To Live Another Day
Episode Fifty-Five: The Birds and the Bees
Lina let out a breath she didn't even know she was holding, when she saw Xellos return without incident from his short meeting with Celestina. "We should leave," at least he didn't forget his voice acting for Natie and Cathy's benefit.
"Aw, you didn't pass?" Cathy asked, requiring no answer. "Let me guess, Lady Celestina took one look at you and said 'you are not ready'. Don't be disappointed, I'm sure that with some training, you'll improve your skills and be ready to join our class soon. I didn't make it in until my third interview."
"It took me five tries," Natie added with a light hearted laugh. "I didn't give up and it was worth it."
"We'll make sure to keep that in mind," Lina made herself smile for the sake of acting, as she, Xellos and Gourry were accompanied to the villa's gates by the two maidens.
xoxox xox xoxox
While Lina, Gourry and Xellos were off in their little quest, Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis were visiting the farmlands. There were few farmers actually still living there, as the majority of the land had been purchased by a young business man called Arcius. The farmers interviewed by the trio of justice, as Amelia would call them, were grateful to the mysterious business man who paid a full price for their land despite the lack of fertility of the soil. Finding the timing to be too convenient, Amelia, Zelgadis and Filia headed to Arcius estate to have a word with him.
Strangely, getting to meet Arcius was very easy. They strode past the open gates of the estate and rang the bell, until a butler came to let them in, offering no arguments against Amelia's demands to see "Mr. Arcius." That let the princess, the chimera and the dragon to their current situation, seated at an elegant room with sweet tea and oversized chocolate covered croissants on the table in front of them. Lina would love those croissants.
The room had predominating fiery shades with long crimson and orange curtains all over the walls, even on the side that didn't have windows, making the room look like it was on fire. The plush orange carpet was so soft it made the visitors tempted to take off their shoes, but they resisted the urge. The gold plated table was certainly attention grabbing as well as the golden teapot, cups and plates. The room was a bit blinding, but still impressive in luxury.
"Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, Mr. Arcius," Amelia spoke, a bit embarrassed that she had assumed that the business tycoon who bought the far lands had to be the bad guy.
"It is no trouble at all," Arcius smile politely. He was a tall handsome man with curly blond hair and emerald green eyes. Though he was without a doubt good looking, his taste in clothing and interior decorating left much to be desired. "I try to make it a point to always have my doors open to guests. Is there a specific purpose to your visit? I don't believe I've seen you in town before."
"We're not from here," Amelia explained, realizing that she was yet to reveal their names, "I'm Amelia and these are Filia and Zelgadis, we heard there was a famine and hoped to help by blessing the land. Filia and I are skilled in white and holy magic, Zelgadis is our protector." It was best to steer clear of the princess deal or else Arcius might keep his guard up. Amelia was no longer assuming he was a villain, but she wasn't ready to trust him yet.
"I see," Arcius looked sad. "Many have tried to bless the land before, but nothing has come of it. If it will please you to do so, you are welcome to try. But do not be disappointed if it doesn't work. I'm afraid this land has simply given all that it can give. However, even if it can't produce crops, it might still be used for something else."
"Something else?" Zelgadis suspiciously inquired, "something lucrative?" He questioned boldly.
"Perhaps," Arcius admitted, "the land must be capable of sustaining its people, though I'm sure it will not be as beneficial as the farms that used to thrive here. Houses, storage rooms, maybe even an amusement park. There's plenty of room to allow various project to grow and produce jobs for the people who have lost their employment as farmers. The downside is that there's still the famine to consider. I've been importing food from far away, but with the losses from my investments in this land, I'm afraid that I have little to share. Hopefully, I'll be able to recover and help everyone else recover as well."
"Can you tell us anything else about how this started?" Filia asked, albeit she wasn't willing to let the previous thread of conversation end just yet. "What was your relation with this land before the famine?"
