To Live Another Day
Episode Forty-Eight: A Golden Opportunity
Xellos kept annoyingly wagging his dragon tail with every step he took alongside Filia, Lina, Gourry and Philionel. The group was almost to the storage at the Seyruun royal garden when Filia finally stopped and grabbed Xellos' tail. "Would you stop that already? Why are you so fidgety? Even if this is unexpected, I can't imagine the," cue heavy sarcasm, "great Xellos getting nervous."
Xellos cringed at the sudden contact and gave Filia a rather predatory look that instantly made her let go of his tail. As soon as he was free from her grip, he went over to the opposite side of the group, which put Lina and Gourry between him and Filia, while Phil continued to lead the way. He stopped the wild tail movements, but the appendage still twitched now and then.
Filia couldn't help it but to stare. She felt as if he was fighting against something he kept well hidden. Why she had such a feeling, she didn't know. It couldn't be simply because Xellos was a golden dragon, Filia had been around plenty of golden dragons before and they didn't give off such a clear aura that resonated with her own.
"Here we are," Philionel announced as he stopped in front of the storage. Kalio was already there, ready to hand the monarch the requested item, the storage key. "Thank you Kalio, that will be all for now." Kalio nodded and went on his way to do his castle guarding rounds. Phil held the small key to the lock on the storage door. Though the keyhole was appropriately small, the lock itself was rather large, making the lock and key seem mismatched. His large hands grasped the key too strongly and it snapped in half. "Oops..." Phil examined the smaller half which went inside the lock. He wouldn't be able to push that end of the key far enough into the lock to make it work now that it was broken. It would probably make things worse if a piece of key got stuck in the lock.
"Forget the key, I'll break down the door!" Xellos snapped, stepping forward to do the offered deed.
"Stop it!" Filia slipped his arms under Xellos' from behind, holding him back. "You're giving golden dragons a bad name!"
"The golden dragons have done enough of a good job giving themselves a bad name!" Xellos retorted. Filia's closeness bothered him for some reason. It was a sensation that was not alien to him, but felt amplified and out of control. Then there was that scent, was it some kind of perfume he never noticed? It was all over Filia and it was pushing him to the edge of insanity. It's not that it was unpleasant. The problem was that it was too pleasant, too attractive. He was supposed to make Filia go to him, he wasn't supposed to... Wait a minute, was that lust? Well it wasn't a virtue, not that a monster would care, but Xellos was collected enough to keep such things under absolute control. He simply had no time for distractions in his line of work. This was different, it was instinct, he realized. His face turned scarlet against his will.
"What's wrong with you?" Filia released Xellos as she realized he had stopped struggling against her grip. "Do you have a fever?" She touched his forehead with one hand and her own with the other to compare the temperatures. "You're warm, but that's normal for a dragon. Are you in any pain?"
Yes, not that Xellos would ever admit to it, plus it wasn't pain in the usual sense. "Hands off," Xellos growled.
"Hmp!" Filia made an exasperated sound and threw her head back in indignation, hands on her hips.
This dragon instinct or whatever it was, it was terribly annoying. Sure, Xellos was a monster. Who cares about being proper? But that wasn't the point. A conscious decision to throw all restraint out the window, while retaining the ability to summon it back at a moment's notice was one thing. Giving into some wild uncontrollable animal instinct was a very different thing. It was... it was... degrading. 'No wonder golden dragons are so repressed,' Xellos mused. 'It's their means to retain some dignity and be civil. Who wouldn't be temperamental like this?'
"Hi, what's everyone doing?" Amelia approached with a friendly smile, Zelgadis and Fang next to her. After letting Fang play for a while, they returned to the castle. Her eyes landed on the blond Xellos with the dragon tail and she blinked in confusion. "Mr. Xellos?"
"I'll have an explanation just as soon as your father decides to share it." Xellos gave Philionel an impatient look.
