Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Slayers: Alive ❯ Chapter 23

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Slayers: Alive - Episode 067: Sports! It's All About Attitude

Mr. Enterprise looked like he was going into cardiac arrest from the disappointed shock that access to Zelas' fortune, via the marriage of Xellos and Saramina, was set to slip from his fingers. Saramina's jaw dropped far lower than a human jaw should open, her waxy flesh stretched like a longer version of The Scream.

Savoring the tension she was about to unleash, Zelas glanced at Filia. "Filia dear, come over here and say hello, don't be shy."

Great, just great. When Filia thought her day couldn't get any worse, Zelas threw Xellos' crazy zombie fan girl at her. Fighting with herself to remain composed, Filia got up from the bench with as much dignity as she could. She replied with an overly sweet, "yes, mother." She could have sworn she saw Zelas' eye twitch a little.

Saramina gave Filia a critical look while her father fought to get some air into his starving lungs. "What are you? An elf?" She asked rudely.

"I'm a golden dragon, actually," Filia replied in a challenging tone.

Saramina threw her head back more than a humans head should go. It bounced on her neck for a moment, looking as if it would fall off, but it bounced right back into place. "So what? I'm a zombie and I'm prettier than you!"

Filia was tempted to reply with 'no you're not' but one, beauty was in the eye of the beholder, two, she was never a shallow girl regardless of how well she took care of her hair, and three, it would be a stupid argument anyway. "Well, that's too bad," Filia allowed some smugness to bubble up to the surface. "Because Xellos chose me."

"I have more riches than you!" Saramina argued defiantly.

"So?" Filia challenged.

"Grr! Lowly peasant! I will devour your brain on a golden platter!" Saramina loudly declared.

"I wouldn't suggest that," Zelas commented, though Saramina seemed too enraged to hear her. "Filia's brain is so tiny that it wouldn't offer any nutrition."

"Numbers thirteen and one will be participating in the next round!" One of the brass racket tournament managers called out from the court.

"That's me," Filia tried to look mature by walking away from the argument, picking up her brass racket on the way to the court.

"If you're number thirteen, then I'm number one, it fits!" Saramina rushed towards the opposite side of the court and shoved a bag of money into the stunned hands of the brass rackets player who previously held the number one. "Take this payment for your number along with your life." The brass rackets enthusiast didn't argue and quickly left the area. Though that was technically against the rules, no one dared to get into the middle of a fight between a zombie and a dragon, thus the match began with Saramina serving.

"This will be a short match!" Filia returned the service with great force. She didn't think a spoiled sheltered girl would have a strong enough attitude to counter.

"Yes, short for you!" Saramina returned the magical sphere to Filia's side of the court with amazing force.

Filia swung her brass racket, focusing her energy as hard as she could, roaring as she sent the ball back. She hated to admit it, but her opponent was surprisingly strong and might present a challenge.

"Ha!" Saramina returned the ball with her racket and arm flying along with it.

"Gross!" Filia hit the ball back, then batted away the detached limb as well.

Saramina caught the arm, which still had a firm grip on the racket. She bent it at the elbow and threw it like a boomerang towards the magical sphere. The hit sent the ball back towards Filia's side of the court, while the arm swung back towards Saramina. The zombie reattached the limb as if she was used to it. "You'll never win! Xellos is going to marry me!"

Filia's eyes glowed as her tail, claws and fangs made an appearance, giving her a fierce look, even if the rest of her body remained in elf form. With her anger reaching its peak, Filia swung her racket fiercely. "Xellos is mine!"

The ball hit Saramina head on, though the zombie tried to shield herself with her racket. Yet there was something off, it wasn't just the magical sphere, there was something else behind it, a sphere of energy, specifically white magic. Entangling itself with the brass rackets ball, the sphere of light carrying an exorcism spell collided with the undead target. Saramina let out an ear splitting wail that made all those present immediately cover their ears. Then she disappeared in a brilliant flash of light.

Filia clapped her hands together and gently voiced, "rest in peace," before strolling victoriously out of the court. A few more rules might have been broken, but again, no one wanted to argue with a dragon.

"Sa... Sa.... Sa... Saramina!" Mr. Enterprise finally seemed to have recovered his capacity of speech. "Dragon, you exorcised my only child and now she is no longer with me because of you!"

Filia's guilt was quick to catch up to her. No matter how much of a, literally and metaphorically, rotten brat that girl was, she was still this man's only daughter. What could she say to console him? How could she convince him that it was better for Saramina to rest in peace?

"Thank you!" Mr. Enterprise suddenly burst into tears of relief. "Thank you so much, Lady Filia! Saramina was a terrible expense for me and because of her zombie state, I was afraid to put a stop to her spending or refuse anything she asked for. I was sure she would devour my brain if I did! Bringing her back from the dead was a mistake, but now I'm finally free! I'm free at last and I didn't even have to hire an exorcist. I'm free for free, life is wonderful!" Jumping with joy, Mr. Enterprise ran off to celebrate.

Filia stood there in shock. "How could he be so happy to be rid of his daughter? He's so mean!" The golden dragon pouted indignantly.

"That was... interesting," Zelas calmly commented. She gave Filia an almost friendly smile that made the dragon do a double take. Then the monster lord's expression morphed into something deadly, her fangs peeking out of her mouth, golden eyes glowing. "If you ever call me mother, mom, mommy, mama or any other variation again, I will kill you." She especially emphasized the last four words of her threat.

Filia shuddered under Zelas' intense glare and nodded like a bubblehead toy. "Yes, Lord Beast Master."

Zelas grinned, her eyes closed, an expression that was Xellos' rather than hers. She knew it annoyed Filia to find similarities between them. "I'm glad that we're finally starting to see eye to eye." The remark was full of sarcasm, with a message buried between the lines that reaffirmed Zelas' sense of superiority. The monster lord got up from her bench and stretched. "I'm getting bored, I'm going to take a walk, maybe I'll see someone else around here I recognize. I'll be back in a little while." With those words of parting, Zelas walked away, disappearing among the gathered crowd.

