The monsters ahead of Xellos and Filia in the outskirts of Seyruun were varied in size, similar to minotaurs. They came mostly in dark colors such as black, gray and brown, except for the fuchsia one, who appeared to be their leader. Seriously, who would listen to a fuchsia minotaur? The brightly colored monster pointed an accusing troll-like finger at Filia. "There she is! She's the golden dragon who's been protecting Xellos. Look, she's got another dragon with her. That must mean it's true! Xellos somehow obtained the protection of the golden dragons, that disgusting traitor!"
"Xellos doesn't need any protection from the golden dragons, I mean, us, he doesn't need any protection from us." Xellos was at least grateful that the stupid monster didn't recognize him. What he couldn't' accept was their accusations. Maybe Filia had protected him, but she was an exception, the golden dragons, as in the stubborn ones who were the monster race's enemies, were a whole other story. Xellos was sure he would never seek or accept their help, not that they would ever offer it.
"Lies!" The fuchsia minotaur accused. "Attack, destroy the golden dragons that protect Xellos!"
That was it, Xellos was pissed off. There were about a dozen of those monsters, but he didn't care. He would Dragon Slave them into nothingness... and hopefully not slay himself in the process. Then again, maybe the Dragon Slave was over kill, after all, the monsters were so small. They were in fact a lot smaller than they were a second ago and so was Filia.
"For goodness' sake Xellos! Don't transform like that without a warning, I didn't need to see that again!" Filia yelled with a scarlet face.
Great, just great, now he was really a golden dragon, a fully transformed nemesis of the monsters. He might as well play the part and start getting rid of the minotaur monsters. He stomped on some, batted others away with his tail and fried quite a few with his laser breath. He wasn't thinking, he was just angry and decided to take his frustrations out on those monsters. By the time he was done with his hissy fit, the monsters were long gone from the world of the living.
"It's about time you calmed down!" The relatively small Filia levitated in front of Xellos with an angry expression and her hands resting on her hips. "That was very uncivilized."
"You're right; it was just like the temper tantrums you throw. How terrible of me to follow your wild example," Xellos retorted.
Filia growled, her temper was always lost with Xellos. No matter how prepared she thought she was, he always managed to find new ways to frustrate her. "Just stay here and don't cause any trouble while I go get you some clothes. Unlike me, you weren't carrying a jewel that stores your clothes when you transformed," she pointed at the torn shreds of fabrics that were the unwearable remains of Xellos' clothes.
"Fine," Xellos sat on the ground, crossing his clawed scaly golden arms in indignation.
xoxox xox xoxox
It didn't take long for Filia to return to Xellos' location on the path just outside of Seyruun with some clothes for him. He took the garments which looked quite small held by his large golden paw, then focused on changing back. It was a slower process to change back into a human-like form, or rather elf-like given the pointy ears, but he managed.
"Couldn't you have gone behind those bushes on the side of the road?" Filia complained. "What if someone was coming?"
"I checked, no one was coming," Xellos assured as he got dressed. He still couldn't get his tail to go away and thus ended up with a hole in his pants to accommodate his anatomy.
"I'm here!" Filia emphasized.
"So?" Xellos tried to get back into the habit of playfully teasing Filia and embarrassing her, but it just wasn't working. Her scent was too distracting. "It's your fault for stalking me. Now I'm going back to my room in the castle and sleeping until this," how could he describe being a golden dragon? "Horrible illness wares off."
"I'll see to that," Filia warned and the pair returned to the Seyruun castle.
xoxox xox xoxox
Once at the Seyruun castle, Xellos headed straight for his room with Filia still following him. In the room they found Fang and Phythan sleeping on the large purple sheet covered bed. "What are you two doing here?" Xellos inquired in annoyance, his patience was already all used up for the day.
Phythan woke up with a big yawn. "Hi, Xellos, Filia." He blinked away the remaining sleep from his eyes. "Xellos, that really is you, isn't it? You're a... a golden dragon?"
"Really? I hadn't noticed," Xellos replied sarcastically. "Did you come all this way just to point that out?"
"Actually, I'm here to pick up Fang, I just didn't want to leave without telling you, in case you needed Fang around for some reason. Lord Beast Master needs him for a pet show and I'm her assistant." Which meant that he got to follow Zelas around carrying her oversized purse and making a fool out of the dragon race, but he didn't see it that way.
"Assistant?" Xellos and Filia questioned in unison.
"Yeah, it's all part of the internship I'm doing. I hope to better understand monsters so that I may be a better defender of justice in the future!" Phythan cheered. Apparently, by some twisted logic, serving a monster lord was somehow a loop hole shortcut to justice.
"You're her intern?" Xellos couldn't believe it. He recalled Galathia's description of Zelas' intern; he was a strange one alright.
"Do you have any idea what this could be doing to the reputation of the dragon race?" Filia dramatized.
"Showing that the golden dragons are open minded beings willing to look beyond the superficial differences of race and ready to learn about a different culture." Phythan recited as if he was repeating something that someone else told him.
"It's good to know that the golden dragons are improving themselves. This is an example to follow, don't you think so Filia?" Xellos teased while Filia's face fell into distress and Phythan, who thought he was being sincerely complimented, smiled proudly.
"Well, I won't intrude anymore. C'mon Fang, Zelas is waiting for us to return." Before leaving, Phythan grinned cheerfully and voiced a happy, "congratulations, Filia."
Filia blinked in confusion, "congratulations for what?"
Ignoring the seemingly random congratulation, Xellos interrupted. "Before you leave, I need to have a word with you." He glanced at Filia, then looked back at Phythan, "out in the hall."
