Onyx ran into battle, charging a spell in her hands, pushing it out with her very life. "Wind, crimson flame..." Her heart pounded, her blood vessels were just about ready to pop with the pressure, her head vibrating painfully as her every cell was torn apart. "Grant the power of thunder to my hand..." Her skin became fractured with tiny cuts that slowly grew larger as her energy fought to manifest itself out of her fragile mortal vessel. "Dig Volt!" She finally reached the black sand spider, delivering a fatal hit that disintegrated the creature and released the injured Phythan. Yet the blow was also fatal for Onyx, her motionless blood covered body collapsing to the ground.
"Miss Onyx!" Phythan called out in agony. "Miss Onyx, please be alive!" What could he do now? He wasn't supposed to heal her with magic, she had an adverse reaction to it that could kill her, but if she wasn't healed she would die anyway. "I'm going to try to heal you, there's no choice, please endure it!" He attempted a Resurrection spell, causing no effect at first, the energy was absorbed, but her injuries remained the same as if they couldn't get worse.
Then Onyx's eyes suddenly opened. "I remember," she whispered. "I hated my life. I did not wish for my power to be manipulated, I did not want to work for a cause that meant nothing to me. I didn't want to be controlled. I got my wish; my power could not be controlled, not even by me. I was in pain, I wanted to forget it and I did. I wanted to change and I hated the change. I wanted all that held me back to disappear and when my wish came true it was sorrowful. I journeyed and was close to death, I wanted to forget again. My memories were sealed and my body nursed back to health. I begged Ceifeed to help me. I wished for mercy when I should have fought for freedom. It's over now..."
"No, Miss Onyx, you can't die!" Phythan panicked.
"Quiet, idiot," Onyx growled with less energy than the remark would have received had she not been on the verge of death. "Maybe it was simply because I kept asking for it so constantly..." She closed her eyes and remained silent.
"Miss Onyx? Onyx... Onyx!" Phythan tried his healing magic again, but it held no effect. "This is all my fault... Onyx is gone because of me! I'm so sorry, I'll exchange my life for yours. I should have been the one to die today, not you..."
Unexpectedly, Onyx's body began to glow, her wounds healing themselves and her ears becoming long and pointy. She woke up once again, exhausted, but very much alive and healed. "Quit crying, idiot, I'm finally free of that curse."
"Onyx!" Phythan was certainly happy that Onyx was alive, though he didn't understand how. "Curse? What curse? What's going on?"
"They'll all want answers," Onyx concluded. "I'll tell you when we get back." She slowly got to her feet, tired but at least able to walk. "Heal yourself, stupid."
"Huh? Oh yeah, I almost forgot about my own injuries," Phythan finished his healing and stood next to Onyx, finally noting his problem. "Um... they're going to get mad at me if I show up like this, aren't they?" Onyx took off her cloak and tossed it at Phythan, who had stupidly burned his own clothes when he set himself on fire because of his spider phobia.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos and Filia had finally reached the end of the sandy tunnel and not a moment too soon. Though there was sand on the chamber containing the vault, at least there was a solid floor of beige colored blocks beneath it, with a matching ceiling and walls. The so called vault was not one in the traditional sense. It was instead a force field, shaped like a glass box that contained a stone block, on top of which there was an old red book, it's covered tattered and worn.
"Great, looks like it still has a force field around it. The keys must not be in place yet." Xellos reached out to touch the glass box with caution and it disappeared the second he made contact with it, reappearing when he pulled back his hand. "Or maybe the keys are in place after all," he concluded.
The shield around the book was a relatively simple spell since Celo didn't think a thief would be able to get that far undetected anyway. The force field opened to anyone whom Celo authorized to use the book, being an incantation that was constantly linked to the caster. Aside from getting Celo's permission to use the book, the only other way to bring down the force field would be to kill him.
Xellos examined the book, flipping through the pages, searching for the right spell. The symbols represented an ancient language. He wasn't exactly fluent, but he knew enough to make a decent interpretation. "Potentia, pura amor, vera basium, basiamini, salutes, vitae, nostra corda, iungitis, nego finis, aeterna!" The spell could be roughly translated to 'power, pure love, true kiss, to kiss, health, life, our hearts, union, no end, eternal.' There was no brilliant flash of light or any indication at all that anything had happened. Maybe knowing the basics wasn't enough to cast this spell. "It didn't work?"
"Let's find out," Filia concluded that there was only one way to know for sure if the spell had worked or not. They kissed, focusing on that and allowing themselves to get carried away. Again there were no flashes of light or any outside indication at all that it had worked, yet they knew it had. "I'm okay now," Filia smiled feeling full of energy, her fever and exhaustion completely gone. "I'm healed."
"It's about time, stupid dragon!" Now all that was left to do was to break Xellos' curse.
Yet there was still a lot that was unknown to Filia about his curse. "Xellos, how did you get cursed in the first place and why?"
It was then that Xellos realized he had never gotten around to tell anyone the full story, though the whole group was aware of his curse and its nature as far as he interpreted it. "That is a secret," he replied, just to annoy Filia with his classic line.
"Oh come on, you can tell me! Or is that really another technicality of the curse? Not being able to tell anyone about it?" There were certain curses that were made harder to deal with by forced secrecy. "Kind of like how that girl was cursed into becoming an old lady far earlier than her time and though she was traveling with a wizard for a while, she couldn't actually tell him what was wrong. But things worked out in the end, she recovered and they fell in love."
"Have you met them before?" Xellos curiously inquired, he recognized the story as belonging to some of his many acquaintances.
