To Live Another Day
Episode Forty-One: A Bitter Battle
"Looks like the battle came to us," Gravos stepped out of the house prepared to fight.
Filia watched the scene with horror, "it really will take all of us to fight."
Xellos decided someone had to get things organized, and who better than himself? "Gravos, Naga, take out as many enemies as you can. Jillas, put your weapon arsenal to use, Vases and Maces is now the main fortress. I'm going to find the one in charge and give him a beating. Filia," he winked, "try not to get in the way."
"This is no time for jokes!" Filia screeched. "Gravos, Jillas, Naga, stay strong and protect the town; I'll find the one controlling these monstrous creatures and stop him." With that said, Filia charged forward with her mace in hand. She batted away any snake roots that got in her way and continued her dash towards the glowing mass of trees in the center of town.
"At least she made a good guess about where the boss could be," Xellos rushed forward towards the same location, shooting Fireball spells at all the enemies on his path.
That left Gravos to clobber the attacking plant-beasts with his custom-made huge mace that Filia designed just for him. Jillas set up the fire power around the shop and shot any creepy plant snakes that tried to get near it, keeping Elena, Palou and Val safe inside. All the while Naga looked like she was having fun, laughing at the top of her lungs as she shot one Freeze Arrow after another.
Filia and Xellos reached the tallest tree in the center of town, which was composed of a mass of long thin trees weaved together. The tree trunks parted to allow them entry. "Looks like someone is inviting us in," Xellos observed.
"Let's take the invitation!" Filia and Xellos charged forward courageously. The inside of the enemy base of operations was dark at first, but it wasn't long before a bright green light illuminated the space. "The snake tree isn't just a chimera of plant and animal, it has some monster in it too," Filia sensed.
"Hence why we ended up in the astral side," Xellos noted. The space in the chamber they were in was larger than the space in the middle of the mass of thin trees. The chamber was surrounded by tightly packed tree trunks all around with many vines all over the floors, covered in green leaves. Overhead there was a strange glowing sphere with a see-through leaf-like membrane around it and a bright green giant seed in the middle. "I bet that's the power source up there, Flare Arrow!"
In a swift movement, the mysterious traveling merchant, jumped from his hidden position above the glowing sphere and negated the attack, "Freeze Arrow!" He floated with the power of levitation, looking at his so called captives below.
The leaf covered vines sprung to life, trying to wrap themselves around Filia and Xellos, but with a few fireballs and laser breath, they both freed themselves and levitated above the vines. "Who are you? Why are you doing this?" Filia demanded.
The merchant gave no reply beyond the empty look on his face. "He has no feelings," Xellos realized, then he caught sight of the glow on the crystal he wore on an armlet. "Looks like the merchant wasn't the mastermind after all, he's only a puppet. Judging by the use of trees, this looks like the work of the Green Alchemist."
"Well done," a female voice was heard as a figure in a black cloak came out of hiding near the glowing sphere. "You are indeed a perceptive empath," she removed her cloak to reveal the beautiful face of a young woman with black ebony hair and sapphire blue eyes. "Yet you're not perceptive enough since I was able to trick you before."
"No way..." Filia stared at the woman in disbelief. "Your face... Why do you have that face? It's just like the painting of young Hanna!" The old woman had said she had no children, but Filia seriously doubted it now, "are you her daughter?"
The woman laughed cruelly, "you think I'm Hanna's daughter, dear Filia? Maybe you had too many sweet strawberry vanilla milkshakes for your own good. Or is your tiny brain filled with nothing but kittens and bunnies? Maybe the scent of pottery supplies shouldn't have been as pleasant to you as it was. Have you finally had a nervous breakdown wondering if you'll be a good mother to that little orphaned dragon you took in?"
Filia was in shock, "how do you know those things? My favorite things, my fears, those were things I confided to Hanna."
"That's because I am Hanna," the woman mocked.
"That murderous intent," Xellos recalled. "You managed to hide your feelings as soon as you knew I was an empath. You weren't trying to see if I was good enough for Filia, you were plotting to kill me all along!"
