Seeing as it was late and they were tired, Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis retired to one of the many inns of the resort. Lina did keep her promise, much to Gourry's delight, both of them taking a moment to relax even if they knew the chaos that had surrounded their group as of late was nearing its climax.
When the sun peeked out from the horizon, its light invading through the window, Filia's uneasy slumber was interrupted at the clock tower. She moved slightly, still very sleepy. In the morning Xellos would leave, she didn't want the morning to come and didn't fall asleep until it was very late. Unable to find anyone next to her, the tired golden dragon opened her eyes and confirmed that she was indeed alone. "You stupid piece of raw garbage! Why didn't you wake me up before leaving?" She reproached bitterly for no one but herself to hear. She wanted to go back to sleep and not get up for a very long time, but she couldn't fall asleep again.
Not in the mood to lay in bed staring at the ceiling, Filia got up. She tried to assimilate the fact that the chaotic relationship she had built with Xellos over the past few months was over. She bit her lip and told herself not to cry. Xellos was originally and truly a monster, she knew and accepted that fact. She knew being with him came with risks, mortal risks, that much was made clear to her during her first encounter with Zelas. All of that felt so far away now and she didn't know how she was supposed to simply let go. How could she learn to put the past to rest and be strong for those who needed her? For her friends, for her family, for her son... Maybe it was best for Val to remain in the care of his uncles and aunts for a while longer, at least until Filia didn't feel like she would burst out crying at the drop of a hat.
xoxox xox xoxox
A couple of hours later, Filia found herself stirring a bowl of cereal with a spoon, taking tiny bites now and then, not really caring how long it took her to finish her breakfast. She had remained by herself in the wooden clock tower. Those who didn't know of her recent breakup might have assumed she had ran off somewhere with Xellos and was having fun.
Amelia wasn't one of those misinformed people and she felt the need to check on Filia and make sure she was alright. Thus the princess made her way to the lopsided wooden clock tower to see if Filia was still there. "Miss Filia?"
What Filia heard was Zelgadis voice as it was his body and consequently his vocal cords. "In the kitchen!" The golden dragon called out as calmly as possible.
Soon, a person who was Zelgadis on the outside and Amelia on the inside entered the kitchen. The chimera with he princess' soul sat down across the table from Filia with a look of support upon the usually serious face. "How are you feeling Miss Filia? Have you fixed things with Mr. Xellos?"
"Sort of," Filia wasn't even sure how to explain it. Peculiarly, she didn't think Zelgadis would know what to say to her in this situation. She assumed that he would think that the best course of action was to give her some space and that it would be Amelia who would come by to try to talk to her. She wasn't sure she could tell Amelia about Beast Master though. What if the justice loving princess tried to do something about the unfair separation? That would bring certain doom. Yet impulsive as she could be, Filia knew that Amelia was smarter than that, she would stand down if Filia explained the reasons why a confrontation was a very bad idea.
"Sort of?" Amelia gently questioned, from Zelgadis' body. "You can tell me about it if you want. I just thought talking about it woman to woman might help."
Filia blinked, she had perceived from the start that there was something odd about Zelgadis' behavior and now she knew for certain that there was. "Woman to woman?" She questioned in confusion.
"Oh, sorry, I should have pointed it out from the start," Amelia apologized. "I'm Amelia, Zelgadis and I switched bodies. We think Zelas is behind it; maybe it's her idea of a practical joke."
Filia's anger shone through clearly on her face. "Who does Zelas think she is, toying with everyone's lives like this?"
"A very powerful monster lord, I guess," Amelia replied with a resigned yet hopeful sigh. "We won't give up though, I'm sure we'll figure out a way to get back to normal." Getting back to the main topic of the conversation, Amelia pressed on. "Have you spoken to Mr. Xellos?"
"Yes," Filia confessed. "We're breaking up, it's over."
Amelia gasped in shock. "How can that be? So suddenly..."
"Beast Master doesn't want us to be together." Filia angrily confessed, her level of frustration was immeasurable.
"That's not fair!" Amelia slammed Zelgadis' fist on the table, forgetting that it was like using a hammer and punching through it as a result. "Oops..." She pulled the stony fist out. "Sorry about that, I keep breaking things."
"Adapting must have been difficult for both of you." Filia observed, trying to change the subject.
"A little, but not too much. I can't climb trees anymore, the branches would break, but my Pacifist Crush is more effective than ever. Zelgadis keeps climbing trees and bending at all angles, I think he's amused by it." Not willing to let the topic of Filia's predicament drop so easily, Amelia brought it up again. "Maybe there's a way to convince Zelas to let you and Mr. Xellos be together. She made an exception for Mr. Celo after all."
"Celo isn't her general priest," Filia reminded. "Listen, Amelia," she felt odd calling the apparent Zelgadis that. "I think it's best to just leave things as they are. If we take too many risks, Zelas will kill us. She has already come close to it before." Zelgadis' surprised eyes showed that Amelia, who was behind the expression, wanted more information. "Remember when we went back to my shop and there was that battle in town? Afterwards, when Xellos and I were missing for a while, we ran into Beast Master and she almost forced Xellos to kill me, but changed her mind at the last moment. I think that was a warning. Xellos had to leave, he had to cut all ties with me. He didn't have a choice, that's why I don't blame him. If there is a way to safely convince Zelas to allow us to be together again, Xellos will find it. If not then... Then I'll just have to accept the way things are."
A long and tense silence passed, during which Amelia didn't even know what to say. Filia had already formed a plan, the only plan she could make. This was not a matter of choice and picking a fight with Zelas was a big no. It was just so unfair it was tremendously infuriating. Then a familiar voice shattered the silence as heavy steps made the rickety structure of the wooden clock tower shake. "Amelia? Is this the right place? Are you here?" The steps got closer as the person searched for anyone inhabiting the tower. "The door was open..."
"Daddy!" Amelia called out, though it sounded quite different than usual because she was in Zelgadis' body.
