Some time later, another earthquake shook the land as Xellos and Filia arrived in the town where the Maces and Vases shop was located. It had begun to snow lightly, but the temperature was far too cold for the amount of snow, causing the travelers to stay close together in an effort not to freeze. The frequent tremors had become common across the world. People used to run and scream whenever they happened, but lately a deep depression had settle into most towns and cities, so the people just quietly ignored the shaking, perceiving that they had no choice but to accept the world's end. Some called out to Ceifeed for help; others begged the dragon lords to assist them. Yet overall, they were a small minority, as most people had given up on calling out to anyone.
The pair of travelers quickened their pace towards their destination. The shop was full of cracks that looked like they had been fixed numerous times, but the patch work would not last for long. A sort of wooden outer cage tried to frame the walls and keep them in place. Filia and Xellos entered the structure, with the golden dragon quietly mourning the sorry state of her once cheerful shop. At least it was still standing, so her family could still find shelter in it. A loud noise from near by made Filia turn her head back towards the street just in time to see a damaged structure collapsing. It was Elena's restaurant, which never really took off due to the lack of ingredients available to cook with.
Before panic and worry had the chance to fully settle into Filia, a familiar voice greeted her, "boss! Welcome back!" Filia turned to face the inside of the shop and saw Jillas, Elena, Palou and Val, relieved that they were unharmed. The golden dragon closed the front door of the shop behind her as if to block out the depressing view of the ruined buildings all over the street.
Little Val jumped into his mother's waiting arms. "I'm so glad you're not hurt, I missed you so much!" The shelves around the shop held only a few vases as there was plenty of property damage involved with the earthquakes. The small amount of vases that remained were tied to the shelves in Jillas' final effort to save them. At least the maces survived, since they were built to receive, or rather give, hard hits. A lot of those had been sold in the time before the town's collective depression fully settled in and the people felt a little better with a weapon on their hands, even if this catastrophe was something that could not be fought with a weapon.
Another person joined them in the main shop area and Filia was surprised to see it was Kally. She was rather quiet and distant, engrossed in her own thoughts. "If only I was still a monster now, this would be such a feast!" Leave it to Xellos to say something sarcastic at a serious and solemn time. Never mind that the monsters had began to be drained from the astral side and were not having an easy time anymore, thus rendering his sarcasm untrue.
"Xellos!" Filia half-scolded with no real anger. "It's good to see everyone here, I know the times have been harsh but we need to stay strong! Kally, how are Tiffany and the others doing at the resort? What brings you to visit us?" Filia tried to make the conversation flow as casually as possible so as to not further trouble the already sad Kally.
"They're okay... they were okay when I last saw them, or as okay as they could be given the situation. I'm here because my brother is..." She paused unsure of what to say, then finished with a neutral sounding, "passing by and I hope to catch up to him." It was plainly obvious that she was sugar-coating what she really wanted to say.
"Jillas!" The angry voices of the townspeople were heard from outside. "We know you're in there, we know you did it! Come out murderer!" At times such as this, when it seemed impossible to be able to do anything about the dire state of the world, more than ever people clung to their own interpretation of justice in desperation. If there was anything they could do, just so they could feel that they were doing something, they would do it and console themselves with it, even if it was in falsehood.
"That's not true!" Palou yelled back. "It's all a lie, he didn't hurt anyone!" His mother hugged him, trying to comfort the child. "Why do they say such mean things? We were all together the whole time, why won't they believe us?" The young fox boy hugged his mother in frustration and innocent confusion.
"Palou, honey... Sometimes when people face hardships they jump to conclusions. They're taking their anger out on someone innocent and that's wrong, but they don't know any better in their sadness." Though she kept a sweet tone for Palou's sake as she held him and gently caressed the fur atop his head, it was evident that Elena had enough of this. There was a fire of anger and frustration in her eyes that the calm fox lady had never shown before.
"Open the door!" Without waiting for any further replies, the door was forced open, left hanging off one of its hinges as it had already been weakened from the earlier earthquakes. An angry mob formed by the townspeople stood at the door, maces on hand. "We knew we couldn't trust you," a young man accused. "In times like this is when you beasts start to show your true nature."
"Those maces..." Filia gasped. "How dare you wield the maces I crafted against Jillas? He was the one who sold them to you, wasn't he?"
"That was before he committed his crime," the leader of the mob accused. "It's ironic that the terrible beasts will be slain by their own weapons. This is what you deserve, death for the beastman and for the dragon! The so called protectors of the world are nothing but falsehood!" He went on the attack, attempting to hit Filia with the mace.
"Watch out, boss!" Jillas urgently warned, but it wasn't really necessary.
Filia easily caught the mace and held it in place. The man pulled it back, trying to loosen the weapon from her grip, but a dragon's strength was simply far too superior to the strength of a human. "I don't know what has made you throw false accusations at Jillas and the dragons, but I won't tolerate you hurting my family and with my own weapons no less." It was like insult upon attempted injury.
The rest of the mob readied their weapons as well. "So you finally show your true colors, Filia," Sasha accused. "You're a wild beast just like the others, I never liked you anyway."
Fed up with the situation, Xellos began to quietly chant a spell. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..."
Sasha was joined by her fellow hypocritical gossiper Anna. "Defending that murderer makes you an accomplice. The dragons may act all high and mighty but they couldn't care less about humanity!"
"Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows..." Something was off, Shabranigdu's power wasn't responding to Xellos.
Manna threw out a theory that fueled the angry mob's wrath even more. "Now that the land produces no food, I bet the dragons and beasts are returning to their terrible primal instincts. No doubt about it, they intend to feed on us humans!"
"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands..." Mighty gift? The small traces of power that Xellos managed to get out of Shabranigdu were anything but mighty. It was as if Ruby Eyes was being drained so strongly in a different direction that his power could no longer be called upon for a spell.