"Not really, but a boy once came to town and I heard rumors that he was the wizard's apprentice, he bought a vase and had it gift wrapped," Filia recalled. She got all sorts of interesting customers in her shop. "I heard they had some kind of moving castle, but a monster ally of theirs keeps it hidden in the astral side, so no one can actually see it. Although, a few people claimed they had caught small glimpses of it. You know how gossip goes around in that town."
"Ah yes, you're all a bunch of gossipers," Xellos agreed with a mocking smirk that made Filia pout and glare. "Last time I saw Howl, the wizard from the moving castle, he kept asking what shampoo I use."
"Did he know who you are?" Filia curiously inquired.
"Of course, he acts more clueless, helpless and childish than he really is, but he's a fairly talented wizard, albeit rather conceited." Xellos grinned to himself remembering the delicious chaos he caused when he snuck some pink dye into Howl's shampoo. Howl tried to call the Lord of Nightmares in hopes of destroying the world so that he wouldn't suffer with his oh so terrible appearance anymore, never mind that it would have been easier to just dye his hair again. Sophie calmed him down before he actually caused any serious trouble.
"It would be interesting to meet them someday." Getting back to the topic at hand, Filia brought back her past argument. "You already told me about your curse, so I doubt keeping the origin a secret is a big deal."
"It was a dare," Xellos replied simply, which made Filia stare at him.
The golden dragon desperately searched for any signs that indicated that Xellos was lying, but found none. "A dare?" She repeated in shock. "A dare of all things? You don't mean it as in a game of truth or dare, do you? Honestly, I can't believe that you'd be stupid enough to get yourself cursed on a dare!"
"The curse was the dare," Xellos elaborated. "This is a game high ranking monsters play now and then. Since the dares are often deadly and purposely made to be nearly impossible to accomplish, everyone usually picks truth and seeks to gain strategic information. The game keeps things interesting in the constant quest for power of the monster race. This time however, Lord Beast Master ordered me to pick dare," Xellos informed, his features showing frustration because of the next revelation. "Logically, I assumed that I had or would immediately acquire after the order some vital piece of information that had to remain a secret. I'm good at keeping secrets, but if I lied it would mean death, so I couldn't. The ironic thing is that I still can't figure out what is it that I supposedly know that's so important. As a spy, I collect a lot of information, but nothing stands out enough to be worth the risk this represents, not by a long shot."
While Filia listened with interest and puzzlement, Xellos continued. "My dare was to obtain the willing kiss of a golden dragon and the curse that would eventually turn me into a human was placed as a sort of time limit. If I don't accomplish my dare in a human life time, I will die. Then we found out that the willing kiss of a golden dragon is some kind of puzzle full of inconvenient technicalities that apparently cannot be taken literally and simply."
Filia allowed herself a moment for all this new information to sink in. "Who was it that dared you?"
"Some worthless idiot that I killed soon after, who wasn't important anyway," Xellos grinned cheerfully with his usual sugary mask. "Of course, I still need to accomplish my dare. I kind of wish I haven't killed that idiot, then I would have someone to torture for information. Although I might have something else." Xellos flipped through the book. "This spell book contains information about the truth and dare ritual. It has a lot of variety in its topics."
"I thought we already had it figured out," Filia pointed out. "Isn't it supposed to be a wedding kiss?"
"Possibly," Xellos agreed, "but not certainly and if that cure doesn't work, I'll have to find another clue to follow and keep searching until I find it." He paused, mused over his words and came to a shocking realization. "When did I turn into Zelgadis?"
Filia couldn't help it but to laugh in good humor at the fact that Xellos would actually voice the comparison. Sure, he was teasing Zelgadis, but also making fun of himself. "I'm sure we'll figure this out," she reassured between giggles.
Xellos read through the information on the book, finding nothing new. He flipped to the next page, which was about a whole different topic, and considered closing the book, given that the part that interested him was done. Besides, he was getting tired of sitting on the sandy floor in sandy clothes. Yet he didn't want to take the book to the surface with him. It was in a sense Beast Master's property, since Celo was one of her monsters, and she wouldn't want such a book laying around for prying human eyes to see it and possibly make copies of it. He thought it was best to put it back in its place before leaving. Thus he flipped through the book once more, scanning all the pages even if the topics that they held were of no direct useful interest to him.
Filia sat next to Xellos, her body slightly leaning on his, waiting quietly for him to finish studying the book. Then there was a pause and Xellos' grip tightened on the book. The dare wasn't just a dare, it was a spell that was explained in this book, the only difference was that it was translated when it was used on him, but the similarities were unquestionably present. Filia felt Xellos tense up, his eyes becoming more focused as he read incredulously over the contents of the book. "Did you find something useful?" Filia expectantly inquired.
"Yes," or maybe not. Xellos wasn't sure if it was useful or not, but it was interesting, to say the least. "This spell is my dare translated. According to this information, the words golden dragon are metaphors that can be used to refer to a person of any species. Golden means virtuous and dragon means brave. That entire thing about being an official member of the golden dragon race was completely useless!"
Filia once again absorbed the new information, her face forming into a frown. "Are you trying to say I'm not virtuous or brave? If I'm not virtuous it's all your fault!"
"Because of your endless lust for me?" Xellos asked with his familiar smug look.
"No!" Filia loudly exclaimed, her voice high pitched and frustrated. "Because you've given me bad habits like... For example..."
"Quiet down for a minute, I need to check something," Xellos closed his eyes and focused while Filia glared at him and called him a few nasty names. Realizing he wasn't listening, she huffed and remained silent, waiting for Xellos to finish concentrating on whatever he was concentrating on and show some form of reaction. He remained quiet for a while longer, searching in himself for something that was no longer there. When he was a monster he could feel the curse eating away at his power, sealing it deep inside him. When he became human, his monster power was completely sealed and for as long as he didn't clearly sense it he interpreted that as being cursed. Yet his power should still be in existence, locked away deep inside his very soul.
