Lina was back in Seyruun for the holidays along with Gourry. She spotted Xellos walking down the street and had to make a peculiar observation, "nice purse." The redhead giggled. "How come you're carrying two purses today?"
Realizing that Lina was referring to his bag, Xellos defended, "this is not a purse," he pointed at the bag, then held up the purse, "and this is not my purse. It was supposed to be for Beast Master, but it's too crude, it lacks in elegance."
Lina observed the purse; the theme seemed to be bloody murder. The design fit a monster lord, she mused, but at the same time it didn't quite fit Zelas' elegance. Then again, a really strong beast didn't go around coated in blood; a skilled hunter was neater than that. "I see what you mean. By the way, what's that material it's made of? It looks scaly, strong and shiny."
"It's white dragon hide," Xellos stated dismissively.
Lina grinned greedily. "Since you've already decided that the purse isn't good enough for Beast Master, why don't you just give it to me?"
"I didn't know you liked purses," Gourry observed.
"I'm not going to carry that thing around; I'm going to sell it!" Lina happily explained as if the purse was already hers. "It's made of dragon hide; that has to be expensive!"
Xellos observed the purse once more, he intended to get a replacement for it anyway and he already had a plan. "Alright, you can have it as a Christmas present on one condition."
"What's the condition?" Lina questioned suspiciously.
"Would you run an errand for me at Zephilia?" Xellos innocently inquired, trying to make it sound as easy as possible.
"Zephilia, that's my home town..." A terrible realization suddenly overcame Lina. "Luna! Oh no! I thought I was done with my Christmas shopping, but I completely forgot about Luna. I kept putting off getting her present because nothing seemed like the perfect gift and I never actually got anything. Why did I have to be so picky? I should have just gotten the first thing I thought of! I have no time for errands now; I can't risk making Luna mad. But it is Christmas, so I'll accept your present anyway." Lina snatched away the white dragon hide purse from Xellos and ran off. "I have to go now. I have some very important last minute shopping to do!"
"Lina, wait for me!" Gourry dashed after her.
"Hurry up Gourry; this is a matter of life or death!" Lina called out as she disappeared down the street.
"There goes the purse..." Xellos didn't give chase. He didn't need that purse anyway and he did have another plan in regards to obtaining a better designer purse to gift Zelas.
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After his run in with Lina, Xellos made his way to Filia's shop and waited for her to acknowledge his presence. The place was so busy that even little Val was playing shop keeper. Leaving her family to tend to the rowdy last minute shoppers, Filia pulled Xellos aside to the little balcony. "I really don't have time to deal with you right now, it's Christmas Eve and I'm very busy. If you're going to ask about how things went with Milgazia, don't, because I haven't had time to speak to him again yet."
"Actually, I was just going to ask you to accompany me on some errands," Xellos innocently asked.
Filia didn't believe it was that simple for a second, "what are you plotting, raw garbage?"
Xellos considered saying that it was a secret, but that would only make Filia more stubborn and he didn't have time to deal with that. Thus he reasoned that it was better to come out with the honest truth. "I need to get a present for Beast Master and I want you to come with me."
"You want me to help you shop?" Filia remembered what Xellos said about Zelas wanting a dragon skin purse. Although she wouldn't put it past the monster lord, she thought he must have been joking about that. After all, he wouldn't ask her to help him with something like that. Filia never considered the possibility of Xellos making truth of his threat to turn her into a purse. She had never been afraid of him and she certainly wasn't going to start fearing him now.
"I already know what I'm buying, I just want you to come with me," Xellos explained.
Filia's suspicion grew. "Why?"
With no more time to waste going in circles, Xellos was direct. "The item I'm buying is a custom made purse I'm commissioning from the formal fashion designer Tatjana Dayward. After the near end of the world, Tatjana's previous atelier was destroyed. She recently established her new business in Zephilia, the hometown of Lina Inverse and her sister Luna Inverse, who happens to be the Knight of Ceifeed. Naturally, she's not too fond of monsters. I need to speak to Tatjana without interruptions and she needs to be able to focus on crafting the designer purse I intend to give Zelas. So you see, if I go to Zephilia on my own, Luna will notice and there might be a fight. That will waste precious time, discourage Tatjana from doing business with me and the materials for the purse might be damaged in the battle."
With a critical glare, Filia demanded to know, "do those materials include golden dragon skin?"
"No," Xellos truthfully replied.
"I see..." Filia thought about it. If Tatjana, a human, was crafting the purse, then maybe the materials were normal after all. Then again, those high profile fashion designers were known to use peculiar materials at times, yet Tatjana was so formal. She wouldn't use dragon skin, would she?
Xellos' interrupted Filia's voice with a very important point. "It is better for the whole world if Beast Master is not disappointed." He stated a valid fact. "Besides, it won't help our mission if whatever Milgazia gets her as a present doesn't have proper competition. It might help us progress in getting them away from each other if his gift is not her favorite."
Filia acknowledged all the arguments with a nod. "I understand... So basically, all I need to do is escort you in and out of Zephilia to reassure Luna that you're just there for some last minute shopping and won't cause any trouble."
"That's the basic idea," Xellos confirmed. "Shall we go then?"
"I really hate long distance teleportation, but I guess there's no choice." After letting her shop helpers know she had to leave for a while, Filia joined Xellos and he teleported them away.
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Xellos and Filia reappeared in the outskirts of Zephilia rather than directly in town, so as to not alarm the Knight of Ceifeed if she sensed him too suddenly. While Filia took a moment to compose herself, Xellos disappeared again, making a short trip to his room at Wolf Pack Island to pick up some materials. Once that was done, Xellos reappeared with a big roll of white dragon hide, properly concealed from Filia's view.