"I would, but the key is broken," Philionel showed the tiny remains of the small broken key in his massive hands.
"That's no problem," Amelia removed a hairclip that was unnoticeable on her hair and began to work on picking the lock. She twisted the clip this way and that, until a click was heard and the lock was open. "There," the princess happily announced.
"That was unexpected," Lina commented.
"Just like you sharing your cheesecake." Gourry added something to the list of unexpected events.
"What's this I hear about Lina sharing?" Zelgadis made a surprised expression. "You're joking, right?"
Lina pouted, "what's that supposed to mean? I'll have you know I'm a very generous person!"
Gourry nodded in agreement, "she's usually very selfish, but today she improved. She let me have a slice of cheesecake. It was a small slice and she ate the rest, but that's more than she would normally share with anyone."
"He kept giving me the most pitiful look!" Lina pointed at Gourry while reenacting his expression with big sad eyes.
"The greedy Lina shared food, the justice obsessed Amelia picked a lock, the gloomy Zelgadis is cheerful, the virtuous Filia is bursting with lustful desires." At that point Filia interrupted Xellos' speech to protest, but he ignored her and continued. "And Lord Beast Master's general is a golden dragon. The world has been turned upside-down and it makes no sense what so ever. What can I say? Gourry, you're a genius!"
As expected, the obvious sarcasm flew over Gourry's head, at least that much still made sense. Gourry didn't know why Xellos was giving him a compliment, but like a polite person would do, he said "thanks," with a smile.
"How did you learn to pick locks, Amelia?" Philionel curiously asked.
"Zelgadis taught me," the princess smiled and blushed.
Zelgadis wondered if he should start coming up with an excuse for teaching Phil's daughter skills that were usually associated with thieves, but it didn't look like it would be needed as Phil laughed in good humor. "You must teach me that trick one day, my son. It would be quite useful since I'm always accidentally breaking these fragile little keys or losing them and I wish I didn't have to trouble the local locksmith so often." Not that it was any trouble at all for the locksmith to get hired for a relatively simple job and earn some extra coins ever so often.
"Sure," the world was definitely smiling on Zelgadis at long last.
After the, in Xellos' opinion, unnecessary suspense, Philionel finally opened the door to the storage to reveal a world of crates and dust. "Amelia, do you happen to remember where that glowing pearl-like jewel was?"
"The fickle wish granter?" Amelia inquired, wondering why her father needed such a thing. She soon connected the dots when she took into consideration Xellos' appearance. "It's way in the back. Did something happen with it?"
"Maybe," Philionel began to move large crates around with impressive strength. "The story goes that there was a light coming from the storage when Mr. Xellos over there got his makeover. I thought it might be related to the jewel. To think it would still perceive the wishes of people outside the storage room even if it's buried under all these crates. Maybe we should move it to the deepest castle basement and put it under a magical barrier."
"If it's still causing trouble, I think that would be best," Amelia agreed.
Philionel managed to reach the proper crate containing the jewel. It was easy to tell apart from the other wooden brown crates due to the word 'danger' being written all over the crate in red paint. "Ah, here it is," though the crate was nailed shut, Phil easily opened it. Inside there were ribbons of paper and a massive amount of cotton.
"Be careful, daddy," Amelia cautioned.
Philionel took a deep breath, rolled up his sleeve and reached into the box. He retrieved a glowing pearl-like jewel about the size of a marble.
"That's it?" Lina frowned in disappointment at the anti-climatic device. Sure, it was glowing and it looked pretty, but bigger more valuable jewels could be made to glow like that by embedding a light spell into them. Jewels made excellent containers for spells.
"This is it," Philionel announced ominously. "Amelia, would you like to tell the story?"