It was a monster general priest sealed inside a human in a similar way to how a portion of Shabranigdu was sealed inside Rezo, except the monster energy and the human were the same person in Xellos' case. He focused hard on trying to find the power that should have been there. When he first became human, he was able to sense it sealed deep inside, he was even able to sense it during his short time as a golden dragon, though his main focus was elsewhere at the time. Then after his trip to the past, he became caught up on everything that was going on and no longer felt the constant need to focus on sensing his own imprisoned power anymore. Every time he searched for it, it had been there and he let go of his secret worries that it would dissolve, but maybe those worries were not without a reason.
This made no sense what so ever. No matter how much Xellos focused, he couldn't sense his monster powers locked inside him. All that energy couldn't have vanished, especially not without his knowledge. It had to be somewhere, but where? He tried something else; he tried to feel the curse in a different way. There was no monster power for it to lock away, but even if the prisoner was gone, the jailer should still be there. Seals were not easy to feel out; the truth of Rezo's own seal had eluded the great sage for years. Yet Xellos had over a thousand years of experience and was aware of his condition, so he should be able to sense the seal. There was nothing, how could this have gone unnoticed? "It's gone," Xellos whispered with more horror than he wanted to show. "The curse, my power, everything... it's all gone."
Filia stared at him in surprise. Celo said that the kiss that could cure her poison would not cure Xellos, had he been wrong? "Was it the enchanted kiss of healing? Maybe your monster power will take a little while to come back."
"I can't sense it at all, it's no longer sealed inside me," Xellos insisted, trying to make sense of the situation.
"Did it..." Filia was almost afraid to ask. "Did it go away? Disappear? Was it... exorcised in a sense?"
"It doesn't work that way," Xellos frowned, the expression looking quite alien on his usually cheerful face. "It couldn't have disappeared, but it did go away, I just don't know where." He looked at the book again, back to the page about the spell. If his cure was a puzzle what was the answer to the puzzle? Then a thought occurred to him. His cure wasn't simply to break the curse, there was more to it than that, there was something else that he was expected to do. What information was he protecting? What could be worth the risk?
Every time it was the same thing, just when he thought he had the answer, he only got more questions. Was the ultimate answer connected to all the questions, to all the misleading deception... Deception... yes... Maybe things were much simpler than he thought. "The curse isn't the complication, it was relatively simple after all, I've been looking for an answer to the wrong question. That time after we fought Arcius," the time when Xellos was finally able to truly and fully accept that he loved Filia. "The curse was broken then, but I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I was too tired for my monster powers to awaken and change me back to normal right away. I was placed in that crystal by Beast Master before I had time to recover enough for my monster powers to manifest. That's where my power is, in the jewel of Zelas' necklace. I didn't notice because my energy is just like hers, it came from her, so it all blended in. That has to be the answer to this puzzle, I can think of nothing more."
Filia allowed the theory to sink in. Given the nature of the cure, it made sense. "The reason why you were kept in the crystal for so long was because Zelas was separating your power from your soul."
"Most likely," Xellos agreed. "I was born from that power as an astral being, but with this human shell I can still survive without it."
It all moved towards another question. "Zelas is plotting something, isn't she?" Though it came out with the tone of a question, Filia's words were more so a statement. "Why would she want to keep you like this?"
"I can't see any benefit in it," Xellos hated to admit it, but the whole situation worried him. Working towards a cure was different. He just had to chase after it and keep trying. Now he had harshly crashed into a wall of questions face first and wasn't sure where to go from there.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 089: Puzzle! Answers Lead To Questions
With the discovery of a spell book containing an incantation that helped heal Filia of her poison, Xellos also found a new clue to his curse. With it he came to the realization that he had actually been cured of his curse for a while, but was stuck as a human due to his monster power being removed by Zelas. "All this time I've been looking for the answer to the wrong question, searching for a cure that I no longer needed. Maybe it's the same thing now. I keep thinking about what I could know that needs to be kept a secret and what Zelas' hidden plan is. Perhaps the answer to the puzzle is something simple and direct, that Zelas did exactly what she set out to do, no more and no less."
"What do you mean?" Filia inquired in confusion.
"She got rid of me," Xellos resentfully concluded. He really missed his empathy now. It was a very troublesome ability, but he bitterly realized that it also gave him an odd sense of security in his human state. It wasn't simply because he was more aware of his surroundings, even if he often tried to block out the constant rush of emotion invading his senses from every living thing. The tricky beneficial part was that if he felt anything particularly inconvenient, he could attribute it to someone else. Any sense of doubt or insecurity that came he would blame on others, rejecting it as his own. He couldn't do that anymore and a dreadful feeling of broken pride and abandonment settled into him.
Filia looked at Xellos for a long moment before wrapping her arms around him tightly. They were both uncomfortably covered in sand, but that didn't matter at the time. "Maybe this is something like what's going on with Celo. He's part human, so he doesn't have the monster's vulnerability to positive emotions. Maybe Zelas wants you to experience human emotions so that when you become a monster again, you won't be affected negatively by it. So that you'll even benefit from them like Celo does, without having to become a chimera to accomplish it."
Xellos returned Filia's embrace, parting slightly so that he could have a clear look at her face after she was done speaking. He exaggerated his surprise to absolute shock. "You do have a brain, I'm impressed."
"Shut up, raw garbage!" Filia playfully retorted, though she felt especially proud of herself for cheering him up.
Xellos tried to remain realistic though, "that's not the only possibility, my theory could be right too."
