Fear invaded Filia's face at the thought of Zelas losing her patience with Xellos and his curse. "No way," she desperately tried not to fall into hopelessness. "She sent Fang to save you. You should go report and I'm sure she'll forgive you."
"There's no point in questioning that," Xellos truthfully stated. If Lord Beast Master wanted him to report, even if he wasn't supposed to do so until his curse had been broken, then he should accommodate to her change of mind and go report... or else. If she wanted him dead, she could hunt him down to no escape, so running would do more harm than anything. "Let's go," they both rode on Fang's back and were taken towards a building in the astral side forest. Taking a golden dragon to see a monster lord sounded like a terrible idea, but Filia couldn't be left alone or she would be devoured by the monsters. Besides, surely Lord Beast Master was well aware of the specifics of the curse. If it was for the sake of something like that, perhaps she would excuse Xellos bringing his dragon companion along.
Fang stopped when they were sufficiently close to the building. It was an elegant structure surrounded by a crystalline water filled moat with a wide bridge leading towards its front entrance. The moat's water flowed in circular motions as if driven by a gentle magical current, making the soft sounds of a tame river constantly. The walls were a pure white and the ceiling sky blue. The details of the ceiling protuberated in a sort of blue skirt around the building at each floor in all seven. The architecture had a look similar to the buildings found on the eastern edge of the main continent. Pale green vines wrapped themselves around the walls with little pink flowers blossoming on them. The glass windows were perfectly clear and there were two lines of vases on the left and right edges of the bridge. "Those vases!" Filia pointed in disbelief. "They're the vases you bought!" What was up with her vases showing up in the most unexpected places?
"You mean the ones you made me buy," whenever he was bored and popped out of the astral side, teleporting to see Filia, for entertainment purposes only, she often made him buy a vase. She would protest that he couldn't be at her shop because he wasn't a customer and argue about it until he purchased something. She wouldn't sell him maces, so vases it was. "I put them away at HQ, but Lord Beast Master said they were taking up space and that she was putting them someplace else. This spa is run by a monster that works for her, so it's technically hers."
Filia pouted and placed her hands on her hips, "my vases are decorating monster property."
"I'm sure Zelas laughs at the golden dragon race every time she sees them," Xellos grinned.
"She's quite the business woman, isn't she?" Filia commented, trying to focus on not thinking about Zelas as a ferocious beast, which she certainly was when she felt like it.
"Not only of negative emotions does a monster live," Xellos asserted. Fang was getting impatient, hence without further ado, they went inside.
The elegant marble interiors possessing a collection of paintings were impressive to say the least. Monsters of all shapes and sizes walked around the large lobby, chatting and gossiping. Xellos and Filia received many stares of disapproval, but a warning growl from Fang was all it took for the variety of monsters to return to minding their own business, though the whispers still lingered. Filia approached one of the paintings on the walls. It was very large and it depicted a sort of wolf with wings, standing majestically beside a large tree. Very small, barely noticeable in the right bottom corner of the painting, there was something written on darker green on the depiction of the grass. It looked like the lines were part of the drawing of grass at first glance, but a closer inspection revealed a message. "To the great Beast Master Zelas Metallium, from her servant the Green Alchemist, a painting by Venus."
"It's a new one," Xellos observed. If he was surprised by the message, he didn't show it. "Zelas must have received this painting while I was away. Venus was sprouting some nonsense about the Green Alchemist taking my place, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he would send a gift. It's a pretty accurate painting for Zelas' true form. There's quite the collection of art related gifts Lord Beast Master has received in this building as decorations."
"Somehow, I thought a spa owned by a monster lord would be far creepier, the building itself I mean," because the guests were certainly creepy.
"Xellos, I'm glad you're here, now all this stuff can be done. You brought a helper along, good, good, that makes things easier." The being that addressed them had the voice of a woman and was about as tall as Gourry. Her body from the waist down was that of a snake and she was covered in turquoise scales all over. She wore a golden bustier to cover her shapely torso and matching golden armlets. Her face was completely hidden behind a thick black veil that just barely touched her shoulders. In her hands she carried a rolled up scroll, which she gave to Xellos.
"What happened to welcome great general Xellos, how may I serve you?" Xellos teased, feeling more like his old self.
The snake woman rolled her yellow eyes, invisible behind her black veil, yet somehow Xellos knew the gesture was made. "I've never been a hypocrite with you and I'm not about to start now." She placed her hands on her hips, or where her hips would be, as she pointed that out.
"Same old Galathia," while Filia looked back and forth between the snake woman, who was apparently called Galathia, and Xellos, the monster turned human examined the scroll. "These are all spa chores," he pointed out with mounting dread.
"Well of course," Galathia laughed, "nothing too difficult since you're..." she searched for the right expression, "ill. Anyway, Lord Beast Master doesn't want you slacking off, so she asked me to compile a list of things for you to do. She looked over it, added a few items and approved it. In other words, I'm just the messenger in this situation, these are orders from above."
So much about being treated normally. "You heard the lady, get to work, dragon," Xellos shoved the scroll into Filia's annoyed hands.
"You're not throwing your chores on me!" Filia screeched. "Besides, you haven't even introduced me to..." now it was Filia's turn to search for the right word, "your acquaintance."
Again Galathia made another invisible roll of the eyes. "Who wants to meet a golden dragon? Only Xellos, he's the oddball of the family. In fact, there's this dragon girl I suspect he has a thing for." Never mind that Galathia not so secretly found dragon men attractive, she was just being annoying. "She's the one who made those vases decorating the bridge. She's..." Galathia paused and gave the situation some more thought, "she's you, isn't she?"
Ignoring the mocking tone in Galathia's voice, Filia firmly stated, "my name is Filia Ul Copt."