Furious murmurs filled the angry mob, they were convinced they would be slaughtered, so they determined that they had no choice but to act first, kill or be killed. Despite that, Filia wasn't exactly comfortable with blowing up all the townspeople, not to mention that they were currently in her shop and her family was dangerously close by. "Xellos, you can't use the Dragon Slave now!"
"Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess, Dragon Slave!" Nothing happened. "It seems that Lord Ruby Eyes in his frozen state is terribly exposed to fall victim to the Stillness. I don't think I'll be able to use that spell anymore, at least not until this war is over," which meant that their forces had suffered an unexpected reduction of power.
"Even Shabranigdu?" As much as Filia disliked Shabranigdu, the fact that even Ruby Eyes was being drained away by the Stillness worried her. It further proved that they were up against a terribly powerful foe.
"Kill them! Kill them!" The restless crowd shouted in wrath.
"Stop!" Jillas stepped forward. "Filia has been away from the town, you can't possibly have any false accusations for her. I'm the one you want. I didn't do anything wrong, but if it'll stop this madness, then I'll turn myself in!"
"Jillas, you can't!" Elena protested.
"There's no choice..." Jillas concluded. "I only ask that you stop this senseless fighting!"
The townspeople discussed the matters among themselves. If Filia got out of hand and decided to transform into a dragon and start devouring them, then they could use Jillas as a hostage to negotiate. Given that possibility, it would not be convenient to kill him. Yet they certainly couldn't let him run free. "Very well," the angry mob's leader agreed. "The murderer will be sent to Prisoner Island."
"This isn't fair," Filia cried, she still remained uninformed of the specifics with which the accusation originated, but she knew that Jillas was a good person.
"There's no choice, please stay safe boss and protect everyone." Jillas was taken away by the angry mob that finally departed from the shop.
"We can't... we can't..." Filia muttered in shock as the crowd walked further away with Jillas in their custody. "We can't let them get away with this!"
"I could try a different spell to blow them up," Xellos offered.
"Jillas wouldn't want that," Elena solemnly pointed out. "He wants to prove his innocence, he wants to show that beastmen and humans can live together in peace. His past... he told me all about it." About how his people were murdered by humans who feared them, blaming them for crimes they didn't commit, some crimes that never even happened.
"Mama... we are going to save him, aren't we?" Palou asked, his big blue innocent eyes filled with confusion and worry. It was obvious that with the passing of time the foxes had become much closer.
Jillas didn't want more unneeded bloodshed, he didn't want to fuel the enmity between humans and beastmen that had formed in a town that was once so peaceful and open minded. Elena understood and respected his wishes, but all of that didn't mean that she was willing to let things stay the way they were. "We'll have to free him in a sneakier way."
Filia nodded in determination, "right, we'll take him away from the ferry that goes to Prisoner Island and be on our way. The townspeople don't need to know and besides, I don't think we should be here anymore anyway." It was a sad event to have to abandon her shop where she had so many precious memories, but her loved ones were much more precious. "This town no longer has a place for us, but I know where we can go. After we've rescued Jillas, we can go to Seyruun. Prince Philionel is a very kind ruler who loves justice. He will not stand by and accept this injustice, I'm sure he'll welcome us to live in his kingdom and there we'll find peace. We just need to explain what happened... which I still don't fully understand myself."
Elena knew that there was no use in sugar-coating the situation any longer, for the sake of not worrying the children. The happenings were far too clear and obvious; they couldn't pretend they had everything under control anymore. "There has been a series of murders in town, committed with guns. The townspeople assumed that Jillas did it, but I know he's innocent. We tried to tell them that Jillas wouldn't senselessly kill innocent people and that we were with him the whole time, but they wouldn't hear a word of it."
"I think my brother was the one who did it," Kally sadly confessed.
"Kalio?" Filia gasped in shock. "Why would he do something like this?"
"He's not himself," Kally desperately tried to explain. "Long ago, when Kalio was still a child, he was regarded as a prodigy with the sword. He was hypnotized into letting go of his senses and to fight without holding anything back, he was turned into a berserker. To avoid his power running completely out of control, he was assigned a guide. Because of our almost psychic link as twins, I was the natural choice to be his guide. I cannot speak to him, but I can feel what he feels. I can sense his pain and his distress and sometimes the things that he has witnessed come to me in dreams."
Kally continued with her revelations. "After we left the Dragon Slayers, Kalio would always hold back when using the sword. He wanted to forget what he learned from the Dragon Slayers and develop new skills that he could use to defend the innocent and protect his new home of Seyruun. Recently, something terrible happened. I had a dream in which the Dragon Slayers attacked Kalio while he was traveling with Medusa. They casted a strange spell on him that made him lose his senses again. Kalio hates being in a berserk state and they forced him into it."
Tears were streaming down Kally's face as she spoke in a shaky voice. "In his berserk state, he killed Medusa. It was the Dragon Slayers who forced him to kill her. They snapped him out of his trance soon after and let him feel the pain and guilt until his very emotions were locked away because they were too much to bear. I left Amor Resort and departed towards Kalio at once, but it was already too late. My dear brother is a mere puppet to Ryoushi and the Dragon Slayers and they are the puppets of the one who claims to be Gaia."
"The enemy knows where we are and were our family is. How dare they target this once peaceful town?" Filia cried out in a mix of anger, sadness and frustration. "We need to rescue Jillas, then he can head to Seyruun with Elena, Palou and Val; it's the only safe place to take refuge until this war is over. Then Xellos and I will do find a way to rescue Kalio too."
"Why are you assuming I would want to rescue a pathetic brainwashed human?" Xellos asked with his usual smile.
"Fine then, I'll do it myself!" Filia snapped. "Then we'll all go to Seyruun and live a peaceful and happy life!"
"Will going to Seyruun really help anything?" Kally grimaced. "Wouldn't we just endanger the kingdom with our presence?"
