To Live Another Day
Episode Fifty-Two: Show Me How To Care
Lina's not so merry band of travelers was fully aware of the lovers' spat, or perhaps ex-lovers' spat, between Xellos and Filia. The same fact applied to the majority of the inn's current guests, yet the shouting had been so fierce that they dared not complain. At least the quarreling couple had quieted by now. While Filia enjoyed her stolen ice-cream on a rooftop somewhere in town, Xellos proceeded with his investigation. Sure, why not? He had already dragged his stubborn pride through the mud and danced a stupid little dance on top of it. So why shouldn't he ask all sorts of mortifying questions for the sake of survival?
Besides, he was Xellos; it took a lot to embarrass him. The part that really bothered him was how exposed he had been lately. It wasn't like back when they infiltrated that all female kingdom. He didn't have a big problem with parading around in a pretty dress, because back then he was still the trickster who was somewhat in control of the situation behind the scenes.
Okay, no more hesitation, Xellos knocked on Gourry's door. The sleepy blond opened it and blinked in surprised confusion. After a few more seconds of trying to figure out why Xellos was visiting him so late and failing miserably to do so, Gourry finally settled for voicing a simple, "hi."
"Hi," Xellos replied with a painted cheerful smile that was only all too fake. "Can I talk to you?"
"You already are," Gourry pointed out. He did have times when he came up with smart observations. They were very rare times that came once upon a blue moon.
"True," Xellos agreed without losing his grin. "I mean that I want to ask you something, not out in the hall."
"Okay, come in then." Gourry stepped aside, allowing Xellos passage into his room. "So what did you want to ask?" He curiously inquired.
Xellos figured that he might as well be direct. "How does one go about falling in love?"
Gourry tilted his head to the side in confusion. "Don't you already know that from experience with Filia?"
"Apparently not," Xellos admitted, "and I'm afraid I've heard nothing but bad things about the guidebooks they have available in libraries and cheesy bookshops." He was back into trickster mode with his usual abundant cheer and sarcastic remarks. He needed some familiarity in his own behavior if he was going to keep his sanity while facing all these insane hardships.
"Oh well, let's see," Gourry looked like he was thinking really hard, his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth in deep concentration. "You're in love when you want to be with someone, a lot. The one you love is like a part of your life that you would miss too much to let go of."
Did Xellos miss Filia? It was a bit soon to tell, he had seen her not too long ago. He did occasionally get a whim to visit her for no reason other than to annoy her in the past, but that certainly couldn't have been akin to love, not back then anyway, it was more like entertainment. As for something more recent, he had come up with a plan to continue seeing Filia even after he obtained his cure. Maybe that counted for something. "I see," it had taken Gourry a lot of effort just to come up with that reply, so Xellos decided not to push the poor guy into working too hard, least his single lonely brain cell die out on him. "Thanks for the information," Xellos smiled cheerfully like he used to do as a monster and let himself out of the room.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos then proceeded to knock on Lina's door and wait. He knocked again until the door was finally opened by a furious redhead. "This better be important!" She growled dangerously.
"Hello to you too, Lina," Xellos smiled, though he knew he better stop pushing his luck. "I wanted to ask for your insight about something."
"Something that couldn't wait until morning?" Lina demanded angrily.
Xellos ignored the complaint and continued. "How does one go about falling in love?"
"Excuse me? Why are you asking me such a thing?" Lina blushed, her face becoming as red as her hair.
"You're in love with your boyfriend, aren't you?" Xellos teased. "Oh, sorry, I meant to say that you're in love with your fiance. Lina Inverse loves Gourry Gabriev," Xellos couldn't help it, Lina was too much fun to tease sometimes.
"Go take out your heartbreak on someone else!" Lina shouted loudly, then slammed the door closed and locked it. Xellos was left standing in the hallway amused by her reaction, but knowing he just wasted his opportunity to get more information.
xoxox xox xoxox
Next in the agenda was visiting Zelgadis for more information on the same subject. Xellos knew that Zelgadis wouldn't be eager to talk to him, let alone in the middle of the night, but he would try anyway. Thus Xellos knocked on Zelgadis' door. Zelgadis opened the door with a noticeable red tint on his face, "Ame... Xellos?" The red color in Zelgadis' face went from representing infatuation to representing anger. "What are you doing here?"