"Maybe," Filia admitted. "But if Beast Master wanted you gone, wouldn't she had just killed you by reabsorbing your power? Or maybe she just wants her power back, but has enough of a regard for you to provide you with a means of survival."
"Not likely," Xellos mused, "perhaps the training theory is true after all. It would be too troublesome to leave me alive if there is no further use for me, it wouldn't make any sense."
"Still... Don't you have a strong admiration for Beast Master?" Filia pointed out more so than inquired.
"She created me, I'm supposed to, I never tried to overanalyze it," Xellos admitted. "She is an exceptionally cunning monster lord. She has kept me busy; but she hasn't made me work to exhaustion either. I've had challenging missions and also missions I dislike, but it's mostly been fun. I guess Zelas is as good of a monster lord master as a monster might expect to have... or maybe I'm just her favorite."
Filia giggled as if a thought that was funny enough to cause laughter before she even had time to voice it had ran across her mind. Xellos raised a questioning eyebrow and Filia knew that he wouldn't let the matter drop. Between a fit of giggles she voiced, "you're such a mama's boy!"
"Excuse me?" Xellos looked very much offended, albeit Filia knew the reaction was exaggerated. Nonetheless, he was truthfully annoyed. "I am not!"
"Yes you are!" Filia allowed her clear sweet laughter to echo freely. "It's okay, I'm sure Zelas appreciates your usefulness." It was, in Filia's opinion and possibly anyone else's opinion, a much more realistic thing to say instead of 'mommy loves you.'
So Zelas was training him. Giving this conclusion some thought made Xellos realized that the vicious cycle of enigmas had not yet ended. Even if the whole curse thing had been a set up, and cunning as Zelas was, Xellos was sure she was more than capable of staging it, the issue of the purpose of the ensuing series of events was still obscure to him. If he was training, what was he training for? What kind of battle awaited him that was different from the fights he had faced in the past. Remembering his past clue that originated from a comment about winter holidays, he realized that it was all coming in the winter, no doubt. Xellos had a feeling that he better have things fully figured out before then.
xoxox xox xoxox
While all those events were taking place at Amor Resort, or rather under it, the defeated Dragon Slayers had made their way to a secret location far from the resort island, deep underground at the hideout of the Green Alchemist. In a well lit cave with yellow-orange orbs of light floating around, there was a glowing oval shaped crystal similar to a giant seed, with ghostly energy around it, a strange mist seeping from it. "Oh great Mother of All Things, please forgive our failure!" All the Dragon Slayers knelt in front of the entity with only the leader speaking.
"The beast refuses to be tricked and the dragons are getting too close," a phantom-like voice echoed in such an ambiguous way, that it was impossible to tell if it was male or female, though they called it the Mother. The distant distorted echo came from the glowing crystal, to which many roots were connected, pulsating with energy like veins connected to a beating heart. "If we are to cleanse the world we must do it soon. We must take more of an offensive position in this battle and be prepared for the approaching war. I will not tolerate failure again, Ryoushi."
"We will not fail again!" The Dragon Slayer leader, Ryoushi, assured. "We have brought the entrapped energy of the golden dragon who is loyal to the powerless monster and a sample of her scales. Perhaps something can be done with these elements, we could-"
"Those will be saved for later. I know of a good purpose for which they can be used." The creature whom the Dragon Slayers were made to believe was the Mother of All Things also known as Gaia interrupted, claiming ownership of the samples. "We must watch for an opportunity. The traitorous beast is baiting us. The time will soon come to slay her."
xoxox xox xoxox
Lina, Gourry, Zelgadis, Amelia, Filia, Xellos, Onyx and Phythan eventually made it back to the lopsided wooden clock tower. The first order of business was for them to gang up on Celo and take turns hitting him on the head, which they all did, with Lina taking a few extra turns. Once that was out of the way, the group rejoiced in the fact that Filia was cured, then proceeded to inquire about the change in Onyx. They didn't even bother asking why Phythan was clothed only in Onyx's cloak to cover what vitally needed to be covered. They didn't really feel like asking about the sand all over Xellos and Filia either, theorizing that they might not want to know.
"I was born as an elf, with more magical energy than I knew how to use," Onyx revealed, with her full memories restored. Some details were still blurry, but that was natural with the passing of time. "I lived that way for years. I hated being asked to train my power or to use it in certain ways. I cared not for the so called gratitude of those who only wanted to benefit from me. I wished that they would not control my power and lowered my guard, even if I was always warned not to. I was captured by monsters and taken away."
After making a small pause, Onyx continued revealing the story of her secret past. "I lost control while the elves that went to take me back fought the monsters that took me away. Only two lived through that and I was one of them, though we were both left weakened. A golden dragon had gone to aid the elves, he was the other survivor, his name was Narez. He was being pursued by Dragon Slayers that he must have thought he left behind. They caught up to him and slew him."
"My father?" Phythan was surprised to hear about him again. "But then how did you end up as a human?"
"Despite being powerful, the battle I had been caught in was fierce and I was close to death," Onyx explained. "The Dragon Slayers put me to sleep and when I woke up, I don't know how long after, I didn't remember anything and I was a human unable to use magic. The rest of the story you already know. Perhaps the Dragon Slayers intended to save my power for later, but whatever purpose they might have had never came close to being realized. When I was there with the Dragon Slayers, I feared venturing into the unknown and wished for all my attachments to the village to be gone. I got my wish tragically and my adoptive father passed away. He was my guard perhaps more so than my father, but despite all he did wrong, I don't think he was truly a bad person. He really saw me as his daughter."
"What about the Lord of Nightmares? What did she seal in you?" Lina impatiently inquired. A lot of information had been revealed, but that issue had not yet been addressed directly.
