To Live Another Day
Episode Fifty-Three: An Interesting Detour
Time passed and eventually, the journey towards Lina's village, Zephilia, was over. Filia was still avoiding Xellos, making a prominent point of ignoring him. In the last inn they stopped at before reaching the village, he had snuck into her room, sick and tired of being ignored and laid down next to her on the bed. Filia's only response was to rudely comment about the foul scent of the sheets wondering when was the last time they were washed and proceeding to sleep on a chair, not even directly looking at Xellos during the entire incident.
"Everyone better behave!" Lina warned as they entered the village. She eyed Xellos and Filia each individually for an extra long ten seconds. "I mean it!" The worried redhead emphasized. "If anyone asks, you're human and you've always been human," she warned Xellos.
"Understood," Xellos chirped in an overly cheerful voice, though he was actually feeling quite annoyed. Not only was Filia's stubborn choice to ignore him seriously getting on his nerves, but he was already weary of Luna. She was skilled in magic as the initial choice to take care of the Darkstar problem, though she ended up passing the task to Lina. She was said to be loyal to Ceifeed, thus wasn't supposed to like monsters. If she was as fearsome as Lina claimed her to be, then Xellos knew he better keep his mouth shut about his real identity or he wouldn't have a bodyguard to back him up if he got in over his head.
The group continued through the village until they came to a charming house with a charming dog house labeled as belonging to 'Spot' next to it and a charming... Wait a minute, that wasn't a charming dog! It was Dilgear in beast form, sleeping with half his body inside the dog house and half out. "Is that...?" Zelgadis couldn't even finish the question.
"Looks like him," Lina replied quietly. "I told you Luna's dangerous." The door to the house was opened and Lina jumped into Gourry's arms with a loud, "eek!"
"Lina, it's so nice of you to come! I calculated that you would arrive just about now," Luna greeted, ignoring her sister's obvious bout of fear. "It's a good thing I was right about your time of arrival. It would have been a shame if you kept your family waiting for too long. I even took the day off from my job today so we could all spend some time together. Let us go inside."
The group followed Lina inside the house, where a man old enough to be Lina's father was happily polishing a sword and a woman old enough to be Lina's mother was humming as she arranged flowers on a vase that Filia recognized. It was the vase she had mailed over to the Inverse household as thanks for their recommendation for Lina who, although she ate all of Filia's food budget in a very short time and ended up being rather unorthodox, eventually helped solve the Darkstar problem in the end. The man placed the sword on a display on the wall, which featured many other swords and bladed weapons that Gourry was eyeing with fascination. "Lina! How have you been doing, kiddo?" He patted her on the head like a father who thinks his daughter will forever be his little girl as most fathers do.
"I'm so glad you've come to visit, honey," Lina's mother gave her a gentle hug before taking a step back to get a good look at her daughter.
"Well, Lina? Aren't you going to introduce your friends?" Luna prompted with a carefree polite tone, yet despite her friendly smile, Lina's nerves were on edge.
"Of course!" Lina began the introductions as Luna would say is proper. "Father, this is Princess Amelia Wil Tesla, Amelia, this is my honorable Father, Mr. Light Inverse. Mother, this is Princess Amelia Wil Tesla, Amelia, this is my honorable mother, Mrs. Labyrinthine Inverse. Luna, this is Princess Amelia Wil Tesla, Amelia, this is my honorable elder sister, Miss Luna Inverse." Proper titles needed to be included of course. Lina continued with the introductions without even stopping to catch her breath. "Father, this is-"
Light laughed in a very Philionel-like fashion, though his proportions were those of a normal, though well built, man. "I'm glad you remember the good manners your sister taught you, but you don't have to be so formal, not to mention so repetitive."
"Oh, right," Lina laughed, relieves that she wouldn't have to say such a mouthful of individual introductions and finished summarizing the rest. "This is Lady Filia Ul Copt, whom I think you already met." Filia was a golden dragon, in species at least, thus she should have an easier time getting on Luna's good side. Plus Filia had already survived an earlier encounter with Luna during the start of the whole Darkstar incident and was evidently not traumatized by it. Filia was certainly a very brave soul, Lina mentally noted.
