To Live Another Day
Episode Fifty-One: A New Mission
Lina Inverse was pissed off and the waves of energy radiating off her were terrifying. She stood on her chair at the breakfast table of Seyruun castle in the company of Philionel, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia. Her breakfast was growing cold on the table, but she was too angry to enjoy it, as Philionel had announced that the promised double banquet that was supposed to take place that night had been postponed for an undefined period of time.
Philionel lowered his head submissively, "you have my most sincere apologies, but my decision stands." He raised his head, meeting Lina's deadly challenging glare. "I will keep my promise of a double banquet; in fact I'll make it a triple banquet! However, that can only be done when the food is plentiful for everyone. We must not allow anyone to starve because of our own selfish gluttony!"
Lina hopped down from her chair, sat down and began to eat breakfast. Given where she was going, this might be her last decent meal for a while. "Stop staring at me and finish your breakfast everyone. If you don't want it, just pass it over to me. We're leaving as soon as I'm done!"
"We are?" Zelgadis questioned, Lina was speaking in her leader voice that dictated that the whole group had to tag along with her.
"That's right, we're going over to those farm lands and finding out what's wrong. Look, we have a dragon with us and she knows holy magic." Lina pointed at Filia with her fork, before moving it to catch another piece of syrup covered pancake. "We have a white magic expert shrine maiden too." She lifted her glass of orange juice towards Amelia before taking a big drink. "If they bless the land or something, the bad crops might be fixed. A famine is my worse nightmare and I won't let it spread. If Seyruun keeps donating its food, there won't be any left for my triple banquet and I want to have it as soon as possible!"
"Miss Lina, I knew you had a good heart!" Amelia cheered adoringly. "Let us all embark on a journey of loving kindness to help the people who are suffering from the famine! With the power of justice, we shall heal the farm lands!"
Xellos was not currently a monster, thus not affected in a negative way by the positive emotions, but he still found Amelia's determination to be very creepy. "I'm skipping out and staying here."
"I'm going," Filia assured; if Xellos thought he could distract her from the noble mission placed before her, he was very wrong.
"Both your bodyguard and your lover are going, are you sure you want to stay behind, Xellos?" Gourry innocently inquired.
Filia's face turned scarlet, "must you refer to me as Xellos' lover?"
"Lina said you are," Gourry calmly pointed out. "When you were late for breakfast she said that 'the lovers' will be here soon and that she would make sure of it. Then she stormed off to find you."
Filia gave Lina a distressed look, which the redhead disregarded. "What? It's not like I lied."
Xellos interrupted after giving the situation some additional thought. "Fine, I'm going too, but I'm not helping, I have my principals." He better stick close to Filia, just in case it was somehow required for his cure to finally take effect. Plus having Lina's power to back him up in case of an emergency was a convenient aspect too.
"Just don't cause any trouble," Filia warned, "I mean it, Xellos, I don't expect you to help, but don't mess this up!"
Xellos rolled his eyes, "how can I? Isn't the harvest, or lack thereof, already as messed up as it can get?"
"You have your ways of making a bigger mess of things and we all know it." Filia gave Xellos an intense look. "I'll be keeping my eyes on you."
"And your hands too, I'll bet," Xellos teased with a wink.
Filia's blush deepened as she muttered something that sounded to be along the lines of "stupid piece of raw garbage."
"Before I forget," Philionel pointed out an envelope that had been placed next to Lina's plate. "That letter was brought while you were reminding our guests about the importance of being punctual to a meal." Phil eyed Xellos and Filia as he mentioned it. Lina might have been selfish, but anyone could count on her to show up on time, or even early, to a meal. "Since you were away, it was left there for you."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll read it later. Can I continue eating without interruptions now?" Lina glanced at the envelope in mild curiosity and caught sight of the return address. "Luna!" She shrieked at the top of her lungs, before instinctively diving under the table. Feeling rather ridiculous, Lina crawled out from her hiding place, sat down and tried to compose herself. Luna wasn't hiding inside the envelope of her last letter, so there was no reason for her to be in this one. Taking a deep breath, Lina reached for the envelope with shaking hands. Gourry placed his hand on Lina's shoulder and nodded encouragingly. Lina glanced at him and nodded back in appreciation for the moral support. She opened the envelope and read the letter inside. "Dear Lina, Our parents and I wish to meet your fiance, Mr. Gourry Gabriev. Please come visit us as soon as possible. Love, Luna." In shock, Lina slowly turned her head towards Gourry, "Luna wants to meet you."
Gourry nodded, "I know, I heard you reading the letter." His carefree smile hinted that he had no idea what he was getting into. "I'll make sure to give your family a good impression."
Lina just stared at him. He was a fool for not knowing what horrible doom awaited him, but he was also very brave. "You have no idea..."
"I'll face anything for you," Gourry spoke in his usual casual and carefree tone.
