Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Slayers: Alive ❯ Chapter 19

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Slayers: Alive - Episode 055: Summoning! The Birds and the Bees

Lina let out a breath she didn't even know she was holding, when she saw Xellos return without incident from his short meeting with Celestina. "We should leave," at least he didn't forget his voice acting for Natie and Cathy's benefit.

"Aw, you didn't pass?" Cathy asked, requiring no answer. "Let me guess, Lady Celestina took one look at you and said 'you are not ready'. Don't be disappointed, I'm sure that with some training, you'll improve your skills and be ready to join our class soon. I didn't make it in until my third interview."

"It took me five tries," Natie added with a light hearted laugh. "I didn't give up and it was worth it."

"We'll make sure to keep that in mind," Lina made herself smile for the sake of acting, as she, Xellos and Gourry were accompanied to the villa's gates by the two maidens.

xoxox xox xoxox

While Lina, Gourry and Xellos were off in their little quest, Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis were visiting the farmlands. There were few farmers actually still living there, as the majority of the land had been purchased by a young business man called Arcius. The farmers interviewed by the trio of justice, as Amelia would call them, were grateful to the mysterious business man who paid a full price for their land despite the lack of fertility of the soil. Finding the timing to be too convenient, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia headed to Arcius estate to have a word with him.

Strangely, getting to meet Arcius was very easy. They strode past the open gates of the estate and rang the bell, until a butler came to let them in, offering no arguments against Amelia's demands to see "Mr. Arcius." That let the princess, the chimera and the dragon to their current situation, seated at an elegant room with sweet tea and oversized chocolate covered croissants on the table in front of them. Lina would love those croissants.

The room had predominating fiery shades with long crimson and orange curtains all over the walls, even on the side that didn't have windows, making the room look like it was on fire. The plush orange carpet was so soft it made the visitors tempted to take off their shoes, but they resisted the urge. The gold plated table was certainly attention grabbing as well as the golden teapot, cups and plates. The room was a bit blinding, but still impressive in luxury.

"Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, Mr. Arcius," Amelia spoke, a bit embarrassed that she had assumed that the business tycoon who bought the farm lands had to be the bad guy.

"It is no trouble at all," Arcius smile politely. He was a tall handsome man with curly blond hair and emerald green eyes. Though he was without a doubt good looking, his taste in clothing and interior decorating left much to be desired. "I try to make it a point to always have my doors open to guests. Is there a specific purpose to your visit? I don't believe I've seen you in town before."

"We're not from here," Amelia explained, realizing that she was yet to reveal their names, "I'm Amelia and these are Filia and Zelgadis, we heard there was a famine and hoped to help by blessing the land. Filia and I are skilled in white and holy magic, Zelgadis is our protector." It was best to steer clear of the princess deal or else Arcius might keep his guard up. Amelia was no longer assuming he was a villain, but she wasn't ready to trust him yet.

"I see," Arcius looked sad. "Many have tried to bless the land before, but nothing has come of it. If it will please you to do so, you are welcome to try. But do not be disappointed if it doesn't work. I'm afraid this land has simply given all that it can give. However, even if it can't produce crops, it might still be used for something else."

"Something else?" Zelgadis suspiciously inquired, "something lucrative?" He questioned boldly.

"Perhaps," Arcius admitted, "the land must be capable of sustaining its people, though I'm sure it will not be as beneficial as the farms that used to thrive here. Houses, storage rooms, maybe even an amusement park. There's plenty of room to allow various projects to grow and produce jobs for the people who have lost their employment as farmers. The downside is that there's still the famine to consider. I've been importing food from far away, but with the losses from my investments in this land, I'm afraid that I have little to share. Hopefully, I'll be able to recover and help everyone else recover as well."

"Can you tell us anything else about how this started?" Filia asked, albeit she wasn't willing to let the previous thread of conversation end just yet. "What was your relation with this land before the famine?"

"I was a merchant who sold the produce of this land." Arcius replied as if knowing that he was about to clear his suspicions. "I don't blame you for finding my timing excessively convenient, but the truth is that if I were in it only for the economical benefit, I was better off keeping my previous position selling the goods that this land produced. As things stand now, most merchants would suggest I was better off retiring from the market and keeping my savings rather than buying barren land. Regardless of what projects I might work on in the future, they are far away and I'll be up to my neck in investment debts before I see any real profits. It's a gamble, but it's all I have to give these people. I am even under a contractual obligation to sell back the land for the same purchase price if any of the previous owners should so request it within the next year. If you are concerned about my actions, please feel free to examine the legal documents related to them."

Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis looked at each other. It appeared that Arcius' business was very much out in the open and no one had a bad thing to say about him. "It's okay," Amelia finally voiced. There was no need to get too technical in the legal aspects without a good reason.

"About your other question," Arcius continued, proving that he had no intentions of avoiding the subject, though he had little to say about it. "There is not much I can tell you about how the famine started. The produce decreased and the land died out in a gradual yet relatively fast pace. I have no explanation for this tragedy. As I mentioned, skilled magic users have tried to bless the land before, but they sensed no curses or monsters in it."

"Curses and monsters are not the only evil in the world," and cursed monsters didn't necessarily have to be detestable, but Filia decided not to voice that last part.

"That is very true," Arcius agreed, "sometimes natural disasters can be far more tragic. I've been investigating alternative solutions for the problem in hopes of saving the farms before I make any final choices to turn the land into something else. I was just about to try a new method before you arrived."

"Maybe we can help!" Amelia immediately offered.

"That would be most appreciated," Arcius glanced at the gray suited butler standing by the room's door. "James, could you please bring the magic book that arrived earlier today? I believe I left it on the desk in the study."

"Right away, sir," James swiftly exited the room, returning a few minutes later with the requested item. "Here you are, sir."

"Thank you," Arcius placed the old wine colored book on the table. It was worn and the golden lining that once adorned it had almost completely faded. "I believe this book contains the answer to our problems. It has many spells that borrow power from Lord Beast Master."