"I was a merchant who sold the produce of this land." Arcius replied as if knowing that he was about to clear his suspicions. "I don't blame you for finding my timing excessively convenient, but the truth is that if I were in it only for the economical benefit, I was better off keeping my previous position selling the goods that this land produced. As things stand now, most merchants would suggest I was better off retiring from the market and keeping my savings rather than buying barren land. Regardless of what projects I might work on in the future, they are far away and I'll be up to my neck in investment debts before I see any real profits. It's a gamble, but it's all I have to give these people. I am even under a contractual obligation to sell back the land for the same purchase price if any of the previous owners should so request it within the next year. If you are concerned about my actions, please feel free to examine the legal documents related to them."
Filia, Amelia and Zelgadis looked at each other. It appeared that Arcius' business was very much out in the open and no one had a bad thing to say about him. "It's okay," Amelia finally voiced. There was no need to get too technical in the legal aspects without a good reason.
"About your other question," Arcius continued, proving that he had no intentions of avoiding the subject, though he had little to say about it. "There is not much I can tell you about how the famine started. The produce decreased and the land died out in a gradual yet relatively fast pace. I have no explanation for this tragedy. As I mentioned, skilled magic users have tried to bless the land before, but they sensed no curses or monsters in it."
"Curses and monsters are not the only evil in the world," and cursed monsters didn't necessarily have to be detestable, but Filia decided not to voice that last part.
"That is very true," Arcius agreed, "sometimes natural disasters can be far more tragic. I've been investigating alternative solutions for the problem in hopes of saving the farms before I make any final choices to turn the land into something else. I was just about to try a new method before you arrived."
"Maybe we can help!" Amelia immediately offered.
"That would be most appreciated," Arcius glanced at the gray suited butler standing by the room's door. "James, could you please bring the magic book that arrived earlier today? I believe I left it on the desk in the study."
"Right away, sir," James swiftly exited the room, returning a few minutes later with the requested item. "Here you are, sir."
"Thank you," Arcius placed the old wine colored book on the table. It was worn and the golden lining that once adorned it had almost completely faded. "I believe this book contains the answer to our problems. It has many spells that borrow power from Lord Beast Master."
Filia read the somewhat faded title of the book. "The Birds and The Bees?" What kind of book was this?
"Yes, it's a compilation of summoning spells that call birds and bees for various purposes," Arcius explained as he flipped through the book. "This spell for example, can summon a large bird to carry things. It's quite good to have when going grocery shopping. That is when people actually have groceries to carry. This other spell summons a bird that can sing lullabies, very good against insomnia. There's one that can summon a bird that sings in the morning and works as an alarm clock. You can summon bees to produce delicious honey and even call a hive to aid in combat. I actually lost the auction when I first bid on this book. Then days later the one who beat me at the auction offered to sell it to me. He seemed rather disappointed in the book. I'm not sure what he was expecting from it and I can't imagine why it would be a disappointment. This book is certainly filled with many useful summoning spells."
"Interesting," Amelia commented, having an eagle sidekick to accompany her in her quest for justice was something she would really like. "What spell were you planning to use?"
"This one here," Arcius flipped the pages of the book and turned it over so that his guests could read it right side up. "The spell is called Busy Bees. It is used to summon bees that will help fertilize plants by carrying pollen from one to another." The words of the summoning were 'busy bees buzzing, bringing bright bliss, carry the pollen, the harvest assist.'
"What if there's no pollen or plants in the first place?" Zelgadis pointed out. The land was pretty barren, so there really wasn't much left for the bees to work with.
"These are special bees, I would assume," Arcius theorized. "I mean, they come from a summoning spell rather than just being regular bees. I thought they might be able to help. Unfortunately, I'm not a skilled spell caster, so I doubt I would be able to do the summoning myself. I've heard the people from the lands that used to be inside the barrier have much greater magical abilities. Perhaps I'll hire a sorcerer from there."
"I'll do it!" Amelia immediately volunteered. "I grew up in the land within the barrier and I have experience in magic. I can do this!"
"Really?" Arcius smiled gratefully. "Thank you so much, Miss Amelia! I will be sure to repay you for your efforts!"