"No!" Filia argued in agony. "You can't be Hanna. She's a very kind person, you're not her!" Hanna was trustworthy and good in Filia's eyes. To be betrayed by her was devastating.
"I am the same person, a chimera, even if I'm purely human," Hanna assured. "I fused myself with the town girls to absorb their youth and I also absorbed their magic. I've absorbed the magic of many over time. I've been around for far longer than you could imagine, serving the great Green Alchemist! As for the young man, here he is."
The vines on the chamber's floor parted to reveal the corpse of a young man Filia knew from her home town. "Kyle! Then it's true..." the golden dragon cried. "You lied to me; you lied to the whole town! I loved you like a mother, how could you do this?"
"Dear Filia, there is no such a thing as love; it is nothing but a convenient construct of the imagination, quite useful for manipulation." The image of young Hanna mocked. "Since you're learning truths today, I might as well tell you my real name. Hanna is just one of many names I've had over the years, but my favorite identity is Venus, that's my favorite plant."
Many giant venus flytraps emerged from the plants surrounding them. Xellos and Filia couldn't get near the walls or the plants would bite. They were considerably more ferocious looking than a normal venus flytrap would be, with thorns all over and sharp jaws the size of a shark. "This is about more than just revenge because we freed Phythan and prevented you from taking Zelgadis. You really are after me."
"Yes," Venus admitted, "the followers of the Green Alchemist know exactly who you are, ex-general Xellos. Our great leader will deliver your corpse to the grand Beast Master and become her new general!"
"You idiot, it doesn't work that way!" Xellos argued. He not only had monsters to worry about, but also some stupid human cult of insane vegetation obsessed weirdoes.
"I will have no mercy! Attack!" Venus sent the plans on a rampage. The venus flytraps extended in snake-like movements, snapping at Xellos and Filia, who were quick to counter. Filia was stronger in her dragon form, but she knew she couldn't transform. Her larger size would make it more difficult to dodge in the space of the chamber, so she and Xellos both used levitation instead.
Sparks and ashes rained down as the pair burned the venus flytraps one after another, but they regenerated quickly. Xellos tried making his way through the endless plants with Fireball spells and attack Hanna, but there was always an obstacle, the brainwashed merchant being one of them. "Xellos! That poor man you just burned to a crisp was an innocent victim for all we know!" Filia scolded.
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm too busy trying to stay alive to worry about a little collateral damage right now!" Xellos retorted. "I'm going for that glowing seed, make yourself useful." Xellos levitated towards the sphere above as the venus flytraps continued on the attack. Surprisingly, Venus didn't seem to care, which was strange if that glowing giant seed was an important power source.
"What do you mean I should make myself useful? Don't rush in like that, you'll get yourself killed!" A barrage of lasers followed, taking out the plants that tried to attack Xellos as he approached the target.
Xellos had the target in sight. At such a close range, the venus flytraps wouldn't be able to effectively shield it. "Flare Lance!" The massive lance of fire was shot straight at the glowing green sphere. A few of the venus flytraps were caught by the attack, but certainly not enough to diminish it. The lance easily burned the leafy membrane that covered the seed, allowing its light to brighten the atmosphere even more. The chamber in the astral side was as clear as day, but the flames of the spell soon disappeared. The green glow was just as bright as ever, maybe even brighter. Maybe ice would work, "Freeze Bullet!" A torrent of icy bullets assaulted the glowing seed at Xellos' command, but like the flames before it, they too were without effect.
"Xellos, what's taking so long? Destroy that seed already!" Filia kept struggling to keep both Xellos and herself safe from the plants, exterminating them one after another, but they kept returning.
"Must you always be so impatient?" Xellos turned around for a moment and gave Filia his usual overly cheerful smile with a hint of real uneasiness. Then he turned away to glare at the stubborn oversized glowing green seed that refused to be destroyed.
"I can't keep this up forever!" Filia argued, then made a quick chant in her native tongue for a Flame Breath spell that reduced the majority of the venus flytraps to ashes. It would take a little while longer for them to regenerate fully after that.
