Categories > Anime/Manga > Slayers

Xellos ex Machina

by BeccaStareyes 1 review

When Lina and Gourry get into a real problem, any help is needed. But some help is more suspicious than others.

Category: Slayers - Rating: PG - Genres: Drama - Published: 2006-07-27 - Updated: 2006-07-27 - 2278 words - Complete

Look, I'm not a pessimist or anything. I leave that job to some of my other friends -- but sometimes you have to wonder if someone isn't out to get you.

Like, take this past two weeks. Gourry and I were in the neighborhood of Sairaag, so we decided to stop in for the night to visit with Sylphiel. Considering she's stuck in the city with rebuilding, I figured that bringing in the news was the least we could do.

I didn't find this out until it was too late, but people had been digging all round town. Apparently they broke into a bit of old Sairaag that had been buried under the ground. Apparently there was a bunch of old junk buried there. Apparently this included some spores of frostfire plague.

You probably don't know about frostfire plague. Gourry didn't, and even I only knew a bit about it -- I might be a sorcery genius, but rare diseases are a bit outside my areas of expertise, okay? It was pretty much wiped out after the Kouma War, anyway -- there's always stories about some adventurers getting it after exploring ruins, but those are usually revealed to be due to bad air or eating moldy hardtack or something mundane like that. Thankfully, Sylphiel apparently has a hobby of studying rare diseases or something -- she was called away to look at one of the diggers that night. By morning, and checking out everyone in the area, she had confirmed the diagnosis, and ordered that Sairaag be quarentined. Which meant Gourry and I were stuck there.

Here's the thing about frostfire plague. There are three things most people remember about it. The first is that it's disgusting -- there's blood and pus and sores and things everywhere, and all sorts of things that make me glad I stick to black magic and not white. Not to mention painful. The second is that it's pretty lethal -- even with a priest or shrine maiden using white magic to ease the symptoms, you're as likely to die from it as not, or end up blind or disfigured. The third is that it's very contagious -- so those priests and shrine maidens caring for the sick tend to catch it, even with all the precautions they take.

There is a mixture of herbs that's supposed to cure it. It's not really in most herbaries, though -- as I said, frostfire plague isn't a common disease. The only other means I know of to stop it is to use magic or dragons to set the whole town on fire -- not the solution we were looking for. Sylphiel thought she saw it in the collection of books the temple was accumulating to replace those that were lost when Copy Rezo decided to have a hissy cow at yours truly. Of course, no one had really gone through them since the town got them. So, any magic-using adult that wasn't able to heal was put to looking through the books.

So, here your heroine sits, in the middle of the night with a lighting spell floating above her head, reading through the twentieth book on white magic, that's in speech so archaic it feels like she's reading dragon. Around her are a dozen people in robes, identical spells providing light. And, we better have a breakthrough soon -- the food's getting boring here, and I didn't plan on dying of some nasty disease that's supposed to be extinct.

"Hey," I didn't notice him come in, but Gourry was standing in front of me, a plate of food in his hands.

"Hey," I said. Gourry was helping what passed for the town guards enforce the quarantine. He didn't talk much about what was going on when we met for meals or at bedtime. I can't imagine he appreciates telling people that they can't leave a place that's slowly turning into a death trap -- Gourry might be an incredible swordsman, but he's a softy.

Dammit, this isn't fair at all! "Let me finish with this book, okay?"

Gourry reached out and put his hand on my forehead. "Lina, are you okay? You aren't getting sick, are you." So help me, he sounded /worried/.

"No, I'm not getting sick. I just don't want to lose my place. Quit worrying over nothing, Jellyfish. If half the world's mazoku population couldn't take me out, a glorified case of the flu isn't going to either."

I turned back to the book, trying to ignore the frown he was giving me -- not easy. I flipped to the end of the book, noting the page number. Dammit, I still had 50 pages of boring text to go. Maybe I'd just find a bookmark or something and eat -- the food did smell tempting, and my stomach was starting to growl. I'd just finish this page...

.../ the blue-veined goldtongue lily is found growing on southern slopes of the foothills of the mountains in southern Elemekia, normally near water. The tubers are edible, though quite bitter in taste. When combined with the common herbs peppermint, licorice and ginger root, the tubers are an effective cure against frostfire plague, and may have.../


He looked up. I noticed the plate he was holding was missing a chicken wing, but, for once there was no time for that. I could steal one back from him later. "Yeah?"

"Go find Sylphiel... quickly and quietly. But leave the plate here."


Sylphiel showed up as I was finishing up dinner, and I thrust the book under her nose. "What do you think?"

She took it carefully. "I... I think you found it." The other readers around me, who had figured out something was up when Gourry went tearing out of there, broke into a ragged cheer. "We've got plenty of the other plants. But, Miss Lina, how are we going to get halfway across the subcontinent to find this one? We can't break quarentine." She tapped the picture of the lily.

"We'll just have to send a message and get someone else to gather it. It'll take a bit to get it here..."

"Can I see?" Gourry looked over Sylphiel's shoulder. "Hey, those grew all over where I was growing up. Well, until a bad winter when I was ten killed off a lot of them -- you barely see them at all any more."

Sylphiel and I just stared at him. "Gourry, tell me you're kidding. What do you know about plants, anyway?"

