To Live Another Day
Episode Twenty-Three: The Truth About Golden Boy
"Found it," Xellos called out just loud enough for Filia to hear her, which wasn't too loud since he was standing right behind her.
Filia tossed the scroll she was reading into the air in a startle, then just as quickly she caught it and hid it behind her back as she swiftly turned to face him. "You found it?" She tried to look innocent.
Xellos gave her an 'I know what you did' look, but in his case it was more so commending than scolding. "Keeping up with the gossip? How interesting can it be, this is old gossip anyway."
Filia shook her head frantically, "these are lies," she held up a scroll. "Tiffany Ai Kant, murdered by a monster? I know for a fact that she ran away from the temple and married a human." She sighed in a bout of nostalgia, "she was a very dear childhood friend. I can't believe how mean I was to her." A layer of self loathing covered Filia's features, while Xellos watched on curiously.
"This Tiffany was discriminated over her human lover?" Xellos inquired with false dread. "How terribly cruel."
"Husband," Filia corrected though it didn't make a difference to the golden dragons who accused her. "Don't give me that look; I know you're only trying to guilt trip me." Tears started to fall from her eyes without her consent.
"It looks like you're doing a fine job of guilt tripping yourself," Xellos observed. "So, your friend was killed by the golden dragons, rather than a monster?"
"No," Filia sniffled, "she faked her death and went into hiding. I was so upset at Tiffany that when she confessed that she was in love with a non-dragon, I yelled at her and criticized her. I put her down when she needed my support. I felt so betrayed that she had been seeing him without telling even me. She told me she was sorry for her secrecy and that she feared I would disapprove. Golden dragons are only allowed to marry other golden dragons, so of course it was something to frown upon, or at least that's what I thought back then. Looking back on it, I should have supported her."
One detail stood out to Xellos and he curiously inquired about it. "You say that you know what really happened, that she didn't die. Does that mean you helped her? You have quite the delinquent past," he teased.
Filia shook her head, her tears flowing out even more strongly. "I didn't help her, I regret not helping her. I was out hunting her down along with a few others. I was dragged into it because we were friends, so they thought I would have a good chance to find her. I thought that convincing her to repent was the best thing I could do for her as a friend, but I was stupid. I saw her standing beside a human man, I saw the man giving commands to two monsters." Filia's abundant tears continued to flow through her sobs. Her memories of that event were blurred by the emotional scar they inflicted upon her. "There was some kind of spell in the air that hid energy. The two monster shape shifted into the forms of Tiffany and the man. The real ones escaped while I stood frozen, facing the monsters, until I managed to scream, releasing a breath of laser into the sky."
Filia was shaking in Xellos' arms as she cried. He wasn't sure when he started holding her and he especially didn't know why she had not pushed him away. She instead leaned on his shoulder and slowly wrapped her trembling arms around him.
"The rest of the search party interpreted what they saw as a beckon, a sort of flare of alert," Filia continued her narration. "I was too shocked to think my friend was running off with a man who made deals with monsters. I couldn't move, I couldn't speak, except to say, 'don't let them escape.' The others attacked the monsters and they put on a show. Once the monsters were killed, they somehow retained their false forms, probably due to some kind of cloaking spell that would last well until after their remains were cremated. I could only keep shaking and stutter 'don't let them escape' over and over. Then I passed out."
Filia allowed her crying to calm down a little. She felt one of Xellos' arms around her waist, his other hand caressing her back, but she didn't think about what he was. She needed the comfort and she didn't think it was so bad anyway. It was just a hug. Her past self would rather die than hug a monster, but she had changed.
Taking a deep breath, Filia finished her story. "The golden dragons saw my reaction as extreme disapproval for Tiffany's actions. My name was completely cleared and I was fully trusted, especially since I was the one who tracked them down and alerted the others. They even commended me for doing the right thing because I was the one who reported her to the elders in the first place. I felt awful because I was too scared to say they got away. I convinced myself of a lie. I told myself that Tiffany and her husband turned themselves in and that they were resting in peace after finding redemption. My memories are a blur even now, but I know I was lying to myself. Seeing this scroll, remembering so many pieces of this..."
