To Live Another Day
Episode Thirty-Three: Being Human Is Not Easy
Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos headed for the docks. Xellos followed the group automatically, without pointing out his condition directly, though he was sure everyone already knew. Yet what made it sink in fully was when Lina spoke up about her secret job. "Try not to run off on your own, Xellos. I'm supposed to be your bodyguard after all."
"What?" Xellos felt his eye twitch madly. There was a long harsh road ahead of him and he needed to gain his cure more desperately than ever.
"You heard me and I'm getting good money out of this deal, so I'll be really angry if you mess it up for me!" Lina emphasized.
When the group arrived at the docks, a ship was already waiting for them. They boarded and left swiftly; sailing away from the resort and towards the road they intended to follow to Filia's home. It looked as if the trip by sea would be uneventful. Gourry and Lina were eating every last dish on the vessel, while Amelia and Zelgadis enjoyed the refreshing sea breeze on deck in the front of the ship. Xellos on the other hand, was not enjoying the trip. After his human transformation, he experienced hunger as a human would, but as soon as he got on the ship, he was thankful for his empty stomach.
Leaning on the railing of the side of the ship, Xellos contemplated the ocean and mused about how much he loathed it. His face was looking rather green with a sickly expression as he shrugged his shoulders harshly. Filia, who had been standing beside him with her hand tracing comforting circles on his upper back, pouted and glared as Xellos growled, "stop that!"
Placing her hands on her hips, Filia maintained a firm glare, "I'm only trying to help!"
"You're not helping," Xellos looked away from her, tempted to throw himself into the ocean where he would surely drown, just to get away from the humiliation of the situation. "Everything's already going in enough circles as it is," he grumbled under his breath.
"Oh," Filia blinked in realization, "I was making you dizzier? Sorry about that. It can't be easy being sea sick. I heard Zelgadis used to get sea sick." She glanced towards the front of the ship where the chimera and the princess were cuddled close to each other. "He certainly doesn't look sick now. Love must be a wonderful medicine."
Filia's words reminded Xellos of his cure. He knew this wouldn't work, but he still had to try. "So love cures sea sickness? I suppose it won't kill me in my current state. Give me a dose of that." If anything, teasing Filia and watching her blush might make him feel a little better.
The golden dragon did indeed blush, just as the ex-monster expected. "It's not so simple," she struggled to explain. "If you were nicer to me I could at least..." her face turned a deeper shade of crimson, "be your friend?" She offered unsure.
"Funny, I thought you already were. I recall a time when you admitted to such a blasphemous thing," Xellos teased, referring to the time when they were researching the profiles in the secret golden dragon archives. "Of course you might have changed your mind, golden dragons have no loyalty." Filia sighed, which threw Xellos off guard, "what? No retorts? Are you giving up and admitting that everything I say is true?"
"No," Filia shook her head gently. It was obvious he was uncomfortable, more than uncomfortable. Xellos was suffering and it was a new experience for him, which made it much more difficult to tolerate, no matter how strong his will might be. Of course, giving him compassion would only hurt his already broken pride and make things worse for him, Filia knew that. She took a deep breath and tried to act natural for Xellos' sake. "You're nothing but an annoying, lying, trickster piece of raw garbage!" She turned around and started to storm off, maybe Xellos would feel better below deck. "I'm going below deck," she declared. "Don't you dare follow me!" It secretly was an invitation for him to follow.
Xellos watched Filia walk off for a few seconds and focused on fading into the astral side to teleport into her room. If she really wanted some time away from him, she would be annoyed if she opened her door to find him there. A few more seconds passed and nothing happened. Of course it didn't, Xellos was a human now, he couldn't fade into the astral side and reappear somewhere else. Humans didn't do that, monsters did. Even if he knew he was human, the habit came without much conscious thought. Seeing that he wasn't going anywhere unless he actually made a physical effort to move, Xellos resigned himself to walk after Filia.
Filia had by then arrived at her assigned room below deck. She left the door unlocked and waited until predictably, Xellos arrived. "I was getting bored of the view, so I think I'll hang out down here for a while."
"Go away!" Filia snapped, which meant 'stay.' "I don't want to deal with you now; I want to take a nap!" Perhaps sleeping through the voyage by sea would be best for Xellos.
"A nap? It's still the middle of the day! Dragon sure are lazy!" Xellos followed Filia's gaze towards the bed. There was nothing particularly unusual about it, which was a good thing because given the heart themes that were common on the resort one would expect such a thing to be on the sheets. Fortunately, the sheets were a nice shade of cerulean with a fluffy white pillow. Xellos lay down on the bed, "yeah, this does feel like a good place for a nap."