Filia read the somewhat faded title of the book. "The Birds and The Bees?" What kind of book was this?

"Yes, it's a compilation of summoning spells that call birds and bees for various purposes," Arcius explained as he flipped through the book. "This spell for example, can summon a large bird to carry things. It's quite good to have when going grocery shopping. That is when people actually have groceries to carry. This other spell summons a bird that can sing lullabies, very good against insomnia. There's one that can summon a bird that sings in the morning and works as an alarm clock. You can summon bees to produce delicious honey and even call a hive to aid in combat. I actually lost the auction when I first bid on this book. Then days later the one who beat me at the auction offered to sell it to me. He seemed rather disappointed in the book. I'm not sure what he was expecting from it and I can't imagine why it would be a disappointment. This book is certainly filled with many useful summoning spells."

"Interesting," Amelia commented, having an eagle sidekick to accompany her in her quest for justice was something she would really like. "What spell were you planning to use?"

"This one here," Arcius flipped the pages of the book and turned it over so that his guests could read it right side up. "The spell is called Busy Bees. It is used to summon bees that will help fertilize plants by carrying pollen from one to another." The words of the summoning were 'busy bees buzzing, bringing bright bliss, carry the pollen, the harvest assist.'

"What if there's no pollen or plants in the first place?" Zelgadis pointed out. The land was pretty barren, so there really wasn't much left for the bees to work with.

"These are special bees, I would assume," Arcius theorized. "I mean, they come from a summoning spell rather than just being regular bees. I thought they might be able to help. Unfortunately, I'm not a skilled spell caster, so I doubt I would be able to do the summoning myself. I've heard the people from the lands that used to be inside the barrier have much greater magical abilities. Perhaps I'll hire a sorcerer from there."

"I'll do it!" Amelia immediately volunteered. "I grew up in the land within the barrier and I have experience in magic. I can do this!"

"Really?" Arcius smiled gratefully. "Thank you so much, Miss Amelia! I will be sure to repay you for your efforts!"

"No monetary rewards will be needed for a defender of justice," Amelia proudly declared. If Lina had been there she would have gladly volunteered to take the reward in her place. "Although..." Amelia eyed the summoning book as she imagined herself in a blue, white and red super hero costume with a majestic eagle proudly perched on her shoulder. "I would really appreciate it if you would let me borrow the summoning book."

"Certainly!" Arcius agreed. "Thank you again for your kind help. If this works, the farms may be saved. Then the people can go back to cultivating the land, I can go back to distributing their wonderful products and the famine will finally come to an end."

"Yes, we can do this! We can save the farms!" Amelia happily declared in all out defender of justice mode.

xoxox xox xoxox

Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Arcius went outside to put their plan into action. Amelia held the summoning book and began to chant the spell. "Busy bees buzzing, bringing bright bliss, carry the pollen, the harvest assist!" Out of thin air, a swarm of bees materialized, buzzing all around. The numerous bees flew in all directions, searching for pollen and plants.

The group watched as the bees buzzed around for a while longer before flying towards them as a group. The four dropped to the ground, dodging the bees. The swarm turned in the air and went on the attack again. "What are they doing?" Arcius demanded in a panic.

"I think they're mad!" Amelia exclaimed.

"Of course they're mad, there are no plants here, there's no pollen for them to work with. They were summoned for nothing!" Zelgadis insisted. "I knew this was a bad idea!"

"Run for your lives!" Filia interrupted with a very good suggestion.

The group dashed towards the estate, where James was watching from the door. The butler let Arcius and his guests in, before shutting the door. The noise of the bees colliding against the hard wood was heard as Amelia let out a breath of relief. "That was close..."

"It's not over!" Filia pointed at the large golden lined glass window next to the door. The bees were ramming it and making cracks on the glass.

"Oh no! The bees are about to break in!" Arcius exclaimed. "We must depart to a safe place at once. Come my guests, we must retreat deeper into the house!"

"No, if we do that, we'll get ourselves cornered," Zelgadis argued. "It's time to send these bees back where they came from!"

"I'm with you Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia cheered.

"Count me in too," Filia agreed.

The bees finally broke the glass window, pouring into the estate as the magic using trio shouted, "Fireball!" The spell reduced the bees to ashes, thus solving that problem. Even so, the fact remained that the farmlands were still dead.

"Impressive!" Arcius congratulated. "You are all powerful sorcerers indeed. Would you consider a long term contract as my employees?"

"We're not looking for a job," Zelgadis pointed out.

"But we'll still help with the famine problem," Amelia added.

"I understand, please let me know if you reconsider," Arcius offered. "Well, that was certainly an exciting event. Perhaps it would be best to rest before the next move is decided upon. I would be honored to provide you with rooms in my humble home."

"I suppose we should plan things out better next time," Amelia agreed. "Taking a break sounds good, thank you Mr. Arcius. What do you think, Zelgadis, Miss Filia?"

"I guess we should take a break," Zelgadis agreed.

"There's actually something I've been meaning to check out in town if there is time," Filia revealed. "There's supposed to be a place called the Golden Dragon Cafe."

"Ah yes, it's a delightful place with the most delicious coffee, tea, juice and baked treats," Arcius smiled fondly, though his expression soon turned bittersweet. "Or it was when the harvest was good. Now their menu is limited, but it is still a good place to spend some time relaxing. If you would honor me with your company, I would be happy to show you to the cafe."

Filia blushed slightly and smiled, "I would appreciate it."

xoxox xox xoxox

After Filia and Arcius left, Amelia and Zelgadis sat down to talk in one of the estate's many guest rooms. "Did you notice, Zelgadis?" Amelia inquired with excitement despite how ambiguous her question appeared to Zelgadis.

"Notice what?" Zelgadis allowed his eyes to try to examine the room again before he had the need to blink as if to rest his vision. The theme in this particular room was green, blindingly bright lime green. "That Arcius is color blind? Yeah, I noticed alright, how could I not?"

