After a powerful brass rackets duel, both Zelas and Milgazia's rackets had been broken. The two fierce competitors got new rackets, and prepared to continue the intense match. Unfortunately, the harsh diet and exercise routine Milgazia had gone through to discourage Zelas' culinary inclinations towards him, was seriously taking its toll. He was already exhausted when she arrived with her challenge and pushing himself like this was no good. The glow around him faded as did his senses, until he caught a glimpse of the ground coming closer before blacking out completely.
"Are you paying attention, Milgazia? I said it's your turn to serve. Get up, we're not done here." Silence invaded the area as the dragons of Milgazia's clan held their breath in tension, unsure of their brave leader's fate. The glow around Zelas subsided as she reverted back to a calmer state, her human disguise more noticeably in place, devoid of wolf aspects, wings or a dark glow. "Time out," the tone of her voice sounded very much human, though as always, imposing and powerful. Zelas made her way to the opposite side of the court and took a closer look at Milgazia. "So you're still alive... I told you dieting was a bad idea, you'll just get uglier and weaker."
Determined golden eyes opened as Milgazia pushed himself to get up. He finally noticed his tail was out when he automatically used it to balance himself on his feet. "We're not finished here."
"It wasn't exactly a knock down. But you were on the ground anyway," Zelas pointed out. "I suppose I can't call this a real victory. Having my opponent drop dead," metaphorically speaking, "and killing my prey," again, not literally, "are two different things. We'll have a rematch when you've recovered. When all this Stillness business is over, you better be prepared for a real duel. Your life will depend on your ability to entertain me in the brass rackets court."
"I'll be ready," Milgazia assured. With nothing more to say, Zelas faded away to the astral side. The golden dragons and Memphis waited for a few more seconds until they were sure Zelas was really gone. Then they surrounded Milgazia, congratulating him for his brave efforts. He would have to be ready for the rematch though. Next time, he couldn't face Zelas in exhaustion. He needed to be at his best, his life, and most importantly from his perspective, the lives of his comrades, depended on his performance in the brass rackets court.
xoxox xox xoxox
"Life is wonderful!" Amelia shouted at the top of her lungs. At the moment, even Xellos was inclined to agree with her, but that was only because he had a severe yet satisfying massive brain freeze from all the ice-cream he was consuming.
Amelia, Zelgadis, Naga, Gravos, Philionel, Lina, Gourry, Filia, Xellos and even Fili were gathered around the Seyruun royal dinning room feasting on the sweets that would cost the kingdom ever so much in the long run. However, if they didn't do this, they wouldn't be able to muster the strength to survive long enough to regret being so severely in debt with Zelas. Everything seemed to be alright until Fili started to howl for no apparent reason again. Knowing that this couldn't be just a coincidence, the group became silent and still, save for Lina and Gourry, who didn't stop pigging out until the cause for the wolf-dog cub's alarm became obvious.
"I've had just about enough of this," the same being from before appeared once again, the Void.
"It looks like I crashed this party right on time," another also arrived at the scene. Fading from the astral side into existence, Zelas stood proudly.
"Beast Master, the one whom Lamentation tried and failed to use," the Void glared. "I thought you would be smart enough to know that you cannot fight us, monster lord. A purely astral being has no shield against the Stillness."
"I am indeed a purely astral being, pure chaos. Do you envy me in your tainted impurity?" Zelas grinned mockingly. "The Stillness was broken into three pieces. Two of those pieces entered the world before the Lord of Nightmares placed a barrier around it, with Lamentation remaining outside. Meanwhile, the Void and the End were reborn inside the beings of this world in a dormant state. The cycle could not begin without Lamentation to eat away the shield, so that the essence could be exposed. The Void and the End became impure by hiding in dynamic beings of change, of chaos. That impurity kept the Stillness in existence; that is why it didn't show its true form of nothing. When the barrier of the Lord of Nightmares was temporarily lifted, Lamentation entered the world to begin the cycle. However, it needed to fuse with the remains of the Green Alchemist in order to interact with the physical world and attack the shield, the body. Thus the Stillness became further impure, poisoned by chaos. After Lamentation weakened the world, the cycle moved on to the second phase, the Void. The shield has not yet fully crumbled, but it has been weakened, thus you saw it fit to attack the essence."
"This is only the beginning of the second phase, I was released early, but that will only make things worse for you," the Void growled angrily. "Do not mock me, monster lord. The Stillness was once the chain that entrapped the one who gave you life. The Stillness and the Mother were the same long ago, yet eternally opposites. When this world is destroyed, everything will be purified and then the Stillness will return to its true form of nothing along with the world. It will all be nothing!"
As she listened to the exchange, Lina remembered what Valgaav spoke of concerning Darkstar and Vorfeed. There was a never ending cycle, a trap that they tried to break free of. The endless war of good and evil was in essence motion. Yet if that motion ever ceased, the definition of what is peace would be lost to the lack of perilous contrast. There would be nothing to strive for, there would only be stillness. Eventually, that stillness would consume all and there would be no life. That trap wasn't just a trap; it was a means of existence. If that were so, then the monsters would be needed to fuel it. That must be their true mission that had been interpreted differently.
Xellos recalled his wish and Beast Master's wish to be true monsters, to destroy the world themselves. Though now Beast Master wished to torment the world eternally instead and he agreed with her that it was the better choice. Maybe that's why it felt so ironic, yet so right, to contribute to saving the world that time. Perhaps to keep things in motion was the monsters' true mission.
"This world belongs to chaos!" Zelas charged forward towards the Void with a ball of black energy in her hand.
"Beast Master..." This didn't make any sense to Xellos. Zelas was a purely astral being. She had already realized that she had no shield against the Stillness, no physical anchor to affirm that she was in fact there, undeniable proof that she was real. The physical body was the kind of proof that didn't depend entirely on the subjective and bendable notions of the mind. This was different, but it also reminded Xellos of when they faced Darkstar and the enemy tried to drain them from the astral side. Zelgadis had even encouraged Amelia to sing about life, which actually didn't bother Xellos all that much. But that was only because he could barely hear her as he was far too busy painfully receiving the worse effects of the astral attack that assaulted the group.