"I hated what my life had become and wanted to forget," Onyx admitted, her face showed a slight amount of bitterness throughout the entirety of the confession, but it was mostly hidden by the monotonous mask of indifference that she had become somehow accustomed to. "The gold that shines upon the sea of chaos made me forget. Again my wish was granted, that was all. She sealed only my memories, nothing more as far as I know. She had probably been mocking me all along by granting my wishes, leading to dissatisfying results. Or maybe she was telling me to be careful what I wished for."
While Lina took a long and loud moment to complain about the anti-climatic finale to the mystery of Onyx, Zelgadis felt that the concept of having to be careful with wishes fit him all too well. He wanted power and was turned into a chimera. Then he spent many years looking for a cure. A recent event came to mind from when he and Amelia were exiting the tunnel of love after having made their way out of the cave of the silver key. A rather large wooden plank with heart carvings on it, painted white red and pink was at the end of the tunnel decorating it. It had become loose with the recent earthquake, just barely holding in place. It fell on his head just as he was walking out with Amelia.
Being the tallest of the two, the fact that Zelgadis' head was several inches higher than Amelia's meant that the hit didn't reach her, as the large heavy board slid off Zelgadis' head to the ground behind him. He wasn't injured, though he would have been if he wasn't a chimera. That was just the most recent example, but Zelgadis could think of many more, most of them much more extreme. His strong body had granted him survival in many occasions along with the opportunity to further support his comrades in battle and protect Amelia.
It was technically because of his quest for a cure that he was exposed to most of those dangers anyway, but without that quest he wasn't sure where he would stand. He had grown closer to Amelia after being reunited with her at Zoana and through the following journey to find his cure. Then they were reunited again to explore the world outside of the barrier. Albeit he left to continue his quest, it had been that quest that somehow placed him in Amelia's path in the first place. Maybe everything happened for a reason. Maybe it was time to stop wishing and look at the bright side. Perhaps the time to look at the wishes that had already been granted had arrived long ago. The chimera was planning to ask Celo if he happened to have another mirror of truth or a spell to turn a regular mirror into one, but decided he didn't really need it.
"Wait a minute," Lina finished her tantrum. "Does this mean that you're super powerful?"
"Unfortunately, returning to my true form drained away my power," Onyx' monotonous mask fell into real annoyance. "I am nothing but an average sorceress now. I'm certain your spells are much more powerful than mine."
"I see..." Lina made a dramatic pause before her serious face turned into a smile. "Don't be so hard on yourself Onyx, no one can surpass the beautiful sorceress Lina Inverse!"
"Just out of curiosity, did your elf name happen to be Yuuyami?" Xellos inquired.
"It was," Onyx confirmed. "How do you know that, brother?" She no longer believed she was Beast Master's creation, but if it was her choice she would continue living as if she was.
"I heard about that story before, except the so called official version was that the elf girl died. No one knew she had been hidden by the Dragon Slayers." Xellos explained. "Now that all of this is known, it must be reported to Lord Beast Master," he reminded. There have been some rather worrisome thoughts in the back of Xellos' mind ever since he realized that Zelas was purposely keeping his power from him. He couldn't go to her yet, he needed to figure out a vital detail first. It was a detail that could mean life or death for Filia. "Onyx, find Fang and have him take you to Beast Master. You should go along too, Phythan, after you put on some clothes that is."
Thus Xellos feigned ignorance and pretended that he didn't investigate the spell book beyond only what he needed to cure Filia. Celo surely knew something and he dared to lie about it, using Xellos' own line against him and luring the group back to the resort. But if Celo was following Zelas' orders, then that changed everything and Xellos was almost certain that was the case. There was no way Celo would dare to taunt Xellos' patience unless he had a greater power to answer to.
"Oh, right!" Phythan agreed. "You're probably wondering why I'm wearing this cloak like this." It would be impractical for its current purpose to wear it as it should normally be worn, plus it was kind of small on Phythan. Instead the fabric was tied around his waist.
"No, I'm not," Xellos assured with a look of absolute seriousness that soon morphed into a cheerful expression of mockery. "I honestly don't want to know."
Phythan told them anyway. "It was really scary!"
"It was really stupid," Onyx corrected.
"I set myself on fire because there were spiders crawling all over me," Phythan confessed in frightful horror. "I healed my skin, but my clothes were gone." The group as a whole stared at Phythan, blinking once and twice, before finally agreeing unanimously that Phythan was an idiot.
xoxox xox xoxox
Phythan and Onyx had gone off to find Fang so that they could report back to Zelas. Meanwhile, Lina, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos, Filia, Celo and Tiffany discussed the factor of the Dragon Slayers being with the Green Alchemist and that they were somehow tricked into believing the alchemist was the Mother of All Things. Gourry was present too, of course, but he just sat around not really following the conversation. By then, Xellos and Filia had gotten cleaned up and were, much to their relief, no longer covered in sand.
"I think it's about time you tell us everything you know about the Green Alchemist," Xellos demanded.
"Very well, as you wish, I will reveal the fruits of my research on the subject," Celo began. "The original Green Alchemist was a human who believed that the Mother of All Things not only created the world, but she was the world. That is to say the planet. He was well versed in alchemy, especially the kind related to plants. He gained a fair number of followers in his day, but this all occurred over a thousand years ago, shortly before Zelas created her general priest, Xellos."
'So that's why I haven't heard about it,' Xellos concluded. Things got busy soon after his creation, or rather he came to be because the situation was already busy. He was sent on many missions right away and had no time to focus on things that were not directly related to the tasks at hand.