"Get off! That's my bed!" Filia reproached, knowing full well that it would make Xellos stay put. "I'm going to give you to the count of ten to get up! One... two... three... four... five... six... seven... eight... nine... ten..." Filia lowered her voice with every number, until the number ten was barely audible. When the count was over, Xellos was out like a light. He fell for it, just like counting sheep. Now he could get some rest despite his stubbornness. Filia gently placed the covers over Xellos, then quietly pulled over a chair and sat beside the bed. She didn't even know why she felt compelled to do this. Lina was his bodyguard; she should be the one taking care of him. But since Lina wasn't properly taking care of her responsibilities, someone had to.
xoxox xox xoxox
Several hours later, Xellos woke up to a particularly sweet voice calling his name. "Xellos... Xellos, wake up, it's time to get off the ship. Xellos..." A soft hand was brushing his hair away from his face when he opened his amethyst eyes and was greeted by the visual of Filia leaning over him. "Get up, we already arrived at port. You slept through the whole trip, it's already well into the evening. Lina and the others have gone ahead to one of the seaside restaurants to get a late dinner, since Lina and Gourry ate all the food on the ship."
Xellos' only reply was an ever eloquent "hmm" then he closed his eyes and turned over on his side, snuggling the fluffy white pillow. He knew humans sometimes had trouble waking up, but he didn't know it was this hard. Then his stomach growled loudly. The ship was much more still as it was parked at the docks, thus there were no continuous rocking motions from the passing waves to make him seasick. As a result, his appetite was back full force, which created enough of a motivation for Xellos to stumble out of bed and walk past Filia, pretending he wasn't suffering from post-nap sleep-drunkenness.
Xellos took a short moment to observe the darkened environment outside. It really was well into the evening as the sun had almost completely sunk out of sight in the horizon. He headed for the board that served as a bridge between the ship and the dock and managed to get safely to the other side, only to trip on a loose board once he was actually on the dock. He was saved from falling into the water between the ship and the dock, by Filia's sudden firm grip on his arm, which didn't let go until it was evident that he had fully regained his balance.
"Watch your step," she advised in a motherly tone. It was true that humans could cast levitation spells, but their natural way of walking without magic felt clumsy for someone with enough power to float with every step he took and fly without the need to focus his energy on it.
Being human was definitely something to get used to, but Xellos wasn't going to let Filia pity him. "Yes, mother," he sarcastically replied with every ounce of mocking dread he could muster.
Filia pouter and placed her hands on her hips as she corrected, "I'm not Zelas."
Xellos was going to say something, but soon realized that Lord Beast Master was in fact his mother, all things considered and felt that his sarcastic remark was out of place. It's not that Filia didn't deserve all the sarcastic remarks in the world, but rather, this was human and perhaps dragon mother sarcasm, not monster mother sarcasm. Resolving that the only way to save the remnants of his dignity was to give Filia the cold shoulder, Xellos did so, and walked away with as much of a firm pace as he could muster in his hungry state.
It didn't take long for Filia and Xellos to find the rest of their traveling companions. Lina and Gourry had their own table at one of the seaside restaurants, where they could eat wildly. Amelia and Zelgadis were at the table next to theirs, eating at a much more civilized pace. Leaving the lovebirds to their meal, Filia and Xellos took up another near by table, where Xellos proceeded to order everything on the menu that looked appetizing.
"You're going to get sick if you eat like Lina," Filia warned, but Xellos ignored her. He remembered having visited this town before during an incident involving people losing their ability to speak normally, instead speaking an odd language known as octopese. The local specialty was octopus, though these days it was limited to serving only tentacles, which the octopus could regenerate, leading to an era of peace between the octopi and the townspeople.
Just as he was preparing to savor his meal, which was served ironically by an octopus waiter, Xellos noticed that his traveling companions were staring at him, along with other people in the restaurant. Even Lina and Gourry had ceased their ferocious eating to look at Xellos. "What? It's not like you've never seen me eating before." Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis burst out laughing, much to Xellos' annoyance, "what?" He demanded to know. "What's so funny?"
Filia sighed patiently and stood from her chair, producing a hairbrush from the pocket of her cloak. She rounded the table where they sat face to face and standing behind Xellos, she brushed his hair. "You kept snuggling your head on the pillow while you slept and it messed up your hair. It looks like the sea breeze made it extra frizzy too."
"My... hair..." Xellos uttered in horror as he ran his fingers through it. When he was a monster he didn't need to worry about having a single hair out of place, but now his hair was sticking out in every direction like a purple kitten that had been accidentally thrown in an electric dryer, if either of those actually existed.
"Calm down," Filia slapped Xellos' hands away. "You're just making it worse; I'll fix it for you." A few excruciatingly long and horrible minutes later, Xellos had learned the pain of undoing hair knots and the humiliation that came with having someone do so in public. "There," Filia finally announced. "You're hair is actually pretty fine, you'll have to use a gentle shampoo if you don't want it to lose its shine, it's already starting to dull." She gently ran her hand through his hair again, curiously parting the top layer to look at the strands of hair under it. "Or maybe it's all part of the process..." she mused, observing that the hair under the top layer was noticeably different from what was seen at first glance.
Humiliation aside, there was a possibility that seriously bothered Xellos. "Don't tell me I'm..." did he even dare to ask? "Going bald?" He inquired in a terrified whisper that was just loud enough for Filia and their traveling companions in the neighboring tables to hear.
Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis burst into a fit of laughter again. "Yes, you're definitely going bald." Zelgadis replied with a cruelly amused smile.