Lina and the others watched unsure of if they should interfere. They didn't expect Zelas to take the fight into her own hands so suddenly. Zelas shot her attack at the Void and hit the target, throwing more black energy with violet lightning at the fiend.
"Chaos is so random, so unruly, so imperfect," the Void mocked, unaffected by the dark energy that was making Seyruun castle tremble. "Only true nothingness is perfect. You cannot win; I deny your very existence!"
Zelas' form became semi-transparent as if she was a ghost and the energy she was shooting at her foe appeared to be a strain to keep up. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond-"
"Quiet, Xellos!" Zelas growled. "Do not interfere!" Xellos stopped casting the spell, watching as the void approached Zelas.
The Void extended her hand, she or rather it, was also astral, appearing in the physical world as a projection. "Give your energy to me..." Zelas yelled, seemingly in pain. She tried to break free of the hold that the Void had on her, but it proved to be difficult.
"We have to help Miss Zelas!" Amelia, ever the kind hearted person, was quick to set aside the fact that Zelas was a monster lord and was ready to jump to the rescue as she would for any of her precious comrades of justice.
"Amelia's right, I don't care if she doesn't want our help, she's going to get it!" Lina loudly exclaimed. "I can't just stand by and watch as the greatest chef I've ever known is murdered before my eyes!"
"Too late," the Void faded to the astral side along with Zelas, dragging her out of the others' reach.
"What just happened here?" Lina stared at the empty space where Zelas was a moment ago in shock. "How could she have been taken away so easily?"
"Miss Zelas is in danger!" Amelia exclaimed.
"Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga's laughter echoed, piercing the silence that formed after Zelas and the Void faded to the astral side. "Someone with a laugh as powerful as hers will not be so easily defeated. Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"
"Of course not," Xellos grinned confidently. "We need only wait for Lord Beast Master to victoriously return."
xoxox xox xoxox
"Foolish monster lord," the Void's voice echoed in the astral side. "I thought you were supposed to be cunning. To think you would face me so recklessly."
Zelas floated next to the Void in her true form with a somewhat lifeless expression. Yet suddenly her eyes opened and the golden winged wolf glared at the glowing silvery mist around her that was the Void. "This is a test to see the extent of your abilities. It matters not if in the long run an astral being is ineffective against you. The fact remains that you alone will not be able to defeat me. I may not have a shield, but I have an anchor in this world."
Zelas broke free of the Void's hold, spreading the silvery mist that struggled to surround her. "How can you defend against me? You have no physical body; you have no link to this world beyond your thoughts."
"I have their thoughts too," Zelas reminded. "As long as a living creature is remembered, it will not cease to exist. In fact, even a being who did not initially exist will somehow become manifest if enough entities believe in its existence. Right now there are a lot of people who can't stop thinking about me." That was the reason for which Zelas revealed herself at the wedding; that was the purpose for which she put on a brass rackets show for the golden dragons, her intentions in her continued interaction with Lina's group. "Your early awakening was not a benefit to you. The world has not been sufficiently weakened for you to overtake it." Zelas began to fade from the astral space to return to the physical world.
"The Stillness will succeed in bringing forth the End!" The Void called out with a tone akin to frustration. "Until then, I won't let you leave so easily!" The silvery mist surrounded Zelas one last time, stealing her black cone jewel necklace and fading away. "Your power will be used against you Beast Master; you'll regret this careless move."
xoxox xox xoxox
Zelas faded into existence at Seyruun castle, back in her elf-like form. Her tan complexion was as flawless as ever, she was wearing her usual white dress with her bangles and anklets sounding against each other with her every step. "Miss Zelas is alright!" Amelia happily exclaimed.
"So, Zelas, I mean, Lord Beast Master. Since you were victorious, why don't we celebrate with some of your delicious cooking?" Lina immediately suggested, grinning hungrily.
"That's a great idea!" Gourry was quick to agree.
"You've been pigging out all day and you want more food?" Zelgadis let out a hopeless breath. The gluttonous duo was never satisfied.
"Unfortunately, I was not so victorious," Zelas dramatized with exaggerated anguish. "All I could do was barely escape with my life."
"This is a truly strong enemy if even a monster lord has trouble defending against it," Philionel mused aloud. "Even so, justice will find a way to triumph in the end!"
"That's right!" Amelia cheered.
"Perhaps if we combine the power of our laughter, we'll win. Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga suggested, though that was a possibility that no one wanted to witness. It would probably destroy the world faster and much more painfully than the Stillness could.
Filia pouted with an impatient glare. "You barely escaped with your life? I hope you're not expecting us to believe that."
There was one little detail that was out of place, which Xellos noticed and pointed out. "Lord Beast Master... Where's the necklace with the black cone gem?"
Zelas touched the area where the necklace should have been. "Oh no! It seems I must have dropped it in the astral side! I bet that terrible Void creature stole it and is probably taking it to the Green Alchemist's hideout to join forces with Lamentation and use Xellos' power against us. Oh, such a dreadful situation we're in."
"Oh no! Xellos power was stolen by the enemy?" Gourry actually understood a portion of the explanation, though many of the details were still lost to him. "That's bad!" Unfortunately, Gourry was not able to realize that the overall situation made little strategic sense if it were real. Thus he was not capable of determining that it all had to be a set up by Zelas.
"I see," for someone who supposedly had his power stolen by the enemy, Xellos was pretty calm. "What's the next step then?"
"You'd best hurry along and recover the black cone gem," Zelas suggested, setting aside her false dramatics in favor of a more business-like tone. "I think another journey is in order. Travel around the world and you might hear word of the whereabouts of the gem. If you split up, you'll be able to cover more ground. I already have Phythan, Onyx and Fang traveling around, so I'll tell them to keep an eye out for it too."
