Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Slayers: Alive ❯ Chapter 13

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Slayers: Alive - Episode 037: Emotions! Beating Hearts

Xellos was quite displeased with the revelation of him being an empath. "This annoyance isn't just because I'm stuck as a human. It's because I'm an empathic human, meaning I have it worse than most. I wonder what other diseases I'll discover as time goes by."

"It's not a disease!" Filia insisted. "What you call an annoyance is a wonderful ability. You'll be able to understand so much!"

"Right now the only thing I want to understand is how to get cured," Xellos let the words flow out without thinking of them. Tired humans were certainly stupid; they had a great knack for saying what they didn't want to say. He missed having the well rested clear head of a monster who didn't have to worry about the effects of exhaustion like a human did.

"Do you have any clues?" Filia questioned with interest. It probably wouldn't be long before Lina started asking about it. But that would probably come when the battles started to bother her and the easy cash stopped being easy.

"Yes," Xellos admitted cautiously. He would sound stupid if he lied and said no, but admitting that he did have a clue also meant that Filia would want to hear it.

"Well?" Filia prompted after Xellos remained silent following his single syllable response.

"Well what?" He gave her an innocent look and grinned, much like he used to do before.

Filia was too tired to snap, thus she stretched her patience to conserve energy. "What clues about your cure have you found so far?"

"Only rumors," Xellos made another long pause, while Filia stared at him expectantly. He considered waiting for another verbal prompt from her, but instead got a more amusing idea. "One of the rumors is that I should eat the heart of a golden dragon." If it was taken as a metaphor, a very odd metaphor, then it was in a strange sense true.

"You're lying," Filia accused unsure. "You are lying, aren't you?"

"I might be inclined to test that theory if worse comes to worse," Xellos gave Filia a teasing grin, feeling a little more comfortable now that he was in the familiar territory of trying to get on her nerves.

Remembering that Xellos was currently lacking in the power department, Filia gave him a stubborn and triumphant look. "How would you manage? You can't kill me."

"That's what servants are for," Xellos retorted.

It took Filia a moment to realize who he meant. "Your bodyguard?" She paused and mused over it. "This is Lina Inverse we're talking about, she's greedy but... I don't think she would go as far as turning against me."

"I suppose I could just send her off to slay some other golden dragon," Xellos conceded. "That's where her favorite spell got its name after all. It would be good if she got to use it properly."

Filia didn't like where the conversation was going. Slaying some stranger for money, yeah, Lina would do that. At least Filia knew that she, Tiffany and Phythan were safe from Lina's rage, or at least she liked to think they were. Either way, she still didn't like the idea of Xellos eating a dragon's heart. "What other clues do you have?"

"Love," he stated boldly.

Filia couldn't help it but to gasp. "Love," she repeated. "A cure like in a fairy tale? Falling in love breaks the curse? Or maybe..."

Xellos knew that Filia was close to theorizing about a loving kiss and he didn't want that theory to reach her so soon. It might seriously mess things up in the long run. Instead he grinned seductively and clarified, "making love with a golden dragon, in human form that is."

Filia's face immediately turned crimson as the images of the accidental fan service she got from Xellos resurfaced in her mind without her consent. "Now I know you're lying! Those are not real clues!"

"And if it was true?" Xellos proposed the possibility, his eyes unblinking on Filia's.

"Ah... that's... impossible..." Filia stuttered, unable to look away. "I'm tired; I'm going to sleep... now."

"Running away?" He leaned forward and she leaned back.

"No," Filia further backed away on the couch as if being pushed back by an invisible force.

"It sure looks that way," Xellos kept on leaning forward until he saw Filia's head touch the soft surface of the couch. "Then you're staying?"

Filia tried to register her surroundings. She was on her couch, in her living room. That much made some sense, what didn't have a shred of logic in it was the fact that Xellos was on top of her. How did he get there anyway? It's not like he could teleport as things stood. "Sleep, just go to sleep and quit keeping me awake already! You're a terrible house guest!" Trying to argue with Xellos was the only method Filia could come up with to inject a tiny amount of logic into the situation.

"Okay," Xellos face was so close to Filia's she could feel his breathing. Then he surprisingly released her from the lock his eyes had on hers and laid his head down. "Good night, Filia."

"Night..." Filia pushed the words out, only managing the latter half of the phrase. She tried to take deep breaths and calm down, but the task of being calm was difficult since Xellos was still on top of her. Her hand slowly reached over and she ran her fingers through his hair while she fought with herself to react in a less welcoming way. Then finally she did, "get off you pervert!" Her voice came with less anger than she had hoped but the little shove she gave Xellos was enough to make him lift his head off her.

"Pervert?" He repeated the accusation in perplexity. "I wasn't the one who got a full view of fan service." He reminded, knowing it would embarrass her more than anything.

Again the images of the fan service she had received assaulted Filia. The pictures in her head were far too clear, too detailed. She didn't even know how she managed to take in everything in the short time it took her to react and get herself out of there. "You... touched my chest." She protested weakly, as if her will just wasn't in it.

"My hands are here," Xellos massaged Filia's shoulders to remind her in a rather tactile way of where his hands were currently positioned.

"With your head," Filia pointed out. "I never said you could do that."

"I see, how rude of me not to ask," Xellos mocked. "Body, it looks like your consent isn't enough to get you what you want, you'll have to convince Mind first. Good luck with that, I know that Mind is very stubborn and hardly ever agrees with you, Body."

"Stop talking to my mind and body as if they were too separate entities!" Filia snapped in annoyance. What really bothered her was probably the fact that he had a point, not that she would ever admit it.

"As much as I hate to admit it," and he really hated to admit it. "We both know that if you wanted me to get off you, you could have thrown me clear across the room, or even out the window and across town, without much effort."