Xellos found that maintaining his cheerful expression had become a little easier for the time in which he could witness Zelgadis' embarrassment with mocking eyes. "Why were you expecting Amelia here in the middle of the night?"
Blushing even more deeply, Zelgadis growled threateningly, "none of your business!"
"I'm sure it's not," Xellos grinned teasingly. "I don't want to end up playing the third wheel if she does come, which I honestly doubt will happen in spite of all your mischievous wishful thinking, so-"
"It's not like that!" Zelgadis snapped.
"Temper, temper, I just wanted to ask you a quick question, then I'll leave you to your much needed rest. You're so very grouchy right now," Xellos shook his index finger at Zelgadis, who was quite tempted to rip it off.
The chimera glared in a no nonsense sort of way, "ask your question and leave."
Again, Xellos tried to seek more information about the same matter. "How does one go about falling in love?"
"What?" Zelgadis snapped in annoyance. "What kind of a question is that?" He soon came up with a theory fueled by his lingering discomfort in his appearance, which Amelia was slowly healing. "Are you trying to tell me that no one could love a hideous freak like me?"
Xellos had to wonder where did Zelgadis get all that. The chimera had issues. Then again, Xellos was a mocking trickster, except this time he wasn't even trying. "That's not what I said."
"But you were thinking it!" Zelgadis yelled.
"No, I wasn't," Xellos pointed out as a matter of fact.
"Yes you were and I don't care!" Zelgadis shouted at the top of his lungs. "I don't care what you say, Amelia said I was cool, she accepts me as I am and I... I love Amelia!"
From Amelia's room, the princess loudly declared at the top of her lungs, "I love you too, Zelgadis!" The inn was feeling very much like a soap opera to those unfortunate enough to be stuck spending the night there. Zelgadis' blush deepened as he spaced out for a few seconds, then realized Xellos was staring at him and promptly closed the door on his face.
The randomness didn't end there, as Gourry suddenly called out from within his room, "I love you Lina!"
"What?" Lina exclaimed from her own room.
"I said I love you Lina!" Gourry repeated.
"Did you eat a poisonous octopus again? Why do I have to pay for the inn?" Lina argued loudly.
"I'm not speaking octopice, I really do love you!" Gourry replied, yelling to be heard from his room.
"Why are you yelling that out, you jellyfish brain?" Lina argued in the same shouting fashion that was keeping the whole inn awake.
"Because Zelgadis and Amelia did," Gourry explained. "Isn't that part of the game?"
"We're not playing any games! Those two were just being annoyingly random!" Lina yelled in exasperation. "Go to sleep, Gourry!" A few seconds of blissful silence passed before Lina added with a red face that the whole gang could clearly imagine, "I love you too!"
xoxox xox xoxox
The last person that Xellos had left to interrogate was Amelia, the ally of justice. Xellos knocked on her room and watched as she opened the door as if she was expecting him. "Come in, Mr. Xellos."
Xellos stepped inside wondering how Amelia had concluded that he would be coming by. "Was I expected?"
"Sort of," Amelia motioned towards the table where there was a large bowl of cookie dough and a pile of books. "Actually, I was expecting Filia. I picked out a few chick novels for us to read and got some cookie dough so that I could properly console her. I guess I'll console you instead. It must be hard going through difficulties in your love life while everyone else is so in love!"
"Maybe coming here was a bad idea," Xellos theorized.
"Poor Mr. Xellos!" Amelia dramatized with big shiny eyes. "I feel so sorry for you even if this whole painful break up was very likely all your fault!" She placed her hand on her forehead as she threw her head back dramatically.
"Coming here was definitely a bad idea," Xellos concluded.
"Don't be afraid to cry on a friend's shoulder! I'm here for you!" Amelia insisted.