"Seyruun is a strong city and we have friends there who will protect it. Gravos and Naga are helping Philionel right now," Filia assured.
"Let's not forget, Seyruun is now also allied to Lord Beast Master," Xellos added with his trademark grin. "Although they might have failed to notice the small print in that food purchase contract."
Filia shuddered involuntarily, at this rate Zelas would take over the world by the time the war against the Stillness was over. It was true that the monster lord didn't want the world to be destroyed, but she wanted to eternally torture it and that was certainly something to worry about, even if she held back just enough not to break it. Then another thought occurred to Filia, Zelas was an astral being, the monsters were under attack now that the Void, who attacked the mind, had joined Lamentation, who attacked the body. "How is Zelas doing with the situation, anyway?"
"How considerate of you to worry about me." The sudden voice made Filia jump startled. There stood none other than Beast Master herself with her usual imposing presence and elegant appearance. "Lord Ruby Eyes is frozen and thought of by many as being dead in a sense. He has been divided into pieces and is immobilized, incapable of taking action. Because of that, Shabranigdu is very exposed to becoming a victim of the Stillness. I, on the other hand, am very much in one piece, able to move around and interact directly with the world. Furthermore, no one thinks of me as being dead. I'm sure the wedding guests, Lina's friends and acquaintances from all across the land, were all too honored to meet me. There's also my recent little visit to Dragon's Peak at the Kataart Mountains. I bet Milgazia and his little friends can't stop thinking about my amazing brass rackets skills."
Filia wanted to complain about how much it annoyed her when people popped out of nowhere and startled her, but she knew that would only motivate Zelas to do it more often. "Beast Master, what brings you here?" The golden dragon asked in the most civil tone she could manage, trying to contain the annoyed twitching of her eye as she spoke.
"Getting down to business, I noticed something about the Stillness," Zelas went straight to the point. "Its power increases whenever something ceases to exist in the world. When all the members of a certain village are killed for example and even when all the flora of a certain type is extinguished from existence. To put it plainly, when something becomes permanently nothing and due to its total extinction has no hope of ever existing again. Those small victories help empower the Stillness. The power that it gains is proportional to the situation. Imagine what the effect would be if a species became extinct, or a race..."
Filia's eyes widened in realization. "Val..." The worries she carried increased immeasurably. "Val is the last of the ancient dragons." She held the child protectively in her arms. "All of this... The Stillness is actually trying to get to Val, to leave him without anyone to protect him and take his life."
"Did you hear that, Lord Beast Master? I told you Filia could manage to jump start her single brain cell sometimes," Xellos sarcastically mocked.
Filia glared at how casual Xellos was being about the deadly danger, but was not really taken by surprised by his mocking sarcastic comment. Zelas laughed, "oh yes, it's quite the accomplishment for such a stupid creature to be able to reach an accurate conclusion," the monster lord mockingly agreed. "With all matters clarified, I'll be taking Val now."
"What?" Filia screeched in a panic. "You can't! Xellos, say something! Talk her out of it!"
"Something," Xellos replied with a grin. "There, I humored one of your requests; now stop being a stupid dragon. Beast Master just said that Val needs to be alive and well, or the enemy will become more powerful. He'll be safer with her than with anyone else." Xellos took Val out of Filia's arms, who reluctantly let him go.
The protective golden dragon watched as her ancient dragon child was handed over to the monster lord. "You're actually going to keep him safe, right?" Filia pleaded.
"Oh yes, safe and happy," Zelas grinned mischievously as she held Val. "Little one, I'll teach you all the best mischief so you can share it with your mommy, it'll be so much fun." The assurance only made Filia's stress increase. They had to get this battle done and over with fast, before Zelas turned her grandchild into a criminal.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 116: Undead! Prisoner of Pain
At Wolf Pack Island, quiet and stressed, Celo entered Beast Master's throne room. "I have brought a report from our latest investigations concerning the Sea of Chaos."
"Very well, I'll listen to it now, as for you," she looked at the small ancient dragon who sat on her lap. "Go put into practice what I've taught you." After a moment of consideration, Val seemed to decide that if granny Zelas said this was okay, then it had to be okay and thus went off to do as she said. Besides, it sounded like something his father would approve of too, though perhaps not so much his mother and uncles. "Fang!" Zelas called out, not merely with her voice, but also through astral space.
"Yes, master?" Fang appeared in his almost human form with the fox ears and tail in an otherwise human looking body.
"Go make sure the wolves don't eat Val while he's picking on them," Zelas commanded with an amused grin. The wolves needed to build character anyway and Val needed to practice mischief, so it was a win-win situation from Zelas' perspective.
"Right away!" Fang went off to take care of his assigned task.
"Proceed with the report," Zelas prompted.
"Yes..." Celo began. "These lives which we live, in theory, we have lived them many times, subconsciously changing every time we live again. This theory fits with the information learned during the Darkstar incident. As long as there exists life, that is sentient beings, a new timeline will arise from the Sea of Chaos if the world is ever destroyed, thus making it impossible to end this cycle unless everything is reduced to nothing. In which case, there would also be no chaos. The Sea of Chaos is a more intense chaos than even ours, it holds everything, it is the resting place where all goes until it once again becomes part of a new world. All timelines, including that which we are living now, will eventually become part of the Sea of Chaos, and from there the next timeline will be created. Thus in the end, I believe there is no need to rush. Let this timeline last eternally in chaos or at least for a long time."
"This is all good to know. However, have you been able to find any information concerning those timelines and the Stillness?" Zelas inquired.
"As far as we know, the Stillness is awakening for the first time now. Those timelines and this one, all the timelines are part of the world," Celo elaborated. "Time does not need to make complete sense as many believe, because beings of chaos such as the living creatures of this world, monsters, dragons and even humans, can exist outside of it without realizing it. Those timelines, if I was to try to explain it, are our past or possible future, possibilities such as the many that exist. It is said that Ragradia had the power to look into those possibilities and use that knowledge to influence which path of possibility was to be taken. However, knowing does not mean controlling and sometimes even the best choice is not enough for victory, as confirmed with the Aqualord's fate. As for the machine I was working on, it is progressing as planned and the studies so far support the initial theory."
