The clock had just struck midnight and all of Filia's emotions became suddenly imperceptible. Xellos thought he was close to breaking the curse that turned him into a human, but he was in truth in mortal danger. Filia's hands traveled to Xellos' neck where she grasped his throat tightly. He tried to get free but her grip was impossible to break. He tried to tell her to stop, but he couldn't breathe a word. Then he was able to sense Filia's emotions again, but only faintly.
There was a strong desperation making it's way to her once empty eyes. This wasn't love, Filia was being controlled, she had become nothing but a puppet without a say on what her body did. Yet her will was strong, it couldn't be suppressed completely and tried to make its way to the surface. She could see what she was doing. She could see Xellos' face becoming deadly pale, his eyes dangerously tired. She didn't want to do this. She tried to loosen her grip on his neck, if she didn't control herself, she would literally rip his head off before he could even choke.
'Please, stop,' she pleaded with her eyes. 'I don't want to hurt him... stop!' The force had a tight grip on her body, even when her mind forced itself to wake up. She could feel tears cascading from her eyes and running down her face. Who was controlling her? How were they doing it?
With the last of his strength, Xellos raised his hand towards the blurry image of Filia's glowing pink heart crystal on her necklace. He focused on a spell, though he could not even speak its name aloud, 'freeze arrow!' An arrow of ice collided at point blank with the glowing crystal, causing it to shatter. Filia immediately let go of Xellos and they both fell to the floor panting for breath.
Filia shivered as she cried. She took off the remains of her necklace, letting the chain fall to the floor along with the pink pieces of the crystal. She was very cold from having been hit with an ice spell at such a close range, but a dragon was able to withstand it. "Xellos..." She stared at him with worry as he finally caught his breath.
"I'm fine," He looked at the broken pieces of the crystal. "Who do you think was controlling you with that?"
Filia considered the question. "I don't know..." Then she remembered what Hanna had mentioned about the merchant. "The merchant?"
"I find it very suspicious that a merchant would just give something away." Xellos observed. "Hanna said it was probably to gain recommendations, but why would he need any? People can see the products and try them on, they can see for themselves if they are of good quality or not. Plus his business seemed to be doing just fine if it's the same merchant we saw on the way to Hanna's house. He looked like he was selling accessories with crystals like this."
"I don't know him, he probably just arrived in town," Filia stated as she tried to warm herself.
Xellos hugged her without thinking, she didn't resist, she didn't think about it, she was just cold. "A traveling merchant who happens to arrive in town not long after we do? That sounds very suspicious." Xellos concluded. "It's worth investigating." It was best to strike down the enemy before he had another chance to attack.
"Let's get this over with; I can't stand for there to be a dangerous person in this peaceful town." A terrible thought occurred to Filia. "He saw me with Hanna, what if he goes after her and takes her hostage to try to turn me against you? We have to stop him! He must be one of those who we were expecting to be after your life."
"It's possible," Xellos acknowledged both theories. "I'm certain the merchant was human, but it's not rare for monsters to use humans. He might be working for a monster under the command of another monster lord. Or maybe the minions of the Green Alchemist followed us here. Either way, something must be done." They both stood up, ready to put up a fight.
"Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis are off in the mountains. Naga and Gravos are probably drunk," Filia observed. If the enemy was truly strong, going after him on their own might be dangerous.
"We need to strike fast, this is our best chance," Xellos insisted. "The enemy probably knows the others are away and expects us to be weaker without them." The thought of being catalogued as a weakling bothered Xellos. "I have a good amount of magic at my disposal now, I can take him."
"I'll be there too," Filia reminded. "But I don't want to risk Val. I'll leave his egg with Jillas; he can take care of protecting Val, Elena and Palou with that 'bazooka' invention he's been working on. Then we'll go hunt down the evil creature that did this and bring him to justice!"
"You sound like Amelia," Xellos knew that Filia was all fired up to hunt down the culprit. But why was she so eager? They had faced dangerous enemies before and though Filia was motivated to fight, it wasn't this intense.
"That horrible being almost made me kill you, I could never live with myself if I did that." Filia frowned, glaring at the walls. "There's no time to waste." She strode into Val's room and gently picked up the egg. "Don't worry, Val, you'll be safe with uncle Jillas until mommy takes care of business."
"And daddy will make sure she doesn't mess up," Xellos added with a mocking grin.
"This is no time for jokes," Filia growled. "Don't listen to him, Val. Xellos is just annoying."
"It's not like he can hear either of us," Xellos pointed out.
"Yes he can," Filia insisted as she headed out of the house and towards Elena's place. "It's a proven fact that baby dragons can hear what's being spoken around them before they hatch.
"Really?" Xellos gave the egg in Filia's arms a curious look.
"Don't get any ideas," the protective mother warned, to which her companion only grinned.
xoxox xox xoxox
They finally reached Elena's house and Filia knocked on the door urgently. In a matter of seconds, Elena and Jillas were at the door wondering what in the world this was about. Palou was so fast asleep that the noise didn't wake him. "I'm sorry to come by so late, but I need you to protect Val while Xellos and I go take care of an enemy before he causes more trouble around town. You should keep the bazooka on hand just in case." Filia had seen the cannon-like weapon at work during a test just outside of town. For a non-magical device it certainly packed a lot of power.
"An enemy, boss?" Jillas questioned, as Elena held the small egg protectively with fascination.
"Don't worry, we can handle this, I'll explain the rest later. We need to go while the element of surprise is on our side. He won't expect us to retaliate so soon." Filia insisted.
Jillas nodded and trusted her judgment. "Most of my weapons are stored in the basement," he noted.
Elena nodded in understanding, "then it would be easier if we go to Filia's house. I'll go wake Palou so we can leave right away."
