Episode 034: Waiting! Passing Time Of Tension
Episode 034: Waiting! Passing Time Of Tension
Another silent pause passed through Wolf Pack Island until Zelas spoke again. "My monster spies have been rather effective." They had been too effective and Zelas suspected a traitor among her monster minions, who was dropping information as if mocking the fact that nothing could be done. That was how she found out so much. But she would prove the traitor wrong, she would do something and she would find a way to triumph, she couldn't afford to doubt that. As for the traitor, it wasn't about switching sides to favor Dolphin or Dynast, as they were in the same situation as her. The unforgivable mystery traitor must be allied to Darkstar.
"This is what I know," Zelas revealed. "Dolphin, Dynast and myself will be summoned to the over-world. There, Darkstar intends to fight us. It is hard to say what form we'll take once we arrive, so we will very likely be at a disadvantage. No one will accompany me during that time and anyone who does will most certainly be swiftly destroyed. It doesn't matter where we monster lords are or if we're together or not. Where we will go is out of our control at this point. My plan is to escape from Darkstar in a temporary retreat and if possible take Dolphin and Dynast with me. If not, then I'll escape on my own and, if it can be done," if they survived, "free them from Darkstar later. Celo has constructed a mechanism that will transport a small group to the over-world. Of course, the transportation will be at a safe distance from Darkstar. I will rendezvous, explore the over-world, gather sufficient power and defeat Darkstar. That's the plan."
Xellos' jaw was askew but he didn't seem to notice it. He wanted to say a million things, but could hardly speak. "Why must you go in the first place?"
"I will be forcibly summoned, as will Dolphin and Dynast, it will be impossible to resist and fighting will only exhaust energy that I will need," Zelas reaffirmed, she didn't want to repeat it, so she hoped it sunk in for Xellos then. "Dolphin and Dynast are with their top ranked monsters, arranging things for their absence. Xellos, we have talked about this before." Beast Master reminded and Xellos could only nod silently, he hated those conversations now, though he thought they were ridiculous at the time. Why would Beast Master ever be missing? In the worse case scenario, he would be destroyed long before her, so he wouldn't have to worry about her absence.
"Let me guess," Lina's somewhat pissed off voice was the next to breach the tense atmosphere. "We are all part of the group who will follow you to the over-world and participate in the gathering of power that will lead to the eventual battle against Darkstar." She stated more so than asked. Zelas knew that an answer wasn't even needed, but she nodded anyway and Lina continued. "That's easier said than done, but if the situation is as you say, then we have no choice but to follow up on your plan or be killed by Darkstar. At least you'll be fighting alongside us this time around instead of leaving all the work to us and mostly to me."
Zelas nodded again and Xellos frowned, he felt a deep concern for Beast Master's well being that was terribly discomforting. Seeing as the feeling of serious gloom was about to become too suffocating to bare, Amelia jumped to her feet and pumped her fist in the air. "In the name of justice we will defeat Darkstar and save the world!"
Zelgadis sighed exasperated, "we really do have no choice. Alright, if you really want to go, Amelia, and I know that even without any threats from Zelas you would, then I'll go too."
"Darkstar... again..." Filia whispered quietly. She looked at Xellos, he noticed her gaze and closed his eyes, giving her a fake smile. It was the most painfully false smile she had ever seen upon his face. "I'll do my best." She would try her hardest for the world, for her friends, for her family and for Xellos, especially for Xellos.
"Um..." Gourry suddenly piped up with a look of confusion on his face, which came as no surprise. Everyone expected a stupid question to come out of his mouth, but he shocked them by pointing out something rather intriguing. "I'm not sure what's going on, but if we're talking about Darkstar, then what about the sword of light? Weren't they related somehow?"
Lina's eyes widened, how could she forget about that detail? "That's right; it was pretty weird how the sword was returned to you." She looked at Zelas questioningly. "How do you explain that?" She pointed at the sword's hilt that was on Gourry's belt.