Xellos turned his attention away from the seed and towards the confident woman in the black cloak. What was it with evil sorcerers and sorceresses and their black cloaks? Couldn't they have some originality? Besides, shouldn't the followers of the Green Alchemist wear green? Some things never made sense. "It doesn't look like you're concerned about this seed. I guess that means I should attack you instead! Flare Arrow!"
Venus was quick to dodge, "you have no power in your current state, mortal. Ra Tilt!"
The spell hit Xellos hard. His magic training with Lina only covered attacking, not defending. He thought the best defense was a good offence and assumed it would be enough, but apparently it wasn't. "Xellos!" Filia rushed over on the offensive and swung her mace at Venus.
An experience fighter of great endurance and agility, Venus was quick to respond with a "Bamu Rod!" The whip of fire wrapped itself around Filia's mace, quickly melting the material.
However, Filia could still use it as a blunt object, she threw it at Venus, who dodged as the abused mace flew over her head. "Do you really hope to defeat me with such weak tactics?"
The partially melted mace collided harshly with the glowing green seed, creating a crack on its outer shell, where it got stuck. "I see," Xellos grinned, he had a new plan all figure out. "The outer shell of the seed absorbs magic, but it can be physically broken." Xellos reluctantly touched the mace's handle with one finger and quickly drew it back. He cooled the scorching weapon with a quick ice spell and pulled out the mace. As soon as the weapon was loose, he was dragged down several feet by the weight, having to cast levitation again. Was that mace ever heavy for a human!
Venus glared at Xellos and tried to reach him with her whip of fire, but Filia was quick to stop her, "Ray Freeze!" Paralyzed by Filia's spell, Venus was unable to move a muscle or even twitch. She released the effects of Bamu Rod to conserve energy and concentrate her strength in freeing herself.
Simultaneously, Xellos was striking the seed over and over with Filia's mace to little effect. Sure, he had powerful magic, but the physical strength of a human being simply wasn't enough to make fast progress. Filia floated near him and opened her mouth to speak, but Xellos cut her off before she could produce any words. "I don't need your help, I can do this myself."
Filia placed her hands on her hips and glared, "this is no time to be stubborn! Besides, it's my mace, give it back!" She snatched away the heavy weapon with ease, as it didn't feel heavy to a dragon. She took a hit at the seed's outer shell and continued elaborating upon the cracks Xellos had helped grow.
"You're not doing any better," he accused.
"It worked just fine before!" Filia continued hitting the seed with little progress.
The initial hit was far stronger, but why? Magic alone couldn't destroy the seed's outer shell. It was obvious that a strong physical attack was needed, but that wasn't enough. "Fire," Xellos realized. "When you first hit the seed, the mace was still hot from being half melted."
"Then both heat and strength are needed," Filia realized. "Alright, let's get rid of this creepy seed together. Give me some fire power," Filia held out her mace. It was ruined anyway and she could always get a new one, plus this was an emergency.
"Gladly," Xellos casted a fire spell on the mace until it was almost red from the heat. He wished he had learned Astral Vine, but this would just have to do.
"Here goes!" Filia mercilessly hit the seed with her hot mace until the outer shell fell off completely.
"Scatter Bleed!" A blinding brightness invaded the chamber as a sea of energy balls assaulted Xellos and Filia by surprise. They were not expecting Venus to be able to free herself from Filia's spell, let alone so soon. The magic also hit the exposed glowing core of the seed, but it didn't damage it. "Don't you see? That power seed is indestructible! It will absorb any magic you throw at it and not even a dragon has enough strength to damage it physically!" She laughed in the same annoying fashion that Martina and Naga did.
"The seed also absorbed her spell," Xellos observed.
"It was good for us this time," Filia realized. The surprise attack would have hit them a lot harder if they weren't so close to the seed.
"That must be why the seed was protected," Xellos asserted. "Not because it was weak, but because it absorbs magic and would interfere with any spells casted here."
"That must also be why my binding spell suddenly wore off," Filia added.
Filia and Xellos took in their surroundings; it looked like the venus flytraps were ready for battle again. "The seed powers the plants, so even if Venus' spells are diminished along with ours, the power goes to her," Xellos bitterly concluded.