Celo fell silent after the explanation, but he still looked like he had something to say, thus Zelas impatiently inquired. "Is this your full report?"
"Yes, Lord Beast Master," after another tense and unsure pause, Celo added, "may I inquire about Tiffany?" Zelas had gone to see her before she went off to pick up Val and after a private conversation between the monster lord and the golden dragon, Tiffany left with Zelas and did not return. The part that worried Celo the most was his wife's parting towards him, it made it sound as if she was never coming back.
"Investigations found out something interesting about the Stillness, especially about the End." Zelas began with a seemingly unrelated revelation that was actually closely related to Tiffany's whereabouts. "The Stillness is nothing and it is its contamination with chaos that allows it to exist. The End is locked away in a being of chaos, thus even if the other two pieces, Lamentation and the Void are defeated, the End will bring them back. All three fragments must be destroyed to defeat the Stillness. The golden dragons have been researching as well and I've had spies keeping an eye on that. Milgazia found something interesting recently in an old legend that was all but completely lost. Everything fits together like pieces of a puzzle."
Zelas continued, "apparently, the End will not awaken until the whole world is dead. It is the final step, the removal of proof. Lamentation kills the body, the Void kills the mind and the End makes the corpses disappear. In other words, the End will not awaken until the battle is lost. That is why we need to awaken the End, so that it may be fused with the other fragments of the Stillness and make it possible for the Stillness to be defeated. Even if this timeline will eventually inevitably fall into the Sea of Chaos where all things come from and all things go, it will not fall in defeat. This is not about saving the world; this is about a creature that dared to pick a fight with me and must be punished for its insolence."
"Ah, yes, I had been informed of this," Celo acknowledged. Was Zelas telling him to focus on what he needed to do instead of wondering about Tiffany, or was she saying something else? A worrisome thought occurred to him. "The living being in which the End is sealed is..."
"Tiffany," Zelas confirmed. Celo remained frozen, unable to say anything more. "If you must know, she is cooperating of her own free will; she wishes to contribute to my victory."
"There really is no choice..." Celo realized. "I... I understand," he really did, but that didn't make it any easier to accept. Nonetheless, he knew he had to accept it and he knew that this really was Tiffany's wish. This was that secret burden she carried which made her try to take her own life when they first met, the burden that she refused to reveal. She must have known she held the End all along, even if she didn't fully understand what it was.
xoxox xox xoxox
Just outside of the town where the Maces and Vases shop was, Filia, Xellos, Elena, Palou and Kally were waiting for their message to be answered. Galathia faded into existence from the astral side. "I know you sent Jarde to call for Fang, but he's busy at Wolf Pack Island playing babysitter for that little ancient dragon, so I'm here instead. Honestly, why does Beast Master humor you so much, dragon girl? If you want fast transportation, go make a pact with a monster and become a monster yourself so you can tread through the astral side like we can."
"I take it you haven't seen any fan service lately, aside from myself now, that is," Xellos asked with a sarcastic mocking grin.
"You're cute, I'll give you that, but I prefer something different than a monster or a human... Dragon fan service, fan service like Phythan's with nothing to obstruct the view, now that's real fan service!" Galathia nearly squealed like a fan girl. "Anyway, let's get this over with, where do you want me to teleport you?"
"The kingdom of Seyruun. Do you think you can make it?" Filia inquired.
"Of course, here we go," Galathia teleported the four passengers.
When they faded out of the astral side, Filia was feeling sick to her stomach because of the long distance of the teleportation, with a peculiar shade of green adorning her face. "Ow... this isn't Seyruun..." It was more like an open dried up field with nothing in it.
"Close enough, it's over there," Galathia pointed to the city some distance away. "You can walk the rest of the way, I'll be going now."
"Wait a minute," Xellos interrupted. "Filia, Kally and I are actually going to Prisoner Island."
"Ow..." Filia continued to sway from side to side, dizzy and sickly, the green color still visible on her face.
"Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha! Ah! Ha ha ho ha ha!" Naga's signature loud and obnoxious laughter echoed with her approach. She made her way to the group on a white horse and she was actually wearing a coat now. Gravos followed her on a black steed. "Welcome back to Seyruun, everyone! The horses were looking a bit depressed so Gravy and I decided to take them out for a race!" It was a race in which Naga had the unfair advantage, due to being noticeably lighter than Gravos. "How are things going with your mission?"
"Grand," Xellos chirped cheerfully.
"Not so grand," Filia corrected.
"What has happened?" Gravos inquired with concern.
"Jillas was taken prisoner, but at least Val is safe," or so Filia hoped. "We're on our way to rescue Jillas now."
"Seyruun has been under attack by zombies and ghosts recently, at least the city is strong against them, but there are so many," Gravos revealed. "Now Jillas was taken too, this enemy must be stopped!"
"The zombies and ghosts must be the people who passed away because of all that has happened," Elena realized. "The enemy is probably controlling them."
"Stay here and protect Seyruun. Leave Jillas to us, we'll bring him back safely without fail!" The sheer power of her determination was making Filia's astral space travel induced nausea go away.
"Palou, please stay here in Seyruun too," Elena hugged her son. "We'll be back soon."
"I want to go too, I want to help!" Palou protested.
"If too many people go, sneaking around will be more difficult," Elena explained. "You can help people keep their hopes up here in Seyruun. Help them stay focused and remind them that they can't give up, help protect our new home," the kind fox lady encouraged.
"Alright, mama, I'll protect our home," Palou finally agreed.
"Elena?" Filia questioned unsure. "There's a possibility that we'll have to fight," she warned.