Filia's crying intensified again, in desperate sobs just when it had looked like she was starting to calm down. She tightened her embrace around Xellos and he responded in the same way. A long moment passed and Filia finally let go, slowly parting from Xellos.
"Are you done with the waterworks and drama?" He spoke as dismissively as he could, but Filia was prepared for it.
The blond nodded gently, at least Xellos had reserved his comment for when after she was done sulking and listened to her whole story. She placed the scroll belonging to Tiffany back on the shelf where it belonged and dried her eyes. "So you found Phythan's scroll?"
"Here it is, as usual I have to do everything," Xellos declared in a victimized tone which Filia ignored as she snatched the scroll away. That left Xellos to dramatically make an offended expression, "how rude!"
Filia opened up the scroll and read through the basic information in it. "His name is Phythan Ai Kant..." she paused taken aback and looked at Xellos. He appeared to be interested, as if he had not messed with the scroll. There was no way he could know about Tiffany until she told him, unless something about her capture was written in Filia's profile. She gave Xellos a questioning glare.
He shrugged, "coincidence."
Filia decided to take his word on it for the time being and turned her attention back to the scroll, looking at the information about his family. "He was Tiffany's younger cousin; her uncle married a dragon from the Water Temple." Her eyes paused in his date of birth, "that young?" For a human, a dragon of Phythan's age would be far older than their lifespan, but from Filia and Xellos point of view he was relatively young. "He's... he's still an adolescent! The nerve of him!" Her face turned red as she continued the apparently spontaneous criticism that was making a fine job of confusing Xellos.
"Would whatever it is he's trying to do be any different if he were older?" Xellos asked with true perplexity. There were things about Filia that he couldn't understand, a lot of things, actually.
"I thought he looked kind of small in his dragon form," Filia continued her growling and grumbling. "I was thrown off because he's tall as a human, but he's... he's..."
"The human equivalent of let's say, late teens and you're the human equivalent of, what? Early twenties?" Xellos rolled his eyes disinterested in the conversions; they made no sense any way since their rate of development was so different. A dragon could go from baby to child in a few years, then take decades to reach adolescence and centuries to reach adulthood. Overall, a young adult was at least five hundred, such as Filia who was just a few years over the mark, but Phythan was a century short of it. "As I was saying, what does that have to do with anything?"
"When I was his age, I was still playing dolls with Tiffany, even though she was a few years older then me" a few years meaning over a century, "and she probably only played to humor me, but that's not the point." Filia pouted, "I almost dated an adolescent and adolescents are not allowed to date anyone, those are the rules at the temple."
Xellos seemed to choke on air. He could have made some wisecrack about the extreme rules of the golden dragons, but he was far more interested in the part about some annoying little golden dragon trying to steal his Filia, er that is, his cure. "So the sneak was trying to seduce you?" The question came out more so as a territorial statement full of venom.
Filia shook her head frantically, her cheeks ablaze. "No!" She clasped her hands over her mouth and looked at the wall frantically. At least her outburst wasn't loud enough to summon the mechanical librarian this time. "He bought me ice-cream and was supposed to go to the masquerade ball with me. That never actually happened, but it's not like he was being improper, he was respectful and polite, charming even. Except he's nothing like he used to be before," Filia watched as Xellos' expression shifted.
His eyes were open showing their alluring amethyst depths. He seemed angry, dangerous. He was a monster and an extremely powerful one, but he rarely looked like such an obvious predator.
Filia raised her hands, the scroll still held in one, fearing for Phythan's life. "That's the last thing on my mind, plus he's obviously not interested anymore." She paused and wondered why in the world she was trying to calm Xellos' jealousy if the concept of said jealousy was an impossibility in itself. Nevertheless, it was gold when it came to teasing. "Are you jealous?"
"No," Xellos forced his face to turn back into his usual smile. "In fact, you and Phythan can get together and make all the little golden dragons you want!"
The sound of a loud slap pierce the air as Filia's hand collided with Xellos' face. The hand shaped imprint on his cheek matched the scarlet color of her face. Then the shelves sunk into the floor again and the mechanical librarian reemerged, speaking its usual recorded lines just as before.
