To Live Another Day
Episode Forty-Four: Perspectives and Perceptions
"This bed, if we can even call it a bed, is too small." Filia complained as she tried to shift her position to get more comfortable. No matter how subtle her movements were, she always ended up brushing against some part of Xellos, who was next to her. "I think I'll sleep on the floor, the bed, or rather the mattress, is simply too small for both of us." Honestly, she wasn't in the mood to argue about who would get the so called bed. Besides, the mattress was so thin, it barely made a difference anyway, plus she was so tired she would fall asleep anywhere, it was Xellos' closeness that was keeping her awake.
"What an ungrateful dragon." Xellos teased. "The towels were too small, the carts were too small, the cleaning supplies were too small, the brushes were too small, the dish soap was too small, the sponge was too small, the napkins were too small, the mattress is too small. Is there anything at all in this building that's not too small for your liking?" There was a quiet pause and some blushing from Filia, who didn't answer. "You have your mind in the gutter, don't you?"
"What? No!" Filia immediately argued. "I'm just... feeling like an ingrate, that's all. We're alive, so what if we're in a harsh situation? At least we're alive and... and... I'm going to sleep now."
Xellos got closer to Filia, if it was even possible to get closer to each other than they already were. "Are you sure you're that tired?"
"Yes!" Filia squirmed a little, but didn't push Xellos away, her face still scarlet.
"What are you thinking of?" He inquired in a rather seductive tone.
"A bunny rabbit!" Filia exclaimed in a squeak.
"A rabbit?" Xellos questioned with the raise of an eyebrow. "What does this rabbit look like?"
"It's a cute pink bunny," Filia tried to picture the adorable fuzzy animal in her mind to distract her thoughts from the still clear image of Xellos fan service that would probably never fade from her memories. "She has a cute outfit with little bows on her ears."
Filia's imagination was a scary world of fuzzy creatures, Xellos already knew that. Two could play that game, maybe if he ruined Filia's mental image she would stop thinking of animals and think of... well, him. "I'm thinking of a skunk," there, something stinky to get Filia out of an animal thinking mood.
Unfortunately for Xellos, Filia was often unpredictable. Instead of criticizing his choice of animal, she curiously inquired, "what does it look like?"
"It's purple," Xellos replied with a hint of amusement just to see Filia's reaction.
"With a pink bow on her hair," Filia added, immediately making Xellos' imaginary animal to be cute.
"Never mind the skunk, I'm thinking of a..." Xellos needed to come up with another animal, something that Filia's cutesy mind couldn't ruin. "A tasmanian devil," that should do it, something ferocious. "And it's purple," okay so maybe making it purple would take away from the terrifying image of a dangerous beast, but Xellos liked purple.
"He has a cute yellow hat and despite having a big appetite, he's a total sweetie," Filia elaborated.
"Your ability to ruin my imaginary animals is uncanny." Xellos mocked.
"I'm making them better!" Filia insisted. She didn't know how the conversation went from a forbidden path to a cute path, but she was going to keep walking down that cute path full of adorable fuzzy animals for as long as she could.
"Fine, now I'm thinking of a mouse," Xellos stated, "it's not purple," he added mainly because he couldn't take anymore creatures of his favorite color being desecrated.
"It's-" Filia was suddenly interrupted.
"Not pink," Xellos put more of a warning tone in his voice that one would think the description of an imaginary animal should merit.
"Fine," Filia conceded, "it's yellow then, with adorable rosy cheeks."
"Are you basing this animal on yourself by any chance?" Xellos teased and other than the usual joking mockery, Filia could perceive nothing else in his voice. Was he calling her a mouse or saying she looked cute when she blushed? This was Xellos; it had to be the former, rather than the latter.
"No," Filia decided to continue with the description before the fantasy petting zoo imagery lost its effect. "It has an adorable zig-zag tail and it's super cute."
"It's powerful too," Xellos grinned. "He's a beast of war summoned by its master to battle. He has electrical powers that could destroy anything and-"
"Don't ruin my cute and fuzzy imaginary animal," Filia pouted. "He's powerful, but he's good. He only fights to defend his friends or spars for the sport of it."