"I know and I'm prepared for that." Elena retrieved a pair of guns from under her dress, which were on garter belt holsters similar to Filia's. "I brought Jillas' flame gun and bullet gun. These are his most powerful portable size weapons."
xoxox xox xoxox
At Prisoner Island it was a dark night as the ferry made its way to the remote little island. The island was surrounded by tall walls with sharp wires around them. The ferry anchored in a tiny port, the only one on the island. The guards that rode the ferry found it strange that no one came to greet them. Things had been hectic for a while, as the prisoners were at an uproar due to the lack of food rations, but they had no choice but to settle down when their energy supplies were consumed from malnutrition. Many had died and the jail had an even creepier atmosphere to it.
The leader of the guards on the ferry stepped further into the docks, towards the little cabin next to the gates, which remained closed. "Hey Piquel!" No one replied from the gatekeeper's cabin. "You in there Piquel?" The gate's suddenly began to move open with the screeching of old rusty gears spinning against each other. The officer standing outside in front of the gates jumped back. "You could at least answer me!" He stepped through the gate and towards the small door to the gatekeeper's cabin where he found out just why officer Piquel wouldn't reply. He was laying dead on the floor and looked as if something had eaten his brain. "What the?! Guys, over here! Someone killed Piquel!"
"Ooh... hoo.... ooh..." As the other officers in the ferry arrived, they caught sight of an army of zombies marching towards them. They tried to retreat towards the ferry, but smoke filled the area out of nowhere and clouded their senses. The officers and the prisoners fell unconscious one by one, left exposed for the zombies to feast on them.
xoxox xox xoxox
"Ow... where am I?" Jillas woke up to sharp pain all over his body. He was in a building with gray walls in a large chamber from where many different floors with cells lining the walls could be seen. The cries of the undead were all around as the zombies watched him hungrily.
The last thing Jillas remembered was being trapped in a ferry, chained and unable to escape while smoke filled the surrounding area tainted with the agonized yet ferocious howling and weeping of the undead. He had seen many zombies marching out of the prison gates from the ferry's window just before the smoke clouded his vision and his senses faded away. Yet he was somehow still alive. Additional chains entrapped him, wrapped all over his body instead of just the handcuffs and the ball and chain on his legs, which were also still there.
"So you're finally awake," a human man addressed him. There were also other humans in his company, all of them dressed as ninja. One of the ninja was unmasked and Jillas recognized him as Kalio, whom he had spoken with at Filia's wedding. There was something very wrong with him. Kalio had a lost look in his eyes, as if he wasn't really conscious of the world around him. "I am Ryoushi, the leader of the Dragon Slayers and loyal servant of the Green Alchemist, who is truly the great Gaia. You, dirty beastman, will be the bait that brings the golden dragon and the beast's powerless general here. Then it will be the beast's choice, will she choose to keep the ancient dragon or her general alive?"
"You... you know necromancy and you're after Val!" Jillas correctly concluded. The beast he spoke of must then be Zelas. Did that mean that Val was left with Zelas for protection? "You want to use me to capture the boss and use her to capture Xellos so you can exchange him with Val?"
"Necromancy is one of the many things the great Gaia has taught us. Val, if that is what that ancient dragon hatchling is called, then yes, that is my plan," Ryoushi mocked. "I'm surprised an inferior being such as yourself could figure out that much. "The ancient dragon may be the last of its kind, but it is still too young to fight, it cannot represent the beast in battle. That is what her general is for, so it may be in her best interest to recover him. It might give her the illusion that she can actually put up a fight. But it's all useless; the great Gaia will exterminate all the beasts and monsters! Then the world will be cleaned and reborn for humans only!"
"That's a lie!" Jillas protested as he uselessly struggled against his chains. "The world is dying, don't you see it? You've been tricked!"
"Silence, you filthy animal!" Ryoushi kicked Jillas hard, sending a jolt of fresh pain through his body. "Ignorant fool, you will fall to the mighty Gaia!"
xoxox xox xoxox
Just outside of Prisoner Island... "Ah!" Filia transformed in mid air, becoming a dragon, capable of carrying Xellos, Elena and Kally, while Galathia levitated next to them. "Why did you teleport us in mid air without warning and why must you cross the astral side in such an unstable way, I'm really going to be sick now!" The once golden scales on Filia's face were somehow turning a nauseous green color.
"I was going to land on the island," Galathia defended. "But there's some sort of shield around it that cuts off access from the astral side. It looks like you'll have to sneak in by yourselves. Okay, this should be all, right? I'm leaving now."
"Yes, yes, go away, you're certainly nothing to look at," Xellos dismissed her.
"Ingrate," Galathia grumbled as she faded away.
"Flying in isn't exactly the sneakiest way to do things, but if there's a shield around the astral space then that means that they're expecting us, and probably already noticed we're coming," Filia concluded. She was trying to set aside her sickness to focus on the vital mission. "We might as well charge in!"
"Rash and aggressive, as expected from a stupid dragon!" Xellos teased.
"Shut up and hold on, raw garbage!" Filia sped up her flying and dove towards Prisoner Island, landing in the front entrance of the jail where everyone jumped off her back. She changed back into her elf form and the rescue team charged in.
The wails of the undead filled the air as the darkness of the prison was pierced by Kally's light spell. The place was crawling with zombies. "Quickly, attack with white and holy magic!" Filia attempted to do so but the effect drained a lot more energy than it should. "It looks like all magic is being diminished by the Stillness, but we can still do this!"
"Right... I must, see my brother one last time, I must free him!" Kally joined the front lines trying to exorcise the many zombies.
"Maybe some fire will slow them down too," Xellos theorized, "fireball!" The zombies certainly didn't like being burned, their already partially rotted corpses losing even more mobility.
"Here's some more fire!" Elena shot the flame gun, finishing creating a wall of fire between the group and the undead beings that kept stubbornly trying to get through and attack them.