"I can't," Zelas confessed. "There is definitely a connection between Gorun Nova and Darkstar, but why has the legendary weapon been so mysteriously returned to the hands of Gourry Gabriev is a secret even to me. It is either a trap we cannot understand, or mockery at our perceived helplessness. I would advise to be weary of it."
"I see..." Lina let out a breath, she had just learned so many things and yet there were so many more that she still didn't understand. None the less, she did note the use of 'we' in Zelas' speech, which meant that they were all officially on board in this, like a pack of wolves following their leader. "What can we do to prepare? When are you being summoned?" Perhaps seeing Luna now wasn't such a great idea, but if not that, then what could Lina do?
"Soon," Zelas revealed. "There will be signs when it happens, but I doubt there will be a long warning. I'm sure you'll notice it immediately, though for your safety, you will not be there when it occurs." She looked straight at Xellos who appeared to want to protest to that, but she silenced him into obedience with her piercing silver eyes. "As for preparations, we've done as much as we can. It seems you all fight at your best when the adrenaline of a new adventure is still fresh, but there is no time for the journey to continue. For now, rest, then when I am gone, return here, Celo already has instructions. Xellos, everything will be done as we discussed in the case of my absence and since you will be leaving along with everyone, don't forget to oversee things with Lieutenants Zenki and Neuro one last time before leaving, as we discussed if such an occasion was ever to occur."
It wasn't a contingency plan specifically for Darkstar of course, nor did it really take the involvement of the over-world into consideration. It was a plan of what to do if Beast Master was ever incapacitated or even destroyed. "Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos replied with an uncharacteristic solemn tone.
"Very well then, for the time being rest," Zelas concluded. "I don't want to make a mess around here, as the summoning may damage the surrounding area, so I won't be here in Wolf Pack Island, but you may stay if you so wish it. Fang is available to teleport you to any location you might want to visit to make you feel ready for what lies ahead. I also gave him sufficient funds to keep on hand and pay for your meals and supplies if there is anything you need to buy. That is all." Not even the mention of more free food was able to wipe the grave look out of Lina's expression.
xoxox xox xoxox
Some time later, at a grassy field in the outer continent beyond the peninsula, away from any settlements... She knew he was coming before the shadow of a dragon flying overhead was casted on her. He made no effort to hide his presence as he landed just out of her sight a few feet away. She didn't turn her head from gazing at the sky and the patterns of smoke. There was a flash of gold and soon a new smaller shadow, this one in closer proximity, was casted upon her.
Milgazia stood hovering over the unmoving monster lord. She seemed to have no intentions of getting up even if this was certainly not the time to be lounging about, laying down on the grass. "I went to Wolf Pack Island and Lina got me up to speed in what's going on. She said you mentioned me warning the dragons would have been useless due to the lack of proof. It would be useless now as the energy of many had already been given, though I left and didn't offer my own, they have plenty. If I had known before, I might have been able to do something, to push Ebony into speaking if he knows anything, or even Luna, or whoever that is."
Zelas Metallium chuckled mockingly and blew smoke from her cigarette at Milgazia's face. She didn't like him hovering over her like that. "Should have, could have would have, there are so many such occasions in life."
Milgazia stepped back, repelled by the scent of the smoke. He knew that if he threw out accusations when he was at the dragon council meeting they would kick him out, maybe even label him as a traitor. Luna's energy felt very much like holy energy, but that was only because Vorfeed was Darkstar's prisoner and was being used. "You're about to be kidnapped by a dark lord from another world and all you can think to do is lie there smoking?"
Zelas couldn't resist the urge to roll her eyes. "You make me sound like such a damsel in distress."
Milgazia almost let out a little huff, but he was too polite and diplomatic to do so. Given that Zelas seemed to have no intentions of moving, he sat down on the grass next to where she was laying. "Lina told me about your plans too. I am in favor of defeating Darkstar of course."