"Now you're ruining him and he was my imaginary animal to begin with," Xellos argued.
"Let's just say they belong to both of us," Filia settled. She had relaxed sufficiently to finally fall asleep. "Now let's get some rest. We can talk about colorful imaginary animals later."
"Not happening," Xellos assured with his usual overly cheerful grin. "The imaginary animal conversation I mean," he clarified. "Getting some rest is not a bad idea."
Yes, getting some rest was a very good idea. Unfortunately, getting a decent amount of rest in the immediate future was not something that was about to happen. The door to the walk-in closet sized dungeon-like room was suddenly opened and there stood Galathia with an amused smirk that none could see behind her usual veil. "Xellos!" She shouted as if he was far away, though she knew he was right there. How she could see beyond the thick veil was anyone's guess, yet somehow she could. "Lord Beast Master will see you now. She said to bring your pet along." After having passed on the piece of information, Galathia began making her way towards the monster lord's location, correctly assuming that her temporary employees would be swift to follow.
Xellos and Filia were indeed exhausted, but not tired enough to let themselves be killed over being late to see the one in charge. With growing nervousness, Filia walked alongside Xellos as Galathia led them to the seventh floor of the building.
xoxox xox xoxox
The gorgon spa manager stood aside in front of a pair of golden double doors. She nodded and left, indicating that her job escorting them was done. Xellos then stepped forward to open the doors and found that they were far heavier than he remembered. Seeing his difficulty, without a word, Filia joined Xellos in pushing one of the massive doors of solid gold open just enough for both of them to squeeze in.
The black marble room behind the golden doors was an elegant throne. A scarlet carpet reached from the door to the elaborately carved large golden throne at the opposite end of the room. The throne was big enough to fit three humans comfortably, thus one would think that it would look a little empty with just Beast Master sitting on it, as her human form was the size of an average woman. However, her imposing presence made the large room feel almost crowded. Crimson curtains fell from the ceiling around the throne, opening in the middle and cascading down the seven stairs of the throne's platform.
Lord Beast Master gave Xellos a curious look, conveying with her eyes the question of what was taking him so long to recover his power. Her eyes paused on the dragon beside him, who stood there staring curious yet petrified, not literally, thankfully. "Working on it, I see..."
"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos respectfully replied, not saying more than he was prompted to speak.
"Come here, I have a task for you both." There was a malicious smile upon her face that almost made Filia's heart stop. The golden dragon pushed herself to walk as she and Xellos approached one of the most powerful monsters in existence. Perhaps even the most powerful one, given Shabranigdu's broken state. "Nails," Zelas finally stated when the pair was standing closer to her throne.
The word interrupted Filia's debate if she should bow as if in the presence of royalty or not. Zelas was a monster, but maybe swallowing her pride was a wise idea least she kill Xellos over her disrespectful disregard. Ironically, though Filia was well aware of the fact that her life was perhaps in more danger than Xellos', her thoughts automatically gravitated towards him.
A long silent pause passed until Xellos finally concluded that it would be okay to voice a confused, "Lord Beast Master?" That encompassed his puzzlement over the general situation and her unusual and seemingly incomplete request.
"Come here and do my nails," Zelas repeated in slow motion, pausing after every word as if addressing someone particularly stupid.
Xellos and Filia blinked in confusion before Xellos finally reacted with a well practiced, "yes, lord Beast Master," and made his way up the stairs followed by a stunned silent Filia. Behind the red curtains that surrounded the throne, Xellos was able to spot a little cart with several manicure related supplies. Zelas was obviously just amusing herself; if she wanted different nails she could simply change her appearance. However, he wasn't about to try to argue with her. He didn't argue when he was a powerful monster, though still less powerful than Beast Master, and he wouldn't argue when he was a fragile human.
"Manicure," Zelas waved a hand at Xellos. "Pedicure," she crossed her tan legs, lifting one bare foot in Filia's general direction.