They kept the fire going until the wails of the dead were almost completely gone and gradually, there was a deadly still silence. "It looks like we got them." Filia was too horrified to remember how sick she felt, which was made worse by the sight and smell of the zombies. "Let's put the fire out and advance!"
Filia, Xellos and Kally shot a series of freeze arrows at the flames until they were overpowered and extinguished. Burnt bones and ashes were all over the gray stone floors of the prison. Then suddenly with a burst of bright light, the ghosts of the dead rose from the zombies that had only been burned and not exorcised. "Burning them wasn't enough, but with their corpses gone, they'll be more exposed to being exorcised, so we still made some progress," Kally observed.
"Let's put them to rest!" Filia and Kally teamed up with their magic to exorcise the remaining ghosts in a burst of light and power that left an empty feeling of misery in the air. "This is..." Filia and Kally were especially feeling the effects of the battle, due to the extra effort it took to cast magic lately. "This is all wrong, it's all terrible..."
"Jillas," Elena whispered in worry. "Please be okay, we're coming for you!" Elena, Filia, Xellos and Kally charged forward towards the next chamber of the prison.
The next room was large and tall, with several floors visible all around, surrounded in empty cells that once held the prisoners that became undead. On the opposite side of the chamber, there stood Ryoushi, Kalio and the Dragon Slayers, holding Jillas hostage in chains.
"Jillas!" Elena called out to him immediately.
"Elena! Boss! Everyone! You need to escape, you're in danger!" Jillas tried to warn them. "The Dragon Slayers are after Xellos, they want to-"
"Silence, you disgusting animal!" Ryoushi kicked Jillas again. "Dragon Slayers, attack!" The Dragon Slayers would kill the golden dragon with their own strength and if not, then Kalio the berserker would. Ryoushi would use the beastman hostage only as a last resort.
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 117: Mercy! Choices and Consequences
Filia, Xellos, Elena and Kally had infiltrated Prisoner Island, where Jillas was being held hostage by the Dragon Slayers. They had swiftly defeated the zombies that were the first line of defense for the enemy and now faced off against the Dragon Slayers. "Freeze Arrow!" The group of ninja simultaneously shot out arrows of ice, which were countered by fire, leaving the room immersed in steam.
"Kalio, go!" Ryoushi decided to send Kalio into battle earlier than planned after witnessing how easily the Dragon Slayer's initial attack was countered. The troops were not exactly well fed and rested, plus their energy had also begun to be drained away. "Dragon Slayers, fight harder! Do you not wish to honor the great Gaia?"
"What's the point?" One of the people in ninja gear spoke up. "It doesn't look like we'll last long enough to see the new world after all."
"Is that so?" Ryoushi growled in disappointment. "Well then, step aside and observe, you shall serve a different purpose soon enough."
Kalio's sword collided with Filia's mace. "He's stronger than a human should be!"
"He's not holding back, he's fighting so hard he'll tear himself apart," Kally cried out in desperation. "Kalio, please wake up, come back to your senses. You have to stop this, don't let Ryoushi use you!"
All words were lost on Kalio, as he could not take hold of reality any more. With a swift and sudden motion, he broke his sword free of its position against Filia's mace and took a swing at her head. The attack was stopped by Xellos' Freeze Arrow. It took a lot of effort, but as long as the spell wasn't too big, like the Dragon Slave, it could still be casted. Kalio stepped back with his arms frozen holding his sword. He forced the ice to break and went on the attack, this time against Xellos. Elena shot a fireball at him from Jillas' flame gun, which made him change course and run toward her. Filia, who had begun to pursue Kalio when he started towards Xellos, took the opportunity to attack with her mace and knocked him several feet away. Kalio forced himself to his feet despite his injury and went on the attack again.
Ryoushi watched the battle displeased. The Dragon Slayers had lost the will to fight and the berserker had lost the will to live. Kalio wasn't fighting as well as he had in the past, perhaps breaking him like that took away his power. He was no longer desperately trying to defend someone important to him, he was just fighting. 'At this rate I'll have to resort to using the hostage...' Ryoushi thought in disappointment, then he felt something inside him awaken. 'The blessing of Gaia, it's finally ready!' His joy was short lived, as he was soon overcome by pain. The Dragon Slayers that stood around him backed away when they saw Ryoushi surrounded by an odd green glow. Numerous thorn covered vines tore through Ryoushi's skin, ripping his body apart and quickly surrounding the gray stone structure of the prison. The vines originated from a seed that had been hiding in Ryoushi, feeding off the energy around him, waiting to awaken. The vines entrapped the ninja, draining them of their life, attacking even Kalio and leaving him as a deformed dried up corpse.
"Jillas!" Elena tried to make her way closer to him, but the vines granted her no passage. She shot as many as she could with the flame gun until it ran out of power.
"I'll get him, Xellos, keep everyone safe," Filia charged forward, shooting laser breaths at all the vines that got in her way. Kally followed her with an inexplicable determination.
"Stupid dragon, playing the hero doesn't fit me," Xellos complained, but went on the attack anyway.
Filia had to slow her pace to clear the way, she was out of breath from all the lasers she shot and was fearing she wouldn't make it to Jillas on time. Kally ran past her jumping between several of the vines and reaching Jillas. She focused fire in her hands as if to cast a fireball spell, but didn't release it, instead using the heat to weaken the chains and cuffs that entrapped Jillas enough to break them. This was not without consequences, as Kally badly burned herself in the process, but she didn't seem to care.
"Jillas, Kally!" Filia managed to get to them, urging them to follow her to regroup. "We'd best stay together, let's go!"
"Retreat as far as you can," Kally's voice was distant and empty, tears streaming down her face, apparently without her notice.
"What do you plan to do?" Filia questioned in worry.
"I'm going to end this, give me some space," Kally urgently insisted.
