Episode 046: Stranded! Struggling Against The Merciless Ocean
Episode 046: Stranded! Struggling Against The Merciless Ocean
Thanks to the chocker and the new hair color, Filia managed to blend in at the human town. A few people gave her a second glance, but they moved on after concluding that the similar pink dress was just a coincidence and this girl was not the same as the one with the tail. Even the top of her ears was perfectly rounded like a human. She still felt a tad fragile, but she figured it must be the magical pressure the choker made on her to keep her form perfectly human.
After some observation, Filia noted that humans weren't so unusual after all. They had a town, a market and they went about their business. They were loud and somewhat unruly by her standards, but whatever qualities had apparently attracted Tiffany still remained a mystery to Filia. She did notice that there were great variations from one human to another. Maybe she just wasn't observing the right type of human, maybe she just had to keep looking, she had the time after all.
The constrained feeling in her body was getting to be annoying. Maybe she could duck into an alley and stretch her tail a bit where no one could see her. She found a suitable place for that, glad that the structures of the little town were so tightly packed, however, she was unable to remove the chocker. 'Don't panic,' Filia thought to herself. She walked out of the alley and tried to find her way back to Venus. The temple where she lived was a lot larger than this town, but it had a very organized symmetrical structure that the human town lacked. The place was small but built like a maze of confusing winding streets that turned narrower and wider without warning, full of turns that made no sense to Filia. It was as if they just kept on building wherever and didn't plan out the town's structure at all.
After some time of wondering, Filia found her way back to where Venus' tent had been. There was a long line of people standing in front of it now, waiting to have their fortune read. Filia sighed and reasoned that cutting in line would be terribly rude, thus she waited. Finally, her turn came and she was able to speak to Venus. "Lady Venus, I seem to have a small problem," she spoke calmly as she didn't know the extent of her problem just yet. "The choker is stuck, or maybe I just don't understand the proper way to remove it."
"I shall provide the removal service for a price," Venus offered mockingly.
"Removal service?" Filia didn't like where this was going.
"That will be a hundred gold coins," Venus informed with a serious face and a malicious stare.
"What?" Filia loudly exclaimed. It was no wonder she was told to be weary of the world outside of the temple walls. "You can't do that, this is a rip off!"
Filia was just about ready to throw a tantrum when Venus called out to a new arrival who stud just outside her tent. She recognized him as either Biggs or Wedge, one of the pair of twins who were madly in love with the mayor's only daughter, who showed no interest in either. Venus had profited from their rivalry, setting them up to one up each other in a series of useless competitions that did little to amuse their beloved. "Is that you my boy? This young lady is causing trouble, please see her out."
Biggs or Wedge, which ever he was, stepped forward towards Filia. His dark brown messy hair spoke of another sleepless night contemplating his heartbreak. Big amber eyes looked at Filia with disapproval as he pouted. "Miss, you shouldn't cause trouble for Venus, please leave now."
Filia could just about explode with anger. "She tricked me!"
As if wanting to shield the tricky old woman from the sheer volume of the girl's voice, the young man stepped between them. "Please leave!" He insisted sternly.
Filia growled and in a rash action attempted to push the nosy young man out of her way so she could give Venus a piece of her mind. The problem was that he wouldn't budge. Gritting her teeth, Filia took the young man's arm and pulled with all her might, feeling her energy constrain as she did. She finally let go, out of breath, while the young man stood firm and smug. Realizing that this human body was limited to the strength of a human, Filia glared, threw her head back and walked away. She wished she had a weapon or something, then again, even if she carried a heavy weapon with her, she wouldn't be able to lift it right now. But if for whatever reason she ever had to go out among humans again, not that she ever wanted to, she would definitely be armed with a mace or something.
Her angry stride turned to a desperate run. Filia's distraught running led her to the pier. She allowed her tears to flow out freely. How could she go back to the temple now? She was stuck in a human body, surely the dragon elders could removed the choker, but what would they say? She couldn't let them know! She had to get out of this terrible problem on her own. Humans were tricky and terrible creatures. She didn't like them at all. She pulled at the choker, but no matter how hard she tried, she wasn't able to get it off.
