." Tiffany clapped her hands together in adoration.
"Let go!" Phythan suddenly transformed from human to dragon form, the aftershock of magic freeing him from the vice-like grip of most of Medusa's tentacles. She still held on to his tail with one tentacle though.
"Oops..." Amelia softly voiced with a rosy face.
Lina blushed and laughed awkwardly, "I didn't see anything..." she whispered to herself.
"I told you to stop doing that!" Zelgadis yelled in annoyance.
Filia join in the reprimand, "have you no modesty?"
"I didn't know what to do to get away!" Phythan took off, flying a few feet above the ground, but Medusa still had one of her tentacles wrapped around the end of his tail.
"My eyes have never before witnessed such perfection!" The jellyfish girl's eyes transformed into metaphorical hearts. "My beloved! We must get married at once, and go on a very long honeymoon together!"
Phythan's golden scales adopted an odd shade of blue as his expression grew in horror. "I don't want to marry you!" He spun around rapidly in the air until Medusa's tentacle slipped off his tail.
The infatuated jellyfish was sent flying across the resort calling out, "I will return for you my love!"
Phythan shuddered in dismay, "I hope she doesn't keep her word on that." He changed back into his human form, causing Filia to gasp and look away.
"Oops..." Amelia softly voiced once more with her face becoming red.
Gourry eyed the blush that adorned Lina's face once more. She laughed awkwardly and assured, though it was obviously not true, "I didn't see anything."
"Stop it!" Zelgadis insisted harshly, but it was Xellos who walked up to Phythan and smacked him on the head.
"Ow! What did you do that for?" Phythan complained.
Xellos discreetly rubbed his pained knuckles. Even in human form, dragons were certainly hard-headed creatures. "Because no one wants to see that, right?"
"Right!" Gourry and Zelgadis immediately piped in, while Celo didn't really care, given the fact that Phythan and Tiffany were relatives.
Since there had been nothing but silence coming from Lina, Amelia and Filia, who wore matching unsure guilty expressions, Gourry, Zelgadis and Xellos prompted them again in unison. "Right?"
Feeling like they were put on the spot, Lina, Amelia and Filia nodded frantically. "Yes, right, of course, absolutely," they were quick to mutter their agreements.
"I'm a hideous creature?" Phythan looked sad. "Do I really repulse you that much?"
"That's not it!" Amelia tried to clarify. "It's just that... How do I put it?"
"You're too hot and it's getting on the guys nerves," Lina blurted out, then immediately slapped both hands over her mouth. She couldn't believe she just said that. Furthermore, Gourry was giving her an adorable confused look, "but not as hot as my fience?" She added in a barely audible whisper that was just enough for Gourry to hear and respond with a satisfied grin.
"I'm a golden dragon," Phythan tried to explain in a matter of fact tone, missing Lina's comment about Gourry. "My body temperature is supposed to be a bit warmer than that of a human."
"I think that what they're trying to say is that modesty is important. That means you have to cover up when you transform," Filia tried to explain. "It's a... rule of etiquette, so to speak."
"I guess so..." Phythan accepted the explanation, though he would probably forget it and publicly transform again in the rush of the moment sometime in the near future.
"I think it's time to think about where you'll go from here," Celo spoke up after his long silence. "Miss Lina, I must ask you to do your job elsewhere, as it would be too destructive for the resort if any large battles were to occur here."
"Oh right, the job," Lina recalled. "I suppose it would be best to stay on the move. If we travel around constantly, we'll be harder to find. But where shall we go?"
"I want to stop by my shop if you don't mind," Filia suggested. "I want to see how Jillas and Gravos are managing things without me and I haven't held little Val's egg in so long."
"Alright," Lina agreed, "than we'll head on over to Filia's shop. We can leave on the next ship, unless Filia's willing to give us a ride?"
"I'm not a horse!" Filia paused, realizing that a horse wouldn't really be useful in this situation, since they had a large stretch of water to cross. "I'm not a pegasus either!" She added adamantly.
"Phythan?" Lina inquired hopefully, "would you mind giving us a ride?"