Filia opened her mouth to protest then closed it again. He had her there, being a dragon, Filia was strong. The weight of a human man was nothing to her and she had picked up and carried Xellos before just as easily as she would carry a feather. She sat up, pushing Xellos to do the same. "I forgot," she was only half lying. She had not forgotten the fact that given the current circumstances, she held the greater power; she had just forgotten that she wanted to fight back, because maybe for a while she didn't want to.

Filia's opportunity to just get up and walk back to her room came and went quickly. Xellos wrapped his arms around her and pulled her down on the couch on the opposite side this time. "If you want to be on top that badly, I suppose I can humor you. Comfortable?"

Filia slightly pushed herself up and looked at Xellos, her golden hair cascading like a curtain around their faces. "It's too crowded in my room and you can't sleep with the noise of snoring in the guys' room." She tried to find some sort of excuse for the arrangement and realized that everything she came up with severely lacked in the logic department. It's not like she couldn't go sleep on the couch opposite to that one on the other side of the living room with the coffee table and some false conclusion repelling distance between them. Then again, this was her house, her living room, her couch, why should she move? Yet Xellos was too stubborn to move. The argument would end in nothing, so they might as well share, forget if it was reasonable or not, it was possible, it was happening.

Then the sound of a continuous rhythm cut into Filia's thoughts. It was strangely comforting. Xellos had somehow gotten her to lay her head down while she was lost in thought, one of his hands now caressing her hair, the other arm around her waist. She closed her eyes to curiously hear the sound that was somewhat fast, but not in an agitated way, it was calm and content, yet energetic. A heartbeat? Of course, it was a heartbeat, no human could live without one and that heartbeat's rhythm was not within Xellos' control in his current state. Filia was almost hypnotized by the continuous sound, focusing on it and allowing herself to relax until she drifted off to sleep.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia was woken up the next day by the sound of someone tearing her kitchen apart. She stretched on what she thought was her bed and wondered why the atmosphere was so loud. She tried to get a few more precious seconds of sleep, but found it impossible as dreamland faded away to make her senses clear. Then she realized that she wasn't on her bed and she wasn't alone. She jumped several feet in the air, landing in a perfect standing position next to Xellos. He grinned in amusement, "nice jump," then got up in a much more normal way.

Mortified at the possibility that someone had seen her cuddling Xellos in her sleep, Filia rushed to the source of the sound coming from the kitchen. Her embarrassment faded into anger as she saw Lina tearing through her icebox and cabinets. As expected, everyone slept in and it was already mid day. In the middle of the war that was just getting started in the kitchen, Jillas popped his head into the war zone and insistently requested, "can you keep it down, I'm trying to talk to someone."

The person, or rather people, whom Jillas was attempting to converse with were revealed when a small fox boy curiously wondered into the kitchen. "Are they your friends, uncle?"

Jillas took a moment to study their wild behavior and recall their past encounter, but in the end he sighed hopelessly and replied with a simple, "something like that."

"I found pancake batter!" Gourry victoriously announced, before Lina snatched it away.

Realizing that she couldn't eat it as it was, Lina looked at Filia with pleading eyes. "I want pancakes!" She held out the ingredient. "Please Filia, I'm too hungry to make them myself, besides, I'm a guest here and this is your kitchen."

"Exactly!" Filia blew up, though thankfully it was only metaphorically, "it's my kitchen and you're tearing it apart!"

A fox woman with fur the same light blond color as the young boy now stood at the kitchen door along with her son and dear friend. She smiled sweetly and laughed cutely, "your friends are so energetic." She then proceeded to make an offer no one could refuse, "how would you like to come have a meal at my house?"

"Yes!" Lina immediately agreed, she glanced at Filia with a big grin, "now that's hospitality."

Jilla's jaw dropped as he looked back and forth between Lina and the fox woman. "Elena, are you sure? I thought you only made enough for Palou, you and me."

"I could always cook more," Elena assured.

"Elena and Palou," Lina moved forward, shaking Elena's hand. "It's nice to be formally introduced, I think I've seen you before, but I might have been in a rush at the time. Anyway, I appreciate your invitation, lead the way!"

"We're having a lot of friends over for lunch," Palou cheered, "this is great!"

"You got it kid," Lina patted the boy's head in a big sister fashion, "you can have us for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time as often as you want!" Palou looked happy with Lina's statement, proving that he was an optimistic child too young to know what ultimate doom was, even if it was right in front of him.

xoxox xox xoxox

The entire group, consisting of Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos, Naga, Gravos and Jillas went off to the new home of Elena and Palou. There they piled around the table as well as they could, elbow with elbow trying to fit. Elena served the food she had prepared and immediately got ready to make some more. Feeling guilty at the invasion, Filia and Amelia offered to help at the kitchen, while Gravos and Jillas were the waiters and took care of washing the pots, pans and kitchen utensils. Gourry tried to help too, but after his third broken dish, Elena politely insisted that he should just sit down and enjoy his meal, to which he gladly agreed.

While they cooked and ate, trying to stop Lina from chewing up the table cloth, they talked about the first time Elena came to town. She had left the countryside along with her son, after running into a bad harvest that forced her to sell the lands. "Palou and I were just passing through town, we didn't know if we would move here or not. We went into the Vases and Maces shop out of curiosity and were surprised to find Jillas there. After I told him the story, he helped me pick out a house in town and even went out of his way to help furnish it. Jillas and Gravos have been very kind to us, they've also spoken very highly of you, Filia. I couldn't wait to meet you."

"Wow, it looks like a lot has happened while I was away," Filia observed. "It's good to meet you too, Elena, I can tell Jillas is very fond of you and Palou. If you ever need anything, you can count on me too."

"Thank you," Elena smiled. Filia wasn't sure if it was her imagination or not, but she thought she saw a faint blush through Elena's pale fur when she mentioned Jillas was fond of her. The fox lady sighed in a motherly fashion as she glanced at her son, chatting animatedly with everyone at the table. There was only a counter between the dinning area and kitchen, thus the brunch guests were easy to see and hear from the small kitchen. "I'm so glad Palou was able to adapt to living in a new town. He was sad after we left the farm; it was the last thing we had left of his father. But when he saw Jillas he cheered up almost instantly."

