To Live Another Day
Episode Twenty: Allies of Justice
In the distance past the north dome, there was a dark misty forest with a small cave in the middle of it. Filia had transformed back into her human form and was huddled up in that little cave protected from the rain but not from her own conscience. Her life was a mess, a very embarrassing mess.
It wasn't too long before Amelia caught up to Filia and landed in the spot where the golden glow had faded. She looked around, spotting a figure in the dimness of the small cave, which was not deep enough to be pitch-black, though the entire forest was a little dark due to the weather and thick trees. The princess hurried to the cave, kneeling beside the ball of self pity that was her friend. "Aw, don't cry Miss Filia," she hugged her gently and rubbed a soothing hand on her back like a mother consoling a crying child. "There, there, it's going to be alright."
"No it's not," Filia sobbed. "There's some kind of evil plot going on and I've already embarrassed myself more during my stay in this resort than I have over the course of my whole life!"
"It's not so bad," Amelia tried to comfort Filia, though in retrospect her chosen words might not have been the most reassuring. "It's not like this is the first time you've transformed in public. Besides, look at Phythan," Amelia blushed at the memory, "he transformed in front of all of us and didn't seem to be bothered by it."
Filia huffed in indignation, "he has no modesty!" Having transformed in front of people wasn't her only humiliation during the time spent at the resort. At least her friends didn't know about all the incidents that had occurred concerning Xellos. He had not thrown them at her face in a public way yet, but he might be waiting for the right time, or rather, the worse time, to do so. She sighed, going back to the topic of Phythan, "he's acting so different, this isn't the Phythan I met that day, even though I'm sure it's the same person." It wasn't a long lost twin or look alike, his energy held the same essence and his scent remained unchanged, it was just something that another golden dragon could perceive beyond how a human would see it.
"I'm sure he'll recover and be the same as ever," Amelia continued trying to stay positive.
"There you are," Xellos' voice came from the small cave entrance as he walked in out of the rain. "Are you having a moment of bonding between girls? Should I come back later?" He teased.
"Xellos!" Filia dried her tears so that her glare could glow in its full fury. "What in the world is going on? What are the monsters planning? What did they do to Phythan? Answer me!" She demanded.
Xellos' eyes flickered into something akin to frustration for only a tiny moment, before he put on his painted smile and lifted his right index finger. "That is a secret," the tone of mockery was lacking the usual smugness lightly.
Filia's eyes went wide in horror, "you don't know," her voice was a whisper of fear before her voice reached an all out panic. "You don't know!"
Xellos frowned, he didn't want to, but his face moved on its own. "I will find out," he declared with the outmost certainty.
Amelia looked back and forth between Xellos and Filia. If Xellos was in the dark about whatever secret plot was at hand, then things must be really complicated. She weighed her words in her mind, wondering what she could say to defuse the tension in the air. Yet she remained speechless until a thud was heard outside the cave.
"We finally found them," Lina hopped off Phythan's back, accompanied by Gourry. It was then that Amelia noticed Zelgadis standing to the side of the cave and realized she had not seen his quiet arrival before. "Alright, I want some explanations and I want them now!" Lina stomped her way into the cave, where the entire group minus the dragon form Phythan barely fit.
Phythan and Xellos were automatically caught in a staring contest that Filia hurried to end. "Listen up you two; I will have none of this!" She stood between them with her arms outstretched left and right, palms facing the two men, or the dragon and monster. "Phythan, I know Xellos is a horrible monster, but we don't have the strength to kill him." Filia's face was adorned with a sour look as she admitted it. "Xellos," she paused, searching for a proper excuse as to why he shouldn't kill Phythan. Finding none, she simply finished with, "just let it go."
"No," Xellos firmly declared, his eyes open, expression predatory.
Filia was unfazed in the fear department, though in terms of anger, she returned the glare full force, her dragon fangs peeking out of her mouth as she insisted, "let it go." A moment of silence passed while Filia and Xellos glared at each other until she stomped her feet firmly on the ground and asserted, "if you want to harm Phythan you'll have to get through me, I already told you that before and I meant it."