"No problem, Miss Lina, I don't mind at all," Phythan smiled in an innocent friendly way.
"He's staying," Zelgadis and Xellos declared simultaneously. They glared at each other soon after, silently throwing out copycat accusations with their eyes.
"I guess maybe it is best if I remain here," Phythan agreed. "I have only recently been reunited with Tifa and I haven't gotten to know cousin Celo very well yet. Plus it might be helpful to have an extra dragon around the resort, just in case more bandits show up. I wish you all the best of luck on your journey, come visit sometime!"
"Alright," Lina conceded, "Celo, make preparations for us to leave on the next ship, VIP accommodations of course."
"Certainly," Celo presented no arguments as he whistled and a purple parrot with long white fangs sticking out of its yellow beak landed on his arm. "Let the finest ferry be prepared for the departure of our honored guests, Lina Inverse and company." The monster parrot squawked and repeated Celo's message before flying off again.
"It was nice seeing you again, Filia, and it was lots of fun to meet you all," Tiffany bid them farewell. After a few more exchanged goodbyes, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos were on the move again.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 033: Harsh! Being Human Is Not Easy
Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos headed for the docks. Xellos followed the group automatically, without pointing out his condition directly, though he was sure everyone already knew. Yet what made it sink in fully was when Lina spoke up about her secret job. "Try not to run off on your own, Xellos. I'm supposed to be your bodyguard after all."
"What?" Xellos felt his eye twitch madly. There was a long harsh road ahead of him and he needed to gain his cure more desperately than ever.
"You heard me and I'm getting good money out of this deal, so I'll be really angry if you mess it up for me!" Lina emphasized.
When the group arrived at the docks, a ship was already waiting for them. They boarded and left swiftly; sailing away from the resort and towards the road they intended to follow to Filia's home. It looked as if the trip by sea would be uneventful. Gourry and Lina were eating every last dish on the vessel, while Amelia and Zelgadis enjoyed the refreshing sea breeze on deck in the front of the ship. Xellos on the other hand, was not enjoying the trip. After his human transformation, he experienced hunger as a human would, but as soon as he got on the ship, he was thankful for his empty stomach.
Leaning on the railing of the side of the ship, Xellos contemplated the ocean and mused about how much he loathed it. His face was looking rather green with a sickly expression as he shrugged his shoulders harshly. Filia, who had been standing beside him with her hand tracing comforting circles on his upper back, pouted and glared as Xellos growled, "stop that!"
Placing her hands on her hips, Filia maintained a firm glare, "I'm only trying to help!"
"You're not helping," Xellos looked away from her, tempted to throw himself into the ocean where he would surely drown, just to get away from the humiliation of the situation. "Everything's already going in enough circles as it is," he grumbled under his breath.
"Oh," Filia blinked in realization, "I was making you dizzier? Sorry about that. It can't be easy being sea sick. I heard Zelgadis used to get sea sick." She glanced towards the front of the ship where the chimera and the princess were cuddled close to each other. "He certainly doesn't look sick now. Love must be a wonderful medicine."
Filia's words reminded Xellos of his cure. He knew this wouldn't work, but he still had to try. "So love cures sea sickness? I suppose it won't kill me in my current state. Give me a dose of that." If anything, teasing Filia and watching her blush might make him feel a little better.
The golden dragon did indeed blush, just as the ex-monster expected. "It's not so simple," she struggled to explain. "If you were nicer to me I could at least..." her face turned a deeper shade of crimson, "be your friend?" She offered unsure.
"Funny, I thought you already were. I recall a time when you admitted to such a blasphemous thing," Xellos teased, referring to the time when they were researching the profiles in the secret golden dragon archives. "Of course you might have changed your mind, golden dragons have no loyalty." Filia sighed, which threw Xellos off guard, "what? No retorts? Are you giving up and admitting that everything I say is true?"
