Episode 014: Lethal! You Dare To Challenge Me?
The journey had progressed with eerie silence for Lina, Filia and Xellos. Though Lina's nerves were on edge more so with the tense quietude then they had been with the fighting from before, the sorceress consoled herself in thinking that they were almost to Seyruun. Pretty soon she would be able to take a break from all of this and maybe distract herself playing with Val and Palou. She assumed that precautions had already been taken to make sure no one who knew Xellos and Filia's true pasts spoke too much of them.
The trio of travelers had stopped to make camp and Lina made it clear that she did not want to be bothered. Night had already fallen and she was tired. She went to sleep next to the fire and for some time Xellos and Filia just sat there without a word. Finally, Xellos got up and left. Filia didn't say anything, maybe he was hungry or needed to go to the bathroom or something, it was not her business anyway. The monster general priestess continued to sit at the camp wondering if she should lull herself to a sleep-like state to create the illusion that time was passing by faster. Reminding herself that no dragon could ever hurt her, she laid down and fell asleep.
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While Lina and Filia were asleep, Xellos took the time to set of a trap for Filia. He drew a circle on the ground, carving symbols around it to boost dragon power and holy magic. In real combat this would be impractical, as it took a long time to prepare. Such methods were used more so for exorcism, purifications and healing rituals for particularly fatal wounds, assuming the patient could live long enough to receive the healing. It was also use for regeneration, though healing studies in that area were still in many ways works in progress, bones were especially difficult to regenerate after all. Becoming a chimera to recover a lost limb was the preferred method of high skill human wizards, but Ceifeed forbid that dragons dared to do the same.
Regardless of its many uses outside of battle, Xellos had made this circle of power for the sake of battle. Luring that temperamental monster out there was something Xellos was confident he could do without even trying. She was rash and volatile; she could be tricked into stepping into a trap. She was, he theorized, strong enough to survive this, but if she wasn't, then good riddance. Most of all, he didn't want to feel weak, he didn't want her to look down on him. If he could just show her he could hold his own in a fight, then maybe she would stop being so condescending.
There was a presence near by that suddenly caught Xellos' attention. It was someone strong, but it was not a dragon and it was not a monster. The presence felt somewhat human, but not quite, it wasn't an elf either. Was it a particularly powerful human? "I know you're there."
The person who had been observing him for he wasn't sure how long, came out of the bushes moving gracefully. She was human in appearance, though her energy was somewhat similar to that of the dragons, but not exactly the same. Her haircut was similar to his, if only a little longer. Her bangs were noticeably longer though, covering her eyes in silky strands of purplish deep crimson. "Hello, Xellos," the woman greeted.
Xellos wasn't sure how she knew his name but he did realize who this woman was. Once her identity was clear to him he remembered or rather knew when he had met her. His memories were terribly blurry, but he knew. "Luna," she was the knight of Ceifeed, he had gone to her during the Darkstar incident and she sent him to find Lina. "What brings you here?" He asked with curiosity, because he didn't think the knight of Ceifeed would just be coincidentally passing by. Not that it was impossible, but it was rare for Luna to leave Zephilia without a reason.
"I have received an invitation to a small house warming party at a black dragon's new house at the Coastal States," Luna truthfully revealed. "I was just passing by on my way there when I sensed something and came to see what it was." She observed Xellos's trap. "You're really out to get someone, eh?"
"She deserves it!" Xellos assured. "It's that infuriating monster I told you about." He paused; the assertion had left him without too much conscious thought. Yet looking back at his own recent statement, silently prompted to do so by the slight shift of Luna's expression, Xellos had to ask himself why he said what he did. Had he told Luna about Filia? Had he written to her? He knew, instead of remember, that he did, but the exact content of the letter, or letters, were a mystery to him.
"I see..." Luna mused aloud. "So closely entwined, jumbled up together..."
Xellos gave her a questioning look. "What are you talking about?"
"Nothing, good luck with your plans and most importantly, don't die." Luna ordered with more of a fierce commanding tone than anything else. This wasn't a concern as much as it was a threat, because if he challenged the power that he didn't remember was originally his and died to it, then Filia would pay the consequences in a strange indirect suicide-homicide with her lover's essence as the murder weapon. "That girl... It would take a particularly strong man to win her heart, mostly because it would take a particularly strong man to survive long enough to love her."
Xellos' only response was a small "eh?" Then the wheels in his head started to turn and he did not realize that Luna was talking about him and Filia. Yet his conclusion was not entirely inaccurate because the description could be ascribed to more than one pair. It was something that fit Lina and Gourry very well. "I get it," or at least, he thought he did. He had gotten the feeling now and then that they were being followed. Filia and Lina either didn't notice or didn't care to pay attention to the detail, but Xellos suspected that the one following them was Gourry.
"Do you really?" Luna didn't think he did. "Just be careful," with that final warning, the knight of Ceifeed went on her way.
