Episode 023: Evasive! The Chimera Dilemma
Episode 023: Evasive! The Chimera Dilemma
Lina, Gourry, Xellos, Filia and Pokota made their way through the streets of Sairaag, looking every which way in hopes of seeing familiar faces. "Do you think they left town?" Pokota frowned.
Lina pouted, finding Amelia and Zelgadis was turning out to be quite the wild goose chase. "Let's look around town for a while and if we can't find them, I'll call Fang to sniff them out and teleport us straight to them." Filia opened her mouth to complain, but Lina's impatient look was so determined and deadly that she silently closed it again.
It was surprisingly Gourry who first spotted the familiar man whose face was covered hiding his identity. Yet in a place where people's faces were in plain view, the attire made him stand out just as much as his chimera condition would. "Hey Zel!" When Gourry called out to him, lifting his arm in a friendly waving gesture, the man in light colored clothing stiffened.
For a split second, Zelgadis looked like he was debating if he should look back or pretend he didn't hear. The latter choice won over and he quickened his pace, tightening his grip around the large shopping bag he carried in his arms. Several medicinal; herbs of various types and an assortment of fruits and bread peeked out from the top of the large bag. This was exactly what Zelgadis didn't want, for his closest friends to be involved in this dilemma.
"What's his problem?" Lina grumbled. She was sure that Zelgadis had heard Gourry calling him. Though his pause only lasted a split second, the perceptive redhead saw it. Zelgadis was definitely hiding something.
"Come back here!" Upset, Pokota rushed after Zelgadis who had made his way through the crowds in the street.
Seeing that Pokota had already taken off into a run, Lina, Gourry, Filia and Xellos followed him. Up ahead, Zelgadis dove into an alleyway. Pokota turned the corner, but found nothing but an empty dead-end at the space between the two shops. Of course, the Taforashia prince was not so easy to lose when he decided to give pursuit. "Levitation!" Pokota made it to the roof of one of the shops and sure enough, Zelgadis was speeding away, jumping from the roof of one building to the next. "Stop right there!" Pokota rushed after him.
The rest of the group followed Pokota. Lina paused, ready to cast a spell to help Gourry levitate to the roof, but he seemed to do well enough on his own, using the two close walls of the shop structures to jump from one to the other and propel himself upward to where Xellos and Filia had already reached. "Let's go Lina, or we'll lose them," he extended his hand to her.
Lina reluctantly jumped catching his outstretched hand and allowed Gourry to pull her up to the roof. He held her by the waist as soon as he had pulled her up high enough to reach and set her down on her feet. Lina wasn't sure what to say or do, until a loud noise caught her attention from further down the street. She hurried to the location where Zelgadis had jumped down and used a wind shamanistic spell aimed at the bare streets full of loose dirt that was lifted creating a sort of smoke screen.
Pokota was quick to dissipate the smoke screen with his own wind magic, but he didn't know in which direction Zelgadis had ran off to and the citizens of Sairaag had enough of the odd band of travelers that disturbed the peace of their town. With the people that occupied the streets giving Pokota and his companions nasty warning looks, Lina decided that it was best to end the chase there. The leader placed her hand on the prince shoulder and shook her head. "Let him go for now."
"But he's acting suspicious!" Pokota argued, but Lina was firm. Her look told him that she wasn't going to allow him to argue and if he did, he would have not only Zelgadis to deal with, but her as well.
"If Zelgadis is so adamant in hiding from us then he must have a good reason," Lina concluded. "We'll just have to find out what that reason is without his assistance." Naturally, she wasn't going to give up and mind her own business. Something was obviously bothering Zelgadis, likely Amelia and possibly even Sylphiel were in on it. Perhaps they would be more willing to converse. "Let's find Sylphiel, she might know something about this."
xoxox xox xoxox
Lina, Gourry, Xellos, Filia and Pokota continued their trek through Sairaag until they finally reached Sylphiel's house. Though she still worked at Beast Master's secret resort every now and then, she was currently taking a break. The group heard the sounds of pots and pans coming from the house, indicating that someone was indeed inside. Lina lifted her hand to knock on the door, then froze halfway. She had spoken to Sylphiel before, back when she got engaged to Gourry. The other girl had taken it surprisingly well and come to turns with Gourry's choice. However, he was no longer Lina's fiance now and the redhead was worried that by leading him to Sylphiel she was practically handing him out on a silver platter, setting him up to be stolen away.
Gourry looked at Lina's hesitancy with confusion, as did Filia, while Xellos was surprisingly the most perceptive of the group towards Lina's inner battle and concern. Pokota looked impatient and resolved to knock on the door himself, calling out, "miss Sylphiel!" As he did.
What was done was done and Lina knew there was no turning back now. She glared at Pokota, but the prince was so focused on his own dilemma that he didn't even notice.
The atmosphere stood still as a female voice that they recognized as belonging to Sylphiel, replied from within the house with a simple yet well practiced, "coming!" Footsteps approached and the door was opened. Sylphiel smiled with a surprised looked that didn't seem all that real, as if she knew that Lina and the others were in town. "Hi everyone, come in." She stepped aside a little too eagerly as if wanting to entertain the guests for as long as she could.
