To Live Another Day
Episode Forty-Three: Survival Is A Real Chore
Fear invaded Filia's face at the thought of Zelas losing her patience with Xellos and his curse. "No way," she desperately tried not to fall into hopelessness. "She sent Fang to save you. You should go report and I'm sure she'll forgive you."
"There's no point in questioning that," Xellos truthfully stated. If Lord Beast Master wanted him to report, even if he wasn't supposed to do so until his curse had been broken, then he should accommodate to her change of mind and go report... or else. If she wanted him dead, she could hunt him down to no escape, so running would do more harm than anything. "Let's go," they both rode on Fang's back and were taken towards a building in the astral side forest. Taking a golden dragon to see a monster lord sounded like a terrible idea, but Filia couldn't be left alone or she would be devoured by the monsters. Besides, surely Lord Beast Master was well aware of the specifics of the curse. If it was for the sake of something like that, perhaps she would excuse Xellos bringing his dragon companion along.
Fang stopped when they were sufficiently close to the building. It was an elegant structure surrounded by a crystalline water filled moat with a wide bridge leading towards its front entrance. The moat's water flowed in circular motions as if driven by a gentle magical current, making the soft sounds of a tame river constantly. The walls were a pure white and the ceiling sky blue. The details of the ceiling protuberated in a sort of blue skirt around the building at each floor in all seven. The architecture had a look similar to the buildings found on the eastern edge of the main continent. Pale green vines wrapped themselves around the walls with little pink flowers blossoming on them. The glass windows were perfectly clear and there were two lines of vases on the left and right edges of the bridge. "Those vases!" Filia pointed in disbelief. "They're the vases you bought!" What was up with her vases showing up in the most unexpected places?
"You mean the ones you made me buy," whenever he was bored and popped out of the astral side, teleporting to see Filia, for entertainment purposes only, she often made him buy a vase. She would protest that he couldn't be at her shop because he wasn't a customer and argue about it until he purchased something. She wouldn't sell him maces, so vases it was. "I put them away at HQ, but Lord Beast Master said they were taking up space and that she was putting them someplace else. This spa is run by a monster that works for her, so it's technically hers."
Filia pouted and placed her hands on her hips, "my vases are decorating monster property."
"I'm sure Zelas laughs at the golden dragon race every time she sees them," Xellos grinned.
"She's quite the business woman, isn't she?" Filia commented, trying to focus on not thinking about Zelas as a ferocious beast, which she certainly was when she felt like it.
"Not only of negative emotions does a monster live," Xellos asserted. Fang was getting impatient, hence without further ado, they went inside.
The elegant marble interiors possessing a collection of paintings were impressive to say the least. Monsters of all shapes and sizes walked around the large lobby, chatting and gossiping. Xellos and Filia received many stares of disapproval, but a warning growl from Fang was all it took for the variety of monsters to return to minding their own business, though the whispers still lingered. Filia approached one of the paintings on the walls. It was very large and it depicted a sort of wolf with wings, standing majestically beside a large tree. Written very small, barely noticeable in the right bottom corner of the painting, there was something written on darker green on the depiction of the grass. It looked like the lines were part of the drawing of grass at first glance, but a closer inspection revealed a message. "To the great Beast Master Zelas Metallium, from her servant the Green Alchemist, a painting by Venus."
"It's a new one," Xellos observed. If he was surprised by the message, he didn't show it. "Zelas must have received this painting while I was away. Venus was sprouting some nonsense about the Green Alchemist taking my place, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he would send a gift. It's a pretty accurate painting for Zelas' true form. There's quite the collection of art related gifts Lord Beast Master has received in this building as decorations."
"Somehow, I thought a spa owned by a monster lord would be far creepier, the building itself I mean," because the guests were certainly creepy.