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It was late into the night when Filia woke up. She sensed something near by, something powerful and went to check it out. She came to an area that showed no signs of being tampered with, at least not visibly, but the flow of energy was cleared. "A trap?" She voiced. "I know you're there dragon!"
Xellos stepped out from behind a tree and into the center of the circle, which was revealed in a bright glow as he entered it. Filia was still outside of it, but it didn't matter. She would step into it soon enough, when she realized that he was protected from most ranged attacks. Besides, blunt hits seemed to be what the sadistic monster liked; she preferred maces to energy beams from what he had seen. If he angered her, she wouldn't be able to resist the temptation to run to him and try to crush his skull.
"What kind of obvious trap is this? There's no way you can win!" Filia materialized her mace in her hand and pointed it at Xellos. "Even if I step into this circle I'm much more powerful than you. You cannot defeat me, you pathetic piece of raw garbage!"
"If you're so confident, why don't you come into this circle and fight me?" Xellos challenged.
"I think I will," Filia stepped forward threateningly. She felt a great pressure around her and summoned up more of her inner strength to counter it. "Do you see? You're too weak, dragon. The monster race will always be superior!"
"You're really stupid, you know that?" Xellos grinned confidently and released the full power that was contained in the symbols on the ground. He focused and tried to call for additional power. He was lucky that the knight of Ceifeed was near by. She was not originally part of the plan, but he might as well include her.
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Down the lonely dark road, a relatively short distance away from Xellos and Filia, Luna stopped the steady rhythm of her walking pace all of a sudden. "I sense danger," she thought aloud.
Just then, a band of thieves jumped out from behind the roadside bushes. "You got that right, lady!" The leader was a beastman that resembled a leopard. Answering to the name of Jay, he was a former member of a mafia gang controlled by a clan of humans known as Team Rocket. He supposedly died months prior, with his apparent death allowing him to leave the gang without being hunted down and killed for his desertion. Since then, Jay had formed his own band of thieves and dedicated himself full time to committing highway robbery on unsuspecting travelers. His gang consisted of both humans and beastmen of various sub-races including wolves, foxes and panthers.
"Calling for back up, are you?" Luna shook her head as she ignored the bandits and looked in the direction of Xellos. "I supposed that if I had been in range during one of Filia's rampages, she would have taken the liberty to call upon my power or rather, Ceifeed's power," she continued to muse. "I might have even lent her this power, but..." After considering it for a moment, she shrugged and allowed the energy to flow through her. "I might as well grant your request. Go on Xellos, take Ceifeed's power and wield it like a dragon. I'm sure Filia will have a ball teasing you about it when this is over." The knight of Ceifeed was surrounded by a golden glow as the energy of Ceifeed passed through her and answered to Xellos' calls.
"Hay, lady, pay attention, we're robbing you here!" Jay shouted in exasperation. He had his own band of fearless thieves now, so he deserved more respect than this from his helpless victims. Well, if he was going to be completely honest with himself, he knew that the gang wasn't entirely fearless and neither was him. If Giovanni, the mafia leader from his past affiliation saw him, he would be terrified and soon after he would be dead. Plus there was always the lurking danger of being found by the dragon spooker, bandit killer Lina Inverse. The thought of her scared him even more. Even so, as far as he knew, those terrible dangers were not near by, so the night's operations should proceed smoothly.
"Hey boss, I don't think she's listening to us." One of the humans in the gang spoke up. He was a tall muscular fellow who looked like he had not shaved in far too long.
"Yeah, boss," a slender black panther beastwoman agreed. Her tone was sleek and elegant even when she was trying to be rough, though she was nonetheless, very deadly. "It looks like she's a sorceress and she's casting a spell."
"But she's only glowing," Jay encouraged his troops. "It looks like she's focusing on something else, like she barely even realizes we're here." Wielding two curved short swords, Jay approached Luna, who was a few feet away from them the whole time. "Alright lady, hand over your money and valuables or else!" As soon as he took a step too close and was within range of the bubble of power around Luna, the unfortunate bandit was blow away. Jay flew across the sky, thrown by a great force that he couldn't see. But now that he had come into contact with it, he could feel it and it was terribly painful, such great power!
"She's a deadly witch!" The bearded human yelled.
"Run for your lives!" The panther wisely added and the whole bandit gang, sans their unfortunate leader, ran away in horror.
After Luna was finished, the golden glow faded from around her and she continued on her way. She made no notion of acknowledgement towards the thieves, that continued to run away full speed, and kept on walking down the road. She had, of course, noticed that they were there, but she could not pay attention to every insignificant detail that crossed her path or one distraction would lead to another and she would be late to her invitation to the Coastal States. Besides, bandit hunting was her sister's business and she had no intentions of jumping on the bandwagon, least one day Lina decide to give her some waitress competition, which Luna could not picture happening.