"Have you realized that this is a hopeless battle? You wasted your chance to kill me, dear Filia. It was all because no doubt you still have a soft spot for little old Hanna. To think that anyone could get so attached to a lie, it's pathetic!" Venus laughed cruelly at Filia's heartbroken look.
"Filia, this is no time to cry, snap out of it." Xellos insisted with urgency, shaking her shoulders to get her to react. "That seed gives power to all the trees, including the snake chimera trees outside of the astral space." This should get her attention, since Filia was always worrying about others. "If we don't destroy the power source, the enemies attacking the town will constantly regenerate. Gravos, Jillas and Naga are fighting a battle they can't win. All they can do is defend the town until we defeat the enemy. If we don't destroy this seed, the whole town, including Val, is doomed."
Filia could clearly picture it. Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis returning from their spice hunt to find the town in ruins. A pile of deadly trees littered with corpses, not a single resident of the town left alive. Gravos, Jillas, Val, Elena, Palou, Naga. Maybe even Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis would be drawn into a trap if they attempted to make justice. Xellos... Xellos would be killed too. Xellos... he was... he was kissing her again. Filia snapped out of her daze and gave Xellos a sharp look as they parted. "I'm not giving up and I'll get back at you for stealing that kiss."
"What kind of a weird freak are you?" Venus mocked. "Monsters have no room in their lives for romance. It's no wonder you ended up in such a pitiful state. Beast Master Zelas must be happy to throw you away!"
"Silence!" Filia snapped enraged. "You tricked us all, you pretended to be a caring person. You earned the love and trust of the townspeople, all just so you could use them."
"Just like the Venus flytrap, luring in her insignificant victims with a sweet scent, pretending to be a harmless flower." Venus' cruel laughter echoed alongside the sound of the ferocious plants snapping their jaws. "I don't know why your friends abandoned you, but not even they would be able to save you!"
"Our friends didn't abandon us, they'll be back!" Filia argued. It was true that Lina and the others were expected to return, but she knew she couldn't count on them to make it back on time for this fight. They were off in the mountains on a wild goose chase for some rare herbs. They were completely unaware of what was happening in town. Gravos, Jillas and Naga were in the town, outside of the astral space, probably struggling to keep the residents safe. Xellos was right, it was up to them to win this bitter battle and save everyone. But how could they do that?
"Filia," Xellos whispered in her ear. "I have an idea. Can you buy me some time?"
"Yes," Filia nodded with determination. She didn't know what Xellos was planning to do, but she would make it work.
"Are you whispering one last sweet nothing, you pathetic excuse for a monster?" Venus mocked, "or maybe you're saying goodbye. It's appropriate since you're both about to die!" Venus went in an all out attack.
In a desperate final effort, Filia went on the offensive as well. She charged forward, throwing everything she had at Venus. The evil sorceress had no choice but to allow her deadly plants to focus on Filia or else the enraged golden dragon would break through her defenses. As a result, Xellos had a small window of time to focus on his spell casting. His plan was to overwhelm the seed with power, but he had to hit it swiftly, as stopping it from consuming the spell's energy before he was done casting it was extremely difficult.
It looked like Venus and Filia's fight was more physical than magical with Filia defending herself with the remains of her mace and Venus using her ferocious plants. Even maintaining a simple levitation spell was extremely draining. Xellos pushed himself to the limit. He saw Filia being assaulted by an overwhelming number of mutant venus flytraps. He saw her struggle and felt her pain. He could picture what would happen if his plan failed and somehow, it all fueled his spell, making it stronger than what he thought he would be able to cast in his current form.
There was that strong survival instinct again, an unstoppable force that pushed him past his limits just so he could live another day. He had been chanting the spell all along, the words flowing out, lost in the sound of the battle, Filia's battle. Then he finally had it ready. With the spell complete, Xellos released its massive impressive force into the glowing seed, in a desperate attempt to overwhelm it and destroy it. "Dragon Slave!"
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. I've always wanted to see Xellos using the Dragon Slave. XD Enjoy the cliffhanger!