To Live Another Day
Episode Eleven: Of Fish And Flirting
Thankfully, the line to enter the aquarium wasn't particularly long and the group, consisting of Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia, was able to go in fairly quickly. They made their way through the hallways, slowly examining the large tanks all around. Gourry tapped on the glass of a tank that took up an entire wall and made funny faces at the jellyfish swimming behind it. A particularly large jellyfish approached and waved its tentacles along with several other small ones more shyly waiving from behind the first. Gourry waved back and continued his jellyfish bonding.
Lina looked into another tank, a bit smaller than the jellyfish one taking up only half of the adjacent wall. It was a good thing she just ate, or else she would be fireball frying all the fish in the tank. She made a mental note just in case, that if she was starving and no restaurant took mercy on her, she should go to the aquarium. She tapped on the glass with half interest and noticed that a yellow fish followed her finger. Amused, she spun her finger around until the fish was dizzy, spiraling away in the water and crashing into an orange fish. The orange fish looked angry and slapped the yellow fish with its fins. Maybe the aquarium was also an amusing place for people who, unlike Gourry, didn't have a fixation with jellyfish.
"Look at this Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia cheerfully announced as she pointed out a sign propped up on a sort of easel. The sign depicted a dolphin with an anonymous young couple at the edge of the pool playing with it. "I want to go see the dolphins; I heard they're really smart."
Despite not finding a single tiny clue about his cure, for once Zelgadis thought it was alright to let it go and simply enjoy his time with Amelia. "Let's go see if it's true." The pair walked off happily, not even realizing that though they were all at the aquarium, the group had split apart again.
Filia sighed and observed the swimming fish. Admittedly she was a bit bored. Lina looked happy enough picking on some poor fish and Gourry had his jellyfish fascination. Amelia and Zelgadis had walked off somewhere, but they were probably having a great time in whatever part of the aquarium they were in. As for Filia, she was almost ready to admit that she missed Xellos, almost being the key word. It's just that she had no one else to hang around with and sometimes silence got so long it wasn't relaxing anymore. Wait a minute.... Who said she had no one to hang out with? What about her new friend... um... Phythan was it? Yes, Phythan! After Filia saw him at the ball tonight she would invite him to hang out the next day, then she wouldn't suffer from the delirious desire to see Xellos.
"You look bored," Filia turned around from her position staring into a fish tank. "Xellos," she meant to sound furious, because his mere presence was infuriating, but she didn't.
"Miss me?" It looked like Xellos was back to being his cool, calm, collected, cheerful and overall impossible self. At least, it looked like it to those who didn't know him well enough, apparently Filia did.
Filia gave him a half curious and half disappointed look. "What's up with that half-hearted 'missed me?' Not that monsters have a heart anyway, but you know what I mean. What are you plotting?" She glared. "You don't sound as smug and annoyingly cheerful as usual."
Xellos' reply was a simple and utterly disappointing "I don't?" He was taken off guard by Filia's powers of observation. He was indeed not feeling quite in the mood to be as mocking as he usually was. That fact consisted largely on the reason of being unable to find any useful clues about the mysterious power that was at work in trying to end his existence. It was a power such as that of the monster lords, but he had no reason to suspect them. It was extremely odd that not even the smallest clue would slip up. Regardless, he couldn't very well have Filia thinking he was losing his touch. "The truth of the matter is..." he began seriously.
Filia was alertly paying attention with a suspicious look during the beginning of his long pause. Then an uncomfortable look invaded Xellos' face and he shifted, finally staring at the floor. Filia's mouth was hanging open by this point because Xellos simply didn't act like that. "What's wrong?" She tried to snap at him, she knew he was just acting, yet her voice came up with the flatness of opposing emotions that canceled each other out, with just a hint of concern.
Xellos looked up with a big grin, "that is a secret!" Filia wanted to punch him, which was normal. At least the order of the world was restored to what it should be with Xellos once again acting like a smug trickster, which he was.
