Episode 032: Broken! Picking Up The Pieces
Episode 032: Broken! Picking Up The Pieces
When Xellos and Filia initially attempted to request an audience with Zelas, they were informed by Fang that she was busy. "Of course, she is still tending to Amelia and Zelgadis, right?" Filia theorized.
"Nope," the monster fox chimera replied, he was currently in his semi-human form. "Celo and Vrumugun are taking care of that. Zelgadis was broken in three, but the third part was all memories, kind of like astral, and the spell didn't work out so the pieces couldn't communicate. Anyway, that's being fixed now. Beast Master is still busy though; Val sent for me with Jarde and asked me to bring him here. He's talking to her now so we need to wait."
"I see," Filia voiced. She approached the throne room door but didn't open it, instead trying to listen to what was being spoken. Fang looked at her curiously, but made no motion to stop her. Instead he went over to Xellos and transformed into his fox form, nudging his hand with his head to be petted.
"Wasn't Val the ancient dragon?" Xellos asked as he petted Fang on the head.
"The one who were supposed to be taking care of," Filia spoke unsure.
Xellos didn't think that was accurate. Many theories have come and gone regarding him, but it was all a jumbled up mess of contradictions. Perhaps the boy was with Milgazia? But that didn't sound accurate either, then why would he willingly go to Zelas. Filled with the same curiosity that overtook Filia, Xellos leaned against the door, pressing his pointy ear to it and listened.
xoxox xox xoxox
Inside Zelas' throne room, Val pouted profusely and gave Zelas his most convincing sad kitten look. The monster lord groaned, "I don't need this now, boy. Your unwavering loyalty and adoration is or will be in the long run useful and thus I appreciate it, in my own way, but I am honestly not in the mood to humor you by accepting your childish adoration of me at this precise moment in time. I'm in a foul mood because of what is to come, little one, go home and play."
Val shook his head. "I don't feel good and I wanted to see you. You're strong and smart, I thought that..."
"That I would make you feel secure?" Zelas chuckled ironically. "Dragons really are stupid. Boy, you've realized what I am, haven't you? You are young, but you are smart, perhaps more so because this is not the first time you've lived."
Val tilted his head curiously. "What do you mean?"
"You'd best forget about that past, it is inconsequential now and if you do one day remember it and consider it to be of consequence, if you cannot move on from it, it will be your undoing. Vengeance will not be an easy task for you," Zelas warned.
"I don't want to take revenge on anyone," Val insisted. "I don't understand, but I don't think I would want to hurt anyone even if I did."
"A mutually convenient mind frame," Zelas determined.
Val would only get more confused by continuing the current conversation, so instead he return to the previous topic, the reason why he was there, having left without telling Jillas, Gravos or anyone. He didn't intend to take too long anyway and Fang could teleport him back to Seyruun swiftly. "I have a very bad feeling, something is going to happen, I don't know what, but something."
"Yes," Zelas agreed. "I might as well tell you, since you will know. Come here," she beckoned. Val ran over to the throne where Zelas picked him up and allowed him to sit on her lap. She then whispered quietly into his ear so that no one else could hear, as she was perfectly aware of the eavesdroppers. "I will be summoned far away and I will not be able to resist the call. There is nothing I can do to stop it, but one way or another, I will return."
Val's big golden innocent eyes looked at Zelas with puzzlement. "You're strong and smart; you'll be okay, right?"
"Of course," Zelas assured; maybe more so for herself than for Val. "The game is set to shift soon, even if a battle is lost, the war shall be won."
"Will you tell me a story?" Val requested. "The bad guys always win in your stories, but they're still interesting."
His childish affection really was an annoying little background noise, but the loyalty and attachment that came with it was in the long run useful enough as he was the last ancient dragon. Given that, Zelas would play along, perhaps she could push back her foul mood and humor little Val after all. "Once upon a time, there was a prosperous kingdom. One day, an evil king from a land far away attacked the kingdom and overtook it. Only the young prince remained after the disaster. The prince grew bitter and with the passing of time, managed to round up some forces and storm the overtaken castle that was once his. He killed the evil king and became the new king, as it was his birthright. However, all the hardships he endured and all the bitterness stayed with him and the prince turned out to be a much more evil king than the invader had been."