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos and Filia spent the rest of the night searching the town and its surrounding areas for any sign of the merchant. No further disturbances occurred in the peaceful little town and there was no sign of the enemy. They returned at dawn, exhausted and with no progress to show for it. Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis were still away. For a moment Filia worried about them, but then realized there was no need to. They were probably just taking a little while to find the proper spicy herbs. They were all skilled in battle and could certainly take care of themselves.
Jillas took the guard duty upon himself while Xellos and Filia got some much needed rest. Gravos and Naga returned from the bar late that night and were not informed of the happenings until the next day when Gravos was drinking coffee to get over his hangover and Naga was merrily making little golem figurines with Filia's vase making supplies. The eldest Seyruun princess appeared to have enough experience with alcohol not to be bothered by anything resembling a hangover.
Gravos was upset that he wasn't there to help and drank cup after cup of black coffee until he felt ready for battle. Naga gladly offered her help and though no one was sure if that was good or bad, they accepted it nonetheless. The day rolled by with the group at Filia's house. When Xellos and Filia had rested, they went off to gather clues around town. Since they were only out on an investigation, not off to battle, Filia suggested that the others should stay at the shop. If too many people were running around town asking questions, it might cause a panic.
On the previous night before returning home from their rounds, Filia had checked on Hanna's house and confirmed that there were no signs of anyone breaking in, thus she left the old lady to get her rest. As it was now the afternoon, Filia decided to drop by and actually talk to Hanna to inquire if she had noticed anything suspicious. Strangely, the old lady didn't answer when Filia knocked on her door. Assuming she had gone to the market, Filia headed there as well, with Xellos accompanying her in the investigation.
The marketplace was buzzing with activity not due to the products themselves, but due to gossip. The harvest had been bad and there was not much to buy, but people visited the marketplace as a way of social entertainment. "Did you see it?" A blond woman in her late thirties pretended to whisper to another woman around her age, except her voice was so loud that everyone around them could hear their conversation. She did it on purpose to give her speech the feel of secrecy that would make people want to listen, while at the same time making it easy for any passer-bys to hear and become motivated to add something. "Did you see the fight?"
The black haired gossiper nodded energetically, "I saw it, I saw it all! Aya and Kyle's families got along just fine and had no problems with their son and daughter dating each other, until she decided to run away."
"That's what they say at least," the blond pointed out. "Her boyfriend ran off to find her with little explanation. The girl's parents blame him for her having left, but I don't think he broke her heart."
"I don't think so either," the dark haired woman agreed. "It wouldn't make any sense for him to break up with her then go out to find her. Besides, I didn't see them fight or anything. She just ran off this morning without listening to anyone who tried to stop her. I heard she was visiting Hanna for breakfast, but Hanna told me she never showed up."
"From then on no one could find her," the blond sighed. "I wonder what happened to the poor girl."
Filia and Xellos' eavesdropping on the conversation about the missing girl was interrupted by a little boy calling out, "Alys! Alys!" He stopped as he spotted Filia. "Miss Filia, have you seen my sister? She went to the market this morning and didn't come back for lunch. Mom said she must have gotten distracted talking to her friends, but I can't find her."
"Sorry, Chaz, I haven't seen her, but I'll be sure to tell her you're looking for her if I do." Filia tried to keep a straight face for the little boy. She gently ruffled his golden hair and sent him off with a reassuring smile.
After the little boy was gone, Xellos gave Filia a meaningful look, "you think it's suspicious too?"
"I do," Filia agreed. She wanted to find Hanna and make sure she was alright. She wanted even more so to find the culprit and make sure he wasn't alright. Two missing girls, one was around eighteen and the other close to fifteen. When young girls go missing it's always a bad sign, after all young women seem to be the preferred sacrifice for most evil villains.
Xellos and Filia continued looking into the matter, pretending to be curious and talking to the two gossiping women at the marketplace. As nice and talented in art as Hanna was, she too was also an avid gossiper. It was always the four of them at the marketplace discussing everything and everyone. Sasha with her blond hair and pointy little nose, she was always at the marketplace since she and her husband were some of the local merchants who sold imported crops. Anna, the wife of the local botanist, she had short black hair and a sharp look in her eyes.
There was also Manna, who seemed to be running late today, she was a woman with black hair slightly longer than Anna's, a contrasting relaxed, cheerful yet sleepy look permanently edged on her face. Her husband ran a winery which Gravos was rather fond of. Hanna was the oldest member of the gossiping quartet. Though her once raven hair was now gray, her bright blue eyes stood out like jewels. Sasha would always joke about changing her name to something that matched better, since her friends all had rhyming names, Anna, Manna and Hanna.
Manna arrived a little while later and joined Anna and Sasha in talking to Filia and Xellos. Though the golden dragon showed curious interest in hearing about the missing girls, the traveling merchant and any news that made its way to the local grapevine, Sasha, Anna and Manna had a different topic of conversation in mind. They kept bringing up Filia's relationship with Xellos and inquiring about it.
"Yesterday I saw the two of you go into Hanna's house together," Manna teased. "How sweet of you to visit her as a couple! By the way, isn't Hanna running terribly late to our meeting today? I thought for sure I would be the last to get here, where has my time gone today?"
"I haven't seen Hanna since early this morning," Anna noted. "What ever happened to her anyway? It's like she vanished into thin air."
"Oh Xellos, you better hold on to Filia nice and tight, it sounds like women are disappearing all over the place." Manna winked.
While Xellos humored the gossiping women by placing his arm around Filia's waist and assuring them that he would make sure to keep her close, Filia decided she had heard enough. It was obvious that the masters of the rumor mill only knew what happened, not how it happened. Though they did mention something about Aya leaving as opposed to being kidnapped, she was probably being controlled by one of those accessories from the merchant.