"Mom used to make this stew with them in the spring, and she'd send me out to find them when she wanted me out of the house. I was kinda happy when they went away -- the stew tasted better without them. Guess that's not that good now."

"No, it's not good at all." I agreed crossly. Just when things had finally been looking up.

"Suppose you don't want to hear that the guys and I were talking today, and we think the quarantine's not going to last any longer than another week."

"Oh, dear," Sylphiel said.

"What? Why?" I asked.

"People are getting scared, Lina. And more of them are trying to leave. We were run pretty ragged today. If this keeps up, someone's gonna get through."

"We'll just have to announce we got the cure, and ask everyone to sit down and shut up until it comes in from Elemekia, and wait until we can make enough for everyone."

"That could cause a riot, Miss Lina, once the first shipment arrives. I don't think they can send in enough for everyone at once. And I don't think even the best horses can get here from Elemekia in a week, even if they left now."

"Well, what else can we do?" I was about ready to tear out my hair at this point, and Gourry and Sylphiel's dour looks weren't helping. "if we do nothing, they break quarantine, and the whole country gets sick, and I don't think there are enough plants in Elemekia to make everyone better. Damn it, this is why I didn't become a priestess -- too many people trying to ask me to do things."

"I thought you didn't because you liked black magic better, and your sister's a scary person." Gourry has this annoying tendency to remember details only when I don't want him to -- ask him to remember what any spell did, and he'd give you a blank look, but he can remember that my sister is scary no problem.

"Shut up, Gourry!"

I was about ready to snap some more at him -- hey, it had been a bad week for me, and I was a little short tempered -- but I felt something powdery fall on my head, followed by a solid thump as something landed where my head had been before I looked up to see what was causing it. "My, my... everyone is so serious."

The rest of the room stepped back, and, before anyone did anything that would annoy me further, I said, "Hold on, guys, let me handle things -- you go get dinner. So, Xellos, what brings you to Sairaag?"

There are nice things about my reputation. One of them is that even a bunch of third-rate sorcerers don't want to get between me and something that just teleported in and was floating comfortably above the floor.

"Just seeing the sights, Miss Lina. Sairaag really is beautiful this time of year. I see why you and Mister Gourry decided to stop here."

"And the fact there's a bunch of people miserable and in pain didn't hurt, did it?"

Xellos chuckled. "If I said no, you'd know I was lying. I don't believe I was ever formally introduced to your friend -- when last I was in Sairaag, I was in rather a poor state."

I rolled my eyes, and tried to judge if a jump would put me in headlock range. Xellos is probably the most insufferable being I've met on my travels. And he was immune to most of the magic that wouldn't get me kicked out of my lodgings.

"Hey, Lina. Look!" Gourry held up a root, still covered in dirt. A series of dark green, thin leaves -- with a delicate pattern of blue across them that I could barely see -- sprouted from it, as well as a golden flower whose petals faded to white. "It's one of those plants!"

"Xellos... where did you get that?"

"Oh, that? They grow everywhere on Wolf Pack Island. Lord Beastmaster asked me to clean up the place -- seems she's more interested in red flowers, rather than yellow -- so I removed a whole wagonload. I'd figured I'd find somewhere unsightly to dump them, and here seemed good enough. You'll find the rest of them a couple of blocks away -- there's a warehouse there. You might want to be careful -- I caught a couple of people climbing over the wall when I came in, and I left them on the roof." The problem with Xellos -- one of the problems with Xellos -- is that he says everything with the same shit-eating grin. If he just happened to show up here with the plants we needed, with no ulterior motive, then I was the High Priestess of the Water Dragon Lord.

"Come on, Sylphiel -- I think some of the guards can help us carry them back here." Gourry nodded to her, suddenly smiling again.

After the two of them left, I crossed my arms. "Okay, Xellos, we're alone. Why did you really bring them here? I thought you liked people being unhappy. And, this sickness is certainly making people's lives suck."

"Miss Lina, you grew up near a farm, yes?" Xellos had landed, and was sitting in my chair. I wanted to kick him out of it -- well, first I wanted him to tell me what he was up to, but I had a better chance of getting my chair back. "Any farmer knows that gorging on his crops at harvest will mean lean times later. This plague is rather lethal, yes? Wiping out most of the population -- especially in cities, where humans concentrate, and especially the poor, which have the least access to white magic, would mean we would suffer lean times. As would you."

"So, you're saying that you're saving humans so that you can keep feeding off of us?" It was probably the most plausible thing he could say, which didn't mean much -- Xellos knows that I know about mazoku.

"Exactly. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to pick up some seeds for Beastmaster." He teleported out.

There was one thing I was about to ask, that of course I would have gotten something like 'that is a secret' in reply. I'd forget it by the time I saw him again, most likely. I already suspected the answer, and really just needed Xellos to confirm it. But it can't hurt a girl to try.

Plants don't travel across a sea in the west to an island from mountains in the east. And the frostfire plague was pretty much only really common a thousand years ago -- this was the first major case since that piece of Shabranigdo was sealed in the north, and I can't think of a case that's much older than the war. And Beastmaster Xelas-Metallium might be known for wolves, but she's got some power over all sorts of animals, large and small. And, well, a mazoku might care about the population when he's not up to something, but who's going to care about the long-term growth of humans when they are planning on returning the world to chaos in the near future.

I know it's not definite, but I feel better writing it down. Just in case.
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