"No monetary rewards will be needed for a defender of justice," Amelia proudly declared. If Lina had been there she would have gladly volunteered to take the reward in her place. "Although..." Amelia eyed the summoning book as she imagined herself in a blue, white and red super hero costume with a majestic eagle proudly perched on her shoulder. "I would really appreciate it if you would let me borrow the summoning book."
"Certainly!" Arcius agreed. "Thank you again for your kind help. If this works, the farms may be saved. Then the people can go back to cultivating the land, I can go back to distributing their wonderful products and the famine will finally come to an end."
"Yes, we can do this! We can save the farms!" Amelia happily declared in all out defender of justice mode.
xoxox xox xoxox
Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Arcius went outside to put their plan into action. Amelia held the summoning book and began to chant the spell. "Busy bees buzzing, bringing bright bliss, carry the pollen, the harvest assist!" Out of thin air, a swarm of bees materialized, buzzing all around. The numerous bees flew in all directions, searching for pollen and plants.
The group watched as the bees buzzed around for a while longer before flying towards them as a group. The four dropped to the ground, dodging the bees. The swarm turned in the air and went on the attack again. "What are they doing?" Arcius demanded in a panic.
"I think they're mad!" Amelia exclaimed.
"Of course they're mad, there are no plants here, there's no pollen for them to work with. They were summoned for nothing!" Zelgadis insisted. "I knew this was a bad idea!"
"Run for your lives!" Filia interrupted with a very good suggestion.
The group dashed towards the estate, where James was watching from the door. The butler let Arcius and his guests in, before shutting the door. The noise of the bees colliding against the hard wood was heard as Amelia let out a breath of relief. "That was close..."
"It's not over!" Filia pointed at the large golden lined glass window next to the door. The bees were ramming it and making cracks on the glass.
"Oh no! The bees are about to break in!" Arcius exclaimed. "We must depart to a safe place at once. Come my guests, we must retreat deeper into the house!"
"No, if we do that, we'll get ourselves cornered," Zelgadis argued. "It's time to send these bees back where they came from!"
"I'm with you Mr. Zelgadis!" Amelia cheered.
"Count me in too," Filia agreed.
The bees finally broke the glass window, pouring into the estate as the magic using trio shouted, "Fireball!" The spell reduced the bees to ashes, thus solving that problem. Even so, the fact remained that the farmlands were still dead.
"Impressive!" Arcius congratulated. "You are all powerful sorcerers indeed. Would you consider a long term contract as my employees?"
"We're not looking for a job," Zelgadis pointed out.
"But we'll still help with the famine problem," Amelia added.
"I understand, please let me know if you reconsider," Arcius offered. "Well, that was certainly an exciting event. Perhaps it would be best to rest before the next move is decided upon. I would be honored to provide you with rooms in my humble home."
"I suppose we should plan thins out better next time," Amelia agreed. "Taking a break sounds good, thank you Mr. Arcius. What do you think, Zelgadis, Miss Filia?"
"I guess we should take a break," Zelgadis agreed.
"There's actually something I've been meaning to check out in town if there is time," Filia revealed. "There's supposed to be a place called the Golden Dragon Cafe."
"Ah yes, it's a delightful place with the most delicious coffee, tea, juice and baked treats," Arcius smiled fondly, though his expression soon turned bittersweet. "Or it was when the harvest was good. Now their menu is limited, but it is still a good place to spend some time relaxing. If you would honor me with your company, I would be happy to show you to the cafe."
Filia blushed slightly and smiled, "I would appreciate it."
xoxox xox xoxox
After Filia and Arcius left, Amelia and Zelgadis sat down to talk in one of the estate's many guest rooms. "Did you notice, Zelgadis?" Amelia inquired with excitement despite how ambiguous her question appeared to Zelgadis.
"Notice what?" Zelgadis allowed his eyes to try to examine the room again before he had the need to blink as if to rest his vision. The theme in this particular room was green, blindingly bright lime green. "That Arcius is color blind? Yeah, I noticed alright, how could I not?"