"Wait a minute," Lina protested. "I understand that you allowed the gem to be stolen on purpose," the perceptive redhead stated.
Her less then perceptive fiance scratched his head and donned a confused expression. "Really? But why would Zelas want her jewelry to be stolen?" As far as Gourry knew, the topic of Xellos' power and Zelas' necklace were separate, as the vital link between them escaped his notice.
"I don't know and that's what I want to find out," Lina demanded to know. "What do you hope to accomplish by allowing the enemy to take Xellos' power? If you want these creatures gone too, why don't you just tell us all that you know about them? It's true that you've been using us, but given that we have a common enemy, the great Lina Inverse might be willing to cooperate."
"I suppose I could tell you," Zelas agreed. "The hideout of the Green Alchemist, where Lamentation is and most likely where the Void headed, is protected by a sort of astral shield that cannot be easily broken. For that reason, we can't just charge in and fight as things stand now. If the fragments of the Stillness try to use Xellos' power to further its cause, and they most likely will, it will activate and relay information to Xellos even if it cannot unite with Xellos to change him back. In other words, the main part of Xellos will remain here as a human, while a portion of him exists as a monster alongside the Stillness, serving as a spy. When the battle ends, I'll unite the two halves to complete Xellos as he should be. Until then, he'll have to work a double shift, so to speak."
"Two Xellos," Lina frowned, "that's not a very comforting thought."
"I agree, two Xellos are too many," Filia added.
"Who do you think you're kidding, stupid dragon? You would love to have two of me," Xellos teased.
"No way! I couldn't live with double the raw garbage!" Filia argued.
"In any case," Lina interrupted the argument to get the conversation back on track. "If this other half of Xellos is pretending to be on the enemy's side, splitting up would make us appear more vulnerable for an attack and would give him an excuse to come to us. I see where you're going with that. It looks like we have another journey ahead of us... Right after we celebrate Thanksgiving!"
"We can't wait any longer. We need to put our plan into action right away. Justice is strong and swift!" Amelia eagerly exclaimed.
"What about Seyruun? We need to stay here and make sure everything is alright. We can't abandon the citizens of this fine kingdom in their time of need!" Lina argued with what she hoped sounded selfless and just enough to be convincing.
"I don't care for justice, so I'll be leaving now," Zelas announced. "I have the dinner of ingratitude to prepare for. Maybe I'll cook some dimos dragon this year..."
As Zelas faded away, Lina called out to her, "I'm invited to that dinner aren't I? I want dimos dragon cuisine!"
"Me too!" Gourry added.
"Save some dimos dragon for me!" Xellos joined in.
Looking furious Filia growled, "no one is eating dragon cuisine! How could you be so inconsiderate?"
Lina and Gourry backed away from Filia's wrath with Lina being the only one who dared to try to voice an argument in their defense. "It's dimos dragon cuisine, not golden dragon cuisine. There's nothing for you to be so angry about!"
"A dragon is a dragon and I can't allow you to eat my kind!" Filia insisted.
"When did you become so patriotic?" Lina pouted.
"That's not the point!" Filia argued.
Seeing as this could turn into an endless debate, Philionel stepped in. "I think the new mission should be carried out as soon as possible. Saving the world takes priority. Once that's done we'll be able to have a real Thanksgiving."
"Go out there and try your best in the pursuit of justice little sister," Naga encouraged Amelia. "Daddy, Gravy, little Fili and I will stay here and make sure Seyruun is alright," she encouraged with her signature laugh. "Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!"
xoxox xox xoxox
With three different routes decided on, the group split into three teams and went off to comb the land in search for the missing black cone jewel. Or at least that was the pretence of their journey. In truth, they were making themselves available for Zelas plan to go into action. Amelia and Zelgadis were on one team, Lina and Gourry composed another and Xellos and Filia the other. Xellos was sure that whenever his other half was awakened, he would feel it and agreed to contact the others when that happened. For the time being they would travel, review the situations in different parts of the land and stay on the lookout for useful information and opportunities to strike back against their enemy.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 113: Tainted! The Nameless Beast
Deep underground behind a strong magical shield of astral properties, a seed with roots linked to the cavern around it glowed ominously. A silvery mist faded into existence next to it, not bothering to take on any other shape aside from that. Suspended in the mist, there was a necklace with a black cone shaped jewel, which contained powerful monster energy locked inside it.
"It is too early for you, but the cycle has already been pushed forward for better or for worse," Lamentation's voiceless message reached the Void.
Replying in the same way, the Void approached with the jewel. "It might have seemed for the better, then for the worse and now for the better again. Yet such concepts, they should matter not to us. They are both something, and only nothing is perfection, only nothing is absolute for not the greatest evil or the greatest good of this chaotic world is pure. Let us use this power in our favor and show the foolish beast that the Stillness is absolute!"
The silvery mist floated closer to the seed and faded into it, merging with it. The two fragments, Lamentation and the Void became one along with the remains of the Green Alchemist. The black cone gem floated in the astral space contained inside the seed. "Awaken," the incomplete Stillness called out to it. "Awaken monster power, break free of the seal and become one with the Stillness!"
Xellos' power began to react as the seal placed on the gem by Beast Master was slowly broken. The gem was surrounded by a violet light as the power desperately searched for its owner, but Xellos was not there. As an involuntary defense mechanism, the monster energy assumed that Xellos' projected body had been completely destroyed and in an automatic motion of survival it began to try to recreate Xellos.
"You shall not be allowed to become linked to him..." The golden scales and energy that had been stolen from Filia some time ago, in the encounter with the Dragon Slayers, floated in the astral space closer to the cone gem. "With this, a sample of the power and the body of a golden dragon, you shall become tainted, monster energy. You shall not answer to your previous owner for this energy and him are different now, further imperfect variations. Die will of Xellos! Become consumed by your opposite and leave your power behind for the Stillness to claim!"