"Oh yes, we had such a lovely time baking cookies when Filia was last here." Labyrinthine giggled like a school girl at the fond memory. "Dear Filia kept saying she had to hurry on her way, but I talked her into staying for some fireball baking. Nothing like magic to bring out the flavor in food!"
"I agree!" Filia decided that she wouldn't let her rotten mood concerning Xellos ruin her visit to the Inverse family. "Thank you so much for teaching me that super chunky chocolate chip cookie recipe."
"You're welcome; I do hope we all get the chance to bake something delicious again. Ah, but we can talk after we're done with the introductions." Lina's mother smiled as she prompted her youngest daughter to continue.
Lina went on with the introductions. "This is Sir Zelgadis Graywords of Seyruun." Because in Luna's book, the fiance of a princess had to be addressed at least as Sir. Never mind that Luna herself was often less formal than that. Lina didn't want to risk Luna criticizing her if she didn't stretch politeness to the extremes. Zelgadis wasn't sure where Lina got the knighthood from, but he decided it was best not to contradict her and took his turn to smile and nod as everyone had done during Lina's little role call.
Deciding that it was best to leave her fiance for last, Lina continued on with Xellos. "This is Xellos Me-" oh no! She almost called him Xellos Metallium.
It wouldn't do to introduce him just as Xellos, Luna would ask with a critical tone 'doesn't Mr. Xellos have a family name? How could you not know the full name of your traveling companion? That's so terribly irresponsible of you, Lina!' Then again, Lina's fearful mind might be exaggerating, but she didn't want to take any chances!
"Metalburger," Lina finished, which prompted a discrete raise of the eyebrow from Xellos. He understood why she couldn't use Metallium as his surname, but couldn't she think of something better than Metalburger?
"Xellos," Luna mused, why does that name sound familiar?
"I'm sure it's only a coincidence!" Lina frantically insisted.
"Ah, yes, I remember now, that little girl that lives down the street has a cat named Sollex," Luna concluded casually. Lina let out a breath of relief, which she thought came too soon, as Luna was still giving Xellos the critical eye. "By the way, Mr. Metalburger..."
Xellos could feel his eye twitch in annoyance at the silly surname, "just Xellos is fine, Miss Inverse."
"Likewise, you may call me Luna," she replied still studying him. The group collectively held their breath fearing Luna's conclusion. Then she finally said with a fond smile. "Your hair is very nice."
"Thank you," Xellos replied with cautious politeness.
Lina observed Xellos, then Luna, then Xellos, then Luna again. She couldn't help it but to blurt out, "of course you like his hair, it's almost exactly like yours!" Just as quickly as the outburst came, Lina slapped both hands over her own mouth. "I mean, your hair looks very pretty today, Luna."
"Why thank you, Lina," Luna smiled, "however," her expression morphed into a frown. "I'm afraid I see some split ends on your hair. You must take better care of it. Just look at this young man's hair," she looked towards Gourry, "it's shiny and I'm sure it's silky soft as well. You should follow his example. By the way, you haven't introduced him yet, could he be..." Luna gave Lina a look that told her that this better be her fiance because if he was too cowardly to go meet Lina's family, then Luna would surely hunt him down.
"Yes," Lina nodded, blushing scarlet. "This is my fiance, Gourry Gabriev."
The atmosphere stood heavily still as Lina's parents and sister stared at Gourry waiting for him to say something. Finally, he spoke, "Elsydeon, Espelancer, Masamune, Muramasa, Tessaiga."
'Oh no! All this pressure made Gourry go insane!' Lina thought in agony. 'Poor Gourry, this was too much for him.' A silent moment passed as Lina quietly mourned for Gourry's dearly departed sanity.
Suddenly, Light loudly exclaimed, "exactly!" In a very cheerful voice and Lina had to wonder if her father had gone crazy during her absence, though neither her mother nor her sister appeared to be alarmed. "You have a good eye, my son. You recognized my best swords right from the start. I have lots more in the basement. I used to be a mercenary, you know. I've amassed quite the collection of swords and other bladed weapons over the years. A swordsman who knows his swords this well must be skilled. What do you say we have ourselves a little spar for old time's sake, my boy? I still got some skill left in me. You might learn a thing or two."