Val wasn't surprised that the story took on a gloomy turn and ended badly. Well at least the prince got his kingdom back, though it was too bad he had to turn out so evil. This was the kind of stories Zelas told though, they didn't end happily, but at least they were entertaining. Val smiled at her, "thanks for the story. I'll go home now," she nodded in response and he jumped down from her lap. Val walked a few steps and turned back to look at Zelas again, "promise you'll be okay?"
"Sure," it was such an insignificant word to a monster lord. Naturally, she would be trying her hardest to win, and in the end, a silly promise to a foolish little dragon wouldn't make a difference to her, yet it seemed to make a different to Val. It filled him with baseless reassurance, it was so stupid. It was a strange custom that originated with humans with cliche requests such as 'promise me you'll be okay.' Unless the creature in question was feeling suicidal, he or she would already be trying their best to 'be okay,' promise or not, and promise or not, the circumstances would still play out the same way. She could have ignored the idiocy of it all, but as Val waited expectantly, unsatisfied with her answer, Zelas realized how much it meant to him and how much of a benefit to her in the long run it would be to humor him now. "I promise, Val."
Val smiled, feeling a baseless relief already. Satisfied with the reply, he walked a few more steps closer to the door behind which Fang was waiting. "Fang!"
Val saw no reason why Fang wouldn't come in with him, but the fox was used to the protocol that sometimes took place, escorting guests in and waiting at the door, guarding it to prevent intruders, thus acting automatically. Eavesdroppers would normally also be prevented, but not those two, as Fang was familiar enough with them to assume they wouldn't misbehave for Beast Master. The monster fox chimera teleported beyond the door, leaving it closed, and approached Val.
Val was amused, seeing Fang in his fox form again and with a fit of giggles climbed on his back. "Bye, aunty Zelas! Please take me home now Fang." They promptly disappeared in a teleportation back to Seyruun.
As soon as they were gone, Zelas called out, loud enough for Filia and Xellos to clearly hear. "You can come in now eavesdroppers."
The pair straightened automatically, moving away from the door in an instinctual futile attempt to pretend they weren't spying. Then finally, Filia opened the door and they went inside. She shifted uncomfortably in front of Beast Master, while Xellos beside her gave the monster lord a curious look. "Lord Beast Master..." Filia began to voice an explanation, or rather try to explain, except she wasn't sure what to say. "About this dragon I've brought... um... he... er... I... um..."
"He's your lover?" Zelas inquired nonchalant.
Filia's face turned scarlet. "What? No!" She desperately denied it.
Xellos chuckled and Filia glared at him, how dare he chuckle? "Something like that," he teased.
"Liar! Stop kidding around, you're in the presence of Lord Beast Master!" Filia scolded in embarrassment.
"Right, of course, my mistake, how dare I make such an assumption?" Zelas voiced in sarcasm. Even if the big picture's situation had her in a bad mood, maybe what she needed was to allow herself some amusement. "You have better taste than this, right Xellos? This specimen is simply too hideous."
"Oh yes!" Xellos played along in amusement, while Filia watched on in shock. "She's astral too, so this means she has very bad taste."
"Indeed," Zelas laughed. "Well then, make yourself comfortable in the palace, Xellos. All the answers that you seek shall come to you soon. Allow Celo to finish his business with Vrumugun first and then when it is time to move on to the next phase, we shall."
"Alright, I thank you for your hospitality." Xellos put his arm around Filia. "Aren't you going to give me a tour? I'm curious to see what your room looks like," he winked. "Oh but I didn't mean it like that, so don't get me wrong," he teased.