"Palou's father..." Filia couldn't help it but to wonder about him. She immediately stiffened and wished she could take the words back. She didn't want to put Elena in an uncomfortable position.

Noticing Filia's reaction, Elena tried to reassure her with a smile. "He passed away many years ago when bandits attacked us. He managed to drive them away and kept Palou and me safe, but his injuries were grave. I mourned him for a long time as calmly as I could, so as to not make Palou sad. Many years have passed, Palou was just a baby when it happened. I think what's best is to go on with life and make the best of it."

"I agree," Filia voiced with admiration. "You must have a strong will to have managed the farm on your own, and even after you had to leave it, you stayed strong for your son." Filia smiled with some of Elena's contagious cheer. "Like I said, if you need anything, please let me know. As far as I'm concern, you and Palou are part of our little family." Filia had an unusual family, she mused, Gravos, Jillas, Val, none of them were everyday beings.

Amelia's eyes shone with admiration. "You're a truly amazing person, Elena, you can count on me too!"

"It's good to know I have someone to count on, thank you both." Elena set another dish on the counter, this time lasagna, which was swiftly taken to the table and devoured just like the barbecue ribs before it.

Filia sighed with grim discomfort, "I feel bad about how everyone is consuming a month's supply of food in just one meal that started out as breakfast and turned into lunch."

"Don't worry about it, I love to cook and have thought about starting a restaurant in this town. I always wanted to have my own restaurant," Elena confessed. "At least this way I could get some recommendations."

"I know I would definitely recommend your cooking!" Amelia happily exclaimed. Though she and Filia were helping cook, they did have time to eat a little too.

"I agree, you're cooking skills are amazing," Filia added. Thus the lunch went by pleasantly without any major incidents.

After everyone was full, or at least satisfied, Xellos approached Lina with a request, while the group was caught up in pleasant small talk. "I think it's time to discuss some business with you, if you don't mind accompanying me for a while."

"Business?" Lina's thoughts were occupied only with the sweet memories of the delicious recent meal so it took her a moment to realize what Xellos was talking about. Then the notion came to her, of course, she was his bodyguard. Where could Xellos be planning to go that he would need to be guarded? "Oh, that business, what about it?"

"There's just some matters I need to take care of in the outskirts of town. It won't take too long," at least Xellos hoped it wouldn't.

"Right, I guess it is sort of my job. You should at least tell me what I'm up against before it becomes obvious." Lina inquired, giving Xellos an urgent look that reminded him that if his bodyguard fell in combat, he would be virtually helpless.

"It's nothing difficult or dangerous," Xellos assured as he got up from his seat, thus getting a few glances from the group. "It's been a wonderful meal, but I must go tend to some business now."

"Aw, you're leaving so soon, Xellos?" Palou seemed to have taken a liking to Xellos. Then again, the fox boy took a liking to the entire group quite easily. Needless to say, he wasn't picky.

"I just have a few things to do, but I'll be in town for a while." Xellos ruffled the boy's headfur, with his usual cheery grin, which Palou returned.

"Time for me to get to work too," Lina stretched as she stood up. "That was an awesome meal, I can't say it enough. See you later guys!"

"I'm happy you both enjoyed your time here, drop by again soon." Hearing Elena's words, the group concluded that she was simply too nice and Jillas made a silent vow to protect her from any trouble that being too compliant with Lina Inverse could get her into.

"Do you need help with the business?" Gourry inquired curiously.

"Do we?" Lina gave Xellos another suspicious look.

"No further assistance is needed, but I have nothing against any additional presence," Xellos calmly replied. He didn't voice it, but the exception to that was Filia, he had his reasons for not wanting her along. For the same pride related reasons, Xellos would prefer to have as few witnesses as possible while he carried out his business, but saying that would just make the group curious. Thankfully, Filia was feeling too guilty about the remaining mountain of dishes and eating utensils that still needed to be washed to go anywhere.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive - Episode 038: Enigma! The Unanswered Question

At Elena's house at Filia's home town, Lina and Xellos were just about to leave to tend to some business that she still wasn't fully certain about. Lina shrugged; maybe she was blowing this mysterious business out of proportion. Maybe Xellos just needed some fresh air, or he wanted to look around town or investigate something or other. Maybe he was just being careful by asking her to tag along. "You guys should stay here," she then gave Gourry an 'I know you' look. "That goes for you too Gourry, I'm sure you'll have fun playing soccer with Palou as soon as you're done digesting."

"Okay!" Gourry smiled happily with a similar reaction from Palou. Thus, Lina and Xellos left the group crowding at Elena's small home and exited to the town street.

Outside, Xellos led the way down the main street, towards the edge of town. "You said you needed to go to the outskirts of town. What's there, a clue for your cure maybe? We haven't really talked about that."

"You don't need to worry about it; I'm conducting my own investigation constantly. Leave the cure to me." Xellos assured with a hint in his voice that he wanted to stop discussing the topic. Before Lina could further comment about the cure and its apparent research that she had not noticed he was doing, Xellos went on to the next topic, the most immediate matter at hand. "The reason why I need you to come with me just outside of town is something that will make your job easier in the future." He could hardly believe he was actually asking for this, but it could really be a necessity for survival next time. He didn't want to fully depend on the protection of his bodyguard all the time.

"If it'll make my job easier, then I'm all up for it!" Not surprisingly, Lina was all too eager to make her reward even easier to obtain. "What exactly did you have in mind?"

"I need to train in the use of magic," Xellos revealed as Lina's face indicated she made the connection. If Xellos could defend himself, then he wouldn't need to play the bodyguard card quite as often in the future. "My monster magic is no longer with me, but I'm sure I'm able to cast spells, I just need a little training on how to focus my energy in this form."