Filia let out a breath she didn't even know she was holding and nearly collapsed into the bench where Zelas had been sitting before. Her rest was short lived, as the brass rackets tournament had to continue. She didn't even have time to let out her tensions by complaining to her friends, though she thought she heard Gourry telling Lina about how glad he was that his mother in law was nice. With number seven and number thirteen, the last remaining contestants, being called to the court, Filia went off to face her hopefully final obstacle in recovering Xellos.

Filia strode to her side of the court, while a young woman who went by the name of Yuna walked to the opposite side. Yuna looked normal enough with her energetic eyes and short orange hair. A classic sports girl with real skill. "You can serve if you want." She offered sweetly.

Filia knew not to lower her guard. Yuna was a very good brass rackets player and even after witnessing Filia's latest match, she didn't seem worried. "If you don't mind..." Filia served the magical ball, sending it to the side of the court opposite to the corner where Yuna stood.

With an amused look, Yuna was fast on her feet, rushing to meet the ball and send it back, also as far away from Filia on her side of the court as possible. Filia ran to return the ball, feeling the weight of the magic as she hit it back.

Both competitors resolved to stay in the middle of their respective sides of the court so that they could be ready to return the shots wherever they came from. The magical sphere was returned back and forth in an intense game, with both sides running and diving to save the ball. No points had been accumulated so far and the crowd was getting riled up. The brass rackets fans cheered energetically, waiting with baited breath to see who would score the first point.

"Time to up the game a bit," Yuna hit the ball back, a hint of black energy wrapping around it.

Filia had trouble hitting it back, but managed to sneak in a hint of holy energy around the sphere. "I know who you are!"

Yuna, who was actually Zelas in disguise, returned the ball, adding more of her own dark energy to it, which caused it to grow in size. "What are you going to do about it?"

Filia batted away the ball with her racket, bits of Zelas dark energy sparking off it and striking her as she tried to pour her own holy magic into it. Zelas could overpower her and Filia knew it, but she was prolonging their sports duel by limiting the amount of dark energy she added around the sphere. "I'm going to win!" Filia roared determinately, sounding very much like a ferocious dragon.

"Let's see you try!" Zelas added more of her dark energy to the ball as she sent it back straight at Filia.

Filia hit it back, trying to charge her own holy magic into it, in an attempt to cleanse it of Zelas' energy. Black and purple sparks of electricity stroke Filia as if she were a lightning rod when the ball came in contact with her racket. Though she couldn't help it but to scream in pain, Filia pushed against the ball, which seemed to be spinning in place in contact with her racket. She had to return that ball, she had to put up the best fight she could. Against all odds, she had to win, not only for Xellos, but also for herself. Filia gave it everything she had, a white and golden glow surrounded her as she poured her last drop of energy into the ball, coating it in holy magic and sending it back at Zelas.

Zelas covered her own racket in black magic and prepared for the hit. As soon as her racket came into contact with the holy magic ball, a chain reaction was initiated and the brass racket's court was surrounded in beams of golden and black light. The two opposing forces merged together in a massive blast of fusion magic that sent all those present in the premises running for their lives, if not flying away to a painful fall by the force of the powerful energy.

When everything finally cleared, there was a huge crater on the ground where the brass rackets court used to be. Filia was breathing heavily, looking terribly battered, just barely standing on one side of the crater. On the other side of the crater, Zelas was poking at her broken brass racket. The fusion blast was closest to her and in contact with her sports equipment, thus her racket broke, while Filia's only cracked.

"It's broken," Zelas tossed the useless racket handle over her shoulder and disappeared into the astral side, reappearing next to Filia. "Your racket is cracked, it'll break soon, but it seems mine broke first."

"Does that mean I won?" Filia was trembling in exhaustion and pain. She was covered in cuts and bruises as a result of being so close to the blast. She tried to protect herself, but she had already given all that she could give and couldn't spare any energy to heal herself even a little.

Zelas laughed in mocking amusement. "You've got an interesting attitude, zero instinct of self preservation. It's a wonder you're not dead given how often you expose yourself to getting the wrong people angry. Yet it's all oddly amusing, I suppose that's why Xellos was so fond of you."

"Was?" Filia questioned. From the corner of her eyes, that were still mainly focused on Zelas, Filia spotted Lina, Gourry, Zelgadis and Amelia approaching. They must have wisely retreated to find some cover right before the fusion blast. "What do you mean was?"

"Take a look around," Zelas smirked cruelly. "Everything was destroyed, including the chest that contained the tournament prizes. Xellos was disintegrated, such a pity. Oh well, I suppose I can always make myself a new minion..."

The group gasped, in disbelief that Xellos was gone. "Poor Mr. Xellos," Amelia grimaced.

Filia felt a few tears roll down her face as her heart sank. Xellos was gone, he wasn't coming back. He was dead and it was partially her fault. She fell to her knees keeping her eyes on the ground for several eternal seconds before she finally looked up to see Zelas' cruel and confident smirk. The golden dragon pulled herself to her feet with difficulty and dried her tears.

Zelas raised a curious eyebrow, "you're done crying already? I thought you would be mourning your lover for longer than this. Such a cruel dragon."

Filia mirrored Zelas' confident expression. "There's nothing to mourn because Xellos is still safe. You're just trying to trick me, it's written all over your face!" Realizing that she was being a little too direct, Filia was quick to clear her throat and add in a serious tone, "with all due respect, Lord Beast Master."

Zelas laughed, it was a strong and imposing laugh, yet somehow it was as obnoxious as the laughs of Naga and Martina. "You're really giving that lonely brain cell of yours a good work out, aren't you? You're more observant than expected, but not observant enough." Zelas pulled out the necklace from the pocket of her sports mini skirt. The black cone shaped gem that imprisoned Xellos was still intact. "The necklace I threw was a fake; I switched it when you weren't looking. The real Xellos was with me the whole time. Which means this little detour was... not vital, yet nonetheless amusing."