Deciding that it was best to act natural, Lina sniffed the air, perceiving the assortment of appetizing and not so appetizing scents originating from the kitchen. "What are you cooking?" The gluttonous redhead curiously inquired.
"A few dishes, actually. Some boiled meat, fruit salad and I'm also making some medicine," Sylphiel explained with a slight fidget. That explained the non-appetizing smell that invaded the atmosphere mixing with the good scents. Good medicine often tasted bitter and sometimes even smelled foul.
"That sounds good!" Gourry cheered with a bright smile.
"I'll be happy to have all of you over for a meal, just let me put some extra food into the pot," Sylphiel offered. Her eyes finally traveled to the pink haired prince who had been waiting to be acknowledged, something that her previous distraction had until then not allowed Sylphiel to do. She had already heard about Xellos and Filia, so seeing him with blond hair and a golden dragon tail and her with purple hair, wasn't too much of a surprise, though she still had to take a second look at them. "Hello..." She curiously stared at the unknown yet somewhat familiar young man. "Have we met?"
Pokota nodded, not sure what to make out of the situation. "Pokota," he simply revealed his name. "I'm Pokota; the transfer to this body was a success thanks to Lina." That wasn't entirely accurate, there were some problems along the way and the process was almost messed up, but it all worked out in the end.
"Oh my..." Guilt invaded Sylphiel's delicate features as she went from looking at Pokota curiously to looking at the floor with sudden interest. "I'm so sorry..." she whispered almost inaudibly, but full of sincerity. "I'm very sorry I wasn't there, Pokota, I really am."
After hearing those words, her tone of voice and seeing her face, Pokota couldn't be upset at Sylphiel anymore. "I'm... I'm not angry at you," he finally voiced while the rest of the group watched on quietly with curious interest. It was clear that the friendship between the prince and the maiden had grown over the past year. "I know you must have had a good reason not to come, I trust that you do. Why? Why was it that you couldn't come?"
Sylphiel bit her lip in guilt and shifted uncomfortably. "I'm sorry, but it's not my place to say. I do have a reason why I must remain here. It is a very important reason, but I can't reveal it, it's just not my place. I'm really sorry to have to say this." She looked up from the floor, her eyes meeting Pokota's, tears threatening to invade her emerald gaze. "Please don't think that I don't trust you. I would tell you if I could, but it's not my place and I have an important promise to keep. I can't... I can't lie and make up an excuse, so please accept my silence."
The quietude that hung in the air was heavy and tense after Sylphiel expressed her unexpected request. "Sylphiel..." Pokota whispered. "If there's anything wrong, if you're in some kind of trouble, please let me help you!"
Sylphiel shook her head vigorously, "it's not that. No one is threatening me or anything. There's just something very important that I must do. When this task was completed, I was planning to go to Taforashia," she revealed.
Pokota and the others understood then that Sylphiel was not going to give them any more information. "I understand..." Pokota finally accepted, though he really didn't understand and he was still very thirsty for answers, they all were.
Sylphiel nodded as if thanking them for being understanding and headed to the kitchen. "The medicine is almost done, let me put it away and add a few things to the main course. Sit down, this won't take too long." The group sat around the table, which was built to accommodate four people, but a pair of extra chairs had been already placed around it to allow all six of them to sit at the crowded table.
Sylphiel continued working in the kitchen next to the dining area, the two areas not really separated from each other. She put away the finished herbal medicine and retrieved a few ingredients from a large bag that looked suspiciously very much like the one Zelgadis had been carrying earlier, though part of its contents had already been removed. It was as if Sylphiel was making it look as if she was caught by surprise and was figuring out how to feed her guests, though some of the food had already been set to start cooking in portions too large to be eaten by a normal person alone; that is someone with an average appetite unlike Lina and Gourry.
Though they made polite conversation and talked about the misadventure of getting Pokota's soul into his new homunculus body, there was still a good amount of leftover tension still hanging in the air the entire time. After the meal was served and eaten, Xellos casually brought up the subject of Zelgadis, which Pokota seemed too lost in thought to address, while Lina and Gourry were distracted by the food. The monster turned dragon received nothing but silence in reply. Then after a moment, Sylphiel smiled as if the question never happened and changed the subject to dessert.
xoxox xox xoxox
That night, the town of Sairaag was just as quiet and peaceful as it had been during most of the past year. Lina and Filia had settled into an improvised sleep over at Sylphiel's room, where Sylphiel's mind appeared to be elsewhere and Lina seemed to be immersed in her own inner thoughts. Filia decided that she wasn't going to learn anything about the current situation by hanging around there. Thus the golden dragon turned monster general priestess, stood up and announced. "I'm going to report back to Lord Beast Master. I think I'll spend the night at Wolf Pack Island, see you tomorrow." With those words of parting, she was gone.
Only a simple, "see you..." escaped Sylphiel, who appeared to be worried about something.