Filia's mouth opened and closed like a fish. She was unable to find any words or even react to the fact that Xellos' arm was around her waist, though her mind very clearly registered it, she just couldn't do anything about it. Finally, she stuttered a silent, "excuse me, Lord Beast Master," and teleported herself and Xellos.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos and Filia reappeared in her room at Wolf Pack Island, which was actually his room. "This is your room?" He inquired playfully and the still shocked Filia could only nod in unsure affirmation. "It's purple, I like it. I like Beast Master too, she's so evil but so fun, intimidating yet sarcastic, she's great!"
"A dragon shouldn't say that..." Filia finally got her voice to function properly after the shock. "But you're not an ordinary dragon and I'm not an ordinary monster. I guess we'll have to wait a little longer for our answers. At least it's good to know they're close."
"Yes," Xellos agreed, very close.
Filia let out a breath and rested her head on Xellos shoulder. She realized what she was doing and tried to step away, but Xellos was holding her in place. She looked at his face and saw that he had both eyes open; it was a rare occasion for him. If Beast Master was okay with this, then maybe... her line of thought ended when their lips met.
xoxox xox xoxox
A little later, at the experimentation laboratory area at Zelas' palace... "This is ridiculous!" The separated parts Zelgadis' have been arranged into one. His memories were back to normal too, but he wasn't happy with his new tail. Wolf-fish tail aside, he looked the same as before. "At least my face was human when I was a merman, even if walking was very inconvenient," more like impossible really. "Why is this here?" He pointed at the tail that was a strange combination between wolf and fish. It started out like the tail of a wolf, the fur giving way to scales for a fish shape at the end.
"I apologize for the inconvenience, but the extra elements had to go somewhere." Celo pointed out with his ever polite tone.
"It could have been worse," Vrumugun's comment made Zelgadis shudder.
"No more deals with monsters," he told himself firmly. Then he looked at Amelia who watched him with great relief despite the state of his appearance. He was a chimera again, just like before, only with a tail. "I'm sorry; I caused trouble for you again. It seems that's all I can ever do..."
Amelia hugged him lovingly. "It's okay, I should have stopped you. It's alright now, I'm just glad to have you back. No more experiments, alright? You're just fine the way you are, end of story."
Zelgadis sighed, "I really don't deserve you..."
"We've been over this, Zel." Amelia gave him a quick kiss on the lips, then looked into his eyes. "That is something for me to decide," and she had made her choice.
xoxox xox xoxox
A short while later, Vrumugun left Wolf Pack Island, returning to Zoana, teleported by Fang. Celo left Amelia and Zelgadis alone for a moment and reported to Beast Master at her throne room. After hearing his report, "Xellos! Filia!" Zelas' voice was heard echoing through Wolf Pack Island, summoning the odd pair back to her throne room.
Filia teleported herself and Xellos to Beast Master's throne room, her face still somewhat flustered. She didn't mentally berate herself for getting romantic with a dragon this time, or with anyone for that matter. She might have been a monster, but if her master didn't scold her for her actions, actions which felt very right, then why would she reprimand herself? "Yes, Lord Beast Master?"
"The amulet," Zelas requested.
There was a pause until Filia realized that Zelas was referring to the amethyst necklace she was wearing. "Oh, yes," the general priestess made herself focus on the present task at hand and removed the necklace that was charged with chaotic energy. "I wish I could have collected more..."
Zelas made no comment about the amount of chaotic energy in the necklace, instead prompting her human monster chimera minion to examine it, "Celo."
Celo took the necklace from Filia and held it in his right hand, brushing his thumb over the smooth surface of the deep purple jewel. "This will suffice to perform the rendezvous as planned. Lord Beast Master, must we wait? I would feel more comfortable following you immediately."
"You won't be able to follow me either way." Beast Master reminded, hinting at something that she and Celo knew, but Xellos and Filia didn't.
"You know what I mean, milady," Xellos rose an eyebrow at Celo's words. His subconscious knew that Celo only referred to Zelas as milady instead of Lord Beast Master when his human side was feeling particularly melancholic, though he held no memories of such knowledge beyond the subconscious perception. Thus Xellos made no comment and simply observed the situation quietly along with Filia.