Filia collapsed in exhaustion, with Amelia immediately rushing over to heal her. "I guess it's next to impossible not to be tricked by the lord of all tricksters," Filia breathed before passing out, being left to the mercy of the healing spells, that Lina and Zelgadis soon joined in helping with.

xoxox xox xoxox

After Filia was back on her feet, the group continued their journey to the next town, reaching it well after nightfall. Tired from the day's events, they checked into an inn and retreated to their respective rooms. Zelas of course got her own room.

Curious to discuss a few peculiar details she had noticed with the monster lord, Lina Inverse, the red haired heroine who was more intuitive and observant than anyone would guess, set out to knock on Zelas' door. When the monster lord didn't reply, the sorceress bravely opened the door a few inches, taking a peek inside.

Zelas was back to her flashier appearance with the dress, the jewelry, the tan and the long hair. She was sleeping on the inn's bed, not caring to throw the blanket over herself, it's not like she would get cold anyway. She slept on her side, one arm folded under her head atop the pillow, the other hand touching the bed, slightly stretched as if inviting someone to sit. Her legs were slightly bent at the knees, her dress framing them perfectly. Her face was serene; eyes peacefully closed accentuating her long lashes.

Zelas looked like the sculpture of a goddess and Lina's survival instinct told her it was better not to disturb her. That and the fact that Fang, Zelas' loyal pet monster fox was sitting next to the bed showing his sharp teeth as he glared. Lina knew that Zelas didn't need to sleep and didn't know why she suddenly decided she wanted to. The redhead also knew that even if she allowed herself to sleep, Zelas didn't need a guard and didn't know why she decided to have one anyway. Maybe she was being extra careful to make sure Filia didn't try to steal the necklace containing Xellos, not that she would. Another thing Lina knew, or thought she knew, was that Filia, although dangerously daring, was not a suicidal fool. Gently closing the door, Lina left.

xoxox xox xoxox

Rather than going to her room to get some rest, Lina called for a group meeting. Gourry tagged along with her as usual. Amelia and Zelgadis were there, but Filia was absent, with Amelia explaining, "I saw Miss Filia heading up to the roof."

"That's okay, we can excuse her from the meeting," the leader decided. The princess and the chimera were puzzled as to why Lina would call them and assumed it had something to do with Beast Master. However, Lina's topic of discussion was something else. "You've gone through a lot of temples looking for a cure, haven't you Zel? And you've been conducting research to help, haven't you Amelia? Even if you've toned it down lately, the information you've gathered in the past should be enough to get started. To summarize, I have called this meeting so that we can decide what treasure we'll be hunting for." Before her companions could protest, Lina raised her hand in a sign of silence and assured, "trust me, this is all a part of my plan."

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Filia found herself unable to sleep despite being terribly tired. She stood at a balcony at the inn's rooftop gazing at the stars. She wasn't sure what to think about the recent events. Why did Zelas agree to follow Lina, instead of forcing Lina to become her pawn? Why was Lina so confident that things would work out? Beast Master's behavior was very puzzling to Filia and so was Lina's, albeit everyone in the group had silently agreed to trust their leader.

"Filia?" The voice was distant, almost like an otherworldly echo, but it was still distinctly familiar.

"Oh great, now I'm hearing Xellos' voice in my head, I must be going crazy," Filia massaged her temples worriedly.

"I thought you were already crazy," the same familiar distant echoing voice was heard again. Filia turned around and there he was. Xellos, his hair still white, surrounded by a silvery glow as if he were a ghost. Yet his presence didn't feel like a ghost, he was more like a spirit that had been detached from its still living body.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive - Episode 068: Divergence! Treasure Hunting

"Xellos..." Filia approached the ghostly Xellos, who was floating a few inches above the surface of the inn's roof where she stood. She reached out to touch him, but her hand went through him. "I see... Your spirit wandered out, but your body is still imprisoned. You'd best be careful," her voice felt shaky, "don't go too far from your body or you might become a lost spirit. Humans need physical forms after all; you can't exist as a purely astral being in your current state."

"Crying again?" Xellos noted, "I thought you'd be happy to see me, stupid dragon."

"I'm crying because I'm happy to see you, raw garbage!" Filia retorted. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. "You look really angelic glowing like that."

Xellos crossed his arms in a huff, "I did not come out here to be insulted!"

Filia laughed for the first time in what felt like forever. The last few days had been terribly straining for her. "How did you manage to get out of the crystal?"

"I don't know," Xellos admitted. "When I came to, I was floating in Zelas's room while she slept. My guess is that I only managed to come out of the crystal because she's sleeping." Although he was unconscious while he was in the crystal, Xellos' last memory of being painfully trapped in it made him think that he would sleep eternally. He didn't know how long it had been when he woke up and was relieved to find Filia, confirming that not too much time passed after all. "Who knows why Zelas decided to get some sleep? It's not like she actually needs it, you do."

Filia couldn't argue with that. "I'm terribly tired, but judging by what you said, you'll go back to the crystal when Zelas wakes up. I'm not going to sleep through your visit just so you can tell me how rude I am."

"Fine, but don't blame me if you look like a zombie in the morning," Xellos teased.

Filia groaned in vexation. "Don't even talk to me about zombies. I had to exorcise your crazy zombie fan girl, Saramina."

"Saramina's gone?" A smile spread across Xellos' features as he jumped into the air, though he was already floating to begin with. "She's finally gone!" He quickly composed himself and in an overly serious tone commented, "it's about time you made yourself useful, stupid dragon."

Filia couldn't help it but to be amused by his reaction. "I take it Beast Master told you not to get rid of her?"

"Exactly," Xellos confirmed. "Saramina was a source of annoyance for all those who ever met her. She was in a sense, a good chef for negative emotions. I'm surprised you're still alive after getting rid of her. Lord Beast Master must have been feeling especially merciful."

"Considering all I went through, I really don't want to know what she's like when she's feeling merciless," Filia yawned.

"Get some sleep, stupid dragon, my guess is that your chances for real rest will be scarce," Xellos insisted.

