Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Slayers: Alive ❯ Chapter 6

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Slayers: Alive - Episode 016: Unbelievable! Secrets and Surprises

Not even a full second had passed since Xellos rung the bell when the door to the clock tower was opened, revealing the dim interior. A few torches of unusual blue fire projected a dim, yet sufficient light inside the entrance room. The structure itself was made of wood, clearly old and worn as every floor board creaked and the top of the building threatened to fall apart every time it was visited by the soft breeze that managed to pass above the trees.

The man at the door was wearing formal attire, an elegant tuxedo that didn't stand out, but was still fancy in its simple way. He had gray hair with a few white strands and the average face of an average aging human, save for his eyes. His eyes were the color of deep amethyst with a certain sharpness to them that resembled Xellos' own perceptive eyes. "I, Celo Metallium, am honored by your arrival, General Xellos Metallium, please, come in." The elderly man stepped aside and bowed politely, beckoning Xellos inside.

Xellos stepped through the door and waited for the man to close it before, with a grin on his face he voiced, "let us not be so formal." His tone was friendly as it was his usual act. "After all, if your surname is true, then that would make us brothers." There was a certain hint of mockery in his voice.

Celo chuckled lightly, "I wonder if a mere middle level monster should dare to call a monster general brother, what with the implications of equality and all."

So Celo was supposed to be a middle level monster? Yeah, right, his energy felt distinctly human. Maybe he was hinting at what he hoped to achieve. "Let's cut to the chase," Xellos encouraged with a barely perceptible impatient undertone.

"Yes," Celo agreed. "Let us speak in the tea room, I'm sure you will be more comfortable there, general Xellos." Celo led the way to one of the many rooms of the clock tower. The room was just as rustic and simple as the rest of the building, with creaking wooden floor boards and simple wooden furniture with dark red cushions. They sat at a table with tea and cookies already set out. "As I'm sure you already noticed, someone is out to take your life," Celo stated with a careful voice.

"Indeed, it's hard not to notice someone trying to kill you," Xellos tentatively eyed the snacks on the table, wondering if he should rise to the challenge and eat some. "I don't suppose you have information about those incidents?"

"From what I gather, the culprit is the Green Alchemist. Of course, his very existence is doubtful in itself," Celo picked up his teacup and drank casually.

"Do continue," Xellos took a drink from his tea.

"The Green Alchemist is or was a human who specialized in healing potions. It is said he hated monsters very much and longed to exterminate them all," Celo explained. "Apparently, his plan was to pit the monster lords against each other by causing a tempting lack of balance in their power, which would hopefully drive the others to attack the exposed party. However, all his attempts failed, for even if he focused his efforts in exterminating monsters serving the same monster lord, it was never enough to make a difference, as they were only low ranked monsters."

"So, this Green Alchemist is now after me, a monster general, in hopes that my extermination will affect lord Beast Master in such a way that the remaining lords will covet her territory and try to take it in the absence of her general priest." Xellos concluded, taking a cookie and eating it. It was sweet and delicious with rich chocolate chips.

"Exactly," Celo confirmed. "Although, I'm sure his attempts have been merely an annoyance at best, the Green Alchemist, or whoever is claiming to be the Green Alchemist is usually not foolish enough to attack high level monsters, let alone a monster general. This brings me to believe a plot is in the works. The rumors of the truths and dares of the monsters travel fast, even to the lower ranks that are not allowed to participate. It is not unthinkable that even humans would hear something about it, especially if they're keeping an ear out for news. I believe the Green Alchemist knows of the circumstances."

Xellos raised an eyebrow questioningly, his tone the slightest bit defensive among his friendly act. "Filia..."

"Ah yes, the cure," Celo paused in thought for a moment. "I believe the Green Alchemist is not likely to target her. He does not believe the curse can be broken."

Xellos' purple eyes were now open in a glare. To speak so casually of the curse not being broken... the tone of absolute respect behind Celo's voice made it far more infuriating. It was as if he was saying, you are far more powerful than me, but you still can't do anything. You can kill me, but you can't solve your problem. "Who are you?"

Celo smiled respectfully, "I am Celo Metallium, a servant of Beast Master Zelas Metallium, though some monsters know me simply as Zelas' suicidal researcher."

Realization reached Xellos, "how is it that you're human?" He looked at the being before him with suspicion.

"I'm a chimera," Celo revealed. "I'm a monster and a human. I was once of the high ranks among the monster race, but my fusion with a human lowered me to the middle rank. None the less, I thought at the time it was needed, because it was the only way I could stay alive and serve lord Beast Master."

"Ah yes," Xellos' mocking smile was back in place. "I remember you now. Your mission was to research the weakness of monsters, positive emotions. But the emotions would kill you without the human side to keep you barely alive, even if it diminished your monster powers. The sacrifice was supposed to be worth it if you were able to train full monsters to be able to resist positive emotions. This place is full of such feelings. Ironically I've seen weak monsters that appear to be unaffected; I suppose their tiny astral bodies are too small, they are already insignificant enough so there's not much left to weaken. Then there's the one that was fused with a building; buildings are not affected by emotions so that added some resistance."

Celo only partially agreed, "it is true that positive emotions weaken monsters, but contrary to what many believe, they don't kill. A weak monster is slain by another monster, a human, a dragon, there's always someone trying to kill a monster, though for you, it may not seem so because most attempts would fail before they begin. In this chimera state of mine I've grown to enjoy the taste of feelings I should be repulsed by. Thus I have made no efforts to change back into a full monster, if it is even possible, which I doubt."

Xellos chuckled, "to disassemble a chimera... I know someone who would be interested in that." He guided the conversation back into the main topic, "so while you continue your research here, the Green Alchemist might have found something that makes him think he can beat me? If he believes the curse cannot be broken, though it certainly can be," Xellos emphasized, "then why not just let the curse take my life?"