"Alright!" Lina cheered as they reached a wide open area just outside of town. There was plenty of space to practice there. "You got yourself a magic teacher, but don't expect me to go easy on you. If you want a passing grade, you'll have to earn it!"

"I expect as much." Xellos had his cheerful grin that he often showed as a monster. He was starting to get better at controlling his expressions though his face still acted on its own now and then, especially around Filia.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Gravos returned to the Vases and Maces shop for a late opening. He assured Filia that nothing like this happened while she was away and that today had been an exception. Filia was inclined to believe it and let it pass. She was the official shop manager and she had not done anything to get it open on time that day either. Naga was eager to help play shop keeper, maybe too eager, but Filia let her be. If having beastmen around the shop didn't bother her customers, they wouldn't mind a scantily clad human.

Leaving Gravos in charge of the shop while Jillas got the day off to help Elena entertain her guests, Filia had gone to the market. She would need to have a lot of food available if she was going to survive being what Lina would define as a decent host, though she could never explain why she felt so compelled to try. She also still felt bad about Lina and company consuming Elena's food supplies, especially since she was planning to start a business in a town that she was still new at. Filia remember how difficult it was to first establish her shop and it would have made it harder if her raw materials were taken away before she could even truly start.

While shopping for herself and secretly shopping for Elena, Filia ran into one of her neighbors. "Filia, you're back in town," the old lady smiled fondly in a grandmotherly way.

Filia immediately felt guilty that she had not gone to Hanna's house upon her arrival in town. She had simply been so busy it slipped her mind. "Yes, I just got back..."

"Good to see you, child," Hanna didn't seem to have any intentions of bringing up Filia's quiet return. The old woman ran a hand through her gray hair, her bright blue eyes a testament of the beauty she once possessed in younger days. "It's a fine day here at the market in terms of weather, but not so great in terms of merchandise. It seems the crops were bad this year. I heard a lot of farmers got into trouble for it," Hanna sighed in pity. "I do hope the harvest somehow improves, or else I might not find the ingredients I need for your welcome back stew."

"Aw, you don't need to," Filia's guilt increased, even though Hanna was clearly trying to make her feel welcomed. She glanced at what was in the market place. Elena must have brought over what she managed to harvest at her farm to get her business started and now even that was gone. It was clear the market didn't have much in stock. Filia sighed sadly; the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the market was depressing.

"I know what will cheer you up." Hanna may not have enough ingredients for her family recipe, but she could make something else. It was something simple, yet delicious and refreshing. "How about you come over for a milkshake later?"

Filia knew that Hanna would appreciate the company, which she was all too happy to provide. Talking to the old lady was always fun, she had many stories to share and delicious treats to go with them. Her home was flooded with a familiar atmosphere that would make people feel as if they were walking into their grandmother's house from their very first visit. "I would love to." Filia agreed, a nice relaxing time in the company of kind Hanna was just what Filia needed.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the edge of town, far enough not to disturb the residents, Lina threw a freeze arrow into the air. "Fireball!" Xellos hit the target perfectly.

Lina grinned, "good, looks like you got the hang of that, now, let's try it in rapid succession. Melt all the arrows. Freeze arrow! Freeze arrow!" Lina continued repeating the spell as fast as she could, making Xellos push himself to cast fireballs faster.

The fireballs had to be strong enough to melt the arrows of ice, fast enough to keep up with them and well aimed, since Lina was throwing the icy spells in every direction. The exercise continued for several minutes until Lina thought it was enough. Xellos felt his energy starting to run low, but he wasn't about to stop now, not when Lina was still in top form. Casting spells with a smaller supply of different energy to back them up was tricky, but he could manage. It was a challenge he would have to conquer the sooner the better. Xellos wasn't planning to bother training as a human at first, but since the process of obtaining the cure was taking so long, he might need to be better versed in combat in his current form, just in case something unexpected came up.

"Very good, you're a pretty clever student," Lina commended with a sadistic grin. "Now on to the advanced lessons and if you make a mistake I'm afraid there will be consequences..."

xoxox xox xoxox

Later that day, Filia was on her way to meet Hanna for milkshakes. As she walked down the street, she saw Lina and Xellos having returned from taking care of business. Xellos' black hair was standing up in every direction, he was covered in dirt and his clothes were singed. Filia felt her heart sink as she worried about the worse. "You were attacked out there!" She jumped to conclusions as she ran to meet them. "Look at him!" Filia tried to smooth out Xellos' hair, only to draw back her hand upon noticing the surge of static it carried. "You were supposed to be his bodyguard!" She scolded.

"I am," Lina feigned innocence, "but at Xellos' request, I was also his magic trainer. I'm sure the static will go away in a little while. The electric shock discipline made wonders for his progress." Lina still had the same look of innocence in her face, but her eyes were full of mischievous vengeful malice.

"Magic lessons..." Filia stared back and forth between Xellos and Lina.

Seeing that Filia had fallen into a silence of surprise during which she tried to picture the process and wished she had been there to see it, Xellos found it necessary to break the quietude. "I passed."

"That is an achievement not to be taken lightly," Lina assured with a severe look. Her serious expression morphed into a carefree face after the endorsement. "Is everyone still hanging out at Elena's place?"

"Mostly, yes," Filia finally found her voice to reply.

"I guess I'll head on over there, see you two later." Lina continued on her merry way down the street off to Elena's house.

Filia decided not to ask why she assumed that Xellos would want to be left alone with her instead of going off to meet up with everyone or taking off on his own around town. She tried not to think too much about it and assumed that some of her healing magic would come in handy. "C'mon, you can get cleaned at my house and I'll heal you. I have some anti-frizz shampoo that will fix your hair too."