Filia crossed her arms and pouted, "what are you plotting Xellos?"
"Don't meddle this is a man to man, or dragon man to dragon man conversation." With that ambiguous excuse hanging in the air, Xellos was about to exit the room when Filia interrupted.
The female golden dragon pouted deeply and sharply declared, "you can talk here. Fang and I are going to my room. C'mon Fang, only dragon men are allowed to stay here." Throwing her head back in indignation, Filia marched out of the room, followed by Fang.
Once Filia was gone, Xellos asked the question that had been bothering him since he saw Phythan. "Do you, by any chance, perceive that peculiar scent coming from Filia?"
"Yes, that's why I congratulated her," Phythan answered as if that alone was enough to explain everything.
"What is that smell? Doesn't it bother you?" Xellos insisted. Phythan was a male golden dragon, so if this was some crazy mating season scent, shouldn't it drive him crazy too?
"Why would it?" Phythan looked confused. "It's the scent of a woman in love, it's a happy scent. It smells nice." There was a long pause during which Xellos tried to come up with another way to phrase his interrogations that wasn't mortifyingly embarrassing, but specific enough to get some useful information out of Phythan. Before such an idea came, Phythan realized something. "Oh, I get it, no wonder you're so twitchy, it's you. Don't hold back, go to her! Although you weren't a golden dragon before, so I guess you're not used to being one."
"I won't be a golden dragon forever, just for... a few more hours, or days." Xellos didn't know and the uncertainty bothered him more with each passing second. "Either way, what did you mean to say just now?" Xellos was visibly annoyed and not happy with having to have this conversation. Yet the need to understand what was happening plagued him.
Phythan paused as if to gather his thoughts, then began the explanation. "When a boy dragon and a girl dragon like each other and the girl dragon falls in love, her scent changes. All the dragons can notice the change, so they know the girl dragon is in love, but only the boy dragon that she fell in love with can perceive the scent of her love to its full potential and that's only if he returns her feelings. The two dragons in love are in a sense linked to each other you could say, they share a special connection, it's like magic. Anyway, when the boy dragon notices the scent of love that means that the girl dragon is ready to become his bride. The boy dragon should go to the girl dragon and declare his feelings for her. Then they can get married and live happily ever after. That's how it works, it's just like with birds and bees and other species."
Xellos could almost feel himself twitch. He could not believe that Phythan had just given him the dragon version of the birds and bees talk. "To summarize, it's an overload of bottled up lust." Mutual lust, but he didn't need to point that out aloud.
Phythan frowned in indignation, "golden dragons do not feel lust. Golden dragons fall in love and it's nice and pure and good," he emphasized.
"Right," Xellos decided not to dwell on the story too much. He would never understand golden dragons and their extreme obsession with pretending to be the purest creatures in the world, even if they were in the end, living beings with their own, often repressed due to their peculiar culture, needs, wants and desires. "That's all I needed to know." The conversation was over and Xellos wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'm glad to be of help," Phythan smiled with the smallest hint of teasing in his eyes.
Xellos and Phythan went to Filia's room, where she and Fang were. Upon entering the room, the monster turned dragon and the innocent dragon were left in shock. Fang whimpered and bolted towards the new arrivals, hiding behind them. "Filia, what have you done, you cruel dragon?" Xellos was half teasing and half sincerely horrified.
"Don't you think Fang looks cute like this?" Filia smiled proud of her work. A pink bow sat atop Fang's head, tied around a tuff of fur. His once white claws were a metallic silver color and each of his two tails had a big pink bow on it. "If he's getting ready for a pet show, I thought I could help. Zelas liked her manicure and pedicure when I painted her nails golden, so she might like Fang with silver claws. They match his pretty, expressive eyes. I thought the bows were a nice touch too."
"If you're trying to get on Lord Beast Master's good side, you're doing a fine job of sabotaging yourself," Xellos commented. He wasn't supposed to feel compassion, but how could he not feel sorry for Fang?
"Men don't understand fashion," Filia stubbornly held her ground. "I'm sure Zelas will appreciate my help."
"I guess we'll see..." Phythan patted Fang on the back with the silent promise that he could take off the pink bows as soon as they were away from Filia. Though he could be ferocious, Fang was mostly a spoiled show pet and was trained not to put up a fight when he was being groomed. The golden dragon intern and the monster fox faded to the astral side and were gone.
Xellos and Filia stood in silence for a few eternal seconds until Xellos determinedly announced, "I'm going to take a nap now." He left Filia's room and headed for his own. As expected, Filia followed him suspiciously.
In his room, Xellos kicked off his shoes and laid down on the bed. Maybe if Filia saw him fall asleep she would go away. Except sleeping with her around would prove to be very difficult. He closed his eyes and remained as still as a statue, wishing that sleep would come.
Filia watched Xellos with an unblinking expression. He was laying there with his eyes closed, but he didn't look or feel relaxed. He was too tense; he couldn't be actually trying to fall asleep for real. She stared at him some more, which seemed to put him more on edge. She was right; he had to be plotting something. No doubt about it, the second she left him alone, he would run off to cause trouble in the name of the golden dragons. She remained in the same position, glaring at Xellos for a while, until she got tired of it and shifted. More minutes ticked away and Filia shifted some more. It looked like stubborn Xellos was still not sleeping.
She sat down next to him and he tensed further. She waited until he moved, until he admitted that he had no intentions of falling asleep, but he didn't. Filia was getting impatient; she laid down next to Xellos, wrapped her arms around him and closed her eyes. "What are you doing?" He asked in a low tense whisper.