"No," Filia shook her head gently. It was obvious he was uncomfortable, more than uncomfortable. Xellos was suffering and it was a new experience for him, which made it much more difficult to tolerate, no matter how strong his will might be. Of course, giving him compassion would only hurt his already broken pride and make things worse for him, Filia knew that. She took a deep breath and tried to act natural for Xellos' sake. "You're nothing but an annoying, lying, trickster piece of raw garbage!" She turned around and started to storm off, maybe Xellos would feel better below deck. "I'm going below deck," she declared. "Don't you dare follow me!" It secretly was an invitation for him to follow.
Xellos watched Filia walk off for a few seconds and focused on fading into the astral side to teleport into her room. If she really wanted some time away from him, she would be annoyed if she opened her door to find him there. A few more seconds passed and nothing happened. Of course it didn't, Xellos was a human now, he couldn't fade into the astral side and reappear somewhere else. Humans didn't do that, monsters did. Even if he knew he was human, the habit came without much conscious thought. Seeing that he wasn't going anywhere unless he actually made a physical effort to move, Xellos resigned himself to walk after Filia.
Filia had by then arrived at her assigned room below deck. She left the door unlocked and waited until predictably, Xellos arrived. "I was getting bored of the view, so I think I'll hang out down here for a while."
"Go away!" Filia snapped, which meant 'stay.' "I don't want to deal with you now; I want to take a nap!" Perhaps sleeping through the voyage by sea would be best for Xellos.
"A nap? It's still the middle of the day! Dragon sure are lazy!" Xellos followed Filia's gaze towards the bed. There was nothing particularly unusual about it, which was a good thing because given the heart themes that were common on the resort one would expect such a thing to be on the sheets. Fortunately, the sheets were a nice shade of cerulean with a fluffy white pillow. Xellos lay down on the bed, "yeah, this does feel like a good place for a nap."
"Get off! That's my bed!" Filia reproached, knowing full well that it would make Xellos stay put. "I'm going to give you to the count of ten to get up! One... two... three... four... five... six... seven... eight... nine... ten..." Filia lowered her voice with every number, until the number ten was barely audible. When the count was over, Xellos was out like a light. He fell for it, just like counting sheep. Now he could get some rest despite his stubbornness. Filia gently placed the covers over Xellos, then quietly pulled over a chair and sat beside the bed. She didn't even know why she felt compelled to do this. Lina was his bodyguard; she should be the one taking care of him. But since Lina wasn't properly taking care of her responsibilities, someone had to.
xoxox xox xoxox
Several hours later, Xellos woke up to a particularly sweet voice calling his name. "Xellos... Xellos, wake up, it's time to get off the ship. Xellos..." A soft hand was brushing his hair away from his face when he opened his amethyst eyes and was greeted by the visual of Filia leaning over him. "Get up, we already arrived at port. You slept through the whole trip, it's already well into the evening. Lina and the others have gone ahead to one of the seaside restaurants to get a late dinner, since Lina and Gourry ate all the food on the ship."
Xellos' only reply was an ever eloquent "hmm" then he closed his eyes and turned over on his side, snuggling the fluffy white pillow. He knew humans sometimes had trouble waking up, but he didn't know it was this hard. Then his stomach growled loudly. The ship was much more still as it was parked at the docks, thus there were no continuous rocking motions from the passing waves to make him seasick. As a result, his appetite was back full force, which created enough of a motivation for Xellos to stumble out of bed and walk past Filia, pretending he wasn't suffering from post-nap sleep-drunkenness.
Xellos took a short moment to observe the darkened environment outside. It really was well into the evening as the sun had almost completely sunk out of sight in the horizon. He headed for the board that served as a bridge between the ship and the dock and managed to get safely to the other side, only to trip on a loose board once he was actually on the dock. He was saved from falling into the water between the ship and the dock, by Filia's sudden firm grip on his arm, which didn't let go until it was evident that he had fully regained his balance.
"Watch your step," she advised in a motherly tone. It was true that humans could cast levitation spells, but their natural way of walking without magic felt clumsy for someone with enough power to float with every step he took and fly without the need to focus his energy on it.
Being human was definitely something to get used to, but Xellos wasn't going to let Filia pity him. "Yes, mother," he sarcastically replied with every ounce of mocking dread he could muster.