In the end, Filia had no doubts about it, Alys and Aya had to have been taken away for some evil purpose and Hanna was taken as a hostage. They had to be rescued! "It was nice talking to all of you," Filia suddenly interrupted Sasha, who was in the middle of a rather personal interrogation with Xellos. The color of his underwear was seriously none of her business. "We have to be on our way now, see you later!" With that said, Filia rushed away, dragging Xellos along since he still had a firm grip on her waist, which she was conveniently ignoring.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos and Filia regrouped at the Vases and Maces shop. Palou was taking a nap next to Val's egg, Elena was occupying herself in dusting the shelves, Jillas was polishing his bazooka, Gravos was looking every which way in the alertness of a caffeine high, and Naga was happily putting up the little golem figurines she made on the shop's display shelves. Filia had no time to defend the integrity of her store at the moment, so she just let her be and went straight to discussing the more imperative business.
"We found out that there are several people missing since this morning." Filia felt bad for assuming that Hanna was okay just because there were no signs of anyone breaking into her house. She might have been alright the previous night, but their guard was lowered in the morning. Before going off in their investigation around town, Filia had taken the time to describe the events concerning the necklace and her suspicions about the merchant, hence she brought it up. "I think that Hanna might have been taken hostage because that merchant saw me with her earlier." Her voice began to shake as she imagined the poor old lady being taken away forcefully.
Filia continued, "two young girls, Aya and Alys are also missing. It hasn't been a full day since they disappeared; they were all last seen this morning, so people are not in a panic yet, but it won't be long before things get worse. I don't want the townspeople to be dragged into this. After we have rescued everyone and put a stop to the merchant's plans, as soon as Lina and the others get back, we're leaving town. Jillas, Gravos, I will entrust the safety of Val and the town to you once more when I leave. It's best this way, at least until things settle down."
"What about the coming battle," Gravos inquired. He saw the stubborn look on Filia's face, as if she was planning to go fight without him.
"I can help," Naga offered. "I'm Lina Inverse's greatest rival, my magic is super powerful! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"
"I would like for all of you to protect the town," Filia requested. Before anyone could protest, she added, "it has to be this way. We've been looking for the enemy for a while and he has slipped away. He's after Xellos, so if he thinks he has a chance, he'll attack. If all of us are there, he'll lay low and who knows how many more people will be in terrible danger from now until we manage to catch him. Who knows if we'll even be able to rescue them."
"I'm the bait," Xellos realized.
"I'll be there to back you up," Filia assured. "Please, trust me; we need to face the enemy as soon as possible!"
"He doesn't have to know we're all there, boss, we could make an ambush!" Jillas suggested.
Gravos nodded and was about to express his agreement with the ambush plan, but just as he spoke, he was interrupted by an earthquake. A series of screams from the streets of town woke Palou and made the group rush out to see what was going on. What they saw was impressive to say the least.
Large trees could be seen in the distance surrounding the town, trees that were certainly not there a few minutes ago. The roots reached into the town coming out of the ground in the street with heads like snakes. Filia gasped "They're..." she could hardly believe it, "they're tree snake chimera!"
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 041: Betrayal! A Bitter Battle
"Looks like the battle came to us," Gravos stepped out of the house prepared to fight.
Filia watched the scene with horror, "it really will take all of us to fight."
Xellos decided someone had to get things organized, and who better than himself? "Gravos, Naga, take out as many enemies as you can. Jillas, put your weapon arsenal to use, Vases and Maces is now the main fortress. I'm going to find the one in charge and give him a beating. Filia," he winked, "try not to get in the way."
"This is no time for jokes!" Filia screeched. "Gravos, Jillas, Naga, stay strong and protect the town; I'll find the one controlling these monstrous creatures and stop him." With that said, Filia charged forward with her mace in hand. She batted away any snake roots that got in her way and continued her dash towards the glowing mass of trees in the center of town.
"At least she made a good guess about where the boss could be," Xellos rushed forward towards the same location, shooting Fireball spells at all the enemies on his path.
That left Gravos to clobber the attacking plant-beasts with his custom-made huge mace that Filia designed just for him. Jillas set up the fire power around the shop and shot any creepy plant snakes that tried to get near it, keeping Elena, Palou and Val safe inside. All the while Naga looked like she was having fun, laughing at the top of her lungs as she shot one Freeze Arrow after another.
Filia and Xellos reached the tallest tree in the center of town, which was composed of a mass of long thin trees weaved together. The tree trunks parted to allow them entry. "Looks like someone is inviting us in," Xellos observed.
"Let's take the invitation!" Filia and Xellos charged forward courageously. The inside of the enemy base of operations was dark at first, but it wasn't long before a bright green light illuminated the space. "The snake tree isn't just a chimera of plant and animal, it has some monster in it too," Filia sensed.
"Hence why we ended up in the astral side," Xellos noted. The space in the chamber they were in was larger than the space in the middle of the mass of thin trees. The chamber was surrounded by tightly packed tree trunks all around with many vines all over the floors, covered in green leaves. Overhead there was a strange glowing sphere with a see-through leaf-like membrane around it and a bright green giant seed in the middle. "I bet that's the power source up there, Flare Arrow!"
In a swift movement, the mysterious traveling merchant, jumped from his hidden position above the glowing sphere and negated the attack, "Freeze Arrow!" He floated with the power of levitation, looking at his so called captives below.
The leaf covered vines sprung to life, trying to wrap themselves around Filia and Xellos, but with a few fireballs and laser breath, they both freed themselves and levitated above the vines. "Who are you? Why are you doing this?" Filia demanded.
The merchant gave no reply beyond the empty look on his face. "He has no feelings," Xellos realized, then he caught sight of the glow on the crystal he wore on an armlet. "Looks like the merchant wasn't the mastermind after all, he's only a puppet. Judging by the use of trees, this looks like the work of the Green Alchemist."