"Taking a nap," Filia replied as if it was the most natural thing. Taking a nap might have been natural, but taking a nap hugging a monster, even if he was currently a golden dragon, shouldn't be. "I'm tired of waiting for you to try to sneak away. This way if you move, I'll notice. I'm guarding you for the sake of the golden dragons!"
"How noble," Xellos grumbled sarcastically. He wondered for how long a golden dragon could go without oxygen. If he held his breath until his face turned blue, than maybe he wouldn't have to breathe in that vexing scent that was too close for comfort.
A few more minutes passed and Filia was getting a little two comfortable, yet she could still feel Xellos on edge. What was it that had him like that? Suddenly, she found herself pinned to the bed with Xellos giving her a peculiar look of... desire? "What are you doing?"
"Didn't I tell you?" Xellos half growled. "You smell, your scent is... is... it's driving me crazy!"
Filia opened her mouth to speak and promptly closed it again. She was given Xellos exclusive empathy, but not understanding, not the power to interpret what she sensed. Furthermore, she had no previous experience in tasting emotions like Xellos did, thus she was having trouble discerning Xellos' feelings from her own. Maybe that unbearably strong attraction wasn't only hers, maybe it was his too. Yet he didn't have as much control over the strong instincts of a dragon because he wasn't used to being a dragon. She blushed scarlet. She couldn't deny that she was attracted to him when, due to his current form, he could perceive her telltale natural scent. She couldn't blame it all on him when she felt the same way.
"Just calm down." Filia's heart was pounding fast. A male golden dragon shouldn't be able to perceive a female's scent so strongly unless he returned her feelings. After she realized that the golden dragons were not as noble as they claimed to be, Filia questioned all their teachings one by one. She wondered if that story about the scent of love was nothing but a sugar coated version of the natural processes of life. Yet she had recently spoken to Phythan and he was just fine, he even congratulated her. He must have been able to notice her scent, but it didn't bother him. Xellos on the other hand had been all twitchy and tense from the start. That couldn't be only a coincidence, could it? Maybe there was some truth to that story about dragons and love after all. But then that would mean that Xellos had feelings for her, feelings that maybe he wasn't fully aware of himself.
"Easier said than done," Xellos admitted.
Filia could feel Xellos' warmth breath on her lips. She wanted to kiss him, but she couldn't. Xellos had told her before that monsters were not meant to resist temptations, he made it clear that he had no intentions of resisting. She had to be the one to keep a cool head and diffuse the situation, even if she didn't really want to, she simply had to. "Hold your breath, close your eyes and don't move." Slowly, excruciatingly slowly, Filia manage to slip away. "I... I'll leave you alone now. Just try to sleep it off," she advised with a crimson face, then swiftly exited Xellos' room, closing the door behind her.
The second Filia was out of sight, Xellos felt the irresistible need to go after her, but he resisted it anyway. Why was he resisting again? She was just about to give in and both of them knew it! There was a reason why nothing had happened and he needed to make sure he didn't push things. What was that reason? The reason he was in this whole situation to begin with. Oh yes, the curse, how could he forget about that? Once his temporary dragon form was gone, he would be a human again. He needed to earn Filia's love, as in not just her lust, in order to be a powerful monster again or he would surely be killed, probably sooner rather than later. He couldn't make her angry, or rather angrier.
Filia would harbor regrets, blame the whole incident on him and hate him with a passion, but passionate or not, hate was still a step away from love and it was evident that it wouldn't be enough to break his curse. Xellos buried his face on his purple pillow in frustration, screaming into it. The pillow smelled like Filia, it was most vexing. Then he felt something odd. Unlike before, he wasn't knocked out this time, but he felt himself change. His golden scaly dragon tail was gone, though the hole in his pants where it used to be still remained. He examined his hair and it was black, he was a human again!
Xellos knew he shouldn't be able to perceive that infuriating scent of Filia's anymore. He smelled his pillow. The acute scent of a female dragon in love was gone, but Filia's sweet scent was still there. It was okay, this was a normal scent, it was how she had always smelled to him. Then why wasn't he calming down already? Maybe it took time. He would take a nap and feel better when he woke up. He closed his eyes and stayed still, hoping for sleep to overtake him, but it refused to come.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 050: Love! Undeniable Emotions
At the moment, according to Filia, everything that went wrong in the world was Xellos fault. Xellos, the most infuriating living creature in the universe, the one who turned her world upside-down and made her throw all logic out the window. The golden dragons had to be wrong about their naive theories of love, they simply had to be. It made a lot more sense for the ancient traditions to be a bunch of lies than for her to be loved by Xellos, consciously or not. It was just lust and Filia was a golden dragon, she couldn't be influenced with only that, she refused to be.
The door to her room was quietly opened, though it wasn't silent enough to be constituted as sneaking. The person invading her Seyruun quarters was purposely making his arrival known as he joined her by the window. "What are you staring at out there?" Xellos casually inquired.
"Nothing," Filia truthfully answered and moved on to more important observations. "Your hair is black and your tail is gone. You're human again," she concluded.
"Yes," Xellos never did manage to get any sleep, but he did calm down in time. By then dinner had passed. Not the double banquet, that had been set up for the next day, though Filia observed that Philionel looked nervous upon the announcement and he did emphasize the word maybe. Xellos had been absent from the dinner table, instead taking a detour to the kitchen before going over to see Filia. He needed a full stomach to have the energy to argue with her. Lina would probably be angry if she found out he ate the last pie, but she didn't need to know.