Amelia examined the room, "well maybe... but that's not what I meant." She frowned in bitter sorrow, though there was fascination in her eyes. "It's so exciting, so amazing, so dramatic!"

"What is?" Zelgadis wasn't sure what Amelia was getting at and quite frankly, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.

"The love triangle!" Amelia loudly declared. "Miss Filia and Mr. Xellos have recently gone through a painful break up, but they both still have strong feelings for each other. Now, just as their anger was cooling off to give way to a new flame of love between them, the rival enters the scene! While Mr. Xellos is away, Miss Filia's heart is in danger of being stolen away by the dashing Mr. Arcius!"

"Dashing?" Zelgadis questioned with an almost amused laugh. "How can a man in a fuchsia shirt be called dashing?"

"He's dashing in the eyes of Filia's wounded heart!" Amelia insisted. "She blushed when he offered to take her out on a date, I saw!"

"Date?" Zelgadis questioned, where did Amelia get all these conclusions anyway? "Wasn't he just showing her the location of that cafe she was looking for?"

"He was going out with her!" Amelia insisted, "and she blushed!" The princess adamantly emphasized.

"Probably out of embarrassment at the thought of being seen in public with a man who dresses like a clown," Zelgadis concluded. The fuchsia shirt with ruffles around its V shaped neck was ridiculous and the impossibly tight black pants must have been horribly uncomfortable, albeit at least the color was normal.

"I don't think his outfit was all that bad. It reminds me of the cover art from a romance novel, though the shirt was white instead of fuchsia. I guess Mr. Arcius must like to stand out. Either way, everyone in town seems to be fond of Mr. Arcius, even if he's a bit eccentric. What makes it impossible for Filia to like him too?" Amelia might have an overactive imagination, but she brought up a strong argument.

"Good point, if Filia dated Xellos then her standards can't be all that high," Zelgadis concluded, feeling sincerely sorry for Filia. "Maybe you should have a talk with her about being more picky with who she dates. She'll thank you in the long run."

Amelia shook her head. "Love knows no boundaries!" She heroically declared. "If Miss Filia believes that Mr. Xellos has earned her heart, then he has. Who are we to judge the reasons one has to be in love. Love cannot be stopped! Miss Filia is opening her heart to another man too soon; the wound from her previous relationship is still fresh. She might mistake her remaining feelings for Mr. Xellos as feelings for Mr. Arcius. That will only bring pain to both of them when she realizes the truth. I know Miss Filia still has feelings for Mr. Xellos, that's why she's hurting, that's why she's going out of her way to give him the cold shoulder. Mr. Xellos also has feelings for Miss Filia, that's why he's been trying to get her attention even if she's doing everything in her power to ignore him."

Zelgadis was about to present a counter argument, but stopped. Who was he, a chimera with an expertise in robbery and property damage all for the sake of finding a cure he didn't know existed, to judge Filia for falling in love with an obnoxious monster? If Amelia could love Zelgadis, then the chimera concluded that maybe it wasn't so horrible for someone to love that idiot Xellos. Plus Amelia did have a point, if Filia was over her ex, she wouldn't have been making such an effort to pretend he was invisible. As for Xellos, maybe horrible monsters had some semblance of feelings after all, if only a little. "I can't believe I'm saying this but... I'll help you get them back together, granted that we don't get too involved."

"Thank you Zel, you're awesome!" Amelia tackled Zelgadis in a big bear hug and planted a kiss on his lips. "Don't worry; I have a plan that requires minimal involvement. I'll write a letter to Mr. Xellos telling him about Miss Filia and Mr. Arcius' growing romance. Mr. Xellos will then realize the error of his ways by taking Miss Filia for granted and rush back to town, determined to win her heart again!" Amelia finished her dramatic speech and watched for a reaction from Zelgadis, who was just smiling and spacing out, "Zel?"

"Oh, yes, that, right, great plan, Amelia!" Zelgadis didn't quite hear what Amelia's plan was, but in his current state, he would agree to do anything she asked him to.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive - Episode 056: Get Along! Try Again

Lina, Xellos and Gourry, still in their disguises, made their way back to town. Gourry was all too eager to get there and change, Lina told him to wait until they reached the inn. After all, a guy walking around in his underwear would probably attract more strange stares then a woman in a pink dress, provided that no one knew the so called woman was actually a man.

"What happened to the plan?" Gourry inquired. The plan was not too clear for him, as nothing ever was.

"It was canceled," Xellos replied, seeing no need for further voice acting, since no one aside from Gourry and Lina were close enough to hear him anyway.

"Who was that Celestina anyway? She wasn't normal," Lina shuddered.

"She seemed powerful," Gourry agreed.

Curiously, Lina inquired, "what did she say to you?"

"Um..." Gourry tried hard to remember, his memory was generally very short term. "She said... Oh yeah, she said I was peculiar. Then she said something about my voice calling someone's name or something. Then she told me to stay strong and... and pure... and then... and then... and then... then she told me to go and I did."

Gourry's explanation was vague at best, not that Lina expected much else. "She told me that she allowed me to live after I gave up everything and woke her. She warned me not to expect it to happen again. It's almost as if she was..." Lina didn't finish.

"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." Xellos quoted. "Those are the words she told me. She also said that her dream would continue for the time being, everything is a part of her dream."

"Her dream?" Lina put all the pieces together and got the same result as her initial theory. The time when she gave up everything, the battle against Fibrizo, Gourry's voice calling out to her. A dream that could be a nightmare for some. "Do you think she's really...?"

"Some time ago, Celestina Ilumina was said to have been killed by Fibrizo," Xellos revealed. "Then shortly after Fibrizo's defeat, she returned alive and well. She had apparently distanced from all those she used to know and many dragons feared her. Maybe the real Celestina really was killed and the one we saw is only borrowing her identity to observe this world up close."

"Then she really is..." Lina looked back in the direction of the villa in the distance.