"The results of the curse the Green Alchemist believes will overtake you offend him," Celo explained. "Though the curse is considered a death sentence, you are aware of what will really happen."

"I'll be transformed into a human," Xellos sourly revealed, "not that I'm going to let that happen. Besides, it is as good as a death sentence given the fact that humans are such fragile creatures. I take it the Green Alchemist is a human extremist that can't stand the thought of a monster receiving the honor," heavy sarcasm was poured into the word, "of becoming a human."

"Exactly," Celo nodded, "the Green Alchemist thinks that you'll become human, but he doesn't believe that will be the end. He expects a general priest to be a cunning survivor. He expects you to further corrupt the human race as one of their own. At least, that is the information that has reached me. As for the rumored secret plot, that mysterious something that makes the Green Alchemist believe he has the upper hand, I do not know. I heard he has some sort of weapon, but I cannot be sure of what it may be."

Xellos pondered what he had heard, one thing still bothered him. Underneath his respectful words, which were very much an act, just as Xellos' friendly cheer was, Celo sounded as if he too did not believe that the curse could be broken. "Is there a reason for you to think the Green Alchemist is correct in assuming the curse cannot be broken?"

Celo paused, then smiled, "my apologies if I sound disrespectful, but it is quite a difficult task, even for one of your power. The cure will bring you to your weakest state before freeing you from the curse, even a monster general is weakened by positive emotions, though they don't kill. However, after experiencing the curse and overcoming it, you will be stronger by the power of evolution."

"What does that mean?" Xellos demanded.

"You may kill me if you are dissatisfied with my silence." Celo's voice was just as respectful as ever, his expression serene.

"I think I'll keep you around for now." The way Xellos voiced his choice, 'for now' could be over in mere seconds if he so felt like it.

"I thank you," Celo bowed his head respectfully. "I should let you know though, the meaning of the antidote, least you push the cure away with trickery, for it is in lord Beast Master's, and therefore my, best interest that you succeed. The curse does indeed have a cure, but the words spoken must be thought upon carefully."

"That's quite enough," Xellos grinned, "continue and I will kill you now." Celo remained silent. So there was apparently a hidden meaning to the curse's cure. The willing kiss of a golden dragon, was that supposed to be some kind of metaphor? It was true that Celo was a servant of Zelas, the real reason why Xellos wouldn't kill him. He was a researcher though his research had remained fruitless for a long time. None the less, as a monster on a special mission, it was up to Zelas and Zelas alone to decide when his mission would end. Xellos knew that, Celo, the all but forgotten researcher, knew it as well, yet neither brought to the surface the fact that it was not in Xellos' best interest to kill him without Zelas' permission.

After a long silence, Celo finally nodded, "my apologies," he spoke in his extremely respectful and humble voice, which was getting on Xellos' nerves. "I will not cause any interference."

"You'd best not," Xellos got up. Tiny monsters with puny astral bodies that couldn't be weakened beyond their pitiful state and monsters fused with beings or things that gave them a certain level of resistance towards the positive emotions of Amor Resort allowing them to keep some of their power... those possible interruptions didn't sound like much. High level monsters wouldn't be so high level anymore if they spent too much time in the love filled atmosphere, but Xellos was strong enough to withstand it. The only other annoyance left would be the mysterious plot and possible secret weapon of the Green Alchemist. Xellos didn't think it was worth his time; perhaps he should simply focus on figuring out his cure for the time being. He didn't need or want help; he could figure this out on his own. Perhaps some golden dragon research was in order.

xoxox xox xoxox

"There you are!" A waiter, uniformed as such, approached Lina and Gourry at the buffet table they were cleaning out.

"Zangulus?" The two looked up with curiosity.

"It looks like I'm never going to get a break, but hey, all this overtime is good for Zoana." Zangulus laughed off his exhaustion. Still, I have to say, I never thought that vague description was talking about you. A girl in white with a butterfly mask, she will be in the company of a blond man, I can't believe the ball staff didn't bother asking for a name before processing the request. Ball preparations are hectic, but still... Anyway, I'm glad I found you." He looked at Lina with a congratulatory smile, "everything has been set up exactly as you requested."

"What?" Lina tilted her head to the side in confusion. "What exactly are you talking about?"

"Oh you know," Zangulus gave a sly smile and began to lead the two towards the center of the dance floor. "Here you are, as per your request. Good luck, not that you need it and congratulations in advance!" Zangulus disappeared in the crowd, leaving a very confused Lina and Gourry at the center of the dome.

Gourry looked at Lina quizzically, "what's going on? Are we going to dance?"

"I don't know..." Lina had a bad feeling about the entire thing, then the realization hit her. A girl in white with a butterfly mask, in the company of a blond man... Could that have been meant to be Medusa and Gourry? Was Medusa planning something for him? But the jellyfish girl had already left and the poorly informed last minute staff was left to assume that the first girl in white with a butterfly mask who was with a blond man by her side was the one to make the mysterious request. Well, whatever that jellyfish girl had planned for Gourry and herself, it would be Lina and Gourry that would be enjoying it. It was probably a special song or something. "I guess we'll dance."

Though Lina was expecting some kind of cheesy love song to play, there was instead silence as a man dressed in the robes of a priest approached the center of the dome. He carried a book in one hand and a fluffy white pillow with a simple golden band the appropriate size to be worn by a man on his ring finger and a more decorated golden bracelet with rubies, the appropriate size to be worn by a woman on her wrist... or tentacle. The priest cleared his throat. "We are gathered here today to witness the union of..." He looked at the couple waiting for them to state their names as he too was another poorly informed employee.

Lina's jaw dropped, her face turning scarlet. Miss Medusa intended to trick Gourry into marrying her all along! "Lina?" Gourry asked unsure of what was happening or what he should do.

"Gourry..." Lina gulped, unable to come up with a minimal embarrassment escape route as she stood frozen in place.