Filia remained silent. She was simply too confused to get into an argument with Xellos at the moment. At least he was sane again... mostly... if randomly kissing her out of nowhere could be counted as sane. "Xellos!" Filia fixed him in a firm glare. She could tell the difference though, this wasn't the crazy Xellos from when his dragon form was troubling him, this was the cool, calm and collected Xellos who was always in control of every situation. He was the Xellos that knew exactly what to do to push her over the edge. The Xellos who made her hate him with a passion one second and kiss him passionately the next. This was her Xellos... Wait, where did such a terrible thought come from? He wasn't her anything!
Filia needed to focus. She needed to find the malicious cruel intent that she knew was lurking in Xellos. She needed to get a good feel for it and convince herself beyond a doubt that he was pure evil and that nothing but the most painful of heartbreaks awaited her if she didn't kill her feelings for him soon. "Could you..." How could she properly phrase it? Could you quit pretending you like me and show me all the horrible thoughts about how terrible you're planning to be to me? No, that was too specific. Yet she had no patience left to be anything other than direct. "Focus on being evil."
"What?" Of all of Filia's random strange requests, this one was definitely the most unexpected. She was so full of surprises; it made her unpredictable and strangely addictive.
"Humor me," she insisted. "Just focus on being evil. Think of something traitorous. Imagine that Zelas ordered you to exterminate all the remaining golden dragons in the world. Picture that."
"Okay..." Xellos gave Filia a look that clearly communicated he thought she was insane, but humored her none the less. He remembered his previous mission involving the destruction of many golden dragons several years ago and used that as a reference to imagine this new mission that Filia proposed.
Filia shuddered; there was cruelty and an absolute lack of mercy. Then the initial reaction wore off and she felt no fear. "You're not doing it right, you're murderous and I'm not scared."
"Maybe because this is only an imaginary mission?" Xellos suggested. "Besides, why do you want to be scared?"
"I don't, I just want the truth," Filia argued nonsensically. "Now do what I say and focus on killing me, in your imagination that is."
The strange suggestion triggered memories from when Lord Beast Master ordered Xellos to kill Filia. Those were unpleasant memories. He was completely at Zelas command; Xellos knew it and he accepted it. It didn't really bother him most of the time, except for those rare occasions when he was stuck doing something he didn't want to do.
"Don't get sad, you're supposed to be a vicious monster!" Filia scolded.
Xellos ran a hand through his hair in exasperation, "I really don't know where you're going with any of this, Filia. Yes, I killed a lot of golden dragons in the past, and yes, I might have to do something like that again in the future, though I can't imagine why Lord Beast Master would give me such an order any time soon. If this is some strange tactic you're using to try to guilt trip me, then it's not going to work. I know you're a wimp who seems to care about every living creature under the sun, but I'm not. Those dragons were nothing to me."
"Just like I'm nothing to you..." Filia whispered, though she was still not convinced. Her logic was telling her one thing while her empathy sang a whole different melody.
A theory to explain Filia's random behavior emerged in Xellos' mind. "I see, so that's it. You're angry at me because I was going to Dragon Slave you back at the Beast Master Spa. I didn't have a choice! Zelas ordered me to kill you and if I didn't she would have killed us both, very painfully. Giving you a swift painless death was all I could do for you back then. If you would put that one and only brain cell of yours to work, you would understand that! Idiot dragon, what did you want me to do? Say let's be tortured and die slowly, agonizing together? You were the one who told me to do it! I thought you understood the situation!"
Filia stared at Xellos through his entire outburst until he fell silent giving her a frustrated glare. The sorrow she had seen in his eyes when he began to cast the Dragon Slave resurfaced. She could feel it now, as it was recorded in his memories, it was as if he was reliving the moment. He was right and she knew it, back then he was giving her the only mercy he could possibly give her. She wouldn't have wanted him to fall with her; that had been her biggest fear. She felt cruel for making him remember that frustrating helplessness. "What would you have done after I was gone?"
"I don't know," frankly Xellos was sick and tired of this topic. "Continue looking for a cure I suppose, a disposable cure I could use and throw away." She didn't understand the meaning behind those words or the contrast they presented. "Maybe I wouldn't even find it, a cure such as the one I need is... extremely rare, more so than I initially thought. Maybe it's even impossible to obtain." He thought Filia would be an easy shortcut, but she wasn't. "Then again, maybe I'm just as stubborn as you are for taking this route, for all I know; there could be far easier possibilities out there."
He knew much more about his cure than he hinted at. Maybe he knew enough to find it on his own, or perhaps it was something that he had to do alone. He hadn't really revealed the specifics about his mysterious cure in all this time since his curse was revealed to the group. "Why don't you take an easier route then? I think you've made it clear that you really want your monster powers back. Furthermore, you need to be a monster or Zelas will kill you. What are you waiting for? Get your cure and get out of my life!"
Xellos gave Filia an interesting look, the way she said that last part almost made it sound as if she knew. How could she? "Do you know what my cure is?"
"I don't," Filia replied truthfully. "You've always kept it a secret. Why won't you tell me?" He kissed her in a silent reply. She considered pushing him away, but she simply didn't have the will to do it. They parted several minutes later. Though her thoughts were not as focused anymore, Filia wasn't going to let things go. "Don't try to change the subject. Why won't you tell me what your cure is?"
"It's not something I have to look for, it's something I have to... achieve, figure out. I think it will only count if I do it myself, it's the only way it would be... genuine," Xellos vaguely explained.
"I see," Filia accepted the answer, "then I won't ask you to tell me anymore, for now at least. I suppose I'll know it when I see it happening. What are you going to do after you're cured?"