"Filia being kind, the world is a truly strange and random place!" Xellos followed the golden dragon with no resistance.

Filia only rolled her eyes at his teasing. "You know that's not true. I won't let your teasing criticism get to me."

"Really?" Xellos grinned, he was exhausted from his brutal magic lesson, but being around Filia somehow filled him with energy. He leaned close to her and whispered something in her ear.

Filia gasped, her face turning red, "Xellos!"

"If teasing criticism won't work, how about a teasing compliment?" That certainly did the trick.

Filia pouted and glared. "That was... it took me by surprise that's all, and it was too forward." She quickened her pace, hoping that when they got to her place Xellos would stop teasing her in favor of getting cleaned up.

Filia entered her shop to find Naga putting up a few vases she didn't recognize. "You're back, what do you think, nice isn't it? Ah! ha ha ho ha ha!"

"You made those?" Filia hated to admitted, but Naga had real talent shaping the vases and decorating them. "They're good."

"Gravy thought so too," Naga smiled victoriously as she glanced at Gravos with a wink.

"Gravy?" Filia repeated in confusion. She glanced at Gravos who only shrugged with a slight pink tint on his cheeks. What in the world had this woman done to him.

Before Filia could further inquire about what was going on between those two, Xellos linked his arms with hers and took her away. "Good job managing the shop, keep at it, don't mind us," then he led her to the living area of the structure.

Once they were out of earshot, Filia frowned deeply. "There's something going on between those two and I don't like it. That scandalously clad woman is not right for Gravos, not to mention they're not even the same species!"

"I thought you had gotten over your racism," Xellos reminded critically.

"I'm not racist, if I was, I wouldn't have the family I do!" Filia argued. "I'm just worried about Gravos. I mean sure, Naga is Amelia's sister, but she's nothing like Amelia. Her morals seem rather loose." Filia paused upon realizing that Xellos seemed distracted. He had led her back to the bathroom, where he was sorting through her personal hygiene supplies. "Are you listening to me?"

"Which was that shampoo that you wanted to recommend?" Xellos continued examining the multitude of bottles; they all looked the same to him. "It better not smell like flowers or fruit."

"You can't just brush off my concerns!" Filia pointed her accusing finger at Xellos, her expression growing in anger.

Xellos shrugged, "Gravos can decide for himself what he wants to do. It's just like you golden dragons to try to control everyone and push them to your standards."

"I'm not pushing them; I haven't even said anything to them!" Filia argued adamantly.

"You're pushing me to back you up so I would help you push them." Xellos pointed out with an extremely annoying smile.

Filia opened her mouth with a comeback in mind, but before the words could roll off her tongue, she stopped herself and instead went for a simple, "I hate you."

Xellos maintained his cheerful smile and replied with a terribly vexing, "I love you too."

"Don't even joke about that," Filia scolded. She had quietly decided that Gravos was a big boy and could figure out what he should and shouldn't do on his own. She wouldn't interfere with him and would advise him only if he requested it.

Maybe getting cured was further away than Xellos thought. He was still curious to know about how far it really was though. "Is it really such a terrible catastrophe?"

"It is," Filia firmly stated with a hint of hurt in her eyes, "because you're lying. You shouldn't tell someone you love them as a joke. Do it only if you mean it. If you don't mean it, don't say it. Don't say it for pity, don't say it for influence and definitely don't say it as a joke."

Xellos raised an eyebrow in curiosity, "touchy," his empathic abilities allowed him to feel what Filia felt. Frustration? Pain? Longing? "Did someone break your heart in the past or something?"

Filia blinked, strangely enough, Xellos' question didn't sound teasing. His eyes revealed more curiosity than concern, but he wasn't mocking. True perplexity was projected by Filia, further confusing Xellos. "No," she finally answered after giving it some thought. "My feelings have been hurt and the list of those who hurt them certainly includes you. But I can't say I've been heart broken in the romantic sense."

"Really?" Xellos' curiosity increased. "Then why does it bother you so much if I say I love you?" He noticed that she almost cringed at the phrase and there was that deep longing again.

Filia didn't know how to properly answer. She didn't fully understand it herself. "It's because you don't mean it," she insisted. He could criticize her and it would bother her, but it wouldn't hurt this much. He could even criticize her in a truthful way if he wanted, no one was perfect and the golden dragons had their history. It would hurt to hear his reproach even if he said it in an impersonal and unconcerned way, but it wouldn't hurt as much as this.

"Do you want me to?" Xellos finally asked, "do you want me to love you?" He knew he was threading on dangerous ground. He could feel Filia walking along the edge of an emotional break down. One false step when she was so sensitive and he could ruin all his progress. He had to push away his curiosity and hold back his questions. For the sake of the greater good, he had to be gentle with Filia right now. Besides, he didn't particularly enjoy such emotions as the ones she was feeling pouring into him so uncontrollably. "Do you really think you have something here that can fix my hair?"

Filia seemed to be woken up from a dangerous daze. She held on to the cue for a normal conversation as if it were her only life line. "Yes!" All too eager to leave the unusual conversation behind and focus on hair products and their familiar logic, the golden dragon began to sort through her supplies, making recommendations.

The heavy question remained unanswered for the time being, but Filia couldn't help it but to hear it echo in the back of her mind every now and then in Xellos' curious and not mocking voice. 'Do you want me to love you?' Why would she want that? Why would she wish for the impossible?

xoxox xox xoxox

After Xellos was cleaned up and healed, with his hair looking as pretty as ever, Filia realized that she was running very late to meet Hanna. She should have just gone while Xellos was still in the bathroom, but she couldn't help it but to sit by the window stealing glances at the closed door in deep thought. "I was supposed to be meeting someone," Filia stated, trying to inject as much anger into her voice as she could. "It's your fault I'm late for distracting me!" She accused with little energy. "Poor Hanna is going to think I've forgotten all about her. She doesn't have any children to keep her company and her husband passed away years ago. I shouldn't have kept her waiting this long!"