"I don't get it," Gourry predictably commented.

"I saw it," Xellos confessed, "it was only for a split second, but I saw it. The gold that shines upon the sea of chaos..."

"The Lord of Nightmares," Lina whispered.

"Let's not go back there," Xellos grinned with an exaggerated amount of cheer. It was his way to deal with the overwhelming discovery.

Lina laughed to contribute to lightening the mood. "I agree; there are things we're better off not getting mixed up in."

Gourry had his eternal expression of confusion firmly in place. "I don't get it. What does the Lord of Nightmares have to do with anything?"

Lina sighed, making Gourry understand certain things was simply impossible. "Never mind, the point is that the kidnapping has been cancelled. By the way, Xellos, as deadly dangerous as the Lord of Nightmares is, I can't help it but to think there's a bit of mercy in her. Of course, that is only as long as people don't push it. I have no intentions of disregarding her warning. What I'm trying to say is, she told Gourry and me something related to when we first met her, so to speak, and gave us advice. What if she was giving you advice too?" Though the memories of that occasion were hidden from Lina's conscious mind at first, they resurfaced when she saw Celestina. Those memories felt like a dream, yet Lina knew them to be true.

"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." Xellos repeated what he was told. The truth was that he agreed with it. What he wouldn't normally admit was that he too was one of those creatures that brought unnecessary complications upon himself.

"Maybe there's an easier way to go about this curse thing. Maybe the answer is right in front of you," Lina suggested.

"Maybe," Xellos agreed. Unless the Lord of Nightmares was referring to the other part of the curse he needed to work on. The part about figuring out how to truly love Filia enough so that it wasn't just attraction or affection, but something strong enough to break the curse. He was at a blank there. He cared about her and he managed to accept that, but how could he make it enough? Wasn't this thing that supposedly wasn't love strong enough already? Maybe all he had to do was stop questioning it. Or maybe what he needed to do was change his angle.

How to achieve love... how to find his cure... how to... Xellos paused his train of thought as he arrived at the needed answer. He was trying to survive, he went as far as temporarily forgetting his curse when Filia first accepted her love for him, but he was back to thinking about it again soon after. He was disappointed, he accused her, blamed her, he was selfish. Love wasn't supposed to be selfish, love was supposed to be mutual... If Filia had to play her part with no ulterior motives then he had to do the same thing.

A yellow and white bird flew towards them circling around Xellos until he woke from his thoughts and held out his arm. "What are you doing here Jarde?" The bird, who was carrying some kind of rolled up piece of paper, chirped as if laughing. "Don't tell me you came all this way just to mock me."

Lina blinked in perplexity as she witnessed the odd exchange. "I take it you know this bird?"

"Jarde is a courier bird that can be summoned with a spell that borrows power from Lord Beast Master." Xellos took the paper from Jarde and let him perch on his shoulder while he examined the letter. "Dear Mr. Xellos, I regret to inform you that Miss Filia has found a new love. If you do not wish to lose her forever, you must apologize for taking her for granted and win back her heart. Good luck, you'll need it, Amelia." Xellos stared at the letter in disbelief.

"I didn't know Amelia could summon birds," Gourry casually commented. He made an effort to pay attention to what was being said in case he later got more random questions about what someone told him recently. He caught all the main details, so he felt accomplished. 'Amelia summoned a bird and Filia got a new boyfriend,' Gourry repeated in his mind, trying to retain the facts for more than thirty seconds.

"A good courier bird could come in handy now and then, but that aside, what's more interesting is what the letter says," Lina gave Xellos a severe look.

"You don't think it's true, do you?" Xellos considered the possibilities. Amelia would probably say a false letter like this one was an unjust cruel joke. She wouldn't lie...

'Amelia summoned Filia. A bird got a new boyfriend,' Gourry repeated in his head, but that didn't sound quite right. How did it go again?

"I think you got exactly what you deserve!" Lina placed one hand on her hip, while she pointed at Xellos with the other, waving her index finger back and forth in an accusing fashion.

'Filia summoned Amelia to give her boyfriend a bird,' Gourry thought. But why would Filia want to give Zelgadis a bird?

"Filia's been super nice to you," Lina continued scolding Xellos. "She's been taking good care of you and helping you learn to survive as a human. You haven't exactly been grateful to her."

Gourry knew there was something about Amelia, Filia and a bird, but it was too complicated. Some kind of love triangle? No, Amelia had Zelgadis, the bird was Filia's boyfriend. That's it, 'Amelia's bird is Filia's boyfriend!' "Lina's right," Gourry finally voiced. "You should have been nice to Filia, then she wouldn't have dumped you and started dating Amelia's bird instead."

Xellos and Lina both stared at Gourry, "Who ever said anything about Filia dating a bird?" Lina hopelessly asked. "She's dating a man. A man who's probably kind, respectable, polite, selfless, handsome and rich. A man who lives in a mansion where Filia will invite us to have dinner every now and then. Yes, a rich man with lots of food. Way to go, Filia!"

"I'll believe it when I see it," Xellos grumbled as he quickened his pace to town. Jarde chirped in his laughter way and flew off, disappearing among the clouds above, since his job was done.

xoxox xox xoxox

Xellos was swiftly on his way to the inn, to change into some clothes that did not include a dress, before going off to search for Filia. He didn't want to think too much about it, but he was worried. Lina brought up a valid point, he had not really given Filia much appreciation and despite how far she had gone to ignore him, Xellos kept thinking she would come around. He even went on to take care of the other preparations for his cure, leaving amending his break-up with Filia for later. He felt guilty; it was an odd and unpleasant sensation.

Lina and Gourry entered the inn, with Gourry running like a mad man because he couldn't spend another second in a dress. Lina rolled her eyes and walked after him at a more civilized pace, making a point to give Xellos a guilt tripping glare before she left. Xellos would have followed Lina and Gourry into the inn building, if not for the fact that a familiar voice caught his attention. There was Filia, it didn't look like Lina and Gourry had noticed her, and Filia had not noticed any of them.