Yet Lina blushed scarlet anyway. "Thanks Gourry. Then it's settled, we'll stop by my home village, then go on our mission. I don't want to risk testing Luna's patience. Besides, if we're on an important mission, then we'll have a good excuse to leave if things get dangerous."
xoxox xox xoxox
After Lina devoured her breakfast and predictably attempted to devour everyone else's breakfast, managing to steal quite a bit, the group left Seyruun. Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia were on the road again on a brand new mission. Lina had offered to deliver Seyruun's good will in the form of food supplies, but Philionel wisely declined her offer and said he would send the food transports along later.
The atmosphere was generally quiet aside from Lina's grumbling about her Luna related fears. Gourry occasionally gave her a friendly pat on the back. While the action didn't make Lina quiet down completely, it did reassure her enough not to go into a full panic as if she saw a slug.
Xellos appeared to be in deep frustrated thought if his expression was any indication. He had fallen a little behind from the rest of the group. Filia slowed her pace to walk beside him. "What are you plotting?" She glared critically.
"Nothing," Xellos sounded more exasperated than Filia expected.
She examined him carefully. "Something is seriously bothering you," Filia correctly concluded. "What is it?"
"It's nothing," Xellos insisted.
"It has to be something!" Filia argued adamantly, her glare intensified and she had her hands on her hips. "If you would just tell me, maybe I could help!"
Xellos had enough. He was still cursed and it made no sense. He would give this one last try, "do you love me?"
Filia blushed at the sudden question, then eyed Xellos critically, "is that some kind of trick question? If you're planning to say something along the lines of 'if you truly love me, you'll help me sabotage the mission' then don't bother! I love you, but innocent people shouldn't have to suffer for it."
Xellos looked into Filia's eyes with sharp determination. "Kiss me," he ordered firmly, which made the crimson blush on her face become brighter. Then he rephrased the request so sound less like an order, forcing a softer tone. "Only if you want to, no pressure."
Filia didn't understand. Xellos' strange behavior had 'trap' written all over it. Yet if she tried to avoid it, she would probably fall straight into it. Maybe the best way to disable this trap was to trigger it and diffuse it after she knew what she was dealing with. They had stopped walking and the others were further ahead on the path. Filia looked left and right, no one was coming and Xellos' request did sound rather pleasant. "I want to..." She wrapped her arms around him comfortably and kissed him, slowly, lovingly. He wasn't doing anything; she parted and gave him a puzzled look. "Xellos?"
"Again..." She kissed him again, more passionately until he started to respond. She wasn't sure what he was waiting for before. When they parted, his conclusion took her by surprise. "You don't love me..."
"Excuse me?" Filia was instantly fuming with indignation. "Are you trying to say I'm a bad kisser?" This had to be Xellos and his stupid criticism. She didn't believe he was sharing a serious conclusion, because she did love him and she was sure of it. She had spent a long time trying to make it otherwise, but she simply couldn't.
"It shouldn't take this long, I should be able to sense at least the beginning of my recovery, but this stupid curse is still firmly in place!" Xellos had enough; he was frustrated, angry and ready to lose his temper dealing with that infuriating curse. "No matter how hard I try, I can't think of any loopholes, it doesn't make sense." This was what humans would call harshly broken hope. "There's only one possible explanation, you think you love me but you don't." If Filia's deep affection wasn't love, then how much could possibly be needed for it to be? Her strong emotions were overwhelming as it was, what more did she have that she wasn't giving? "Maybe there's just no such a thing as love."
Filia stared at Xellos with growing dread. "What are you going on about? I don't understand."
"My cure is the willing kiss of a golden dragon," Xellos finally revealed. "You told me before that a willing kiss was a kiss of love, but I'm still cursed."
Filia could already feel tears running down her face, "you used me. All you wanted was to free yourself of your curse, all you wanted was a cure. You horrible piece of raw garbage, you never cared about my feelings! I hate you!" She slapped him hard enough to throw him on the ground, given that this was a dragon to human slap rather than a human to human slap. Then she ran ahead with full intentions of running past the others and not stopping until her legs could no longer move from exhaustion.
xoxox xox xoxox
The rest of the way to the next town on their journey to Lina's home village was quite unpleasant for Xellos. Not only was he terribly frustrated with his curse, but also immensely confused. According to his empathy, the facts that had happened and his common sense, Filia in theory loved him, but apparently she didn't truly love him, because he was still curse. It felt like she was giving him everything she had, but that wasn't enough.
As if his inner turmoil of angry frustration wasn't enough, Lina, Amelia and even Zelgadis and Gourry, kept pestering Xellos about what he did to upset Filia. They had been walking ahead of the quarreling pair and only caught the loudest offended remarks from Filia, missing Xellos' explanation about his curse and its elusive cure. Needless to say, Xellos was not in the mood to discuss the matters, so his silence let to a lot of tension in the group.
They eventually arrived at an inn after taking a detour at a restaurant. At the inn, they saw Filia's name in the big book of guest signatures as they checked in. The five travelers went to their respective rooms with Amelia being the first to venture out to try to knock on Filia's door. "Miss Filia, may I speak to you."