Lina was too caught up with her thoughts to even notice when Filia left, though the petite redhead did eventually realize she was gone. At least she could talk to Sylphiel in private now. "Um... About Gourry..." Lina shyly began.
Sylphiel welcomed the conversation, though she wondered about Lina's uneasy tone. "How are things going? We'll we be hearing wedding bells any time soon?"
Lina let out a breath she didn't even realize she was holding. At least Sylphiel wasn't thinking about jumping on the rebound, not that she appeared to know about it yet anyway. Lina relaxed and pushed away her paranoia to remind herself that Sylphiel wasn't like that. "We broke up," she confessed.
A gasp escaped Sylphiel and her face was filled with confusion. "Why? If you don't mind me asking."
"I don't know," Lina admitted. "He broke up with me and I didn't let him explain it. I got angry and made him leave. We're sort of friends again now and I was thinking about letting Amelia and Zelgadis handle the situation with Filia and Xellos while I attempted to win Gourry over again." Given Sylphiel's lack of questioning about Xellos and Filia's appearance, Lina could only correctly assume that she already knew about those two via Beast Master's ever so convenient information network.
The redhead realized then that by confessing her troubles she had also brought up the subject of Amelia and Zelgadis. Sylphiel was looking at her hands folded on her lap as she sat across from Lina. Her expression was both tense and sorrowful, but still secretive. "Amelia is here too, isn't she? And Zelgadis warned you we were coming earlier," Lina theorized. Sylphiel's posture stiffened, but she remained completely silent. "I just don't understand why we can't know," Lina breathed.
"It's not my place, but I think you should know. Amelia might want it that way. I will speak to her and tell her you're here." Sylphiel offered, confirming beyond a doubt that Amelia was in fact there and that the princess, the chimera and the shrine maiden were all aware of whatever trouble was in the air. "Zelgadis is... He's a good man, but he sometimes tries to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. He doesn't know how to let go of guilt and I know he means well, but..." Sylphiel stopped, she was saying too much and didn't want to get further carried away and break her promise of secrecy.
Lina decided not to further inquire about it; Sylphiel's word that she would talk to Amelia was enough. The host changed the subject and instead tried to help her guest with her problem. "Don't give up on Gourry. I can't say why he would break up with you, but I know he wouldn't do anything to deliberately hurt you. There must be some kind of explanation, I'm sure you'll be able to work things out."
Lina nodded with renewed expectations, "I hope so..."
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, rather than going to Wolf Pack Island, Filia had teleported downstairs. She intended to search for clues around Sylphiel's house, but her attention was caught by quiet sounds coming from the kitchen. Filia sneaked over unseen and watched as a cloaked figure rummaged through the pantry. The person took several containers from there and swiftly left out the backdoor. It was evident that this was no ordinary thief, especially since the so called thief appeared to have a key for the backdoor.
Filia silently followed him, hiding in the astral side. Further observation by the light of the moon and stars outside, revealed that the mystery man was in fact Zelgadis. He kept looking over his shoulder instinctively and on several occasions looked right at where Filia should have been, but since she was in the astral side, he only saw empty space, albeit he sensed something.
Zelgadis took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. He didn't see anyone following him; surely Sylphiel had the group distracted as he had asked. She swore she would help them in any way she could after all, and Sylphiel wasn't one to purposely break her promises. Telling himself that he was only being paranoid, Zelgadis hurried down the street to the outskirts of town where the old Flagoon had once been.
The chimera went through the partially dried roots that were covered in a few new branches here and there as the tree continued its slow but steady revival. He headed deeper into the cavern of the tree with Filia still following him quietly. Finally, Zelgadis arrived at a chamber that, peculiarly, had a few pieces of furniture in it. Amelia lay on a bed, sleeping curled into a ball on her side, though her sleep was not restful judging by her expression.
The Seyruun princess' eyes shot open as she twisted painfully, hands around her swollen abdomen. Zelgadis rushed to her side to comfort her and cast a healing spell that did little to assist her. The sudden pain appeared to end and now that she was awake, Zelgadis thought that it was as good a time as any to offer her some medicine.
He poured a small glass of a thick green concoction and held it out to Amelia whose shaking hands would otherwise spill it on the white sheets of the small bed she occupied. She drank the dose without protest, albeit her facial expression made it clear that it was very bitter. As she sat up for a moment, looking tired and restless, while Zelgadis looked worried and apologetic, Filia noticed a particular detail about Amelia.
The monster's eyes went wide and her concentration was lost as she unwillingly left her astral side hiding place and materialized herself in the physical world. Amelia was pregnant. But that didn't make any sense. Wouldn't have Naga and Philionel known? Had they really not seen Amelia for that long? Unless... of course, it was a possibility, the state of her condition must be accelerated because the child was a chimera. A chimera child... those were unpredictable at best.
"Filia?" Amelia's tired voice reached out to her. Zelgadis looked in her direction, noticing the monster for the first time. It turned out, he realized, that his bad feeling wasn't paranoia after all. He didn't want to get anyone else involved in this, only Sylphiel knew because her skills as a healer were necessary.
To be Continued