Filia was sitting at an out door table across the street in a structure that looked like someone's personal residence, if not for the tables identifying it as a cafe of sorts. It was made to look homey rather than commercial, as part of the message of peace between the humans and dragons it carried. Albeit that made the Golden Dragon Cafe very easy to miss, as it had no signs with its name anywhere. Never mind the cafe, who was that man in the fuchsia shirt standing up along with Filia and offering her his arm? The nerve of him!

Ignoring the fact that he was still in disguise, Xellos made his way to Filia and Arcius. Filia saw the approaching angry woman and after a double take realized that wasn't actually a woman. Her eyes grew wide in shock, her expression causing Arcius to follow her gaze, curious to see what had surprised her so much. "Xe... Xe..." Filia couldn't get her voice to produce any complete words.

"Xexe," Arcius repeated, adding a barely audible 'rawr' at the end. With an, according to him, seductive grin, he eyed 'Xexe' up and down. "Miss Xexe, I take it you are a friend of Miss Filia. It's a pleasure to meet you. I am Arcius Evergreen, yes, that Evergreen, the one with the big fortune," he laughed as if being a millionaire was no big deal. "I would be more than happy to show you around the town and maybe we can get to know each other better while we-" Arcius was silenced by a solid right hook to the face which carried such a furious force that it threw him to the ground in a daze. "What a woman!" He exclaimed dreamily before passing out.

Filia was still staring in shock, unable to speak or move. Thus Xellos took it as his cue to say something. "Can I talk to you... at the inn?"

Filia nodded her head somewhat unsure and pushed her voice to produce a doubtful, "be right there." She didn't know what was going on, but ignoring Xellos wasn't going to solve anything. Besides, she simply had to know what explanation he had for parading around in a dress.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few minutes later, Filia found herself standing in front of the door to Xellos' room at the inn. She knocked gently, almost unsure if she wanted her presence to be known or not. Xellos opened the door right away, letting her in. Thankfully, he was wearing his normal clothing again and the pretty makeup was gone. "First I would like an explanation," Filia began.

"Our painful break-up was too much for me and I can never look at a woman the same way again. I thought that if I became one, no one would be able to hurt me anymore," Xellos dramatized.

Filia let out an exasperated breath, "and the truth would be?"

Cutting the drama, Xellos grinned in his usual fashion. "I wanted to pressure an influential figure among the golden dragons into restoring your citizenship by kidnapping his daughter. In order to do that, I had to sneak into her villa where only women are allowed to study magic."

Filia was glaring in fierce disapproval. "Not only do you cause trouble for me, but you get some poor innocent girl involved too?"

Xellos tried to look innocent, "there's no need to get jealous. I assure you that my interest in her was purely for business purposes. It's a thing of survival and nothing more."

"Just like your interest in me," Filia reproached, though a part of her kept saying that it wasn't as simple as that.

Xellos paused. He was a trickster, but he couldn't brush this off with a few sarcastic remarks. "It started that way," he admitted. "But it's... or if not, it will be, different."

"Because if you don't return my feelings you'll die? That's a hostage situation if I ever saw one, except the hostage is yourself. It's deadly blackmail, it's not willing," Filia insisted. "What about the dragon girl? What happened? Are you holding her hostage somewhere?"

"The dragon was... not who we thought she was. We realized she was the wrong target and retreated without incident. The kidnapping plan was canceled," Xellos explained while withholding his response to Filia's other remark.

"Furthermore, even if your crazy plan to get me a golden dragon citizenship did work, it won't do a thing if you end up hurting me so much I start to hate you," she accused bitterly. "You assumed I would help, didn't you? You self centered egotistical piece of raw garbage!"

"I did," Xellos admitted, "I did assume, but I shouldn't have." He could sense her pain, her anger, her frustration. "You've been helpful from the start and I've been... a selfish monster."

Filia continued frowning, her eyes analytical and focused. "Concentrate," she wrapped her arms around him without warning, allowing her full frustration and hurt to show.

"Filia..." It was at times like this when Xellos really hated his emphatic abilities. If he focused on himself hard enough, he should be able to distract himself from sensing someone else's emotions. But he couldn't, Filia's emotions were so intense they just flowed into him. It was over, he lost her. She was giving her a bitter farewell, showing him why he couldn't be forgiven.

Filia released Xellos and took a deep breath. "This town, it has a dark past in relations to the humans and dragons. In an effort to make amends, the Golden Dragon Cafe was established. It was built to look like someone's home in symbolic peace. They have cards there made of magically enhanced paper often used for legal contracts to ensure their authenticity. They are membership cards that each person can use once. The cards expire twenty-four hours after being signed and the magic in them makes them disintegrate into dust. For one day, the one who signs one of those cards is an honorary golden dragon, recognized as a legal citizen by the constitution of the dragon race." Filia took a small white card with golden lining from her pocket. She gave Xellos a serious look. "If you ever break my heart again, it's over for good, I mean it!"

Filia placed the card on Xellos' hand. In golden ink, the card read, 'honorary golden dragon' on top, with the silhouette of a dragon below the words and a blank space for a signature under it. "You mean I get another chance?" He wasn't expecting that.

"Only one," Filia warned. She allowed her positive feelings to shine through, no longer suppressing them with hurt bitterness. It was clear that Xellos was still able to sense it; it still shocked him that she cared so much.

"How do you do that? How do you change your mind like that, so suddenly? Which is real?" As a monster it was easy to perceive the predominating taste of emotions when all the tastes mixed together. But this was different, he sensed every feeling individually and sometimes it didn't make sense for certain emotions to coexist simultaneously. "And why... why did you...?"