"Xellos, I'm glad you're here, now all this stuff can be done. You brought a helper along, good, good, that makes things easier." The being that addressed them had the voice of a woman and was about as tall as Gourry. Her body from the waist down was that of a snake and she was covered in turquoise scales all over. She wore a golden bustier to cover her shapely torso and matching golden armlets. Her face was completely hidden behind a thick black veil that just barely touched her shoulders. In her hands she carried a rolled up scroll, which she gave to Xellos.
"What happened to welcome great general Xellos, how may I serve you?" Xellos teased, feeling more like his old self.
The snake woman rolled her yellow eyes, invisible behind her black veil, yet somehow Xellos knew the gesture was made. "I've never been a hypocrite with you and I'm not about to start now." She placed her hands on her hips, or where her hips would be, as she pointed that out.
"Same old Galathia," while Filia looked back and forth between the snake woman, who was apparently called Galathia, and Xellos, the monster turned human examined the scroll. "These are all spa chores," he pointed out with mounting dread.
"Well of course," Galathia laughed, "nothing too difficult since you're..." she searched for the right expression, "ill. Anyway, Lord Beast Master doesn't want you slacking off, so she asked me to compile a list of things for you to do. She looked over it, added a few items and approved it. In other words, I'm just the messenger in this situation, these are orders from above."
So much about being treated normally. "You heard the lady, get to work, dragon," Xellos shoved the scroll into Filia's annoyed hands.
"You're not throwing your chores on me!" Filia screeched. "Besides, you haven't even introduced me to..." now it was Filia's turn to search for the right word, "your acquaintance."
Again Galathia made another invisible roll off the eyes. "Who wants to meet a golden dragon? Only Xellos, he's the oddball of the family. In fact, there's this dragon girl I suspect he has a thing for. She's the one who made those vases decorating the bridge. She's..." Galathia paused and gave the situation some more thought, "she's you, isn't she?"
Ignoring the mocking tone in Galathia's voice, Filia firmly stated, "my name is Filia Ul Copt."
"Galathia Gorgon, spa manager," the snake woman replied in a similar tone. She was a gorgon, a snake with a head full of snakes. That would explain the veil which she probably had on for the benefit of the lower level monster clients, and also for Filia and Xellos. "Is it true that you're Xellos' lover?"
"That's not true!" Filia yelled much louder than needed. "We're just..." friends? Was it even okay to say that? He was an actor, a liar, his situation was no different from Hanna's. He was just tricking her into caring for his own benefit or worse yet, his own mocking amusement.
Seeing as Filia was taking a moment to elaborate upon her argument, Xellos finished it for her. "We're friends with benefits."
Filia paled, even more than she already was from exhaustion and Galathia nodded in understanding. "I see, it looks like a lot has been going on in your life recently. A lot has been going on around here too. Did you know that Lord Beast Master has a new intern? Don't worry, he's not trying to steal your place, he says he's serving the internship as Zelas' minion to better understand monsters and how they think for the sake of the greater good, something or other. He's a strange one that one, but very handsome. Ah, but enough talk. I won't steal away your time anymore, I'm sure your anxious to work on your... mission." With an obnoxious laughter like that of Martina and Naga, Galathia walked away.
"What's up with people, and monsters, laughing like that? It's so annoying!" Filia grumbled. She then looked at the scroll Xellos had given her. "These are your chores, don't expect me to do all the work for you."
"Fine," Xellos greedily snatched away the scroll. "I'll do all the chores all by myself, so I'll be the only one who's being useful to Lord Beast Master. That means I'll be the only one she'll keep alive!"
With a look of wide eyed realization, Filia snatched away the scroll. "We'll split it fifty-fifty. We're both exhausted anyway, so we might as well help each other!" Thus a new ordeal began for Filia and Xellos.
xoxox xox xoxox
Filia never knew that the art of folding towels was such a tedious one. She felt silly doing chores in her purple spa employee outfit, which was really a pretty purple yukata with a black waist bow and the letters BMS on the top left encased in a round logo with Beast Master's true form silhouette in the background. The logo aside, the outfit itself was beautiful and that's what made it feel so out of place given the task at hand. She supposed that in a high scale monster spa, even the employees of the lower rank who didn't get paid with anything other than the opportunity to keep their lives, needed to look decent on the job, even if said job took place mostly behind the scenes.