The tall figure of prince Philionel appeared at the kitchen's entrance to find his future son and law and that nice golden dragon lady who was a friend of his daughter. Without thinking Amelia greeted her father with a hug as she usually would. Thankfully, Philionel was a mountain of muscle, thus he wasn't crushed when Amelia guided Zelgadis' body to him in a tackle hug. Albeit he certainly wasn't expecting such a warm greeting from the usually quiet Zelgadis, Philionel happily returned the embrace. "It's good to see you too, my boy! And congratulations to Miss Filia, I'm looking forward to the wedding!"
Filia stared into her half eaten bowl of cereal. How could she tell everyone who had gathered at the resort to attend her wedding that it was cancelled? "It's still a way off," she forced herself to smile. "The preparations are taking longer than expected." Filia knew she should just come out with the truth and say that the wedding was cancelled, but she simply couldn't get herself to do so.
"Are you feeling quite alright, Miss Filia?" Phil inquired with fatherly concern.
"Yes, I'm fine, just a little nervous, that's all. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night; maybe I still need a little more." Filia picked up her cereal bowl and excused herself. "I'm sure that you have a lot to talk about." She pushed her smile to appear to be as real as possible for Phil. "I'll see you later."
"Ah yes, do get some rest Miss Filia. Being a little nervous is only natural, but don't worry, everything will turn out perfect in the wedding," Philionel encouraged.
"Yeah, I'm sure things will work out," as she left, Filia gave Amelia a quick glance that spoke louder than words. Amelia nodded in response, she would keep things as they were for the time being, she understood. Filia was trying her hardest to stay calm and face the situation. It wouldn't do her any good if people overloaded her with questions and concerns even if they were well intended.
After Filia returned to her room in the clock tower, Zelgadis arrived in Amelia's body. "Phil, I thought I saw you around here."
Philionel tilted his head in confusion, "Phil? Not daddy? Is something wrong? Even your fiance is calling me daddy now. Here I thought I would have to ask him a million times before he got used to calling me dad, let alone daddy. And where's my hug?"
"I take it you haven't told him?" Zelgadis theorized, interrupted by Phil suddenly picking him up and spinning him around in a display of fatherly affection.
"Actually daddy, I'm Amelia," the princess in the chimera's body pointed out, watching as her father put down a dizzy looking Amelia, who was actually Zelgadis.
"Oh, I get it!" Phil's thunderous laughter echoed. "You're playing a game, pretending to be each other. That's so cute!"
"It's not a game" Zelgadis dizzily clarified.
"We're actually switched," Amelia added. "Speaking of which, we should find Celo and see if he knows how to switch us back. Trickster or not, I'm not in the mood to put up with practical jokes. It's a sad day for justice, I have a thing or two to say to Celo about that too." Taking the matter of Filia and Xellos directly to Beast Master was far too dangerous, but pestering her minions about it was a whole different story. "While we take care of that, you should enjoy the rides of the resort." Amelia smiled at her father, through Zelgadis' face.
"Are you sure you don't need help?" Phil offered.
"Don't worry; we can take care of things." Amelia assured. "You've been working very hard; you need to take a little vacation."
"Alright, I trust your judgment... There's just one more thing I need to ask about." Philionel's face was understanding, yet at the same time it demanded sincerity. "Are you sure you didn't switch bodies on purpose?"
"No," Amelia replied, taken by surprise with the question.
"Why would we?" Zelgadis added.
"It's just that this would solve the problem with the throne. You got my letter, didn't you?" Receiving unanimous nods from Amelia and Zelgadis, Phil continued. "If we could prove that you really are switched and this isn't just an act, then you're technically both in line for the throne. One has the soul of the princess and the other has the physical body, thus the royal blood as a direct descendant. It's only natural to reconcile the split ruler by uniting the two parts in marriage."
"We already took care of that," Zelgadis pulled out some official looking documents from Amelia's cloak. "These documents officially identify me as the prince of a near by island. Since I'm technically royalty now, even if it's just a deserted island with nothing but cooling lava on it, shouldn't that be enough?" Zelgadis handed over the papers with his and several other official looking signatures and seals.
"This is perfect, it will do just fine! Private islands are the in thing among royals these days!" A great relief washed over Phil's features. "I'll take care of submitting these documents right away. Good luck getting switched back, don't forget to tell me all about it as soon as you make some progress." Taking another look at the documents, Phil continued to smile. "This is a good sign; it means that things will improve. Justice might suffer bad days now and then, but there's always a new day to look forward to and justice will always recover and triumph!"
With her eyes, or rather Zelgadis' eyes, shining in admiration, Amelia cheered along with her father, "justice will always win!"
xoxox xox xoxox
While Philionel took care of the official documents concerning Zelgadis' status as a prince and the future of the throne of Seyruun, Amelia and Zelgadis went on their way to locate Celo. Doing so was not hard at all, as if he wanted to be found. In fact, the human monster chimera was the one who approached them as they made their way down the main street of the resort, near the cupid decorated fountain. "Good morning," Celo greeted Amelia and Zelgadis with a polite respectful smile as if he had no idea about their predicament. Yet the knowing, cunning and mischievous look in his eyes indicated that he knew exactly what was going on.
"Good morning yourself," Zelgadis snapped, in a very un-Amelia way. "I take it you already know about our little problem?"
"I am informed, Mr. Zelgadis," Celo confirmed.
Amelia pointed Zelgadis' finger accusingly at Celo. "In the name of justice, I demand that you switch us back!"
"As you wish," Celo replied with the same calm, polite and annoyingly respectful smile that he always had.
Amelia and Zelgadis stared at him suspiciously until Amelia commented unsure. "Justice always triumphs in the end."
"I beg to differ," the keen look in Celo's eyes hinted that there was a much deeper meaning to his words than what could be literally perceived. "The end would hardly do anyone any justice. It is the everlasting journey which will bring trials in which justice will shine for its glory or shine for its absence. In both cases, it will be a very present topic, whether they speak of great justice or the great lack of it. Consequently, injustice will also flourish in those conversations and events. The end is empty, the end knows no justice or heroism and it knows no injustice or villainy, it knows nothing. If one were to triumph the other would perish. A hero cannot exist without a villain. It's the villain that creates the hero. Without the villains of the world there would be no inspiration and people's hearts would die having nothing to strive for, justice would not exist."