"Hey there missy," a gruff voice made Filia jump. "You okay, girly?"
Filia looked up to see a tall muscular man with tanned skin, dirty blond hair and piercing brown eyes. He appeared to be a sailor. "It's not every day some pretty girl is found crying like that, with no one to console her. You okay, missy?"
Lacking a sense of malice at such an early point in her life, Filia sensed no danger from this man, who might have made the mental alarms of any other girl to go off full force. "I'm... in need of currency," she confessed. She had no choice but to pay Venus to remove the choker. Or remove it by force, "actually, could you help me with something? You seem strong," or strong for a human at least. She was certain she was far stronger as a dragon, even in elf-form, but right then, she was a human.
"So you like muscles, miss?" The man flexed his arms. The girl was shy and young, but quite pretty and she showed no apprehension towards him.
"Um..." Filia decided not to comment on the ridiculous display, which the sailor interpreted as awe and fed his ego. Finally she requested. "Mister, you see this choker on my neck, it's stuck and I wish to remove it. Could you please get it off? It doesn't matter if you have to break it, just please, get it off."
"That's a strange request, but alright." The man placed his large hands on the choker, making Filia finally start to feel uneasy around him. He pulled at it from both sides, but it didn't come off. He turned the jewelry around on Filia's neck, looking for some sort of clip or something. The golden piece was soldered together somehow though he did see a thin line where it looked as if it once opened up. Yet there it was, like a bangle around the neck in a size that couldn't have possibly fit over her head. "This thing's stuck good! Did they craft it on your neck or what?"
"Um..." Filia didn't think she should reveal she was a dragon, so she limited herself to saying, "it's an amulet, but I don't want to wear it anymore."
"Ah, so it's a magical device," the man realized. "Those are pretty rare; it would fetch a mighty price."
"You can have it if you get it off," Filia offered, hoping that it would serve as a motivation.
The sailor tried to get the chocker off again, but after much effort, his arms dropped to his sides. "Missy, you're going to have to see a magic user for this. There's one in town, an old hag by the name of Venus."
Filia frowned, she didn't even bother to point out one's elders should be respected, because that terrible Venus was no kind and wise old lady, she was a con artist. "She said she would charge me a hundred coins to remove it and I don't have any money."
"Ah, so that's what you were talking about before," the sailor realized. "Well that's pretty much all you can do missy, I can still help you though. Some friends and I are going on a little voyage to investigate an area out at sea. There's treasure to be found there, precious treasures that were lost and have no owner. Valuable gold and jewels that are just waiting to be claimed!" The area he spoke of was the island vaguely visible beyond a barrier that he foolishly believed he and his crew could break through. It was Wolf Pack Island, where nothing but doom awaited, if they were manage to get close to it, but the sailor foolish thought it was the perfect hiding place for pirate treasure. "How about you come along on our ship? I can offer you a job as a cook. The guys and I are tired of eating our own lousy cooking. I assume you can make a decent meal? Take this job and you'll get more than just a hundred coins!"
Filia nodded eagerly, she wasn't an expert in the kitchen, but she knew how to cook. "Can I have the job, really? Oh thank you mister..."
"Joe, just call me Joe," the sailor replied. "And drop the mister stuff; it's not fitting for a ship captain."
"Thank you Captain Joe," Filia replied.
"Just Joe, don't be so formal with me, cutie," he winked.
Filia found the behavior to be quite odd but paid it little mind. "Very well then, Joe." She wouldn't be tricked by a human again. This was different as far as she knew. She wasn't accepting any convenient favors from strangers; she was doing a job, she giving him something in exchange for what she would receive. "Will the trip be long through?"
"Oh no, we should be back in a week or so," Joe replied. "We're leaving right away." He pointed to a modest medium sized ship anchored at the docks. "Got any luggage to pick up, missy?"