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Meanwhile, the power of Ceifeed flowed through Xellos, resonating with his own dragon power. "I sense... Ceifeed?" Filia glared. "Even if you managed to call power from your fallen lord's knight to boost your own, there's no way you can win. I'll show you what the great Lord Beast Master's general priestess can do! Don't you know? My power is only second to that of the monster lords. A mere dragon cannot defeat me, not even by calling upon Ceifeed's ghost!" Filia's monster energy increased as she called forth all her power. Dark and bright lights flashed from the site as purple and golden lightning clashed.
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Not too far away, power flowed and the ground shook, waking Lina from her slumber. "Ah!" She heard a scream and the sound was strangely originating from somewhere above her head. Lina looked up and saw a body the size of a human, but not quite human, falling towards her. Reacting quickly she jumped back and casted a spell on the falling target. "Levitation!"
The falling leopard beastman was saved from his painful demise and instead only suffered a minor fall when Lina dissipated the levitation spell. She looked towards the beams of white and black light originating from a location not too far away. Purple and golden lightning surrounded the area and the atmosphere was heavy with power. "What in the world is going on?"
"I don't know, but I'm out of here!" Jay didn't even take the time to realize that he was talking to Lina Inverse, the bandit killer that he so terribly feared. He ran away as fast as he could, which was actually very fast.
"Hey you! Come back here!" Lina yelled after him, but the leopard-man didn't stop. "How rude!" She grumbled, feeling cheated and disappointed. "He didn't even thank me for saving him from the fall and most importantly, he didn't give me a tip!" She stomped her feet in a little hissy fit that ended abruptly when she realized she was alone, even though she wasn't supposed to be. "Filia? Xellos?" Lina looked left and right, but she did not see her missing companions.
Then it donned on her and she looked at the source of the powerful battle. It was dragon and monster energy colliding in fierce combat, but there was also something akin to her own sister's power mixed in there. Lina gulped and told herself to be brave. Even with the possibility of Luna being near by, or more so because of the possibility of Luna being near by, Lina knew that she had to do something about this. She couldn't let those two kill each other. Thus without a real plan beyond her quick temper and fiery determination, Lina rushed into battle.
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Xellos and Filia pushed their power to the limit a little too harshly. Xellos could feel cuts forming along his skin because of the terrible pressure of mixing his own power with Ceifeed's energy, additionally amplifying it through the circle on the ground. Blood started to flow tinting his clothes in red and he knew he couldn't take much more of this.
Filia wasn't doing much better. Her monster power was stronger than the dragon power that Xellos' possessed, but his energy was amplified and he had help. This wasn't fair and it infuriated her. Why did she ever feel guilt about hurting that piece of raw garbage? In a rush of fury, Filia tried to knock out her opponent and end the fight. She summoned all her monster energy to the surface of her being as if trying to empty her very core to use even her vital energy to attack. It was a dangerous move considering that the power that supported her as a purely astral being was not her own. Something fell out of place, something was released and suddenly, Filia's power was flowing to the surface out of control.
Lina arrived near by, the trees, bushes and vegetation around the area were blown away and some were even disintegrated. "Filia! Xellos!" She called out, knowing that she couldn't get any closer to the fight or she would be killed. "It's too late," she bitterly realized, "I can't stop them now." She looked around, but there was no sign of Luna. At least Lina could console herself in thinking that she would escape being punished for letting things go out of control with Filia and Xellos, at least by Luna. But what if one or both of them died? 'If Filia dies because Xellos was killed in dragon form, when he gets his power back he'll have my head. If Xellos is the one to die, Filia will have my head. Worse yet, if Xellos dies or is permanently damaged Zelas will be the one hunting me down!' Suddenly, Luna didn't seem so scary anymore, at least not by comparison.
Staring at death in the face, Xellos had no choice but to pour all his energy into shielding himself as Filia's power flowed out of her almost completely. "Stop... stop... stop!" Filia called out desperately. She was fading fast; her very life was being drained from her. In a whirlwind of power she changed into her true form, a pink cone, and tried to call her energy back to her, but it wouldn't answer. For a reason unknown to her, she automatically changed back into a human-like shape, save for the pointy ears that she always kept, making her look more like an elf.
The energy that Filia lost surrounded Xellos, it mixed with his own dragon energy in a current of fusion magic. It was too much for him to handle. Why was her energy flowing into him like that anyway? He had never seen such an attack. "Stupid monster! If you use all your energy to attack me, you'll die too!"
"I can't stop! My energy won't return to me!" Filia called out desperately. The amethyst on her necklace began to glow. She had no choice, she had to use the energy stored there to call back her power or she would fade away. Focusing on that plan of action, she made the purple gem glow brighter as she coaxed the monster power to flow back into her body. At an excruciatingly slow pace, that in reality took only a few minutes, Filia's monster energy returned to her and the flashes of power all over the area faded away.
To be Continued
Team Rocket and Giovanni are from Pokemon.