"Well done," a female voice was heard as a figure in a black cloak came out of hiding near the glowing sphere. "You are indeed a perceptive empath," she removed her cloak to reveal the beautiful face of a young woman with black ebony hair and sapphire blue eyes. "Yet you're not perceptive enough since I was able to trick you before."
"No way..." Filia stared at the woman in disbelief. "Your face... Why do you have that face? It's just like the painting of young Hanna!" The old woman had said she had no children, but Filia seriously doubted it now, "are you her daughter?"
The woman laughed cruelly, "you think I'm Hanna's daughter, dear Filia? Maybe you had too many sweet strawberry vanilla milkshakes for your own good. Or is your tiny brain filled with nothing but kittens and bunnies? Maybe the scent of pottery supplies shouldn't have been as pleasant to you as it was. Have you finally had a nervous breakdown wondering if you'll be a good mother to that little orphaned dragon you took in?"
Filia was in shock, "how do you know those things? My favorite things, my fears, those were things I confided to Hanna."
"That's because I am Hanna," the woman mocked.
"That murderous intent," Xellos recalled. "You managed to hide your feelings as soon as you knew I was an empath. You weren't trying to see if I was good enough for Filia, you were plotting to kill me all along!"
"No!" Filia argued in agony. "You can't be Hanna. She's a very kind person, you're not her!" Hanna was trustworthy and good in Filia's eyes. To be betrayed by her was devastating.
"I am the same person, a chimera, even if I'm purely human," Hanna assured. "I fused myself with the town girls to absorb their youth and I also absorbed their magic. I've absorbed the magic of many over time. I've been around for far longer than you could imagine, serving the great Green Alchemist! As for the young man, here he is."
The vines on the chamber's floor parted to reveal the corpse of a young man Filia knew from her home town. "Kyle! Then it's true..." the golden dragon cried. "You lied to me; you lied to the whole town! I loved you like a mother, how could you do this?"
"Dear Filia, there is no such a thing as love; it is nothing but a convenient construct of the imagination, quite useful for manipulation." The image of young Hanna mocked. "Since you're learning truths today, I might as well tell you my real name. Hanna is just one of many names I've had over the years, but my favorite identity is Venus, that's my favorite plant."
Many giant venus flytraps emerged from the plants surrounding them. Xellos and Filia couldn't get near the walls or the plants would bite. They were considerably more ferocious looking than a normal venus flytrap would be, with thorns all over and sharp jaws the size of a shark. "This is about more than just revenge because we freed Phythan and prevented you from taking Zelgadis. You really are after me."
"Yes," Venus admitted, "the followers of the Green Alchemist know exactly who you are, ex-general Xellos. Our great leader will deliver your corpse to the grand Beast Master and become her new general!"
"You idiot, it doesn't work that way!" Xellos argued. He not only had monsters to worry about, but also some stupid human cult of insane vegetation obsessed weirdoes.
"I will have no mercy! Attack!" Venus sent the plans on a rampage. The venus flytraps extended in snake-like movements, snapping at Xellos and Filia, who were quick to counter. Filia was stronger in her dragon form, but she knew she couldn't transform. Her larger size would make it more difficult to dodge in the space of the chamber, so she and Xellos both used levitation instead.
Sparks and ashes rained down as the pair burned the venus flytraps one after another, but they regenerated quickly. Xellos tried making his way through the endless plants with Fireball spells and attack Hanna, but there was always an obstacle, the brainwashed merchant being one of them. "Xellos! That poor man you just burned to a crisp was an innocent victim for all we know!" Filia scolded.
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm too busy trying to stay alive to worry about a little collateral damage right now!" Xellos retorted. "I'm going for that glowing seed, make yourself useful." Xellos levitated towards the sphere above as the venus flytraps continued on the attack. Surprisingly, Venus didn't seem to care, which was strange if that glowing giant seed was an important power source.
"What do you mean I should make myself useful? Don't rush in like that, you'll get yourself killed!" A barrage of lasers followed, taking out the plants that tried to attack Xellos as he approached the target.
Xellos had the target in sight. At such a close range, the venus flytraps wouldn't be able to effectively shield it. "Flare Lance!" The massive lance of fire was shot straight at the glowing green sphere. A few of the venus flytraps were caught by the attack, but certainly not enough to diminish it. The lance easily burned the leafy membrane that covered the seed, allowing its light to brighten the atmosphere even more. The chamber in the astral side was as clear as day, but the flames of the spell soon disappeared. The green glow was just as bright as ever, maybe even brighter. Maybe ice would work, "Freeze Bullet!" A torrent of icy bullets assaulted the glowing seed at Xellos' command, but like the flames before it, they too were without effect.
"Xellos, what's taking so long? Destroy that seed already!" Filia kept struggling to keep both Xellos and herself safe from the plants, exterminating them one after another, but they kept returning.
"Must you always be so impatient?" Xellos turned around for a moment and gave Filia his usual overly cheerful smile with a hint of real uneasiness. Then he turned away to glare at the stubborn oversized glowing green seed that refused to be destroyed.
"I can't keep this up forever!" Filia argued, then made a quick chant in her native tongue for a Flame Breath spell that reduced the majority of the venus flytraps to ashes. It would take a little while longer for them to regenerate fully after that.
Xellos turned his attention away from the seed and towards the confident woman in the black cloak. What was it with evil sorcerers and sorceresses and their black cloaks? Couldn't they have some originality? Besides, shouldn't the followers of the Green Alchemist wear green? Some things never made sense. "It doesn't look like you're concerned about this seed. I guess that means I should attack you instead! Flare Arrow!"
Venus was quick to dodge, "you have no power in your current state, mortal. Ra Tilt!"
The spell hit Xellos hard. His magic training with Lina only covered attacking, not defending. He thought the best defense was a good offence and assumed it would be enough, but apparently it wasn't. "Xellos!" Filia rushed over on the offensive and swung her mace at Venus.