"I would be honored, sir," Gourry politely replied with a friendly smile, while Lina and the rest of her traveling companions stared in awe.
"Oh, such a smart young man!" Labyrinthine exclaimed.
"Thank you,..." The name of Lina's mother was too long and Gourry couldn't remember it. He was sure it was impolite to forget the name of one's mother in law, thus he tried to fix his shortcoming as best he could by calling her "Lady Inverse."
"Aw, and he's so polite too," Labyrinthine giggled. "It's no wonder you've charmed my little Lina. "Please call me mom!"
"And you must call me dad!" Light added.
Gourry smiled, glad that things appeared to be going so well. "If it is alright with you both." He was being polite just like his grandmother taught him; she taught him a lot of things that she assured him would be useful to him later in life and this was one of those times. "I appreciate your kindness."
Lina's jaw was nearly touching the floor, metaphorically of course, though her mouth was literally wide open. She didn't even know Gourry could act this civilized or manage to make himself sound smart by sprouting random sword related facts. She supposed that everyone had to have some subject they were good at, even Gourry.
"Let's allow the boys some time to talk about swords. Goodness knows that men are always thinking with, I mean about, their swords." Lina assumed that her mother meant to point out that, generally speaking, men were faster to pick fights then women. Although that wasn't really the case in the Inverse family, where the females were considerably more temperamental than the males. "Meanwhile, I can share some recipes with all of you."
A chorus of agreements followed from the girls who would be all too happy to personally investigate the sources of the appetizing scents drifting into the living room from the kitchen. Meanwhile, the men journeyed to the basement, where Light kept most of his sword collection, though the only one truly enjoying Light's lectures about each individual sword was Gourry. As for Xellos and Zelgadis, they just smiled and nodded politely as they assumed it would be best to do.
xoxox xox xoxox
The short visit to the Inverse household was much more pleasant to Lina than she imagined it would be. Though Luna did scold her for trying to eat the ingredients when they were cooking, Lina wisely ceased her gluttonous behavior and no real incidents occurred during the cooking process. Several hours later, the whole group consisting of Lina's traveling companions and family, gathered around the table to feast. Lina's table manners were surprisingly perfect. Thankfully, Gourry's survival instinct was strong enough to make him follow the example and behave well on the table too.
Though Lina was ready to leave right after dinner, her parents insisted that she should stay the night. Honestly, the thought of a delicious home cooked breakfast was very pleasant, thus she stayed. While the guys were given the little house' only guest room to share, the girls roomed with Luna in what Amelia happily declared to be a slumber party. Hair was braided, stories were told, snacks were eaten, teasing was done and there was much giggling. The whole experience helped Filia's mood improve considerably and by the following morning she didn't hold the same amount of bitter anger towards Xellos anymore.
After a delicious breakfast prepared by Labyrinthine's magical cooking techniques, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Xellos and Filia were ready to hit the road again. According to the plan, not wanting to push her luck with Luna, Lina used their noble mission to investigate the famine affecting the outer world farm lands in the name of Seyruun as their excuse to leave without any further delays. As goodbyes were exchanged and the charming little house was left behind, Dilgear was content with pretending he didn't know Lina and company, though judging by his expression, he clearly did. The travelers returned the favor by pretending they only saw him as Luna's pet, Spot.
xoxox xox xoxox
The gang was on the road again, going further away from Lina's home village, back on their way to the farm lands where Elena and Palou used to live. In fact, Zephilia was no longer visible in the distance, proving that they were making steady progress, though a long journey still lay ahead. The trip was made more pleasant thanks to the large load of grapes the travelers were given to consume on the trip. Grapes were Zephilia's signature product after all. The group walked on quietly for the most part, munching on grapes as they went along, trying to protect their portions from Lina's voracious appetite and discussing how delicious Labyrinthine's grape pie was.