"It's all real," Filia assured. "People don't feel good and bad exclusively, they can feel wonderful and terrible at the exact same time, sometimes even for the same reason. It doesn't make sense, but feelings don't always follow logic. As for why I'm giving you another chance..." Filia remembered the moment when she accepted her own feelings. "I went through ignorance, confusion, denial and a stubborn resolution to change before I finally accepted how I felt. Nonetheless, even when I was trying to change, it was all still real. I'm not going to hold it against you if you go through the same process a little slower. You were from the beginning very stubborn, selfish, self-centered, prideful, egotistical, overconfident, cold-hearted, malicious, obstinate-"

"I get the message," Xellos interrupted before Filia continued reciting the whole dictionary of negative adjectives.

"Arrogant, cruel, uncaring and all around annoying," Filia finished, ignoring the interruption. "So even if you do have feelings for me, you have a whole lot more to overcome before they can truly shine through, because real love is supposed to be pure. There's nothing wrong with wanting to live. Pure love is a dangerous weapon against a monster. It's your natural instinct to guard yourself from it, perhaps without even realizing it. Nevertheless, it's still real and I know for certain that it's there."

"So my love is poisoned?" Xellos found a creative way to describe it. "But it exists nonetheless?"

"Am I wrong?" Filia asked, her eyes gently demanding the truth.

Xellos gave it some thought and after a long moment of silence he voiced, "I think you're right, but is that enough?"

"It's something to hold on to, something that can grow," Filia replied with a smile. It was a real smile, different from the smile she made herself show for the sake of being polite and not worrying her friends. "Keep the card; I'll sign it when you're ready. Until then, let's just relax and not think about the technicalities."

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive - Episode 057: Bet! Victory is Subjective

Xellos felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Everything was okay now. Well not really, he was still cursed and he still had a way to go before his love could become pure enough to save his life, but he wasn't focusing on that at the moment. He was glad to have Filia back, for now that was enough. "So... does this mean we'll be spending the rest of the day together?" He winked with a seductive grin.

Filia leaned forward, her face close to his as she returned his mischievous grin, "nope," she winked.

Xellos was caught off guard, "huh?" That tricky dragon...

"Amelia and Zelgadis must be done resting by now. Maybe they've even come up with a new plan of action against the famine. If not, then we can always go with the original plan and try to bless the land with white and holy magic," Filia explained with a teasing smile. "Why don't you come along and watch? You might learn a thing or two about white magic."

Xellos rolled his eyes, "that'll be the day. I think I'll just stick with black magic, it's more my style."

"That's just because you don't have enough talent for white magic." Filia crossed her arms, giving Xellos a superior mocking look.

"I could do just fine if I wanted," Xellos returned the challenging gaze. He knew he was walking right into Filia's little trap, but he wasn't about to run away from her challenge.

"I bet you couldn't," Filia insisted. It was as if their big fight never happened, though the lesson that came of it still remained. They were back to teasing each other, back to acting natural, back to being themselves.

"I'll take that bet!" Xellos agreed. With some luck and a lot of effort, he might actually win. "So... what should we bet?"

"That was just a figure of speech," Filia argued, she knew that making a bet with a trickster was a bad idea. Yet maybe if she could arrange things so that a loss wouldn't be a real loss it would be okay. "If I win you have to... take me out on a real date and do everything I ask."

"Be your slave for the evening? I think I know what that involves," he winked.

Filia blushed, "that's not how a real date goes!"

"And if I win?" Xellos reminded that he too needed a prize to go after in their little bet.

"If you win, I'll teach you a useful spell," a spell of Filia's own choosing that she would conveniently keep a secret until the event of Xellos winning the bet occurred, if he actually managed to win.

"What kind of spell?" Xellos inquired suspiciously. What was defined as a useful spell varied from one person to another. Xellos had a feeling that the definition Filia would give it was very different from his own. "Is it something powerful and destructive?"

"You'll have to wait and find out," Filia taunted. "Unless you're making up excuses because you know you don't have the skill to learn a simple recovery spell."

"I'm supposed to be the one taunting you to make you do what I want," Xellos accused in an 'it's not fair' whiny tone.

"I guess you must be rubbing off on me," Filia grinned.

"I'd be happy to continue doing so right now," Xellos offered with a seductive grin.

"Not happening, I'm busy," Filia headed out the door of the inn room, determined to start working on solving the farm problem right away, before she changed her mind. "Are you coming along or not?"

"Just watch, I'll win our bet, even if the prize is probably nothing of use, since a stupid dragon can't possibly know any really good spells. All you know is holy magic, it's not as good as black magic," Xellos teased, though he knew it wasn't really true.

"We'll see about that!" Filia challenged as they both made their way out of the inn.

xoxox xox xoxox

On their way out of the inn, Xellos and Filia met up with Gourry and Lina. Filia informed them of Zelgadis and Amelia's location and the six of them regrouped at Arcius estate. Arcius had since returned home and graciously welcome the new guests, not realizing that Xellos was Xexe. Though he encouraged them to investigate the lands and try anything they could come up with to restore the fertility of the soil, he warned them not to feel bad if it didn't work. Claiming he had a pounding headache, Arcius then apologized for not accompanying them and stayed at the estate while Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos went out to the fields.

"I feel bad taking advantage of Arcius' kindness after Xellos punched him," Filia complained, as the group made their way through the vast barren lands that were once productive farms.

"You mean that black eye was Xellos doing?" Lina frowned. "If he doesn't have us over for dinner because of you..." She didn't even need to finish her threat for everyone to know it was deadly. Messing with Lina's meal, directly or indirectly, was a death wish.

Amelia, as well as the entire group, had noticed that the atmosphere between Filia and Xellos had significantly improved. Her eyes shone upon the revelation of Xellos having punched Arcius. She felt sorry for Arcius, but his bruised face was only a small sacrifice in the grander scheme of things. "Mr. Xellos punched Mr. Arcius? Well done Mr. Xellos! That's what I call fighting for your love! I'm glad you made up with Miss Filia and didn't let Mr. Arcius steal her away."