A silhouette similar to Xellos had begun to form, generated by the monster energy that once was his. The golden scales and laser energy were fused with the shadowy figure, its blackness becoming tainted with swirls of gold. The copy cried out as if in pain and reverted to a more basic form, a black cone. The golden swirls continued to spread, overtaking the black cone and separating the second Xellos from the main one. Finally, the cone turned golden and once again began to take on the shape of a man. This was not Xellos; this was a different being.
The being materialized itself dressed similarly to Xellos, wearing a white shirt instead of yellow. He didn't have the cloak and staff; instead he carried a mace strapped on his belt beside him. His hair was purple with two golden lines that fell on the sides of his face, outside the low ponytail that held the rest of his hair. His deep violet eyes examined the area around him. Coming into existence had been painful, as if someone attempted to take his life before it could finish being established. "Who am I?" That was the first question that came out of his mouth. It was only natural for a newly created monster to have the necessity to establish an identity to become truly whole.
'The golden dragon sample was not enough to stop the defense mechanism of the monster energy. A being came into existence after all,' the two fused fragments of the Stillness mused quietly. 'It matters not if I do not absorb this energy. This creature can still be of use in taking the life of Beast Master's general priest,' the incomplete Stillness concluded. "You have no need for an identity, Nameless Beast. You only need to think of your mission..."
xoxox xox xoxox
There were hardly any clouds in the sky, a chilly breeze blew and the temperature seemed to drop a degree lower by the hour. The path was desolate in more ways than one. Not only were those two the only people making their way through the rural road, but there was also a general lack of vegetation all around. The trees' brown falling leaves had left them completely and the bare bark looked gray and sickly. There was no grass, no bushes, not even the remains of the fallen leaves of autumn could be seen, as if the earth has swallowed them up in desperate starvation.
As Xellos and Filia made their way to the town where Jillas, Elena and Palou were with Val, Xellos stopped suddenly. He felt as if he was being ripped apart. He found himself strangely wondering if Zelas felt any pain when she removed a portion of her own essence to create him, or if this pain was a side-effect of his human state. This was different though, the other half was still him.
"Xellos? What's wrong?" Filia inquired with concern.
"It's happening..." It was the strangest sensation, like being in two places at the exact same time. His second body, a purely astral one, was still forming and his senses were still blurry. "I can almost see it, astral space, there's strong energy all around." A sharper pain coursed through him, which made Xellos almost collapse.
"Xellos!" Filia didn't know what to do. He had no physical wounds, so recovery wouldn't be of much help. "What's happening?"
"I'm... I'm losing it... my copy." Xellos spoke with difficulty, holding on to Filia, his eyes closed, the pain almost consuming him. Then there was nothing but the numb aftershock of it all. He breathed slowly and tried to sense it again. "It's gone... my copy is no longer connected to me. Just as Beast Master predicted when the seal on my power was broken, a copy was created, but I can't sense it anymore!"
"Was it destroyed?" Filia asked with worry, at least the pain that assaulted Xellos seemed to be gone. What did it mean that he couldn't sense his power? Was it resealed or had the enemy somehow absorbed it?
"I don't think so," the more Xellos thought about it, the more a particular possibility made sense. "It became its own being separate from me. It's not just a copy, it's another monster."
Filia stared at Xellos in shock. "Another Xellos? Is he on our side? Does he answer to Beast Master?"
"If he's on our side and the Stillness realizes it, he'll be swiftly destroyed and if not, we'll have a new enemy." Xellos tried not to show too much of his frustration with the situation. This was Beast Master's plan and she had expressed that she had no intentions of throwing him away. She wouldn't allow his power to be permanently destroyed and if it was, she could perhaps spare some of her energy to turn him back into a monster later. None the less, it bothered him that his power was being used like this, left in the hands of the enemy.
"What should we do?" Filia asked unsure.
"I'll send a report about this as planned," Xellos decided. The action did not take too long with the usual monster courier bird communication method through the astral side.
Beast Master's reply came swiftly, instructing the group to continue with the plan as previously discussed. The order wasn't particularly reassuring, but it was all that could be done. Infiltrating the enemy stronghold was impossible at the moment.
xoxox xox xoxox
At Amor Resort, the rebuilding process continued. The wooden clock tower had been recreated just as it was before, with its falling apart appearance and rickety structure. Far below it, in another of its secret basements, Celo was taking a moment to tinker with some odd little machines. The basement was lit with magic, creating enough light to work on small details comfortably on the large table that was cluttered with tools, bolts and small metal parts. "Look, they spin!" He held up an assortment of gears in a little platform that seemed to grow in size, the smaller ones spinning much faster than the larger ones. "One gear powers another and their speed varies, I can reproduce this model at a larger scale and use it for my secret project for Beast Master!" Celo paused, waiting for his wife's reaction. "Honey, they spin!" He repeated excitedly.
Tiffany sighed and humored Celo with a glance, looking away for a moment from her editing work on the latest chapter Onyx had sent her for review. "Yes, dear, they do spin, endlessly and meaninglessly until it's time to wind it up again." With blatant disregard, she turned her attention back to her papers, reading over the same paragraph for the third time, before giving up and accepting the fact that she simply could not concentrate. She let out an annoyed breath and put the papers away on a folder.
"Are you angry at me?" Celo inquired, his excitement over his latest gadget was gone, his mouth going from a smile to a pout.
"No," Tiffany snapped, it wasn't like her to snap. "I'm just stressed with life in general, okay? I'm going up to the top of the clock tower to get some fresh air."
Celo still couldn't figure out what the problem with Tiffany was. She had been acting strange ever since her private conversation with Beast Master, the topic of which she still refused to reveal. She just kept saying it was girl stuff that he wouldn't understand, but it had to be something serious. "Getting some fresh air sounds like a splendid idea."