Another moment of tense silence passed by until Xellos huffed and broke eye contact with Filia. "Stupid dragon, I really don't understand why you're so set on defending him, just because he's another golden dragon." The tension lessened considerably after that apparent acceptance of a truce.
Another moment of silence passed as everyone tried to calm down a little from their guarded states. Then Phythan transformed back into his human appearance, once again changing without a warning. This time Zelgadis couldn't get to Amelia on time to cover her eyes. "For crying out loud, I told you not to do that!" The chimera snapped.
Phythan gave him a confused look, "I honestly don't understand why it bothers you so much." Without giving Zelgadis or even Filia the chance to explain what the problem was, Phythan went on with his speech in a very Amelia-like tone. "My golden dragon comrade, I admire your amazing courage that even a monster dares not to challenge!"
"What?" Xellos glared in indignation, "you really have a death wish, don't you?"
Phythan ignored him and went on praising Filia. "I must say, I was very impressed by how you managed to make that monster stand down. It was almost as if you've tamed it."
"Tamed?" Xellos questioned, that annoying little vein appearing on his forehead again as his eye twitched.
"I have a long way to train if I am ever to become such a noble protector of justice as you are," Phythan bowed, showing his respect to Filia.
"I... um... that was..." Filia laughed nervously. "Think nothing of it." She cleared her throat indicating a transition in topics, but was unable to bring up the next one.
Instead a very impatient Lina stomped her feet. "Didn't anyone hear me before?" She demanded in an enraged growl. "I said I wanted answers!"
"About that, Miss Lina," Amelia tried to calm her down before the all out confrontation they were avoiding really took place. "It seems that Mr. Xellos is truly unaware of what's going on. Given Mr. Phythan's current memory problems, we really have no reliable clues as to what's happening."
Lina groaned, "that's just great," she sarcastically declared. She looked outside the little cave, noting that the rain was still pouring. "To top it all up, it won't stop raining. Well, I guess we'll have to follow plan B, inaction can be the best course of action sometimes, let the pieces fall by their own weight. Listen up everyone, here's the deal! We're all going back to the hotel, getting dried up and changed, then we'll grab some umbrellas and check out some indoors attractions. Since we're here, we might as well keep enjoying the resort." She then directed her commanding look towards Phythan, she looked like she was going to punch him in the face or worse yet, slay him. Despite being a dragon who was almost as tall as Gourry in his human form pitted against a petite human, Phythan instinctively took a step back without noticing. Then Lina's expression made a drastic change and she smiled sweetly. "You're more than welcome to come along with us, in fact, I insist that you do."
Phythan nodded eagerly, "I would be happy to join your group of crusaders of justice!"
Lina could have corrected him on the part about crusaders of justice, but chose to simply accept his reply and move on. Amelia on the other hand had her dreamy eyed expression back on her face, with a wide happy smile. "Yes, we have a new ally in the quest for justice!" She cheered.
"Anyway," Lina felt the need to move along. "Let's head on back to the-" she paused realizing something. "Oh, that's right, the hotel was destroyed. Maybe we should just flee while we can."
Phythan gasped and loudly declared, "an ally of justice never runs away!" He pointed at what he thought was the direction of the hotel, which was hard to determine in the thick forest. "I will personally return to the scene of the accident-"
"You mean temper tantrum," Xellos suddenly interrupted with his correction. If Phythan annoyed him with his very existence, he had the right to annoy him back.
"Tantrum," Phythan repeated, he paused and gave it some thought, then smiled in a disturbingly similar fashion to Xellos. "How mature of you to admit your mistake, Mr. Monster... No, Mr. Xellos, I will call you by your name acknowledging you as an individual rather than a worthless monster, because I can see your desire to change!"
"What?" Was all Xellos could mutter, thrown for a loop.
"You've been looking to Miss Filia for ways to change your evil ways, haven't you?" Phythan's eyes shone with support. "Don't worry Mr. Xellos, though the path of righteousness will be especially difficult for you to walk, we will help you get through it! The first step is accepting the facts! Oh, and I forgive you for your temper tantrum back there."