"Galathia Gorgon, spa manager," the snake woman replied in a similar tone. She was a gorgon, a snake with a head full of snakes. That would explain the veil which she probably had on for the benefit of the lower level monster clients, and also for Filia and Xellos. "Is it true that you're Xellos' lover?"
"That's not true!" Filia yelled much louder than needed. "We're just..." friends? Was it even okay to say that? He was an actor, a liar, his situation was no different from Hanna's. He was just tricking her into caring for his own benefit or worse yet, his own mocking amusement.
Seeing as Filia was taking a moment to elaborate upon her argument, Xellos finished it for her. "We're friends with benefits."
Filia paled, even more than she already was from exhaustion and Galathia nodded in understanding. "I see, it looks like a lot has been going on in your life recently. A lot has been going on around here too. Did you know that Lord Beast Master has a new intern? Don't worry, he's not trying to steal your place, he says he's serving the internship as Zelas' minion to better understand monsters and how they think for the sake of the greater good, something or other. He's a strange one that one, but very handsome. Ah, but enough talk. I won't steal away your time anymore, I'm sure your anxious to work on your... mission." With an obnoxious laughter like that of Martina and Naga, Galathia walked away.
"What's up with people, and monsters, laughing like that? It's so annoying!" Filia grumbled. She then looked at the scroll Xellos had given her. "These are your chores, don't expect me to do all the work for you."
"Fine," Xellos greedily snatched away the scroll. "I'll do all the chores all by myself, so I'll be the only one who's being useful to Lord Beast Master. That means I'll be the only one she'll keep alive!"
With a look of wide eyed realization, Filia snatched away the scroll. "We'll split it fifty-fifty. We're both exhausted anyway, so we might as well help each other!" Thus a new ordeal began for Filia and Xellos.
xoxox xox xoxox
Filia never knew that the art of folding towels was such a tedious one. She felt silly doing chores in her purple spa employee outfit, which was really a pretty purple yukata with a black waist bow and the letters BMS on the top left encased in a round logo with Beast Master's true form silhouette in the background. The logo aside, the outfit itself was beautiful and that's what made it feel so out of place given the task at hand. She supposed that in a high scale monster spa, even the employees of the lower rank who didn't get paid with anything other than the opportunity to keep their lives, needed to look decent on the job, even if said job took place mostly behind the scenes.
Xellos was wearing a similar attire to Filia's while making a mess of the simple task of folding the towels. With a prominent frown, Filia shook her head, "you're doing it wrong and let me tell you, I'll be very upset if Beast Master kills us because of your poor towel folding skills." She picked up one of the tiny squares with a decorative pattern that looked like a tribal sign version of Zelas true form, barely perceptible in the few lines. "Look, it's just like the moth-wolf lady said; you have to fold this way." Filia demonstrated the proper folding technique that was explained by the strange anthropomorphic black wolf with the moth face, red bug eyes and lavender moth wings, when they showed up following the list of chores. She handed them they're uniforms and pointed them towards the locker room, commenting that Galathia had mentioned them. Once they were changed, the moth-wolf monster folded a towel as an example and left them to their task.
Xellos observed the towel Filia had folded. He attributed the fact that the puzzle escaped him to his exhaustion. "I don't get it," he admitted with a frustrated frown. "These little towels that people love to steal as souvenirs are square. How do you turn them into triangles when you fold them?"
Filia almost growled in exasperation. "You just saw me fold one. Weren't you paying attention?" She groaned and continued folding at full speed. "Why do they have these little towels here anyway? You said it yourself, people steal them as souvenirs. Who would try to dry themselves with a towel this tiny? They're like handkerchiefs made of towel material. They're too small."
Xellos picked up another mini-towel and attempted to fold it like Filia did. This mission made all his past missions as a monster seem too easy. By the time he turned the little square into a lopsided diamond and was close to achieving a triangle, Filia had already finished folding the rest of the little towels. At long last triumphant, Xellos placed his triangular folded towel on top of the pile in the little cart.
"Delivering this to the proper place like the moth-wolf lady said is going to take some time," Filia observed. Carrying the towels in a pile in their arms was out of the question, as that would not help them stay neatly folded. "These carts are too small." Nonetheless, Filia wasn't about to complain to her superiors and Xellos was smart enough not to get cocky about Lord Beast Master's lenient punishment for his delay. Thus the unfortunate pair pushed the carts full of tiny towels away to the proper storage, finishing the delivery after a few trips back and forth.
xoxox xox xoxox
Once the towel folding and storing chores were done, Xellos and Filia moved on to the next task, which involved cleaning the spa's hot tubs. The cleaning supplies came in cute little sample sizes which looked absolutely adorable sitting on the cleaning supply cart, but were ultimately an annoyance to use. This time it was a spider-like being who spoke in earsplitting whistles that appointed them the task. Filia wasn't sure if it was a he or a she, all that mattered was that he she it left them alone to their work and after a while the painful ringing in her ears should cease.
With a frown on her face that she secretly feared would become permanent, Filia glared at the cleaning supplies. "The cleaning products are too small. Sure, there are many of them, but they're so small, why not put it all in a big container?"
Xellos shrugged, "for decorative purposes, I would assume. Of course, golden dragons are known for their lack of taste, so I can't expect you to understand."
"That's obviously a lie," Filia countered. Golden dragons loved to decorate their temples in elaborate ways. "I run a successful business, I'll have you know, and my vases are very decorative."
"If you're such an expert, then why not make this messy tub more decorative looking," Xellos picked up a cleaning brush that was on the cart and handed it to Filia.
Filia glared at the brush as if it had personally offended her. "This brush is too small. They're probably doing this on purpose to make the cleaning process terribly difficult."
"Shh, keep your voice down," as much as Xellos wanted to keep teasing Filia and continue amusing himself with their argument, he felt that he was being watched. "They're watching us; we better start cleaning before they decide to make us clean with a toothbrush."