"Mr. Lina and Miss Gourry," the priest repeated, incorrectly assuming that they had each stated their own name. Name changing and baby name blessing was also part of his job and he saw his fair share of odd names, so he knew not to judge. "In holy matrimony, if anyone has any reason to prevent this union, please write a letter to the Amor Resort customer service department and your complaint will be addressed as quickly as possible."

Gourry stood there struck dumb, or dumber than usual, while Lina struggled to protest through her embarrassment. "Now wait just a minute!"

The priest was tired after a long day of work and certainly not in the mood to wait a second, let alone a minute, thus he finished. "By the power bestowed on me by the Official International Tourism Guild, recognized on both the inner and outer world, I hereby declare you husband and wife! May you keep these souvenirs as a reminder of your union." He handed the pillow with the ring and bracelet to Gourry. "Okay, we're done, thank you for choosing Amor Resort as your marriage option. Amor Resort, marriages, honeymoons, anniversaries, vacations and controversial romantic flings, we have it all." With those final parting words of advertisement, the priest left, disappearing among the balls' crowd.

"I guess we're supposed to wear these, aren't we?" Gourry put the bracelet on Lina's left wrist and the ring on his own left ring finger. "There, that's how it's done, right?"

Lina was frozen in a red faced, open mouthed expression that didn't move as the people around them clapped and whistled at the happy scene. Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia pushed through the crowd until they reached them. "Congratulations!" Amelia cheered.

Zelgadis was the most surprised of all, "I wasn't expecting you two to get married now, even if everyone knew it would happen eventually, congratulations."

Filia's state of deep thought and heartache was temporarily pushed aside in her attempt to sincerely be happy for her friends. It looked like they didn't need her matchmaking help after all, perhaps she would concentrate her well intended efforts on Amelia and Zelgadis in the future, since her own love life was so lacking as Phythan had never showed up and she had instead gotten stuck with Xellos. "I'm very happy for you both, congratulations!"

Gourry laughed sheepishly, not fully aware of the severity of the situation. Everyone was congratulating them, so he replied with the polite answer to such an expression by saying, "thanks," with a cheerful smile.

Zangulus cut through the crowd with a paper in his hand. "Here's your marriage certificate, good thing I was there, or that priest would have messed up your names on the document too. Don't worry; I made sure the names were correct so that it's fully valid. A courier pigeon has already been sent to the main office of the Official International Tourist Guild with a copy of the certificate, this one is for the two of you to keep."

Lina's eye twitched as she stared at the paper Zangulus was holding up. It was an ordinary white paper, with ordinary letters, written in ordinary black ink, which carried an extraordinary meaning. "Amor Resort hereby certifies by the authority of the Official International Tourism Guild, recognized on both the inner and outer world, that Lina Inverse and Gourry Gabriev are officially united in legally recognized marriage." The date time and place was written below the initial message, followed by another line asserting, "this statement is certified by" and the signature of the distracted, though very much official priest.

"Wow Lina, I thought we kind of liked each other, but I didn't know you wanted to marry me." The easy and carefree tone with which Gourry made such a critical statement threw Lina over the edge.

With her embarrassment consuming her, she began to chant. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows." Life is so much easier when you can Dragon Slave anything that stands in your way, from bandits to embarrassing situations involving crowds of staring people. "Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows."

"Miss Lina!" Amelia exclaimed with worry. "You're getting a little too excited!"

"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand..." Lina continued her spell, blocking out any other sounds beyond her own voice.

"Gourry, get her out of here before she blows up this whole place!" Zelgadis urged. He had noticed that the tourists assumed that every unusual occurrence was part of the show and would be too busy being entertained to have the time or willingness to run for their lives.

"Okay!" Gourry agreed, blissfully unaware of the seriousness of the situation and peacefully accepting his new life as Lina's husband.

"Before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands-ah!" Lina stopped chanting as Gourry picked her up bridal style, following Zelgadis' advice to get her out of there. Her face was a red brighter than flames as her mind went blank and the energy she had gathered for the spell evaporated into nothing, her concentration gone.

"Let's get some fresh air; your face is all red." Gourry ran out of the dome via the main entrance and dashed down the stairs with his blushing bride in his arms.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive - Episode 017: Move Along! A Small Step Forward

"Why do I get the feeling that this might be troublesome?" Zelgadis' worry about Lina and Gourry's unexpected marriage was quickly disregarded by Amelia.

"Oh, don't worry about them," the Seyruun princess smiled with a starry eyed expression. "As long as there's love, that's all that matters." She sighed deeply, her expression gaining a clearer hint of hope. "One day I want to be a bride too."

Zelgadis blushed, but mentally told himself that Amelia couldn't possibly be hinting at anything. She was just talking about the far away future and not thinking about any specific prospective groom.

Seeing as Zelgadis wasn't going to say anything, Amelia scanned the area for a table that was being replenished with food that would hopefully last longer, since the gluttonous newlyweds were gone. "How about a snack?"

"Yes, that sounds good," Zelgadis happily followed Amelia towards the table, occupied mostly in his own thoughts.

Amelia paused and looked back at Filia, who was alone. "Miss Filia, are you hungry?" Trained to be a tactful diplomat, Amelia knew this wasn't the time to ask Filia about that guy she was waiting for, Phythan. She mentioned him when the girls were getting ready for the ball, but he was apparently not around.

Filia shook her head gently, "no, I just ate. I'm a bit tired, so maybe I'll just go back to the hotel and get some sleep."

"Oh," Amelia frowned, emphatic as she could be, she noticed Filia's saddened expression regardless of how the blond tried to hide it. "What about the fireworks? I heard the party will end at two with a bright display of fireworks that we can watch from inside the dome, since the roof is made of glass. It won't be long now, why don't you stay and watch? I'm sure it will be beautiful."

Filia sighed, her so called romantic night had turned into a disaster, but she didn't want to create a gloomy atmosphere for her happy friends. "Okay, go on and have a snack, I'll just take a walk around the dome and... look at the vases, you know, for inspiration."