"I'm sure Lord Beast Master has a huge pile of assignments waiting for me." Xellos grimaced just thinking about how busy he would be. Some missions were fun, most of them amused him, actually, but not when he had a dragon pet to play with. Zelas kept dragons as pets, sort of. Rather than an intern, Phythan was no doubt a pet from Zelas' perspective and Tiffany was kind of a pet too. Maybe he could say the same about Filia, then it wouldn't be odd if he popped up for a visit far more often than ever before. "When I'm done with work, I'll be sure to get back at you for being so random and annoying. You better be ready for some frequent visits and don't try to hide because you know I'll find you." He joked trying to add some of his usual sarcastic mockery to a situation that was too serious for his liking.
"Why don't I feel disregarded, used or betrayed?" Filia thought aloud.
"Maybe because no one in the immediate time and place is disregarding, using or betraying you?" Xellos suggested. Then again, wasn't he using her as a cure? Well, yes, technically he was. Yet accepting some survival assistance from Filia without her knowing she was assisting him, given the fact that she did want him to live, didn't seem like something particularly traitorous. It's not like it was counterproductive to her purposes. As for being disregarded, haven't they been spending a lot of time together lately?
"I see..." Filia allowed everything to sink in. She had hit a wall trying to get her way with her heart a long time ago. Then when she finally tore that wall of impossibilities down, she found that the other side of it was exactly the same as the side where she stood. The so called lies, the truth, the perceptions, the possibilities, the hope, the plan, it was all too similar. He couldn't care less about the dragon race as a whole, but she was different. He would keep her safe if it was within his power to do so and it would deeply hurt him if it wasn't. She couldn't explain it, yet if she had changed so much, then maybe so had he. "I give up on being stubborn. I'll trust what I feel... what you feel."
"What do you... mean? ...Filia?" Something changed in her and it was too sudden, too powerful. His empathic abilities were overwhelmed. What was this deep affection that was unleashed? Where did it come from? Was she hiding it all along? "What did you do just now?" It was so strong it was almost frightening, yet trilling and irresistible.
"That's right, you're an empath. You can sense what I feel. All my stubborn confusion must have been stressing," Filia admitted. She loved Xellos and she wasn't trying to change that anymore. Instead, she embraced it. "I'm not running away anymore, I love you." She kissed him before he could voice any reaction to the revelation and from that point on, they didn't hold back.
xoxox xox xoxox
A loud insistent knocking on the door woke Xellos and Filia from their comfortable sleep the next morning. The knocking was followed by the insistent voice of Lina Inverse. "Filia, Xellos, hurry and get up! Phil doesn't want us to start eating breakfast until everyone is at the table. He said he had to tell us something and won't let us start eating until he does! Get over here, I'm hungry!" More knocking followed, a little more and she would tare down the door. She probably already would have if it was a flimsy inn door rather than a sturdy Seyruun castle door.
"We're coming!" Filia called out, then covered her mouth in realization. She didn't mean to use a plural.
"Hurry up!" Lina insisted one last time, before her footsteps echoed down the hall as she marched away in a stomping fashion.
"You just messed up your chance to keep it all a secret," Xellos teased.
Filia, who honestly wasn't in the mood to get up yet, laid her head back down on his chest and closed her eyes for a few more seconds. Her tail had come out at some point during last night and she never bothered making it disappear, it was currently wrapped around Xellos. "It doesn't matter. It couldn't have been a secret forever anyway. Besides, if I said, let's keep this a secret, you would just blackmail me."
"Maybe you know me better than I imagine," Xellos grinned.
Filia's empathy was gone; it had worn off at some point after she fell asleep. At least she got to keep it for most of the previous night, that certainly made things interesting and insightful. The ability that Filia had once thought was flawed, because she didn't sense what she expected, had become a source of security for her after she completely let go of the broken pieces of her denial. It was okay though, maybe she didn't need that ability anymore. Maybe she should just keep practicing reading between the lines and figuring out the difference between what Xellos said and what he meant. To look beyond what he appeared to be doing and catch a glimpse of what he actually intended to do.
"Let's join the others for breakfast before Lina breaks down the door and drags us to the table." Filia suggested, finally making herself get untangled from Xellos and out of bed. She was tempted to take the sheet with her, but Xellos ripped it out of her hands, "Xellos!" She instinctively tried to cover herself with her hands and tail.
"What?" He feigned innocence as if he had no idea what he did to provoke the annoyed tone in Filia's voice.
"Nothing," Filia decided it was best to just get dressed and not mind Xellos too much. There was nothing new to see anyway. She still dressed in record breaking time, even if she felt a little silly for rushing so much. She glanced at Xellos, who was still only half dressed. "I clawed you again, didn't I?" She admitted, more so than inquired, with a certain amount of embarrassment in her apparent lack of control. Her face was flustered at the memories from the previous night.
"It's okay, I caused it," Xellos seductively admitted, which made Filia blush deeper.
"Either way, let me heal you," said and done, Filia casted a recovery spell on Xellos.
Something was off, something was definitely very out of place, something made no sense what so ever. His hair was still black, his body still human. Distractions aside, the realization hit Xellos like a ton of bricks. Why wasn't he a monster? Why wasn't the curse broken? Filia claimed to love him and kissed him immediately after. That was basically the best example of a willing kiss and there was a lot more than just kissing afterwards. He decided not to let things get to him yet. No one ever said the curse would be broken immediately. Maybe it took a little more time or maybe there was some kind of loophole that he still remained unaware of. Whatever it was, he had a feeling that Zelas' patience was at its end, so he better turn back into a monster soon.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos and Filia joined Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Philionel at the breakfast table. "Finally!" Lina loudly exclaimed and immediately picked up her silverware.
