To Live Another Day
Episode Sixteen: Secrets and Surprises
Not even a full second had passed since Xellos rung the bell when the door to the clock tower was opened, revealing the dim interior. A few torches of unusual blue fire projected a dim, yet sufficient light inside the entrance room. The structure itself was made of wood, clearly old and worn as every floor tile creaked and the top of building threatened to fall apart every time it was visited by the soft breeze that managed to pass above the trees.
The man at the door was wearing formal attire, an elegant tuxedo that didn't stand out, but was still fancy in its simple way. He had gray hair with a few white strands and the average face of an average aging human, save for his eyes. His eyes were the color of deep amethyst with a certain sharpness to them that resembled Xellos' own perceptive eyes. "I, Celo Metallium, am honored by your arrival, General Xellos Metallium, please, come in." The elderly man stepped aside and bowed politely, beckoning Xellos inside.
Xellos stepped through the door and waited for the man to close it before, with a grin on his face he voiced, "let us not be so formal." His tone was friendly as it was his usual act. "After all, if your surname is true, then that would make us brothers." There was a certain hint of mockery in his voice.
Celo chuckled lightly, "I wonder if a mere middle level monster should dare to call a monster general brother, what with the implications of equality and all."
So Celo was supposed to be a middle level monster? Yeah, right, his energy felt distinctly human. Maybe he was hinting at what he hoped to achieve. "Let's cut to the chase," Xellos encouraged with a barely perceptible impatient undertone.
"Yes," Celo agreed. "Let us speak in the tea room, I'm sure you will be more comfortable there, general Xellos." Celo led the way to one of the many rooms of the clock tower. The room was just as rustic and simple as the rest of the building, with creaking wooden floor boards and simple wooden furniture with dark red cushions. They sat at a table with tea and cookies already set out. "As I'm sure you already noticed, someone is out to take your life," Celo stated with a careful voice.
"Indeed, it's hard not to notice someone trying to kill you," Xellos tentatively eyed the snacks on the table, wondering if he should rise to the challenge and eat some. "I don't suppose you have information about those incidents?"
"From what I gather, the culprit is the Green Alchemist. Of course, his very existence is doubtful in itself," Celo picked up his teacup and drank casually.
"Do continue," Xellos took a drink from his tea.
"The Green Alchemist is or was a human who specialized in healing potions. It is said he hated monsters very much and longed to exterminate them all," Celo explained. "Apparently, his plan was to pit the monster lords against each other by causing a tempting lack of balance in their power, which would hopefully drive the others to attack the exposed party. However, all his attempts failed, for even if he focused his efforts in exterminating monsters serving the same monster lord, it was never enough to make a difference, as they were only low ranked monsters."
"So, this Green Alchemist is now after me, a monster general, in hopes that my extermination will affect lord Beast Master in such a way that the remaining lords will covet her territory and try to take it in the absence of her general." Xellos concluded, taking a cookie and eating it. It was sweet and delicious with rich chocolate chips.
"Exactly," Celo confirmed. "Although, I'm sure his attempts have been merely an annoyance at best, the Green Alchemist, or whoever is claiming to be the Green alchemist is usually not foolish enough to attack high level monsters, let along a monster general. This brings me to believe a plot is in the works. The rumors of the truths and dares of the monsters travel fast, even to the lower ranks that are not allowed to participate. It is not unthinkable that even humans would hear something about it, especially if they're keeping an ear out for news. I believe the Green Alchemist knows of the circumstances."
Xellos raised an eyebrow questioningly, his tone the slightest bit defensive among his friendly act. "Filia..."
"Ah yes, the cure," Celo paused in thought for a moment. "I believe the Green Alchemist is not likely to target her. He does not believe the curse can be broken."
Xellos' purple eyes were now open in a glare. To speak so casually of the curse not being broken... the tone of absolute respect behind Celo's voice made it far more infuriating. It was as if he was saying, you are far more powerful than me, but you still can't do anything. You can kill me, but you can't solve your problem. "Who are you?"