While Filia eyed the parcel suspiciously, Xellos decided it was a fine time for a distraction. "Why don't you go say hi to Luna while I talk to Tatjana?"
Filia considered it for a moment and figured that, given the delicate situation he was in, Xellos wouldn't risk making a mess of things. "Alright, just make sure to stay out of trouble." She went on her way to the cafe where Luna worked as a waitress, leaving Xellos to take care of business.
With Filia gone, Xellos entered the boutique, on the second floor of which the atelier was located. There were several outfits, purses and accessories on display which were barely visible among the many people doing their wild last minute shopping. The owner of the place was trying to keep her business running as smoothly as possible with the help of several shop keepers. The prices of her products were very high, but that was how it worked for major designer brands.
"Miss Dayward, may I have a moment of your time?" Xellos uncovered the white dragon hide slightly to make sure that Tatjana could have a small peek at it.
Intrigued by the material, Tatjana agreed and led Xellos to the back room. "Please, come this way." The back room was quieter than the front of the store, which was buzzing with unruly shopping activity. "That material you carry..." Tatjana eyed the covered parcel curiously.
"It's white dragon hide," Xellos removed the parcel's cover and allowed Tatjana to stretch the material over a long table.
The formal designer's eyes shone with admiration. Her hands caressed the material of smooth but strong scales pleasurably. "A young female, just barely beginning to enter adulthood. She's so beautiful..."
Taken by surprise with the accuracy of Tatjana's deduction, Xellos commented. "I take it this means you have experience?" Marty was employed by Zelas, through one of her minions, or so Xellos had heard. Due to that, it made sense that she would have some experience in working with dragon skin, but he wasn't expecting this from Tatjana. On the bright side, this meant it would be easier for her to craft the purse if she had worked with dragon hide before; it was not the most user friendly material that could be found.
"Naturally," Tatjana replied with a hint of forbidden pride. "I am a world class formal designer; I should have experience with all kinds of rare and exquisite materials, Mr. Metallium."
Then Tatjana knew who he was? That made things even easier for Xellos. "This does make conducting business a lot easier, Miss Dayward."
"Indeed," Tatjana nodded. "This is of course, a secret from the world, but it was actually one of my ancestors from over a thousand years ago who crafted a pair of ancient dragon boots for Lady Beast Master. I believe that event occurred even before your birth, general."
"How very interesting," Xellos grinned; it looked like his problem had been solved after all. "I see now beyond a doubt that your credentials are flawless. Can I count on you to craft a purse worthy of Beast Master?"
"I would be honored!" Tatjana exclaimed, though she quickly composed herself. "Although, you are taking a great risk by making such a request here. If you had written in advance, we could have arranged to meet elsewhere. This town is the home of the Knight of Ceifeed after all," she warned.
"There is no need to worry about that. I have a golden dragon ally with me that will reassure Miss Luna Inverse that there is no need to interfere with my business," Xellos assured. "I need the product to be finished by tomorrow in the early morning at the latest. Do you think you can manage that? It will be worth the pay."
Tatjana nodded, eager to get to work. As she continued speaking, she picked up a notepad and pencil, sketching possible designs for the purse. "I'll begin right away and work through the night. I should have the finished work of art by three in the morning at the latest. This is a very tough material after all, so it takes a few hours to properly craft a masterpiece out of it." Not to mention that special tools were needed, but Tatjana already had those. "I just got a shipment of diamonds that would look lovely on this."
"Diamonds... I'm sure Beast Master will like that." At least Xellos knew he could count on Tatjana to make a good product. He would have the perfect gift for Beast Master after all and it would all go without incident, or so he hoped, because he really didn't have time to deal with a fight right now.
"As for my payment..." Tatjana requested, sounding almost feverishly demanding. "I do not require a monetary compensation, instead I want a trade. This dragon was obviously only recently slain. You must still have plenty more material left. I want a generous portion of her hide, also her fangs and claws, as I can craft jewelry from those. However, I must ask that you do not deliver them to this atelier. I will provide detailed directions to the location of my other atelier, which I expect you to keep a secret." Tatjana looked up from her sketching, meeting Xellos' closed eyes with an unblinking stare. "Are these terms acceptable, Mr. Metallium?"
"Miss Dayward," Xellos grinned, slightly opening his eyes, his long pupils revealing his true nature. "You have yourself a deal."
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While Xellos was discussing business with Tatjana, Filia had gone over to the cafe where Lina was working. The place was certainly not as busy as the stores, since no one had time to relax at a cafe when there was hectic last minute shopping to be done. Luna spotted Filia right away and went over to her with a menu. "It's been a long time Filia. I don't believe I've seen you since the time you visited with Lina, her fiance and friends."
Filia wished she actually remembered that visit. At least she knew that Gourry and Lina were engaged and learned of how it all began, though it was still not the same as remembering. "Yes, it's been a while. I'm just passing by along with..." What could she call Xellos? An evil monster? A not so evil monster? A piece of raw garbage? An ally in the mission of relationship sabotage? "An acquaintance... shopping."
"Funny," Luna commented with that piercing stare of hers that rarely made itself obvious beyond the curtain of her long bangs. "I thought Xellos was more than just an acquaintance. Although, last time he was here, he was in no position to cause any trouble." Luna was smart, that went without question, yet she was smarter than Lina knew. Her younger sister saw her as completely lacking in tolerance, though the Knight of Ceifeed could be more tolerating at times than she was given credit for. Sometimes, it was okay to overlook certain details, unless the details made themselves too obvious.
"Ah... well..." Filia stumbled over her words. It wasn't that she was afraid of Luna like Lina was. The real issue was that she didn't know how to go about her end of the agreement with Xellos. "A friend, he's my friend," Filia blurted out, to try to sound as if she was more in control of the situation. "Anyway, he's not here to cause trouble, he's just shopping for his mother, that's all," she insisted.