Xellos felt his entire body shake with anger. After sprouting all that ridiculous nonsense, which Amelia was now agreeing with wholeheartedly, the foolish golden dragon had the audacity to give Xellos a comforting pat on the shoulder, which was far more infuriating than it could ever be comforting. Then he turned away and focused on chatting about justice and second chances with Amelia. "I'm going to kill him," Xellos spoke slowly, emphasizing every word in the most sinister tone anyone had heard him use up to date.
Filia stepped forward and gently placed her hand on Xellos' shoulder, leaving it there. "Just let it go," there was pity mixed with confusion in her voice as she sighed hopelessly. "Poor Phythan's injuries really got to him, he wasn't this crazy before. He's not himself and I don't think it's fair to murder the clinically insane without even giving them a chance to recover." She paused and corrected herself, "actually, it's not right to murder anyone at all, not that I can easily convince a monster of that."
Xellos huffed and crossed his arms in a rare angry posture for him. He didn't make the slightest attempt to remove Filia's hand from his shoulder, which remained there. "He really pisses me off," realizing that he was letting a golden dragon get to him far more than he should, Xellos tried to regain his composure. "It doesn't matter." His false smile returned to his face, his eyes looking far less sinister once they were squinting again and in Filia's secret thoughts, a little less alluring with the amethyst irises hidden. "He's insignificant anyway. So, how do you know him? What dragon temple is he really from?"
A few feet ahead of Filia and Xellos, Lina looked back at them before waving her hand dismissively as if saying with her body language that those two could catch up at their own pace. Then Phythan offered to give them a ride. "That sounds fun." Gourry agreed in the name of the group though convenience was more so their motivation instead of fun, since riding on a dragon was a lot less fun in the rain than it was in nice weather.
At that point Zelgadis calmly took Amelia's shoulders, causing her to blush, and gently turned her over so that her back was to Phythan, then he let her go. Lina stared to the side awkwardly, keeping her eyes on a random bush until the golden glow was gone and in place of the human form of Phythan, there stood the dragon version of him. "You know, Mr. Zelgadis, I was ready to close my eyes this time." Amelia softly pointed out.
Zelgadis scratched his chin and looked slightly upward, "just making sure," he half muttered, half replied.
The group minus Filia and Xellos, who were left several feet behind, climbed onto Phythan's back and he took off. Meanwhile, Filia was trying to figure out Phythan while talking to Xellos. "I honestly don't know. He claimed to be from the fire and water temples, but that makes no sense. I mean, the temples are generally getting along, so having visitors from one temple go to another isn't rare. Even so, there are too many contradictions. Maybe he's a follower of the Water Dragon and is just confused."
"Yet the Water Dragon has already passed away," Xellos pointed out with the cheer of delivering good news, while communicating bad, albeit old, news for Filia.
Filia was so used to it by now that she chose not to react to his tone and instead continued normally. "Yes, but there are still some golden dragons left that pledge their alliance to the Water Dragon." She let out a breath and massaged her temples. "Unless whoever is behind all the strange things that have been happening makes a move or Phythan recovers, we're in the dark."
"Have you considered the possibility that maybe all of this is an act and that Phythan is the villain of the situation?" Xellos suggested.
Filia shook her head, "in any case, you would be the bigger villain of the situation." She pointed out with just a little bit of relaxation starting to make its way into her voice. She was unwinding even if she shouldn't be.
"True," Xellos accepted the claim sounding somewhat flattered. "Still, you know what I mean."
Filia frowned and gave the possibility some real thought. "I suppose I can't discard that possibility, yet it makes no sense. If Phythan wanted to weasel his way into the group his first style of acting was much more effective than his current one. Now he's just odd."
"His first style of acting?" Xellos questioned curiously, his voice carrying the faint scent of disapproval.