As she spoke, Filia picked up a pink towel and placed it over Xellos' head to dry his hair. "So you waited for me to finish getting cleaned up to tell me all this instead of rushing over to meet that poor old lady who's all lonely waiting for you?" Xellos retorted from under the towel, he preferred purple towels. Although pink looked good on Filia, everything looked good on Filia. Wait a minute, where had those thoughts about everything looking good on Filia come from?

"I just remembered it now," Filia tossed the towel aside. She didn't feel like being tidy, which meant she wasn't in the best of moods. She picked up a brush and put it to use on Xellos' hair.

"Are you sure? It looks more like you stayed behind just to play with my hair," he teased.

Filia pouted, "someone has to take care of you."

"I'm not helpless," Xellos reminded for what felt like the millionth time.

"I know," satisfied with her work, Filia put the brush away and glanced at the pink towel she had tossed aside. She couldn't resist the urge and picked it up too, nothing good would come out of being a slob. Feeling that her response wasn't enough she added, "I just wanted to help," then she left it at that with nothing more to say.

"Well, let's go," Xellos prompted.

"Go where?" Filia's confusion was evident on her face.

"Are you suffering from memory problems?" Xellos mocked, "you said it just now. Some lonely old lady is waiting for you, so let's go meet her. If she's as lonely as you say, she won't mind if you bring an extra guest."

Filia pouted, narrowed her eyes suspiciously and placed her hands on her hips. "You're not coming, you'll just embarrass me!" An argument followed concerning the matter. The bickering went back and forth for several minutes until predictably, Filia gave in.

Xellos sported a victorious grin as he and Filia made their way down the street towards Hanna's house, while Filia fought with her face to stop pouting.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive - Episode 039: Truth! The Unspoken Answer

"Hairclips! Headbands! Bracelets! Rings! Earrings! Necklaces! Accessories from far away!" Several townspeople surrounded the traveling merchant taking longer than needed to examine his wares, just because he happened to be in the path that Filia and the mystery man were on. The neighbors of Filia's home town were certainly gossipy people. They weren't malicious, just curious. She was peculiar enough, being a dragon and having beastmen shop keepers, but her band of visitors was even stranger. It was an open minded town that welcomed all species as long as they didn't cause trouble, but they still had the need to know more about what may not be any of their business.

Filia walked past the merchant, who was clearly from out of town as she didn't recognize him. There was nothing particularly special about the young man with short dirty blond hair and brown eyes, but his merchandise covered in shiny little crystals caught Filia's eyes. She would have stopped to examine the accessories he was selling, if not for the fact that she knew the neighbors were looking at her. Xellos must have surely noticed their curious glances. If she stopped, she would be setting herself up for embarrassment.

Someone might inquire about who Xellos was and what he meant to Filia. Then Xellos would open his big mouth and tell them something that was completely wrong, which would make the rumors spread across town and Filia would be mortified. Worse yet, he might unknowingly tell them something that was completely right, then Filia didn't know what she would do with herself, but her possible actions towards Xellos included beating him to a bloody pulp with her mace.

Away from the merchant and the neighbors who used him as a shield to spy on Filia, the dragon and the monster turned human reached their destination. Taking a deep breath, Filia knocked on the wooden door of the quaint little house and called out as cheerful as she could, "Hanna! It's Filia!"

The door was opened not a second later, which hinted to Filia that Hanna had been expectantly waiting for her. "Come in, dear," the old woman stepped aside to allow her visitors passage. "Oh, you've brought a guest, how nice!" She led them to the living room were they sat on a couch filled with cushions.

Filia thought the cushions were super cute, they had pictures of bunnies, kittens, flowers and other adorable things edged into them, plus they were extra fluffy. Hanna's home was filled with paintings as one would expect a classic grandmother house to be filled with pictures. None were of her children since she didn't have any, but she did have images of her and her husband in their younger days and visual representations of dear friends whom she saw as children or grandchildren. There were paintings of Filia, Jillas and Gravos too.

Xellos didn't really like the atmosphere. It was far too fluffy and homey, it made him feel uneasy, plus the old woman was plotting. He didn't know what she was plotting, but she was plotting something. "This is Xellos," Filia's voice bringing forward the obligatory introductions pushed Xellos out of his thoughts. "Xellos, this is Hanna, she's a very dear friend to me." The acknowledgement of their friendship came in the tone of an imperative warning towards Xellos.

"It's very good to meet you, Xellos," Hanna smiled sweetly.

A cold chill ran down Xellos' spine, "it's nice to meet you too." He gave her a critical look as if to say he knew she was plotting and he wouldn't fall for whatever she had in mind.

Hanna's smile never wavered as she headed to the kitchen, "I'll have the promised milkshakes ready in a second. Is your favorite still strawberry vanilla, Filia?"

"Yes please," Filia replied while giving Xellos a critical look. Her eyes were screaming 'behave!' louder than any words could.

"What about you, Xellos?" Hanna inquired with her sweet grandmotherly tone.

"Dark chocolate and grape," Xellos replied, being honest yet challenging.

Filia glared at him and discreetly elbowed him. She assumed he was being difficult on purpose, but Hanna didn't seem to mind. "That brings back memories; it was my husband's favorite too! He liked it with a hint of cinnamon."

"Sounds like he had good taste," Xellos observed, while Filia's worries grew. Now he was going to pretend to make friends with Hanna just so he could embarrass Filia. She was expecting it, but couldn't stop it. Why did she have to bring Xellos over?

"Here you go, dears," Hanna finished the cool drinks. Filia's had swirls of pink and white with extra sugar and Xellos' had swirls of black and purple with extra cinnamon. The old lady prepared a third shake for herself, it was lemon apple with swirls of green and yellow. Then the three sat down with their drinks and the host voiced the observation she had noticed a while ago. "Filia, honey, you're so tense, is everything okay?"