Now that Filia had gotten to see Xellos again, even if he was only a spirit, she felt reassured enough for her tiredness to catch up to her and defeat her previous insomnia. "You're probably right..." but that still didn't change the fact that she would rather stay awake and talk to Xellos for a while longer. She had a lot to get off her chest.

"I heard spirits can enter dreams rather easily," Xellos hinted.

Filia smiled, that would solve the situation. She could get some sleep and still be with Xellos. "I guess I should get some sleep then. I'll see you in my dreams."

"That sounded terribly cheesy," Xellos teased. His amused expression turned into a serious one as he warned. "If you overload your dream with pink, frill and cute fuzzy creatures I'm calling an emergency retreat and getting out of there immediately."

"Alright, alright, I'll keep it toned down," Filia agreed with a little pout.

Filia returned to her room where she settled into bed and fell asleep almost instantly. Xellos attempted to enter her dreams, but felt as if he was chained in a metaphorical way and the chain didn't extend far enough for him to enter someone's dreams. He could try to break free, but it would probably be bad if he completely detached his spirit from his body in the black cone crystal. "Now Filia's going to complain about being stood up in dream land." Xellos said to no one in particular. He floated next to Filia, unable to do much else at the moment. Well, at least she was getting some rest, she needed it.

xoxox xox xoxox

When the morning came, Filia felt as if she didn't get enough sleep and had to drag herself out of bed to the sound of Amelia rushing her downstairs before Lina ate all the food. Xellos never showed up in her dreams, well he did, but those were just images created by her own memories, not the real Xellos. She was angry at him for a while, actually considering asking Beast Master for permission to insult her necklace, but decided against the silliness of it all. Xellos wouldn't be able to hear her if he was back in the necklace anyway. On the other hand, Filia didn't know when Xellos had been called back, as she correctly assumed he had been. Maybe it happened shortly after she fell asleep. Or maybe, even if he was there for a while, for unknown circumstances, he was unable to enter her dreams after all. If that was the case then it wasn't his fault he technically stood her up.

Debating if she should complain about it or not the next time she saw Xellos, Filia tried to have some breakfast and finish waking up. Deep down she knew she would just forget about him being a no show in her dreams and just be happy to see him again whenever that happened. Breakfast went by as any breakfast with Lina Inverse's traveling group would go.

When they were finally done, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Zelas, left the inn and were on the road again. The first four had an air of purpose around them, as if they knew exactly where they were going. Or rather Lina, Amelia and Zelgadis knew of their intended destination and Gourry simply knew where he was going because the answer was as simple as 'wherever Lina's going.' Zelas followed along with her usual annoying little comments and critiques that no one dared to voice a well deserved snide reply to.

"Where are we going?" Filia finally inquired, not content with following along without a clue.

"We're going treasure hunting!" Lina happily announced. She stopped in the middle of the path and looked back at the town. "This is far enough, no one from town will see us here." She pointed at a collection of bushes that was on the road side. "We came all this way so you wouldn't have any modesty related excuses and look, there's some cover over there."

Filia already dreaded where this was going. She narrowed her eyes, stomped her feet and pouted, producing a firm, "no!"

"C'mon Filia, we need you to do this. Zelas is going to get impatient if we don't get to our destination soon and it's a far walk!" Lina argued; she was the one who was getting impatient. If Zelas made one more comment about her bodily proportions, Lina would surely snap and Dragon Slave the monster lord, never mind the consequences. The only reason she lasted that long was because Gourry kept telling her to calm down, giving her a hug each time he did, thus sufficiently distracting her from her rage.

"Why can't Zelas teleport us?" Filia didn't want to carry the group, but most of all she didn't want to carry Zelas. She would much rather get the worse case of teleportation sickness she ever got.

"We can do this on our own power," Lina insisted with a meaningful look that told Filia she wasn't exactly contributing to the fulfillment of her plan.

"C'mon, Filia, make yourself useful," Zelas teased. "Just go hide your hideous self behind those bushes and transform into an even uglier creature. Relax, no one is going to look at your chest while you're changing, us girls will make sure the boys don't peek. Of course, if it were Lina she wouldn't have that problem, since she's so flat-chested."

Lina's anger reached its limit, Zelas was purposely saying what Lina considered to be terribly cruel things to get on her nerves and she was accomplishing it. So what if she was a powerful monster lord? So what if Lina knew she couldn't count on using the power of the Lord of Nightmares in this fight? So what if using black magic on a monster lord wasn't the most effective way to go? Forget logic, forget reason, forget sanity! "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond-!"

Lina's words were silenced by Gourry's lips on hers. Her face was practically glowing red and it took her a second, but she wrapped his arms around him and returned the kiss, momentarily forgetting where they were and who was watching. When they finally parted, it didn't look like Lina had any intentions of picking a suicidal fight anymore. "Are you going to be okay, Lina?" Gourry asked gently.

Lina smiled with a loving expression. "Yeah, I'm fine now..." Then she realized she had an audience and her face turned scarlet again. "Stop looking at me! Gourry, don't do stuff like that in front of people!"

"Why not?" Gourry innocently asked. "I thought we've been engaged for long enough for it to be okay to kiss you."

Lina's head was almost producing steam out of the ears as she blushed brighter than anyone would guess is possible. "That's not the point, it's just that people are looking and... and... and..."

"I understand, you're shy," Gourry smiled, apparently too dense to know how to be embarrassed. "It's okay; from now on I'll remember to only kiss you in private."

Gritting her teeth and hiding her face with her hands in mortification, Lina muttered, "thanks a lot Gourry."

"You're welcome," Gourry cheerfully replied.

Lina cleared her throat and directed disapproving looks at Zelgadis and Amelia "stop snickering you two!" When they didn't stop, Lina resorted to what she thought would be a vengeful reaction. "Don't think I didn't see you Zel. You were kissing Amelia goodnight yesterday in the hallway at the inn!"

Zelgadis blushed in a similar way to Lina, though Lina's blush was still brighter by comparison. "I.... have no intentions of denying that." He pushed the words out with some difficulty.