Amelia nodded, though she deduced that Filia must have already made a detailed examination of every vase in the premises. "Okay," trying to stay positive, Amelia left towards the table with Zelgadis. Filia could get her breather now, but after a good night's sleep, the next day Amelia would make sure to ask her what was wrong if she didn't come out and say it herself.

Filia walked around to pass the time, then resolved to simply stand in a corner where her gloom wouldn't contaminate anyone's cheer. "Did you miss me?" Filia wasn't sure if she should glare furiously, ignore the question or be somewhat glad that Xellos was back. On second thought, she was sure she didn't want to take that last option.

Finally settling for the alternative of a furious glare, Filia angrily stated the obvious, "no."

"I'm sure you did," Xellos smiled as usual. He was wearing a different mask now, smaller than the previous one, covering only his eyes. The mask depicted the shape of a winged wolf and did little to hide Xellos' identity, as his peculiar purple hair was clearly visible. "It looks like the party's about to end, are you interested in one last dance?"

"You have some nerve to ask!" Filia tried to look away from Xellos and on doing so, she caught Amelia discretely looking in her direction while she ate next to Zelgadis. If she didn't at least pretend to be having fun, she would worry Amelia, who was clearly already worried about her. That would most likely lead to a well intended, though somewhat saddening and embarrassing interrogation about what was wrong. "Alright," she turned to face Xellos and tried to hide her angry twitching. "I'm still angry at you though."

Xellos didn't expect Filia to agree, let alone so easily, "fair enough..." The pair began to dance as the orchestra played the last song of the night before finally retiring to a well earned rest. "Just out of curiosity," Xellos asked while they danced. "When you didn't know who I was, what did you imagine me to be like?" Xellos knew that it was not favorable to bring that up, but he was curious. When Filia didn't say anything, instead making an effort to look nonchalant, Xellos prompted. "Anything at all? Hair color? Eyes? Was there any purple in your imagination?"

Golden blond hair, wine colored eyes... Amelia was already aware of the fact that her date never showed up. Lina would be focused on her own business, but Amelia might try to console her and Filia simply didn't want to talk about it. She certainly didn't need Xellos rubbing it in her face. She closed her eyes and tried to conjure a fictional image in her mind, just to spite him. "No, there was no purple," Filia let her imagination come up with something, any random description that didn't include purple. "Green eyes, light brown hair, I guess I must have seen that man and subconsciously remembered him. What an insult to him to be compared with you."

Xellos gave Filia a victorious grin, she had taken too long to answer and she seemed unsure. She wasn't remembering, she was thinking. "You just made that up."

She glared behind her fairy mask in such an intense way that it was still noticeable. "How would you know? I happen to like men like that, men that don't have anything purple on them."

"Is that what you occupy your time in doing? Fantasizing about men that don't have any purple on them?" Xellos teased, purposely being annoying for his own amusement. He would never admit it but he could use the relaxation that pestering Filia gave him.

"I don't see you with a date," Filia countered, trying to throw Xellos into the spotlight of their little argument so as to get herself out of it. Never mind that he was a monster and monsters generally don't go on dates.

Xellos winked, "rest assured Filia, I'm all yours."

Filia's face turned scarlet, she could feel the heat eradiating from it and it infuriated her. "I don't want you," she snapped.

Xellos replied with a look that screamed he was convinced she did. "Well, you certainly don't want someone else, or you would have found someone else by now," he teased. "Don't even try to point out that the one you want is your green eyed, light brown haired mystery man because I know for a fact he doesn't exist." Then another thought occurred to him, there was recognition in her eyes when he approached her hiding his identity, but she clearly didn't know who he was. Even if the man she described was fictional, there could be someone else. "Did your real date dump you?" He prodded curiously with far more cheer than the question should entail.

Filia's expression was invaded by sadness for a split second so small that that an observer any less keen than Xellos would have missed it. "No, I have no date," Filia lied. "I don't care; it's perfectly alright for people to go to balls on their own." As if to further validate her point she added, "you shouldn't argue with that, since you came by yourself too."

"You're lying," there was a sing-song tone to his accusation, but also real curiosity. Not that it mattered, Filia got dumped anyway. "You're a very bad liar, what really happened?"

Filia glared with the most intensity she could manage as their dance slowed to a stop and the music concluded. The light of the crystals floating near the glass ceiling of the dome was dimmed and the sky started to light up in brilliant colors. The firework spectacle was taking place right above the dome, with fluorescent rainbow sparks raining upon the structure that was protected from catching on fire by a magical barrier.

The crowds were in awe with the beauty of the light show and all those present watched it with fascinated amazement. Filia pushed Xellos away; they weren't dancing anymore so there was no reason to stand so close. She stepped back and turned around. Amelia wouldn't see her if she left now; she wouldn't worry about her missing a great show. Filia started walking towards the dome's exit without a word.

Xellos watched Filia leave, giving her a few seconds to gain the advantage of a few steps, before following her from a few feet behind, intending to catch up to her outside. He had to break the curse, if he became a fragile human without any monster energy to fuel his magic, he was as good as dead. He wouldn't let that happen, yet that wasn't the most prominent thought on his mind at the time. Something was going on with Filia that she was hiding. There were some broken expectations clinging to her that she chose not to speak of. He wanted to know what that was about.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Gourry had taken Lina all the way back to the rooftop of the hotel, carrying her the whole way while she blushed and protested. He finally set her on her feet when they arrived. "There's a nice breeze here, this should help you feel better. Do you want me to get you a cool drink?"

Lina leaned on the balcony railing and allowed the breeze to caress her warm face. "Yes," she replied simply, if only to get rid of Gourry for a few seconds so she could sort out her thoughts. Besides, this was Lina Inverse, she didn't reject anything edible. "Bring me a snack too," she added as she massaged her temples and tried to think without blushing intensely.