"Everything is fine!" Filia exclaimed louder than necessary. She gave Hanna a big smile then occupied herself with her drink as an excuse not to speak further.

"Xellos," Filia jumped in her seat as Hanna addressed the cause of her stress. "You seem rather jumpy yourself. Is there something to be nervous about?"

Grinning cunningly, Xellos challenged, "I don't know," he forced his face to remain confident despite the uncomfortable atmosphere, "you tell me. It seems the feeling of plotting is in the air with an almost murderous intent."

"Xellos!" Filia immediately scolded. Her sweet strawberry vanilla milkshake was delicious, but she was very tempted to throw it on Xellos' head even if it was a waste.

Hanna laughed in good humor. "I very much doubt you're in harms way in my home, unless your lactose intolerant."

It was only a joke, but Xellos' expression acted on its own losing the confident challenging look for a second. Filia gave him a worried glance as she bit her lip and wondered if it was best to advice Xellos to stop drinking his milkshake, though that might hurt Hanna's feelings. She could just say they forgot he was lactose intolerant, then again, he didn't have to be, but the octopus allergy had come without warning. "I don't think so," as if to recover his edge, Xellos drank a generous portion of his milkshake and appeared to be okay... mostly. His expression twisted as a hand instinctively rested on his stomach and Filia held her breath in worry. "I'm just hungry."

Filia almost fell off the couch at the anti-climatic revelation. "Why didn't you say so, dear? I have a treat that I was planning to give Filia to take home for her guests, but I suppose I could make another one for everyone later." Hanna retrieved a freshly baked chocolate cake covered in white frosting with cherries on top from her oven and set it on the coffee table in front of the couch, bringing over plates and spoons. "This is for you two to eat whole, enjoy."

"It's lovely!" Filia complimented and at the thought of food and recipes she remembered Elena. "By the way, have you met Elena? She's new in town."

"Ah yes, that very nice fox lady and her darling son." Hanna smiled fondly. "She mentioned wanting to open a restaurant in town and I gave her a book of recipes I've compiled over the years. She too gave me some recipes of her own. She's such a talented and hard working young lady!"

"I hope her business goes well." Filia picked up the plate set in front of her and began to eat a slice of cake. No doubt about it, Xellos was playing nice by serving it for her. He would soon be ready to embarrass her again. She glanced at Xellos and realized he was eating the whole remainder of the cake minus the slice he took out for Filia. "Xellos!"

"What? I shared with you, didn't I? Hanna said the cake was for us." Xellos attempted to give Filia an innocent look. She hated to admit it, but it was enhanced by the fact that he had frosting on his face like a little boy messily eating cake.

"For goodness sake, Xellos," Filia looked around for a napkin and found some at the small table next to the couch tugged in a decorative box covered in beads, which sat next to a soft brown teddy bear. "You're being rude," she proceeded to clean his face like a mother to her little boy.

"Not at all," Hanna laughed in real amusement. "He simply has a healthy appetite! You like cake, don't you? Not so fond of vegetables?"

"That's right," Xellos agreed, though he still wasn't about to trust Hanna, there was just something about her.

Filia was about to comment something about nutrition, but decided to hold her tongue. There was a heavy tension in the air that one did not need to be an empath to feel. "What's going on?" She vigorously asked Xellos.

"Ask her," Xellos kept his eyes trained on Hanna as if she was a dangerous foe.

"Very well, you've caught me," Hanna appeared to give up an act that Filia didn't even know she had been putting on. "The word around town is that Filia had gone off in a sort of triple date. People have concluded that you were her date. As such, I was quite curious to see what kind of man you were. Filia needs someone cheerful and dependable who can protect her, but also someone who doesn't mind being taken care of by her. You must be very observant to have picked up on my intentions of judging your behavior."

Filia's face turned scarlet and she was unable to form words. The situation began to make sense for Xellos as he revealed, "I'm an empath," without thinking of the consequences of that information.

"An empath!" Hanna clapped her hands together in glee. "How wonderful, you'll be able to understand Filia's emotions perfectly if you are able to feel them as clearly as your own." The assessment couldn't be further from the truth. Filia's emotions were very confusing.

The old lady's murderous intent faded away when she was reassured that her dear Filia was in good hands. "I guess this means you approve of me?" Xellos inquired with curiosity.

"Indeed I do," Hanna confirmed. Apparently she had too much faith in empaths. "I'm so happy for you both and you have my blessings."

Filia didn't know what to say. Xellos had led Hanna to believe something that was miles away from the truth. Actually, it all started because of the rumor mill, but Xellos, far from fixing it, made it worse. Sighing hopelessly and knowing that she would be the villain if she tried to correct things, Filia settled for a simple, "thank you."

From that point on, the conversation spiraled into something terribly bittersweet for Filia and amusing yet confusing for Xellos. Why was Filia feeling so complicated instead of just annoyed? His own question surfaced in his mind as he humored Hanna by claiming he cared about Filia very much. He didn't use the word love, since he knew it would set Filia on edge. He asked if she wanted him to love her and she didn't answer, instead sending out very strong emotions and getting dangerously close to a breakdown. Shouldn't she had yelled at him that the very thought of being loved by a monster, as he was originally that and intended to regain that status, was not only impossible but also repulsive?

Then again, if the unspoken answer happened to be a yes, that would mean Filia loved him. Cue another cold chill running down Xellos' spine; he attributed it to drinking his milkshake too fast this time to avoid choking on an oversize bite of cake. It all added up to him being very close to his cure. Who knows, maybe he was even already there; he just had to get Filia to admit her feelings. She didn't have to say anything; she simply had to acknowledge it to herself. It would not be an easy task, given her stubborn nature, but it wasn't impossible and he was finally making some real progress. If things continued like this, he would be a powerful monster again in no time.

