To Live Another Day
Episode Twenty-One: Follow The White Rabbit
"Don't get too close," Lina instructed as Phythan arrived in sight of the hotel, or what was left of it. Despite the rain, repairs were already being made, by... trolls? The green creatures appeared to be being bossed around by a human man with a big mustache, which reminded Lina of Philionel, and a yellow construction helmet. The man looked at the dragon in the distance and waived.
"It looks like he wants us to go over there," Phythan interpreted and did so without a second thought.
"What are you doing? Stop, this is a bad idea!" Lina protested adamantly, though her complaints fell on deaf ears.
Phythan landed as gently as he could on the under construction surface atop the hotel building. At least the lower floors were okay. "About the mess..." he began with an apologetic tone.
"Ah, yes, about that," the construction boss seemed rather cheerful despite the situation. "Guests are charged for the shows available to them at the resort. Since they assumed that this was all part of the show and stayed to watch, we charged all the spectators for the show. The money will be enough for the repairs and more. By the way boy, how would you like an official job at the resort?"
Phythan seemed to be debating the situation. He wasn't sure he liked the idea about the spectators being charged, but if by chance they thought the show was actually worth it, then maybe it wasn't so bad. "I'm not really looking for a job right now, but thanks anyway," he finally answered.
"Wait a minute!" Lina pointed at the construction boss almost accusingly. "While you and your trolls are rebuilding this place, where are we supposed to stay?"
"Shh, Miss Lina!" Amelia uncomfortably whispered. "We're really in no position to ask for much."
The construction supervisor appeared to consider the words and finally pulled a whistle from his pants pocket and blew it. A man in a bellhop uniform swiftly stood next to the construction boss, "sir?"
"Take these guests to the special casino suite," the man in the yellow helmet ordered. He then turned his attention back to the trolls and started yelling at them to hurry.
"Yes, sir!" Taking a moment to examine the guests, the bellhop exchanged a look of recognition with them.
"It's Zangulus," Gourry smiled, "you have a lot of jobs around here, don't you?"
Zangulus chuckled, "indeed I do." He eyed the dragon, "so, should I join you to show you to your new rooms?"
"Sure, I can carry you too," Phythan wrapped his long golden tail around Zangulus' waist and placed him on his back. "Here we go, take off!"
"Having a dragon to give you a ride is pretty convenient," Zangulus commented, admiring the view from above. "The casino suite is right over there," he pointed towards a colorfully decorated building with magically powered multicolor lights.
Zelgadis frowned, "I don't like casinos," he commented hopelessly.
"I'm sure it's not so bad," Amelia smiled gently as they headed towards the roof of the casino. "Casinos are supposed to be a lot of fun."
"Until you lose all your money," Zelgadis grumbled.
"But we're broke anyway," Amelia somehow tried to look at the positive light in that. She wasn't exactly broke really, Seyruun still had a healthy treasury, but Amelia's spending money for the trip was running low.
Zelgadis let out a breath, "there's that." Not being able to lose a lot of money due to not having a lot of money wasn't exactly the best consolation in his opinion.
Once Phythan had landed on the roof of the brightly lit building, everyone hopped off his back. When all his passengers had disembarked, he once again changed into his human form without warning. A soft "oops..." escaped Amelia. She knew Zelgadis didn't want her to watch Phythan transform, but it's not like she was doing it on purpose.
Zelgadis clenched his teeth. 'Idiot dragon with his stupid soft skin, annoying perfectly proportioned body and infuriating well toned muscles and... and...' Zelgadis marched over to Phythan and smacked him on the head.
"Ow!" The dragon's hands flew to the back of his head were the chimera had struck him.
Amelia gasped and gave Zelgadis a look of disapproval with a scolding "Mr. Zelgadis!" That hurt more than Zelgadis thought it would. Pouting profusely, Amelia turned her back on Zelgadis purposefully and gently patted the affected area of Phythan's head. "It's okay, Mr. Phythan, I'm sure Mr. Zelgadis is sorry. Although, you should... ehem... cover up a bit more when you're transforming, it unnerves Mr. Zelgadis."
"But he's a guy," Phythan pointed out the obvious, the aspect of jealously completely flying over his head.