"Idiot!" Filia growled and walked past him. She glanced over at Lina, who had stopped picking on the poor stupid fish and was looking at them. Filia seemed to say 'what?' with her eyes.
If Lina was a telepath she would have replied, 'I know you were flirting.' But she didn't need telepathy because the look on her face spoke volumes. It was enough to make Filia blush and look away before promptly continuing the process of storming off with Xellos annoyingly following her. It seemed that Lina, from the perspective of an outsider noticed things that Filia did not. Those things included how close Xellos leaned in and how Filia didn't back away, although her back would have met with the glass of the tank behind her anyway. Filia had to sidestep around Xellos to get out of the position, that even after breaking from it she didn't seem to notice, much less be bothered by it.
Lina chuckled to herself and looked towards Gourry, freezing in place upon doing so. Gourry was right where she left him in front of the jellyfish tank, but he wasn't alone. He was talking animatedly to a... jellyfish person? She was different from the fish people, yes she, because if her sweet feminine voice and the yellow bows on each tentacle were any indication this jellyfish person was a girl, and she was flirting.
"You're so nice to the jellyfish; I really can't say it enough. How talented you are to be able to communicate with them." The jellyfish woman, aside from having a good number of tentacles, had a pair of human-like shapely legs that allowed her to easily walk on land; she was wearing yellow high heels that Lina would probably trip on.
Gourry was laughing sheepishly with a hand behind his head. "You really think so, Miss Medusa?"
"Oh yes," Medusa blushed and just about swooned. She giggled and batted her eyelashes, which were too long for a jellyfish, but accentuated her big blue eyes nicely, as if they didn't already stand out on her pink body. "It would be wonderful if I could get to know you better. Are you attending the masquerade party tonight?"
"Masque... Party? Sure, I guess," he obviously didn't know what it was and it looked like Miss Medusa was more interested in getting a date than in educating Gourry in the correct use of the word 'masquerade'.
Lina was fuming, but she didn't know why. She told herself she was being stupid. If Gourry wanted to go to the masquerade with some slimy jellyfish girl with too many bows, then that was none of her business. Throwing her head back in defiance, Lina bravely marched away from the scene, refusing to look back.
xoxox xox xoxox
Filia made her way angrily through the halls of the aquarium, lined with tanks containing different kinds of sea life. She stopped to look back and realized that Xellos wasn't following her. She approached a large tank ahead and tapped gently on the glass. A silvery colored fish swam near the glass. Filia smiled at it and tapped her finger on the glass again, then a shark came from behind and closed its deadly jaws on the fish.
Filia gasped startled and jumped back. She bumped into someone whom she didn't notice had been standing behind her and was surprised a second time. "I know dragons are naturally cowards, but don't worry, Filia, I'll protect you from the big bad shark that's completely harmless behind glass anyway." Xellos whispered in her ear. Why did he have to be so irritating?
"Get away from me!" Filia snapped and squirmed out of her entrapment between Xellos and the shark tank. This time she wasn't thinking about missing him so she actually noticed his proximity. She walked over to a stand which held several copies of the same book being sold as a souvenir. Filia picked up one of the picture books and examined the cover. There was a man dressed in royal looking attire facing towards the left of the page. He looked rather sad just standing there at a sandy beach, his back turned towards the other character on the cover. With her tail still touching the water, though deep enough into the shore to be easily seen, a mermaid looked longingly at the human prince.
Filia opened the book and began to read it to calm down. "Once upon a time, there was a prince who lived near the ocean." The page was illustrated beautifully in full color, depicting a castle near the beach. "A mermaid who liked to swim near the area had fallen in love with the prince." The next page depicted the mermaid, watching the prince from the beach as he went for a luxurious stroll at the shore. Filia turned to the other page, each one only had a short sentence and beautiful picture. "One day, the prince organized a ball and invited all the ladies in the land, in hopes of finding true love." The castle was drawn in detail on the page, its lovely crystal decorations standing out with elegance. "The mermaid desperately wanted to go to the ball, but she could not walk on land." There was a picture of the sad mermaid at the beach.