Filia pouted and placed her hands on her hips as she corrected, "I'm not Zelas."
Xellos was going to say something, but soon realized that Lord Beast Master was in fact his mother, all things considered and felt that his sarcastic remark was out of place. It's not that Filia didn't deserve all the sarcastic remarks in the world, but rather, this was human and perhaps dragon mother sarcasm, not monster mother sarcasm. Resolving that the only way to save the remnants of his dignity was to give Filia the cold shoulder, Xellos did so, and walked away with as much of a firm pace as he could muster in his hungry state.
It didn't take long for Filia and Xellos to find the rest of their traveling companions. Lina and Gourry had their own table at one of the seaside restaurants, where they could eat wildly. Amelia and Zelgadis were at the table next to theirs, eating at a much more civilized pace. Leaving the lovebirds to their meal, Filia and Xellos took up another near by table, where Xellos proceeded to order everything on the menu that looked appetizing.
"You're going to get sick if you eat like Lina," Filia warned, but Xellos ignored her. He remembered having visited this town before during an incident involving people losing their ability to speak normally, instead speaking an odd language known as octopese. The local specialty was octopus, though these days it was limited to serving only tentacles, which the octopus could regenerate, leading to an era of peace between the octopi and the townspeople.
Just as he was preparing to savor his meal, which was served ironically by an octopus waiter, Xellos noticed that his traveling companions were staring at him, along with other people in the restaurant. Even Lina and Gourry had ceased their ferocious eating to look at Xellos. "What? It's not like you've never seen me eating before." Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis burst out laughing, much to Xellos' annoyance, "what?" He demanded to know. "What's so funny?"
Filia sighed patiently and stood from her chair, producing a hairbrush from the pocket of her cloak. She rounded the table where they sat face to face and standing behind Xellos, she brushed his hair. "You kept snuggling your head on the pillow while you slept and it messed up your hair. It looks like the sea breeze made it extra frizzy too."
"My... hair..." Xellos uttered in horror as he ran his fingers through it. When he was a monster he didn't need to worry about having a single hair out of place, but now his hair was sticking out in every direction like a purple kitten that had been accidentally thrown in an electric dryer, if either of those actually existed.
"Calm down," Filia slapped Xellos' hands away. "You're just making it worse; I'll fix it for you." A few excruciatingly long and horrible minutes later, Xellos had learned the pain of undoing hair knots and the humiliation that came with having someone do so in public. "There," Filia finally announced. "You're hair is actually pretty fine, you'll have to use a gentle shampoo if you don't want it to lose its shine, it's already starting to dull." She gently ran her hand through his hair again, curiously parting the top layer to look at the strands of hair under it. "Or maybe it's all part of the process..." she mused, observing that the hair under the top layer was noticeably different from what was seen at first glance.
Humiliation aside, there was a possibility that seriously bothered Xellos. "Don't tell me I'm..." did he even dare to ask? "Going bald?" He inquired in a terrified whisper that was just loud enough for Filia and their traveling companions in the neighboring tables to hear.
Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis burst into a fit of laughter again. "Yes, you're definitely going bald." Zelgadis replied with a cruelly amused smile.
"Oh yeah, I can see a bald spot the size of the moon from here!" Lina contributed between giggles.
"Really?" Gourry looked confused. "It's the size of the moon? I just don't see it." Lina elbowed him under the table and he quickly amended, "there it is; I see it now!" It was a miracle he actually understood that she was trying to get him to play along. Or maybe he didn't understand and thought Lina simply didn't want to be contradicted in any way.
"Filia..." Xellos almost whimpered, his face a mixture of horror and fright.
"Stop it, all of you!" Filia scolded, though she did so between giggles. "It's okay, Xellos, you're not going bald, your hair is simply turning black. It's only natural when you think about it. Some humans have eyes so blue that they appear to be purple, so I don't think that will change. But who has ever heard of a human with natural purple hair? I'm sure that if you take proper care of it, it will be just as shiny as ever. I can help; I know how to take good care of hair." Filia proudly offered.