Xellos was wearing a similar attire to Filia's while making of mess of the simple task of folding the towels. With a prominent frown, Filia shook her head, "you're doing it wrong and let me tell you, I'll be very upset if Beast Master kills us because of your poor towel folding skills." She picked up one on the tiny squares with a decorative pattern that looked like a tribal sign version of Zelas true form, barely perceptible in the few lines. "Look, it's just like the moth-wolf lady said; you have to fold this way." Filia demonstrated the proper folding technique that was explained by the strange anthropomorphic black wolf with the moth face, red bug eyes and lavender moth wings, when they showed up following the list of chores. She handed them they're uniforms and pointed them towards the locker room, commenting that Galathia had mentioned them. Once they were changed, the moth-wolf monster folded a towel as an example and left them to their task.
Xellos observed the towel Filia had folded. He attributed the fact that the puzzle escaped him to his exhaustion. "I don't get it," he admitted with a frustrated frown. "These little towels that people love to steal as souvenirs are square. How do you turn them into triangles when you fold them?"
Filia almost growled in exasperation. "You just saw me fold one. Weren't you paying attention?" She groaned and continued folding at full speed. "Why do they have these little towels here anyway? You said it yourself, people steal them as souvenirs. Who would try to dry themselves with a towel this tiny? They're like handkerchiefs made of towel material. They're too small."
Xellos picked up another mini-towel and attempted to fold it like Filia did. This mission made all his past missions as a monster seem too easy. By the time he turned the little square into a lopsided diamond and was close to achieving a triangle, Filia had already finished folding the rest of the little towels. At long last triumphant, Xellos placed his triangular folded towel on top of the pile in the little cart.
"Delivering this to the proper place like the moth-wolf lady said is going to take some time," Filia observed. Carrying the towels in a pile in their arms was out of the question, as that would not help them stay neatly folded. "These carts are too small." Nonetheless, Filia wasn't about to complain to her superiors and Xellos was smart enough not to get cocky about Lord Beast Master's lenient punishment for his delay. Thus the unfortunate pair pushed the carts full of tiny towels away to the proper storage, finishing the delivery after a few trips back and forth.
xoxox xox xoxox
Once the towel folding and storing chores were done, Xellos and Filia moved on to the next task, which involved cleaning the spa's hot tubs. The cleaning supplies came in cute little sample sizes which looked absolutely adorable sitting on the cleaning supply cart, but were ultimately an annoyance to use. This time it was a spider-like being who spoke in earsplitting whistles that appointed them the task. Filia wasn't sure if it was a he or a she, all that mattered was that he she it left them alone to their work and after a while the painful ringing in her ears should cease.
With a frown on her face that she secretly feared would become permanent, Filia glared at the cleaning supplies. "The cleaning products are too small. Sure, there are many of them, but they're so small, why not put it all in a big container?"
Xellos shrugged, "for decorative purposes, I would assume. Of course, golden dragons are known for their lack of taste, so I can't expect you to understand."
"That's obviously a lie," Filia countered. Golden dragons loved to decorate their temples in elaborate ways. "I run a successful business, I'll have you know, and my vases are very decorative."
"If you're such an expert, then why not make this messy tub more decorative looking," Xellos picked up a cleaning brush that was on the cart and handed it to Filia.
Filia glared at the brush as if it had personally offended her. "This brush is too small. They're probably doing this on purpose to make the cleaning process terribly difficult."
"Shh, keep your voice down," as much as Xellos wanted to keep teasing Filia and continue amusing himself with their argument, he felt that he was being watched. "They're watching us; we better start cleaning before they decide to make us clean with a toothbrush."