Filia let out a low offended growl before fishing another coin from her pocket and tossing it into the loud jar. The scenery then returned to normal with the mechanical librarian out of sight and the shelves back in their proper place. "Don't even joke about that," she finally voiced, offense evident.
Xellos wasn't sure if he should get angry because of Filia's daring move to slap him or feel somewhat triumphant or maybe even relieved because of her apparent disdain for the prospect of some alone time with Phythan. "To clarify, are you getting angry because of what I suggested or because of who I suggested to be involved?"
"Both," Filia grumbled. "Honestly, if it takes that long for me to meet my destined one and he arrives when I'm twice as old as I am now, the same age as I am now, I won't mind. If the situation is reversed and I'm the younger one, I also wouldn't mind. I don't care if the man is older or younger as long as he is of adult age. The temple might not approve, but I don't live in the temple anymore. Still, the part about adolescents being too young is something to be taken into consideration. I know I certainly wasn't ready for love when I was one."
"That's because you're especially naive," Xellos rolled his eyes. He didn't see the logic behind young adult plus near middle age being okay, but not young adult plus adolescent. Then again, monsters didn't need to be in any kind of couple regardless of how many years or centuries they've been around for. "So, you're saving him for later then?" He questioned with suspicious insistence.
"Who? Phythan?" Filia glared, "of course not. He's sweet, but not my type, at least that's what I've realized. Anyway, I don't want you to be mean to him, I think I might grow to see him as the little brother I never had, given the right time."
"You're only developing a soft spot for him because he's an Ai Kant," Xellos theorized. Showing kindness to beings that had things in common with beings that produced guilt served to ease the guilt of humans. If dragons were just as emotional, then it would work for them too.
Filia looked distressed, then went back to reading the scroll, speaking as she scanned it with her eyes. "I want to be Phythan's friend regardless of who he is. He has a good heart, I just know it." She continued looking through the scroll until she found something useful. "Here we go, he was sent on a special mission to the Fire Temple to work guarding the Genie's Lamp as..." Filia's eyes grew in indignation as she frowned. "As punishment for being caught reading comic books during his Water Temple guard duty!"
"Well it's not like the Water Dragon is around to punish him," Xellos chuckled. Maybe the current Phythan was the real Phythan after all, as opposed to whatever act he tried to show Filia.
Filia let out an exasperated breath. "His people hold the memory of the Water Dragon; he should have been more responsible!" She continued reading, "what's this?" She raised a suspicious eyebrow at the information. "Killed by a monster who was trying to steal the Genie's Lamp?"
"He probably slacked off again and got sentenced to death, but escaped, or maybe he was exiled," Xellos theorized. "Anyway, wasn't the Genie's Lamp just a rumor?"
Filia nodded, "the lamp contains a ghost that is so strongly attached to it that it can't be exorcised without damaging the lamp itself. The lamp has some historical value since it originally belonged to a very illustrious golden dragon who-"
Xellos yawned profoundly, "boring! Would you mind cutting the history lesson short?"
Filia glared and allowed herself a small growl before she continued. "Since the lamp has a historical value, it cannot be destroyed, so no one was willing to risk breaking it with a strong exorcism. Instead the ghost was left to dwell in it and the lamp was placed behind a protective barrier in case the ghost decided to come out on his own and cause trouble. The barrier would exorcise the ghost instantly, but he never came out anyway. Stupid stubborn ghost not wanting to rest in peace."
Xellos grinned, "annoying the golden dragons does seem like a worth purpose for haunting."
Ignoring his comment, Filia continued her explanation. "The lamp was to be kept in different temples for a few years. When it was being transported from one to another, the dragons ran into some troublesome monsters and the lamp was lost in the battle. It turns out it wasn't destroyed and it was found by a human who thought the ghost was a wish granting genie."
Xellos chuckled in amusement, "humans will believe any stupid myth."