"I do know," Zelas considered, "or maybe not, she mused. "It will be no concern of yours when-"
"Milady, please!" Celo dared to interrupt and Filia gave him a strange look. She didn't think he was the kind of minion who dared to interrupt his master.
Zelas chuckled, "fear not, I do understand. Your human side is strong, you wish to live on, you wish for me to live on and what happens at your end does concern you very much. That is so very human, they live short lives, but they are not soon forgotten. They spend their existence trying to become immortalized, only to lose themselves and end up chasing the benefit of another. It is complex, but I understand the basic theory. I do not doubt your loyalty to me, Celo."
"Or..." he prompted hopefully.
Zelas decided to humor him, "or your undying affection, child. I will remember it until I fully understand it." Feel it, doubtfully, she was a monster who didn't feel much beyond the satisfaction of her own cunning ways, but she would remember and she would understand, if only for the intellectual challenge of figuring out the depth of emotions without having to take drastic measures that, possible benefits aside, would change her. No, she wouldn't change, she would stay the same, but she would know everything there was to know, especially about humans and their intriguing ways.
It was silly for a grown man to be called child, a monster human chimera who had lived for centuries. Yet he appreciated it and held on to that hope that Beast Master did understand what his willing sacrifice meant for him. It was for his mother's sake, it wouldn't feel right if she didn't understand. She would remember and she would know, that was enough for him, he wouldn't be forgotten and that was something precious. "Thank you, Lord Beast Master, it is a pleasure to serve you," he was calmer now. "There is no way to change your mind though, is there?"
"Those who follow me will fall, leave survival to me alone, what I cannot do, none of you can do. There is no use in wasting resources that will be precious, even vital later. We shall rendezvous as planned, I shall fight strongly until then and I will win," Zelas assured.
"I believe in you." Celo vowed and disappeared, teleporting off to put his previously discussed plans into action.
Zelas turned her attention to the perplexed monster and dragon that stood before her. "Game over," she declared with a smirk that held a hidden bitterness coated with confidence. "The battle is lost, but the war has only just begun. Filia, for your final task as my general priestess, bring me Lina Inverse and her companion Gourry, I want the whole team assembled for this."
"My final task?" Filia didn't like the sound of that.
Zelas laughed at her worry, "I do not intend to take your life, silly creature, I will restore to you the life you had before. Now go let us have our last reunion before the war."
"Yes, Lord Beast Master." Filia still had no idea what was going on and her imagination was going wild with theories. She wanted to know more about that life she had before, which apparently Zelas was willing to return to her. She needed to know and she could hardly wait. Filia teleported away quickly, back to Zoana where she hoped to find Lina and Gourry.
Xellos was left alone with Zelas in the throne room. "Lord Beast Master..." he wasn't sure how to express what he was thinking and if he even should. Yet the feeling of deja vu was so heavy, he felt like he could and should speak everything that was in his mind to this monster lord. It was like a distant memory of a time when he stood there telling her many things. It was a pleasant memory that didn't fit with his background as a golden dragon, but it was a good illusion none the less, except it wasn't an illusion, it had been real.
"Yes?" Zelas prompted, somewhat curious.
"All of this is rather unsettling," Xellos finally commented.
"It is," Zelas agreed. "You will understand everything soon, Xellos." She paused, musing over her words. "Do not forget that a true beast never really falls. You'll have to be strong." He would have to be strong, reliable, cunning and loyal, among other things, adaptable. If her desperate contingency plan failed, then all would be lost for her... and for the world.
"I am strong." Even so, in the deepest corners of his mind, Xellos wondered what she meant. Was he strong enough to face what she would soon reveal?
"Never doubt that." Zelas ominously advised, leaving dread and foreboding hanging heavily in the air. Xellos could only nod in silence. The negative feelings were so thick that it felt as if hope had no place in them. Yet there would have to be hope, even if it was barely perceptible at all, it had to exist in a small hidden hint disguised as wrathful courage.
To be Continued
The ambiguous hints left in this chapter will be revealed in the next one and the main plot will finally become clear!