"The Green Alchemist became a chimera, fusing himself with an ancient tree with the purpose of becoming close to the Mother of All Things," Celo continued. "Then his followers continued his work and attempted to fuse the human tree chimera with the planet itself. They were recklessly ambitious and they paid with their lives. As the fusion ritual came to a close, the energy accumulated for it was rejected by the planet and thrown back at those performing the ritual. The large majority of those who followed the Green Alchemist perished on that day. As for the tree, it withered up completely, save for one of its seeds. That was the end of the Green Alchemist and his followers, as the dwellers of the land soon became focused on the war and the barrier."
A moment of silence passed with Lina impatiently interrupting the dramatic pause. "So what happened to the seed? How does all of that relate to the present?"
"Ah yes, I was getting there," Celo smiled and continued. "The seed was recovered by the remnants of the Green alchemist's followers and protected. Through much research, I have learned that it was actually planted underground in a cavern that was prepared with rich soil and alchemically enriched nutrients. Spells were used to simulate sunlight and the seed grew into a tree. As time passed, the followers of the Green Alchemist died out almost completely. What was left of them later evolved into a small cult known as the Alchemists of Gaia or simply the Followers of Gaia. Gaia was the name they attributed to the Mother of All Things, as I'm sure you're all aware that she has received many names over time. These people are rather well known for their disdain towards monsters, albeit they had not previously stood against dragons in the past."
Another dramatic pause ensued, further drying the patience of a certain redhead and making the legendary bandit killer, dragon spooker, impatient was not a good idea. "Enough with the dramatic silence! Get on with it! What's the deal with the tree? What's the status of the Alchemists of Gaia in the present day? Out with it!"
"Impatient, aren't we?" Xellos grinned with an over exaggerated cheer. "Perhaps all this information is too much for you to absorb all at once. Maybe we should take a break and talk later. Wouldn't you agree, Lina?"
With a stern look in her eyes and a well marked frown upon her face, Lina dangerously warned, "shut up." She emphasized every syllable while glaring daggers at Xellos. She then proceeded to glare swords at Celo, poison covered swords, metaphorically speaking of course. "Continue," she ordered.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 090: Breakup! Hurt The One You Love
Celo cleared his throat and went on with the revelations to his audience, consisting of Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia. Tiffany was there as well, but she had already heard all that Celo was about to tell them, though she didn't know everything. There were things that a monster, or monster human chimera in Celo's case, couldn't share, not even with his wife, not until later at least. "That was the end of my researched factual information. The rest is only theory. I do not know what the present status of the Green Alchemist tree is, or if it is even of any importance. The tree in this tale could simply be a mutant tree of no real power, surrounded by a bunch of stupid people who created the illusion of it being special. In other words, the whole story about the Green Alchemist is a cover up for the truth. There is another enemy using the name of the Green Alchemist."
Before Lina's impatience exploded like a time bomb, Celo continued. "The reason for the trickery was probably as a way to gain followers by pretending to be the revived leader. This enemy's plans are somehow linked to the planet, thus it is only natural to find similarities between them. None the less, there are important factors that indicate that the Green Alchemist is very likely long dead. Most importantly, this enemy is something much more powerful than a chimera, much more powerful than a mere mortal, but it is not like a portion of Shabranigdu, or Ceifeed in nature... only in power."
Another dramatic pause followed, but this time it seemed only fitting. If that unknown entity that was their enemy was that strong, it was certainly something to think about. It was also the answer to Xellos' question about what he was supposed to be training for. Though no one directly said it, they all knew deep down that a confrontation was inevitable. "Tell us more," Lina prompted.
"This is all I can say for the time being. There is an important choice that my master must make. Until then, the situation will not progress." Celo's ambiguous reply carried volumes of information between the lines and at the same time said nothing.
"So Beast Master is the one who's moving us all like pawns in a chess board," Lina bitterly concluded. "Well, she's got another thing coming. I had enough with that Fibrizo set up."
"If Zelas chooses one path, you'll have no choice but to accept it. Yet if she chooses the other path, you shall join her cause willingly, no threats necessary," Celo assured.
"Why?" Lina demanded to know. "Stop dancing around the issues and tell us what you know!" She paused when she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned her head to see Xellos. "What is it?"
"That's quite enough, Lina, let it go," Xellos surprisingly suggested.
Lina turned her fierce glare towards Xellos. "I take it you know something too and don't want to share? What's going on, what's Zelas planning?"
Xellos grinned like he always did. "That is a secret... A secret that am I as of yet to truly comprehend. However, if Beast Master so wishes for it to remain a secret, then it shall."
Lina threw her arms in the air, exasperated. "Count me out! C'mon Gourry, all this annoying secrecy has made me hungry!" She stormed out of the room and all the way out of the lopsided wooden clock tower, followed by Gourry, who dared not remind her of her promised massage when she was so mad. Celo made no effort to stop Lina. He could easily get her to return with bribery. Besides, she was probably off to check out the restaurants, she wouldn't leave the resort island.
A tense silence settled in and before the conversation turned argument could jump start again, a courier bird arrived and perched himself on Amelia's shoulder. "Jarde, you brought a letter for me?" The princess received the letter and the bird went away to the astral side after his delivery was done. Amelia realized that the letter was from her father and thought she should read it right away. "It looks like that is as far as our discussion will get today, if you'll excuse me..."
"Ah yes, it was a pleasure talking to all of you. Let us all move along with our business for now. Of course, you are all welcome to continue as my guests." Celo excused himself and left.
"I'll be going now too, I want to take some time to reply to my father's letter," Amelia went off.
Zelgadis paused for a moment, his face serious. "I won't let Amelia be harmed by Beast Master," he assured.