An experience fighter of great endurance and agility, Venus was quick to respond with a "Bamu Rod!" The whip of fire wrapped itself around Filia's mace, quickly melting the material.
However, Filia could still use it as a blunt object, she threw it at Venus, who dodged as the abused mace flew over her head. "Do you really hope to defeat me with such weak tactics?"
The partially melted mace collided harshly with the glowing green seed, creating a crack on its outer shell, where it got stuck. "I see," Xellos grinned, he had a new plan all figure out. "The outer shell of the seed absorbs magic, but it can be physically broken." Xellos reluctantly touched the mace's handle with one finger and quickly drew it back. He cooled the scorching weapon with a quick ice spell and pulled out the mace. As soon as the weapon was loose, he was dragged down several feet by the weight, having to cast levitation again. Was that mace ever heavy for a human!
Venus glared at Xellos and tried to reach him with her whip of fire, but Filia was quick to stop her, "Ray Freeze!" Paralyzed by Filia's spell, Venus was unable to move a muscle or even twitch. She released the effects of Bamu Rod to conserve energy and concentrate her strength in freeing herself.
Simultaneously, Xellos was striking the seed over and over with Filia's mace to little effect. Sure, he had powerful magic, but the physical strength of a human being simply wasn't enough to make fast progress. Filia floated near him and opened her mouth to speak, but Xellos cut her off before she could produce any words. "I don't need your help, I can do this myself."
Filia placed her hands on her hips and glared, "this is no time to be stubborn! Besides, it's my mace, give it back!" She snatched away the heavy weapon with ease, as it didn't feel heavy to a dragon. She took a hit at the seed's outer shell and continued elaborating upon the cracks Xellos had helped grow.
"You're not doing any better," he accused.
"It worked just fine before!" Filia continued hitting the seed with little progress.
The initial hit was far stronger, but why? Magic alone couldn't destroy the seed's outer shell. It was obvious that a strong physical attack was needed, but that wasn't enough. "Fire," Xellos realized. "When you first hit the seed, the mace was still hot from being half melted."
"Then both heat and strength are needed," Filia realized. "Alright, let's get rid of this creepy seed together. Give me some fire power," Filia held out her mace. It was ruined anyway and she could always get a new one, plus this was an emergency.
"Gladly," Xellos casted a fire spell on the mace until it was almost red from the heat. He wished he had learned Astral Vine, but this would just have to do.
"Here goes!" Filia mercilessly hit the seed with her hot mace until the outer shell fell off completely.
"Scatter Bleed!" A blinding brightness invaded the chamber as a sea of energy balls assaulted Xellos and Filia by surprise. They were not expecting Venus to be able to free herself from Filia's spell, let alone so soon. The magic also hit the exposed glowing core of the seed, but it didn't damage it. "Don't you see? That power seed is indestructible! It will absorb any magic you throw at it and not even a dragon has enough strength to damage it physically!" She laughed in the same annoying fashion that Martina and Naga did.
"The seed also absorbed her spell," Xellos observed.
"It was good for us this time," Filia realized. The surprise attack would have hit them a lot harder if they weren't so close to the seed.
"That must be why the seed was protected," Xellos asserted. "Not because it was weak, but because it absorbs magic and would interfere with any spells casted here."
"That must also be why my binding spell suddenly wore off," Filia added.
Filia and Xellos took in their surroundings; it looked like the venus flytraps were ready for battle again. "The seed powers the plants, so even if Venus' spells are diminished along with ours, the power goes to her," Xellos bitterly concluded.
"Have you realized that this is a hopeless battle? You wasted your chance to kill me, dear Filia. It was all because no doubt you still have a soft spot for little old Hanna. To think that anyone could get so attached to a lie, it's pathetic!" Venus laughed cruelly at Filia's heartbroken look.
"Filia, this is no time to cry, snap out of it." Xellos insisted with urgency, shaking her shoulders to get her to react. "That seed gives power to all the trees, including the snake chimera trees outside of the astral space." This should get her attention, since Filia was always worrying about others. "If we don't destroy the power source, the enemies attacking the town will constantly regenerate. Gravos, Jillas and Naga are fighting a battle they can't win. All they can do is defend the town until we defeat the enemy. If we don't destroy this seed, the whole town, including Val, is doomed."
Filia could clearly picture it. Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis returning from their spice hunt to find the town in ruins. A pile of deadly trees littered with corpses, not a single resident of the town left alive. Gravos, Jillas, Val, Elena, Palou, Naga. Maybe even Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis would be drawn into a trap if they attempted to make justice. Xellos... Xellos would be killed too. Xellos... he was... he was kissing her again. Filia snapped out of her daze and gave Xellos a sharp look as they parted. "I'm not giving up and I'll get back at you for stealing that kiss."
"What kind of a weird freak are you?" Venus mocked. "Monsters have no room in their lives for romance. It's no wonder you ended up in such a pitiful state. Beast Master Zelas must be happy to throw you away!"
"Silence!" Filia snapped enraged. "You tricked us all, you pretended to be a caring person. You earned the love and trust of the townspeople, all just so you could use them."
"Just like the Venus flytrap, luring in her insignificant victims with a sweet scent, pretending to be a harmless flower." Venus' cruel laughter echoed alongside the sound of the ferocious plants snapping their jaws. "I don't know why your friends abandoned you, but not even they would be able to save you!"
"Our friends didn't abandon us, they'll be back!" Filia argued. It was true that Lina and the others were expected to return, but she knew she couldn't count on them to make it back on time for this fight. They were off in the mountains on a wild goose chase for some rare herbs. They were completely unaware of what was happening in town. Gravos, Jillas and Naga were in the town, outside of the astral space, probably struggling to keep the residents safe. Xellos was right, it was up to them to win this bitter battle and save everyone. But how could they do that?