Xellos gave Filia a mischievous mocking grin. He got to do the manicure while she was stuck with the pedicure. Never mind that he didn't know the first thing about caring for a woman's nails and Filia had plenty of experience caring for her own nails.
Without further ado, Xellos and Filia set out to accomplish the task at hand, and foot. Time passed slowly and silently until Filia announced with quiet satisfaction, "finished." So what if it would be seen as degrading for a golden dragon to care for a monster lord's feet? At least Zelas' toenails turned out cute.
Zelas examined her toenails, they were neatly filed, painted white with little pink hearts on all of them. She then took away the hand that Xellos was still working on. The purple nail polish was not only on her nails, but also on her fingers. "Xellos, your cosmetic skills leave much to be desired." She criticized.
"My apologies, lord Beast Master," Xellos automatically voiced, in disbelief that Filia could actually be beating him as a servant of Lord Beast Master.
"Never mind, I didn't expect you to be any good at this. Take the nail polish remover and clean up this mess." Zelas pointed at the proper bottle.
Xellos obediently picked up the bottle of nail polish remover and took off the cap, immediately being assaulted by the scent of pure acetone. Filia didn't appear to be bothered by it at all, she was a dragon, but still a feminine woman, thus such products were not alien to her.
"As for you," Zelas gave her verdict on Filia's job while Xellos cleaned up his messy manicure. "What monster lord goes around with little hearts on her toenails? Do it over, all twenty and made them sharper."
Filia simply didn't feel right repeating Xellos' line of 'yes, Lord Beast Master.' Thus she settled for quietly nodding and getting to work.
"What should I do when I'm done cleaning off the purple?" Xellos inquired, annoyed that Filia was doing a better job than him.
Zelas chuckled, from her perspective, Xellos was like a jealous child who craved attention right now. "Shoulder massage."
Never mind that it was uncomfortable to try to give such a massage taking into consideration the size of the golden throne's backrest, Xellos wasn't about to protest that second chance of sorts. "Yes, Lord Beast Master."
Once again, time passed in silence until Filia's task was completed. "Not bad," Zelas examined her matching manicure and pedicure. Her nails were filed to a sharp point, painted in a shimmering gold that went well with her bronze skin. "Have you ever heard of the well of recovery?"
Realizing that Zelas was directly addressing her, Filia spoke for the first time since she had arrived in the monster lord's presence, "yes." She voiced only a single syllable, exactly what was needed and no more.
"What have you heard?" Zelas pressed for more information.
"The well of recovery was a source of magical water with powerful healing properties. It was also the cause of a terrible war between neighboring kingdoms as they fought for the well, which was located between their borders." Filia recalled the history lessons from her education at the dragon temple, carefully editing out anything that might offend Zelas. "Amidst the war between the two kingdoms, the well mysteriously disappeared, leaving the warring countries with many injured people and no magical water to help them." Then a peculiar detail surfaced in Filia's mind and she couldn't help it but to voice it. "It is said that the water from that well can not only heal illnesses and injuries of the physical sort, but also of the magical sort, that it can break curses."
Xellos' full attention had been captivated as he paused in his task of massaging Zelas' shoulders. The well of recovery, he knew about the war and the truths behind it, he had even participated in the conspiracy, but it all happened so long ago he didn't even remember it anymore. It had been at least a thousand years, probably more, since he last thought of the well of recovery. What if his cure was right in front of him all along?
"Not exactly," Zelas corrected and Xellos' hope plummeted to rock bottom. Zelas smiled as if sensing Xellos' despair, tasting it like a delicious delicacy, she was a monster after all. "It cannot break curses, but it can cleanse them. That is to say, if a valid curse with a specific process to break it, is placed on someone and it is particularly powerful, it will not be broken. However, if it is a curse meant to last through time and fade away slowly with no specific process established in the casting that could break it, then that situation is different. Such a type of curse as the one upon you is similar to a magical illness that can fade in time or be healed. It is different from the curse upon Xellos that requires a specific process to be broken."