"Oh? You want to avenge the kidnapping of this poor damsel, how chivalrous." Zelas sarcastically commented in reply. Her tone was somewhat clipped, indicating that she wasn't really in the mood to talk to anyone, let alone him.
"I want to protect the world." Milgazia knew that the clarification wasn't necessary, but he voiced it anyway.
"Is that all you came here to say?" Zelas asked impatiently. She blew rings of smoke into the air above her and, from the corner of her eyes, she saw Milgazia wrinkle his nose in disgust.
"I thought I should speak to you before you left in case you had something you wanted to add that you didn't tell Lina," he explained.
"I don't, so you can leave," Zelas occupied herself with her smoke rings, pointedly ignoring Milgazia.
He didn't leave though. "I hate smoke."
"I like it," Zelas countered. "It reminds me of flames and destruction and pleasant things."
"That's why I hate it," Milgazia commented.
"I hate nosy dragons who can't take a hint," Zelas added. "I'll spell it out for you," she sat up and blew more smoke from the cigarette, which Milgazia tried to fan away with one hand, covering his mouth and nose with the other. "I want you to leave. I see no reason for you to be here and it might just be best for your health if you're not." She didn't mean the smoke though, sure that was annoying to him, but she was talking about the summoning that was to come. She forbade Xellos from following her and she could imagine him getting on everyone's nerves keeping himself from doing so. No one could be useful to her right now, so she wanted no company.
"Would it change anything if I see it happen?" Milgazia was obviously referring to the summoning, but he tried to address the topic gently. He knew that Zelas was angry and rubbing her inevitable fate in her face would probably get him killed.
"No, but I doubt you'd be able to learn anything useful anyway," Zelas half growled. "That's why I have no monster messengers to witness this events, nothing will come out of it. My plan is already set anyway. I trust Lina told you that too?"
"She did," Milgazia confirmed and he remained there. Zelas smoked the last bit of her cigarette and threw away the stub. Milgazia fought the urge to go stomp it out, it didn't look like anything was going to catch on fire anyway and soon enough, the remainder of the cigarette lost its spark. It was a human product, he silently noted, not an astral visual representation, but an actual physical cigarette. "Why do you smoke anyway? You're astral, you don't need nicotine."
"I enjoy it," Zelas simply replied. She had three options now, injure Milgazia to shoo him away, try to ignore him, which she thought would be futile even if he was quiet, or make conversation to entertain herself and show she wasn't fazed by the situation. She decided she would go for the third option.
"That's an irony." Milgazia commented with neutrality, rather than the small chuckle he thought may not be very appropriate, but fitted the statement so much better.
"That an astral being enjoys smoking?" Zelas inquired, she had a feeling that wasn't exactly what he meant.
"That a monster enjoys anything," he replied with the same neutrality as before.
"Touche," Zelas laughed. "But if we're going to get all purist, we shouldn't even be having this conversation." She finally sat up and looked at the dragon who sat beside her.
"The world is not all black and white, we both know that. Sometimes even enemies can converse and it may prove to be mutually beneficial." Milgazia half stated and half mused aloud.
"When we try to get information out of each other," Zelas agreed. "But there's nothing to do now except pass the time. If we were to wait silently, time would pass just as quickly, the speed of time changing with conversation is only an illusion after all."
"Yes," Milgazia agreed. "But in this case it is in a sense a mutually beneficial illusion."
Zelas retrieved a deck of cards from her dress. "Cards?" She offered the deck to him.
What was it with women stuffing things in their shirts and dresses anyway? He once saw Filia pull a bag of tealeaves from the top of her dress saying something about hiding them from Xellos. Then Amelia, Amelia of all people, commented that Xellos would have tried to steal them anyway if he knew where they were. Okay, so it was an effective hiding place, especially when around proper dragons, but why would a deck of cards be important? "What's on them?" Milgazia looked at the cars suspiciously.
"Ink," Zelas replied as a matter of fact. She graced Milgazia with a 'you're really stupid' look. "In the shape of numbers, spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts and stuff like that."