"You seem uneasy," Luna observed, which only made Filia even more uneasy.
The golden dragon shifted uncomfortably as if debating with herself. Finally, she sighed and spoke sincerely. "I can't really explain it, but could you please overlook Xellos' visit this one time?"
"Very well," Luna agreed much to Filia's relief, though of course there were conditions. "As long as he keeps a low profile and doesn't cause any trouble in town, I'll let this pass."
"Thank you," Filia breathed.
"Now on to more important matters..." Luna paused dramatically, before her face relaxed into a friendly smile. "What can I bring you?"
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The trip to Zephilia transpired mostly without incident. After Xellos was done with his business, he went to meet Filia at the cafe. Luna seemed eager enough to pretend he was just another customer and Xellos was all too happy to pretend she was just another waitress. Although, just as they were leaving, Luna warned disguised as a farewell, "please come to our cafe again... both of you." Xellos knew right away that it wasn't an invitation for him to return, far from it. It was in truth Luna's way to say that she didn't want a monster general priest walking around her town without an escort. That was just fine; he could arrange that all for the sake of preserving the prized present intact.
Thus Xellos and Filia left Zephilia in relative peace and returned to Seyruun. However, Filia was very quiet, as if fighting a battle with herself to hold back a very big temper tantrum that was waiting to explode like a time bomb. It made Xellos wonder if it was somehow related to something Luna said, though in reality the cause of Filia's uneasiness was not Luna at all.
Cautiously, Xellos carefully informed, "Tatjana said the purse would be done by three."
"Isn't it almost three now?" Filia reminded. "We could have waited for her to finish, if she was going to work this fast.
"Not three in the afternoon," Xellos explained. "Three in the morning."
Filia huffed in annoyance. "I take it this means you're going to ask me to get up at three in the morning and go back to Zephilia with you?"
"You know Luna doesn't trust me to stay out of trouble if I visit alone," Xellos reminded, trying to sound as if it was a terribly unfair accusation. "If it was any other occasion I wouldn't care, but I can't risk my gift for Beast Master getting damaged if a fight breaks out. For the time being, I'll unfortunately have to play by Luna's rules."
Filia sighed hopelessly, though it was obvious that the prospect of getting up at three in the morning wasn't the only thing that was bothering her. "Fine, I'll go with you. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go help deal with more insane last minute shoppers at my store."
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Elsewhere... Wizer Freion was really regretting taking a break from his detective work right now. He thought that being a coach to an unusual team of brass rackets players that were skilled enough not to actually need a coach would be an interesting an enlightening experience. To be fair, it was, but it was also incredibly frustrating. "How do I put this..." He sighed in frustration as he ran his hand from his forehead down his face. "You haven't improved at all."
It was a lovely afternoon and Zelas and Milgazia were practicing at an indoors private brass rackets court away from the prying eyes of the fans and press that they were, according to their coach, not yet ready to face.
"It's his fault," Zelas Metallium, under the guise of Yuna Wolf with her alternate look, pointed at Milgazia with her racket.
"How is it my fault?" Milgazia, who went by the name of Angel Dragon, diplomatically argued.
"It's both your faults!" Wizer threw his arms in the air in exasperation. "It looks like you've been practicing how to make it look like you're working together, but you're not actually working together. Even if you are both tremendously skilled on your own, if you play one against two, against three given how you seem on the verge of turning on each other, then you will surely lose. That, or you'll expose yourselves."
A long silent pause passed until Zelas grinned and ended the quietude. "So you know. You knew all along who we are."
"Yes, that is why I insisted so strongly in being the one to become your coach. I had to move quite a few bargaining chips for this," Wizer admitted. "You both wish to stay undercover, don't you? Well, let's try acting more human towards each other, okay? I have a very good idea that might just help break the very thick and tall wall of ice between you. I suggest that you give each other Christmas presents!"
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 131: Crossfire! A Flawed Plan
Another moment of silence passed between Zelas, Milgazia and Wizer, this time interrupted by Zelas' mocking laughter. Much to Wizer's surprise, Milgazia laughed too, although he did so in a much less mocking tone. "Good joke, coach," Zelas gave a thumbs up.
Wizer frowned, "I wasn't joking. Can you try this idea? Please!"
Yet another moment of silence passed as Zelas and Milgazia eyed each other critically. Wizer was certain that they would adamantly refuse, yet suddenly, they simultaneously agreed, "sure."
The single word gave Wizer a strong feeling of foreboding and he questioned how wise it was to have made such a suggestion. When it came down to it, he concluded that he might not want to know what kind of presents those two got for each other.
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It was three in the morning at Zephilia as a very sleepy Filia made her way towards Tatjana's shop following Xellos. "You're not sick?" The purple haired monster inquired.
"I'm too sleepy to be sick," Filia pointed out. "Besides, there are times when I don't get teleportation sickness. It happens most of the time with long distances though. I think it started after the Darkstar incident, or rather, I noticed it then. It's not like I had monsters carry me through the astral side regularly before." Or during, but that was not the point.
"Is that why you looked so disoriented that time with Valgarv?" Xellos curiously inquired. "I thought you looked more shocked than sick though."
"Yes," Filia replied, remembering the occasion. "That's when it all started, actually that might have been the cause of it." She frowned with a look of accusation.
"How so?" Xellos asked with real curiosity.
"I was so shocked, so sick... I couldn't believe a monster saved me and that just made me terribly sick," Filia confessed.
"Interesting," Xellos mockingly observed with a grin, while Filia prompted him to continue with her critical gaze. "Have you ever thought that it could all be in your head? That you get sick because you think you should feel sick being transported by a monster? Astral side motions are not really harsh; it shouldn't be enough to make you sick in that sense. Besides, those who can fly rarely have motion and balance related problems anyway."