"Of course," Amelia cleared her throat and began the legendary tale. "As you might already know, pearls are formed by clams as a defense mechanism against an irritation. There is a legend that a mermaid once cried a bitter tear and it fell into a clam. The clam defended itself against it, but the mermaid tear was so pure despite its sorrow that instead of a white pearl, a crystal clear pearl was produced. The mermaid wished that no one had to suffer as she did, that tear, was the last tear she cried before she died of broken hearted sadness. The tear carried her will and her spirit before she banished in the bottom of the ocean. The tear became a wish granting pearl. However, the pearl which held the mermaid's spirit would only grant the wishes that she believed were necessary. The legendary clam holding the magical pearl had been sought out after for a long time, until one of Seyruun's fishing boats finally found it."
Filia sighed deeply, she was reminded of the mermaid story that she read back at the aquarium. "What a tragic story."
"What a stupid story," Xellos just had to ruin the moment for Filia, who gave him an intense glare. "So the mermaid cried, her tear fell inside a clam and somehow this all happened under water? If the mermaid was under water, what difference would it make if she cried or not? She would already be wet. Besides, wouldn't the tear dissolve as it mixed with the sea water around her? Plus tears are just salty water anyway, why would it irritate the clam?"
"It's magical!" Filia argued. "It's hard to explain, that's why it's a legend, but the pearl jewel is real enough if it did this. It granted your wish when you said you wanted to know what it's like to be a golden dragon."
"That was sarcasm!" Xellos almost yelled. "Stupid mermaid spirit, I wish I was a monster again!" The pearl maintained its relatively dim glow and ignored Xellos' wish.
"It doesn't work that way Mr. Xellos, the mermaid spirit will only grant the wishes she feels like granting," Amelia pointed out.
"I want to try it," Zelgadis saw it as an opportunity to be cured of his chimera condition and wondered why Amelia had not mentioned this to him before. "I wish I was human! I wish I wasn't a chimera! I wish you would grant my wish!" It figured, the pearl completely ignored him.
Amelia sighed and soon revealed the reason why she had not bothered telling Zelgadis about the fickle magical artifact. "I already tried that. I thought it would make you happy if I could cure you with a wish and spent a whole week wishing day and night, but the pearl ignored me."
"I see," Zelgadis let out a breath of resignation. "It's okay, I appreciate that you were trying to help."
"Does this mean I'm stuck like this?" Xellos complained.
"Being a golden dragon isn't a bad thing. You might get to like it," Filia teased.
"Lord Beast Master would not agree," Xellos reminded. It was the main reason why it was necessary for him to return to his monster form as soon as possible. He wasn't just in danger of being killed by other monsters, but also by Zelas herself when her patience ran out. Xellos knew that she didn't have much of that left.
"Right, she might kill you for this," Filia realized, feeling Xellos' frustration pour into her. She decided not to point it out aloud, but her wish was apparently granted as well. It wasn't granted to the whole specifics of her words, but it was more or less granted in the fickle style of the mermaid spirit. She was a Xellos exclusive empath. This would be both interesting and insightful. Maybe if she saw how much he didn't care, how he was cruelly using her, then she would successfully rid herself of her unacceptable feelings for him.
"You shouldn't worry too much," Philionel assured, "the effects are only temporary, or at least they have been so far."
"That's right, when I was sitting in the garden with the pearl in my hand, wishing and wishing, a few people came by," Amelia recalled. "I remember Kalio passing by, saying he wished he had a bigger sword and his sword turned huge. He couldn't even lift it. Then just as suddenly it turned back to normal. Then Kally wished that a tree near by would grow plums and it grew a lot of plums for the next four days, which is odd, since it was actually a young oak tree. In other words, the effect of the granted wish can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days."
"Then I just have to wait it out," Xellos concluded. He could live with that... hopefully. "This was a most informative chat. I guess I'll be on my way now." With those parting words, Xellos walked away from the group.
"I'm coming with you!" Filia was quick to follow. "I know what you're planning to do." There was a certain edge to the way Xellos felt. Maybe he was plotting something. Once that theory formed, a theory about what he was plotting was easy to come up with. "You're going to use this change of species as a disguise to cause all sorts of mischief and give the golden dragons a bad name. I will not allow that!"