"Okay, I'll be right back," Gourry smiled and ventured downstairs to fulfill Lina's request.

"Take your time," Lina waved her hand dismissively and let out a breath of exasperation. What was she going to do now? She was married, though she had not planned it. She looked at her wedding bracelet. She couldn't believe Gourry so easily played along with the improvised wedding. What if it had been Miss Medusa in her place? What if she had not run off upset and tricked Gourry into marriage. She wouldn't be the first sea creature that tried to steal Gourry away, but Lina had a feeling that this time no conveniently timed gigantic waves would show up to take the flirtatious sea creature away. In a sense, she was glad she was the one to go through the marriage instead of Medusa.

Gourry's footsteps announced his return. He was carrying a tray with a bottle of soda and a chocolate cake. "Here you go!" He smiled cheerfully as if nothing was going on.

Lina occupied herself in eating while she continued thinking about the situation. She could get a divorce and hopefully things would go back to normal. Then again, she could simply ignore the marriage and keep on living as usual. Gourry was probably too much in his own little world to notice the difference between the life of a traveling companion and the life of a husband. Who was to say that anything had to change between them? So what if they were married, they could simply never speak of it again. Yet the nagging possibility of the 'what if' kept poking Lina on the back of the head with insisting annoyance. "Gourry," she finally asked, she wasn't going to stop thinking about it until she did. "What if Miss Medusa had tried to marry you?"

"She's my friend," Gourry stated simply as if that short explanation alone was enough.

Lina looked annoyed, "and?"

Gourry tilted his head to the side in confusion and blinked, echoing, "and?"

"And you would have married her?" Lina questioned with anger rising into her voice.

"Oh," Gourry expressed his realization upon understanding the question. "I don't think I know her well enough to think about that. I mean, she's my friend, but you've been my friend for a lot longer."

Gourry's logic seemed severely flawed to Lina. "Amelia has been your friend for a long time too," she pointed out.

"Yes," Gourry agreed and before Lina could shoot another exasperated impatient glare his way, he added, "but Amelia is in love with Zelgadis." The way he said it was as if it was the most obvious thing.

Lina paused and took in his words, "I guess she is..." she admitted, it was indeed very clear. "Zelgadis is obviously in love with Amelia too, but I wonder how he'll act as soon as this vacation is over. Amelia will have to return to Seyruun eventually and Zel is still stuck on finding his cure."

"A long distance relationship?" Gourry inquired. "I guess that could work, Zelgadis could go visit and stuff."

"I suppose," Lina agreed, "and Amelia is patient enough to wait for him." She realized then that they were getting severely off topic. "Wait a minute; this wasn't what we were talking about!"

Cue Gourry's short term memory, "it wasn't?"

"No it wasn't!" Lina snapped. "We were talking about you," 'and your possible brides,' she decided to add the last part only mentally. "What about Sylphiel?" Before Gourry could cluelessly ask 'what about her,' Lina elaborated. "You've known Sylphiel for longer than me, would you marry her?"

Gourry blinked in confusion, "aren't we already married? No one in my family has gotten married with two people at the same time."

Lina's face turned scarlet in a mixture of embarrassment and annoyance. "That's not the point!" She took in long ragged breaths as she tried to fight with herself to explain her question. "If we weren't married-"

Gourry interrupted with a worried expression, "you want to get a divorce already? Did I make you mad? Am I a bad husband?"

Lina stared at the floor, her whole body shaking in embarrassed anger. She pushed herself to continue, "if Sylphiel had asked you to marry her before you met me, would you have?"

Gourry appeared to give it some serious thought and finally replied, "I don't know. I guess I can't really imagine what things would be like if we haven't met. Back then, I was in the middle of a journey to improve my swordsmanship. I think it might have been too soon to think of marriage."

"So..." Lina focused on her breathing as she tried to get her voice to function. "Do you... do you love... Sylphiel?"

"Of course I do," Gourry smiled innocently.

"What?" Lina had to look up from the floor and stare at Gourry with an indescribable expression that was a mix of many contradicting emotions.

"I care about all my friends," Gourry's smile never faltered.

Lina sighed in exasperation, "of course you do." This conversation was clearly going in circles. Maybe Gourry had no idea what he was getting into, thus pretending it never happened would be easier than she thought. Unless Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, or worse yet, Xellos, decided to bring it up. Then Lina would be mortified.

"You know," Gourry started randomly, with a blank look that hinted that he wasn't going to say anything intelligent, yet that look could be deceiving. "I'm glad it was you I ended up getting married to."

"What do you mean by that?" Lina stammered red faced.

"Well, we're always together anyway and I'm your protector, right?" Gourry tried to logically explain his train of thought, which seldom followed logic anyway. "I was already planning to travel with you for the rest of my life, unless you went and kicked me out of the group or something. So why not? We make a good pair, don't you think?" There was a moment of silence. "Lina?" He looked at her curiously; it appeared that steam was coming from her ears as her face glowed like flames. Gourry gently placed his hand on Lina's forehead and quickly drew it back. "Whoa, you have a high fever!" He tried to use the now empty tray, which carried Lina's snack before, as a fan to compliment the natural soft breeze before Lina over-heated and collapsed.

"Gourry," Lina finally managed to make her voice work. "I... I don't think... I mean... It's so soon... It's so sudden... I'm... I'm not... I'm not ready for marriage," she finally pushed the words out.

"Oh," Gourry looked as if he would ask 'if you weren't ready for marriage, then why did you marry me?' but he didn't. Lina was known to change her mind at a seemingly random pace and Gourry could be patient with her. "That's okay, we can just go back to the way things were."

Yes, they could, Lina had thought of that. She felt a wave of relief when Gourry agreed to let that happen, yet she wasn't satisfied with his easy agreement. Didn't he start asking for an explanation when he thought she wanted a divorce not long ago? "About the marriage..."

Gourry shrugged, "we can just leave it as it is. You know, stay married but live like we always do, until you feel like living like married people."