Milgazia tilted his head and looked at the cards with distrust. "Do you mean to tell me those are just regular playing cards? Are you asking me to play cards to pass the time?"
"Yes, genius," Zelas sarcastically confirmed, slightly more amused than impatient. "What were you expecting?"
Milgazia didn't even know what he had expected. Honestly, it would serve Zelas no purpose to set out a trap for him at that particular moment. He reached for the deck of cards she offered, but a cane hit his hand before he could touch them. Immediately, both Milgazia and Zelas turned to look at the figure standing behind them. "Halt, lad." There stood a very old dragon. His skin was pale and wrinkled, and his hair the purest white. His eyes were a pale gray that was almost silvery and he wore white robes. "Gambling shalt not bring thee satisfaction. Ye shall earn thy living with work."
Both Zelas and Milgazia blinked, frozen in place. "Where did this fossil come from?" Beast Master asked in perplexity. She didn't even sense the old man approaching, but upon trying hard to sense his energy, she notice he was a dragon.
Milgazia also noticed that the man was a dragon, but didn't know who he was. "Excuse me, sir, may I ask who you are?"
The old dragon hit the ground with his cane. "Ye shouldest ask that of thy self!" He chastised.
"Excuse me?" Milgazia certainly didn't want to be disrespectful, but he had to wander if the old many was all there.
"Can we cut ye olde talk?" Zelas requested with an expression of displeasure, "it's like so yesterday."
"Very well, young lady, I will humor you in that much," the old dragon obliged.
"What do you know? The fossil can talk normally after all. Although I'm sure what he was saying before was normal for him when he was young, many, many, many, many years ago." Never that she too talked like that during her first few centuries. Upon closer examination of his energy with her acute senses, Zelas realized why she didn't feel his presence before. He wasn't really a master at hiding his energy, he was just very weak. "Old geezer, you already have a foot in the grave. Have you come to me to be put out of your misery?"
"It is true that my end is near. I came to see your departure and the beginning of the end," the old dragon explained. "It's ironic and bittersweet to find you about to play cards with a dragon elder. Recreation, that is so very human of you. Nostalgia, that is so very human of me, we are all tainted."
"I think the old fossil lost it." Zelas comment was obviously meant for Milgazia, but she purposely spoke it loud enough for the old dragon to hear.
"We have all lost and we have all gained, young ones." The old dragon walked around the other two so that they wouldn't have to turn their heads around to see him and sat down in front of them instead. His whole form screamed fragility, as if he would turn to dust at any given moment. At the same time, there was an aura of pure wisdom around him and peaceful acceptance after a long life. He set his wooden cane on the ground beside him and spoke once more. "Do you remember, young lady, how things were when Ceifeed and Shabranigdu fought?"
Zelas was taken by surprise, not because of the question itself, though it was quite unusual, but because the old dragon spoke with a knowing tone as if he had been there. "Just how old are you anyway? Where do you get off calling me young lady?"
The old dragon chuckled, "I assure you lass, I am older than you."
"Perhaps not in years, but in appearance," Zelas countered. No, he couldn't be older than her in years; she was a monster lord after all. "I could kill you, but seeing as you are semi-amusing and you're so very close to your natural death anyway, I'll let you live for now." Zelas decided while Milgazia watched on with quiet curiosity. "About your question, what were you getting at?"
The old dragon took a deep breath and braced himself for a long story. "This is a tale about the conflict set in motion by the Mother of All Things, the Lord of Nightmares. She who wishes for us to face our worse dreams, because it is only then that we can grow. Ah, did you hear me? I am saying we, but that was not how it was in the beginning, because neither monsters nor dragons were meant to be what they have become. This only further proves their strong influence over everything, even those who were made to influence them instead became like them."
Tired of the silence he had been keeping, Milgazia finally spoke. "Who are they?"
The old dragon smiled with a mix of fondness and irony. "Why, they are the humans, of course."
To be Continued
The identity of the old dragon will be revealed in the next chapter...