"Filia," Xellos whispered in her ear. "I have an idea. Can you buy me some time?"
"Yes," Filia nodded with determination. She didn't know what Xellos was planning to do, but she would make it work.
"Are you whispering one last sweet nothing, you pathetic excuse for a monster?" Venus mocked, "or maybe you're saying goodbye. It's appropriate since you're both about to die!" Venus went in an all out attack.
In a desperate final effort, Filia went on the offensive as well. She charged forward, throwing everything she had at Venus. The evil sorceress had no choice but to allow her deadly plants to focus on Filia or else the enraged golden dragon would break through her defenses. As a result, Xellos had a small window of time to focus on his spell casting. His plan was to overwhelm the seed with power, but he had to hit it swiftly, as stopping it from consuming the spell's energy before he was done casting it was extremely difficult.
It looked like Venus and Filia's fight was more physical than magical with Filia defending herself with the remains of her mace and Venus using her ferocious plants. Even maintaining a simple levitation spell was extremely draining. Xellos pushed himself to the limit. He saw Filia being assaulted by an overwhelming number of mutant venus flytraps. He saw her struggle and felt her pain. He could picture what would happen if his plan failed and somehow, it all fueled his spell, making it stronger than what he thought he would be able to cast in his current form.
There was that strong survival instinct again, an unstoppable force that pushed him past his limits just so he could live another day. He had been chanting the spell all along, the words flowing out, lost in the sound of the battle, Filia's battle. Then he finally had it ready. With the spell complete, Xellos released its massive impressive force into the glowing seed, in a desperate attempt to overwhelm it and destroy it. "Dragon Slave!"
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 042: Consequences! Feeling The Aftershock
In the mountainous region a relatively short distance away from the town, Lina and company were scouring the ground, looking for the spicy herbs they needed. They had left a trail of knocked out bandits and monsters in their path and obtained some loot because of that. Even so, it wasn't enough, Lina wouldn't give up and she wouldn't let anyone give up, until she found what she was looking for.
"Miss Lina, the sun just set, we won't be able to find anything in the darkness." Amelia pointed out tiredly. She was all up for bringing justice to the evil in their own hideout, but she was tired from doing so continuously without rest.
"Light!" Lina's reply to Amelia's plea was to light up the atmosphere with a spell. "That should make things easier. Let's keep looking, the spicy herbs have to be around here somewhere!"
"There they are!" A new band of monsters arrived. They looked like sharks with spider legs and bat wings and they came in a variety of shades of gray and red.
"More of them?" Zelgadis was becoming very annoyed with the constant interruptions.
"We know you're hiding him. Beast Master Zelas has monsters positioned all around this mountain, blocking the path. That's because her weakened general is here. We managed to sneak past the guards and what do we find? Many fallen allies and Lina Inverse. Rumor has it that you've become Xellos' slave, so he must be near by!" The leader of the monsters, a dark red specimen of the strange species claimed.
"For the millionth time, I'm not Xellos' slave, I'm his bodyguard!" Lina yelled exasperated.
"I still don't get it, why are the monsters so sure that Xellos is here? They even threatened the bandits into going after us." Gourry expressed his perpetual confusion.
"I told you stubborn idiots that Xellos is at Celo's resort. You should know that Celo is one of Beast Master's monsters. It's only logical that Xellos would find refuge in a place like that!" Lina lied. She wasn't about to put Xellos in danger and jeopardize her bodyguard wages by revealing his real location. In truth, Lina was as confused as Gourry. It seemed that word had gotten around that Xellos was in a vulnerable human state and there were more than a few monsters out to get him.
"Lies!" The monsters argued as they continued their stubborn attack. The way things played out it almost looked as if Zelas was leading the monsters away from Xellos and towards Lina for their extermination. She concluded that it was more hard work for her to be away from her client than it was to actually guard him. That also explained why it was taking a while for the monsters to come avalanching in, Zelas must have been secretly doing her part. Strangely, Lina got the impression that Xellos wasn't counting on any of that. Yet perhaps Lord Beast Master wasn't about to throw away a competent general so easily just because he was having a time of weakness.
"That's it, I'm getting pissed off!" Lina loudly declared in a dangerously threatening tone. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows, buried in the stream of time is where your power grows."
"What about the spicy herbs?" Gourry urged. if Lina blew up the mountain they were on, she would destroy the spicy herbs that were apparently hidden there along with it.
Lina didn't listen and continued chanting her spell. "I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands."
"There's no reasoning with her!" Zelgadis concluded. Lina was beyond the end of her patience and no one could stop her now.
"Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed, by the power you and I possess..." Lina was ready to launch her powerful spell and level the mountain.
"Retreat!" Following Amelia's wise advice, she, Zelgadis and Gourry ran for their lives.
With a more pissed off tone than usual, Lina released the spell, "Dragon Slave!" The large amassment of monsters was immediately destroyed along with the mountain and all the vegetation in it in a brilliant flash of light and a big explosion.
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, at the astral space where Xellos, Filia and Venus were, the glowing seed that was the core of power for the enemy tree snake chimera overloaded with the power of Xellos' Dragon Slave, causing a massive chain reaction. Outside of the astral space in town, Gravos, Jillas and Naga had been struggling to keep the constantly regenerating enemies at bay when the trees suddenly dried up and were left motionless. In the astral space the atmosphere turned unbearably hot as the seed became unstable distorting the area.