Zelas continued elaborating. "There are cons and pros to both types of curses. Curses that require a specific process to be broken are easier to figure out and generally involve having the victim accomplish something that might not be pleasant to them or go against their priorities. However, even if they are easily understood, they are very difficult to break by alternate means. On the other hand, curses that don't have specific cures may seem difficult to break, for lack of antidote to aim for, yet they are more vulnerable to being broken by alternate means."
"In other words," Zelas finished, "specific curses have a glaring weakness, even if it is difficult to aim for it, while the non-specific curses are weaker overall, but distressful to those who may not have the intellect or resources to come up with alternative curse breaking methods. Those none-specific curses are also easier to cast and require less power from the caster. As such, they can be overwhelmed more easily."
Filia nodded in realization, "then what you're saying is that the well of recovery's water could cure me but not Xellos."
Zelas feigned shock, "oh my, would you look at that, a golden dragon with a brain! This is quite a rare find indeed! I've only seen about three of them counting this one. Then again, I did considerably reduce their numbers in the past, so three might be a good percentage overall." Technically, it was Xellos who did the deed, but it was on Zelas' order and he was her general, thus his power was hers, though she had plenty more power of her own.
Filia had an absolutely furious and frustrated look in her face. She was pouting deeply while trying to restrain her words from pouring out in a very dangerous flood. From behind Zelas, Xellos shook his head frantically at Filia, hoping that she could manage to keep her temper under control and not say something that they would both regret.
Without even turning to look at him, Zelas mockingly inquired, "what's wrong, Xellos? Did a bug crawl into your hair?"
Xellos immediately stopped his frantic negative head signals and remained as still as a statue, "no, Lord Beast Master."
"Good," Zelas lightly turned in her throne, ignoring Filia's barely contained rage. "It would be a pity if that were the case. Even against all odd in such a pitiful weak form, you've managed to keep your hair pretty enough." She ruffled his hair, which took both Xellos and Filia by surprise. By the time Zelas retired her hand from Xellos' head, his hair was a big disheveled mess, which was clearly getting on his nerves. Filia had caught him smoothing out his hair with his hands countless times while they went about their chores before. Thus Filia concluded that Zelas was annoying Xellos on purpose, no real surprise there.
Zelas then turned her gaze back at Filia. "About the well of recovery, its true location is right here in my private space in the astral side. I simply made it appear as if it was located between the two kingdoms by opening a portal to a limited area of astral space. Humans walked in and out without realizing it. After the well had served its purpose, I shut off the portal to the astral space."
Filia's expression went from angry, to surprised, to angrier. "You caused the war that ultimately destroyed those two kingdoms." She clenched her teeth and fists in rage. She had a thing or two to tell Zelas about her actions, but Xellos' constant almost pleading look was holding her back.
"Correct," Zelas smiled cheerfully in a way that reminded Filia of Xellos.
The golden dragon told herself that Beast Master could kill her for her insolence if she dared to express her strong disapproval for her evil actions. Then again, Xellos could have killed her in the past too and that didn't stop her from calling him raw garbage every now and then and threatening him with her mace. "You're terrible! I see where Xellos gets his obnoxious personality; it's from his malicious mother! Except you're a million times worse, a despicable monster!" Filia snapped venomously.
Xellos' jaw dropped, his face undergoing another of those occasions when his expression changed on its own outside of his control. His eyes were wide and worried, his entire body tense. "She... didn't... she's..." he stuttered to find the words that would hopefully save Filia's life. "Don't listen to her, Lord Beast Master. She's just a stupid dragon, too stupid to even be worth killing!"
Zelas looked enraged, in a matter of seconds her face went from overly cheerful to cruel beyond words. Her eyes were suddenly glowing with an evil light they didn't have a few seconds ago. She pulled Xellos away by the arm, causing him to stand next to Filia in front of her as she stood from her throne and glared down at the two. "Are you defending her, Xellos? Are you willing to risk your own life to plead for hers?"
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. The animals Filia and Xellos think of are Babs, Fifi and Dizzy from Tiny Toons and Pikachu from Pokemon. I think this has been the biggest cliffhanger in the whole story so far. XD