"Yes," Amelia nodded, "but Lina and I are girls," she pointed out with the patient tone that was needed when explaining something utterly simple to Gourry. Honestly, it was downright strange how Phythan was displaying a variety of characteristics found in their group.
Phythan nodded in apparent understanding, yet the concept that Amelia was trying to portray once again flew over his head. "But you're both tomboys!"
Amelia and Lina simultaneously smacked Phythan on the head, making him fall forward at Zelgadis feet. The chimera looked pleased with the results. Zangulus decided that the safest course of action for him would be to quietly watch the scene until the shenanigans were done.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Gourry placed his hand on Lina's shoulder, speaking a soft, "Lina..." She turned to face him and observed his half-lidded gaze and the rosy tint on his cheeks along with a rather warm atmosphere coming from him. She felt her own face start to become flustered as he took her hand in his, causing her heartbeat to speed up. Then he placed her hand on his forehead and sniffled. "I think I caught a cold..."
Lina's countenance went from flustered to angry in a split second as she smacked Gourry on the head. "It's not like I can do anything about that!" She turned to Zangulus who had wisely remained quiet the entire time. "Show us our rooms so we can change out of our wet clothes before things get worse," she demanded.
"Yes, right this way!" Zangulus hurried towards the stairs that led to the floor below, where the casino's suite was. "This suite is normally reserved for the very best gamblers, so it's pretty lucky that you were sent here." The group arrived at a large room with walls decorated with cards and a poker table in the middle. There were twelve doors in the circular room, one of them being the one that led to the rooftop, which seemed to be a private area for the occupants of the suite. "That door," Zangulus motioned to the door at the opposite side of the room, "leads to the stairs that will take you to the casino facilities below. My Martina works there, so make sure you drop by and say hello. As for the other ten doors, they each lead to a separate room with its own bathroom. You may distribute the ten available rooms among your group as you see fit. The traditional outfits worn by the best gamblers have already been supplied into the rooms in various sizes," Zangulus finished. "Well, I guess that's everything." He stood unmoving with a smile plastered on his face.
Lina stepped past the group, giving Phythan a rather harsh pat on the back as she did, "give the man a tip," she commanded.
"Yes, Miss Lina," resigned to obeying, least his poor head receive another harsh blow, Phythan gave Zangulus some gold coins.
"Thank you very much!" Satisfied with the venture, Zangulus went off, disappearing behind the door that led to the public area downstairs.
The group then went their separate ways, each into their chosen room. Lina took the first door right next to the stairs that led to the roof, with Gourry choosing the room next to hers. Amelia took the first door to the left next to the rooftop stairs and Zelgadis predictably chose the room next to hers. Phythan decided to take a room that was further away and settled into the one right from the door that led down to the casino.
A few minutes later, Amelia peeked out from behind her door, "Um... everyone?" She timidly called.
Zelgadis opened his door just enough to stick out his head and look at Amelia, of whom he too could only see the head. "Yes?"
"About the gambler outfits..." Amelia continued shyly, but trailed into silence.
"Yes... about that..." Zelgadis wasn't sure how to word it, then Phythan's door opened and interrupted.
The golden dragon emerged wearing black pants and shiny matching shoes, no shirt, a black bowtie around his neck, cufflinks on his wrists and white bunny ears on his head. "Is this how humans dress when they go to a casino?" He poked at the rabbit ears.
"I suppose we might as well get the full casino experience even if it is a bit embarrassing," Amelia concluded. Her door was closed for a moment as she adjusted her own bunny ears on her head, then she emerged wearing what looked like a black strapless one piece bathing suit, black stockings, matching high heels, a red bowtie and cufflinks and white bunny ears.
While Zelgadis stared at Amelia and blushed, a furious Lina emerged from her room in an outfit that was the same as Amelia's. "What's the meaning of this?"
Amelia laughed unsure, "part of the casino experience?"
Lina crossed her arms in embarrassment. "This reminds me of when we sang that stupid song that didn't do anything useful after all." She glanced at Phythan, "at least everyone will have to suffer all the same unless they want to get pneumonia from staying in wet clothes." However, Phythan seemed amused by the bunny ears and not at all annoyed. Groaning in exasperation, Lina looked to Zelgadis for a source of consolation. "Zel..." she gave him a wolfish grin.