"Miss Lina!" Philionel scolded, making the redhead freeze. "I must insist that you listen to what I have to say before you begin eating."
Lina frowned and put down the silverware, she didn't want to upset Phil into canceling the double banquet. That would be horrible. She just kept focusing on the banquet being tonight. "I'm listening," she prompted impatiently.
"Thank you," Philionel nodded formally and cleared his throat. "I'll keep this short and to the point."
"Please do," Lina muttered in a barely audible tone.
Philionel continued as if he had not heard Lina. "As I'm sure you are all aware, helping each other is a vital part of building a better world. As the crown prince of Seyruun, it is my duty to teach such a lesson to my people with the example." Amelia's eyes shone in admiration as she listened to her father's speech. "Our neighbors from the outer world are suffering the effects of a bad harvest. The spring crops were scarce and the summer crops almost non-existent. As a result of the dying vegetation, the livestock has also been severely affected. Their land is being hit by a terrible famine and one farmer after another has been forced to sell or even abandon their land to try to earn sustenance for their family elsewhere. We who have the privilege of sitting at the table with all this delicious food before us must give thanks for our blessing."
"Amen!" Lina exclaimed and once again attempted to begin eating.
"I'm not done yet!" Philionel insisted and once again Lina paused. "It is my duty not only as the acting monarch of Seyruun, but also as a living being," because to say human being was considered politically incorrect these days, "to give help to those who are in need. In light of the situation, I have made the choice to postpone the promised double banquet until further notice, so that Seyruun will have more food to share with those who are in need of it."
Amelia wiped an inspired tear from her eye, "that was such a moving speech, daddy, I'm with you all the way!"
"What?" Lina's furious voice echoed all over Seyruun castle and beyond. "You're giving away my double banquet to a bunch of strangers? Unacceptable! Isn't celebrating the engagement of your own daughter and dear friends, to whom you owe your life may I remind you, more important? You made a promise as the ruler of Seyruun to give me a double banquet and you must keep that promise!" Lina was now standing on her chair in absolute fury.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 051: Perseverance! A New Mission
Lina Inverse was pissed off and the waves of energy radiating off her were terrifying. She stood on her chair at the breakfast table of Seyruun castle in the company of Philionel, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia. Her breakfast was growing cold on the table, but she was too angry to enjoy it, as Philionel had announced that the promised double banquet that was supposed to take place that night had been postponed for an undefined period of time.
Philionel lowered his head submissively, "you have my most sincere apologies, but my decision stands." He raised his head, meeting Lina's deadly challenging glare. "I will keep my promise of a double banquet; in fact I'll make it a triple banquet! However, that can only be done when the food is plentiful for everyone. We must not allow anyone to starve because of our own selfish gluttony!"
Lina hopped down from her chair, sat down and began to eat breakfast. Given where she was going, this might be her last decent meal for a while. "Stop staring at me and finish your breakfast everyone. If you don't want it, just pass it over to me. We're leaving as soon as I'm done!"
"We are?" Zelgadis questioned, Lina was speaking in her leader voice that dictated that the whole group had to tag along with her.
"That's right, we're going over to those farm lands and finding out what's wrong. Look, we have a dragon with us and she knows holy magic." Lina pointed at Filia with her fork, before moving it to catch another piece of syrup covered pancake. "We have a white magic expert shrine maiden too." She lifted her glass of orange juice towards Amelia before taking a big drink. "If they bless the land or something, the bad crops might be fixed. A famine is my worse nightmare and I won't let it spread. If Seyruun keeps donating its food, there won't be any left for my triple banquet and I want to have it as soon as possible!"
"Miss Lina, I knew you had a good heart!" Amelia cheered adoringly. "Let us all embark on a journey of loving kindness to help the people who are suffering from the famine! With the power of justice, we shall heal the farm lands!"
Xellos was not currently a monster, thus not affected in a negative way by the positive emotions, but he still found Amelia's determination to be very creepy. "I'm skipping out and staying here."
"I'm going," Filia assured; if Xellos thought he could distract her from the noble mission placed before her, he was very wrong.
"Both your bodyguard and your lover are going, are you sure you want to stay behind, Xellos?" Gourry innocently inquired.
Filia's face turned scarlet, "must you refer to me as Xellos' lover?"
"Lina said you are," Gourry calmly pointed out. "When you were late for breakfast she said that 'the lovers' will be here soon and that she would make sure of it. Then she stormed off to find you."
Filia gave Lina a distressed look, which the redhead disregarded. "What? It's not like I lied."
Xellos interrupted after giving the situation some additional thought. "Fine, I'm going too, but I'm not helping, I have my principals." He better stick close to Filia, just in case it was somehow required for his cure to finally take effect. Plus having Lina's power to back him up in case of an emergency was a convenient aspect too.
"Just don't cause any trouble," Filia warned, "I mean it, Xellos, I don't expect you to help, but don't mess this up!"
Xellos rolled his eyes, "how can I? Isn't the harvest, or lack thereof, already as messed up as it can get?"
"You have your ways of making a bigger mess of things and we all know it." Filia gave Xellos an intense look. "I'll be keeping my eyes on you."
"And your hands too, I'll bet," Xellos teased with a wink.
Filia's blush deepened as she muttered something that sounded to be along the lines of "stupid piece of raw garbage."