Amelia gasped as she gave Celo's paradoxical words some further thought. Justice was born to defend against injustice and without injustice; the concept of justice would never have come into existence. Maybe there would be peace, but then again, it really wouldn't be peace. What is peace if not a comparison to chaos? To be at peace was to rest, to rest from chaos, but without something to rest from, it would all be the same. Even Amelia had to admit that sometimes the need for adventure consumed her and she had to go around spreading justice. Yet if justice had an absolute victory, it would cease to exist. There would be no adventures. There would be no epic heroes. There would be no inspiration, no excitement, nothing to look forward to.
"I never thought of it that way," Amelia admitted. "I know this might seem crazy, especially coming from me, but maybe a healthy amount of chaos is necessary in our lives. It's what inspires us and makes us improve. It's just like with the barrier. Because of the adversities that occurred in the lands inside the barrier, our magic was able to develop and grow. We discovered many things and adventures happened."
"Yes," Celo's smile grew as his point was understood, though the true deeper meaning behind it still remained hidden. "When it comes down to it, it's necessity created by adversity that led to most discoveries. Otherwise, people would be laying around idly in caves to this day. Or even more likely, an extreme lack of motivation from severe boredom would have sucked away their will to live, leading to the extinction of all living creatures."
"Okay, we get it, a little bit of mayhem can be healthy every now and then," Zelgadis admitted. "But too much of it is just plain frustrating. Pushing to strive is one thing, but pushing for a hopeless surrender is different."
"That is very true, but hope is very hard to break, so as long as antagonists exist, life will flourish," Celo concluded. "In a sense, we monsters keep the spirit alive by presenting adversities to strive against. Maybe that is the reason why we were made to feed on negative emotions, so that for the sake of our survival we would seek chaos and at the same time save the world from perishing in idle depression. After all, accomplishments cannot exist without trials to conquer and happiness is unidentifiable without an opposite contrast. Eternal discord is true balance, chaos is life and absolute peace without adversity is death." Giving the words one more moment to sink in, Celo continued on to the next order of business. "About the cure to your switch, it is not a difficult task to perform at all. Follow my instructions and I will provide all that is necessary."
Amelia and Zelgadis knew that Celo was a trickster who was not trustworthy in the least. They also knew that he was their best bet at getting back to normal and if Zelas truly wished for them to remain that way, she would make it so anyway. Thus they listened to Celo and were given the surprising cure to their switch, which was certainly not what they were expecting. None the less, they ventured out to fulfill the task that was set before them, even if it was indeed a mortal risk. Hopefully, Lina would understand.
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, Xellos had returned to the elusive Wolf Pack Island, the headquarters and personal place of residence of Lord Beast Master Zelas Metallium. Wolf Pack Island was a place that could not normally be reached through the physical plane, though its location was a relatively well known legend. Ships would pass by claiming they saw it in the distance, while others sailed over it supposed exact location and found nothing. It was hidden by an astral shield and appeared only when Beast Master willed it to become visible in the physical world by removing the shield.
The island received its name with a good reason, as there were many packs of wolves there along with an abundance of rare wild beasts that served to feed them. Even so, despite the wolves constantly hunting for prey, there always seemed to be plenty of wild animals around, all of which, big and small, were rather aggressive. Some were just regular, though unusually fierce, animals and some were animals possessed by lesser monsters as their means to reach out of the astral side and interact with the physical world.
Others of the creatures that inhabited Wolf Pack Island were mutated animals resulting of various experiments, most of which were surprisingly conducted by the hands of humans, before Zelas decided to claim the results for herself. The initial few creatures eventually multiplied, the mutations becoming stranger with each generation, making the beings exposed to the aura of aggression that covered the island truly fierce.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 095: Tricky! The Queen Of Masterminds
Lina and Gourry were walking down the main street of Amor Resort, looking for a restaurant to assault for breakfast. Unknown to them, Amelia and Zelgadis were watching them, hidden behind the silly heart themed decorations that were all over the place, following them with the quietude of ninjas. Allowing their targets to move a little further away, but still keeping them in sight, Amelia, who was still stuck in Zelgadis' body, expressed her doubt. "I feel really bad about this."
"Think of it this way," Zelgadis, who was still stuck in Amelia's body, tried to make the situation look better, though he might have pointed out that it was worse then it seemed. "If we don't do this, something worse might happen. Zelas has decided to annoy us and we'll have to deal with that as best we can."
"So in a way, we're saving Miss Lina?" Amelia tried to shift her perspective to make her actions feel less terrible.
"Exactly, we could be saving her life for all we know." Zelgadis agreed.
"Okay... here goes," Amelia rushed out of her hiding place behind a cupid statue before Lina and Gourry got further away. She approached the pair as they examined a restaurant from the door with hungry faces apparently deciding that it was exactly what they were looking for. "Miss Lina, urgent news from Luna!"
"What? Luna? Where?" Lina immediately panicked, jumping into Gourry's arms in her fright. "Where is she? Is she angry at me? What did I do this time?"
"Luna was furious," Zelgadis lied. "She said she had to teach you a lesson and that things might get ugly."
"We tried to talk her out of it," Amelia continued with dramatic acting. "We managed to calm her down for the most part. She said that if you made up for all your wrong doings, that she would forgive you. We wouldn't want a terrible fate to befall you, so we came up with some good deeds you could do."
"What good deeds? What do I have to do to escape Luna's wrath?" Lina jumped out of Gourry's arms and shook Zelgadis' shoulders, though it was actually Amelia who was there on the inside. "Tell me!"
"Here's a list," Zelgadis conveniently provided, with Lina immediately snatching away the list out of Amelia's hand.