Celo smiled respectfully, "I am Celo Metallium, a servant of Beast Master Zelas Metallium, though some monsters know me simply as Zelas' suicidal researcher."
Realization reached Xellos, "how is it that you're human?" He looked at the being before him with suspicion.
"I'm a chimera," Celo revealed. "I'm a monster and a human. I was once of the high ranks among the monster race, but my fusion with a human lowered me to the middle rank. None the less, I thought at the time it was needed, because it was the only way I could stay alive and serve lord Beast Master."
"Ah yes," Xellos' mocking smile was back in place. "I remember you now. Your mission was to research the weakness of monsters, positive emotions. But the emotions would kill you without the human side to keep you barely alive, even if it diminished your monster powers. The sacrifice was supposed to be worth it if you were able to train full monsters to be able to resist positive emotions. This place is full of such feelings. Ironically I've seen weak monsters that appear to be unaffected; I suppose their tiny astral bodies are too small, they are already insignificant enough so there's not much left to weaken. Then the one that was fused with a building; buildings are not affected by emotions so that presented some resistance."
Celo only partially agreed, "it is true that positive emotions weaken monsters, but contrary to what many believe, they don't kill. A weak monster is slain by another monster, a human, a dragon, there's always someone trying to kill a monster, though for a general, it may not seem so because most attempts would fail before they begin. This chimera state of mine was a mistake, yet I've grown to enjoy the taste of feelings I should be repulsed by. Thus I have made no efforts to change back into a full monster, if it is even possible."
Xellos chuckled, "to disassemble a chimera... I know someone who would be interested in that." He guided the conversation back into the main topic, "so while you continue your research here, the Green Alchemist might have found something that makes him think he can beat me? If he believes the curse cannot be broken, though it certainly can be," Xellos emphasized, "then why not just let the curse take my life?"
"The results of the curse the Green Alchemist believes will overtake you offend him," Celo explained. "Though the curse is considered a death sentence, you are aware of what will really happen."
"I'll be transformed into a human," Xellos sourly revealed, "not that I'm going to let that happen. Besides, it is as good as a death sentence given the fact that humans are such fragile creatures. I take it the Green Alchemist is a human extremist that can't stand the thought of a monster receiving the honor," heavy sarcasm was poured into the word, "of becoming a human."
"Exactly," Celo nodded, "the Green Alchemist thinks that you'll become human, but he doesn't believe that will be the end. He expects a general to be a cunning survivor. He expects you to further corrupt the human race as one of their own. At least, that is the information that has reached me. As for the rumored secret plot, that mysterious something that makes the Green Alchemist believe he has the upper hand, I do not know. I heard he has some sort of weapon, but I cannot be sure of what it may be."
Xellos pondered what he had heard, one thing still bothered him. Underneath his respectful words, which were very much an act, just as Xellos' friendly cheer was, Celo sounded as if he too did not believe that the curse could be broken. "Is there a reason for you to think the Green Alchemist is correct in assuming the curse cannot be broken?"
Celo paused, then smiled, "my apologies if I sound disrespectful, but it is quite a difficult task, even for one of your power. The cure will bring you to your weakest state before freeing you from the curse, even a monster general is weakened by positive emotions, though they don't kill. However, after experiencing the curse and overcoming it, you will be stronger by the power of evolution."
"What does that mean?" Xellos demanded.
"You may kill me if you are dissatisfied with my silence." Celo's voice was just as respectful as ever, his expression serene.
"I think I'll keep you around for now." The way Xellos voiced his choice, 'for now' could be over in mere seconds if he so felt like it.
"I thank you," Celo bowed his head respectfully. "I should let you know though, the meaning of the antidote, least you push the cure away with trickery, for it is in lord Beast Master's, and therefore my, best interest that you succeed. The curse does indeed have a cure, but the words spoken must be thought upon carefully."