"Filia, stop being stubborn and get over here, stupid dragon!" The flame gun had run out of power and the vines moved so quickly that it was nearly impossible to hit them with bullets. That left Xellos to shoot the more wide range Flame Arrows at all the offending vines and the task kept him pretty busy.
"Alright!" Filia snapped as she opened a path to return to where Xellos and Elena were in the center of the room, with Jillas following her. As soon as they had regrouped, she looked back at Kally expectantly, wondering what she had in mind.
Kally retrieved a small bottle from her pocket and drank the liquid, which caused her to begin to glow red. "Whatever you do, don't touch the vines now!" She threw herself into the wall which was covered in the living thorny vines.
"Kally!" Filia screamed in agony as she helplessly watched the scene unfold. Kally's body was surrounded in flames that consumed the vines around her, spreading to the source seed and from there to the rest of the vines. It was a powerful suicidal attack that the Dragon Slayers developed, which turned the one who drank the potion into a living flame. A single sacrifice would not be enough to kill an adult dragon, but it would certainly serve to weaken the target.
The vines were soon reduced to ashes and the flames died down on their own, not even leaving a speck of dust behind as proof of Kally's existence. The seed that had been growing in Ryoushi, which was the source of the thorny vines, fell on the floor. It had been initially green, but now it was brown and its outer shell was cracked as if it was about to fall apart. "She's... gone..." Jillas gasped in disbelief.
"It's not fair, she didn't have to sacrifice herself! We could have beaten those things together!" Filia cried out in sadness.
The brown outer shell of the seed crumbled and revealed a bright light from within it. The light took everyone by surprised, shielding the area with astral energy to prevent their escape. The core of the seed had the appearance of a golden marble, surrounded by a green energy shield. It floated above them, in the middle of the chamber, powering the astral shield. The astral energy dome became smaller around the group in semi-transparent swirling colors. Xellos hesitantly reached out to touch the astral energy dome and quickly withdrew his hand. "This thing is going to drain us of our very life if we touch it! That seed needs to be destroyed!" He attempted to take care of the task himself with a Flame Arrow, but the energy shield around the seed only absorbed the magic and the astral dome glowed in response.
"If magic won't work, maybe this will!" Filia levitated towards the seed and tried to hit it with her mace. As the weapon collided with the seed, a massive wave of electricity shocked her painfully and knocked her down from the air.
Xellos caught Filia, it looked like she had been shocked pretty badly, as she was still twitching from it. "You're so clumsy, stupid dragon!"
The astral energy dome continued becoming smaller; significantly reducing the room they had to move around. "There has to be a way to beat that thing!" Elena tried shooting at it, but the bullet collided against the shield in a burst of electricity and fell to the floor without any effect.
"We can't give up!" Filia shot a stream of laser breaths into the seed, but the energy shield around it absorbed them all, with the dome becoming further empowered.
"I'm so sorry, everyone," Jillas spoke in sadness, guilt and regret. "All of this happened because you came to rescue me. It's all my fault!"
"That's not true," Filia argued, "this all happened because of me. I can't allow another life to be lost!" She shot another series of lasers, but the lack of effect was the same as before.
Xellos remembered their past encounter with Ryoushi. He wanted to get rid of the Dragon Slayers permanently, but Filia insisted on proving that dragons were not evil by letting them go. Xellos tried to warn her that it was a bad idea, but she refused to listen and held on to her choice. Thus the Dragon Slayers were allowed to live thanks to Filia's mercy and ended up causing trouble again. "You're right, it is your fault, stupid dragon, but we can talk about that later. I noticed something when you shot the lasers at the seed. It looked like the energy shield around it got a little thinner. With enough magic power, an attack should go through before it is completely absorbed."
Filia certainly wasn't expecting Xellos to console her. She knew that kind words were not really his forte and his remarks were exactly what she expected them to be. That didn't matter at the moment though, there would be time to regret the past later, now was the time to focus on the present. "I'll do it." Determined, Filia took in a deep breath and shot a beam of laser at the seed, managing to keep it constant for a while. After some time, she stopped, breathless and looked at the seed, which was undamaged.
The astral energy dome kept getting smaller, as if this whole scenario had been purposely arranged to make them suffer. "Give up..." A voice echoed from the seed, though it was not Ryoushi's voice, it was an ambiguous ominous echo.
"The Stillness!" Filia gasped.
"Give up, it's useless to struggle. This seed cannot be destroyed. Every attempt will end in bitter disappointment. Suffer as you witness the approach of your inevitable doom!" The foreboding voice of the Stillness echoed.
"We can't give up... we just can't..." Elena voiced, though she had no idea what else they could do.
"That's right, the boss has gotten out of tight spots before, we can still make it!" Jillas agreed.
"Let's try fire," Xellos suggested. He and Filia unleashed a series of Fireball attacks, but it looked like they would drain all their energy before they accomplished anything. "This isn't working."
"Don't stop! We can't stop, not now!" Filia tried again, shooting many Flame Arrows one after another, at the same time that she used her laser breath. Xellos joined her, adding more fire, but it still wasn't enough.
"There is one more spell we can try..." Xellos wasn't sure if this would work, but he might as well attempt it. Zelas Brid was a spell that a human would normally be unable to cast without a bucket capacity amplification device. As much as Xellos didn't want to admit it, despite all his power as a monster, while he was in human form, Lina probably had a larger pool capacity than him. That explained why his hair turned white more easily when he drained his magical energy reserves. However, he was pretty sure a human wasn't supposed to so easily force the last drops of magic out to that point, unless said human had an unusually large bucket capacity. Xellos was pretty sure that was the case with him because of his particular circumstances. Besides, some said that one's bucket capacity didn't often vary through life, perhaps his never really changed, even when his pool capacity was noticeably reduced. Nonetheless, he wouldn't be able to keep this up on his own for too long. "Filia, cast Recovery on me."