Just as Filia and Xellos were about to leave, Hanna gave Filia one last parting gift. "This is for you," she handed her a pretty necklace with a pink heart shaped crystal. "A merchant came by earlier advertising his goods. He said I could get something for my daughter. Apparently he saw us in the market place earlier and assumed us to be related." There was a look of longing in her eyes. "Ah, if only... He gave me this necklace and said it was on the house. He was probably looking for a recommendation of his merchandise to the other townspeople, but I thought it was still sweet. It's a nice crystal, isn't it? It matches you perfectly." The old lady placed the heart necklace on Filia's hands.

"It's lovely!" Filia smiled sincerely, "thank you," she hugged the old woman. "You're very much like a mother to many of us here in town."

"That means a lot to me, dear Filia," Hanna smiled.

After the touching scene that was way too fluffy for Xellos' liking, he and Filia went on their way, with Filia wearing her new necklace.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia and Xellos returned to Elena's house were the cooking resumed to feed Lina and her companions. Gravos and Naga closed the Vases and Maces shop and joined the others. They brought a nice set of dishes hand-made by Naga, who had used Filia's vase making materials without permission. The golden dragon wasn't in the mood to argue, so she just let it pass, realizing that though somewhat inconsiderate, Naga's intentions were good. She was just trying to be helpful and Elena would find a good use for the extra set of plates anyway.

After dinner, Naga decided to hit the local bars and dragged Gravos along with her. Filia thought about protesting, but she was too caught up in her own complicated emotions to say anything. She kept reminding herself that even if he was in human form, Xellos was still a monster by nature; he was still the same on the inside. He was tricky, he was an actor, he was a liar. The things he said and did were not always real. The things he told Hanna were most certainly false. He was just playing nice; he did that often to conceal his identity as a monster. It was all an act, Filia knew not to be tricked, yet a part of her wished that it was all real.

The small talk continued after dinner with the discussion of some legendary dish passed on through the generations among the foxpeople. Lina wanted to try it, but Elena didn't have the proper herbs that served as spices for it. She did possess a book with an illustration and basic description of what she needed and that was enough for the quest to begin. Apparently, the spicy herbs could be found in the mountains a relatively short distance away from the town. Elena had not gone out to get them herself due to the rumors about dangerous bandits and monsters living in that area.

"Bandits and monsters are not going to stop me!" Lina loudly declared, full of determination. She wanted to try that special dish and she offered to bring back plenty of spices, which would ultimately help Elena get her restaurant business started. With the leader having set her mind upon the quest, Lina intended to go off on the spicy herb hunt on that very night. Naturally, if Lina was going, Gourry would be there as well.

At first it looked as if Amelia and Zelgadis would remain in town, but the call of justice was too strong for the princess to ignore. Thus she was determined to join in and make the evil bandits and monsters hiding in the mountains get a taste of her justice. That in turn meant that Zelgadis would be tagging along with her. With the impatient redhead that couldn't wait until morning gone along with the blond swordsman, the justice obsessed princess and the chimera, that left Xellos and Filia to bid Elena and Palou good night and return to Filia's home at Jillas insistence.

"You must really like washing dishes," Xellos commented with a mischievous look when Jillas offered to be the only one to stay and help Elena with the dishes. Palou was just about ready to fall asleep on his feet when he saw them off, so it wouldn't be long before he went to bed and left the two foxpeople to enjoy some time alone.

xoxox xox xoxox

Filia's house felt quiet and empty when she and Xellos returned. She noticed that a lot of merchandise had been sold, possibly to young male customers persuaded by Naga. She also noticed the missing supplies which became raw materials to create dishes. Other than that and the fact that there were sleeping bags still all over the bedrooms, everything else was normal. "Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis won't be back from the mountains for a while," Filia noted. "Poor Gravos will probably stay out late at the bar and have a hangover tomorrow," she frowned at the almost certainly factual theory. "At least Jillas is happy spending time with Elena and Palou."

"I guess that means it's just the two of us here for the night." Xellos' statement hung in the air with a million possible meanings that could be attached to it.

Filia bit her lip, her bittersweet confusion resurfacing and hitting her like a tidal wave. She looked at the clock on the living room wall. "It's late."

"It's only midnight," Xellos countered, "Eleven fifty-five if you want to be precise. I still have plenty of energy, don't you?" He tried to look like he wasn't plotting, though he obviously was. This could be his chance to obtain his cure; he was so close he could almost taste it. It was a dangerous move, but he had to try, he could always take it back if it became counterproductive, come up with a distraction and try again later. "You never did answer my question."

"Your question? What question?" Filia feigned ignorance. She knew exactly what he was referring to and she was hoping with all her might that he would just drop it.

Xellos wondered if repeating the question would be too much. It would be very bad if he pushed Filia over the edge and her emotions were running wild again. Why couldn't she keep those under control, she was vexing not only herself but him too. Determined, he pushed forward against all risks, phrasing the question even more daringly, "do you love me?"

The clock reached midnight and the feeling of flowing emotions from Filia was lost to Xellos. He had tried to turn his empathic abilities off before, but it simply didn't work. Suddenly, the signal was completely lost, even if Filia was standing right in front of him. The golden dragon stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him wordlessly. She was there, he could feel her presence just as clearly as he could feel her body pressed against his, but there was no emotion.

Xellos remembered that he was originally a monster and monsters were not supposed to feel love, regardless of what Celo might have to say about it. Maybe the reason why he couldn't sense Filia's emotions was because he did not possess an emotion that could echo hers. Maybe what she was feeling was love. Strangely, he felt dissatisfied, since he was secretly curious about that love thing that was so famous. This wasn't a simulation embedded in a crystal, this was real. He was a little disappointed that he could never know what it was, that he could never satisfy his curiosity. At the same time, he felt relief that he was safe from it, safe from falling in love and suffering the consequences of it... or so he thought.

To be Continued