Filia did not like the idea of having to clean hot tubs with a tooth brush. She quickly started cleaning without further complaints. Xellos wanted to stand there watching, but he knew it was in his best interest to help, he didn't want to anger Lord Beast Master any further. Thus the pair cleaned and cleaned, until there were no tubs left to clean.
xoxox xox xoxox
The next few hours transpired at the same pace with Xellos and Filia following a very Cinderella-like routine. Filia, unlike Xellos, was experienced in performing household chores, since she had her own house and shop to manage. Xellos on the other hand, never had to worry about clean-up duty before; there were low ranking monster servants to take care of that. There was even a specific servant whose job was to clean up the ashes of Lord Beast Master's cigarette. His lack of expertise shone through in every chore and his exhaustion didn't make it any better. However, with a lot of help from Filia, they managed to get through.
The last task on the list after the dish washing activities were completed, was folding napkins behind the kitchen of the spa's restaurant. A chef that looked like a green troll with a brown bull's head and three tails was cooking busily, the heat of the stoves and ovens making Xellos and Filia feel like they would be cooked alive in the backroom. "Xellos, you're not supposed to fold these like the towels. These napkins are super tiny so it's difficult to fold them, but not impossible. If I was a customer I would excuse the napkins' lack of functional size because they're so cute, but they're so difficult to fold, I might never look at mini-napkins the same way again. You're supposed to make it so that they can stand up on the table, like this." Filia showed him her mini-napkin tower perfectly balanced on the palm of her hand.
"Your hands are burned," Xellos observed. Sure they had gotten cleaned up before they changed into their uniforms, but other than washing off the blood and sweat they couldn't do much else. There was no first aid kit to be found in monster territory. Who would fear a monster with a band-aid anyway? Thus their cuts remained without bandages and their bruises visibly continued the process of going from red to purple to black.
Xellos didn't know recovery magic, plus he was too tired anyway, and Filia's magic was still sealed, her hair still white. Filia put down the mini-napkin she was showing Xellos and picked up the next one to be folded. "I got it from the mace."
Xellos remembered the event that Filia reference as he tried with futile effort to fold a mini-napkin like she did. With the skin of her hands so burned and exposed, even the lightest brush of fabric would hurt, he could tell just by looking. Yet there was Filia, speedily folding napkins as if it was nothing. Her face was blank, but upon close inspection, there was a look of pain in her eyes that escaped Xellos' notice before. She got that back when she used the hot mace to hit the seed. He had heated it too much to the point where it hurt her, but she focused on the battle and didn't complain. When it came down to it, Filia was very strong in many ways. Xellos knew that before, he just didn't dwell on it.
Time passed in silence until the final task on the chore list was finished. The tired pair reported to the tall chef and he sent them on their way to report to Galathia.
xoxox xox xoxox
After a quick search, Xellos and Filia located Galathia, who seemed surprised that they finished their assigned tasks so soon. "I guess I underestimated you, Xellos."
"Indeed," Xellos grinned, yet the look Filia was giving him spoke volumes.
Galathia grinned behind her veil. "You really trained your dragon pet very well to have her do the majority of the work." When the meaning of her initial statement was revealed, Filia pouted in indignation and glared daggers at Xellos, who made no effort to voice any corrections. Ignoring the dragon's obvious anger, the gorgon continued, "you two can rest now, I'll show you to some quarters you can use. Lord Beast Master will see you later."
Knowing that they had no choice, Xellos and Filia followed Galathia to their quarters, which was more like a dungeon-like walk-in closet. At least they were given the chance to get cleaned up again, since their uniforms were full of grime and sweat from all the chores. They changed into new purple yukata uniforms with the same BMS logos. Their original clothes were too full of tears and blood to be worn again. At last, they lay down on the thin mattress of their so called room, certainly ready to finally get some rest.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 044: Confusion! Perspectives and Perceptions
"This bed, if we can even call it a bed, is too small." Filia complained as she tried to shift her position to get more comfortable. No matter how subtle her movements were, she always ended up brushing against some part of Xellos, who was next to her. "I think I'll sleep on the floor, the bed, or rather the mattress, is simply too small for both of us." Honestly, she wasn't in the mood to argue about who would get the so called bed. Besides, the mattress was so thin, it barely made a difference anyway, plus she was so tired she would fall asleep anywhere, it was Xellos' closeness that was keeping her awake.
"What an ungrateful dragon." Xellos teased. "The towels were too small, the carts were too small, the cleaning supplies were too small, the brushes were too small, the soap was too small, the sponge was too small, the napkins were too small, the mattress is too small. Is there anything at all in this building that's not too small for your liking?" There was a quiet pause and some blushing from Filia, who didn't answer. "You have your mind in the gutter, don't you?"
"What? No!" Filia immediately argued. "I'm just... feeling like an ingrate, that's all. We're alive, so what if we're in a harsh situation? At least we're alive and... and... I'm going to sleep now."
Xellos got closer to Filia, if it was even possible to get closer to each other than they already were. "Are you sure you're that tired?"
"Yes!" Filia squirmed a little, but didn't push Xellos away, her face still scarlet.
"What are you thinking of?" He inquired in a rather seductive tone.
"A bunny rabbit!" Filia exclaimed in a squeak.
"A rabbit?" Xellos questioned with the raise of an eyebrow. "What does this rabbit look like?"
"It's a cute pink bunny," Filia tried to picture the adorable fuzzy animal in her mind to distract her thoughts from the still clear image of Xellos fan service that would probably never fade from her memories. "She has a cute outfit with little bows on her ears."
Filia's imagination was a scary world of fuzzy creatures, Xellos already knew that. Two could play that game, maybe if he ruined Filia's mental image she would stop thinking of animals and think of... well, him. "I'm thinking of a skunk," there, something stinky to get Filia out of an animal thinking mood.