"There was nothing between Arcius and me!" Filia immediately defended. "Besides, it was more like fighting against love, isn't that right, Miss Xexe?" Filia eyed Xellos mockingly.

"You're really starting to copy me too much Filia, but that's okay, I know you're just jealous because I'm prettier than you," Xellos teased in return.

"Miss Xexe? I thought Xellos was supposed to be Lulu," Gourry pointed out in confusion. "Or was it Lala? No, wait, I was Lala, and Lina was Lili, right?"

"Mr. Gourry as Miss Lala... That can only mean there were disguises in our absence," Amelia realized. "I get it; Mr. Arcius doesn't recognize Mr. Xellos without his disguise." Amelia sounded disappointed that she missed out. Those sneaky missions were always fun. Besides, she would never admit it, but she had fun putting makeup on Zelgadis, even if he didn't enjoy it at all.

"I'm glad I wasn't there," Zelgadis breathed in relief.

"I was there for the disguises, but I missed the part about Arcius falling in love with Xexe." Lina teased as she elbowed Xellos playfully. "Nice going Xellos, you snagged yourself a rich one. It's a pity his taste in clothing and interior decorating is so bad, but I'm sure that's nothing that a woman's touch can't fix. Make sure to invite us over for dinner at your loving boyfriend's estate every now and then!"

Being an experienced trickster, Xellos knew that trying to fight off the teasing was counter-productive, thus he played along. "Shh, keep your voice down, Lina. Filia isn't supposed to know about my little affair with Arcius."

"You're having an affair with Arcius?" Gourry frowned in disapproval. "You shouldn't cheat on Filia."

Filia rolled her eyes while Lina let out a hopeless breath at Gourry being so gullible. "It's okay, I don't mind," Filia assured.

Gourry gave Filia a look of surprise, then finally shrugged, "I find it unusual but... people need to respect each others differences. If you want to be in a trio, I'll accept and support you as a friend," he smiled sincerely.

Lina ran her hand from her forehead down her face. "That would be a threesome and we're just kidding anyway." Back to business, Lina observed the barren land around them. "Okay, let's get with the blessing. Amelia, Filia, you're the most skilled in white and holy magic, so you'll be casting the big spells. The rest of us will support you with recovery. Gourry, you're on a special mission, the land will need water, run to the estate and bring back buckets of water to get some moist in this dry soil. Xellos, unless you quit being stubborn about your black magic only policy and learn recovery well enough to help us, I'm putting you on watering duty too."

"Actually, it was my plan from the start to learn recovery," Xellos revealed. He looked towards Filia with his usual teasing grin. "Unless Filia changes her mind about teaching me the spell, you know how you can't rely on a dragon's word for anything."

"I'm not changing my mind!" Filia argued, "but don't expect this to be easy," there was a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. "Amelia, you should keep an eye on the lessons too. That way if Xellos is too much of a bad student for me, you can come up with some alternate examples to give him."

"I would be happy to help!" Amelia cheerfully declared, thus the lesson began. "Healing magic is all about positive thinking! Don't forget, Mr. Xellos, life is wonderful!"

Xellos twitched and glared at Filia. He would have to learn fast if he was going to keep Amelia's speech at bay. Human or not, her speeches still kind of unnerved him, even if they were supposed to lack the power to weaken him, but apparently that wasn't always entirely true. Never underestimate the power of annoyance, that fact was one that Xellos knew very well.

While the group worked on their fruitless efforts to heal the land and Xellos kept assuring Amelia over and over that he felt he was making progress on his own and didn't need any extra motivation, Lina became a little bored. She stretched from her previous position crouching on the ground giving the land a recovery spell. She watched as Gourry ran around watering the place with the precious liquid he obtained from Arcius estate. The swordsman actually looked like he was having fun. At least there wasn't a drought, though water and healing magic seemed to be doing little for the land. Lina knew not to expect much, since this had been tried before, but it's easier to discard an option without second thoughts after one has personally attempted it. "I had a funny dream a few nights ago," Lina voiced, to interrupt the relative silence that bored her. "It was raining gumdrops, it was awesome!"

"That sounds like a fun dream," Gourry smiled, imagining how wonderful it would be if it really did rain candy. "I hardly ever remember my dreams."

"I had a dream about food recently too," Filia commented.

"Really?" Xellos innocently asked with fake surprise, "I thought you only had R rated dreams about me, or maybe I should say X rated."

"My dream was perfectly sweet and innocent!" Filia argued. "I had this really big ice-cream cone; it was as tall as a person. It had chocolate ice-cream on top, but it was melting so I had to hurry and lick it quickly. The cone was black; I guess it must have been a dark chocolate flavor."

"What mischievous dreams you have, Filia," Xellos was quick to tease her, privately amused by the irony of the dream. "There's nothing innocent about it."

"What's mischievous about my dream?" Filia pouted not really wanting to know what kind of random mocking answer Xellos came up with. "It's a dream about ice-cream, how can it not be innocent?"

"I'll tell you later," Xellos offered with a mischievous wink, grinning in anticipation. "Or better yet, show you."

Filia gave Xellos a suspicious look; she did that quite often and with good reasons. "You better not be plotting anything troublesome!" She warned with little hope for her caution to be heeded.

xoxox xox xoxox

After Lina decided that she had enough of wasting energy on the ground, she called for a retreat to Arcius' estate. Once there, the group discussed their lack of ideas on what to do to help the farm land recover, making for a very short conversation. Thus the leader and star of the show, Lina Inverse, decided to call it a day and get some rest as it was already evening. Plus she was anxious to see what kind of food Arcius had in storage that he would generously share with his guests.

Filia decided to take some time to test Xellos abilities, but instead of trying to show her his progress in casting recovery, he grinned and gave up, "you win."