Once again ignoring the interruption, Filia went on. "The ghost made all sorts of excuses and gave warnings about regretting certain wishes, speaking of the unwanted side-effects that they might have. As a result, by the time the lamp's holder even came close to deciding upon a wish, rumors about the lamp would have already spread and the lamp soon ended up in someone else's hands. Since the wishes kept being delayed by the tricky ghost, the humans never realized that there was no genie and they kept on fighting for the lamp. Fortunately, the golden dragons eventually recovered it and kept it safe."
"They probably burned a whole human village to get it back too," Xellos chirped cheerfully.
Filia groaned, ignoring Xellos' vexing nature was an increasingly difficult task, especially when she was talking to him. "According to the date Phythan was in the Fire Temple while I was away, so it's no wonder we missed each other. This means that he was telling the truth according to the scroll, even if he sounded confused about it."
"Except for the part about him being alive," Xellos pointed out with annoyance. "I could fix that."
"No," Filia insisted. "Whatever happened, I want to help Phythan recover his memories. Unfortunately, the golden dragons were more prejudiced than I ever wanted to admit before. If not because of the fact that I was commended for my participation in the mission against Tiffany, I would have been shunned for having been her friend. The news about her must have surely reached the remaining followers of the Water Dragon and with Phythan's record being less than merit worthy, he had nothing to fall back on to prove his loyalty. He was from a different temple and was not directly involved in anything, so they couldn't just kick him out, but they must have confined him to a lower rank with no hopes of ever being promoted. That must have been hard."
"It's just as I said, you're trying to be kind to him to ease your own guilt." Xellos didn't like the prospect. "What's next? Are you going to fly off in search of Tiffany and her monster contractor of a husband to make peace with them?"
Filia stared at the stone floor as she rolled up the scroll absentmindedly. "I probably wouldn't be able to find them." She looked into Xellos' eyes. "You're a monster, you don't understand about guilt, kindness and mercy, but I won't let you ruin this for me. I need to make up for what my people did in anyway I can. Not just with Val, but with every opportunity that presents itself."
Filia placed Phythan's profile scroll on the shelf nearest to her, which was in the fire section instead of the water section where it belonged. Then once again the shelves sunk beneath the floor and the walls parted to reveal the stone dragon with the metal joints, screeching in a recorded voice that was defective due to lack of maintenance. All that Filia and Xellos could understand was something about a "proper section."
Filia's surprise had made her jump into Xellos' arms. She was more emotional than usual and thus jumpier. Her tail popped out while the rest of her body remained in human form, the tail wrapping itself around Xellos in an automatic motion. Realizing what she was doing, Filia unwrapped her tail from around Xellos blushing profusely, and tried to find another coin to pay the fee for placing a scroll in the wrong place, though apparently the mechanism couldn't detect if a scroll was stolen.
Xellos produced a coin from his pocket and tossed it at the jar without looking, his open eyes focused on Filia who held her tail in her hands muttering something inaudible as if trying to coax it into disappearing. The shelves sprung up once the payment was received, causing Filia to stumble forward, once again in Xellos' arms, her tail automatically wrapping around him. She blushed as she tried to find something to say to defuse the peculiar tension that came from their frequent hugging and perhaps more so from the fact that they were able to have an almost civilized conversation.
Of all the people Filia could talk to about Tiffany, Xellos just happened to be there, but there was more to it than that. The conversation they had about her keeping an open mind had rattled her more than Filia could ever admit. Her postponed research about a good, or at least decent, monster didn't seem so absurd anymore, even though most would say it was. The deeds of the golden dragons, her childhood friend, Val's future, the mysteries of Phythan, it was all too much.
Filia felt overwhelmed and in the face of everything she couldn't get her body to properly respond and get her away from Xellos. Instead she drew closer, he didn't move, though he was inviting her with his eyes, silently telling her to take the initiative if this was what she wanted. She stopped thinking and focused only on sensations as she closed the distance between them and their lips met.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. I haven't forgotten about the other couples, they'll get some attention soon too! As for the question about if this kiss worked on the curse or not... you'll have to wait and find out! For those of you who have been following me on Deviant Art, I hope you're enjoying the Slayers fanart, there's more to come!