"Number one on the list is doing laundry," Lina read aloud. "I suppose doing chores for people can be classified as a good deed. There's also doing the dishes, cleaning the floor, watering the garden... I'm on it!" Lina had never been so energetic about doing chores before, but to her, this was a matter of life and death, or a fate worse than death, a punishment from Luna.
"I can help," Gourry offered, as Lina's loyal companion, good friend and future husband.
"Don't," surprisingly, Lina refused. "I might be tempted to dump all the chores on you and get into trouble with Luna," she admitted, shuddering at the thought of what having trouble with Luna might translate into. "This is something that I need to do on my own."
xoxox xox xoxox
The creatures of Wolf Pack Island recognized Xellos upon his arrival. They growled threateningly, mainly because they growled at everything except Beast Master herself, but none of them dared to attack him. A few of the wolves circled him as he made his way to a cave, but tempting as the human flesh was, they would not defy Beast Master by attacking Xellos. Inside the cave, Xellos reached a large set of golden doors, which opened for him automatically, revealing the entrance to Zelas' underground palace.
Xellos ventured inside, walking down the familiar hallways at a confident pace that was more a show than it was real. He was mentally exhausted and though he had a real physical body, rather than a physical body generated by his own astral energy, he found that it presented no benefit against mental exhaustion. Even if he wasn't purely astral anymore, being overloaded with too many events outside of his control caused a very annoying strain. Yet at the same time he found himself strangely relaxed. It was the notion of accepting defeat, the rest that came with the end of the struggle. Everything appeared to be far away as he remembered the many other times when he walked down those elegant hallways before. He remembered the exquisite decorations of ivory and gold that he never took the time to really notice before. Maybe this was what some would call nostalgia.
After a long walk, Xellos finally arrived in front of the large doors that led to Beast Master's throne room, which did not automatically open for him. Zelas' energy was all over the island, her influence clear. She knew he was there but these doors he would have to open the hard way. Thus after much pushing and pulling, Xellos managed to get through the heavy golden doors.
"Ah, Xellos, you've returned," Zelas feigned surprise. She sat comfortably upon a fluffy crimson cushion atop a golden throne. "You were not to return until your curse was broken, this means...?"
"That I know I'm cured," Xellos confirmed.
"I see, but look at you; you seem somewhat out of breath. Are you feeling quite alright?" Zelas grinned mockingly.
"Peachy," Xellos grinned back, trying to look as if he didn't just make a big effort, simply to get through a set of ridiculously heavy doors, which he used to effortlessly pass through via the astral side without even having to open them before.
"What of your dragon pet?" Zelas calmly inquired.
"I dumped her," the squinty eyes grin of Xellos' face was obviously forced, a fact which did not go unnoticed by Zelas.
"Why is that? Did she refuse to fetch the newspaper or did she chew up your favorite pair of shoes?" Zelas continued talking as if this was all just a casual conversation of every day small town pleasantries.
"I'm sure she would have refused to fetch the newspaper if I asked her to," Xellos replied, still following the little game Beast Master had going on.
"How dreadful, that dragon didn't know her place," Zelas leaned back on her throne, twisting a strand of pale hair between her fingers. The long pupils of her silver eyes stared right into Xellos' amethyst orbs, capturing his gaze in place. His pupils were round for now, reflecting the world around them through human eyes. "What is your true reason for this?" Though Zelas still smiled mockingly, her eyes were demanding and authoritative.
Xellos' grin dissolved inevitably, his expression serious yet determined. "To serve you, it is what I was made for after all. I need no distractions."
"But you want them," Zelas interrupted.
"It serves no purpose," Xellos replied with a barely perceptible hint of bitterness.
"Except research," Zelas mused, her expression relaxing into a less imposing and more inquisitive look. "Then there is the last ancient dragon, I have no plans for him, but I rather have resources that I never use than to let someone else have them. If you were simply trying to serve me, wouldn't you have considered all this?"
Xellos stared into the silver eyes of Beast Master, it was as if she was looking into his very soul. "I was... trying to save her," he confessed. When it came down to it, he could withhold no secrets from Zelas, not for very long anyway. "If I am being trained to face an enemy that I know little about and enduring difficulties will make me stronger, then..."
"Then if I order you to kill her, you must," Zelas finished for him.
"Yes," Xellos forced the heavy syllable out.
"Well, I'm glad that's clear, however, I don't remember issuing such a command," Zelas' expression feigned innocent ignorance. "Fear alone is simply not enough, I want respect, admiration. Even something as dreadful as gratitude is something that I crave for sometimes. I'm a terribly greedy woman, I suppose. I once heard someone say, something interesting, I forget who said it," she lied, "it was probably some unimportant creature. The saying went: 'pushing to strive is one thing, but pushing for a hopeless surrender is different.' It referred to the human race and other similar races, it basically means, don't break your toys if you want to play with them again."
"Meaning?" Xellos dared to inquire, with a million thoughts running through his head.
"I am a monster, but also a beast. I selfishly seek my own benefit, yet I surround myself with the members of my pack, expecting their loyalty and preventing their demise in return, not only by my hand, but by the hand of any. My followers are rarely ruined, in the worse case scenario they simply lose the power to interact with the material world for a time. Numbers, strategy, ultimate victory, is there such a thing? For a true hunter, it is the chase that is more trilling then the capture." Zelas paused, noting that Xellos looked thoughtful and confused. He was usually quick to follow what she meant to say between the lines, but this time she couldn't blame him if he didn't. The truth was... unexpected. "Which do you prefer? Chaos or destruction?"
"Chaos," Xellos didn't doubt his answer for a second. "Destruction is empty and boring in the end, but chaos brings more chaos, more fun. Chaos never ends, destruction ends it. Destruction is simple and maybe even merciful; it's almost peaceful when it's all over."
"I agree," Zelas smiled in such a joyous way that it took Xellos by surprise. It was as if she had come to terms with something that had been bothering her for some time. "If by coincidence anyone should inquire about my choice concerning the truth, say that I am undecided and leave the matter at that. If no one brings it up, seek no further information." Zelas ran her fingers over the smooth surface of the black cone gem that was on her necklace. "I cannot return this to you yet, but the time is near."