Xellos felt relieved that he still had a head full of hair. He didn't care what color it was as long as he didn't go bald... Then again, pink hair would have been a humiliating disaster, it would be annoying if he turned into one of those red-heads with such a strange shade of red that their hair looked pink. Black was at least an acceptable color, not a bad color at all. Thus he decided that this wasn't such a big disaster after all, he could live with black hair.
After Xellos' stomach was full, he expected to feel better, but he didn't. Though he appeared to disregard Filia's advice, he did actually make sure not to over eat in his rush of hunger. It wasn't that he felt overly full, he felt as if he had consumed enough food to be pleasantly satisfied, but he wasn't. His stomach hurt like never before, his head was spinning more than it had while he was on the ship and he was itchy all over.
"Are you okay?" Filia asked with visible concern.
"Yes, I'm perfectly fine," Xellos replied with heavy sarcasm, but an undertone that almost begged for Filia to drop the subject.
Filia, as expected, refused to drop it. "No, you're not."
"If you're going to draw your own conclusions, why did you bother asking?" Xellos snapped with little enthusiasm as he scratched his face, his arms... the itch was everywhere and it was driving him crazy. "What is this?" He demanded to know with great urgency. Forget his pride, he needed information and that stubbornly persistent human survival instinct was starting to kick in again. "Don't just sit there staring at me," he threw his last shred of dignity out the metaphorical window; the itch was too much to bear. "Tell me what you humans do to get rid of itches!"
Filia continued to stare at Xellos along with everyone else. "Did you get sick somehow?" Filia theorized unsure. "I don't understand; you were fine a while ago. The breeze feels pleasant; I don't think it's enough to make anyone catch pneumonia."
"I don't think pneumonia looks like that," Lina pointed out. She had never heard of a red rash being a symptom of pneumonia.
"Oh, oh..." Everyone turned their attention expectantly at Amelia. "I've seen this before," she revealed, pausing for several suspenseful seconds before she stated what she knew. "A friend of mine, who is a shrine maiden at Seyruun, once got an itchy red rash just like that after eating octopus for the first time. It turned out that she was highly allergic to it and had to be hospitalized."
Everyone's expressions grew in shock at the revelation. "This can't be!" Lina dramatized in agony, "if he dies now, Celo won't pay me!"
"Have some consideration!" Filia scolded in indignation.
"That can't be true; this has to be something else!" Xellos insisted as he scratched madly. He didn't have enough arms to scratch every itch and to top it all up, scratching only made him itch more. "I've eaten octopus before and nothing happened!" He paused as the realization hit him. When he was a monster, he could drink poison as if it was juice and remain unaffected. He could drink a gallon of gasoline, swallow a lit match and still, nothing would happen. All of that was possible because he was a monster before, but he was a human now. He was a fragile human with a fragile immune system, a fragile digestive system and his very own personalized set of hidden allergies just waiting to be discovered. "I... really am allergic... aren't I?" The truth sunk in like a ton of bricks falling on his head, which would have killed him in his delicate state if it wasn't just a metaphor. "Humans are so pathetic!" Xellos yelled at the top of his lungs in absolute frustration.
"Wow, you really did draw the short end of the stick in this humanity business," Lina observed. Then again, rather than bad luck maybe it was karma. Maybe the movement of chance around Xellos' fate had slingshot back at him to push his fate into a miserable destiny.
Xellos was still in the middle of his frustrated hissy fit when he was literally swept off his feet by Filia. She once again had him in her arms, carrying him bridal style. "Where's the nearest hospital?" She urgently yelled. Catching wind of the situation, the octopus waiter gave Filia some directions and she hurried away, carrying the complaining, red and itchy Xellos.
"We have to go with them!" Lina picked up her big dessert bowl containing large portions of cake and ice-cream, then bolted after Filia. Gourry mirrored the action and hurried away after Lina.
"We're coming too!" Amelia dashed after the group.
"This I can't miss," Zelgadis left as well.
The octopus waiter stood watching the group rush away to give their friend some much needed first aid. He felt sad for them until he realized that in the commotion, they left without paying.
To be Continued