Filia felt that she was calming down as she focused on the story, keeping her thoughts away from Xellos. "A kind fairy saw that the mermaid's love was sincere and granted her a wish." The picture of the fairy was mostly made of light with a faint silhouette in the middle and the wings more noticeably originating from the light. She turned to the next page, which held a picture of the mermaid with human legs, wearing a beautiful dress. "The fairy transformed the mermaid into a human; however, the spell would only last until midnight."
Filia felt that the story was very similar to two other stories she had read before. One was about a mermaid and a prince and the other about a peasant and a prince. It seemed that the stories were combined to form a new tail. "The mermaid was able to attend the ball and had a wonderful time with the prince, who couldn't help it but to fall in love with her." The page depicted the prince and the mermaid, for the time being human, dancing at the castle with elegance and splendor. Filia had to admit that though the story wasn't exactly original, the artist was very talented. She was already smiling thinking that despite the cover, the ending would be happy.
Filia focused on finishing the story, all annoying thoughts about Xellos gone for the time being. "At the stroke of midnight, the mermaid ran out of the castle, regretfully telling the prince that she had no choice but to leave him." The human mermaid was depicted running down some stairs, which Filia mused must be quite tricky in her high heels, especially for someone who's used to swimming rather than walking. "The love-struck prince followed the mermaid and, refusing to lose sight of her, he ran all the way to the beach." The prince stood at the beach, his hand outstretched to a doubtful looking still-human mermaid.
"When the twelfth bell echoed loudly from the palace clock tower, the mermaid regained her original fish tail form." The astonished prince was drawn staring at the fish woman that was before him in place of his human love. "Angry, the prince accused the mermaid of being a deceiver and would not hear her plight, refusing to spend another minute in her presence." The prince was angrily walking away as the mermaid was left crying at the beach. "Neither the prince nor the mermaid ever fell in love again, for their love was a destined one that their foolishness kept them from enjoying... the end." Filia sighed and sniffled, "such a tragic story."
Xellos rolled his eyes; he had been looking at the book over Filia's shoulder the entire time. "Such a melodramatic dragon."
Filia closed the book. This time she didn't jump at Xellos' presence because in the back of her mind, even if she was blocking him out, she felt he was there. "I think it's a lovely story, in a bittersweet kind of way and I'm buying this book."
"So being specist and deceptive is romantic?" Xellos mocked, referring to the prince who wasn't fond of mermaids and the mermaid who went to see the prince in disguise. "Here I thought those human-made fairy tales were all about the perfect woman meeting the perfect man, not that I have ever wasted my precious time in reading them anyway."
Filia hugged the book to her chest as if it were a very precious treasure. "It goes to show how much you know. No one is perfect in the world, even if they might think they are," that last part was obviously directed specifically at Xellos. "It's about finding someone who is pleasant to be with and trust worthy. Of course, you wouldn't understand that or the fine lesson this story teaches."
"Enlighten me," there was something unnerving about the way Xellos could request to be 'enlightened' with a tone that screamed 'you're so stupid!'
Filia frowned as her glare intensified. "The prince lost his chance in love because he was too focused on the fact that the lady was a mermaid, rather than seeing her for who she was on the inside. It means that people should look on the inside because that's what counts. Of course, I wouldn't expect you to understand any of this, because monsters only have pure evil on the inside!"
"Specist aren't we?" Xellos mocked with the same smug grin that characterized him. Whatever sour mood he was in before was slowly taking a turn for the better, despite his continual lack of information.
"Shut up!" Filia reprimanded and walked off again with Xellos still following her. She did her best to ignore him, which sometimes worked, but mostly didn't.
xoxox xox xoxox
Some time later, the group met up at the exit of the aquarium where all the souvenir items picked up through the experience were tallied up and paid for. Amelia and Zelgadis were in exceptionally good spirits, Filia was kind of annoyed, but surprisingly not too badly and Xellos was amused.
