Episode 015: Hope! The Long Road To Recovery
Episode 015: Hope! The Long Road To Recovery
The air was thick but still, in fact, the area was so still it was eerie. Any wild animals that might have been near by had long since ran for their lives at the first sign of the commencement of the battle. Not a single sound pierced the atmosphere except for the ragged breathing coming from the bottom of the crater.
There in the center of a crater lay Filia, her energy having been pulled back into her and thrown into an almost dormant state. She reasoned that she would recover, that she would be able to bring out her power enough to project herself in the material world properly after some time of rest. Yet in the deepest reaches of her mind, she feared that she would be ruined, not simply banned from interacting with physical beings, but truly destroyed, dead. The monster tilted her head to the side to the source of the breathing sound next to her. She did not have the energy left in her to emulate such functions as that of the respiratory system, even if they came so naturally, so automatically before, that they were almost truly involuntary.
Fortunately for Xellos, the monster power that flowed into him, albeit very strong, was not pure. It had mixed with his own dragon energy and the energy he borrowed from Ceifeed, creating fusion magic. The pressure caused by it as it entered his body was enough to cover him in cuts and bruises, but due to the rebirth-like effect that fusion magic took, symbolizing the balance of destruction and creation, he had no internal injuries, which would have otherwise resulted to be fatal. He looked at the monster beside him. He weakly lifted his hand towards her, shaking and with difficulty. "Source of all souls which dwell in eternal and infinite..."
'I failed...' Filia thought. 'I failed Beast Master... Now that I think about it, how did I get injured before? How did I get in over my head? I can't remember, but it must have been a fierce battle. How did I end up like this again? I failed and now I'll be finished by a dragon. At least I know he doesn't have the strength left to cast Ra-Tilt without repercussions. He'll fall along with me. Forgive me Lord Beast Master, forgive me, monster race...'
"Everlasting flame of blue..." Xellos paused in his chanting and allowed the spell to dissipate, letting his hand fall back by his side. "You still don't give me any credit."
"Hmm..." Why was that dragon stopping? Was he not willing to sacrifice his life to take her down?
"Quit feeling sorry for yourself and blame me." Xellos tried to snap at her, but he didn't have the strength to do so. Instead his voice came out calmer than it was meant, due to exhaustion.
A blurry image came into Filia's head; there was a human town in ruins. The image skipped and blurred further, changing into something else. She was embarrassed, something about being naked in front of many people. Someone said something about bringing out her true power. She was feeling sorry for herself, she was ashamed, but then she was angry. What happened wasn't her fault; it was someone else's fault. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she should blame him. Everything was his fault, she wanted to hurt him. She was bigger, she shot beams of energy from her mouth, why did she do that? He dodged, he always dodged. She called his name in fury, 'Xellos! Grr! Xellos!' His hair... his hair wasn't blonde, it was purple. What strange manner of awake dream was this? It was... It had to be a nonsensical vision of delirium.
"Filia," Xellos could feel his senses fading, he was about to pass out. Hopefully at some point in the immediate future, Lina would find him and heal him before he bled to death. He was a dragon, he was strong, he would last until she found him, he couldn't doubt himself now.
Filia closed her eyes and allowed herself to rest, though she pushed away any odd dreams or visions that came her way. "Shut up, raw garbage."
It was the same degrading little nickname she had given him before, but there was something in her tone, something in the way she said it that was different. He was an enemy, a rival, not an inferior being, he was being acknowledged and it pleased him more than it should. He smiled, "stupid monster..."
"Xellos! Filia!" The pair was already unconscious by the time Lina approached the crater. She had protected herself with a magical shield, but due to her close proximity to the bursts of powerful energy, she was still blown away, though thankfully not disintegrated. Other than the pressure of powerful magic giving her a few cuts and bruises, she was okay. The redhead quickly healed her minor scrapes with Recovery magic and was as good as new, at least physically. Mentally she was both angry and worried. Xellos and Filia were more impossible than ever since they switched species.