Unfortunately for Xellos, Filia was often unpredictable. Instead of criticizing his choice of animal, she curiously inquired, "what does it look like?"
"It's purple," Xellos replied with a hint of amusement just to see Filia's reaction.
"With a pink bow on her hair," Filia added, immediately making Xellos' imaginary animal to be cute.
"Never mind the skunk, I'm thinking of a..." Xellos needed to come up with another animal, something that Filia's cutesy mind couldn't ruin. "A tasmanian devil," that should do it, something ferocious. "And it's purple," okay so maybe making it purple would take away from the terrifying image of a dangerous beast, but Xellos liked purple.
"He has a cute yellow hat and despite having a big appetite, he's a total sweetie," Filia elaborated.
"Your ability to ruin my imaginary animals is uncanny." Xellos mocked.
"I'm making them better!" Filia insisted. She didn't know how the conversation went from a forbidden path to a cute path, but she was going to keep walking down that cute path full of adorable fuzzy animals for as long as she could.
"Fine, now I'm thinking of a mouse," Xellos stated, "it's not purple," he added mainly because he couldn't take anymore creatures of his favorite color being desecrated.
"It's-" Filia was suddenly interrupted.
"Not pink," Xellos put more of a warning tone in his voice that one would think the description of an imaginary animal should merit.
"Fine," Filia conceded, "it's yellow then, with adorable rosy cheeks."
"Are you basing this animal on yourself by any chance?" Xellos teased and other than the usual joking mockery, Filia could perceive nothing else in his voice. Was he calling her a mouse or saying she looked cute when she blushed? This was Xellos; it had to be the former, rather than the latter.
"No," Filia decided to continue with the description before the fantasy petting zoo imagery lost its effect. "It has an adorable zig-zag tail and it's super cute."
"It's powerful too," Xellos grinned. "He's a beast of war summoned by its master to battle. He has electrical powers that could destroy anything and-"
"Don't ruin my cute and fuzzy imaginary animal," Filia pouted. "He's powerful, but he's good. He only fights to defend his friends or spars for the sport of it."
"Now you're ruining him and he was my imaginary animal to begin with," Xellos argued.
"Let's just say they belong to both of us," Filia settled. She had relaxed sufficiently to finally fall asleep. "Now let's get some rest. We can talk about colorful imaginary animals later."
"Not happening," Xellos assured with his usual overly cheerful grin. "The imaginary animal conversation I mean," he clarified. "Getting some rest is not a bad idea."
Yes, getting some rest was a very good idea. Unfortunately, getting a decent amount of rest in the immediate future was not something that was about to happen. The door to the walk-in closet sized dungeon-like room was suddenly opened and there stood Galathia with an amused smirk that none could see behind her usual veil. "Xellos!" She shouted as if he was far away, though she knew he was right there. How she could see beyond the thick veil was anyone's guess, yet somehow she could. "Lord Beast Master will see you now. She said to bring your pet along." After having passed on the piece of information, Galathia began making her way towards the monster lord's location, correctly assuming that her temporary employees would be swift to follow.
Xellos and Filia were indeed exhausted, but not tired enough to let themselves be killed over being late to see the one in charge. With growing nervousness, Filia walked alongside Xellos as Galathia led them to the seventh floor of the building.
xoxox xox xoxox
The gorgon-like monster spa manager stood aside in front of a pair of golden double doors. She nodded and left, indicating that her job escorting them was done. Xellos then stepped forward to open the doors and found that they were far heavier than he remembered. Seeing his difficulty, without a word, Filia joined Xellos in pushing one of the massive doors of solid gold open just enough for both of them to squeeze in.
The black marble room behind the golden doors was an elegant throne. A scarlet carpet reached from the door to the elaborately carved large golden throne at the opposite end of the room. The throne was big enough to fit three humans comfortably, thus one would think that it would look a little empty with just Beast Master sitting on it, as her human form was the size of an average woman. However, her imposing presence made the large room feel almost crowded. Crimson curtains fell from the ceiling around the throne, opening in the middle and cascading down the seven stairs of the throne's platform.
Lord Beast Master gave Xellos a curious look, conveying with her eyes the question of what was taking him so long to recover his power. Her eyes paused on the dragon beside him, who stood there staring curious yet petrified, not literally, thankfully. "Working on it, I see..."
"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos respectfully replied, not saying more than he was prompted to speak.
"Come here, I have a task for you both." There was a malicious smile upon her face that almost made Filia's heart stop. The golden dragon pushed herself to walk as she and Xellos approached one of the most powerful monsters in existence. Perhaps even the most powerful one, given Shabranigdu's broken state. "Nails," Zelas finally stated when the pair was standing closer to her throne.
The word interrupted Filia's debate if she should bow as if in the presence of royalty or not. Zelas was a monster, but maybe swallowing her pride was a wise idea least she kill Xellos over her disrespectful disregard. Ironically, though Filia was well aware of the fact that her life was perhaps in more danger than Xellos', her thoughts automatically gravitated towards him.
A long silent pause passed until Xellos finally concluded that it would be okay to voice a confused, "Lord Beast Master?" That encompassed his puzzlement over the general situation and her unusual and seemingly incomplete request.
"Come here and do my nails," Zelas repeated in slow motion, pausing after every word as if addressing someone particularly stupid.
Xellos and Filia blinked in confusion before Xellos finally reacted with a well practiced, "yes, Lord Beast Master," and made his way up the stairs followed by a stunned silent Filia. Behind the red curtains that surrounded the throne, Xellos was able to spot a little cart with several manicure related supplies. Zelas was obviously just amusing herself; if she wanted different nails she could simply change her appearance. However, he wasn't about to try to argue with her. He didn't argue when he was a powerful monster, though certainly less powerful than Beast Master, and he wouldn't argue when he was a fragile human.