Xellos felt his eye twitch in annoyance, his dragon tail swishing from side to side. "No, really, I just want to be alone right now, as in away from smelly dragons like you."
"I don't smell!" Filia glared. "And I won't be tricked," she added adamantly. "Like it or not, I'm sticking to you like glue." With her determination firm in place, Filia followed Xellos as he walked away.
Xellos quickened his pace across the Seyruun garden and Filia matched it. He moved faster and so did she. He finally broke into a run, as did Filia, and they stubbornly ran out the castle gates and into the city.
xoxox xox xoxox
After Xellos and Filia were gone, Philionel went to see to it that the pearl jewel aka the fickle wish granter, was locked away as planned. He had a meeting to go back to after that, as it had been more than fifteen minutes already. Lina and Gourry went their own way, off to pester the castle kitchen staff into giving them more food. Fang found a comfortable spot under the shade of the young oak tree that once produced plums and lay down for a nap.
Zelgadis and Amelia took a walk around the Seyruun royal gardens and hung out together for a while. She noticed that he was kind of uneasy and nervous, even if she had thought he was over that. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine," Zelgadis blushed. "Your father thinks we're engaged," he brought up a subject that he knew they would have to discuss eventually.
"He does..." Amelia asserted with a blush of her own. "Is that okay?"
"Yes," Zelgadis immediately nodded, his blush deepening. "I mean, if it's okay with you, to be engaged to me."
"Of course it is!" Amelia exclaimed all too eager. "Um... but... you know... it's not like I'm trying to rush you or anything. I mean, I'm happy with dating, and daddy isn't going to rush us into getting married. We could go on the crusade anyway and get... you know, engaged for real later down the line."
"Or sooner..." Zelgadis' hint was barely audible.
"Yes..." Amelia nodded lightly, "sooner or later or sooner..." Zelgadis said something that Amelia didn't quite understand. "Excuse me?"
"Right now?" Though his tone was still barely audible, Zelgadis' words reached Amelia that time.
"Really?" Amelia gasped in joyous surprise.
"If you want to," Zelgadis offered, finally gaining the courage to stop staring at his feet and look at Amelia's loving eyes.
"I do," Amelia smiled, her eyes never leaving his.
"Then I should do this properly," Zelgadis went down on one knee, taking Amelia's hand in his and slipping a beautiful diamond and sapphire ring into her finger. He had that ring for a while, secretly fantasizing about giving it to Amelia one day. When he left it along with a few other belongings at the Seyruun storage he didn't think the thought would ever be anything other than a distant fantasy. "Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, will you marry me?"
Amelia let out a happy squeal of absolute joy, "I will!" As Zelgadis stood, she tackled him in a hug with such a force that they both fell down. Deciding that they were comfortable enough, they stayed there, laying on the ground at the royal gardens in each other's arms.
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, Xellos and Filia had prolonged their stubborn race to the edge of the city and beyond. Xellos exited Seyruun territory with Filia still chasing after him. The citizens would speak of the speedy golden tailed blurs that passed through the streets without stopping for anything until they had left the city.
There was a group of monsters waiting in the outskirts of the city. Xellos came to a full stop when he saw them, which caused Filia to stumble as she tried to halt her own advance. She collided harshly with his back, causing them both to fall in a heap on the path. They got to their feet as quickly as possible, with Xellos looking especially irritated and somewhat twitchy.
A considerable amount of frustration was emerging from Xellos, there was something he was strongly holding back, something that he wanted to hide even from himself. Filia was determined to find out what it was, she just had to get the hang of her newly granted emphatic abilities, learn to interpret them and read between the lines. A lot of reading between the lines was needed with Xellos. However, for the time being, it looked like they had some more murderous monsters to deal with.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Xellos, you are so much fun to torture!