"It's not like I want to be sick!" Filia argued.
"I'm sure you don't, but you're very skilled in self-sabotage. If you put your mind to it, you might not get sick anymore," Xellos theorized.
"Fine, prove it," Filia stomped her feet and crossed her arms stubbornly.
Xellos glanced at Tatjana's shop. Light was coming from inside it. The shop was still in business even at that late hour, or early hour depending on how one looked at it. Well, it's not like the atelier was going to get up and walk away; he could give Tatjana a little extra time just in case. Of course, Xellos didn't know that the atelier could in fact get up and walk away, as it came equipped with full battle golem capabilities, but Tatjana had no reason to activate it at the moment anyway. "Okay, I'll prove it, but it'll only work if you put your mind to it."
"Fine, you have my word," Filia assured, though it was difficult to keep such a promise when it meant being wrong. She didn't think about that detail though, because she was sure she was right. Xellos stepped behind Filia, holding her by the waist. "What are you doing?" She protested.
"Taking you to the astral side," Xellos stated. "We'll stay there for a few seconds. It's like teleporting in slow motion. Usually, when physical beings are taken to the astral side they actually end up in the pockets of astral space that are like small alternate dimensions. The laws of physics are similar to the physical world on those spaces, or they are made to be by the influence of the mind within the space. The top layer of the astral plane that connects all the pockets of space is a little different though. That's where we'll stay, ready?"
"Okay..." Filia wasn't sure she should be doing this, but she was secretly curious. The next thing she knew there was a swirl of colors and everything finally settled. The scenery of the town around her looked distant and distorted, though air still filtered in sufficiently to breathe with ease. There were pockets of astral space like bubbles that could be used to enter a wider area, the astral spaces Xellos mentioned before. Filia floated through the street, reaching the park in the middle of town with Xellos still holding on to her.
Filia saw a tree coming closer, she reached to touch it but her hand went through it. Then she was moved forward, passing through it completely. She saw the pond at the park's center coming closer until her feet could touch the water, but it didn't feel wet. Down she went until she was completely submerged, but she could still breathe and she was still dry. She was moved up again until she floated a few feet above a flower bed.
"Ready for landing?" Xellos whispered in her ear. Then he released her and she returned to the physical world, where the laws of physics, gravity included, did fully apply.
Filia stumbled a little, but quickly regained her balance. It was odd, feeling the soft breeze, hearing the crickets more clearly and sensing the pull of gravity after it had been completely gone. Those details were things she didn't even notice a few minutes ago. Yet after experiencing floating without wind, everything sounding distant and having no weight, all those things were all too obvious. The astral plane was peculiar. For one who was used to the physical world, Filia knew that she would miss the extra sensations that came with it, but visiting the astral plane in such a slow calming pace was certainly an interesting experience. It was so fascinating, so ethereal. "Xellos... Do you feel things the same way I do?"
"That sounded like a really cheesy question, so I'll go with no," Xellos teasingly replied.
"I mean physically," Filia tried to clarify, succeeding only in making things worse.
"Are you admitting that you want me?" Xellos teased with an amused grin. "Oh wait, that's right, you've already admitted that before, stalker."
"You know that's not what I mean!" Filia shouted, red faced. "Stop twisting my words around, raw garbage! I mean to ask about things like tact and smell and taste. I know you can taste things, smell things and interact with the physical plane, but for an astral being, does it feel the same?"
"How should I know? It's not like I've ever been anything but an astral being." Or rather, he didn't remember being anything different. "I would assume that it's the same or similar enough. Except I won't sneeze if I smell the pollen of these ugly flowers that are all over the ground around here and I don't get any annoying itches. That aside, I suppose it's the same." Oh great, now she had made him curious, how stupid. "So, are you feeling any teleportation sickness?"
"Not really," Filia admitted. "Maybe it really was all in my head and I only got sick because I thought I was supposed to, because you're supposed to have that effect from the sheer discomfort of being near you."
"Except now you like being near me," Xellos teased.
"I do not!" Filia argued with a pout. "I would rather be in bed," taking note of his smirk, Filia quickly added, "alone!"
"Than let's get this errand done and I'll take you home, nobody likes a cranky sleepless dragon." Xellos mocked, which produced more annoyance in Filia than he expected. Wordlessly, she started walking towards Tatjana's shop.
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Xellos and Filia entered Tatjana's boutique. The atmosphere was much quieter than during the day, as a customer exited the shop with some very last minute purchases. Tatjana's assistants were occupied in replenishing the displays that had been emptied during the day. "Welcome!" One of the shop keepers rather loudly greeted them. "How may I help you?" The young woman looked like she was in a caffeine high, twitching slightly.
"I'm here to see Miss Dayward about a custom piece," Xellos voiced with his usual deceiving friendly look.
"Ah, you must be Mr. Metallium. Miss Dayward is upstairs in the atelier, she told us to send you up when you arrived." The shop keeper replied.
"I'll be right there," Xellos glanced at Filia, who seemed intent on following him, with more anger in her eyes than he could explain. Was all of this really because he dragged her out to go shopping at three in the morning? Her emotions didn't taste so strongly of rage not too long ago. It was as if she had decided she was angry, got distracted, then realized she should be furious and acted in turn. But why did she want to be angry? Was it because she felt she was supposed to because he was a monster? How stubborn could that perplexing golden dragon be? "Filia, why don't you browse around the shop and pick something you like. I'll get it for you as a Christmas present." Xellos offered as a distraction. "I'm sure the nice ladies will help you choose something that's perfect for you."
As if on cue, the shop keepers immediately attacked Filia with their prospective sales, suggesting that she should try on this and that, becoming very insistent upon it. With Filia being held back by the employees, Xellos headed up the stairs to the atelier where Tatjana waited.