Lina finally made it to the crater where the pair of fierce combatants lay defeated. "I guess I should call it a draw." She went down into the crater and checked for both their vital signs. She almost freaked out when she realized that Filia wasn't breathing and her body was very cold, but she soon recalled that Filia was currently a monster. She didn't need to breathe or keep a certain body temperature to be alive. The fact that she was there, visible in the physical world, was proof enough that she was still alive. Xellos' story was different, but at least he was still breathing.
Lina stretched her arms and popped her knuckles. Her specialty was black magic, though she knew other spells. White magic may not be her forte, but it was a necessity and she had learned a more powerful spell than Recovery. "Resurrection!" She poured all her healing energy into Xellos, pushing the spell to the limit and casting it again, "Resurrection!" The bleeding had stopped and his wounds were closed. His breaths were calmer now, less forced, and his heartbeat followed a steadier rhythm. He would be fine after getting some rest, they both would be.
The petite sorceress considered her options. She probably shouldn't leave those two laying in a crater on the ground, but she couldn't carry them, they were much too heavy for her. Well, Filia was astral now and she didn't have the strength to add too much detail to her physical form at the moment, thus she was probably very light, but Xellos was a dragon. When Gourry had carried a sleeping Filia during the Darkstar journey, he had complained that she was heavy and Gourry was very strong.
'Don't think of Gourry; don't think of how useful it would be to have him here.' Lina sighed; logic dictated that a male dragon would be heavier, so if Filia in elf-form was heavy, more so would be Xellos. 'I know,' Lina mused. 'I'll cast levitation on him on push him through the air. Or maybe I'll just Ray Wing all of us to the nearest inn.' She could solve her problems; she didn't need Gourry for anything, she had to convince herself of that. She was fine on her own before she met him and she would be fine without him. Yet before she could put her plan into action, she heard something.
"Lina!" A voice very much like that of the man she didn't want to think about approached the crater. Lina's heart skipped a beat and she automatically went up to the edge of the crater before she could reason that she should have stayed down in the middle of it. Gourry was covered in cuts and bruises, but his sturdy body wouldn't be seriously injured so easily. "Are you okay? I tried to come help, but there was a big explosion and it blew me away!"
He was there; he was there the whole time, ready to stupidly dash into the center of the storm of opposing magical energies to help her. Lina frowned and looked away, "I don't need your help."
"But maybe you could use it," Gourry offered, slowly, almost cautiously, approaching the volatile petite redhead before him.
Lina turned around and instinctively took a step back when she realized how close to her Gourry was. The edge of the crater was right behind her and she missed a step as the heel of her boot only touched empty air. She was about to tumble backwards and likely land painfully on her head in the bottom of the crater, but Gourry caught her on time.
Both his hands reached her upper arms to steady her on the edge of the crater. He smiled down at her, "careful..."
That smile, that strong yet gentle touch, they were what she adored, they were what she lost. She couldn't stand him, but she couldn't hate him either, she could never hate him. Lina stepped aside to be at arm's length distance with Gourry. "You're hurt..." she stated the obvious and without another word she got to work on healing him with her white magic. "There, you're alright now."
He smiled again; she had always loved his smile. "Thanks Lina."
"You're welcome, now go, I don't need any help." Lina hopped back into the crater and Gourry followed her. "Look, Filia has been turned into a monster now; she's an astral being so she's light. Xellos is a dragon so he's heavy, but I can use magic to move him. I can handle this myself."
"Xellos? Filia? You mean they're not new people? And this dragon, he's really Xellos transformed?" As Lina silently nodded in an affirmative response to Gourry's question, he looked relieved. "For a minute there at the Kataart Mountains I thought you got a new dragon boyfriend, but it was just Xellos being friendly the whole time." The swordsman laughed at his own mistaken assumption. 'I'll have to thank Xellos later for being so supportive of Lina.' He made a mental note that would most likely be soon forgotten.