Amelia gave Zelgadis an adoring look and happily declared, "Life is wonderful and love is wonderful!"

With an innocent smile, Zelas voiced, "you know what else is wonderful?" Her expression changed drastically, her fangs once again visible, narrowed eyes glowing. "Bloody murder is wonderful, like the one I'll give you if you don't tone down your positive speeches."

Amelia gulped and backed away, "yes, Lord Beast Master."

Filia sighed, "will the insanity ever end?" She went behind the bushes and transformed, lowering her body so that the others could climb aboard. She wasn't happy with the fact that Zelas insisted on riding first and kept tugging at her hair like a horse's reins.

xoxox xox xoxox

Following Lina's instructions, Filia landed at the foot of a mountain which had a cave on its side, its entrance adorned with once elegant ivory pillars, which were now showing the punishment of time and lack of maintenance. The group got off Filia, who took cover behind a rock formation beside the mountain and changed back to her elf form, emerging to join the group. They were about to enter the cave temple when a sudden appearance by Fang caught their attention.

The monster fox materialized out of the astral side with Phythan being dragged along as Fang ran. The young golden dragon was clinging to one of Fang's tails pleading, "don't leave me alone with her!"

Fang shook him off at last, causing Phythan to land by Zelas' feet. The monster fox dusted off his tails indignantly, threw his head back and strolled away, fading into the astral side as he did. Sure, he was generally well behaved, but there had to be a situation that got on his nerves. Zelas knew something was going on, Fang was used to being poked due to his frequent participation in pet shows, he wouldn't react like this unless he was really annoyed. She looked at the golden dragon on the ground. "I hope you're not trying to look up my skirt. Get it right, the easy one who has a thing for golden dragons is Xellos, not me."

Phythan scrambled to his feet, immediately excusing himself, "I wasn't doing anything wrong!" He got up with as much dignity as he could muster after his peculiar arrival and dusted off his dragon robes.

"Xellos is not easy," Filia felt the need to point out. "He's very, very, very, very difficult." She had to silently admit to herself that Xellos' sarcasm had indeed rubbed off on her.

Phythan puckered his lower lip, his violet eyes seemingly growing to twice their size. Beast Master had Phythan as her intern long enough to know this meant he was going into whining mode. "Lord Beast Master, Miss Galathia is trying to kill me! I know you told me to follow her orders and I figured you would be mad if I disintegrated her with my laser breath, but I can't just stand around and get killed! What should I do?" He paused in his complaining to flash the rest of the group a charming smile, "hi everyone!"

Filia slapped her own forehead in disbelief. At least no one could say she was the biggest disgrace to the golden dragon race. Oh no, she was sure Phythan had her beat in that category. With no warning, Galathia Gorgon faded into existence from the astral side. "There you are! Why have you come to bother Lord Beast Master during her special mission? Don't forget I was left in charge of your internship duties while she was gone."

"He says you want to kill him, golden dragons are so dramatic," Zelas mocked. "They're the living representation of a cheesy soap opera."

"I never said I would kill you," Galathia argued.

"You did too!" Phythan insisted. "You said you'd do the naughtiest thing I could imagine and the worse thing one can do to a person is murder."

Filia, who actually caught the hidden meaning of the threat, blushed in embarrassment and anger. "You indecent monster, you're not laying a finger on him!" She threatened Galathia fiercely, then patted Phythan on the head like one would pet a kitten. "It's okay, your big sister Filia will make sure these perverted monsters don't corrupt you."

"That's funny, I thought Xellos already corrupted you," Zelas innocently observed with a detached tone.

"How... do... you..." Filia stuttered mortified.

"How do I know?" Zelas offered. She grinned with smug superiority, "because you told me just now." Filia bit her lip and held her tongue, to avoid inserting her foot in her mouth again.

"Excuse me," Lina interfered. "I think it's time for us to be on our way with our treasure hunting business. Plus I don't like the way this conversation is going."

"I'm getting bored," Zelas yawned in an exaggerated way.

"Don't worry, the renegotiation stage is at hand," Lina confidently assured. "Although, I think you might already have a pretty good idea of what my main argument will be. Nonetheless, I might as well finish my presentation. Shall we go?"

"Very well," Zelas agreed. She glanced at the gorgon, whose face was still covered, before approaching the entrance of the temple cave. "Galathia, try not to traumatize the intern, if he gets all horrified and depressed he won't be amusing anymore."

Galathia frowned behind her thick veil. Zelas' order, which was mockingly intoned as a friendly suggestion, basically meant that Phythan was off limits, at least until he got on Zelas' bad side. Given how dutiful he was as an intern, it didn't look like that would happen any time soon. "Yes, Lord Beast Master," the snake-like woman sighed in disappointment. She faded to the astral side to continue her duties in the monster spa.

"Alright everyone, onward!" Lina led the way through the entrance of the temple cave. Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Zelas and Phythan followed her in.

Ivory tiles with bits of grass growing between them were abundant at first. The tiles became scarce the deeper they went into the cave, which had a slight downward slope. Ragged fragments of a red carpet could be seen on the soil ground, with more bits of grass that became less abundant the further they went. The walls of the cave were nicely polished at first, becoming rougher as they went deeper in. Finally, the cave temple ended up looking like any other cave with plain rocky grounds and rough walls. Stalagmites and stalactites were all around with drops of water occasionally falling on their heads.

The explorers finally reached a large set of double doors, which had already been forced open as the bottom of half of one of the giant stone doors had a hole on it. "It looks like this place has already been raided," Zelas commented in boredom.

"Yes, I raided it," Zelgadis admitted. Noting Zelas' questioning look, he elaborated, "there's only one thing that was left behind, something that's too large to be moved." The group made their way into the room behind the broken stone doors as Zelgadis announced, "that is the mountain itself."

"What would I want with a mountain?" Zelas inquired.

"It's a holy mountain, or that's what people say, at least," Lina specified.

"I can figure that for myself," Zelas voiced impatiently.