"What? That's it? You won't even try again? I thought you were actually making progress. Is white magic really that difficult for you?" Filia gave Xellos another suspicious look, but decided not to be too insistent. She won their bet, so she might as well enjoy it. "I guess you have a natural talent for black magic and difficulty with white magic; that happens to some people. They have a certain type of magic that feels more natural to them. It shouldn't come as a surprise which type of magic it is for you. This means you owe me a date." Just as Xellos was about to open his mouth to suggest something, Filia interrupted. "No, that doesn't mean we'll hang around your room doing... activities the whole time. It would be... inappropriate."

"Once," Xellos reminded, "that only happened once and it was a long time ago."

"You're taking me out to dinner," Filia insisted, "I'll let you pick the place as long as it's a nice restaurant." They began to make their way towards the front entrance of Arcius estate on their way to find a restaurant at the nearby town that wasn't closed due to lack of ingredients to work with.

"Anywhere that has chocolate ice-cream pie is very nice." All that work in the fields really did build up an appetite.

"For goodness' sake, Xellos, eat something with vitamins now and then!" Filia scolded, frowning and placing her hands on her hips.

"That big barbecue steak I had back in Seyruun had plenty of nutrients," Xellos argued in his defense. "Besides, I burned a lot of calories practicing that stupid recovery spell today."

"Which you never fully mastered," Filia threw at him.

Xellos wanted to argue back, but thought it was not in his best interest to reveal that he did get the hang of casting recovery towards the end of the lesson. "Just out of curiosity, if I had won our bet, what spell would you have taught me?"

"A useful one," Filia repeated herself. "But since you lost, I guess you'll have to live with the doubts for the rest of your life."

Xellos frowned; he was a very curious being. He would have to remember to get the information out of Filia later. "You're such a cruel dragon."

xoxox xox xoxox

A short while later, Xellos and Filia had found a restaurant that was still working, sort of. Most of the items on the menu had been crossed out as unavailable. "What kind of a restaurant is this?" Xellos complained displeased. He was already dissatisfied with the fact that it was the only restaurant still in business that they could find.

"Our apologies, sir," a depressed waiter with a golden dragon shaped hat excused the establishment, or at least tried to. "Because of the famine, we have few ingredients to work with. It's so sad! This land used to subsist on the produce from the farms. Many businesses have closed since the famine started and our precious Golden Dragon Cafe might be next."

"You mean the golden dragons are not sending supplies?" Xellos feigned indignation. "How cruel! Isn't this town supposed to be under their protection? Those horrible dragons," he pretended to be saddened by the situation. "How could they abandon the innocent people that they swore to protect? Is this very cafe not supposed to symbolize the bond of peace and friendship between the golden dragons and us humans?"

"I'm sure the golden dragons are looking into the situation as we speak!" Filia felt the need to defend her birth race. She wasn't a golden dragon citizen anymore and her race had made mistakes in the past, but they weren't all that bad. They were a race with good and bad people, just like the human race.

The waiter was desperate for some consolation, thus he chose to filter out Xellos' words and focus on Filia's hope. "Do you really think so, miss? I certainly hope you're right! I'll continue to believe in the kindness of our faithful protectors the golden dragons, who have watched over this town for generations!"

Xellos would be all too pleased to burst the young waiter's bubble with some not so pleasant facts. "A few centuries ago this town-"

"Overcame harsh times," Filia immediately interrupted, not wanting to bring up the human slavery related dark past of the settlement. "And I'm sure that it will overcome this trial as well. Now for the order..." Filia wanted to send the waiter away with his task as quickly as possible, before Xellos worsened the poor boy's depression with a blunt historical lesson. "Goodness, aren't the prices a little steep?" Arcius had snatched away the bill when Filia was last there for a snack before she could even look at it. They had eaten his recommendation and she had not even had a chance to actually look at the menu until now.

"Supply and demand," the waiter simply explained.

"Don't you have any secret stash of ingredients for a more varied menu?" Xellos insisted, while handing the waiter a rather generous tip.

"As a matter of fact, we do, allow me to get you the alternate menus," the waiter quickly left to fetch the promised menus.

"What was that about?" Filia inquired in confusion.

"There's a famine," Xellos pointed out the obvious. "As soon as people noticed it, some must have decided to store food just in case. When the famine got worse, the smart ones must have sold the food at a high price and left this land to start a new business at a more profitable place with a big budget to establish a new beginning. In other words, there has to be some food left in storage around here. Because of supply and demand that food must be expensive, thus the staff won't bother revealing its existence to people unless they see that the potential customers are able to afford it. As for those who can't afford it anyway, for security reasons, it's best if they don't know that the supplies exist."

"I see where you're going with your logic," Filia admitted, "you can be pretty smart every once in a while, but-"

"Every once in a while?" Xellos interrupted with a prideful tone.

"I suppose knowledge comes with age and you have been working as a spy for Beast Master for many, many, many, many, many-"

"There's no need to over do it," Xellos protested.

"Many, many, years," Filia finished. "But as I was saying, it's kind of mean to take advantage of a famine for business. If only all merchants were as kind as Arcius, the world would be a better place."

"And if all merchants had Arcius fashion sense, the world would be blind," Xellos added. Filia rolled her eyes, but withheld her comeback, as the waiter had returned with the menus. Her eyes grew to nearly three times their normal size when she examined the prices on this new list of dishes. She was about to point out what an abuse this was, but Xellos interrupted her with a flirty look, "order whatever you want, dear Filia."

She pouted and thought of a lot of things to say that criticized the Golden Dragon Cafe, which was actually managed by a wealthy human family and was all but forgotten by the golden dragons, and of course to criticize Xellos indifference towards this injustice. However, she made herself stop and instead devised a plan to take advantage of the situation. She pointed out what she wanted to eat, then added, "I would also like to order as many portions as you can make of all the other dishes available. Please have them delivered to the townspeople as a gift." Seeing the waiter's eyes increase in size even more than hers had, Filia added, "I'm sure my dear Xellos can easily afford it." Filia wasn't sure where Xellos got all his money from, but illegal or not, she was going to put it to good use doing a good deed by feeding the hungry.

To be Continued