"That's quite enough," Xellos grinned, "continue and I will kill you now." Celo remained silent. So there was apparently a hidden meaning to the curse's cure. The willing kiss of a golden dragon, was that supposed to be some kind of metaphor? It was true that Celo was a servant of Zelas, the real reason why Xellos wouldn't kill him. He was a researcher though his research had remained fruitless for a long time. None the less, as a monster on a special mission, it was up to Zelas and Zelas alone to decide when his mission would end. Xellos knew that, Celo, the all but forgotten researcher, knew it as well, yet neither brought to the surface the fact that it was not in Xellos' best interest to kill him without Zelas' permission.
After a long silence, Celo finally nodded, "my apologies," he spoke in his extremely respectful and humble voice, which was getting on Xellos' nerves. "I will not cause any interference."
"You'd best not," Xellos got up. Tiny monsters with puny astral bodies that couldn't be weakened beyond their pitiful state and monsters fused with beings or things that gave them a certain level of resistance towards the positive emotions of Amor Resort allowing them to keep some of their power... those possible interruptions didn't sound like much. High level monsters wouldn't be so high level anymore if they spent too much time in the love filled atmosphere, but Xellos was strong enough to withstand it. The only other annoyance left would be the mysterious plot and possible secret weapon of the Green Alchemist. Xellos didn't think it was worth his time; perhaps he should simply focus on figuring out his cure for the time being. He didn't need or want help; he could figure this out on his own. Perhaps some golden dragon research was in order.
xoxox xox xoxox
"There you are!" A waiter, uniformed as such, approached Lina and Gourry at the buffet table they were cleaning out.
"Zangulus?" The two looked up with curiosity.
"It looks like I'm never going to get a break, but hey, all this overtime is good for Zoana." Zangulus laughed off his exhaustion. Still, I have to say, I never thought that vague description was talking about you. A girl in white with a butterfly mask, she will be in the company of a blond man, I can't believe the ball staff didn't bother asking for a name before processing the request. Ball preparations are hectic, but still... Anyway, I'm glad I found you." He looked at Lina with a congratulatory smile, "everything has been set up exactly as you requested."
"What?" Lina tilted her head to the side in confusion. "What exactly are you talking about?"
"Oh you know," Zangulus gave a sly smile and began to lead the two towards the center of the dance floor. "Here you are, as per your request. Good luck, not that you need it and congratulations in advance!" Zangulus disappeared in the crowd, leaving a very confused Lina and Gourry at the center of the dome.
Gourry looked at Lina quizzically, "what's going on? Are we going to dance?"
"I don't know..." Lina had a bad feeling about the entire thing, then the realization hit her. A girl in white with a butterfly mask, in the company of a blond man... Could that have been meant to be Medusa and Gourry? Was Medusa planning something for him? But the jellyfish girl had already left and the poorly informed last minute staff was left to assume that the first girl in white with a butterfly mask who was with a blond man by her side was the one to make the mysterious request. Well, whatever that jellyfish girl had planned for Gourry and herself, it would be Lina and Gourry that would be enjoying it. It was probably a special song or something. "I guess we'll dance."
Though Lina was expecting some kind of cheesy love song to play, there was instead silence as a man dressed in the robes of a priest approached the center of the dome. He carried a book in one hand and a fluffy white pillow with a simple golden band the appropriate size to be worn by a man on his ring finger and a more decorated golden bracelet with rubies, the appropriate size to be worn by a woman on her wrist... or tentacle. The priest cleared his throat. "We are gathered here today to witness the union of..." He looked at the couple waiting for them to state their names as he too was another poorly informed employee.
Lina's jaw dropped, her face turning scarlet. Miss Medusa intended to trick Gourry into marrying her all along! "Lina?" Gourry asked unsure of what was happening or what he should do.
"Gourry..." Lina gulped, unable to come up with a minimal embarrassment escape route as she stood frozen in place.
"Mr. Lina and Miss Gourry," the priest repeated, incorrectly assuming that they had each stated their own name. Name changing and baby name blessing was also part of his job and he saw his fair share of odd names, so he knew not to judge. "In holy matrimony, if anyone has any reason to prevent this union, please write a letter to the Amor Resort customer service department and your complaint will be addressed as quickly as possible."