"Then you must also know the information isn't entirely true," Amelia pointed out. "Zelgadis came here looking for a cure for his chimera condition. I had also researched this place from texts that were delivered to Seyruun and gathered information. There is supposed to be a powerful artifact here, but it's not."

"Yet the mountain still holds a considerable amount of energy in it. A normal monster would not be able to enter here," Zelgadis continued.

"Indeed," Zelas agreed, "yet a monster lord would be strong enough to fight here," she warned.

"True," Lina acknowledged, "but we're not here for a fight, we're here for the artifact, for the golden pyramid! If it was truly gone, then the mountain would hold no power, the only explanation is that it's buried and we're going to dig it out. Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows, buried in the stream of time is where your power grows!"

"You didn't say you would dig it out with the Dragon Slave!" Zelgadis reproached.

"I suppose it is faster than shovels, besides, we don't have shovels anyway," Amelia reasoned. "Maybe we should wait outside." Amelia went on the retreat with Zelgadis, Gourry, Filia and Phythan following.

"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands!" Lina continued her signature spell, while Zelas observed. "Let the fools... er mountain, that stands before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess!" Zelas faded into the astral side and swiftly moved away from the vicinity of the attack. "Dragon Slave!" Lina released her energy, reducing the mountain to dust.

To be Continued

Slayers: Alive - Episode 069: Unclear! Disarranged Puzzle Pieces

Lina stood in the middle of a large crater with small pieces of gold falling around her, which she gathered. "The golden pyramid is a powerful artifact capable of enslaving high level monsters that can be ordered into battle by the holder of this device. It doesn't hold enough power to work on a monster lord, general or priest, and one would have to be skilled in sorcery to activate it. The pyramid itself is a three dimensional puzzle about the size of a fist when put together. It is made of gold pieces with magic sealed in them. When it is broken as it is now, it cannot be used to enslave monsters. Nonetheless each individual piece works as an amulet to guard against middle rank monsters."

Lina continued her explanation. "Overall, it's a fairly useful device that can turn the tides in a battle, even if perhaps not in a war." The redhead finished gathering the pieces of the golden pyramid as her friends approached and Zelas returned via the astral side. Lina held the golden pieces in her hands towards Zelas, "for you."

Zelas accepted the pieces of the golden pyramid puzzle, nonetheless pointing out, "this is hardly a sufficient bribe." Even if she spoke those words, Zelas had a peculiar grin on her face, as if a hidden purpose had been accomplished.

"It's not a bribe," Lina mirrored Zelas' expression. "It's only something that you wouldn't have if you had not come along with us. Something that you wouldn't have even heard we obtained."

"So it would seem," Zelas agreed, so far it appeared that the monster lord and the sorceress had reached a silent understanding that remained partially hidden to the rest of the group.

"About those renegotiations," Lina brought up the subject, "or rather, about the point I was trying to prove..."

"You've done a fine job as a bodyguard, even when all was seemingly lost, you provided a valid argument," Zelas acknowledged. "However," she warned, "my choice had been made from the start, thus you have no real influence on me."

"I noticed that," Lina accepted, "I think it was still worth proving the point though. I wouldn't want anyone to say I'm a lousy bodyguard who gives up on her clients, that's bad for business."

"Of course," Zelas grinned, "you truly are a peculiar being, Lina Inverse. Pact or not, I might still call upon you in the future, my amusing pawn."

Lina huffed, "I'm no one's pawn," she insisted, though she had been used as such in the past, thus she clarified, "but I'm a sorceress for hire on occasion. I accept payment in gold and don't forget to include a courtesy meal!"

"I'll remember that," Zelas ran a perfectly manicured fingernail over the smooth surface of the black cone jewel on her necklace. "I will release Xellos in a few days. You may carry on with your journey; I'll catch up to you when the time comes." With her final choice made, Zelas gave one last quick glance to Phythan, "your next assignment is to travel with Lina's group and report what you witness to me." Then she faded away to the astral side.

Phythan made a little salute, though Zelas had already disappeared, "yes, Lord Beast Master!"

Lina stretched her arms over her head, "that takes care of that. Let's find a good place to eat."

"Wait a minute!" Filia protested. "What just happened? What made Zelas want to release Xellos and why is she waiting a few days?"

"That I don't know," Lina admitted, but she at least could explain the rest. "Throughout our travels we come across a lot of places, people, things and situations. Zelas might want to be informed of all that for various reasons. I wanted to prove that it was worth keeping an eye on us and who better to do that than Zelas' most trusted minion? If she sends someone different who is not a monster, it wouldn't be the same to her and if she makes a new general priest, it wouldn't be the same to us, thus affecting our actions."

Filia's eyes widened in realization. "I understand; you were trying to prove to Zelas that Xellos is still useful to her. That's what this whole trip was about. But what if your theory about the mountain was mistaken?"

"I would have to figure out something to do," Lina grinned, disregarding the risk. "Don't I always?" She paused, with her face taking on a more thoughtful expression. "Nonetheless, Zelas' choice had already been made. She never intended to destroy Xellos. Galathia mentioned a secret mission; I believe this is all the same thing. The reason why we haven't been getting a whole lot of trouble from monsters, though we did have to face the Green Alchemist, the reason why Zelas reduced the amount of danger Xellos was exposed to... she must have had plans for him. Whatever those plans are, they must have involved trapping him in that crystal for a while. Zelas' plans have not yet been fulfilled though; it is probably something that takes time."

"That's why she won't release Xellos for a few days," Filia agreed. Her face was filled with horror as she considered the possibilities. "What if this is all part of some kind of plot to launch a full scale attack? What if she's trying to doom the world?" She rushed over to Phythan, shaking him by the shoulders. "Do you know something? Speak!"

"I don't know anything!" Phythan insisted. "This is my most exciting mission yet. All I ever do as an intern is groom Fang, clean Lord Beast Master's lair and carry her gigantic purse when she goes somewhere."

"This could mean trouble, but we know so little it's hard to think of what to do," Amelia worried. Attempting to break into Lord Beast Master's lair was out of the question. Not only would that be a suicide mission that was doomed to fail, but they had no idea where exactly the lair was located anyway and Phythan probably got teleported there by monsters, rather than being informed of the location.