"What are you going to do?" Filia prepared to do her part, hoping that this would be a successful plan.
"I may not be able to call upon Lord Ruby Eyes' power, but I can still call Lord Beast Master's power." Xellos began to cast the spell, focusing on calling Zelas' energy to him. Her power responded swiftly, surrounding him in familiar energy. "Zelas Brid!" The beam of light collided with the seed and Xellos maintained it constant and steady. Filia continuously healed him to make sure he could keep the spell going.
Finally, it looked like the shield around the seed was being overwhelmed, until the beam of light passed through and reached the golden marble in the center, but didn't destroy it, instead empowering it. The golden marble glowed brighter and the dome of energy around them continued becoming dangerously small. There was not a lot of time left to escape. "Why won't it work?" Filia exclaimed in stressed out frustration.
"How should I know? Stupid dragon!" Xellos snapped back. He really thought this would be enough.
"Make it work, raw garbage!" Filia desperately argued.
"Don't stop yet!" Elena suddenly spoke up, "Jillas, your gun!"
"What can I do with this, if not even the magic of the boss' husband will work?" Jillas took the weapon and looked at the golden marble that resisted the constant magical assault.
"If magic doesn't work, maybe a bullet will. It's worth trying; we have to do everything we can!" Elena insisted.
"Alright, here goes..." Jillas stood next to Xellos and took aim. Of course, if he shot the golden marble at the same time as the Zelas Brid was being casted, the light would disintegrate the bullet before it hit. "Ready!" Xellos released the spell and the light ceased. Before the shield could mend completely, Jillas shot a bullet that flew in through the opening in the glowing green shield and hit the golden marble, causing it to shatter instantly.
The dome of astral energy that surrounded them disappeared, finally setting them free of the impending deadly danger. "It worked!" Elena cheered.
"It looks like the core of the seed was immune to all magic after all, but not to physical attacks..." Xellos reasoned.
Jillas let out a breath of relief. "I knew I only had one chance and I was so worried about missing!"
"It's okay; we're safe now, aren't we?" Elena finally breathed easy. This was a lot more action than she was used to.
"Everyone came here for me," Jillas cried tears of joy, "I'm so happy to have such wonderful people who I can count on."
Xellos was about to sarcastically point out that he should not be included in that statement, but Filia spoke first, continuing her earlier self guilt trip. "This was my fault; it was a consequence of my choice. Because of my decision, Kally, Kalio and Medusa are dead. All so that I could try to uselessly make peace with a group of villains that were a lost cause."
"What are you talking about, boss?" Jillas inquired in confusion.
"Ryoushi and the Dragon Slayers," Filia cried, "I was the one who made Xellos let them go when they attacked us earlier. I was hoping that they could learn that dragons aren't evil, but letting them go only caused a lot of trouble. Because of my poor judgment, they were free to attack Kalio, to torture him with the pain of Medusa's death and make him lose himself. They were free to take you prisoner and all of that led to the death of Kally and Kalio. It led to all your lives being in danger. I'm so sorry!"
"I agree," Xellos gave Filia an amused grin. "You really are a stupid overly forgiving dragon."
"I won't deny it, I am a stupid dragon!" Filia cried loudly, letting the tears run freely down her face.
"Xellos! You're the boss' husband, you're supposed to be cheering her up, not making her cry more!" Jillas scolded, not that Xellos was actually listening to him.
"Please don't blame yourself," Elena tried to console Filia. "You showed mercy because you have a kind heart and many good things have come as a result of your kindness. Jillas told me that you saved his life even if he was supposed to be your enemy back then. If you didn't show such mercy, he wouldn't be here right now. You should never regret good intentions, what happened wasn't your fault!"
Filia sniffled and tried to look at the situation from Elena's perspective. She was certainly glad she helped Jillas back then, but this was different. "Xellos tried to warn me that time when I let the Dragon Slayers go. I didn't listen..."
"Oh yes, the world would be a much better place if everyone would do everything I say." Xellos sarcastically remarked, but by this point no one seemed to be listening to him anymore.
"Boss, I'm eternally grateful to you and I know your kindness has helped many," Jillas encouraged. "What happened here was in no way your fault and I know that Kally and Kalio would agree. I'm certain no one would blame you."
"Hey, stupid dragon," Xellos interrupted. "Are you going to keep crying like a pathetic idiot or are you going to transform and fly us out of here?" Xellos asked dismissively. "Unless you want me to call Galathia for transportation, but I rather not listen to her lack of fan service whining again. I know you're terribly irresponsible, so you couldn't care less, but I have a mission and I intend to accomplish it as soon as possible. I really don't think my copy is going to come looking for me here in the middle of nowhere and we need to interrogate him for a way to get close enough to the Stillness to actually fight it... preferably before it kills the planet."
"That's right..." Filia dried her tears. "The world is still in danger and there are still many people that can be saved. We need to build a peaceful world for Val to live in and I won't help accomplish that by pitying myself."
Jillas and Elena watched the scene with puzzlement. Xellos sounded like he was criticizing Filia, but he somehow cheered her up. "Sometimes it feels like those two speak a whole different language from us," Jillas whispered. He had seen some of their interactions before, when Xellos stayed over at the Maces and Vases shop for a while, soon after Val hatched, but he was still just as perplexed as ever by their strange behavior towards each other. Jillas understood that 'stupid dragon' and 'raw garbage' were their peculiar loving nicknames for each other, but how insults and sarcasm could be interpreted as compliments and encouragement, that he was far from figuring out.
"Alright, let's get off this island!" Filia ran towards the exit of the jail building and a golden light flashed as soon as she was outside. She called, now in her much larger dragon form. "C'mon everyone, we have a world to save!" Without wasting another second, Xellos, Jillas and Elena climbed aboard Filia, who took off into the dark night skies, heading in the direction of Seyruun.
To be Continued