"Yes," Filia nodded, recalling when she met Phythan and blushing, which was met with a suspicious raise of the eyebrow from Xellos, one eye open and the other still squinting at her questioningly. "He was nice and... not suspicious," charming... almost seductive, but Filia decided not to voice the last parts; she didn't know what brought about such charm anyway. Was it the wine colored eyes? His confidence? The way he looked as if he hid a dark secret? How she was reminded of Xellos? She shook her head frantically. "Anyway, let's just keep an eye on him just in case, but if he's just a poor confused dragon suffering from temporary insanity due to his previous injuries, I don't want you hurting him."
"What makes you think I'll listen to you?" Xellos inquired in a tone that was surprisingly more teasing than mocking.
"You will grant me this request," Filia had no idea on what she could base her certainty; there was nothing to base it on. She closed her eyes for a moment as she slowly walked next to Xellos through the misty forest. The trees served as a sort of makeshift umbrella so the rain was lighter in the forest, though the thin drops were still falling on them. She opened her eyes, her face rosy from her idea.
"Filia?" Xellos looked at her flustered face in curiosity. "Are you catching a cold or something?" He asked hopefully.
Filia shook her head, her blush deepening, "I'll kiss you," she finally offered, unable to explain why she would even try to entertain the notion that such a plan would work. It was absurd.
Xellos was taken aback, his painted silly grin fading into real surprise and reemerging as a true mischievous grin. "Is the private atmosphere of the forest getting to you? I heard that there are some who enjoy kissing in the rain."
He began to wrap his arms around her, but she stopped him and backed away. "Not now," she couldn't believe she was offering this, but it was for a noble cause. "When we find out about Phythan I'll kiss you once and only once, of my own free will, in private and no one must know. That's what you wanted wasn't it? In exchange you have to let him go." She remembered the Phythan that gave her ice-cream, the charming version of him. It wasn't technically cheating because they were not an official couple and it was for his sake anyway.
Xellos frowned, "I'm afraid that won't work," he realized with disappointment. "Kissing me for the sake of someone else counts as a sort of blackmail or threat. My request is for you to kiss me completely out of your free will with no outside pressures or motivations. It has to be done on the sole reason that you want to do it."
Filia gave Xellos a confused look and recalled their conversation on the bench that time. "Why?" Her voice lacked her usual anger towards Xellos and was instead filled with puzzlement, curiosity and an inexplicably strong need to know.
"I can't really explain it," because it might endanger the cure. If Filia knew that he was in danger of turning into a human and being swiftly killed off soon after by forces that not even Lina could save him from should she actually choose to try, Filia, being Filia, might feel somewhat guilty and try to save him. She would declare he deserved a punishment worse than death and throw a number of angry remarks at him, but she would try to save him anyway. Somehow he knew it and it bothered him. Mercy felt like too much of an outside motivation. It wouldn't be Filia's free will; it would be her desire to run away from the possibility of a guilty conscience if she didn't help. Then the cure would be useless.
"Xellos," Filia stopped walking and looked boldly into his eyes with a pleading gaze. "Please, just tell me. Are you making fun of me? Are you just trying to mock me?" Things wouldn't work out as long as Filia had those fears to hold her back.
"There's a very good reason why I can't explain myself in full." Xellos revealed with more sincerity than Filia had ever witness him have. "It's not a trick and I can at least assure you that I will be able to tell you once it's done," able to tell her, albeit not obligated to. "I just can't tell you now. It's a secret and there's a good reason why it needs to stay that way, not necessarily forever, but at least for now."
Filia nodded as a flurry of crazy theories flew through her mind. She should have known this was as close to a straight answer as she could get from Xellos. Yet his reply was far more perplexing than she ever imagined it would be. She sighed in defeat. "Alright then, instead of offering you the kiss, I will instead offer to keep an open mind and let things flow naturally," she couldn't believe what she was saying, but the words had already come out. It wasn't the first time she offered to keep an open mind, but this time, she felt compelled to keep her words more strongly than she could explain.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Filia's making progress! ...Even if it is in little baby steps. XD Another oddball joins the party and Zelgadis is starting to show hints of... jealousy? In the next chapter, a certain character from the anime will finally make her appearance... make way for Martina!