"I'm going alone," Tiffany firmly stated. "Do not follow me, I need to take a breather now and then, understand that!" She left the basement, hurrying up the stairs and towards the top of the rickety clock tower.
xoxox xox xoxox
Tiffany remembered her conversation with Beast Master and the request that the monster lord refused to grant. "Please Lord Beast Master, seal me away and the End within me. It might help at the very least delay the Stillness' plans!"
"That will not work," Zelas refused. "Lamentation weakens the body, the Void weakens the mind and the End, I would assume, is a sort of reaper that finishes off those who have already fallen. Yet the End is mysterious, is it the ultimate enemy or a mercy? Does it actually contribute to the death of the world, or is it merely there to dispose of the corpse after the world is already dead? Either way, by the time the End is truly awakened, the war would have been lost. Furthermore, for the Stillness to be defeated it is very likely, almost certain that all three fragments must be destroyed at once. If I seal the End and it continues to exist tainted by your chaos, then the Lord of Lamentation and the Void, even if they are purified into nothing, will continue to exist because of their link with the End and will eventually return to oppose chaos. Continue to carry your secret burden and let it become manifest when the time is right. This is an enemy that must be faced, or else chaos will not be able to truly overcome the Stillness."
"That's too dangerous!" Tiffany insisted. "The End is a horrifying thing, it is so empty. It's different from pain, it's nothing, forgotten, none-existent, absolute nothingness. It's worse than dying. I can feel it inside me, it wants to come out. I know it cannot be defeated, it's too late, the cycle of the Stillness has already awakened and the End is inevitable. It's just as it has been warned, the world would be destroyed by the effects of the spell that called upon the Lord of Nightmares. Even if it was not a direct effect, her shield was removed and the death blow has been struck. Please Lord Beast Master, I beg of you, seal me away! We cannot win; all that can be done is delay the inevitable. If everyone unites against this, the world might still survive for a few more years to come. Please allow Celo to live a little longer, I'm sure he doesn't want to disappear without finishing his machine projects. Maybe then another alternative will come up to prolong chaos even more. There's still so much that everyone needs to do. Give them that chance, even if it is so that you can take the opportunity to cruelly ruin it all for your own enjoyment. Please, Lord Beast Master, I beg of you!" Tiffany had fallen to her knees, abundant tears streaming down her face.
"That's enough, foolish dragon! Stop your useless begging." Zelas scolded angrily. "I do not intend to lose this fight. I will be victorious. Leave now."
Thinking back on it, it was ironic that a monster lord would have more hope for the future than a golden dragon. Yet it was Tiffany who felt the End within her. It was she who felt that the cycle was impossible to stop.
xoxox xox xoxox
Far away from the other groups, Zelgadis and Amelia followed their own traveling route. The scenery was cold and depressing, devoid of life. The ground was starting to feel sandy beneath their boots, as if its nutrients had been drained terribly. "It looks like the earth will take a long time to recover from this."
"Yes, the terrible famine is going stronger than ever. I thought things would get better after Narcissus was defeated, but he was only one of the many that are hidden from us." Amelia recalled. She tried to stay optimistic as she always did. "We can't give up! Justice always triumphs! The more evil they are the harder they fall!" She loudly exclaimed, quickening her pace down the desolate gloomy path.
"Isn't it the bigger they are, the harder they fall?" Zelgadis pointed out.
"That too, but when it comes to justice, the most evil ones always fall the hardest!" Amelia cheered. "This evil is indeed the most evil of all!" Although in truth the Stillness wasn't good or evil, it was simply nothing, while good and evil were concepts that helped fuel motion, chaos.
"Why do you sound so cheerful when you say that?" Zelgadis answered his own question in thinking that Amelia sounded cheerful when she said almost anything. He remembered her cheerfully throwing out dramatic accusations, such as the time when she launched a psychological warfare attack on Xellos after regretting that one of her comrades had turned to the darkness. Of course, Xellos pointed out that he had been a monster all along, but Amelia wasn't listening to him, instead focusing on going on and on about how wonderful life was.
"It's true that the fact that our enemy is strong means it will be more trouble for us," Amelia acknowledged. "But let's look on the bright side! This means that when we finally emerge victorious, because justice always wins, our triumph will be all the greater!" The energetic princess cheered. "Just think of the way things are, if even a monster lord such as Zelas has labeled the Stillness as her enemy, then that means it must be really bad, even by her standards."
"Right..." Zelgadis didn't think that was anything to be happy about. A force worse than a monster lord, worse than even Shabranigdu, was not something anyone in their right mind would look forward to facing. Yet he knew that he had to stay strong and cheerful or else it would mean certain defeat. Even so, could such a thing that was an enemy to both good and evil, truly be overcome?
Not too far away from Amelia and Zelgadis, the sound of grunts and complaints were heard, as a group of bandits hurried to take refuge in a cave up ahead. A tall black bearded human man, walking in front of the band held up a shiny black cone shaped jewel. "Jewelry, nothing but jewelry, that's all the loot we got." He complained in disappointment.
"Isn't it ironic, boss?" A leopard-like beastman, with a slimmer bone structure and a more agile constitution than the muscular yet bony from hunger leader, commented from next to him. "Some months ago we would have been more than happy with a haul like this."
"Some months ago the world wasn't so close to dying," the leader reminded. "But we can't eat jewels and there's hardly any food left to steal. Even if we tried to trade with pirates from another land, a mountain of gold is of little value in comparison to a bit of food. Oh to be a monster and not need any food, I bet they're feasting on our pain!"
"I wouldn't be so sure anymore, boss," the leopard replied. "It looked like the monsters were having a party at first, but now it looks like something's eating them up from the astral side. I know because I saw a monster the other day while looting that village, it looked like it was in pain. You think that what's affecting the monsters is the same thing that's eating the planet itself? You think it's the return of Shabranigdu or something worse? Cause it makes no sense that Shabranigdu would kill off the monsters too. But what could be worse than him?"
"Who knows?" The leader shook his head hopelessly. "We might not even live long enough to find out. It's better not to think about it."