Tiffany smiled sweetly, perhaps with too much reassurance. "I believe the right choice will be made. That's the impression I have, so don't worry too much about it."
Without a reply, Zelgadis followed Amelia out. From his perspective, Tiffany's last remark made little sense. How could the choice that benefited a monster lord be the right choice for them in any way?
"I'll be right back," Xellos walked away to catch up with Celo just outside of the clock tower so they could have a word alone.
"The right choice?" Filia questioned when she was left alone with Tiffany. She harbored the same doubts as Zelgadis and the others. "The right choice for Beast Master might be a very wrong choice for us."
"What is the definition of right and wrong? Is the grand price truly more valuable than the silver lining of a loss?" Tiffany mused aloud ambiguously. "Are we truly qualified to decide what is good and what is bad? What if there was no such a thing as black and white, would the shades of gray be too overwhelming when the similarities between them become obvious? Can anyone ever accept wanting what they once despised?"
Wanting what was despised... Filia could relate to that, but there had to be limits about what she was willing to do, what she was willing to overlook and what she wasn't willing to allow. Those limits had become blurry and she had to stop and question herself for a moment. Had she become far too corrupted to hold any sense of true and good reason? "I'm confused," she admitted sadly.
"Do you love Xellos?" Tiffany decided to simplify the question in a way, while at the same time complicating the situation in unknown measures.
"Yes," Filia didn't hesitate for a second before replying.
"Then that's all you need to know. That is the sort of answer I've come up with for myself," Tiffany confessed. "Regardless of what happens, whether you spend millennia together or if the world doesn't last long enough to see another spring, never forget the intensity of what you feel." Leaving Filia with those words to think about, Tiffany left. "If you'll excuse me, I need to help Celo manage business around here. Make yourself at home."
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, Xellos had been trying to get just a little more information out of Celo. They stood a little way outside of the lopsided wooden clock tower, surrounded by plastic trees and vegetation. "There is one more thing I wanted to ask you about." Xellos grinned like he always did, smile wide, eyes squinting.
"Ah yes, ask anything you wish, General Xellos. I will give you the information you seek if I have it and am permitted to share it." Celo's reply in itself hinted that he was indeed following orders directly from Beast Master.
"It's not something so serious," Xellos assured with his face unchanged. "It's more of a personal matter really."
"General Xellos wishes to discuss a personal matter with me? I am honored, please proceed," Celo smiled respectfully. His respectful smile was his equivalent mask to Xellos' squinty grin.
"When you married Tiffany, how did Beast Master react? When did she find out about you two?" Xellos inquired, masking his question thickly, though perhaps not thickly enough. If there had been a big angry temper tantrum he would have surely heard about it even if he was away on a mission at the time.
"It seems too good to be true, doesn't it?" Celo sighed, remembering his own past worries. "I feared that Lord Beast Master would not allow me to be with Tiffany. I feared that she would kill us both, or worse yet, only her. I know not what the pain would have done to me. Perhaps I might have become stronger, though that would have defeated the purpose of making me a monster human chimera. Experiencing human emotions has helped fuel my research after all. Heartbreak, I can only conclude, leaves a vast pain in its wake that numbs the senses to anything else. In a way, I am thankful for what I learned from that worry," Celo admitted. "I realized how precious life is and how much I owe to our master. I never said that to Zelas, she would probably be disgusted at my outburst, but I'm still grateful I was allowed to live like this, even if it is only because it benefits Zelas. As such, I will do everything in my power so that I may continue representing a benefit to her."
A moment of silence passed as Xellos took in all the information, trying to read between the lines. He had been so caught up that the wedding was thrown to the back of his mind. The wedding that was supposed to provide a cure to a curse he no longer had. Yet Xellos couldn't exactly go to Filia and tell her to call the whole thing off. She would make a fuss about him only wanting to be with her for his cure, even if had that been true, he would still be cursed. It just seemed like a somewhat troublesome formality if it wasn't absolutely necessary and they would still be together anyway. He supposed he could give her that, even if Zelas somehow ruined the event for Filia, Xellos knew that she would still be happy to be officially married, instead of just living together. It was a golden dragon thing, Xellos supposed, there was no real distinction from his point of view.
Then Celo continued, speaking through his human side once more. "I admit I am surprised our master is allowing her general priest to marry a golden dragon, or to get married at all. You'll probably think I'm ridiculous and that my human side has made me stupid, but I am happy for you."
The worries that inhabited Xellos' mind became more intense. What benefit could Zelas get out of this wedding? Why had she not returned his power? If she was giving Celo direct orders, then maybe she was telling him to throw out hints. What was Xellos expected to do? What if he was supposed to return to Beast Master to reclaim his power? What if the answer to the puzzling ambiguous path he was expected to take led him away from Filia? Another troubling thought surfaced. If facing adversity from the point of view of a human made him stronger, then wouldn't losing Filia be the biggest adversity he could currently face? He had been ordered to kill her once, was that a warning of what was to come? Would he be ordered to take her life again, this time with Zelas having no intentions of taking back her command?
"You've become quiet all of a sudden and your face is pale." Celo noted, his voice waking Xellos' from his troubling thoughts. "Are you feeling ill?"
"No, just tired." Xellos forced his facial mask to remain firmly in place with a squinty eyed grin, despite the color still being mostly absent from his features. "I should go back inside and rest."
"Ah yes, do take care of your health," Celo smiled politely as he always did.