Gourry stood there struck dumb, or dumber than usual, while Lina struggled to protest through her embarrassment. "Now wait just a minute!"
The priest was tired after a long day of work and certainly not in the mood to wait a second, let along a minute, thus he finished. "By the power bestowed on me by the Official International Tourism Guild, recognized on both the inner and outer world, I hereby declare you husband and wife! May you keep these souvenirs as a reminder of your union." He handed the pillow with the ring and bracelet to Gourry. "Okay, we're done, thank you for choosing Amor Resort as your marriage option. Amor Resort, marriages, honeymoons, anniversaries, vacations and controversial romantic flings, we have it all." With those final parting words, the priest left, disappearing among the balls' crowd.
"I guess we're supposed to wear this, aren't we?" Gourry put the bracelet on Lina's left wrist and the ring on his own left ring finger. "There, that's how it's done, right?"
Lina was frozen in a red faced, open mouthed expression that didn't move as the people around them clapped and whistled at the happy scene. Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia pushed through the crowd until they reached them. "Congratulations!" Amelia cheered.
Zelgadis was the most surprised of all, "I wasn't expecting you two to get married now, even if everyone knew it would happen eventually, congratulations."
Filia's state of deep thought and heartache was temporarily pushed aside in her attempt to sincerely be happy for her friends. It looked like they didn't need her matchmaking help after all, perhaps she would concentrate her well intended efforts on Amelia and Zelgadis in the future, since her own love life was so lacking as Phythan had never showed up and she had instead gotten stuck with Xellos. "I'm very happy for you both, congratulations!"
Gourry laughed sheepishly, not fully aware of the severity of the situation. Everyone was congratulating them, so he replied with the polite answer to such an expression by saying, "thanks," with a cheerful smile.
Zangulus cut through the crowd with a paper in his hand. "Here's your marriage certificate, good thing I was there, or that priest would have messed up your names on the document too. Don't worry; I made sure the names were correct so that it's fully valid. A courier pigeon has already been sent to the main office of the Official International Tourist Guild with a copy of the certificate, this one is for the two of you to keep."
Lina's eye twitched as she stared at the paper Zangulus was holding up. It was an ordinary white paper, with ordinary letters, written in ordinary black ink, which carried an extraordinary meaning. "Amor Resort hereby certifies by the authority of the Official International Tourism Guild, recognized on both the inner and outer world, that Lina Inverse and Gourry Gabriev are officially bond in legally recognized marriage." The date time and place was written below the initial message, followed by another line asserting, "this statement is certified by" and the signature of the distracted, though very much official priest.
"Wow Lina, I thought we kind of liked each other, but I didn't know you wanted to marry me." The easy and carefree tone with which Gourry made such a critical statement threw Lina over the edge.
With her embarrassment consuming her, she began to chant. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows." Life is so much easier when you can Dragon Slave anything that stands in your way, from bandits to embarrassing situations involving crowds of staring people. "Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows."
"Miss Lina!" Amelia exclaimed with worry. "You're getting a little too excited!"
"I pledge myself to conquer all the fools who stand..." Lina continued her spell, blocking out any other sounds beyond her own voice.
"Gourry, get her out of here before she blows up this whole place!" Zelgadis urged. He had noticed that the tourists assumed that every unusual occurrence was part of the show and would be too busy being entertained to have the time or willingness to run for their lives.
"Okay!" Gourry agreed, blissfully unaware of the seriousness of the situation and peacefully accepting his new life as Lina's husband.
"Before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands-ah!" Lina stopped chanting as Gourry picked her up bridal style, following Zelgadis' advice to get her out of there. Her face was a red brighter than flames as her mind went blank and the energy she had gathered for the spell evaporated into nothing, her concentration gone.
"Let's get some fresh air; your face is all red." Gourry ran out of the dome via the main entrance and dashed down the stairs with his blushing bride in his arms.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. More about what's going on with Xellos, Celo and the Green Alchemist will be revealed in future chapters. Thanks for all the reviews everyone, here's an early update. Keep the reviews coming, hearing what people think about the story really gives me energy to continue.