Zelgadis turned an even deeper shade of scarlet and gulped, then shook his head. "C'mon Mr. Zelgadis, it'll be fun if we all wear the same style of outfits." Amelia sounded more like she was trying to convince herself more so than Zelgadis.
Zelgadis sighed hopelessly. He knew that Amelia would eventually convince him to come out in that silly fan service rabbit outfit so he had no business in fighting it. She had more power over him that he would care to admit. "Alright..." He exited the room in an outfit that was the same as Phythan's, feeling completely mortified to be showing more skin to Amelia than what he ever wanted to show without a cure. He kept his eyes glued to the dark red carpet on the floor and didn't notice Amelia's rather interested flustered look as he fidgeted with the rabbit ears in his hands.
Lina noticed and was giving Amelia a sly grin. Hoping that Lina would simply remain quiet, Amelia hurried to occupy herself. "Here, let me help you with that, Mr. Zelgadis." She took the rabbit ears from his fidgeting hands and raised her arms to reach up to Zelgadis head. Realizing she couldn't properly see how to correctly adjust the ears from that angle, Amelia placed a gentle hand on Zelgadis' bare shoulder. "Could you bend down a little?" Wordlessly, Zelgadis bent over so that Amelia could easily reach the top of his head, where she placed the fluffy white bunny ears, "there."
A moment of silence invaded the atmosphere as Lina continued to smile slyly. Then Gourry emerged from his room, dressed the same as Phythan and Zelgadis, but with a sharply contrasting facial expression. He looked like a zombie. "Lina..." he whined, "I don't feel good," he sneezed.
Lina frowned and analyzed the situation. She didn't feel like running into Martina and having to hear one of her flat-chested comments. She quickly devised a plan that would hopefully benefit everyone. "Amelia, Zelgadis, you two should go downstairs and enjoy the casino together," she emphasized the last word wiggling her eyebrows as she did. "Phythan, since you' have only recently joined our crusade of justice," Lina decided to play on his easily excitable side just as she might have done with Amelia in times past when she insisted to be trained by her. "You should meet our dear friend Martina," 'and drive her mad while you're at it,' Lina mentally added. She suspected that Phythan might have a natural talent for annoying people, or at least he did in his current state. "You should hang out with Martina while Amelia and Zelgadis go about their business, they can point her out to you." That would also serve to get Martina out of Zel and Amelia's hair, a fact for which Lina expected them to thank her with a meal later. "I'll stay here and nurse the sick Gourry back to health," 'while pigging out on room service.'
Now it was Amelia's turn to give Lina a sly smile. "That sounds like a plan," she winked.
"Right, a plan, a non-suspicious plan!" Lina insisted embarrassed.
"Of course," Amelia nodded as she took Zelgadis' hand. "Let's go then."
"Affirmative!" Phythan saluted and followed Amelia and Zelgadis out of the circular common room.
"Uff," Lina let out a breath of relief once they were gone and stretched in relaxation. "I hope room service has a really great menu!"
"Lina..." she looked at Gourry that had that same blushing look with his eyes half closed that made him look almost sensual. Almost, just almost, Lina's brightly blushing face didn't mean a thing... really. Then he moved forward, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, drawing himself very close to her and said, "I feel dizzy..." then promptly passed out, leaving Lina to drag his full weight back to bed where he could rest. She was tempted, very tempted... to abandon him laying on the floor. Yet she dragged him to bed anyway and somehow managed to set him down, pulling the covers over him.
"Get some rest, Gourry..." Lina voiced sweetly, "and while you're fast asleep," she smiled, "I'll eat all the food!" Then she triumphantly marched out of Gourry's room. Lina approached the door leading downstairs, opened it and called out, "room service!" After a short while, a waitress dressed like a playing card showed up, her outfit making her limbs appear to be uncomfortably short. It was too bad for her, because she would have a lot of food to carry up those stairs.