Xellos returned to the lopsided wooden clock tower, passing by Tiffany, who was heading out, most likely to catch up with Celo. Good, Amelia was off tending to her mail and Zelgadis was with her. Lina and Gourry were gone and the others probably wouldn't be back right away. That meant that Filia was basically alone and Xellos needed to have a word with her before Pokota and Sylphiel came to drop off Val.
xoxox xox xoxox
The floor boards creaked as they always did when someone stepped on the rickety structure of the wooden clock tower that looked just about ready to fall. If it did fall, no doubt it would be rebuilt again just as rickety as before. "Filia?" She wasn't in the tea room where the group had previously been.
"I'm in the guest room!" There came Filia's voice almost echoing in the quiet tower. Zelgadis and Amelia were probably still in the structure too, though they were in a different area of it.
Xellos made his way up the tilted stairs and towards the guest room where Filia's voice originated. The door was left partially open. Xellos let himself in and closed the door behind him. Filia was lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling. "Filia..." Xellos sat down next to her. This would hurt her, but it was for her own good, it was the only way to preserve her life.
Filia sat up on the bed, instantly cuddling close to Xellos. "I'm worried about all this secrecy."
Xellos automatically placed his arm around her, before realizing what he was doing and getting up. He wasn't there to make out with Filia; he was there to break up with her. He paced around the room once, feeling Filia's perplexed gaze constantly on him. "I'm breaking up with you." It was fast, simple and to the point, yet not very effective.
Filia tilted her head to the side in puzzlement as she slowly got up. "What are you playing at raw garbage? Don't change the subject! Did you find out something more? What is it?"
"This has nothing to do with the Green Alchemist or who ever that enemy is," Xellos argued, injecting as much angry exasperation into his voice as he could. "It's about us, it's over."
"No," Filia refused to believe it. "Why would you break up all of a sudden? It makes no sense!"
"I don't want to be with you," Xellos replied as coldly as possible.
Filia glared, his words hurt but she wasn't about to believe them so easily, not after all they've been through. "Is this about the wedding? We can postpone it if you don't feel ready. I admit that I would like for us to be married, but in the beginning I never expected it to be possible. If I must let it go, I can do that. If it bothers you that much, let's not get married then."
She took the lack of wedding much more calmly than Xellos expected, but that wasn't the issue at hand anyway. "It's not simply about the wedding. I don't want to be with you at all."
"Liar!" Filia angrily accused. "What's gotten into you? I thought we had worked things out, gotten over our denials. I love you, Xellos, and I truly believe you love me too."
"Stupid dragon, that's the problem!" Xellos yelled. "I don't want you near me. I don't want to love you! I want to be like before, a monster who knows nothing about such useless emotions. I can do it; I can go back to the way I was if I get rid of you. I hate what I've become and I hate you for it!"
That did it, cue the water works. "No..." Filia subbed, unable to choke out any further coherent arguments. "Xellos... I thought..." her voice cracked and almost gave out, her words obscured and blurred by her desperate crying. "I thought you were happy..."
"Goodbye," Xellos stormed out of the room, leaving Filia crying and calling his name. She wasn't going to drag him back and force him to reconsider, but she wasn't going to let him go so easily either.
When Xellos exited the clock tower and walked through the plastic vegetation surrounding it in a dark false forest, he could still hear Filia's distraught sobbing voice calling him so loudly that her throat no doubt burned. He Ray Winged away, he had to put some distance between them, he didn't want to hear her fall to pieces like this while being unable to do anything about it. This was all to save her, even if it hurt her, it was all for her own good, he just kept telling himself that until he could no longer truly hear her pained voice. Yet somehow, the sound still echoed in his mind.
xoxox xox xoxox
Amelia and Zelgadis had been on top of the clock tower. The princess expected to be cheered up by the letter from her father, but its contents were dreadful. She clutched the letter in her hands as she related to Zelgadis the difficulties that were once again before them. There was someone else after the throne. This time there were no murder attempts or trickery, but rather some old documents were brought to light. The laws were ancient and had not actually been enforced in many generations, yet they were never officially overruled and Amelia's distant cousin was set on not allowing that to happen any time soon.
"This is so unfair! Why does the heir to the throne need to be engaged to royalty?" Since Naga had officially passed up on it, Amelia was the only candidate left in her generation, the only direct descendent who would ascend to the throne. She dreamed of doing good things for Seyruun, just as her father wanted her to do. One day, when their need to travel and see the world was fully satisfied, she and Zelgadis would return to Seyruun and watch over its people as their king and queen. "This is ridiculous! This law has not been enforced in years, why now?"
Philionel had no intentions of pressuring Amelia, as he explained in his letter. He would sooner hand over the throne than separate his daughter from her true love. Yet even if he did not write it, Amelia knew he was devastated by the thought of having to leave the fate of his people in the hands of someone he barely knew, despite being a distant relative.
Before Zelgadis and Amelia could further discuss a plan of action, Filia's tortured voice was heard. "Miss Filia sounds like she's in pain!" Amelia hurried over, following the sound, with Zelgadis running right next to her.
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Amelia and Zelgadis had heard the echo of some yelling, but they were too focused on the Seyruun problem to realize what it was right away. It wasn't until Xellos left and Filia's cries got really loud that they perceived the agony and ran to her aid. They wondered if one of the Dragon Slayers had somehow snuck into the tower. The golden dragon sounded as if she was in a truly terrible pain. They assumed that Filia calling for Xellos meant that she was calling for his help, but neither Zelgadis nor Amelia knew if he was still there in the tower, or if he had gone off somewhere for some reason.
Amelia and Zelgadis quickly arrived at Filia's room. The door was left open and Filia was on her knees sobbing on the floor. She called after Xellos one last time before her voice painfully cracked and her throat refused to respond. He didn't come back, she could drag him back, he was a human and she was a dragon after all. But she dared not keep him in her presence by force, if she had to do that, it would only hurt more.
To be Continued