Xellos took in all the information, trying to look beyond it. What was that truth that Zelas spoke of? "This whole thing was a set up, wasn't it? With the dare I mean."
"Yes," Zelas admitted. "The world was condemned, but not necessarily to end. Rather its fate was to be decided by a choice that could turn the tides and possibly, but not necessarily, destroy everything. My choice, thus far is chaos, which means that Lina Inverse and I might have a common enemy. One who is an enemy even to the dragons; albeit they believe it is an ally. But it is too early to discuss this. For the time being, you are to remain here on this island. When and if your dragon pet loyally comes for you at her own stupid risk, you may leave and proceed with everything as if there were no interruptions. Whether you marry your pet or not will be up to you. I wouldn't mind further mocking the dragons, but it doesn't matter to me either way as long as you keep an eye on the ancient dragon, just in case."
"A test of loyalty..." Xellos concluded. He could usually count on Filia to do something rash, but this time she was holding back for Val's sake, thinking that staying away was the best choice. Given all of that, she had no reason to barge into Wolf Pack Island if she thought her continued involvement was futile, suicidal and most of all, potentially dangerous for Val. Yet there was something off, this wasn't a misinterpretation, it was a set up. "Did you purposely do all this? Did you set things up for me, even this... misunderstanding?"
"You're a work in process, Xellos. Much research has gone into this arrangement, though it was an emergency which cause me to put it into action now. Your astral self is your mind, removing the peculiarities of a monster will give the mind more freedom in a sense, while being held safe inside a human shell. That contradiction will build up chaos, longing for more, striving to accomplish, you should be stronger when you are a monster again. You should be able to resist what is normally harmful to a monster, because you have incorporated it into yourself, by integrating these experiences into your mind, it'll all be part of your astral self," Zelas explained, purposely being a little ambiguous and mysterious.
"I see... so a part of Celo's research was for me?" Xellos concluded.
"A part of it, yes and also Fang," Zelas confirmed. "Celo was made half human, he gain the advantage of many abilities and defenses, though it was at the cost of a monster power reduction. Overall, with the proper strategy, it was still in a sense a success and it helped significantly fuel the research. Fang was more carefully crafted with the results of Celo's research. He kept his power after becoming a chimera, but instead lost his aggressive instinct, albeit he can still fight fiercely when ordered to. So as to not diminish your power or make you lose your cunning malice, I gave you the experience without the permanent genetics. What you've learned will remain with you alongside your full power. This is all a theory of course, but even though I ran out of time to make a full test, I am confident it will work. Now then, I will take no more questions. There's a show I must see, I'm certain that it's getting good right about now." Without any further explanations, Zelas disappeared into the astral side, eagerly teleporting away to a place where amusement awaited.
xoxox xox xoxox
Random articles of clothing rained from the skies in a soapy mess. Combining a whirlwind with soap and water to do a massive amount of laundry all at once was not a good idea if the tornado was the size of a three story building. As Lina felt the spell slipping out of her control, she tried to tame the wind with more wind and it all turned into a raging storm. She couldn't help it, she had to get things done fast to escape the wrath of Luna and it made her nervous. Never mind that she wasn't even sure about what specific thing had apparently ticked off her sister. When it came to Luna, it was best to please her without question, or Lina feared that might be the last question of her life.
A little kitten peeked out from behind a pile of debris that was once part of a laundry service building. All that talking to Xellos made her miss part of the show already. This was another reminder as to why she preferred chaos; it was indeed, very fun. She intended to make her choice known to Celo eventually, but not yet. Let him keep trying to get his point across, that eternally torturing the world was better than destroying it. It was a pity that she missed the first act of the show.
"Oh no! I messed up! Luna's gonna be so mad at me!" Lina panicked as she took in the sight of the huge mess before her, caused by her.
"It's not so bad," Gourry tried to cheer her up, yet he had to pause and do a double take because not even he had enough optimism to smile at this. "Okay, yeah, maybe it is bad. But you've survived all sorts of battles, Luna can't be that scary!"
"Luna is that scary!" Lina screamed at the top of her lungs in a desperate panic. "She's even scarier than slugs!" For Lina Inverse to say someone was scarier than slugs, that person had to truly terrify her.
"I'm sure this can be fixed..." Amelia suggested unsure. She was of course, still stuck in Zelgadis body.
Zelgadis, who was in turn stuck in Amelia's body, was starting to think that this little operation was about to backfire. Celo had provided a set of chores that needed to be taken care of around the resort, insisting that Lina Inverse had to be made to do them by trickery. He assured that someone would be watching to make sure they didn't try to use the safer approach of bribery instead of the terrible risk of trying to trick Lina Inverse. The trick was successful, but the chores were a mess.
What Zelgadis and Amelia didn't realize was that things were going exactly the way Celo wanted them to go. He needed to gift all this mayhem to Beast Master so that she would favor chaos to destruction when it came to choosing what reaction she would have towards the truth that was revealed to her.
After Lina freaked out for a while longer and eventually realized that she wasn't getting anywhere by running around in panicked circles, she proceeded to check the list of chores again. "Doing the dishes is next, this time, I won't mess up!"
xoxox xox xoxox
"Miss Lina, should you really be eating right now?" Amelia asked in the somewhat shy tone she used when it came to trying to reason with Lina, though it was all in Zelgadis' voice.
"I'm eating and working at the same time, the food helps me concentrate!" Lina argued as she opened her mouth again, it was the signal for Gourry to feed her. The redhead still insisted that she needed to do this on her own; she was still in Luna-panic mode and would not permit even her fiance to help her with the chores. He could, however, provide her with a snack. "Gourry, don't eat it!"
"I was just tasting it," the bitten cookie that Gourry claimed to be only tasting and not eating, though tasting was a part of eating, was finished by Lina. The panicked redhead nearly bit Gourry's finger in the process of eating a cookie from his hand again. It all had to be done this way because her hands were soapy and occupied washing the dishes.