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"You are late," Tatjana Dayward, world class formal designer, sat on a chair staring at her latest masterpiece. "It is alright though, I enjoyed being able to admire this beauty for a while longer. Please inspect the product and ensure it is up to your expectations, Mr. Metallium."
Xellos approached the table where the purse was. The white dragon hide was smooth and perfect with a shine to it as if it was made of melted pearls. The handle was made of swirls of gold encircling more of the white dragon scales. A line of diamonds was round about the purse's opening and another line in the middle of the bag. Inside, there was golden silk that could be seen protecting the inner side of the purse when it was open. The seams were completely invisible, unlike the barely noticeable seams of Marty's design. "How did you do that? It's as if the hide was originally shaped this way, but it wasn't."
"I merged the hide where the seams would be with a regeneration spell," Tatjana proudly confessed.
"Regeneration? It's not alive," Xellos pointed out.
"A regeneration spell modified with necromancy, as for the specifics... that is a secret," she unknowingly stole his quote.
Xellos chuckled, "I'm sure."
"All of the materials have been magically enforced to measure up to the resistance of the dragon hide. Does the product meet your approval?" Tatjana inquired.
"It does," Xellos agreed.
"Good, shall I gift wrap it?" She offered.
"Yes," Xellos handed the purse back to the designer. "As for your payment, I delivered the requested compensation to your other atelier earlier tonight."
"I was informed." Tatjana confirmed as she carefully placed the purse inside a shiny golden box with ivory paper within. She closed the box's lid over it, tying a white ribbon around the golden box. "It was a pleasure doing business with you. Please come see me if you have any other projects such as this."
Xellos received the box, "I'll keep that in mind." He better not risk keeping the box anywhere near Filia, least she get curious, actually manage to somehow snatch it away and see what was in it. She was moody enough as it was. Thus Xellos disappeared from before Tatjana, making a quick trip via the astral side to his room at Wolf Pack Island, where he safely deposited the box and left it there to give to Beast Master later. With the number of minions she had, she had a lot of presents to open. Just as quickly as he disappeared, Xellos reappeared, though Tatjana didn't seem to be alarmed in the least. He headed downstairs to see how Filia was fairing with the shop keeper's quest for an extra sale.
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While Xellos was upstairs, Filia had been given a dress, insisting that she should try it on. After she was trapped in the dressing room, she knew she wouldn't be allowed out until she humored the shop keepers. Thus she changed out of her usual pink dress and into the light blue one that they had suggested. The tone of pale blue made her eyes look a deeper shade of blue. The garment was comfortable. It had a white top and a thin blue ribbon that went from the waist to the chest in a zig-zag pattern on the white part, which gave it a very form fitting style.
The dress began just below the shoulders with two blue ribbons resting loosely on each shoulder. The third piece was like a little shawl shaped like a miniature cape resembling the top of Filia's usual white cloak, without the long part. The fabric was of the same blue color of the dress with a white ribbon. It gave the outfit as a whole a less showy look, which characterized Tatjana's conservative designs. Filia exited the dressing room, meeting with the approval of the shop keepers.
"This dress is definitely you!" One of the assistants exclaimed. "Just don't forget that this dress is meant to be worn with the shawl, not without, that's what Miss Tatjana said."
"Oh yes, you should keep it on!" The other agreed. "Here, let me get you a bag to carry your other clothes," she offered.
"This ribbon would look great on your hair and it matches the dress perfectly," a light blue ribbon was offered. "Let me braid your hair, miss!"
Filia made a mental note never to underestimate the power of caffeine, as it kept the girls so terribly energetic even after a long day of dealing with the mayhem of last minute shoppers. Actually, Filia could use some caffeine in her system herself. It was too bad the cafe where Luna worked wasn't open at such a late hour, or she could have stopped there before Xellos took her back to Seyruun. Xellos... That's right, she was angry at him and for a good reason!
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By the time Xellos made his way downstairs, having finished his business, he found that Filia was no where to be seen. He glanced in the general direction of the changing rooms but found that the doors were all open, revealing the fact that they were all empty. "Your bill, sir." One of the caffeine high shop keepers handed him a piece of paper with an amount that carried an impressive number of zeroes to the right of less circular looking digits. Tatjana's boutique was certainly pricey.
Xellos wasn't sure what happened to his account during the time of his missing memories, but he was a whole lot less rich now than he had been before. None the less, his spying budget income had been restored and he was able to pay the bill without incident. With that done, he exited the boutique and went off to find Filia.
xoxox xox xoxox
Fortunately, Filia had not gone too far. Xellos found her walking back to the park in a huff. Her long blond hair was pulled back on a loose braid tied with a light blue ribbon that matched the color of her new dress. Xellos secretly observed that it fit her well, though he didn't make any immediate comments on the subject. "Wait up, stupid dragon. Where are you going in such a huff?"
Filia paused, looked back at Xellos, glared murderous metaphorical poison coated daggers at him, then continued on her way. Predictably, Xellos kept up with her pace quickly. Unpredictably, he placed his arm around her shoulders; once again predictably, he teased her. "You're such an ungrateful dragon, I get you a Christmas present and you ignore me in return, even glare at me." Refusing to speak to him, Filia escaped his grasp by freeing herself of the shawl, untying the bow and quickening her pace towards the park. Xellos was left holding the pale blue garment, following after the upset Filia in confusion as she reached the park and just stood there solemnly. "I didn't think Tatjana sold dresses like that."
Realizing that it was useless to try to ignore Xellos, Filia snapped, "like what?" He followed his gaze and soon found herself tugging up the fabric of her dress. "This dress is meant to be worn with the shawl, not without." She snatched away the garment and put it back on.