Filia nodded, relieved. "No," Filia replied, "and my name is..." she paused, should she really be giving away her name? Maybe she should be more careful with her identity. What should she call herself then? This was lying, but if she could think of it as a nickname it felt less like a lie. She recalled a book Tiffany had snuck into the temple and showed her. It was human literature about romance and it was rather scandalous by the standard of the stricter dragon clans. Even so, the name of the female protagonist was perhaps common among humans. "My name is Juliet," Filia finally finished, "sorry to have taken so long to introduce myself."
"No worries, Juliet," Joe voiced, "you're cute being all shy."
"Um... ah... thank you," Filia answered unsure.
"Hey Joe! We're ready over here!" A man with long hair tied in a low ponytail and a clumsily trimmed black beard waved to Joe from the other side of the pier, near the ship.
"We're coming!" Joe called back, leading the way, with Filia wordlessly following him.
As Joe and Filia boarded the ship, the other sailors took a notice of her immediately. A younger man with short auburn hair, black pants and boots and a bare toned tan torso approached her curiously. "Well hello there cutie-pie."
"Um... hi..." Filia's uneasiness grew. She didn't like the way these men were looking at her. She didn't like how Joe looked at her either, but this one was half naked. She looked away shyly. Perhaps this wasn't the best crowd of humans to associate with, yet she needed the job. She needed to get that choker off her neck and put this terrible mistake behind her. She should have never ran off.
"Hold it there, Rick, can't you see the girl is shy?" Joe interfered. "Besides, she's under the captain's protection, if you know what I mean."
"Aw c'mon Joe, share with your crew," Rick joked.
"The only thing you'll be tasting from her is her cooking," Joe laughed.
Filia let out a breath she didn't even realize she was holding. Even if the humans were rather rough and strange, maybe they weren't so bad. Maybe Joe was one of the good ones, even if he looked a little wild and made her feel uneasy as she spent more time with him. He said he'd protect her, so maybe he was a responsible captain after all.
xoxox xox xoxox
The ship set sale on a strong wind and by the time night fell, they were a good way far from the shore. Filia busied herself in the kitchen below deck, where thankfully no one bothered her. She wasn't very pleased though, as the kitchen was rather dirty and she thought such an environment was very improper for the preparation of food. She tried her best to clean it, though the cleaning supplies available were next to nothing. Eventually, she served out some food in the dinning area where the sailors talked loudly and made a ruckus drinking beer and stuffing their faces with her cooking.
"Hey, cutie, come and sit next to your captain," Joe called out, motioning for the chair next to him.
Filia was reluctant, but told herself she was being silly. The humans were odd and at times a little unsanitary, especially the men from what she'd seen, but this was part of their culture and she had to respect it. This was nothing like in the story Tiffany showed her, but that was called fiction for a reason. After a pause, Filia took a small step forward, not wanting to offend the captain. She stumbled suddenly as the ship violently shook.
"Get out there men!" Joe suddenly commanded as he jumped out of his chair. The ship rocked violently again and Filia fell to the floor as the sailors stumbled to get above deck leaving the dinning area in a mess of spilled food and drinks.
Above deck, the sailors found that the cause of the disturbances was not the anger of the sea, or a storm of the skies, it was the rage of a living beast. A giant squid was wrapping its massive tentacles around the vessel! Filia managed to get herself above deck and gasped. That squid was not a normal sea creature. She focused on sensing it while the men wielded spears in a fruitless effort to fight it off. She couldn't sense it at all; the amulet stuck on her neck prevented her. Yet when the creature spat out flames, she didn't need to sense its energy to know what it was. That thing was not an ordinary sea creature; it was a monster that had wondered off from Deep Sea Dolphin's territory!
In desperation and alarm, Filia tried to cast a spell but found that she could not. Filia saw her life flash before her eyes. She didn't know what she could do; she didn't know how she could ever survive this. Suddenly the monster's strong tentacles broke the ship in half. Filia fell to the water, struggling to reach the surface. The ship's mast had fallen, broken into pieces. Filia held on to one of the portions to stay afloat. The disturbed sea pushed her and her floatation device away from the battle that had quickly turned into a massacre. Filia could only kick her legs in the water and keep trying to propel herself further away from the monster.