There she stood, Lina Inverse, sorceress extraordinaire, wearing an apron and rubber gloves, immersed in the task of doing dishes, while Gourry fed her cookies. At least if she was constantly fed, she would somehow muster the patience not to try to speed the chores with magic and end up breaking something, or some things, like the entire supply of dishes in the restaurant's kitchen, where she was currently stationed.
A small kitten peeked out from the supply cabinet at Lina's feet below the sink. This was getting boring. It was technically not her job to create the chaos in this situation; she was there to witness it. None the less, Zelas decided that it would be okay to give the chain of events a little push to set things in motion, but only because she really liked chaos. Thus she gave that little push, literally. The mischievous monster lord, in the guise of a kitten, jumped on the countertop where Lina was piling up the dishes as she finished washing them.
Zelgadis opened his mouth, or rather Amelia's mouth, but paused before any sound could come out of it. That cat was Zelas, it had to be her. Was she messing up the chores of the resort that belonged to one of her own monsters? Was she messing up their chance to be cured? Then again, Zelas was Celo's boss, so rather than worrying about making a deal with him, it came as a higher priority to worry about how to deal with her.
The kitten grinned in a way that only a cat from a fairytale would do. Then she gave the tall pile of dishes on the counter a little push with her tail. The tower of ivory porcelain became instantly out of balance, rapidly falling like an avalanche as Lina instinctively jumped back.
Stunned, Lina looked from the dishes to the counter where a kitten sat. Recognition invaded her face as she remembered the incident that occurred at Seyruun which involved a ghost, a crazy chase and Zelas. That time, Zelas had shocked everyone when she jumped out of Filia's hat in the shape of a kitten. "You," Lina's voice was low and threatening. "Beast Master..." her teeth were clenched and her aura was full of angry sparks as she glowed, calling forth all her magic.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 096: Ferocious! The Cunning Wolf's Den
The fear of Luna had pushed Lina to the brink of insanity. When her chance to win back Luna's good favor was taken away by Zelas, Lina's wrath knew no reason. It didn't matter if Zelas was a monster lord who could kill her on the spot. Lina had faced monster lords and lived to tell the tale before, without the scars of mental trauma. Luna was another story; Lina had an absolute fear of her that she didn't feel towards anything or anyone else, not even Zelas.
"Lina, don't pick a fight!" Zelgadis urged, but his plea fell upon deaf ears.
"Miss Lina, you can't win against Miss Zelas!" Amelia insisted.
"They're right Lina. All of this is very confusing, but you can't pick a fight with a monster lord just because her pet got into mischief!" Gourry had forgotten about Zelas' alternate kitten form, not surprising given the usual span of his memory, which only went beyond its limits in a few rare occasions. Instead, he concluded that Zelas came into the conversation so suddenly because the kitten belonged to her.
"She ruined my chance to show Luna I'm behaving!" Lina screamed with an absolute raging fury. Nothing is worse than Luna's anger, not even a monster lord! You'll pay for this, Zelas Metallium!" In her state of panicked fury, Lina didn't even reason that using black magic on a monster lord was not very effective. She only acted automatically and summoned her usual temper tantrum spell. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows!"
"Stop!" Zelgadis protested to no avail.
"Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows!" Lina furiously continued.
"Miss Lina, you mustn't do this! Mr. Gourry, please stop her!" Amelia pleaded.
"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands!" It didn't look like Lina had any intentions of stopping. "Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess!" At a loss for what to do, Gourry kissed Lina, hoping that it would distract her from her rage. Much to his surprise, she actually kissed him back, more fiercely than ever before. But she suddenly parted from him and shouted out "Dragon Slave!" Then she pressed her lips against Gourry's again, blinded by her mix of panic and wrath.
A brilliant flash of light invaded their vision, but they felt no pain despite being right in the middle of the out of control Dragon Slave and having no time to run for cover. Lina was still desperately clinging to Gourry, while he could do nothing more than respond to her unexpected affections. Amelia and Zelgadis saw the ruins of the restaurant, not a single dish, or piece of furniture, or wall for that matter, was left unbroken. Then it was all gone, the scene before them disappeared and was replaced by something else.
xoxox xox xoxox
At Zelas' secret palace in Wolf Pack Island, Xellos was in his room, staring up at the near-black dark purple ceiling, surrounded by walls of a lighter purple and a plush purple carpet on the floor. The room was a place to keep things more so than a place to reside, as Xellos was often traveling around on errands for Beast Master. There was a large bed that served mostly as a decoration because he needed no sleep as a monster, albeit it was actually being used as a place to rest at the moment. It was big and soft, covered in purple sheets with a multitude of purple pillows. Yet despite how nice and comfy it was, Xellos couldn't get to sleep. He had dispelled the lighting and the whole chamber was shrouded in darkness. Even so, he glanced at the many book shelves and mentally went over the titles of the tomes housed in them, wondering if he should try reading a little to pass the time.
Xellos sat up and created a new orb of light that floated above his head, illuminating the room. He was only there for very short periods of time to drop something off or get something he had previously put away, usually a rare magic book. His stomach growled loudly, reminding him that he had a human body to feed and that's when a troubling thought invaded Xellos to sit alongside the troubling thought of Filia acting rationally and not rushing into danger for a seemingly hopeless cause, thus failing the test of loyalty set up by Beast Master. What in the world was he supposed to eat?
Zelas had no food supplies that Xellos knew of, aside from what she kept in her private kitchen that he was banned from entering. He ruined it one too many times with his volatile culinary experiments and Zelas insisted that the place never smelled right again. Yet there were wolves on the island, actual wolves of flesh and bones that needed real food to survive. They probably hunted the animals on the island's surface, so what was stopping him from doing the same? Just because Filia always said he was a disaster in the kitchen, it didn't need to be true. Hot sauce pranks aside, he could be a decent, maybe even a good, cook, perhaps even a great cook if he really tried. Or at least that's what Xellos thought; albeit he would soon find out that he was terribly mistaken.