Unknown to the distracted and hungry bandits, the pair of travelers of justice were watching them. "Did you see that jewel the leader had?" Amelia pointed at it excitedly, too far from the bandits to hear their conversation.
"Wait, this could be a trap," Zelgadis cautioned, soon adding the inevitable, "but we can't ignore it. They might be more minions of the Stillness tricked by the story that the Green Alchemist is Gaia," just like the Dragon Slayers were.
"Right, let's march right over to that group of bandits and demand an explanation," said and done, Amelia rushed in. "Hold it right there bandits! We're here to reclaim the black cone gem that you stole! You must also reveal all that you know about the Stillness that calls itself the Green Alchemist and Gaia!"
"What's that girl talking about, boss?" The leopard pointed a confused clawed finger at Amelia, adding something else in a whisper. "By the way boss, doesn't she look delicious? I mean healthy? She might know where we can find food!"
"Delicious... yes, yes... I mean healthy," The leader wiped his mouth and beard with his sleeve.
Zelgadis glared fiercely and didn't waste another second before drawing his sword. He did not like the hungry looks those bandits were giving Amelia. He wasn't sure if they were perverts or cannibals, but both possibilities were terrible and he would not allow them. "You better stay back, surrender the black cone gem and tell us everything you know!" The chimera protectively threatened.
"This?" The bandit leader lifted the jewel, wondering what set it apart from the rest of the stolen jewelry in his gang's sacks. The seemingly well fed travelers were specifically looking for it, so it had to be important. "I don't know what you're babbling about that Green Alchemist and Gaia, but if you want this, then it must be good enough to fight for!" The bandit lifted the gem enclosing his fist tightly around it in a challenging motion.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 114: Unstable! A Dangerous Combination
A beam of laser breath, like that of a golden dragon, came out of seemingly nowhere, interrupting the encounter of Amelia and Zelgadis versus the bandits. The laser collided with the bandit leader's hand, making him drop the damaged black cone jewel and clutch the burnt appendage in pain. "Ah! Who did that?"
All heads automatically turned towards the direction in which the laser had come from, where someone had recently faded out of the astral side. "It might have some monetary value, but in the end it was only an insignificant replica. Not that you bandits have any idea what I'm talking about, do you?" The man strongly resembled Xellos, his black pupils were long and the irises of his eyes were purple, they were just like Xellos' monster eyes. He had his purple hair tied back, with two golden locks framing the sides of his face. His ears were long and pointy, like the ears of an elf or a golden dragon. He held a mace and looked like he was ready to use it if the bandits interrupted his curiosity. "You two," he addressed Amelia and Zelgadis. "I hold no memories of you, yet I see recognition in your faces. I've been told I resemble the one called Xellos. Where is he?"
Zelgadis had received word of what Xellos sensed earlier and knew that his copy could be their enemy. This man certainly resembled Xellos, but he was far from being an exact copy. "Who are you and why do you want to know where Xellos is?"
"Who am I?" The question seemed to fill the man with anger. "I am only known as the Nameless Beast." He growled with a frustration that neither Zelgadis nor Amelia could quite figure out. "As for my reason to search for Xellos... That is a secret." He shook his finger, adopting a pose much like that of the original Xellos. With anger invading his features, he elaborated, "but I'll tell you anyway. My purpose is to kill Xellos!" The Nameless Beast pointed his mace at Zelgadis and Amelia. "Tell me where he is or else!"
"Absolutely not!" Amelia refused. "We won't let you bring any harm to Mr. Xellos! Even if you were made from him, you are evil!"
"Don't you mean because instead of even if?" Comrades or not, Zelgadis couldn't help it but to throw out that little comment. Nonetheless, he was willing to stand by Amelia and help her cause.
"I see, so you're on his side; that makes you my enemies!" The Nameless Beast stubbornly declared. "Die, friends of Xellos!" He shot a beam of laser from his mouth, but Amelia and Zelgadis dodged, jumping in opposite directions with the laser passing between them.
"Feel the power of justice! Elmekia Lance!" Amelia fought back with the spell hitting the target.
The Nameless Beast felt the effects of the attack, but was no where near beaten yet. "I won't be defeated, not until Xellos has paid for what he's done!" He shot a mass of black energy from his hand, which collided with Amelia and sent her flying several feet back.
"Amelia!" Zelgadis was at her side in a split second.
"I'm... alright," the princess tried to recover from the attack; she stumbled forward and finally regained her balance. "Justice will always triumph!" She valiantly exclaimed despite her bruised state.
"Astral Vine!" Zelgadis powered up his sword for the attack and went charging into battle. The mace and the sword collided with mighty blows.
While the fight went on, the leopard beastman whispered to the human leader. "Maybe this is a little out of our league, these people are ignoring us."
"If they're strong enough to obtain food in this situation, then they're pretty strong. Let's take the loot and run!" The bandit leader wisely decided. The second in command leopard and the rest of the bandits picked up their sacks of spoils and ran away.
Unfortunately for the bandits they didn't get too far. The Nameless Beast was the first priority, but that didn't mean that Amelia was going to let a bunch of evil bandits escape without facing justice. "You won't escape without punishment! Fireball!"
The flames hit the targets, flying out of Amelia's hands continuously. "We can't hold our own against these sorcerers, run for it!" Dropping their sacks of jewelry in favor of faster movement, the gang of bandits ran away for dear life.
Amelia would have stopped them, but something more important came up. Zelgadis' sword pushed against the Nameless Beast's mace. The monster dragon grinned as if he had the upper hand even though it had looked as if they were almost evenly matched. He shot another laser from his mouth point blank and Zelgadis barely had time to dodge. The laser reached the chimera's shoulder as he tried to move to the side out of the way of it. "Zelgadis!" Having recovered from the hit she took earlier, aside from a few scratches, Amelia rejoined the main fight. "Source of all souls which dwell in eternal and infinite. Everlasting flame of blue, let the power in my soul be called forth from the infinite... Ra Tilt!"