"I thought it looked good without it, it's not like it's cold anyway," Xellos teased, receiving no reply. This was getting rather frustrating. "Hey, moody dragon, what's your problem? You were fine for a while and now you're angry again. What's with all the mood swings? Are you mad that I was right about your teleportation sickness being in your head? You lost the argument, but at least you can start getting used to not being sick. Isn't that better anyway?"
"That's not it," Filia sighed hopelessly. "I think I understand now," about what she thought was going on with Milgazia's possible brainwashing. "Monsters are so tricky, so... distracting. I have a good reason to be angry at you, but you keep distracting me from it and for a moment I actually forgot and that was terrible of me."
"Would you care to share that reason?" Xellos asked with true curiosity.
"Why her?" Filia inquired with a heavy tone of accusation.
"Why who?" Xellos returned the question in confusion.
"Why her? Why that white dragon girl?" Filia insisted. "I'm not stupid; I know what you had in that parcel you delivered to Tatjana. It was for Beast Master's dragon skin designer purse, wasn't it? Her scent was still so fresh, she was killed recently. I'm a dragon too; I have the right to be upset about this. Why, Xellos? Why her? What did she ever do to deserve becoming one of Beast Master's trophies? You didn't even know her, did you?"
"It's not like you knew her," Xellos argued.
"That's not the point!" Filia shouted; her rage increasing.
"Answer me!" Filia angrily demanded, her voice echoing across the Zephilia park and disturbing the quiet of the very early morning, that could still be called by many night.
"You already know the answer," Xellos replied with a serious tone that was a sharp contrast from his usual mockery. "I had to give Beast Master a good present, that's all there is to it. It's not like I hurt anyone you knew, so you can stop being so overly dramatic."
Filia glared with tears in her eyes. "Why didn't you just use me instead? Why that poor innocent girl that surely had absolutely nothing to do with you? I'm the idiot that humors you more than I should, so why didn't you just turn me into a designer purse for Beast Master?"
Trying to get back into a teasing argument and away from this drama, Xellos replied, "because you're too ugly to be good enough. I chose to hunt her because she was beautiful and that's all there is to it."
To be Continued
Slayers: Alive - Episode 132: Presents! Gift Wrapped Hidden Desires
"You stupid piece of raw garbage!" Filia screamed in frustration, her voice echoing through Zephilia. "Why do you have to listen to Beast Master all the time? How can you live with yourself being a slave to someone like her? How can you tolerate your own existence?"
Angered by the path the argument was taking, Xellos shouted back. "Stupid dragon, it's my terrible existence that's keeping you alive!"
"What's that's supposed to mean?" Filia demanded.
"Beast Master is sparing your life allowing me to keep you as a sort of pet," Xellos explained. "If I displease her, my punishment might be to lose my pet. If I wasn't there to convince her that it's convenient to keep you around, she would have killed you and taken the last ancient dragon as her slave."
Filia was taken aback by the revelation and was definitely upset by it. She didn't want to be protected like that, but she didn't want to risk Val either. "I don't want sacrifices," she voiced in a quieter tone.
"I'm not particularly bothered by this sort of thing but... Sometimes you just have to choose what is most precious and hold on to it. Sometimes you can't have it all," Xellos stated truthfully. "I thought you weren't sheltered and naive enough to believe that anymore."
Filia did not reply. She just let his words spin around in her head continuously until they were so overanalyzed she didn't know what to think anymore. 'What is most precious...' Filia thought. Was he telling her to hold on to Val and forget about everyone else, to ignore the suffering of strangers? Or was there a deeper hidden meaning to it? "Take me home," Filia finally broke the long uncomfortable silence.
Without saying anything more, Xellos teleported Filia to her shop at Seyruun and left. Filia stepped out to the balcony and admired the sunrise; it was the start of a new day...
xoxox xox xoxox
Earlier that night at Dragon's Peak... "Wake up!" The sudden voice made Milgazia jump out of bed and land on his feet in an alarmed automatic motion. He glared at the source of the voice, Beast Master Zelas Metallium, who had the daring audacity to teleport right into the middle of dragon territory, specifically to the dragon elder's house, to his room no less.
"What are you doing here and why at this hour?" Milgazia fought and successfully defeated a yawn that had attempted to make its way out. He maintained a serious stare despite standing there wearing only shorts... hey, it was a warm night. At least Zelas seemed to be gracefully ignoring his lack of full apparel.
"It's one minute past midnight, it's morning and it's about time to get up, even for someone as lazy as you. I'm here for my present," Zelas stated in a demanding tone as she tossed a box at Milgazia, who caught it. "Here's yours. Give me my present, I have to go back to Wolf Pack Island and start opening the many presents I'm getting from my minions. Some of us do get busy during Christmas, unlike you whom I'm sure no one would care to gift anything to, except for the coach's suggested pity gift. Hurry up, you're making me hungry."
Okay, so maybe she did notice his lack of apparel after all, in a purely culinary way. Before she got any ideas about turning him into dragon cuisine, Milgazia quickly retrieved the gift box containing Zelas present, which he thought was very fitting for her. "Ladies first."
Did she just detect a hint of sarcasm in his otherwise diplomatic tone? She decided to ignore it and tore the wrapping paper apart, curious to see what this mysterious present was. "Coal? Really Milgazia, I knew you were cheap but not this cheap."
"That's the only thing a naughty monster should get," Milgazia stated.
"I'll give you points for foolish bravery," Zelas chuckled. "It's your turn to open your present and I'm not as cheap as you are."
Milgazia dreaded opening the box, but he knew he had to. The suspense was interrupted by insistent knocks on the door. "Lord Milgazia, we sense a monster in there! Are you alright?" A dragon called from outside.