Amelia examined the room, "well maybe... but that's not what I meant." She frowned in bitter sorrow, though there was fascination in her eyes. "It's so exciting, so amazing, so dramatic!"
"What is?" Zelgadis wasn't sure what Amelia was getting at and quite frankly, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"The love triangle!" Amelia loudly declared. "Miss Filia and Mr. Xellos have recently gone through a painful break up, but they both still have strong feelings for each other. Now, just as their anger was cooling off to give way to a new flame of love between them, the rival enters the scene! While Mr. Xellos is away, Miss Filia's heart is in danger of being stolen away by the dashing Mr. Arcius!"
"Dashing?" Zelgadis questioned with an almost amused laugh. "How can a man in a fuchsia shirt be called dashing?"
"He's dashing in the eyes of Filia's wounded heart!" Amelia insisted. "She blushed when he offered to take her out on a date, I saw!"
"Date?" Zelgadis questioned, where did Amelia get all these conclusions anyway? "Wasn't he just showing her the location of that cafe she was looking for?"
"He was going out with her!" Amelia insisted, "and she blushed!" The princess adamantly emphasized.
"Probably out of embarrassment at the thought of being seen in public with a man who dresses like a clown," Zelgadis concluded. The fuchsia shirt with ruffles around its V shaped neck was ridiculous and the impossibly tight black pants must have been horribly uncomfortable, albeit at least the color was normal.
"I don't think his outfit was all that bad. It reminds me of the cover art from a romance novel, though the shirt was white instead of fuchsia. I guess Mr. Arcius must like to stand out. Either way, everyone in town seems to be fond of Mr. Arcius, even if he's a bit eccentric. What makes it impossible for Filia to like him too?" Amelia might have an overactive imagination, but she brought up a strong argument.
"Good point, if Filia dated Xellos then her standards can't be all that high," Zelgadis concluded, feeling sincerely sorry for Filia. "Maybe you should have a talk with her about being more picky with who she dates. She'll thank you in the long run."
Amelia shook her head. "Love knows no boundaries!" She heroically declared. "If Miss Filia believes that Mr. Xellos has earned her heart, then he has. Who are we to judge the reasons one has to be in love. Love cannot be stopped! Miss Filia is opening her heart to another man too soon; the wound from her previous relationship is still fresh. She might mistake her remaining feelings for Mr. Xellos as feelings for Mr. Arcius. That will only bring pain to both of them when she realizes the truth. I know Miss Filia still has feelings for Mr. Xellos, that's why she's hurting, that's why she's going out of her way to give him the cold shoulder. Mr. Xellos also has feelings for Miss Filia, that's why he's been trying to get her attention even if she's doing everything in her power to ignore him."
Zelgadis was about to present a counter argument, but stopped. Who was he, a chimera with an expertise in robbery and property damage all for the sake of finding a cure he didn't know existed, to judge Filia for falling in love with an obnoxious monster? If Amelia could love Zelgadis, then the chimera concluded that maybe it wasn't so horrible for someone to love that idiot Xellos. Plus Amelia did have a point, if Filia was over her ex, she wouldn't have been making such an effort to pretend he was invisible. As for Xellos, maybe horrible monsters had some semblance of feelings after all, if only a little. "I can't believe I'm saying this but... I'll help you get them back together, granted that we don't get too involved."
"Thank you Zel, you're awesome!" Amelia tackled Zelgadis in a big bear hug and planted a kiss on his lips. "Don't worry; I have a plan that requires minimal involvement. I'll write a letter to Mr. Xellos telling him about Miss Filia and Mr. Arcius' growing romance. Mr. Xellos will then realize the error of his ways by taking Miss Filia for granted and rush back to town, determined to win her heart again!" Amelia finished her dramatic speech and watched for a reaction from Zelgadis, who was just smiling and spacing out, "Zel?"
"Oh, yes, that, right, great plan, Amelia!" Zelgadis didn't quite hear what Amelia's plan was, but in his current state, he would agree to do anything she asked him to.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Xellos and Filia will come face to face again in the next chapter. I wonder how that will go...