"You know what?" Xellos tried to talk some sense into the imaginative hyper princess. "I feel better already just knowing I have the support of such a good friend. In fact I feel well enough to go get some sleep right now." Xellos picked up the cookie dough and took it with him. There was no sense in letting Amelia's kindness go to waste. "I'll see everyone in the morning and I'll be ready to face a brand new day and all that stuff."
"That's the spirit Mr. Xellos!" Amelia cheered with unnecessary loudness as Xellos made a hasty retreat. At least he got some cookie dough out of his otherwise unsuccessful venture. "Oh, wait Mr. Xellos!" She called out as he reached the door. "Before you leave there's something else I have to say." Taking a deep breath, Amelia dramatically confessed, "I lost the game."
"You did?" Well, that was random, but then again, Amelia was a very random girl. Even if Xellos knew it, her comment still felt like it came out of no where.
"Yes, when Mr. Gourry said 'the game', even if he wasn't talking about that game, it made me think of the game," the Seyruun princess explained.
"I see, that game." The game was something invented by humans. The goal of the game was to not think about the game itself. Ironically, trying to avoid thinking about something, often leads to thinking about it, hence the challenge. Some claim that everyone in the world is constantly playing the game, while others say that only those who know the rules of the game are playing the game. When one thinks about the game, that person must announce to someone else that they lost the game. The game would go on for all of eternity, for as long as a living creature still exists, some would say. Others claim that one day the Lord of Nightmares will publicly announce that the game is up and that will finally be the end of it. Then Xellos realized something, he was thinking about the game too. "I lost the game," he admitted before finally retreating, this time without any further interruptions.
xoxox xox xoxox
The next day, the group got up bright and early with a chorus of yawns. They checked out of the inn among the glares of other sleepless guests, had some breakfast and left town. Filia was still giving Xellos the silent treatment and refused to look at him, while Xellos had made little progress in devising a strategy to ensure his survival. It looked as if the trip would be quiet and tense, yet uneventful. That perception changed when two fully transformed golden dragons landed on the path in front of Lina and company.
"Filia Ul Copt," one of the dragons on the path spoke harshly, his voice full of bitter anger. They were both clearly warriors, more ferocious than most golden dragons. "When you left the golden dragons we cut all ties with you and left you for dead. However, the stain you have placed upon the golden dragon name is too great! How dare you spread the word that the priest of Beast Master is under our protection during his inexplicable time of weakness?"
"Yeah, how dare you?" The second dragon appeared to be even more ferocious than the first with bulging muscles well marked under his golden scales. Unfortunately, he didn't appear to have the brains to match his brawn.
"That's a lie!" Filia yelled bitterly. "I hate that piece of raw garbage! Besides, the whole misunderstanding started because he disguised himself as a golden dragon. I had nothing to do with it!"
"Silence traitor!" The leader of the two dragon warriors roared.
"Yeah, shut up you!" His muscular comrade added.
"We will clean the name of the golden dragons by destroying the beast priest!" The smarter of the two declared, though given his intended goal, one would have to question his intellect.
"We sure will, you just watch!" The other dragon emphasized.
Seeing that this argument would be pointless, Lina quickly devised a plan. She really didn't need the golden dragons making her bodyguard job more difficult than it was. Besides, what if they showed up while she was visiting her family? Luna wasn't supposed to know she was playing bodyguard for a monster! "Excuse me! Can I point something out?"
"Lina Inverse," the smarter dragon warrior recognized her with disdain. "If you wish to defend the traitor, don't bother wasting your breath!"
"Yeah, don't bother!" The muscle-head dragon echoed.
"Actually, I have an interesting piece of information for you." Cue some exaggerated melodrama from Lina. "We're all this horrible monster's hostages! His lack of power is all a lie. Xellos is stronger than ever, he's just hiding his power. Oh please mighty golden dragons, save us from annihilation! Though you might get annihilated yourselves in the process of our rescue, I know you'll be willing to make that noble sacrifice."