"Not a monster, a monster lord!" Another dragon corrected. "And of course he's not alright, there's a monster lord in his house!"
"Everyone calm," yawn, "down," Memphis tried to make the dragons settle down. "I'm sure Milgazia is perfectly capable of handling this. Zelas is probably just here to discuss brass rackets strategies or something."
"In the middle of the night?" A random dragon questioned.
"Monsters don't sleep," yet another dragon dramatically declared. Quite a few dragons were gathered around Milgazia's house.
"Everything is alright!" Milgazia called out as he hurried to open the present and get this over with. Inside the box he found a scarf... made of white dragon hide. "This is..."
"Stylish, isn't it?" Zelas hopped over to stand directly next to him in amusement, taking the scarf and wrapping it around Milgazia's neck. He did not look amused. "I actually stole the material from Xellos, but I'm sure he'll overlook it. I bet he hunted that white dragon so he could order that custom made designer purse I've been hinting I wanted. I can't wait to see it! Last year Xellos gave me a vase for Christmas, I think he got it at his little dragon pet's shop. Honestly, he never knows what to get me unless I practically spell it out for him. I guess you're the same way, aren't you? You're completely hopeless at choosing a gift for a woman unless she tells you exactly what she wants. By the way, I made myself a scarf like this too. We should wear them next time we play brass rackets. You know, to get into the team spirit." Never mind that the weather was like that of a warm spring. "Well I must be going now. Merry Christmas!" The holiday wishes were of course, filled with heavy sarcasm as Zelas faded away to the astral side at last.
Milgazia was having a pretty hard time refraining from making any comments, as he was taught at a young age that if he didn't have anything nice to say he shouldn't say anything at all. He grumbled and growled under his breath as he promptly removed the scarf and tossed it back in its box. He would say a prayer and properly dispose of it later. Just when Milgazia didn't think the very early beginning of his day could get any worse, a battalion of golden dragons invaded his house, with one elf among their ranks. They all stood there, staring at him while Milgazia's face turned red. "I told you I was fine!"
"Yes sir!" The invaders chorused as they hurried to get out.
xoxox xox xoxox
During the whole day on December twenty fifth, the Christmas celebrations went very well in Seyruun. The monster lords spent the day receiving presents from their minions and had no time to cause trouble. Amelia and Zelgadis were planning to go on their trip after Christmas, but they delayed it for after New Year's. Lina and Gourry had a lot of fun with the banquet. Many friends from all across the land came. Naga, Martina, Zangulus, Phythan and Onyx all showed up at Seyruun.
Gifts were exchanged in abundance and it was hard to believe that the world almost ended not too long ago. Filia even found that some presents from Xellos for Val and Palou mysteriously appeared under their tree at some point in time that Filia couldn't quite precise. She watched the gifts cautiously and finally relaxed, realizing that they were harmless art supplies. Her relief was short lived, as she realized that the finger paints would most likely end up on every surface and cleaning would be terribly difficult. They were gifs from Xellos, of course there had to be a catch.
The good news was that despite Filia's early rising and rude awakening to reality, the holiday cheer was so present in Seyruun that it made her forget her troubles. The whole day went by pleasantly with festivities, music and food. There was even mistletoe, under which Lina and Gourry got caught. For a second, Filia considered running for cover because surely Lina would be terribly embarrassed and Dragon Slave Seyruun castle, but it wasn't necessary. The red haired sorceress blushed, stood on her tip toes while Gourry bent over, and kissed him without making a major fuss.
The mistletoe scene made Filia think about how close they were and made her wish she had someone too. Xellos popped into her thoughts uninvited and made her become guarded around mistletoe, least he should decide to embarrass her by conveniently teleporting in when she was passing under one of the mistletoes that were scattered about all over the castle's party hall. It also reminded her about how he tried to sneak up on her with mistletoe on his staff last year. She broke a vase on his face for that stunt and charged him for it along with the one he bought. She also remembered building a snowman with a purple wig and a black cone for a nose, then smashing it with her mace to let out some tension. However, this time Xellos didn't show up.
After the party was over, Filia looked at the grand Christmas tree in the middle of the party hall, admiring it for the last time before heading home with a sleepy Val in her arms, late into the night. There was magically generated snow out in the garden and Jillas had been lighting up some sparklers there earlier. Filia had a lot of fun, surrounded by people she deeply cared about. Yet there was a certain detail missing, but she couldn't, or didn't want to, figure out what it was.
xoxox xox xoxox
After the Christmas party was over and the kingdom of Seyruun was once again still, Filia found that, despite having woken up so early, she couldn't sleep. She stood at the balcony of her home looking at the city streets which were not busy anymore, but still held a few late partiers and bar goers, most of them already heading home.
"Why are you still awake, stupid dragon? You're going to get uglier if you don't get any sleep." Xellos appeared floating in front of Filia before joining her on the balcony.
"Where were you all day, raw garbage?" Filia cut right to the chase in addressing her curiosity.
"Watching Beast Master open presents," Xellos truthfully stated. "She's still opening presents, actually, but I already gave her mine and hung around for long enough, so I'm excused to leave." Filia frowned at the thought of sour memories that she had overanalyzed to the point of mental exhaustion before giving into the temptation of focusing only on the holiday cheer and blocking out everything else. "Are you still mad at me?" Xellos interrupted her thoughts.
"Maybe," Filia admitted, because honestly, she wasn't even sure anymore. Their situation was... very peculiar. None the less it was Christmas, or at least the day after Christmas since it was already past midnight, so she might as well continue procrastinating on her worries in favor of paying attention to the holiday for a while longer. "Just a moment," Filia went inside, returning swiftly with a small box in her hands. She gave the box to Xellos, "merry Christmas."