"I want to be alone!" Filia's voice was strong and determined, yet extremely sorrowful and empty. She really wasn't in the mood to be consoled.
Noticing Lina curiously peeking down the hall, Amelia shook her head. "Whenever you're ready, you know we're here to listen." The princess decided to give the golden dragon some space, making sure to glare daggers at Xellos' door on her way to her own room.
Once everyone had retired and had no obvious intentions of coming out of their rooms until morning, Xellos set out to see Filia himself. There was a very annoying sensation akin to guilt that was bothering him terribly. He stood in front of Filia's door and considered knocking, but decided against it and tried to open it. Predictably, the door was locked. "Filia?"
Proving that she was still awake, Filia replied to the familiar voice with a fierce, "get lost, you piece of raw garbage!"
Xellos knew that insisting at Filia's door would get him no where and he didn't want to talk to her from out in the hall. He made his way outside and around the inn building until he spotted what he calculated to be Filia's window, which was conveniently open. He levitated towards it and let himself in. "For how long are you planning to be mad at me?"
Filia jumped to her feet from her previous position face down on her pillow. "Forever!" She screeched furiously.
"Be reasonable, Filia. You can't blame me for stating the facts as they are," Xellos argued with a certain cutting edge to his voice. "Quit tricking yourself into believing you're heart broken, because you can't be heart broken without having been in love. It's true that I only wanted my cure," in the beginning, he added in his private thoughts. "But I didn't go around claiming that I was in love with you, did I? It was the other way around and it was a lie. The curse is proof of it, so don't even try to argue about it."
"You idiot! You tricked me!" Filia retorted. "I thought you cared about me; I felt you cared about me, I felt you loved me!"
Xellos knew that arguing with Filia was difficult, especially when she was upset, but he was determined to make her see the logic of his argument. "You're not even an empath. You can't claim I tricked you with false feelings, because you can't tell what I'm feeling, but I can."
"If you're such a talented empath, then you should know what I'm feeling right now, what I felt back then, you should know!" Filia threw the argument back at him.
"I do know," Xellos retorted, the volume of his voice escalating to match her loudness. "I know you care about me, I never said I believed you didn't, but it's not love and it's not enough."
"Hypocrite!" Filia shouted. "During the time that you were a dragon and for a little while after, I was an empath. It's gone now, but I had the ability long enough, or so I thought. The pearl granted my wish too, though it was only your feelings that I could feel. I thought you loved me, but you tricked me."
She was an empath? That was news to Xellos, rather embarrassing news he had to admit. That meant that she knew of all his debate and confusion and about how overwhelming her rush of love, or rather affection that wasn't quite love, was to him. "Stupid dragon, how can I trick you by using your empathy against you if I didn't even know you had it? This is all news to me!"
Filia was sick and tired of arguing with Xellos, she was sick and tired of looking at him, of hearing him, she had enough of everything concerning him. She was angry and hurt, she wanted him gone. Filia dried her tears as best she could and tried to retain a serious expression. "Put your one and only brain cell to work, Xellos." She spoke in a serious, almost threatening tone, her dragon fangs peeking out of her mouth, eyes dangerously narrowed. "Have you ever stopped to think that true love is mutual? You keep stupidly blaming it on me, claiming that I don't care enough, but it's all your fault. I'm not saying you don't care about me at all." She mimicked the mocking tone he often took with her when teasing her in hopes of bringing her embarrassment, adding a cold edge to it. "I'm just saying that you don't care enough."
Xellos remained silent; he couldn't come up with a counter argument for that. Filia looked bitterly victorious as one who has taken revenge and found little satisfaction in it. She turned around and walked out the door. She didn't feel like sleeping anymore and she was sure there had to be ice-cream in the inn's icebox. She didn't care if the snack bar was closed; she was taking that ice-cream and spending the night eating it on some rooftop somewhere.
What if Filia was right? He couldn't deny the fact that he was attracted to her and he had developed an unnerving attachment to her that could be called affection, but was it love? Could it be? He didn't like the idea, it was unnatural for a monster to love and regardless of the fact that he was stuck in a human body, he was still the same Xellos on the inside, the same living being with the same mind. Even so, if he was going to stay alive and glue the broken pieces of his existence back together into something that vaguely resembled logic, he would have to love her. Perhaps he was his own worse enemy in that department, being too guarded and resistant, trying to stay in control of his thoughts and reactions.
What about what Filia sensed? She had believed him to be in love. Maybe that love thing was a construct of the mind to define a collection of emotions and attitudes, rather than being one emotion on its own. Maybe it only truly became the thing known as love when it was accepted and embraced; believed. Maybe Xellos was doomed to die a hopeless death at the claws of a monster lord whose patience had ran out. It was that, or figure out a way to crush his own defenses and make himself vulnerable to the horrifying thing called love. Celo wasn't kidding when he spoke those words of warning. 'The cure will bring you to your weakest state before freeing you from the curse...'
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Oh drama!