"Manicure," Zelas waved a hand at Xellos. "Pedicure," she crossed her tan legs, lifting one bare foot in Filia's general direction.
Xellos gave Filia a mischievous mocking grin. He got to do the manicure while she was stuck with the pedicure. Never mind that he didn't know the first thing about caring for a woman's nails and Filia had plenty of experience caring for her own nails.
Without further ado, Xellos and Filia set out to accomplish the task at hand, and foot. Time passed slowly and silently until Filia announced with quiet satisfaction, "finished." So what if it would be seen as degrading for a golden dragon to care for a monster lord's feet? At least Zelas' toenails turned out cute.
Zelas examined her toenails, they were neatly filed, painted white with little pink hearts on all of them. She then took away the hand that Xellos was still working on. The purple nail polish was not only on her nails, but also on her fingers. "Xellos, your cosmetic skills leave much to be desired." She criticized.
"My apologies, lord Beast Master," Xellos automatically voiced, in disbelief that Filia could actually be beating him as a servant of Lord Beast Master.
"Never mind, I didn't expect you to be any good at this. Take the nail polish remover and clean up this mess." Zelas pointed at the proper bottle.
Xellos obediently picked up the bottle of nail polish remover and took off the cap, immediately being assaulted by the scent of pure acetone. Filia didn't appear to be bothered by it at all, she was a dragon, but still a feminine woman, thus such products were not alien to her.
"As for you," Zelas gave her verdict on Filia's job while Xellos cleaned up his messy manicure. "What monster lord goes around with little hearts on her toenails? Do it over, all twenty and made them sharper."
Filia simply didn't feel right repeating Xellos' line of 'yes, Lord Beast Master.' Thus she settled for quietly nodding and getting to work.
"What should I do when I'm done cleaning off the purple?" Xellos inquired, annoyed that Filia was doing a better job than him.
Zelas chuckled, from her perspective, Xellos was like a jealous child who craved attention right now. "Shoulder massage."
Never mind that it was uncomfortable to try to give such a massage taking into consideration the size of the golden throne's backrest, Xellos wasn't about to protest that second chance of sorts. "Yes, Lord Beast Master."
Once again, time passed in silence until Filia's task was completed. "Not bad," Zelas examined her matching manicure and pedicure. Her nails were filed to a sharp point, painted in a shimmering gold that went well with her bronze skin. "Have you ever heard of the well of recovery?"
Realizing that Zelas was directly addressing her, Filia spoke for the first time since she had arrived in the monster lord's presence, "yes." She voiced only a single syllable, exactly what was needed and no more.
"What have you heard?" Zelas pressed for more information.
"The well of recovery was a source of magical water with powerful healing properties. It was also the cause of a terrible war between neighboring kingdoms as they fought for the well, which was located between their borders." Filia recalled the history lessons from her education at the dragon temple, carefully editing out anything that might offend Zelas. "Amidst the war between the two kingdoms, the well mysteriously disappeared, leaving the warring countries with many injured people and no magical water to help them." Then a peculiar detail surfaced in Filia's mind and she couldn't help it but to voice it. "It is said that the water from that well can not only heal illnesses and injuries of the physical sort, but also of the magical sort, that it can break curses."
Xellos' full attention had been captivated as he paused in his task of massaging Zelas' shoulders. The well of recovery, he knew about the war and the truths behind it, he had even participated in the conspiracy, but it all happened so long ago he didn't even remember it anymore. It had been at least a thousand years, probably more, since he last thought of the well of recovery. What if his cure was right in front of him all along?
"Not exactly," Zelas corrected and Xellos' hope plummeted to rock bottom. Zelas smiled as if sensing Xellos' despair, tasting it like a delicious delicacy, she was a monster after all. "It cannot break curses, but it can cleanse them. That is to say, if a valid curse with a specific process to break it, is placed on someone and it is particularly powerful, it will not be broken. However, if it is a curse meant to last through time and fade away slowly with no specific process established in the casting that could break it, then that situation is different. Such a type of curse as the one upon you is similar to a magical illness that can fade in time or be healed. It is different from the curse upon Xellos that requires a specific process to be broken."
Zelas continued elaborating. "There are cons and pros to both types of curses. Curses that require a specific process to be broken are easier to figure out and generally involve having the victim accomplish something that might not be pleasant to them or go against their priorities. However, even if they are easily understood, they are very difficult to break by alternate means. On the other hand, curses that don't have specific cures may seem difficult to break, for lack of antidote to aim for, yet they are more vulnerable to being broken by alternate means."
"In other words," Zelas finished, "specific curses have a glaring weakness, even if it is difficult to aim for it, while the non-specific curses are weaker overall, but distressful to those who may not have the intellect or resources to come up with alternative curse breaking methods. Those none-specific curses are also easier to cast and require less power from the caster. As such, they can be overwhelmed more easily."
Filia nodded in realization, "then what you're saying is that the well of recovery's water could cure me but not Xellos."
Zelas feigned shock, "oh my, would you look at that, a golden dragon with a brain! This is quite a rare find indeed! I've only seen about three of them counting this one. Then again, I did considerably reduce their numbers in the past, so three might be a good percentage overall." Technically, it was Xellos who did the deed, but it was on Zelas' order and he was her general, thus his power was hers, though she had plenty more power of her own.
Filia had an absolutely furious and frustrated look in her face. She was pouting deeply while trying to restrain her words from pouring out in a very dangerous flood. From behind Zelas, Xellos shook his head frantically at Filia, hoping that she could manage to keep her temper under control and not say something that they would both regret.
Without even turning to look at him, Zelas mockingly inquired, "what's wrong, Xellos? Did a bug crawl into your hair?"