"Before I forget," Philionel pointed out an envelope that had been placed next to Lina's plate. "That letter was brought while you were reminding our guests about the importance of being punctual to a meal." Phil eyed Xellos and Filia as he mentioned it. Lina might have been selfish, but anyone could count on her to show up on time, or even early, to a meal. "Since you were away, it was left there for you."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll read it later. Can I continue eating without interruptions now?" Lina glanced at the envelope in mild curiosity and caught sight of the return address. "Luna!" She shrieked at the top of her lungs, before instinctively diving under the table. Feeling rather ridiculous, Lina crawled out from her hiding place, sat down and tried to compose herself. Luna wasn't hiding inside the envelope of her last letter, so there was no reason for her to be in this one. Taking a deep breath, Lina reached for the envelope with shaking hands. Gourry placed his hand on Lina's shoulder and nodded encouragingly. Lina glanced at him and nodded back in appreciation for the moral support. She opened the envelope and read the letter inside. "Dear Lina, Our parents and I wish to meet your fiance, Mr. Gourry Gabriev. Please come visit us as soon as possible. Love, Luna." In shock, Lina slowly turned her head towards Gourry, "Luna wants to meet you."
Gourry nodded, "I know, I heard you reading the letter." His carefree smile hinted that he had no idea what he was getting into. "I'll make sure to give your family a good impression."
Lina just stared at him. He was a fool for not knowing what horrible doom awaited him, but he was also very brave. "You have no idea..."
"I'll face anything for you," Gourry spoke in his usual casual and carefree tone.
Yet Lina blushed scarlet anyway. "Thanks Gourry. Then it's settled, we'll stop by my home village, then go on our mission. I don't want to risk testing Luna's patience. Besides, if we're on an important mission, then we'll have a good excuse to leave if things get dangerous."
xoxox xox xoxox
After Lina devoured her breakfast and predictably attempted to devour everyone else's breakfast, managing to steal quite a bit, the group left Seyruun. Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia were on the road again on a brand new mission. Lina had offered to deliver Seyruun's good will in the form of food supplies, but Philionel wisely declined her offer and said he would send the food transports along later.
The atmosphere was generally quiet aside from Lina's grumbling about her Luna related fears. Gourry occasionally gave her a friendly pat on the back. While the action didn't make Lina quiet down completely, it did reassure her enough not to go into a full panic as if she saw a slug.
Xellos appeared to be in deep frustrated thought if his expression was any indication. He had fallen a little behind from the rest of the group. Filia slowed her pace to walk beside him. "What are you plotting?" She glared critically.
"Nothing," Xellos sounded more exasperated than Filia expected.
She examined him carefully. "Something is seriously bothering you," Filia correctly concluded. "What is it?"
"It's nothing," Xellos insisted.
"It has to be something!" Filia argued adamantly, her glare intensified and she had her hands on her hips. "If you would just tell me, maybe I could help!"
Xellos had enough. He was still cursed and it made no sense. He would give this one last try, "do you love me?"
Filia blushed at the sudden question, then eyed Xellos critically, "is that some kind of trick question? If you're planning to say something along the lines of 'if you truly love me, you'll help me sabotage the mission' then don't bother! I love you, but innocent people shouldn't have to suffer for it."
Xellos looked into Filia's eyes with sharp determination. "Kiss me," he ordered firmly, which made the crimson blush on her face become brighter. Then he rephrased the request to sound less like an order, forcing a softer tone. "Only if you want to, no pressure."
Filia didn't understand. Xellos' strange behavior had 'trap' written all over it. Yet if she tried to avoid it, she would probably fall straight into it. Maybe the best way to disable this trap was to trigger it and diffuse it after she knew what she was dealing with. They had stopped walking and the others were further ahead on the path. Filia looked left and right, no one was coming and Xellos' request did sound rather pleasant. "I want to..." She wrapped her arms around him comfortably and kissed him, slowly, lovingly. He wasn't doing anything; she parted and gave him a puzzled look. "Xellos?"
"Again..." She kissed him again, more passionately until he started to respond. She wasn't sure what he was waiting for before. When they parted, his conclusion took her by surprise. "You don't love me..."
"Excuse me?" Filia was instantly fuming with indignation. "Are you trying to say I'm a bad kisser?" This had to be Xellos and his stupid criticism. She didn't believe he was sharing a serious conclusion, because she did love him and she was sure of it. She had spent a long time trying to make it otherwise, but she simply couldn't.
"It shouldn't take this long, I should be able to sense at least the beginning of my recovery, but this stupid curse is still firmly in place!" Xellos had enough; he was frustrated, angry and ready to lose his temper dealing with that infuriating curse. "No matter how hard I try, I can't think of any loopholes, it doesn't make sense." This was what humans would call harshly broken hope. "There's only one possible explanation, you think you love me but you don't." If Filia's deep affection wasn't love, then how much could possibly be needed for it to be? Her strong emotions were overwhelming as it was, what more did she have that she wasn't giving? "Maybe there's just no such a thing as love."
Filia stared at Xellos with growing dread. "What are you going on about? I don't understand."
"My cure is the willing kiss of a golden dragon," Xellos finally revealed. "You told me before that a willing kiss was a kiss of love, but I'm still cursed."
Filia could already feel tears running down her face, "you used me. All you wanted was to free yourself of your curse, all you wanted was a cure. You horrible piece of raw garbage, you never cared about my feelings! I hate you!" She slapped him hard enough to throw him on the ground, given that this was a dragon to human slap rather than a human to human slap. Then she ran ahead with full intentions of running past the others and not stopping until her legs could no longer move from exhaustion.
xoxox xox xoxox
The rest of the way to the next town on their journey to Lina's home village was quite unpleasant for Xellos. Not only was he terribly frustrated with his curse, but also immensely confused. According to his empathy, the facts that had happened and his common sense, Filia in theory loved him, but apparently she didn't truly love him, because he was still curse. It felt like she was giving him everything she had, but that wasn't enough.