Xellos tried to look as confident as he always was as a monster, hiding his frustration well. He began a quiet inaudible chant. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows, buried in the stream of time is where your power grows."
Amelia realized what Lina's plan was as well. If the golden dragons thought Xellos was as powerful as ever, they wouldn't dare go after him. "It's terrible, Xellos is too strong for us, but you might stand a chance, with an army or two... maybe." She glanced at Zelgadis to play along.
Xellos continued his quiet chant while the others distracted the dragons. "I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands."
Though Zelgadis wasn't particularly fond of Xellos, since Amelia was asking him to play along, he did. "There was that incident in the War of the Monster's Fall, but I'm sure the dragon race has learned from it and has much better battle tactics now, please save us!"
Xellos was almost ready to cast the spell. "Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed, by the power you and I possess."
Gourry wasn't sure what was going on, but that was normal for him. "We're Xellos' hostages? I thought he-" Before Gourry could mess up the act, Lina and Amelia, who were standing in front of Xellos, jumped to the left and right of him, allowing him a clear path to his target. Amelia and Zelgadis Ray Winged themselves away, taking along the distraught Filia. In the opposite direction, Lina casted Ray Wing as well, taking Gourry to safety with her.
"Dragon Slave!" The massive explosion of Xellos' spell left a large crater on the ground, filled with the ashes of what once was a very buff golden dragon.
The other golden dragon just barely survived, since he wasn't the primary target. He would be the messenger who lived to warn the golden dragons that Xellos was too strong to pick a fight with. The charred injured golden dragon, got up with some difficulty and a look of horror. "Lina Inverse, you and your perverse companions are on your own. You got what you deserved for siding with that monster. Miss Ul Copt, it still stands that you are not recognized as a golden dragon and I'm sure you will never again be a citizen of our race. None of you are worthy of being rescued by the golden dragons!" With that final declaration, the injured dragon warrior flew away as fast as he could.
Once the danger of being caught in the blast from the Dragon Slave had passed, the group rejoined Xellos in the middle of the path. There was something that the cursed monster turned human thought was peculiar about what that so called golden dragon warrior had said. "Filia, why did he say you're not a golden dragon?"
"Because I'm not, but what's it to you?" Filia exploded in anger. "It's not like you care about me! Why would it matter to you that I got kicked out of my own race after the Darkstar incident? I don't need my golden dragon citizenship anyway." She had lost her health plan along with her golden dragon citizenship, but she no longer needed to fill up a yearly income tax form for the golden dragons, so it all worked out in the end. Golden dragon tax rates were killer, how else would they afford all those fancy temples after human slavery was outlawed? Filia knew that managing her shop would be a lot more difficult if she was still a golden dragon citizen.
"You're not a golden dragon," Xellos repeated. Sure, she was of the golden dragon species, but not officially recognized as one of their own by her race. There was the loophole. His cure was the willing kiss of a golden dragon and since Filia wasn't legally a golden dragon, she didn't count as a golden dragon for the curse. Stupid picky curse.
Filia decided that she wouldn't dignify Xellos with any more words and set out ahead of the group. Gourry was looking around confused. "Are we really hostages? Because I don't feel like a hostage."
"No, Gourry, we're not hostages, that was just an act, but it's over now," Lina explained.
"Really?" Gourry blinked in his usual clueless fashion. "That's too bad, if I knew we were supposed to be acting I would have put up a really good hostage act!" Oh well, maybe next time he could participate.
Amelia looked at Filia as she wordlessly moved forward. One way or another she would help Xellos and Filia fix their problems and get together again. She didn't know how, but she would accomplish it. She would have to be sneaky about it, given how stubborn those two were. Perhaps she should let their anger cool off before making a move. The right moment to interfere would eventually present itself. Amelia was sure that she would know it when she saw it.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. The title of this chapter is from Sweet Kiwi by Maroon 5. I must confess that when I was writing this I lost the game. ; Sevichan drew another fanart based on this story, golden dragon Xellos! You'll find it in my Deviant Art favorites.