"Then we'll just have to wing it!" Lina concluded with more optimism than the situation probably deserved.

xoxox xox xoxox

The group continued their journey, locating the nearest restaurant from the sky, riding on Phythan. Unlike Filia, he didn't mind carrying the group and still had no problems with transforming in front of people. After they had a good meal, the journey continued with occasional stops at inns and restaurants for sleep and food respectively. They were heading back to Seyruun; they weren't sure what to do next, so they resolved it was best to regroup there.

After a particularly long day of traveling, they stopped to camp out, as the next town was still a considerable distance away. Nothing appeared to be out of place as they sat around a campfire roasting marshmallows, until an unknown being materialized before them. He was obviously a monster, judging by how he moved through the astral side, albeit he resembled a human chimera in appearance. He had black hair and silver eyes; he was wearing black clothes in the style of a classic evil wizard, with silver armlets, belts and boots. Filia could perceive that he had plentiful monster powers at his disposal. Another noticeable trait was the spiky collar he wore around his neck, which was something one would expect a pet to wear.

The main differences that gave him away as a non-human to those who couldn't sense his energy, were his fox ears and tail, which were covered in black fur. Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia jumped to their feet, taking on fighting stances, ready to combat the monster if he attacked. The fox creature appeared to ignore the aggressive atmosphere, instead keeping his eyes on Amelia and taking a step towards her. "Amelia... Would you scratch me behind the ears? I really like it when you do that!"

The group nearly fell over in shock. "Just who do you think you are?" Zelgadis angrily demanded.

"I'm Fang and you're Zelgadis!" The fox creature pointed out in a carefree tone.

"Fang?!" Lina, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia chorused the surprised exclamation.

"Who's Fang?" Predictably, Gourry didn't remember.

"This is Fang's human form... or rather, his human chimera form," Phythan calmly explain. He had seen Fang's alternate form so it did not come as a surprise to him. "You know how it is, monsters can take on human disguises, but since Fang is a monster fox chimera, his human disguise is a fox chimera too." Fang was a chimera created much more recently than Celo, with improved methods that prevented his power from noticeably decreasing.

"I guess Zelas wanted to send a monster along with us." Lina sat down again. At least when Xellos returned, things should go back to normal. Or rather, things should be restored to their usual level of insanity.

The group settled down and went back to enjoying their roasted marshmallows, albeit Zelgadis wasn't pleased with Fang trying to lay his head on Amelia's lap. That wasn't so bad when he was just a fox, but now he was different. In an attempt to make them get along, Amelia pulled out a hairbrush from her cape and offered it to Zelgadis, "why don't you brush Fang's hair?"

"Brush his hair? But he's-" Zelgadis' argument was interrupted when Fang half laid on his lap.

Unlike in his fox chimera form, when in human chimera form, Fang had one tail instead of two, which wasn't as huge as his two tails in his alternate form. None the less, he could certainly wag that tail. "Brush my hair Zelgadis, I like having my hair brushed!"

Zelgadis felt his eye twitch and gave Amelia a desperate look. The princess smile encouragingly and nodded, while Lina snickered in amusement and Filia shook her head hopelessly. Gourry was as confused as usual, so he had nothing to offer Zelgadis beyond a blank look. "I can't believe this," shocked with himself, Zelgadis began to brush Fang's hair.

Other than that, it seemed that the camping trip would be relatively uneventful as the marshmallows were consumed and sleeping arrangements were made. Then in the middle of the night, Fang woke up. "I taste it, it's strong!" He exclaimed loud enough to wake the others. "I want it, I want it! Can I go? Can I have a snack now?"

"We already ate all the food, shut up and go to sleep!" Lina scolded, not pointing out that she had consumed the largest portion of their supplies herself.

Fang whimpered, "no snack?" He pouted cutely, his silver eyes looking similar to Phythan's when he was complaining.

"I don't think he wants normal food," Phythan commented sleepily. He yawned and allowed himself a moment to become fully alert. Then he leapt to his feet in determination. "Monsters feed off negative emotions, Fang must be able to taste the feelings of someone who is in peril! I cannot overlook this injustice!"

"Oh no..." Zelgadis muttered under his breath. Phythan was giving a justice speech; that would be sure to get Amelia riled up.

"Neither can I!" Amelia energetically jumped to her feet. "Fang, lead us to the source of the taste you perceive, we must find the person who is in need of assistance. We must defend justice!"

"Snack!" Fang took off in an all out dash, followed by Phythan and Amelia.

Since Amelia was going, Zelgadis ran after her as well, "wait for me!"

"Yes, Zelgadis, let us defend justice together!" Amelia took his hand, pulling him along to go faster. She was an amazingly speedy runner when it came to rushing to defend justice.

"Can't we defend justice in the morning?" Lina begrudgingly followed them.

"I guess that's a no?" Gourry hurried after Lina, not understanding the significance of the sarcastic rhetorical question.

"I might as well go," Filia joined the mad chase as well.

xoxox xox xoxox

Fang led the group towards a patch of vegetation. Not too far away, the crunching of the first few fallen leaves of autumn could be heard. The footsteps were unsure and unsteady, not following a firm rhythm. They were not too fast, yet there was a feeling of despair to the ragged breaths that accompanied them. The forested area was dark, the trees blocking the light of the moon and stars, but up ahead there was a bright unnatural golden glow. It was the gold that shined upon the sea of chaos.

Fang stopped his tracks several feet away from the Lord of Nightmares. "I smell power, I smell a lot of power," his black fox ears twitched as he lowered himself to hide behind some bushes, keeping his voice in a whisper. "That person knows we're here," he realized, "so much power, is this the one master calls Lord of Nightmares?"

Amelia, Zelgadis, Lina, Gourry, Filia and Phythan took cover along with Fang. "It's a warning," Lina guessed. "She wants us to hang back," albeit her voice was only a quiet whisper; she knew the Lord of Nightmares could hear her. The golden glow faded and everything was left in darkness once more.