Venus knew she wouldn't stand a chance to win the fight without her chimera. She recklessly threw herself at the unstable seed in an effort to contain its power. Her recent fusion was somehow undone as Alys and Aya's corpses were thrown out of her body, leaving Venus with her older appearance. It was the appearance that Filia knew as Hanna. "Xellos, you are no doubt still doomed, another will kill you where I could not. Curse you Filia! Curse you for protecting that useless monster!" A terrible malice emerged from Venus with her last breath as the astral space vanished and the aftershock threw Xellos and Filia into a different location.
xoxox xox xoxox
Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis found themselves in the middle of a crater with no vegetation left. It once was a mountain covered in green, but it was gone now. "The herbs! The spicy herbs are gone!" Lina lamented a little too late.
"It's okay Miss Lina, maybe we'll still be able to find some," Amelia tried to console her even if her optimism was obviously not realistic. "I hope you learned your lesson, you need to think of the consequences before you blow up a mountain... or blow up anything."
"This is Lina," Zelgadis pointed out as a matter of fact while the group made their way out of the crater and reached the ground level. "She never thinks of the consequences."
"You should be thinking of the consequences of being so cruel!" Lina retorted, "can't you see I'm in the middle of mourning my spices?"
A bright flash of light in the distance caught the group's attention. "What was that?" Gourry pointed in the direction of the town. "Do you think it was some kind of falling star? We should make a wish!" He squinted at the distant location, noticing that something was off, "did there used to be that many big trees around town."
"I'm pretty sure those weren't there when we left," Amelia recalled with growing worry. Trees randomly popping out couldn't be a good sign.
"That light just now almost looked like the Dragon Slave," Zelgadis observed.
Lina's countenance changed, with an urgent look of alertness replacing her mourning gaze. "That really was the Dragon Slave," she concluded. The hasty redhead would recognize her favorite spell anywhere. "I taught Xellos how to cast it and warned him that he should only use it in cases of emergency. Given his situation and the possible dangers, I doubt he would waste energy on a Dragon Slave without a good reason."
"Oh no!" Amelia gasped, "the enemies must have learned of Xellos' real location!"
"I don't think this is the same enemy," Zelgadis pointed out. "Those are trees out there, who do we know that uses trees to attack?"
"A bird? A bear? A forest ranger?" Gourry guessed.
"No!" Lina explained, "the Green Alchemist! We never did finish our business and evil cults tend to keep coming back until the big boss is beaten. I guess that means we're in for a fight, let's go!" Thus the group rushed back to town, even if unknown to them, the fight was already over.
xoxox xox xoxox
"Xellos! Xellos!" When Xellos woke up, he had a very sharp pain on his head, which was noticeable even beyond the harsh aches and pains that assaulted his whole body. "You're alive, I'm so relieved."
Xellos noticed he was in Filia's arms and she was crying, but she wasn't healing his wounds. "You know, instead of crying you could use a recovery spell," he pointed out painfully.
Filia looked sad and worried, she too was covered in wounds, "I can't, it won't work. All my magic is gone."
Xellos stared at her and noticed that her hair was no longer blond, it was white. She was drained of all power and wouldn't recover for a few days, or worse. "Did she really curse you?"
"Yes, Venus used her terrible malice and hatred to drain away my power and seal it. When I came to, I was here, in this forest, but I don't know how I got here. I found you unconscious and it looks like you hit your head." She gently touched the affected area and Xellos cringed in pain. "I tried to heal you and noticed that I couldn't. That's not all..."
Xellos' blurry senses cleared out and he was able to feel the presences all around them. "This is no forest, not in the usual sense at least. We're still on the astral side; we were just thrown into a different part, a private space. There are monsters all around."
"What are we going to do?" Filia's fright became evident on her face.
"Don't get scared," Xellos urged, though he was having more trouble than he would ever admit with that himself. "Fear will only empower them. I wish I could have talked Lina into teaching me the Ragna Blade, but she insisted that it was too dangerous and that the Dragon Slave would be more than enough. I can't move in and out of the astral space freely as a human and I can't cut through. With your powers sealed, it looks like we're stuck here." Xellos got to his feet with some difficulty. He and Filia were both visibly in bad shape.
There was some rustling from the trees and a monstrous vulture with razor sharp metallic feathers dived towards the pair. They immediately dropped to the ground and dodged the attack just in time. Yet the assault was only getting started. The other monsters felt motivated to join in after the vulture took the first try. A strange creature similar to a bear with fur the color of flames, giant black claws and glowing yellow eyes emerged from the bushes with a hungry menacing growl. Several similar creatures, some more grotesquely composed than others, soon surrounded Xellos and Filia.
"I know you we shouldn't be afraid, but we're surrounded and helpless!" Filia saw her life flash before her eyes. She regretted her ignorance in younger days. She was glad that she was able to see the light. She regretted not knowing for certain that the town was safe, that her friends were safe, that her son was safe. If they did survive, she gladly gave her life for that, but she was still saddened that she wouldn't be able to see Val hatch. She looked at Xellos; she regretted not being able to fully figure him out, to understand his thoughts beyond his acting. She regretted more strongly than she could ever guess, that his life was about to end too.
"We can't outrun them." This was it, it was the end. He couldn't find a cure, he couldn't recover his power and now he was going to be devoured by monsters much lesser than himself. He didn't have the strength left to cast a single spell; he could barely stay on his feet. Filia would be killed, she would be torn apart by those creatures and the mere thought of that filled him with a deep frustrating rage. If he had his monster powers, none of those beasts would be able to touch her.
A loud howl was heard as another beast arrived on the scene. The creature was as tall as a large horse with a body that very much resembled a fox covered in black fur. It had the face of a fox with long fangs like a saber tooth tiger. Its ears were fox-like with a bit of white on the tips. Its massive clawed paws were also white, as were the tip of its tails contrasting with the rest of its black fur covered body. It had two tails, similar to fox tails, each half as wide as its body and about two thirds as long. The most stunning feature were its ferocious silver eyes, there were no pupils no irises, just a pair of glowing silver orbs mesmerizing the being's prey. The beast had a black collar with silver spikes on it, symbolizing that it belonged to someone, a very powerful someone to be able to keep such a pet.