Gourry's suggested plan of action caused Lina's blood to rush to her face yet again. If that kept on happening, she feared that her face would forever be a glowing red flame while the rest of her body was pale. She pushed away any thoughts concerning the life of married people and tried to focus on the fact that things could go back to normal. Yet one detail stood out to her, "so... you're okay with being married to me? You don't want to get a divorce?"

Gourry frowned, showing that he wasn't too fond of the idea of getting a divorce, but was willing to accept Lina's choice nonetheless. "Not unless you want to."

"It's okay," Lina finally agreed, her eyes once again gazing at the floor. "I guess we could just stay married and continued living normally for an undisclosed period of time."

"Undisclosed?" Gourry looked confused.

Lina tried to explain it without blushing, this had nothing to do with the situation, it was just another instance of Gourry's limited vocabulary. "I mean that I don't know for how long we'll be... engaged, before we... act married." She wasn't sure if she could even call it an engagement, but it seemed like the term that could most closely describe their agreement to remain married without living the life most would expect from a married couple.

"Okay," Gourry smiled, satisfied with the final choice on the matter.

"Right," Lina tried to calm her wildly beating heart. It had not yet fully sunk in that she was engaged, even if the point was for things to go back to normal. "I'm kind of tired so-" her sentence was interrupted by fireworks in the distance, they were painting the skies in abundant shining colors right above the north dome. She glanced at Gourry from the corner of her eyes and saw that his attention had been captivated by the far away lights. This was the typical Gourry getting easily distracted and maintaining a carefree attitude about everything.

Lina smiled despite all the embarrassment she had to endure that night. She could bear to stay awake for a while longer. They could watch the fireworks and afterwards go their separate ways to get some rest in their respective rooms. If in the morning any of their roommates dared to say anything about their apparent lack of honeymoon activities in their wedding night, Lina would shove a fireball in their face and that should keep any further comments at bay. Life isn't so hard once one has a plan to face the possible upcoming problems. Life is even easier when that plan is as simple as decimating your troubles with fireballs.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive - Episode 018: Indirect! Going In Circles

Filia hurried down the stairs outside of the north dome. In her haste, she tripped over her own feet, her eyes catching sight of something or someone at the base of the stairs before her attention went to the arm that was suddenly around her waist. She looked back at Xellos, who was standing behind her, stopping her from falling head first down the stairs. "You tripped me," she accused with little energy.

The once crowded area in front of the north dome was deserted. All those who wished to go to the ball were inside and those who wished to leave early were gone. The ones that stayed until the end would not leave in the middle of the fireworks display, thus Xellos and Filia were alone, except for that suspicious person on the bottom of the stairs slowly making his way up leaving a rather nasty trail of blood on each step. It didn't look like he had fallen down the stairs though.

"No I didn't," Xellos stated simply as a delayed response to Filia's accusation. His eyes trailed from the suspicious person back to Filia, his arm still around her waist. "I saved you from falling down the stairs and cracking your skull like a clumsy dragon," he added an extra dose of cheer into the part about cracking her skull.

"You can let go now," Filia took his arm, roughly removing it from her waist. She couldn't wait for the disastrous night to end. Amelia and Zelgadis were having a great time, Lina and Gourry got married, she was the only miserable one and Xellos must be really enjoying her misery. She faced forward and saw a most disturbing yet oddly reassuring sight. "It's him..." She let out a breath that could almost be described as dreamy, relieved and guilty all at once. Then she tore herself away from her momentarily frozen position and dashed down the stairs kneeling beside the man that Xellos identified as suspicious. "Phythan!"

He didn't say anything, he didn't even look up, he was trying to drag himself up the stairs as if in a trance. Filia wrapped her arms around the injured golden dragon. His eyes landed on her for a second and there was the shadow of recognition, he looked past her at the dome and the fireworks, then back at her. His eyes were clouded, "Fi... lia..." then he passed out from his injuries.

Xellos was standing beside Filia before she even knew it. "Who's that?" He peeked curiously over her shoulder. "Is he an old friend from your previous occupation, maybe? He looks like he was beaten quite badly. He's bleeding all over your dress too, how rude, not that I'm surprised that a golden dragon would have so little consideration."

"You monster!" As Phythan lost consciousness, Filia sat on the stairs with Phythan half on her lap and desperately casted a healing spell. "You did this!" Tears flowed freely from her eyes as she pushed all her healing energy out.

"How could I have done this if I was with you the whole time?" Xellos innocently pointed out, showing a noticeable amount of nonchalance towards the dilemma.

"You did it when you left; it's all your fault!" Filia continued pushing her healing powers to the limit. Something was off, Phythan was absorbing the healing energy, but at the same time becoming weaker as he did. The physical wounds were closing, but his life energy was diminishing with each pulsation of healing energy. At the same time, his life force wasn't completely giving up, it was clinging to something to stay alive, but it wasn't the spell.

"If I wanted to kill a golden dragon, I would be far neater than this," Xellos pointed out with a smile. "I'm not such a mediocre killer," he chirped.

"Get Amelia!" Filia felt her anger for Xellos becoming deeper. He was the one who killed many of her race during the war of the monster's fall. Even so, she somehow knew that he was telling the truth about not being responsible for this particular incidence. She was mostly accusing him out of frustration, worry, and because it felt natural to throw the blame at Xellos.

"Why should I?" Xellos was annoyingly unresponsive to the urgency of the matter, instead savoring the desperation. He focused on Filia, mostly ignoring the dying golden dragon.

"Get Amelia now!" Filia insisted, she couldn't move from her position and she couldn't finish the healing process alone, not with such a deep bleeding wound. "Please Xellos, just get her."

Filia's attention was focused on the injured golden dragon even when she was yelling at him. Feeling somewhat ignored, Xellos disappeared with a huff, "get her yourself."