Xellos glanced at the small wolf cub he had very recently decided to keep as a pet. "We're going up to the surface of the island to hunt down some groceries." The little wolf eagerly followed him.
xoxox xox xoxox
When the colors of the world around Amelia, Zelgadis, Lina and Gourry, stopped spinning, they found themselves in an elegant palace of ivory and gold. There stood Zelas in her elf-like form. This time her hair was a pale orange at the crown, fading to blond and finally to silvery white. Her eyes were silver, with long pupils that reflected amusement. Her sleeveless dress held its usual style in a pale pink-peach fabric that accentuated her tan, the long skirt slit on either side up to her thighs. She was wearing jewelry as usual, long chains twisting around her arms fading from yellow gold to white gold. "Your chaotic feelings are so delicious, I had to bring some home to share." Zelas grinned her mocking little grin that reminded Lina of Xellos.
"Home?" Amelia questioned in worry. "Do you mean your headquarters?"
"Yes, you may call this place that," Zelas smiled in anticipation waiting for the amusing reaction that was no doubt soon to come.
Zelgadis' eyes shone with Amelia's determination as she went on with her justice speech. "We have infiltrated the stronghold of evil and now we shall bring justice to it!"
"Infiltrated?" Zelas questioned curiously.
"Kind of..." Amelia conceded.
"I really don't think this is a very good time to be fighting for justice." Zelgadis tried to inject some logical thinking into the situation. "This is the lair of a monster lord, we can't win. We're in a terrible situation here."
"We're in a perfect situation here!" Lina exclaimed, taking everyone by surprise.
"Poor Miss Lina," Amelia frowned through Zelgadis' features, assuming that the extreme fear and anger had made poor Lina lose her mind. The princess felt terribly guilty about it.
"This is Beast Master's lair; Luna will never come looking for me here!" Lina finally breathed easy. Sure she had been angry at Zelas for putting her in the path towards the receiving end of Luna's wrath, but if Zelas provided protection from Luna, then Lina could forgive her. Besides, Lina was starting to come back to her senses and remembering that if she made Zelas truly angry, she would be dead.
"If you wish to stay here, you'll have to work for it." Zelas warned with a cunningly plotting look. "I'll tell my monsters not to harm you, but you must do your job well."
"Fine," Lina knew she had no choice but to agree. Greed aside, she also knew that asking for a monetary reward was probably pushing her luck too far. Besides, there was no better reward than being safe from Luna anyway. "What do we have to do?" Since this set of chores wasn't going to be done for a sort of redemption, then there was no reason why Lina shouldn't try to dump the work, or at least part of it, on everyone else.
"Take care of the young wolves. The many of the adults are off terrorizing human villages and the cubs need to be fed." Zelas explained, particularly enjoying the indignation coming from Amelia. "Basically, all you need to do is baby-sit a bunch of puppies, easy, right?"
"Nothing's ever easy when it comes to a Metallium," Lina ascertained. "Nonetheless, you can leave the cubs to us."
"How cooperative. Oh and by the way, here," Zelas snapped her finger but no obvious changes occurred. "The cubs are in the inner yard just down this hallway. You'd best not wander around, I cannot guarantee your safety if you do." Zelas disappeared, leaving a heavy feeling of foreboding behind.
A short moment of silence passed as a mischievous grin invaded Lina's face. "I wonder what kind of treasures and magical devices there are here?"
"Miss Lina!" Amelia scolded, realizing that her voice was indeed her own. She looked at Zelgadis, seeing him from her own perspective now.
At the same time, the same realization reached Zelgadis, "we're cured!"
"Yes!" Amelia cheered. "Maybe Zelas isn't so bad after all, at least she changed us back." 'There might be hope to convince her to agree to Xellos and Filia's wedding after all!' Amelia mused.
Zelgadis' relief was short lived, as his mind came up with a disturbing theory. "What if the only reason Zelas changed us back was because she has something much more troublesome in store for us?" Interrupting his own line of speech, Zelgadis turned his head suddenly, which was actually his own head now, to gaze behind the group, to where Lina was trying to tiptoe away down the opposite end of the hallway. "Gourry, I think Lina is tired, why don't you carry her? Keep her out of trouble while you're at it." The chimera helpfully suggested.
"Sure!" smiling as if he had no idea how dangerous that place was, and he probably didn't, Gourry picked up Lina.
"Put me down! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! I want the treasures! I need them!" Lina struggled and tried to break free of Gourry's grasp.
It was true that Gourry wasn't exactly an expert on the current happenings, or an expert on anything aside from swordsmanship, eating and Lina, but even so, he was still human. He still had a natural survival instinct that pushed his normal capabilities past their limit in cases of emergency. Thus, after much careful deliberation, Gourry reached several conclusions. "This place belongs to Zelas," he made his opening statement by reciting the obvious. "Zelas is a monster lord, she's strong and dangerous. The treasure here belongs to Zelas too. It's a bad idea to steal from someone strong and dangerous."
"Or from anyone at all," Amelia corrected. "It's unjust to steal, but I do agree with Mr. Gourry in that this time it's a particularly bad idea. This robbery would be much worse than any other robbery, not because Zelas doesn't deserve it, but because she would kill us."
Lina crossed her arms and pouted, still in Gourry's arms. "Fine, fine, I'll behave!"
xoxox xox xoxox
"Aw, you're so cute!" Amelia squealed for what felt like the millionth time. She found it hard to believe that those adorable little wolf cubs that were still so small they had to be fed milk in a bottle would one day be terrorizing random human, and likely also elf, villages. The chamber containing the inner yard was large and spacious with various forms of vegetation that were not plastic present there, consisting mostly of beautiful poisonous flowers. This was Zelas' place, so it was fitting.
"I can't believe we're doing this," Zelgadis frowned as he pried another little wolf cub off his arm. "Why do I get stuck with the ones that are teething?"
"Because your skin is the most durable out of all of us." Lina pointed out as a matter of fact. She too, like Amelia and Gourry, was cradling a wolf cub in her arms, feeding it with a bottle. The wolves were all young cubs, they were not all newborns, though most of them were. They came in all imaginable shades of gray and brown; black, white, red-ish, yellow-ish and so on.