Xellos immediately stopped his frantic negative head signals and remained as still as a statue, "no, Lord Beast Master."
"Good," Zelas lightly turned in her throne, ignoring Filia's barely contained rage. "It would be a pity if that were the case. Even against all odds in such a pitiful weak form, you've managed to keep your hair pretty enough." She ruffled his hair, which took both Xellos and Filia by surprise. By the time Zelas retired her hand from Xellos' head, his hair was a big disheveled mess, which was clearly getting on his nerves. Filia had caught him smoothing out his hair with his hands countless times while they went about their chores before. Thus Filia concluded that Zelas was annoying Xellos on purpose, no real surprise there.
Zelas then turned her gaze back at Filia. "About the well of recovery, its true location is right here in my private space in the astral side. I simply made it appear as if it was located between the two kingdoms by opening a portal to a limited area of astral space. Humans walked in and out without realizing it. After the well had served its purpose, I shut off the portal to the astral space."
Filia's expression went from angry, to surprised, to angrier. "You caused the war that ultimately destroyed those two kingdoms." She clenched her teeth and fists in rage. She had a thing or two to tell Zelas about her actions, but Xellos' constant almost pleading look was holding her back.
"Correct," Zelas smiled cheerfully in a way that reminded Filia of Xellos.
The golden dragon told herself that Beast Master could kill her for her insolence if she dared to express her strong disapproval for her evil actions. Then again, Xellos could have killed her in the past too and that didn't stop her from calling him raw garbage every now and then and threatening him with her mace. "You're terrible! I see where Xellos gets his obnoxious personality; it's from his malicious mother! Except you're a million times worse, a despicable monster!" Filia snapped venomously.
Xellos' jaw dropped, his face undergoing another of those occasions when his expression changed on its own outside of his control. His eyes were wide and worried, his entire body tense. "She... didn't... she's..." he stuttered to find the words that would hopefully save Filia's life. "Don't listen to her, Lord Beast Master. She's just a stupid dragon, too stupid to even be worth killing!"
Zelas looked enraged, in a matter of seconds her face went from overly cheerful to cruel beyond words. Her eyes were suddenly glowing with an evil light they didn't have a few seconds ago. She pulled Xellos away by the arm, causing him to stand next to Filia in front of her as she stood from her throne and glared down at the two. "Are you defending her, Xellos? Are you willing to risk your own life to plead for hers?"
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 045: Stubborness! Broken Denial
Filia had gone through a number of scary situations in life ever since she ventured out of the sheltered safety of the dragon temple and into the realities of the world. She had witnessed many battles and helped stop what could have been the end of the world. All those experiences were frightening indeed, but they were different from this. Back then, there came a point where she was so regretful for what her people had done to the ancient dragons that, though she tried to survive with all her strength, she didn't fear death. She wanted to live, but if she died, it would be retribution for her people. There was no such a situation now.
If Filia died now at the hands of Lord Beast Master who stared at her, through her, with angry eyes, it wouldn't serve any purpose. She would be painfully dispatched and Xellos would probably follow. She would never see her friends again, she wouldn't be able to raise Val, she would be gone and so would Xellos. With no consolation, not even the slightest hint of a microscopic silver lining, Filia feared death like she had never feared before.
The terrified golden dragon slowly tore her gaze away from Beast Master with no small effort. She glanced at Xellos, who was as still as a statue and as quiet as one. It was as if all his trains of thought had derailed and he couldn't process anything anymore. For him, there was always a possibility, always a strategy, always an option. Even when the situation was dire, there was always a plan B, but not this time. This time, no matter in how many mental circles he went, he couldn't think of what to do or say to repair the situation.
Filia tried to get him to snap out of it with her eyes. She couldn't find her voice, her throat painfully dry. Why wasn't he saying anything? If she was doomed anyway, he could at least ask, or better yet, beg, for Beast Master's forgiveness. He could at least save himself if she had been inevitably doomed by her own temper.
"Kill her," Zelas' order sounded cold, cruel and definite.
Xellos seemed to wake up from his desperate thinking, searching for a solution that wasn't there. "Kill?"
"Kill this golden dragon, just as you killed so many of her kind before," Zelas made her order clear beyond a doubt.
Xellos looked at Filia and she nodded slightly. She no longer had any anger in her eyes, only quiet resignation. He realized that she wouldn't hold a grudge in the short remainder of her life. She wasn't full of the hatred one should have for one's own soon to be murderer. She was telling her with her silent expression to do it, to kill her and save himself.
So what if his cure was eradicated? What good was a cure if he was dead? Beast Master was certainly aware of the specifics of his curse, yet she gave him a direct order. Even if he was healed, even if he was at full power, he couldn't defy Zelas. What was he supposed to say? That he didn't currently possess the power to kill a weakened dragon? That would just get them both killed faster.
There was no choice, he couldn't do anything to change this, it wasn't his decision to make and Filia understood that. His energy was still dangerously low, using the Dragon Slave to end Filia in one swift painless blow might drain away his very life and leave him in a critical condition, but a multitude of Fireballs for a slower death wouldn't do. "Darkness beyond twilight... Crimson beyond blood that flows..."
Loud laughter interrupted Xellos' spell as Zelas fell back into her throne holding her sides in extreme amusement. To top it all up, her laugh was similar to Naga and Martina's with more of a roar to it, but right now it wasn't full force or else they might be left deaf. "Alright, alright, that's enough, stop before you ruin my hourglass figure," she joked. With a smile, she looked at the confused and shocked Xellos. "Of course, if you had argued back, I would have killed you both, but you already know that, don't you?" She sighed contently, very much like Lina after accomplishing the near impossible, filling her stomach. "Ah, what a satisfying meal, such delicious despair! You better be on your way now Xellos, before I'm tempted to keep you as you are."