Just as the Nameless Beast lifted his mace to attack Zelgadis, he was reached by Amelia's spell and dropped his mace in pain. "You should have stayed out of this!" Angered, he shot two beams of black energy surrounded in violet lightning from his hands at Amelia and Zelgadis.
The princess and the chimera jumped out of the way and made sure to stay moving, narrowly dodging the incoming blasts of dark energy. The Nameless Beast was powerful, but as a newly created being, he was inexperienced in battle. "Your evil will never win!" Amelia scolded, though she and Zelgadis were so busy dodging that they didn't get the chance to throw in any attacks.
Zelgadis wasn't so sure that they had the upper hand, but they certainly weren't losing either. It looked more like the Nameless Beast was throwing a hissy fit, shooting beams of dark energy in every direction. If that was the case, then angering him further might work in their favor. "Prepare to admit defeat, you little freak!"
Suddenly the attacks ceased, which caught Amelia and Zelgadis by surprise so much that they didn't immediately take the opportunity to launch attacks of their own. The Nameless Beast was just standing there with his face downcast. Then he looked at Zelgadis with a very upset expression. "You shouldn't talk, you're a strange combination too, meanie!" Without another moment to waste, he picked up his mace and faded away into the astral side.
Amelia and Zelgadis stared at the empty space, where the Nameless Beast was mere seconds ago, in shock. "What just happened?" The chimera asked in puzzlement.
"I think you hurt his feelings," Amelia correctly concluded.
"Oh..." Zelgadis stopped to think about it. The Nameless Beast appeared to be a combination of monster and dragon. How that happened, if he was supposed to be a copy of Xellos, was anyone's guess right now. Yet could he really be that sensitive about it? He did have a point though, Zelgadis was a combination too, they were both in a sense chimeras. "I kind of feel bad about calling him a freak."
Amelia placed a gentle hand on Zelgadis' uninjured shoulder and gave him a quick kiss of assurance. "It's okay, sometimes when we're angry, we say things we don't mean. I'm sure Mr. Nameless Beast understands that and won't stay upset for too long. Let's finish getting healed up before something else happens."
"Yes," Zelgadis agreed, going into his usual period of dazed loving distraction that followed an act of unexpectedly timed affection from Amelia. After he recovered the full use of his mental faculties, he considered their next step. "We should probably tell the others about this so that they're ready."
"Right, we'll inform Miss Zelas and she'll pass on the message to everyone," Amelia agreed, though that wasn't exactly what Zelgadis was suggesting. The chimera didn't say anything about it though, they would just have to get used to working with the monster lord for the time being. Besides, Zelas would hear about the situation from Xellos anyway, and they couldn't possibly leave him and Filia out of the loop and in danger of being taken by surprise.
xoxox xox xoxox
Zelas received another report from one of her courier monster birds. Just as she expected, Xellos' power could not be easily absorbed and instead it tried to create a copy. Unexpectedly, the Stillness managed to turn that copy into a separate being and gained a new minion. Furthermore, that new creature was apparently some kind of monster dragon chimera. Nonetheless, he came in part from Xellos and Xellos came from Zelas. Perhaps this Nameless Beast could be turned to their side and used to figure out a way to get into the Stillness' main base after all. Then everything would once again go as planned.
xoxox xox xoxox
Time passed and the groups continued their journey. It had been a few days since Amelia and Zelgadis' encounter with the Nameless Beast and no one had heard from him again. Far away from the other groups, Lina and Gourry followed their own traveling route as well. The sun was setting over the lifeless landscape and the lit torches of a small town could be seen in the distance. "That town better have some food!" Lina hungrily declared. "I'm so hungry that I'm one step away from declaring my eternal loyalty to my favorite monster lord just so she'll feed me."
Gourry's starving eyes suddenly shone with the light of new hope at the prospect of a decent meal. "You mean that if we become Beast Master's minions she'll feed us?" He felt accomplish in remembering who Lina's new favorite monster lord was, though forgetting her delicious cooking was something neither of them could easily do.
"Maybe..." Lina theorized, almost ready to give into temptation. "If Amelia heard us talking like this, she'd have a thing or two to say. Nonetheless, Seyruun did buy food from Beast Master, so I would have that to use as a counter argument."
"You, redhead!" A man who matched a description Lina and Gourry had previously received appeared on the road in front of them, fading into existence from the astral side. He stepped forward and looked at Lina with attention. "I was told that the famous Lina Inverse was a flat-chested midget. You seem to match the description, are you her?"
The way he spoke the question with a mix of innocence and humor made it all the more infuriating for Lina. "I was told that the Nameless Beast was a stupid ugly freak, are you him?" She yelled back in anger.
The Nameless Beast stepped back, looking upset. "Don't call me a freak!" He yelled. "This is all Xellos' fault, everything is Xellos' fault. It's because of him that I'm just a random freak instead of a complete person. I'll get you for your offence Lina Inverse and then I'll kill Xellos!" The Nameless Beast stuck out his tongue and faded away into the astral side, returning moments later with a cloaked figure standing next to him. "That mean girl over there is an enemy of Gaia, get rid of her Mr. Summoner!" With that order spoken, he faded away again.
The man in the black cloak stepped forward as he chanted a strange incantation. Lina snorted impatiently. "As if I'm going to let you finish that summoning spell. I don't know what you're trying to call but-" The man removed his hood to reveal he was a slug, or rather a human slug chimera, though he certainly looked a lot more like a slug than a human. "Ah! Slug!" Lina forgot about all her threats in favor of jumping into Gourry's arms for protection. "Make it go away, make it go away!" She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck almost choking him.
"Lina, I can't breathe!" Gourry complained, trying to shift Lina into a less life threatening position. He managed to hold her with one arm, using the other to ready his sword. At least the fact that she was small was convenient in a situation like this, it made her easier to carry.