Filia did not like the idea of having to clean hot tubs with a tooth brush. She quickly started cleaning without further complaints. Xellos wanted to stand there watching, but he knew it was in his best interest to help, he didn't want to anger Lord Beast Master any further. Thus the pair cleaned and cleaned, until there were no tubs left to clean.
xoxox xox xoxox
The next few hours transpired at the same pace with Xellos and Filia following a very Cinderella-like routine. Filia, unlike Xellos, was experienced in performing household chores, since she had her own house and shop to manage. Xellos on the other hand, never had to worry about clean-up duty before; there were low ranking monster servants to take care of that. There was even a specific servant whose job was to clean up the ashes of Lord Beast Master's cigarette. His lack of expertise shone through in every chore and his exhaustion didn't make it any better. However, with a lot of help from Filia, they managed to get through.
The last task on the list after the dish washing activities were completed, was folding napkins behind the kitchen of the spa's restaurant. A chef that looked like a green troll with a brown bull's head and three tails was cooking busily, the heat of the stoves and ovens making Xellos and Filia feel like they would be cooked alive in the backroom. "Xellos, you're not supposed to fold these like the towels. These napkins are super tiny so it's difficult to fold them, but not impossible. If I was a customer I would excuse the napkins' lack of functional size because they're so cute, but they're so difficult to fold, I might never look at mini-napkins the same way again. You're supposed to make it so that they can stand up on the table, like this." Filia showed him her mini-napkin tower perfectly balanced on the palm of her hand.
"Your hands are burned," Xellos observed. Sure they had gotten cleaned up before they changed into their uniforms, but other than washing off the blood and sweat they couldn't do much else. There was no first aid kit to be found in monster territory. Who would fear a monster with a band-aid anyway? Thus their cuts remained without bandages and their bruises visibly continued the process of going from red to purple to black.
Xellos didn't know recovery magic, plus he was too tired anyway, and Filia's magic was still sealed, her hair still white. Filia put down the mini-napkin she was showing Xellos and picked up the next one to be folded. "I got it from the mace."
Xellos remembered the event that Filia reference as he tried with futile effort to fold a mini-napkin like she did. With the skin of her hands so burned and exposed, even the lightest brush of fabric would hurt, he could tell just by looking. Yet there was Filia, speedily folding napkins as if it was nothing. Her face was blank, but upon close inspection, there was a look of pain in her eyes that escaped Xellos' notice before. She got that back when she used the hot mace to hit the seed. He had heated it too much to the point where it hurt her, but she focused on the battle and didn't complain. When it came down to it, Filia was very strong in many ways. Xellos knew that before, he just didn't dwell on it.
Time passed in silence until the final task on the chore was finished. The tired pair reported to the tall chef and he sent them on their way to report to Galathia.
xoxox xox xoxox
After a quick search, Xellos and Filia located Galathia, who seemed surprised that they finished their assigned tasks so soon. "I guess I underestimated you, Xellos."
"Indeed," Xellos grinned, yet the look Filia was giving him spoke volumes.
Galathia grinned behind her veil. "You really trained your dragon pet very well to have her do the majority of the work." When the meaning of her initial statement was revealed, Filia pouted in indignation and glared daggers at Xellos, who made no effort to voice any corrections. Ignoring the dragon's obvious anger, the gorgon continued, "you two can rest now, I'll show you to some quarters you can use. Lord Beast Master will see you later."
Knowing that they had no choice, Xellos and Filia followed Galathia to their quarters, which was more like a dungeon-like walk-in closet. At least they were given the chance to get cleaned up again, since their uniforms were full of grime and sweat from all the chores. They changed into new purple yukata uniforms with the same BMS logos. Their original clothes were too full of tares and blood to be worn again. At last, they lay down on the thin mattress of their so called room, certainly ready to finally get some rest.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. With Xellos and Filia's tribulations close to an end, they're about to face their final trial. What will their meeting with Zelas lead to?