At long last it sunk in that Zelas wasn't going to kill Filia. She was just feeding off her despair as well as Xellos'. Still in shock, Xellos managed to say, "yes, Lord Beast Master." His expression once again acted on its own, conveying his relief at the same time that Filia let out the breath she had been holding all along without realizing it. The golden dragon was certain she had been a small step away from a heart attack.
"One more thing," Zelas added casually. "Fang! Here boy!" The monster fox obediently appeared, teleporting to his master's side. "Fang needs to be walked. I will assign this task to you, Xellos."
"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos didn't even have the energy to say anymore than that one phrase, but it was enough. He exited the throne room along with Filia and Fang.
xoxox xox xoxox
Once they were away from Zelas, Filia finally regained the ability to speak after her near death experience. "That was scary," she stated the obvious.
"Are you suicidal?" Xellos reproached with full seriousness in place of his accustomed sarcasm. "We got lucky that Lord Beast Master was feeling exceptionally merciful today!"
"I know; it was stupid of me to try to argue with her." Filia made no attempts to excuse her behavior. "I could have gotten us both killed after we were so close to being spared. I realize what I've done." She held back late frightened tears as it all sunk in. "I'm sorry."
"Don't do anything insane like that again," Xellos warned. They continued walking in silence until they exited the spa.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos and Filia had been walking along with Fang for a while when they reached a well. "Here it is, get yourself cured."
Filia stared at the well, taking a moment to process Xellos' words. "This is the well of recovery?"
"The flowing energy of the astral side is what gives it power. Drinking a little water from it should free you of your curse. I think I'll drink some too," Xellos decided.
"Zelas said it wouldn't break your curse," Filia reminded.
"I know that," Xellos was not pleased to have the fact thrown at him again. "I'm just thirsty."
"We shouldn't drink from this well without permission," Filia warned. Her near death experience was still fresh in her mind. Regardless of how much time passed, she had a feeling that the event would still be eerily clear in her memories. There were some things that were simply too impressive to forget. "What if Zelas gets angry?"
"She gave us permission," Xellos assured as he let down the bucket attached to a rope on top of the well. He brought it up filled with water and set it on the well's edge. Cupping his hands together he took some water to drink. The water was very good, better than any other drink he had before. It was water, thus flavorless, yet it was refreshing beyond words. "Drink, like I said, we have permission," Xellos assured. "Zelas wouldn't have brought up the well if she didn't intend for it to be used. She also said she was sending me on my way and gave me Fang. He can take us out of the astral side. Our job here is done, we can return to town."
"The town..." Filia stepped forward wordlessly and drank some of the water from the well of recovery. She immediately felt the results as her magic was unlocked, but she was deadly quiet. Her hair went from white to blond almost instantly, with the true power of a golden dragon once again eradiating from her, but not strongly yet, she was still tired. The water cured her curse, but it didn't do much in terms of restoring her energy. "I'll heal you now," she offered, looking over the signs of their past battle still present on Xellos.
The entire process of Xellos being healed with Filia's recovery spells went by in silence. It was obvious she was still tired; Xellos could feel her pushing herself to the limit. When she was finished, she merely nodded, not bothering to heal herself, she had no energy left for that. She would just have to heal herself after she had some time to rest.
"Stupid dragon," it was a wonder Filia had managed to live as long as she had. She had a dangerous temper that made her pick fights with deadly foes, such as himself when they first met and more recently Zelas. Plus she was always putting others before herself and carrying the consequences of her foolish selflessness.
Filia made no reply towards Xellos' words as if she didn't hear him. Ever since he mentioned returning to town, her mind was thrown to a different place, a tragic place. The tears that had been slowly escaping little by little barely perceptibly, suddenly started to flow out like rivers.
"What are you crying about now?" Xellos inquired with a clear hint of exasperation. "Stupid dragon, the worse is over, we survived reporting to Lord Beast Master, be grateful for that."
"Shut up, you piece of raw garbage!" Filia retorted in sobs. "It's not over. I trust that Gravos and Jillas have protected Val, Elena and Palou. Naga must have been of help too. I trust that Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis are alright, they'll be ready to complain about missing the action when they get back from their spicy herb hunt. But I'm not alright. Hanna tricked me, I cared for her like a mother, I loved her like a child to a parent and she betrayed me. I've been too busy trying to survive to even begin to mourn her. She was a liar, an actor, just like... just like you."
The comparison was less than flattering; it made Xellos glare and growl the inquiry, "how so?"
"She tricked me into caring for her, she tricked the whole town. You don't even make an effort. I know you lie, I know you deceive, I know you're only using me for your own benefit, to rid yourself of any annoying foes that might come your way seeking to kill you. Then you can conserve your energy for an emergency. I know you wouldn't even look at me if you didn't want something from me. A meal and amusement back when you were a monster, a disposable pawn to fight for you now. I know it all too well, but I keep falling for it like an idiot!" Filia sobbed uncontrollably, letting out her sorrows and insecurities full force.
So she was afraid of being used and betrayed even if she fully expected it? "Stupid dragon," Xellos hugged her, to which Filia surprisingly didn't resist. "If I'm so horrible and you know it, why don't you just cast me aside? Why do you stay by my side when no one is forcing you to?"
"Because I'm an idiot," Filia bitterly stated, her words somewhat muffled as her face was buried on Xellos' shoulder. She was an idiot, she realized, only an idiot could care for a monster. She couldn't deny it anymore. She was focusing on blissful possibilities that she kept well hidden in the back of her mind, subconsciously tricking herself into believing that the impossible was possible. She thought it was harmless to care for Xellos just a little, because she was in denial about caring a lot. She was simply being open-minded by giving him just a miniscule hint of appreciation and fondness in the privacy of her mind.