Thankfully, the squid was occupied with the men and didn't notice Filia slip away. Terrified, Filia kept on advancing through the water for she didn't know how long. Albeit her body was no longer as strong as a dragon, in terms of defense it was at least a little more resistant than a human, but still relatively fragile. At least she had a little more energy to spare than a normal human girl would have. Even so, exhaustion eventually overtook Filia and she fell asleep with her arms and head on the piece of mast and the rest of her body floating in the waters that had eventually turned still.
Filia wasn't sure for how long she had been floating as she had gone from sleeping to unconscious, but she eventually floated close to the monster barrier. Though Zelas couldn't leave her island, she could at least walk along its surface and gaze into the distance. She looked beyond the transparent glow of the barrier and saw a girl floating just outside. She could feel that there was still life left in her and wondered how in the world that was even possible. Where did she come from anyway? Regardless of that, this was an unusual occurrence and therefore welcomed by Beast Master, who had become bored again, waiting for Xellos' next report. "Fang!"
A black sphere appeared next to Beast Master, morphing into a human shape. The monster looked like the fox chimera of the later days in human form, except for the lack of fox tail and ears. His expression was also noticeably different with ferocious silver eyes that strongly resembled the eyes of his master, a sharp contrast to his innocent silver eyes of later times. "Yes, Lord Beast Master?" Though the studies were on their way after noting how things went with Celo's transformation a few years ago, Fang had not yet been united with a fox. Thus he was a still a pure monster that held malice, rather than playful innocence. He respected Xellos as his master's general priest and his superior, but did not yet have the friendly attachment he would develop in the future.
"Fetch me that girl, I will open the barrier for you, but be quick about it," Zelas instructed.
"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Fang approached the barrier as Zelas focused. Even an astral being couldn't go in and out of the barrier which went beyond the physical plane.
At Zelas' command, a hole appeared in the barrier while the rest of it remained untouched. Fang swiftly retrieved the girl from the unconscious sea and returned to his master's side. As soon as her minion and the strange visitor were within the barrier, Zelas closed it up again and allowed her energy to continue flowing into it as it had been doing for centuries since the War of the Monsters' Fall. "You may go now." Fang placed the girl on her back on the ground at Zelas' feet and teleported away, leaving his master to whatever she was going to do with the girl he assumed to be a human.
The monster lord knelt beside the girl curiously. There was something about her that was unusual for a human. She reached to touch the choker and sensed its magic. The monster lord placed a hand on Filia's forehead and tried to sense what she really was. Zelas' lips curled into a curious smile. So the girl was a golden dragon disguised as a human, the choker made her appear as such, at the price of locking away her power. It was cursed so as to not be removed. A monster lord like Zelas could sense all that with a good amount of focus, but an average and even a high ranking monster wouldn't be able to. Even Xellos wouldn't notice this girl's true nature unless he was purposely looking for it. The adolescent dragon girl would surely be distraught when she woke up and realized where she was, but there was no reason to kindly inform her. Maybe it would be more fun if she didn't know where she was and helplessly tried to get rid of the cursed choker and go home. In fact, maybe it would be more fun if even Xellos was oblivious to her true nature.
A wide amused smile full of mischief overtook Zelas' elegant features. She would send this girl to Xellos to snack on her emotions, as she would surely be distressed. She would tell him to travel with her as part of his disguise and listen to his reports about it later. It would be both useful and hilarious. Besides, as bored as Zelas had been until recently, she was in the mood to play a joke even on her own general priest. It wouldn't be harmful to his mission, it would actually be useful, and most importantly, it would be fun.
To be Continued
Filia and Xellos are finally about to meet, but as it has already been established, they will not recognize each other. In Slayers: Alive, Filia doesn't recognize Venus with her new identity because the old lady from the past shouldn't have been alive over a century later. The names of Biggs and Wedge are references to Final Fantasy.