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia and Zelgadis stood next to each other at the dome. They watched the sparks of multicolor lights through the glass ceiling and enjoyed the show. Amelia linked her arm with Zelgadis, her head lightly resting on his shoulder. He noticed of course, and dared not move an inch, though he very much enjoyed the moment. Then that annoying voice interrupted, "excuse me, Miss Amelia."

Amelia looked at the grinning Xellos, while Zelgadis, in contrast, glared at the grinning Xellos. "Yes?" Amelia wondered what this was about and where Filia had gone off to, since she and Xellos were together when Amelia last saw them.

"It seems Filia has run into an old compatriot of hers who happens to be mortally wounded." Xellos smiled brightly, his voice coated with delight. "He's doing a fine job of ruining her pretty dress with his blood; I must say that's quite rude of him. But alas, Filia insist on saving his worthless life and is asking for your assistance in healing him. Of course, I'm sure you'd rather not go. The fireworks are so lovely to look at from here."

The size of Amelia's wide eyed gaze grew with every word Xellos spoke. "Where are they?" She demanded, close to taking Xellos by the shoulders and shaking him for information.

"Just outside on the stairs, but I don't think it's worth your time." Before Xellos had finished his sentence, Amelia was already dashing past him, pushing her way through the crowd, ignoring the complaints of those she hurriedly shoved aside.

"If you're lying..." Zelgadis didn't bother finishing his threat, his glare said it all. He followed Amelia through the crowd.

"Why is everyone having such rotten luck today?" Xellos stated more so to himself than anyone else, as Zelgadis disappeared through the crowd in the same way Amelia did seconds prior. He hated to admit it, but he had to include himself in that statement.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Miss Filia!" Amelia hurried down the stairs, nearly falling, "levitation!" She went the rest of the way to meet Filia in the middle of the stairs and wasted no time in joining the recovery spell.

"Amelia, I'm so glad you're here, it works but it doesn't. The wound is too deep, even recovery spells are too harsh, I don't understand," Filia cried.

"We can do this, don't give up! Think positive!" Amelia tried to remain optimistic.

Phythan's eyes opened for a moment, they were blood red, almost glowing, "helplessness... desperation... sorrow..." He gasped as if being choked, closing his eyes tightly. When he opened them again they were brown. He looked at Filia and Amelia, staring at each of them for a long moment. There wasn't even the smallest hint of recognition in his eyes before they closed.

Filia didn't know what to make of Phythan's words, she was so focused that she didn't even notice the change in his eyes and neither did Amelia. The two could only feel their own energy flowing out of their bodies.

"Amelia! Filia!" Zelgadis caught up to them, kneeling beside the group. He casted a healing spell, just as Amelia had explained it to him during their travels.

"We're making progress!" Amelia noticed. She attributed it to the combined strength of their healing spells.

Finally, a few excruciatingly long seconds later, the wounds were completely healed and Phythan's breathing and heart rate stabilized considerably. "You're going to be okay." Filia breathed, she didn't know if Phythan could hear her or not, as he was left in a deep slumber after recovering, but she was in part saying those things to assure herself.

"Of course he will," Amelia caught the hint of doubt in Filia's voice, hiding behind the heavy curtain of exhaustion. "He's alright now," she emphasized, "everything will be alright."

Zelgadis felt the need to interrupt the talk of positivism in order to ask a very valid and important question. "Who is he and who did this to him?"

Filia brushed Phythan's golden hair with her tired fingers. "His name is Phythan; he's a golden dragon like myself, though he comes from a different temple. I met him at the resort."

Realization donned on Amelia as she took a closer look at Filia's date. She thought that if she ever came across him she would have to give him a piece of her mind for leaving poor Filia waiting for him at the ball. Yet sustaining a mortal wound and being dragged back to life after being an inch away from death was a relatively good excuse for missing a date. "Mr. Phythan..." Amelia examined his now still expression, wondering what kind of person he was.

Zelgadis simply looked confused. "Who exactly is Phythan? I mean aside from being a golden dragon."

"He's a special someone to Miss Filia!" Amelia answered for her with a dreamy expression suddenly invading her face despite the morbid state of affairs they appeared to be in.

"I see..." Zelgadis wisely decided not to further inquire about that line of thought.

Filia blushed and didn't confirm or deny anything, instead following Zelgadis' visual prompt to provide more information, specifically in relation to his second question. "I don't know who hurt him, but strange things have been going on in this resort. I've ran into a few monsters and I mean other than Xellos."

"I do think it's strange that Xellos would invite us on vacation. I was suspicious from the start," Zelgadis adamantly pointed out.

Amelia looked disappointed, "then Mr. Xellos isn't trying to be friendly? There's another plot from the monster race going on?"

"Most likely," Zelgadis agreed. "I mean, why would Xellos bring us here? There must be something he needs us to do. There might be an enemy hiding here, someone that he needs Lina to help him exterminate. It wouldn't be the first time something like that happens."

"I guess you're right," Amelia sighed, accepting the likely theory. "Let's be on our guard. For now, we should take Mr. Phythan somewhere to rest. We still have that extra room they gave us at the hotel and he'll be next door to us just in case."

"Yes..." Filia accepted the suggestion. "I suppose that's all we can do for now. When Phythan wakes up, he should be able to tell us something."

Thus Filia, Amelia, Zelgadis and the unconscious Phythan, whom Zelgadis ended up having to carry, made their way back to the hotel. They would have to inform Lina and Gourry about the recent happenings and their suspicions, even if it was a pity to interrupt their honeymoon.

xoxox xox xoxox

The night time hotel receptionist looked up from her desk at the sound of footsteps. She was very bored since people hardly came and went after a certain hour, though there were many attractions at the resort that were available twenty-four hours a day, such as the casino. Unlike most nights, one semi-interesting thing had happened tonight. A rather handsome blond man was carrying a red haired woman who kept throwing a hissy fit. It was a funny scene, as usually when a bride is carried away by her very attractive husband, she doesn't complain like that.