The enemy sorcerer slug chimera finished casting his spell and a giant slug appeared to answer the magical call. The arrival of the monstrous creature made Lina's panicked screams echo louder. She flailed around in Gourry's arm, pulled his hair in fright and all around freaked out at how huge and slimy the summoned slug was. Her outburst made Gourry stumble and drop his magical sword.
The slug seemed to partially melt, which made it look even grosser to the scared Lina. The creature's slime invaded the ground beneath Gourry's feet, making him get stuck in place, his sword stuck to the ground a few feet away. The horrific monster shot acid from its mouth straight at Gourry and Lina. "Lina, levitate!" Gourry threw her, trying to put her at a safe distance.
Lina almost hit the ground before she managed to react, "levitation!" She was spared from a nasty fall at the last second. "Gourry!" He had taken the hit head on, the acid creating multiple painful burns.
"Lina, get away from here!" Gourry tried to move, but his feet were stuck to the ground and he couldn't reach his sword. "I'll beat this slug somehow, get to safety, hurry!"
Lina felt her whole body tremble in fear, "Gourry..." maybe a few years ago she might have taken the suggestion to save herself, but not now. She couldn't abandon Gourry to face off against some evil slug unarmed. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows. Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows..."
"Get the girl, knock her to the ground!" The slug chimera commanded the giant slug monster. The creature shot acid at Lina, which she swiftly dodged in the air. "I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands. Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess. Dragon Slave!"
The massive force of Lina Inverse's signature spell had its usual expected effect, reducing the enemies to nothing and leaving a crater on the ground in their place. Gourry, looking burnt, bruised, scratched and all around abused, crawled out of the crater, picking up his sword in the way, thankful that it wasn't damaged or blown too far away.
"Oops..." Lina landed next to him. "I was so focused on saving you from that evil slug that I forgot you couldn't move out of the way of my Dragon Slave. At least you only caught the aftershock of it, since it wasn't aimed at you and I did rush the chanting, so I wouldn't call it a fully powered Dragon Slave." The petite redhead placed her hand behind her head and laughed casually. As an after thought, she wondered if there was another reason for her spell to come with less collateral damage than usual. It was odd, but it felt as if Shabranigdu was retreating in a sense, trying to block out his energy from being used up in spells. "You're going to be okay, right Gourry?"
Gourry placed his sword back in the sheath, a little disappointed that he didn't get to use it. "I'll be alright, thanks for saving me." Without giving it much further thought, he gave her a quick kiss as a form of gratitude and to further offer comfort for her recent scare, as well as reassure her that he wasn't angry about being accidentally caught in her Dragon Slave.
Lina felt the red color raise from the base of her neck to the top of her forehead. "G-Gourry..."
"Yes?" The bruised swordsman innocently inquired.
Lina shook her head, trying to recover the normal color of her face. It was certainly not the first time Gourry got affectionate with her, but this time he caught her completely off guard more so than before and he didn't even seem to realize how much he surprised her. Being rewarded with a kiss after accidentally indirectly Dragon Slaving Gourry, even if it was with good intentions, was not something Lina could have predicted. "Never mind, let's get you healed and keep going towards that town ahead."
As they rounded the crater and continued down the path under the stars, the Nameless Beast once again appeared before them, fading in front of them from the astral side. "He's back!" Gourry, being Gourry, felt the need to point out what was plainly obvious.
"You again, troublemaker, don't you dare think I'll forgive you for sending that slug after us you little freak!" Lina yelled angrily.
Looking very upset, the Nameless Beast stomped his feet, "stop it, stop it! Stop calling me a freak. I'm not a freak, I'm not a thing, I'm a person! Stupid Xellos, stupid, stupid! It's all his fault!" Wielding his mace, the Nameless Beast charged towards Lina and Gourry.
Taking this as the long awaited opportunity to try out his new sword in a real battle, Gourry wielded the blade and slashed the air. A shockwave of energy was send towards his opponent, catching the enemy off guard and slashing the mace in half.
"My mace, you broke it!" The Nameless Beast picked up the two pieces, examining them in disappointment. "I don't want to play with you anymore. You're all so mean! Tell me where Xellos is! I need to kill him, this is all his fault!"
"Wait a minute, how is any of this Xellos' fault? Just what are you talking about anyway?" Lina demanded to know. "You may be a partial copy of Xellos modified with something else, but Xellos wasn't the one who created you, it wasn't his will!" Lina realized all too late that she might be saying too much.
"Master Xellos doesn't want me around at all? He doesn't want me to exist?" The Nameless Beast sounded very sad. "Xellos is my master, I can feel it, I know it as any monster would. But I'm not fully a monster; there is also another who contributed to forming my essence, a dragon. I don't know you people, but I was told you know Xellos. He's the only one I know, because he's my master. I was told he abandoned me, but now you say that's not true. Instead of just abandoning me, he actually doesn't want me to exist? Liar! You're a liar Lina Inverse, even if Master Xellos doesn't care for me, that doesn't mean he has to hate me!" The Nameless Beast was surrounded by a golden glow. His upset state was making him lose control of himself. His features became slightly more dragon-like and he had a tail. The partial transformation, even if he still looked mostly human seemed to cause him a lot of pain. He quickly retreated, disappearing into the astral side, leaving a very perplexed sorceress and swordsman behind.
"He's... He's the same as Valgaav. He's part monster and part dragon, but he's unstable and transforming causes him pain," Lina realized. She began to toss around theories in her head. The Nameless Beast was a newly created monster. Monsters were created as fully grown adults in a sense, though their astral bodies could be projected in the material world with the appearance of any age. They came into existence with certain basic knowledge, which must include who their master is. On the other hand, dragons hatched from eggs and grew from babies, to children, to adults. The dragon properties that were mixed with the monster energy must have made the Nameless Beast more child-like. That's why he was so upset that his master wasn't there for him when he was created. "He's like a bratty child who misses his father," Lina concluded. That meant that bringing him to their side was possible after all, though he seemed really angry at Xellos for the perceived abandonment.
To be Continued