As if his inner turmoil of angry frustration wasn't enough, Lina, Amelia and even Zelgadis and Gourry, kept pestering Xellos about what he did to upset Filia. They had been walking ahead of the quarreling pair and only caught the loudest offended remarks from Filia, missing Xellos' explanation about his curse and its elusive cure. Needless to say, Xellos was not in the mood to discuss the matters, so his silence let to a lot of tension in the group.
They eventually arrived at an inn after taking a detour at a restaurant. At the inn, they saw Filia's name in the big book of guest signatures as they checked in. The five travelers went to their respective rooms with Amelia being the first to venture out to try to knock on Filia's door. "Miss Filia, may I speak to you."
"I want to be alone!" Filia's voice was strong and determined, yet extremely sorrowful and empty. She really wasn't in the mood to be consoled.
Noticing Lina curiously peeking down the hall, Amelia shook her head. "Whenever you're ready, you know we're here to listen." The princess decided to give the golden dragon some space, making sure to glare daggers at Xellos' door on her way to her own room.
Once everyone had retired and had no obvious intentions of coming out of their rooms until morning, Xellos set out to see Filia himself. There was a very annoying sensation akin to guilt that was bothering him terribly. He stood in front of Filia's door and considered knocking, but decided against it and tried to open it. Predictably, the door was locked. "Filia?"
Proving that she was still awake, Filia replied to the familiar voice with a fierce, "get lost, you piece of raw garbage!"
Xellos knew that insisting at Filia's door would get him no where and he didn't want to talk to her from out in the hall. He made his way outside and around the inn building until he spotted what he calculated to be Filia's window, which was conveniently open. He levitated towards it and let himself in. "For how long are you planning to be mad at me?"
Filia jumped to her feet from her previous position face down on her pillow. "Forever!" She screeched furiously.
"Be reasonable, Filia. You can't blame me for stating the facts as they are," Xellos argued with a certain cutting edge to his voice. "Quit tricking yourself into believing you're heart broken, because you can't be heart broken without having been in love. It's true that I only wanted my cure," in the beginning, he added in his private thoughts. "But I didn't go around claiming that I was in love with you, did I? It was the other way around and it was a lie. The curse is proof of it, so don't even try to argue about it."
"You idiot! You tricked me!" Filia retorted. "I thought you cared about me; I felt you cared about me, I felt you loved me!"
Xellos knew that arguing with Filia was difficult, especially when she was upset, but he was determined to make her see the logic of his argument. "You're not even an empath. You can't claim I tricked you with false feelings, because you can't tell what I'm feeling, but I can."
"If you're such a talented empath, then you should know what I'm feeling right now, what I felt back then, you should know!" Filia threw the argument back at him.
"I do know," Xellos retorted, the volume of his voice escalating to match her loudness. "I know you care about me, I never said I believed you didn't, but it's not love and it's not enough."
"Hypocrite!" Filia shouted. "During the time that you were a dragon and for a little while after, I was an empath. It's gone now, but I had the ability long enough, or so I thought. The pearl granted my wish too, though it was only your feelings that I could sense. I thought you loved me, but you tricked me."
She was an empath? That was news to Xellos, rather embarrassing news he had to admit. That meant that she knew of all his debate and confusion and about how overwhelming her rush of love, or rather affection that wasn't quite love, was to him. "Stupid dragon, how can I trick you by using your empathy against you if I didn't even know you had it? This is all news to me!"
Filia was sick and tired of arguing with Xellos, she was sick and tired of looking at him, of hearing him, she had enough of everything concerning him. She was angry and hurt, she wanted him gone. Filia dried her tears as best she could and tried to retain a serious expression. "Put your one and only brain cell to work, Xellos." She spoke in a serious, almost threatening tone, her dragon fangs peeking out of her mouth, eyes dangerously narrowed. "Have you ever stopped to think that true love is mutual? You keep stupidly blaming it on me, claiming that I don't care enough, but it's all your fault. I'm not saying you don't care about me at all." She mimicked the mocking tone he often took with her when teasing her in hopes of bringing her embarrassment, adding a cold edge to it. "I'm just saying that you don't care enough."
Xellos remained silent; he couldn't come up with a counter argument for that. Filia looked bitterly victorious as one who has taken revenge and found little satisfaction in it. She turned around and walked out the door. She didn't feel like sleeping anymore and she was sure there had to be ice-cream in the inn's icebox. She didn't care if the snack bar was closed; she was taking that ice-cream and spending the night eating it on some rooftop somewhere.
What if Filia was right? Xellos couldn't deny the fact that he was attracted to her and he had developed an unnerving attachment to her that could be called affection, but was it love? Could it be? He didn't like the idea, it was unnatural for a monster to love and regardless of the fact that he was stuck in a human body, he was still the same Xellos on the inside, the same living being with the same mind. Even so, if he was going to stay alive and glue the broken pieces of his existence back together into something that vaguely resembled logic, he would have to love her. Perhaps he was his own worse enemy in that department, being too guarded and resistant, trying to stay in control of his thoughts and reactions.
What about what Filia sensed? She had believed him to be in love. Maybe that love thing was a construct of the mind to define a collection of emotions and attitudes, rather than being one emotion on its own. Maybe it only truly became the thing known as love when it was accepted and embraced; believed. Maybe Xellos was doomed to died a hopeless death at the claws of a monster lord whose patience had ran out. It was that, or figure out a way to crush his own defenses and make himself vulnerable to the horrifying thing called love. Celo wasn't kidding when he spoke those words of warning. 'The cure will bring you to your weakest state before freeing you from the curse...'
To be Continued