Gourry's words caused Lina to become both angry and embarrassed. Yet a part of her couldn't help it but to wonder if there was a good reason for his apparent jealousy at his misunderstanding. Maybe he was realizing that he had feelings for her after all. Maybe he was regretful to break up with her. Perhaps she shouldn't have sent him away so quickly back in Zephilia. If they took some times off and became friends, then maybe he would realize how much he missed her and fall in love with her all over again. Yes, it had to work. "Actually..." Lina made up an excuse. "I'm feeling kind of tired; I don't think I can cast a spell on Xellos after all. Filia is light enough in monster form, but Xellos is really heavy as a dragon. Could you help me carry him somewhere where he can rest and recover?"
"Of course!" Gourry immediately offered. He picked up Xellos piggy back and soon found out that Lina wasn't kidding about his weight. He was heavier than Barbara.
Lina picked up Filia piggy back style too and they climbed out of the crater. The sorceress and the swordsman had only walked for a few steps when they heard a voice calling them. "Wait!" Several feet away there was a leopard beastman by the name of Jay.
"It's you," Gourry recognized him.
"You know this guy?" Lina inquired with curiosity.
"He was the nice man who broke my fall after I was blown away by the explosion." Gourry smiled in blissful ignorance of the truth of the situation. "Thanks again, mister, my fall would have been much more painful if you weren't there to catch me."
"I didn't catch you, you crushed me!" The visibly bruised leopard complained. "My gang ran off on me and now I got nothing!" Taking a close look at the red haired girl, he concluded beyond a doubt that this was in fact, Lina Inverse. "You... Lina Inverse... I lived my life in fear of someone, always in fear. I feared my past gang leader, I feared the mafia lord I later served and I feared you. I've had enough of that, it's over. From now on I'll be brave!" He pulled out a cannon-ball sized bomb from his cloak. How he managed to hide it there without it protuberating from the fabric was a mystery and there was probably an enchantment involved. He lit up the bomb's fuse with a match.
"Hmm..." Filia slowly opened her eyes. "What's all this noise about?" She realized she was being carried by Lina. A monster probably shouldn't be carried like that, but Filia was too tired to care.
"Just some crazy guy," Lina disregarded the threat, though a part of her remembered the past battles against Jillas, the trap he set up in that mountain maze and the power that bombs could pack. Maybe she should be careful; albeit she was confident she could bat away the bomb with wind magic when he threw it. She wouldn't wait for it to get too close to her though, least it go off in mid air.
Xellos had also just regained consciousness, awakened from his slumber by all the yelling Jay had been doing. "Mr. Leopard, I think you're about to receive an unpleasant surprise." He spoke in his familiar cheerful and playful tone, with a hint of a hidden knowledge that only he had.
"Threaten me all you want, I'm not going to run away!" Jay countered. "This bomb is not only at the peak of technology, but it is also enchanted. Technology and magic together, it's the ultimate force of destruction. You see, this bomb makes a shield around its immediate area, trapping the force of the explosion in that enclosed space to make it that much more intense. If you're caught in the blast, you'll be instantly reduced to dust!"
"That sounds powerful," Gourry stated the obvious.
"Don't say I didn't warn you," Xellos commented. With a confident cheer he counted, "three... two..." Jay gave him a confused look. "One..."
The bomb's fuse burned out and the explosive went off. A magical bubble was projected around Jay and his immediately surrounding area, though Lina, Gourry and their two passengers were at enough of a safe distance not to get caught in it. The result was perhaps more so an implosion than an explosion. The inside of the magical bubble was painted with shades of red, orange and bright yellow as a scream of terror was lost to the noise of a loud blast that sounded off very strangely as it too was contained inside the barrier. The bubble then turned black and gray as it was filled with smoke. Finally, the magical shield dissipated and the smoke was released to be blown away by the cool night breeze. On the ground where Jay had stood there was now only a pile of gray dust, which was also blown away and lost.
"He... was destroyed..." Filia observed in disbelief, "by his own weapon."
"Give the stupid monster a prize; she can make logical observations after all!" Xellos sarcastically congratulated.
"You were distracting him on purpose so the fuse would run out, you piece of raw garbage!" Filia shouted.