"You actually got me a Christmas present?" He wasn't expecting that, given how angry she had been before. Filia really was a box full of surprises, a very nicely wrapped box of surprises.
"You gave me a present, so I thought I should correspond." Filia smiled; maybe she wasn't so angry at Xellos after all. "Are you going to open it?"
"I am curious," Xellos opened the gift and pulled out a plush dragon keychain.
"It's a purse charm for your purse," Filia smugly stated. Though the topic of purses was drenched with sour memories recently, she had been looking forward to teasing Xellos with this gift since the hectic day when she realized that the holidays were upon her and she wasn't done with her shopping yet. She couldn't resist.
"It's not a purse!" Xellos snapped, though he did hang the plush dragon on his bag. "This little one kind of looks like you, it's so ugly, I bet I can scare people with it."
Filia blinked, "what? You're actually using it?"
"Why not?" Xellos innocently inquired with a hint of mischief reflected in his one open eye in a sort of reverse wink. "You're using the present I gave you."
"I guess so..." Filia voiced. Now she wondered if it was such a great idea that she made the keychain plush look like her true form. It even had the blond hair and a little pink bow on its tail. Then again, she was kind of amused by the idea of Xellos walking around with a miniature doll of her attached to his bag. It made her wonder for how long he would keep it there.
xoxox xox xoxox
The days went by and the time eventually came for the New Year celebration at Seyruun. Once again, the city was filled with visitors, perhaps more so than in Christmas because of an interesting fact. The League of International Fellowship on Earth, known in short as LIFE, was throwing a New Year party, which was being sponsored by Seyruun and was thus to be held at the castle. The grand party hall was buzzing with activity as journalists from across the land made a fuss and asked questions about the oh so secretive training regimen of the rising stars of the brass rackets' world, Yuna Wolf and Angel Dragon.
They put up an admirable human act, though it seemed that most of the journalists were having problems with suspicious bouts of sudden clumsiness. They dropped things and things were mysteriously dropped on them. Some had started to wonder if Seyruun was haunted, though that should have been quite difficult. Of course, they weren't counting on the fact that it would take a lot more than this to suppress the power of a monster lord.
The journalists were not the only ones who were having some coordination issues, as several men seemed to be having problems of their own, albeit it wasn't Zelas' secret doings. "What's wrong with them?" Filia curiously inquired from her place next to Xellos, her arm linked with his. Zelas and Milgazia were both expected to attend the New Year ball as Yuna Wolf and Angel Dragon respectively. This was due to their involvement in the LIFE sponsored upcoming world wide brass rackets tournament. It only made sense that their personal team of relationship sabotage agents should tag along and keep an eye on them.
Xellos would be required to play his part as Zelas' backup if she got too tired of dealing with the press, to assist her in the effort not to blow her cover so soon in the game. Other than that, many of the business associates of the Metallium family were also present, occasionally asking Xellos about the whereabouts of his mother, who was secretly not too far away playing the role of a different identity. "I don't know," Xellos replied in perplexity as he followed the trail of love struck looking men prone to random acts of clumsiness as well as finding themselves in the receiving end of slaps courtesy of their respective dates.
The purple haired monster finally spotted the source of the men's fascination and the women's anger. It was a beautiful woman whose silver hair reached all the way to her ankles, cascading in stunningly beautiful waves. Her very long pointy ears were visible sticking out left and right as she made her way across the party hall. That was not what he expected to find, because when one kills someone, one does not expect that someone to show up alive again and in no way undead. Xellos was certain that the white dragon girl he thought was near by was supposed to be very dead.
The white dragon turned her face slightly towards Xellos with stunning golden eyes. Golden, not green... That's when he realized that this was not the dead white dragon after all; it was the girl who had been guarding her. She simply looked different with her hair down; he didn't even notice it was that long when he saw her before. Either way it was trouble, because they had a vengeful dragon in their midst. That meant that, as much as he would rather spend the rest of the night with Filia, not that he would ever admit it, it was time for Xellos to get to work before the dragon girl caused a troublesome commotion.
The dragon female, what had she said her name was? Ah yes, Kirei, she looked away and kept moving. She was purposely letting Xellos know that she had seen him; perhaps calling him to follow her into a trap that he was confident would be unsuccessful. He better investigate and put a stop to her plot before things got out of hand. He glanced discreetly towards Zelas, their eyes meeting with silent communication. Then Xellos' eyes went back to watching Kirei's every move, wondering if she had brought backup.
Xellos' concentration was finally broken when Filia harshly removed her arm from his. He looked at her, as she glared intensely; producing the unmistakable taste of her delicious wrath mixed with... jealousy? "I guess a pretty face can stop even you in your tracks!" Throwing her head back in anger, Filia walked off in such a hurry she nearly tripped on her long elegant dress. Trying her best to ignore the stumble, she hurried away angrily without looking back.
Xellos chuckled in amusement. Filia was jealous, this was priceless! It filled him with an odd sense of pride that he wasn't sure should be provoked by something like this. He considered going after Filia and teasing her about this, though the truth was that he was not looking at Kirei that way. He was only surprised by her presence and rightfully concerned about her plans, which could expose Yuna Wolf's true identity.
Xellos knew he didn't have time to deal with Filia now; it was time to do his duty like the secret bodyguard of a celebrity. Thus Xellos gave Filia one last glance as she took up a seat at the bar and walked a few steps in pursuit of Kirei. Then he looked back and had to do a double take. Luna was the one serving the drinks at the bar, Luna Inverse, the Knight of Ceifeed. Great, just great... If a fight broke loose everyone would jump in and then Beast Master might be pushed into jumping in herself. That would certainly give things a very interesting twist, but her undercover plans would go down the drain and there would be consequences to pay. Xellos knew he couldn't allow things to go that far.
To be Continued