Now another highlight was added to her shift as her eyes glanced curiously at the quartet of guests. The hotel receptionist blinked, wondering if the dress the blond lady was wearing was supposed to have such a big red stain on it or not. Either way, the most amusing part was the man who was carrying that other man on his back. Maybe they were drunken buddies. They didn't say anything to her and she didn't say anything to them. After they were gone, she let out a bored breath and continued waiting out her shift.

Once they had gotten up the stairs, Filia, Amelia, Zelgadis and his unconscious passenger, Phythan, stopped in front of the door to the apparently unoccupied room. "Wait..." Amelia started unsure, her face taking a rosy red tint. "What if Miss Lina and Mr. Gourry have decided to move out of their current rooms and use this one instead? I mean, they're married so there's no reason for them to do the girls in one room and guys in another thing... right?"

A moment of silence paused as Zelgadis blushed. He couldn't imagine it and he didn't want to. "Do you... hear anything?" He finally inquired doubtfully.

Another moment of silence passed until Filia drew in a deep breath of courage and placed her pointy ear against the door. "I don't hear anything..."

Then the sound of an amused conversation was heard, but it wasn't coming from the vacant room. Lina and Gourry made their way through the hall, coming from the stairs that let to the roof. Amidst the occasional yawn, they were talking about how much the fireworks reminded them of kompeito. They stopped and looked at their friends. Lina shifted uncomfortably because she thought they were going to say something about her unexpected wedding. "Um... hey, everyone!" She tried to act natural and failed miserably. "Nice party, huh? Good food..."

"Miss Lina," Amelia began as gently as possible, "I'm afraid there's a most pressing matter that might cause you the need to postpone your honeymoon with Mr. Gourry."

Lina's face turned scarlet, "honeymoon..." was all she could say. Even if she expected this to be difficult and even if she had a plan, Lina was simply too restless to pull through with it. She took a deep breath and tried to focus on the plan. "Fireball... fireball..." she chanted under her breath as if giving herself a pep talk. Then she took a deep breath and decided to give her traveling companions a clear warning. "If anyone decides to tease me about my marriage I'm going to throw a fireball in their face no matter who it is!" She shouted at the top of her lungs, making Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis back away cautiously.

Gourry laughed nervously and decided to rescue Lina. She was shy sometimes, but he was okay with that and could be more perceptive on certain occasions than he was given credit for. "What Lina means is that we're not married, we're engaged and we're going to keep living as usual until an un-this-closed thing..."

Trying to keep her temper in check and the flow of her blood visiting parts of her besides her face, Lina did a super fast mental count to ten. "What he means is that everything is normal and nothing is out of the ordinary. In other words there's nothing to discuss and no reason why we should discuss it."

Amelia opened her mouth to point out that an engagement, even if it wasn't a marriage, was something to discuss in itself, but thought better of it and promptly closed her mouth before any sounds escaped. Instead she nodded quietly along with Zelgadis and Filia.

"Good," Lina nodded back, "well, it's been a busy day, so I'm going to get some rest." She paused noticing the fact that Zelgadis was carrying a man on his back. "Who's your friend, Zel?"

"Filia's boyfriend," Zelgadis replied on automatic, his brain not having yet recovered from the notion of danger in the face of a furious Lina, to the realization of relief in the knowledge that as long as she wasn't teased, she wouldn't get violent, or at least not more so than usual.

Filia blushed and slightly shook her head, "not quite," she corrected with relative calm. "This is Phythan, we were supposed to go to the masquerade ball together, but he couldn't attend because he was mortally wounded. Amelia and Zelgadis helped me heal him. Now we need a place for him to rest. We can ask him about what happened after he wakes up."

"So this is Phythan," Lina curiously went over to have a better look. She was at least glad that the topic of their conversation had shifted away from her, but she was already dreading the interruption to her vacation. It sounded like trouble was near.

"Can I put him down in the spare room?" Zelgadis inquired. Honestly, he just wanted to put his slumbering cargo down anywhere.

"Sure," Lina shrugged and watched as Amelia opened the door and Zelgadis carried the unconscious golden dragon inside.

Once Phythan was on the bed, Filia fluffed up his pillow and placed the covers over him. "Xellos might know what's going on. In fact, it's almost a given that he knows. Strange things have been happening around here and Xellos keeps coming and going." Filia frowned, glaring at the walls as if she was glaring at Xellos.

Lina nodded in agreement with the theory. "We'll have to ask Xellos about it tomorrow," then she shook her head. "What am I saying? All that we can possibly get out of asking Xellos for information is a lame 'that's a secret' excuse. I suppose if Phythan has some useful information for us, we can use that to figure out what's going on and maybe we'll even be able to help him with his problem and get a reward." It was expected of Lina to want a reward, so the statement was met with no surprise from anyone. "On the other hand, if Phythan doesn't have enough information for us, our best option would be to carry on as if this never happened."

"We can't do that!" Filia exclaimed with frustrated indignation. She couldn't pull the Luna card on Lina anymore as this wasn't an official mission.

"Mr. Phythan is in need of our help to defend against the forces of evil. Any agent of justice would be happy to assist him!" Amelia valiantly declared, with the particular heroic tone of her justice speeches, raising her fist into the air.

"I'm not saying we should abandon him," Lina defended. "I'm just saying that if we have no leads, then we'll be wasting our time going in circles about what we should do. If there really is a plot at hand, it will be revealed in due time and whoever is behind it will learn the hard way not to mess with Lina Inverse!"

Lina's declaration didn't leave any room for argument from the rest of the group as they exchanged glances and nods. Somehow, their adventures always began as a series of inevitable incidents that they tried to ignore as they went about their business, only to eventually be sucked into some kind of secret conspiracy, a plot for vengeance, world domination or something to that effect. For the time being, they retired to their respective rooms to get some much needed sleep. They would give the situation some further thought the next day.

To be Continued