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, downstairs in the casino area Amelia and Zelgadis spotted Martina wearing a dress, or what was supposed to be a dress with a revealing heart shaped bra and a big skirt adorned with cards. Her obnoxious laughter echoed as she sat on a throne at the head of an exclusive looking poker table. "Who dares to challenge the poker queen?" She loudly called out as her previous table companions dragged themselves away broke. Apparently her job was something along the lines of making sure the customers lost all their money in the casino's favor.
"That's Miss Martina," Amelia pointed out unsure. It was Martina alright, but what Amelia wasn't certain about was the prospect of abandoning Phythan with her.
"I'll go say hi," having no idea of the dangers that awaited him, Phythan approached Martina's table and sat down before Amelia could change her mind and stop him.
Seeing Amelia's regretful expression, Zelgadis tried to encourage her, "he'll be fine. We should get out of here before Martina sees us."
"It would be mean not to at least say hello." Though she was pointing that out, Amelia was swiftly making her escape along with Zelgadis. "Of course, we could just talk to her a little later."
xoxox xox xoxox
Some distance away from the casino, Xellos and Filia had made their way out of the misty forest in relative peace and quiet. Xellos paused with a focused look on his face. "You're thinking about leaving now, aren't you?" Filia inquired. This was the typical Xellos, coming and going as he pleased, nothing new there.
"I need to check up on some things," Xellos grin, his usual expression was back in place perfectly. "I know you'll miss me terribly, but try not to let your repressed passion torture you too much." He winked; the nerve of him.
Filia glared, tempted to throw her open mind promise out the window and go back to permanently labeling Xellos as a jerk. He deserved it for being so infuriating. "I don't care what kind of stupid teasing you come up with, I'm not going to let that distract me!" Filia firmly declared, raising her voice more than necessary to communicate her message. "If you're leaving, you're taking me along."
"Forward, aren't we," Xellos grinned annoyingly.
Filia ignored the blush on her cheeks as she clenched her teeth and fists. "I know you're going out to investigate and not share any information like the sneaky piece of raw garbage you are! Well I'm not going to let you do that," she crossed her arms and stomped her feet defiantly. "I want to know what's going on too, so I'll investigate along with you!"
"What if I teleport away?" Xellos demonstrated the motion by fading away and reappearing right behind Filia. "What are you going to do about it then?"
Filia jumped at the sudden voice from behind her and more so at the closeness of its owner, as Xellos whispered in her ear, his warm breath tickling her neck. She mentally scolded herself for being surprised. She should have known he would do something like this. "I'll find you," she tried to sound firm and angry, but failed to do so.
"You seem pretty determined..." Xellos observed. What was the harm? He was only going to investigate Phythan and in the location that he planned to visit she might know her way around far better than him. Then again, there was also a good chance she had never been to that place, but that wouldn't exactly be of any harm either. He wrapped one arm around her waist, cupping her chin with the other, making her look to the side, where his head rested on her shoulder from behind. "I'll take you with me."
There was something... peculiar about the way he spoke those words that Filia didn't want to dwell upon. She thought she should push him away. Being open minded about him didn't mean letting him hang all over her. Yet her limbs refused to respond to her rationale's call. He tightened his grip around her wais and they both faded away.
Filia gasped as the world around her changed. She wasn't expecting Xellos to teleport when he did. After a brief view of the astral side, they reappeared at the port, the place where they had arrived at the island. "We'll have to leave the resort for a little while to conduct this investigation. We can come back once we have a look at a certain place I have in mind. Of course, making the whole trip via the astral side with a passenger won't be easy."
With a harsh wave of motion sickness hitting her full force, Filia stumbled out of Xellos' arms. She never got sick from flying or from boats, but teleportation made her feel ill. "Ugh, forget that. Let's just fly." She looked around and found a private spot behind a mountain of crates. There she changed into her dragon form and emerged flying. "Let's go."
"Follow me," Xellos began to levitate as he gave Filia another teasing grin. "Do try to keep up."
"Hmp!" Filia threw her head back and retorted, "don't slow me down."
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. I know Martina barely got mentioned in this chapter, but for those who were looking forward to seeing her, she'll have a bigger part in the upcoming chapters. Probably more so on 24, since 22 and 23 will be mostly about Xellos and Filia.