There was nothing wrong with a little attraction, it was purely platonic and could never be anything else. Filia was aware of that fact and wouldn't allow her feelings to grow out of control. Yet they proved to be too strong. She feared for his life more than her own. She would forgive him if he was ordered to kill her, if she was doomed anyway, she could only wish for his safety. When he had begun chanting the Dragon Slave she no longer feared the pain of death, she just kept wishing with all her might that this would be enough for Zelas to spare Xellos' life.
Filia's denial was broken, shattered into a million pieces. She was falling in love and she knew it. It was the stupidest thing she had ever done. Loving a monster, it was both wrong and ridiculous. It was made worse by the fact that she was certain he didn't care in return. He was a deceiving liar, yet the look on his face when he thought he had no choice but to end her life, or else Beast Master would, spoke of more than simply the resignation of knowing his place, it held sorrow. She couldn't get that expression out of her head.
When Filia felt Xellos' kissing her, she only tightened her embrace. She knew it would hurt her more if she didn't fight back, but she didn't want to. If she was going to be heart broken anyway, she might as well allow herself this bittersweet pleasure. Her denial was indeed broken, but it wasn't lost. She clung to every shattered piece of denial, every single one. She believed her actions to be nonsensical and fought to crush her own hope. She might have been falling in love, but love is not true love until it is embraced and accepted; admitted. She would draw the line there; she would acknowledge the facts, but not accept them.
xoxox xox xoxox
"I can't believe you two!" Lina's upset voice made Xellos and Filia cease their passionate kissing.
They were no longer in the astral side near the well of recovery. They were in the ruins of a large dried tree made from many thinner trees wrapped together. A large stone golem was cleaning up the remnants of trees around town with Naga riding on its shoulder and directing it. They looked at Fang who gave them a large toothed grin and wagged his two tails playfully. He must have taken them back to the town while they were distracted with each other.
"Unbelievable!" Lina continued to dramatize. She did take notice of the monster fox, but it looked harmless enough anyway. "Not only do you fight without me, but then you go on a date and leave the clean up duty to everyone else!"
"What happened?" Filia inquired with a red face, her need to know overpowering her embarrassment.
"Maybe if you weren't so busy sucking face you would have noticed!" Lina was clearly in a bad mood after missing the fight. She was the star of the show, she should be the one Dragon Slaving the villains into oblivion, yet she had barely made any appearances lately. "Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and I fought a bunch of monsters that were after Xellos. Apparently Zelas was the one who arranged it for them to believe that Xellos was with us. After that fight was over, we saw a flash of light coming from the direction of the town, so we came to investigate. By the time we got here, the battle was over and there were nothing but dead chimera trees all over the place. We regrouped with Jillas, Gravos and Naga. Val, Elena and Palou are safe. They couldn't find you two so we were searching. It's been almost an hour since the battle ended. Where did you disappear to and what's with the purple yukatas? What does BMS stand for? If it's bondage-maso-sado, I don't want to hear it!"
"What?" Filia's face turned a deeper shade of red. "That's not what it stands for! And what do you mean an hour? It's been longer than that."
"BMS stands for Beast Master Spa," Xellos calmly explained with his usual overly cheerful expression once again invading his features. "Time passes differently in certain parts of the astral side, so the time that transpired here was shorter."
Lina felt her eye twitch in annoyance. She couldn't find the spicy herbs Elena needed for her special dish, she ended up destroying said herbs if they were even in the mountain to begin with. She had been absent from the main action for a while and her so called friends went off to a monster lord spa without her. It was probably a high end luxury spa too. They probably had really good snacks and delicious little mint filling gourmet chocolates in pretty wrappers! With an indignant growl, Lina turned around and walked away off to vent before she Dragon Slaved the whole town into nothingness.
xoxox xox xoxox
Aya, Kyle, Alys and the traveling merchant were all dead. The one to blame was Hanna, alias Venus, who had also perished in the end. Filia didn't have the heart to tell the townspeople the truth. The bodies were recovered from the ruble and given proper graves. The townspeople mourned them all, blaming the mysterious Green Alchemist for their sorrow. Filia promised to make justice, to seek out the master mind behind the tragedy and deliver a well deserved punishment. Amelia was all too quick to agree and offer her full support. Hanna's good name was preserved for mercy to those who cared for her and because few to none would believe the truth even if they knew.
It was time for Lina's group to move on again, their destination was Seyruun. It was the place where they always went for answers. Those targeting Xellos were expected to follow them there, to a place with much better defenses than any other, thus significantly reducing civilian casualties. The Green Alchemist had to be stopped. Naga decided to stay in Filia's town and help rebuild with her golems. Val would remain in the care and protection of Jillas and Gravos until Filia had returned. Elena and Palou would be there to support Jillas and Gravos too and help the townspeople assimilate their loss.
xoxox xox xoxox
Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia set out early the next morning. Filia had taken a moment to say a few words of comfort to Val's egg and reassure him. "Mommy will be back soon. Uncle Jillas and uncle Gravos will be here with you. I'll miss you sweetie, have pleasant dreams. Mommy will make sure you hatch into a peaceful world."
"And daddy will be there to make sure she doesn't mess up." Filia jumped several feet into the air at the sudden voice from behind her. Even in human form, Xellos was getting the hang of sneaking up on her.
The golden dragon gave the monster turned human a sharp glare. She had warned him before that dragons could hear what was spoken around them before hatching. She knew he was just being annoying as usual, but she didn't want him to be a pest around Val. After a good night's sleep, Filia was more determined to rid herself of her feelings for Xellos, yet she knew it would be a difficult decision to carry out. Even when she was angry at him because he was such an annoying pest, she still found his vexation somewhat charming. It was official, Filia had lost her mind, and if by any chance she managed to find it, she was sure Xellos would swiftly make her lose it again.
To be Continued