Lina looked dangerously grumpy as she made her way out of the aquarium with the group. She was determined not to look at Gourry even if he kept trying to get her attention by tapping her shoulder repeatedly. "Lina, Lina, Lina..."
"Stop that, Gourry!" Lina slapped his hand away, no one in the group understood what her problem was and they dared not ask.
"But Lina, don't you want it?" Curiosity won her over and Lina glanced at the item Gourry was holding out to her. He gave her a big smile, "It's a marshmallow on a stick, I got it for you." Without waiting for any further reply, He placed the stick between her reluctant fingers.
Lina glared at the large marshmallow, which was at least three times the size of a fist. The sweet treat was shaped like a jellyfish and it reminded her of that flirty jellyfish girl, Medusa. Lina glared angrily at the marshmallow before devouring it with malice. Tossing the bare stick in a pink trash can decorated with red hearts, she took a deep breath. Gourry got her candy; maybe this was a sort of apology from him, which she should accept. With her best forgiving smile, she finally said, "thanks."
Gourry cheered up instantly, "I'm glad you liked it." The tension that Lina projected into the group was gone and the atmosphere felt much easier to breathe in. "You know, Miss Medusa said there was a party going on tonight." The atmosphere darkened again. "She said I should go and I told her I would. It's a marque... masquee... ma-something party."
"Masquerade!" Lina angrily supplied, while no one else in the group dared to say anything, after all Lina was glaring at them not to. "By the way, Gourry, doesn't that remind you of something you might have forgotten?"
Gourry thought for a moment. "Now that you mention it, did we have plans for tonight? I keep feeling like I've forgotten something I was going to do, but I can't remember what it was. Oh well, maybe we can do that and still have time to go to the party. I promised Miss Medusa I would be there."
Lina was fuming again. If she got her hands on that sly wicked little jellyfish witch she would... she would... She wouldn't do anything; after all, it wasn't like she was jealous, it wasn't like Gourry was her boyfriend. "Do whatever you want!" Lina growled and began to walk at a faster pace. "I'm going to the masquerade ball tonight in a pretty dress and I'm sure I'll meet a mysterious prince from a distant land!"
"Oh, that's right," Amelia nervously commented; the tension in the air could be cut with a knife. "We need to go dress shopping and the guys need tuxedos."
"Tuxedos?" Zelgadis nervously asked; he wasn't sure he liked the sound of that. Uneasiness invaded him, how would he look in the middle of an elegant ball? He had not really allowed it to fully sink in until now. But it was a masquerade ball, so his chimera condition wouldn't be too noticeable. He held on to that ray of hope and nodded, "I guess we should go to the stores if we're going to be ready on time."
"We're not going to have time to visit all the shops," Lina stated as a matter of fact as she stopped in front of a poster containing a map of the resort. "Look, here are the fancy clothing shops; that's a pretty far walk. Puffy dresses and beach clothes is all they sell around here, no middle ground what so ever. These all look like they're boutiques for women's clothes and there are jewelry shops next to them," Lina pointed them out on the map. "They take up most of the streets. The tuxedos stores are over here," she pointed them out on the map as well. There were definitely many more stores dedicated to female attire.
"Then the girls and guys should split up for shopping," Filia caught where Lina's logic was going. "It might be best that way anyway." Then she could go dress shopping without Xellos and still charge it to his account, since he was the one who made the initial vacation reservation.
"Then our dresses can be a surprise," Amelia seemed to be the only one who saw the positive side of splitting up with no ulterior motives. Lina and Filia just wanted to get away from Gourry and Xellos respectively. With that plan agreed upon, men and women went their separate ways off to shop for ball worthy attire.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. This was a pretty light chapter, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. The ball will be more eventful.