"Wow, you're really working on stating the obvious tonight," Xellos mocked.
"If I could materialize my mace, you'd be in big trouble!" Filia growled. "Never mind that, you are in big trouble!" She reached for the short sword that Lina kept on her belt and pointed it at Xellos. "Bring me closer to him, Lina!"
"I'm not a horse!" Lina argued and it felt like a combination of karma and deja vu. Wasn't that what Filia said when the group asked to ride on her in dragon form before?
"If this is how you want it," Xellos pulled Gourry's sword from its sheath and pointed it at Filia. "Let's go, Gourry!"
Unlike Lina, Gourry was amused by the whole ordeal. "This reminds me of when I used to play civil war with my brothers in the Elmekia Desert. Charge!"
Lina gasped and moved out of the way. She should have known that Gourry would jump into the insanity and take it like a game. "That's it! Darkness beyond twilight..."
"Yes, Lina, attack!" Filia encouraged.
"Crimson beyond blood that flows..."
"Oh, oh..." Xellos didn't like where this was going. He certainly didn't want to be hit by a Dragon Slave point blank.
"Buried in the stream of time..."
Gourry took a step back. He was pretty sure that casting spells during a game of civil war was considered cheating, but he wasn't about to point it out to Lina, not when she was in the process of casting a dangerous spell anyway. "Should we retreat?"
"Is where your power grows..."
"Not yet," Xellos decided. This was a risky move, but he had to try it. "Don't forget what Beast Master said!" The phrase previously spoken by Lina had resulted to his favor, so perhaps it would work now.
"I pledge myself to conquer..."
"Oh... I almost forgot," Filia admitted. "But she only told me not to kill Xellos," she accidentally revealed. "Lina, did Beast Master also order you to spare that infuriating dragon?"
Lina was not listening, "all the foes who stand..."
'I see, so Beast Master doesn't want me dead, but why?' Xellos thought in puzzlement. Unfortunately, whether Lina was given such orders by Beast Master or not, it didn't matter when she was too furious to think of the consequences of her actions. "Gourry, retreat!"
"Before the mighty gift bestowed..."
The swordsman didn't need to be told twice. Gourry immediately went on the retreat with Xellos on his back.
"In my unworthy hands..."
Reasoning that maybe she shouldn't be exposed to so much magic after such a fierce battle that she was still not fully recovered from, Filia decided it was time to leave too. She summoned up her monster power and it was just enough for a short teleportation. Fading away into the astral side, she reappeared above Xellos and Gourry, dropping onto Xellos' back, leaving him sandwiched between her and Gourry. "I'm coming along too!" Filia announced, leaving no room for arguments, but Xellos would argue anyway.
"Let the fools who stand before me..."
"This is a one man ride!" Xellos complained.
"At least she's a whole lot lighter than you," Gourry commented. He continued to run as fast as his cargo would allow, in a mad dash to put as much distance as possible between himself, his passengers and Lina's deadly Dragon Slave.
"By the power you and I possess..." Lina's voice was now an ominous echo in the distance.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Xellos complained.
"Dragon Slave!" Lina released the full potency of her spell in a massive display of power.
"He means you eat too much ice-cream pie!" Filia mocked teasingly.
The explosion of the massive Dragon Slave echoed through the area as a brilliant flash of light enveloped the premises.
"I would argue back, but right now I'm being crushed by a fat monster!" Xellos retorted.
The power of the Dragon Slave slowly dissipated.
"I'm an astral being!" Filia defended.
The cloud of smoke and dust that followed Lina's spell finally settled.
"Which means that you can decide what you look like, so you must have really terrible taste to be so ugly!" Xellos teased, he wouldn't openly admit it, but he was enjoying their little argument.
There was now another crater marring the landscape.
"Have you never looked in a mirror, raw garbage?!" Filia argued back.
Through it all, Gourry kept running, while his feisty passengers kept arguing on his back.
To be Continued
For those of you who might not remember Barbara, it's the ball from Rolly-Rolly village in episode six of the Slayers: Revolution anime.