The beast threatened the fire colored bear, who didn't appear to have any intentions of backing away. The bear lunged forward, but the fox monster was faster. It jumped straight up and landed on the bears back not even needing to use its claws. The bear's body produced a sickening cracking sound as its spine and ribs were fatally crushed. Mortally wounded, the bear monster crawled away as soon as the silver-eyed beast got off it dismissively.
Three vultures, led by the one who attacked before, swooped down on the beast. With amazing speed and power, the black predator produced blue flames from its mouth that reduced the bird monsters to ashes. The surrounding creatures took this as their cue to leave, running for their lives. No prey, however appetizing, was worth dying for. The ferocious beast kept its silver eyes on Xellos and Filia as it made its approach at a luxurious, almost mocking pace. It knew that there was no way the living creatures before it could manage to run away.
"Xellos..." Filia let out what she felt could be her last breath as she clung to him. This was it; they were both going to supper a painful gruesome death at the claws, teeth and raw strength of that terrifying creature! The beast looked as if it would pounce, making no effort to hide its intentions. Then it happened, the creature jumped and Xellos pushed Filia out of the way, being tackled into the ground. "Xellos!" Filia cried out in horror. Then she heard something peculiar...
"Haha, stop it, hahaha, c'mon, quit it, that tickles! Hahahaha!" Filia stared with wide eyes as the ferocious beast licked Xellos like some kind of puppy that was all too glad to see its master. "Get off Fang, you're crushing me!" The creature complied, sitting obediently by Xellos' side as the man sat up with a hand on his torso. "Ow, I think you messed up my ribs worse than they already were. Human bones are so terribly fragile." Xellos finally got to his feet, using the animal sitting on the ground beside him for support.
"What just happened?" Filia was dumbstruck beyond understanding. "You know this wolf?" She demanded.
"Fang is a fox, or a monster fox at least," Xellos explained as he gave the beast called Fang a pat on the back. "He's one of Lord Beast Master's pets."
"You idiot!" Filia screamed in enraged agony. "I thought we were going to die and it turned out one of your allies was here to save us all along? Why did you have to scare me like that?" She reproached harshly.
"How was I supposed to know Fang would come?" Xellos argued. "Besides, given my current form, he could have betrayed me and bitten my head off. I guess he's especially fond of me since I would play fetch with him when Lord Beast Master was too busy." He maintained a calm expression, it seemed that the tragedy had passed, at least for now. His cheerful face didn't have a single hint of the deadly fear he was unfortunate enough to experience before. Yet strangely, his senses felt heightened and precise beyond what his exhaustion should allow. He attributed it to a human's stubborn desire to survive even when the situation was apparently hopeless.
Filia was fuming with anger, "liar! You knew we were safe from the second you saw that, Fang monster thing!"
Fang growled at Filia and she let out an undignified little squeak. For a second she thought the beast would attack her. She needed to watch herself or that thing really would bite her head off. She needed to remember that Xellos was not Fang's master, Zelas was. Plus Xellos was not truly her general at the moment; he was a human who couldn't stop Fang if he decided to act out of line. Then the large beast let out a little whimper and lay down at Xellos' feet like an injured puppy.
"Look what you've done, you heartless dragon," Xellos petted Fang's head gently. "It's okay boy, I still appreciate you. I'm not a terrible ingrate who would be mean to the one who just save me from a painful death. Don't take it personally; golden dragons are just cruel by nature."
Filia felt a heavy wave of guilt fall upon her. "I'm sorry," she approached Fang cautiously. "I'm really sorry I was mean to you, Fang. I'm not angry with you, I was just worried that Xellos and I were going to die and the scare made me act and speak harshly." It didn't look like Fang was going to attack her, so Filia tried petting him. "Will you forgive me?" Before she could even blink, she found herself on the ground with the large animal on top of her, having tackled her in a similar way to Xellos earlier. The creature licked her face and wagged its two tails. The being looked like a wolf, Xellos claimed it was a fox, but it was acting just like a dog. "Okay, okay, I get it, hahaha, we can be friends, hehehe, that really does tickle." When Fang finally released her and Filia was on her feet again, she observed, "you two really are similar. Fang guilt tripped me just like you've done before."
"He's a smart fox," Xellos grinned. "Also a very powerful one, he's a high level monster. Only those at the level of the monster lords and generals would be safe if he ever got really mad. He doesn't usually go into combat though; he's more of a show pet than anything else. Nonetheless he's trained to fight if needed."
"A show pet..." Filia could almost picture the monster lords walking their pets in front of an audience of high level monsters, waiting to be judged. She pushed the silly thoughts away; they weren't completely safe just yet. "Can Fang get us out of the astral side?"
"Of course, well Fang, get us out of here. I still have some business to take care of on the other side." The beast held his right paw over his black nose and whimpered. "What? Are you trying to tell me I smell like a human? Quit covering your nose, I know the scent of humans doesn't actually bother you, you're just throwing my condition in my face, you ungrateful mutt."
Fang's next action left Filia staring in amazement, "did he just blow raspberries at you?"
"He can be a little too playful sometimes. C'mon Fang, I really need to go back," Xellos insisted with a growing worry in the back of his mind. Fang lowered himself to the ground next to Xellos, making a little growling noise. He looked at Xellos then looked forward. "I see, you want me to follow you and you'll even give me a ride?" Fang nodded. "I can walk on my own." Xellos crossed his arms and pouted.
"Quit being stubborn and just get on," Filia insisted. "You know we both can barely stand and Fang is our only hope of survival in this place."
Xellos looked at the monster fox then gave Filia a meaningful look. "Unless he's delivering us to our doom. If my lack of progress has truly disappointed Lord Beast Master, she might want to finish me off with her own hands..."
To be Continued