"Oh yeah, I can see a bald spot the size of the moon from here!" Lina contributed between giggles.
"Really?" Gourry looked confused. "It's the size of the moon? I just don't see it." Lina elbowed him under the table and he quickly amended, "there it is; I see it now!" It was a miracle he actually understood that she was trying to get him to play along. Or maybe he didn't understand and thought Lina simply didn't want to be contradicted in any way.
"Filia..." Xellos almost whimpered, his face a mixture of horror and fright.
"Stop it, all of you!" Filia scolded, though she did so between giggles. "It's okay, Xellos, you're not going bald, your hair is simply turning black. It's only natural when you think about it. Some humans have eyes so blue that they appear to be purple, so I don't think that will change. But who has ever heard of a human with natural purple hair? I'm sure that if you take proper care of it, it will be just as shiny as ever. I can help; I know how to take good care of hair." Filia proudly offered.
Xellos felt relieved that he still had a head full of hair. He didn't care what color it was as long as he didn't go bald... Then again, pink hair would have been a humiliating disaster, it would be annoying if he turned into one of those red-heads with such a strange shade of red that their hair looked pink. Black was at least an acceptable color, not a bad color at all. Thus he decided that this wasn't such a big disaster after all, he could live with black hair.
After Xellos' stomach was full, he expected to feel better, but he didn't. Though he appeared to disregard Filia's advice, he did actually make sure not to over eat in his rush of hunger. It wasn't that he felt overly full, he felt as if he had consumed enough food to be pleasantly satisfied, but he wasn't. His stomach hurt like never before, his head was spinning more than it had while he was on the ship and he was itchy all over.
"Are you okay?" Filia asked with visible concern.
"Yes, I'm perfectly fine," Xellos replied with heavy sarcasm, but an undertone that almost begged for Filia to drop the subject.
Filia, as expected, refused to drop it. "No, you're not."
"If you're going to draw your own conclusions, why did you bother asking?" Xellos snapped with little enthusiasm as he scratched his face, his arms... the itch was everywhere and it was driving him crazy. "What is this?" He demanded to know with great urgency. Forget his pride, he needed information and that stubbornly persistent human survival instinct was starting to kick in again. "Don't just sit there staring at me," he threw his last shred of dignity out the metaphorical window; the itch was too much to bear. "Tell me what you humans do to get rid of itches!"
Filia continued to stare at Xellos along with everyone else. "Did you get sick somehow?" Filia theorized unsure. "I don't understand; you were fine a while ago. The breeze feels pleasant; I don't think it's enough to make anyone catch pneumonia."
"I don't think pneumonia looks like that," Lina pointed out. She had never heard of a red rash being a symptom of pneumonia.
"Oh, oh..." Everyone turned their attention expectantly at Amelia. "I've seen this before," she revealed, pausing for several suspenseful seconds before she stated what she knew. "A friend of mine, who is a shrine maiden at Seyruun, once got an itchy red rash just like that after eating octopus for the first time. It turned out that she was highly allergic to it and had to be hospitalized."
Everyone's expressions grew in shock at the revelation. "This can't be!" Lina dramatized in agony, "if he dies now, Celo won't pay me!"
"Have some consideration!" Filia scolded in indignation.
"That can't be true; this has to be something else!" Xellos insisted as he scratched madly. He didn't have enough arms to scratch every itch and to top it all up, scratching only made him itch more. "I've eaten octopus before and nothing happened!" He paused as the realization hit him. When he was a monster, he could drink poison as if it was juice and remain unaffected. He could drink a gallon of gasoline, swallow a lit match and still, nothing would happen. All of that was possible because he was a monster before, but he was a human now. He was a fragile human with a fragile immune system, a fragile digestive system and his very own personalized set of hidden allergies just waiting to be discovered. "I... really am allergic... aren't I?" The truth sunk in like a ton of bricks falling on his head, which would have killed him in his delicate state if it wasn't just a metaphor. "Humans are so pathetic!" He yelled at the top of his lungs in absolute frustration.
"Wow, you really did draw the short end of the stick in this humanity business," Lina observed. Then again, rather than bad luck maybe it was karma. Maybe the movement of chance around Xellos' fate had slingshot back at him to push his fate into a miserable destiny.
Xellos was still in the middle of his frustrated hissy fit when he was literally swept off his feet by Filia. She once again had him in her arms, carrying him bridal style. "Where's the nearest hospital?" She urgently yelled. Catching wind of the situation, the octopus waiter gave Filia some directions and she hurried away, carrying the complaining, red and itchy Xellos.
"We have to go with them!" Lina picked up her big dessert bowl containing large portions of cake and ice-cream, then bolted after Filia. Gourry mirrored the action and hurried away after Lina.
"We're coming too!" Amelia dashed after the group.
"This I can't miss," Zelgadis left as well.
The octopus waiter stood watching the group rush away to give their friend some much needed first aid. He felt sad for them until he realized that in the commotion, they left without paying.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Poor Xellos, survival has suddenly become a lot harder.