"Who's there?" A weak voice called from the darkness. "Is anyone there?" It was the tired voice of a young woman.

Gourry was about to open his mouth to reply, but even if she couldn't see it in the darkness, Lina knew it. She simply knew him that well. The redhead reached out blindly and felt his shoulder, from there on finding his face and holding her hand over his mouth was easy.

"Answer me!" The female voice called out again.

Zelgadis could feel Amelia tensing up next to him. A seemingly defenseless person was in need of help and it was difficult for her to hold back the need to provide assistance.

"I'm not going back! I'm not going back!" The unsteady steps continued in the darkness. "I'm not going back, I'm never going back, there's nothing for me there. I'll seek my own happiness, they who give me nothing will not get anything from me. I can start over, I'm not going back," desperate sobs mixed into the words. "I'm not going back-ah!" There was the sound of someone falling on the ground and Amelia tensed further.

Then the brightness returned as the Lord of Nightmares once more showed her light. "You are weak."

On the ground in front of her there was a human woman. She seemed to be in bad shape with stained and ripped clothing, dirt and mud clinging to her, a few visible cuts and bruises and long tangled up black hair. "Who are you?" She looked at the being before her with curiosity, yet oddly there was no fear."

"You fear entrapment, you fear suffering and yet you do not fear me?" The Lord of Nightmares spoke. "You who despises the tranquil struggle, you who wishes to live outside the cycle of the masses, your weakness prevents you."

"No..." The girl looked as if the words spoken to her struck a chord. "I'm here now, I left, I started over, I'm not going to be weak anymore."

"You do not fear the embrace of death for it will spare you the pain," the Lord of Nightmares raised her hand. "Is your spirit as weak as your body?"

Amelia started to get up, but Zelgadis stopped her. She tried to move nonetheless, yet he held her in place. She stopped struggling and didn't say anything. What good could it do?

"Farewell," A silver orb of light floated on the Lord of Nightmares' hand. She held the orb in her hand, watching as the girl's black eyes stared at it, the darkness of her eyes and hair contrasting with her pale face. Then the Lord of Nightmares released the orb and it collided with the girl, trapping her in silver flames that electrified her.

"Stop!" Amelia cried out, but the sound was only a distant echo.

"Can't... move..." Phythan tried to jump into action but could not, none of them could.

Paralyzed and unable to even speak loud enough to be heard, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Phythan and Fang watched on until the silver light faded and the girl fell unconscious. The Lord of Nightmares disappeared and Lina's group was released, once again able to move around and be heard normally.

"I'm telling... I'm telling master!" Fang loudly declared, fading to the astral side instantly.

"Fang, no!" Lina reached out to the space where Fang was, but was unable to grab hold of him before he was gone. "Great, now Zelas is coming."

"Then we need to hurry!" Amelia rushed towards the unconscious young woman.

Phythan and Filia joined her, attempted to use healing magic on the girl, but soon Filia stopped them. "Don't!"

"Why not? She needs to be healed!" Amelia didn't understand.

"Look at her, her face is getting flushed, her breathing is uneven, her heartbeats are wild, our healing is making her worse" Filia explained. "Her energy waves are definitely human but they're different. I've heard about this, it's a rare condition that sometimes occurs in the lands that were outside the barrier. She will always react adversely to magic and is unable to cast it herself. It's a sort of genetic disease that can be inherited."

"Then we'll have to heal her the old fashioned way," Amelia concluded.

"It looks like there's no choice," Filia agreed.

Before anything could be done about the unknown girl, Fang reappeared with Zelas. "There she is," Fang pointed. "That's the girl with the yummy desperate emotions, but she's not yummy anymore. Now she's empty, she has no taste at all. She's alive, how come she has no taste? How come?"

"So the Lord of Nightmares threw a sort of spell into this girl?" Zelas curiously approached. "Are you glad Lina? Your point has been further proven. It is worth it to keep an eye on your group." She looked at the unconscious girl commenting with distaste, "she's filthy, it is as if she has been wandering around for a while, possibly lost. Perhaps no one cares for her, or perhaps she has been trying not to be found. Nonetheless, there is something there; the Lord of Nightmares sealed something in this girl, I wonder what that something is? I suppose I'll find out soon enough. Fang, be a dear and fetch the girl. Try not to get too messy handling the filthy creature."

"Yes master, right away!" Fang cheerfully agreed, wagging his fox tail.

Fang approached the girl, but Amelia stood in his way. "You can't just take her away!"

"It's okay, Amelia," Phythan encouraged. "Lord Beast Master wants to know what is sealed in her, right? She won't risk losing it if she dies. That's why I know she will be healed. Besides, she has a negative reaction to magic anyway, we can't heal her."

"I know, but..." that didn't make it any less frustrating for Amelia. She was a kind person who didn't like seeing others suffer.

"But you don't get a say in it," Zelas smiled smugly. "Fang, take the girl to Tiffany, tell her I said to keep her alive. Stay with her and come get me as soon as it looks like she's about to wake up."

"Yes master!" Fang carefully picked up the unconscious girl and disappeared into the astral side.

"Intern, you may continue to travel with Lina and the others for a while and assist Xellos in compiling his reports," Zelas ordered.

Filia gasped, catching a very important detail, "Xellos?"

"I was going to wait until morning, but it's been long enough." Zelas took off her black cone jewel necklace as it began to glow. Black light emerged from it, forming into a shadow that took the shape of Xellos. In seconds he materialized completely, still in the form of a human, albeit he had recovered enough for his hair to be black again. He was unconscious when he fully emerged and fell forward, though Filia was quick to catch him. "He is alright, only sleeping," Zelas stated. "Well then, I leave Xellos in your care for the time being. However, make no mistake, my patience is not infinite. I have obtained what I wanted, so this time we play for keeps. If Xellos is unable to break his curse and recover his monster powers in a reasonable amount of time, I will destroy him." Leaving a heavy feeling of foreboding in the air, Zelas disappeared.

To be Continued