The door to the inner yard was suddenly opened with a familiar person making his way in. Xellos had to pause and stare at the scene before him. "What are you doing here?" He wasn't sure if he should be glad or worried. Then again, if this was some sort of insane mission to 'rescue' him devised by Filia, why would her 'troops' be sitting around taking care of the wolf cubs instead of sneaking around trying to find him?
"We're babysitting, what's it look like?" Lina pointed out. She was quickly being tired out by the chores. Sure, the pups were kind of cute, but there were so many of them wanting her attention at the same time that it was starting to get on her nerves.
"Is there a reason for that?" Xellos inquired curiously.
"Zelas is protecting Lina from Luna," Gourry pointed out with a smile. He was proud of himself for being able to remember what was going on and accurately explain it.
Lina shuddered at the reminder, "let's not talk about Luna. Maybe if I lay low here for a while, she'll forget about me... I hope."
"Mr. Xellos..." Amelia wasn't going to reveal more than those around her already knew out of respect for Filia, but she had to have at least a silent conversation with Xellos about the situation. "Have you spoken to Miss Filia lately?" The princess hinted.
"Not really," Xellos admitted with a hint of something in his eyes. Amelia thought it was hope, but it was so well hidden she wasn't even sure. "Did she come along with you and stupidly wondered off?"
"No," Amelia replied somewhat flatly. "Miss Filia isn't here."
"I see..." A hint of disappointment escaped him. Xellos wondered just how much the group knew about his situation with Filia. Amelia seemed to be informed, but her relative silence as if wanting to communicate without revealing a secret made him conclude that the others were not necessarily fully informed about the latest happenings of his personal life. Not that it was any of their business anyway, but even Xellos had grown used to being in nosy company.
"Are you here to help take care of the wolf cubs?" Lina being Lina, was eager to recruit another person to dump work on. The more people were working as a team, the less she would have to do herself.
"What's in the tray?" Zelgadis suspiciously inquired, eyeing the covered tray that Xellos held. "Something you cooked?" He inferred from the fact that Xellos was wearing a pink apron with a picture of a little yellow chick on the front and a bandana of matching colors to keep his hair out of the way.
"Yes, I was going to prepare a meal for myself, but I don't have much of an appetite so I tried to give the food to my pet." Xellos looked around until he spotted his little pet shyly peeking into the inner yard chamber from the door. The little wolf cub had yellow fur that was lighter around her face, chest and stomach and bright blue eyes. She looked like she was waiting to take cover for some reason. "The little ingrate didn't want it, so I told her I was giving the food to her siblings and cousins instead. There's no use in letting a masterpiece go to waste. Now that you're here, maybe you can have some too." Xellos' hand hovered over the rounded metal cover that kept the contents of the plate in his hands hidden from view.
"No thanks," Amelia tried to sound as polite as possible.
"I'm not hungry either," Zelgadis agreed.
"Same here," Lina refused as well. She had a huge appetite, but she knew that if worse came to worst, starving was a much more pleasant option than attempting to stomach Xellos' cooking.
"I'll have some," Gourry stupidly volunteered himself. He didn't really understand why Lina would refuse food, but he was about to realize her reasons when Xellos revealed his dish. The scent that invaded the atmosphere was terribly unpleasant at best.
The dish appeared to be some kind of steak, although were it came from was anyone's guess. It was part burned and part raw with a foul scent all around it. Mutants were rather hard to cook, but Xellos thought he did pretty well for this being his first time making a roasted mutant animal steak. Honestly, he couldn't even tell what the mutant most resembled.
"On second thought, I'm not really hungry after all." Gourry quickly changed his mind, unable to resist the urge to cover his nose. The wolf cubs around them, that had an acute sense of smell, began to whine and cover their noses with their little paws. Some darted away further into the inner yard, while others hid behind their caretakers, giving them little shoves with their tiny paws, indicating that they should do something about this.
"Fireball!" Lina blasted the so called steak with a well aimed fireball that left Xellos holding a plate of ashes instead. The little wolf cubs gratefully gathered around their red haired savior, licking her and cuddling her.
The former monster frowned. "That was very rude of you, Lina."
"It was wrose of you to try to cook. Your cooking skills are an offense to food!" Lina scolded. "Besides, what was that thing supposed to be anyway? Some kind of roasted meat? It looked like it came from some kind of mutant creature!"
"It did come from a mutant creature," Xellos confirmed. "Don't you know that mutated creatures are considered delicacies in some countries?" Xellos guessed that they must have been brought directly inside if they had no chance to have a look around the surface of the island and notice the abundance of weird beasts.
Lina twisted her nose to the side in disgust. "Not in the country where I was born." At least she hoped not.
Since the danger was apparently gone, the little wolf that accompanied Xellos walked past the door to the inner yard and went to sit by his side. Having a better look at her, since she wasn't hiding in the hallway anymore, the group noticed that the little wolf had a purple bow around her neck and another smaller pink bow tied around the end of her tail. Before anyone could comment that Xellos' pet reminded them of Filia, or inquire about her name, another person entered the inner yard.
The new arrival walked a few steps inside the large chamber, standing there looking dangerously imposing. Her hair of deep purplish-crimson created a sinister shadow over her eyes as she threateningly voice one name. "Lina..."
Lina's face grew pale, her eyes wide, her mouth ajar. Her whole body trembled. "Lu... Lu... Lu..." This wasn't supposed to happen; she was supposed to be safe there. Where was Zelas when she was needed? "Luna!" Lina screamed at the top of her lungs as she took off in a mad dash further into the inner yard. She spotted another door on the opposite end of it and hurried towards it. She wasn't supposed to be wondering around, but nothing in the lair of a monster lord could possibly be scarier than Luna in Lina's opinion. "Zelas!" She screamed in a panic. "Help! You're supposed to be protecting me! Where are you? Zelas!"
To be Continued