Further along the way they stopped at inns in each town they passed and continued making steady progress day by day. It seemed that neither the golden dragons nor the monsters were in the mood to attack Xellos lately. Lina had brought up the incident that occurred during their herb hunt at the mountains, now plains, near the town where Filia's shop was located. Yet Xellos was quick to assure that it must have all been some kind of misunderstanding and that there was no way Zelas could be secretly guarding him from the shadows. Maybe she even wanted to get rid of him, but if she did, she could have done so easily already. Also, if she wanted to keep him safe, there was no reason why she would have to be sneaky about it. Except maybe for the part about having a weak underling that needed protection being rather embarrassing.
Yet, if Zelas didn't want Xellos gone, why did she put him in such a risky situation in the first place? Why did he have to choose a dare and get cursed? He couldn't think of any piece of information that was vital enough to be worth his life to protect. What could he possibly know that not even he was aware he knew? He had been so focused on breaking his curse; he had not had time to think about that aspect. What could Zelas' plan be? Whatever it was, Xellos knew it was his role to follow it, but he still wanted to know. After stopping to think about it, the question plagued him constantly.
Xellos tried to focus on the present. Whatever Zelas wanted from him, she would get it. All he had to do was stay alive and he would eventually become aware of her plans. Assuming he could stay alive. He had been plotting about that too and had a plan in mind. He caught up with Zelgadis, who was holding the map and examined it.
Zelgadis glared in annoyance at Xellos purposely getting his head in the way, though he was certain that he could see the map just fine without having to lean over it like that. "Do you mind?" The chimera growled.
"Not at all," Xellos grinned and didn't get out of the way.
"I know how to get to where we're going," Zelgadis insisted.
"Can I borrow the map?" Xellos asked, still smiling obnoxiously.
"No," Zelgadis rolled up the map and put it in his cloak.
"C'mon, let me borrow it," Xellos tried to steal the map from Zelgadis' cloak.
The attempt caused Zelgadis to take the map out of his cloak and hand it to Amelia. "Please keep the map safe from Xellos; I'm sure he only wants to tare it apart."
"Why would you make such a cruel assumption?" Xellos made a dramatic sad face. "You're so mean!"
"You're so annoying!" Zelgadis mimicked the dramatic tone. "You've also been known to rip apart important documents in the past and you know that's our only map."
"It wouldn't do me any good for us to get lost," Xellos logically pointed out. He extended his hand towards the map that Amelia was holding. "Let me borrow it, just for a little while."
"No!" Taking her map protection mission seriously, Amelia tugged it into her shirt in the old trick many women used throughout the ages to keep small items away from men.
Xellos frowned, "that's not fair."
"Let's just trust Zelgadis' sense of direction, he's really good at navigating," Amelia encouraged, with Zelgadis clearly appreciating the compliment.
A few minutes passed in silence until Xellos asked. "Isn't the map kind of heavy, Amelia?"
"It's made of paper," Amelia pointed out as a matter of fact.
"If you don't trust me with it, why don't you let Filia help you carry it for a while? It's about time that lazy dragon did something to help out," Xellos slyly suggested.
"No way!" Amelia refused, "you'll try to steal it from her!"
"And she'd probably let me," Xellos winked at Filia, who was red with anger. At least she wasn't ignoring him completely. She was making furious faces at him again, that was some progress, even if she still wasn't at the point of words just yet. He could still sense her hurt frustration; she was not ready to excuse his past secrecy and ulterior motives, but she was considering it.
"I'm keeping the map," Amelia stated emphatically, hoping to stop another fight between Xellos and Filia before it truly began.
"Fine, be selfish," Xellos pouted with a sad face, hoping that would soften Amelia's determination, but it didn't. He decided to drop the subject for the time being. There would be plenty of time to get a map and elaborate on the plan he had in mind when they reached the next town.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Since Luna doesn't actually appear in the anime, I'm basing her off the information I could gather from the Kanzaka Wikia. I couldn't find any official names for Lina's parents. I named her father after Light Inverse, one of the protagonists from the Slayers Light Magic manga. I named her mother Labyrinthine to represent the mystery of her parents and because I thought it would be funny if they all had simple L names, except for one with a complicated L name that's too long for Gourry. The sword names are from: Elsydeon (Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium), Espelancer (Legend of Heroes: Tear of Vermilion), Masamune (Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, others), Muramasa (Samurai Deeper Kyo, others), Tessaiga (Inuyasha).