To Live Another Day
Episode Fifty-Six: Get Along, Try Again
Lina, Xellos and Gourry, still in their disguises, made their way back to town. Gourry was all too eager to get there and change, Lina told him to wait until they reached the inn. After all, a guy walking around in his underwear would probably attract more strange stares then a woman in a pink dress, provided that no one knew the so called woman was actually a man.
"What happened to the plan?" Gourry inquired. The plan was not too clear for him, as nothing ever was.
"It was canceled," Xellos replied, seeing no need for further voice acting, since no one aside from Gourry and Lina were close enough to hear him anyway.
"Who was that Celestina anyway? She wasn't normal," Lina shuddered.
"She seemed powerful," Gourry agreed.
Curiously, Lina inquired, "what did she say to you?"
"Um..." Gourry tried hard to remember, his memory was generally very short term. "She said... Oh yeah, she said I was peculiar. Then she said something about my voice calling someone's name or something. Then she told me to stay strong and... and pure... and then... and then... and then... then she told me to go and I did."
Gourry's explanation was vague at best, not that Lina expected much else. "She told me that she allowed me to live after I gave up everything and woke her. She warned me not to expect it to happen again. It's almost as if she was..." Lina didn't finish.
"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." Xellos quoted. "Those are the words she told me. She also said that her dream would continue for the time being, everything is a part of her dream."
"Her dream?" Lina put all the pieces together and got the same result as her initial theory. The time when she gave up everything, the battle against Fibrizo, Gourry's voice calling out to her. A dream that could be a nightmare for some. "Do you think she's really...?"
"Some time ago, Celestina Ilumina was said to have been killed by Fibrizo," Xellos revealed. "Then shortly after Fibrizo's defeat, she returned alive and well. She had apparently distanced from all those she used to know and many dragons feared her. Maybe the real Celestina really was killed and the one we saw is only borrowing her identity to observe this world up close."
"Then she really is..." Lina looked back in the direction of the villa in the distance.
"I don't get it," Gourry predictably commented.
"I saw it," Xellos confessed, "it was only for a split second, but I saw it. The gold that shines upon the sea of chaos..."
"The Lord of Nightmares," Lina whispered.
"Let's not go back there," Xellos grinned with an exaggerated amount of cheer. It was his way to deal with the overwhelming discovery.
Lina laughed to contribute to lightening the mood. "I agree; there are things we're better off not getting mixed up in."
Gourry had his eternal expression of confusion firmly in place. "I don't get it. What does the Lord of Nightmares have to do with anything?"
Lina sighed, making Gourry understand certain things was simply impossible. "Never mind, the point is that the kidnapping has been cancelled. By the way, Xellos, as deadly dangerous as the Lord of Nightmares is, I can't help it but to think there's a bit of mercy in her. Of course, that is only as long as people don't push it. I have no intentions of disregarding her warning. What I'm trying to say is, she told Gourry and me something related to when we first met her, so to speak, and gave us advice. What if she was giving you advice too?" Though the memories of that occasion were hidden from Lina's conscious mind at first, they resurfaced when she saw Celestina. Those memories felt like a dream, yet Lina knew them to be true.
"The creatures of this world complicate things far beyond the simple truth." Xellos repeated what he was told. The truth was that he agreed with it. What he wouldn't normally admit was that he too was one of those creatures that brought unnecessary complications upon himself.
"Maybe there's an easier way to go about this curse thing. Maybe the answer is right in front of you," Lina suggested.
"Maybe," Xellos agreed. Unless the Lord of Nightmares was referring to the other part of the curse he needed to work on. The part about figuring out how to truly love Filia enough so that it wasn't just attraction or affection, but something strong enough to break the curse. He was at a blank there. He cared about her and he managed to accept that, but how could he make it enough? Wasn't this thing that supposedly wasn't love strong enough already? Maybe all he had to do was stop questioning it. Or maybe what he needed to do was change his angle.
How to achieve love... how to find his cure... how to... Xellos paused his train of thought as he arrived at the needed answer. He was trying to survive, he went as far as temporarily forgetting his curse when Filia first accepted her love for him, but he was back to thinking about it again soon after. He was disappointed, he accused her, blamed her, he was selfish. Love wasn't supposed to be selfish, love was supposed to be mutual... If Filia had to play her part with no ulterior motives then he had to do the same thing.
A yellow and white bird flew towards them circling around Xellos until he woke from his thoughts and held out his arm. "What are you doing here Jarde?" The bird, who was carrying some kind of rolled up piece of paper, chirped as if laughing. "Don't tell me you came all this way just to mock me."
Lina blinked in perplexity as she witnessed the odd exchange. "I take it you know this bird?"
"Jarde is a courier bird that can be summoned with a spell that borrows power from Lord Beast Master." Xellos took the paper from Jarde and let him perch on his shoulder while he examined the letter. "Dear Mr. Xellos, I regret to inform you that Miss Filia has found a new love. If you do not wish to lose her forever, you must apologize for taking her for granted and win back her heart. Good luck, you'll need it, Amelia." Xellos stared at the letter in disbelief.
"I didn't know Amelia could summon birds," Gourry casually commented. He made an effort to pay attention to what was being said in case he later got more random questions about what someone told him recently. He caught all the main details, so he felt accomplished. 'Amelia summoned a bird and Filia got a new boyfriend,' Gourry repeated in his mind, trying to retain the facts for more than thirty seconds.
"A good courier bird could come in handy now and then, but that aside, what's more interesting is what the letter says," Lina gave Xellos a severe look.
"You don't think it's true, do you?" Xellos considered the possibilities. Amelia would probably say a false letter like this one was an unjust cruel joke. She wouldn't lie...
'Amelia summoned Filia. A bird got a new boyfriend,' Gourry repeated in his head, but that didn't sound quite right. How did it go again?
"I think you got exactly what you deserve!" Lina placed one hand on her hip, while she pointed at Xellos with the other, waving her index finger back and forth in an accusing fashion.
'Filia summoned Amelia to give her boyfriend a bird,' Gourry thought. But why would Filia want to give Zelgadis a bird?
"Filia's been super nice to you," Lina continued scolding Xellos. "She's been taking good care of you and helping you learn to survive as a human. You haven't exactly been grateful to her."
Gourry knew there was something about Amelia, Filia and a bird, but it was too complicated. Some kind of love triangle? No, Amelia had Zelgadis, the bird was Filia's boyfriend. That's it, 'Amelia's bird is Filia's boyfriend!' "Lina's right," Gourry finally voiced. "You should have been nice to Filia, then she wouldn't have dumped you and started dating Amelia's bird instead."
Xellos and Lina both stared at Gourry, "Who ever said anything about Filia dating a bird?" Lina hopelessly asked. "She's dating a man. A man who's probably kind, respectable, polite, selfless, handsome and rich. A man who lives in a mansion where Filia will invite us to have dinner every now and then. Yes, a rich man with lots of food. Way to go, Filia!"
"I'll believe it when I see it," Xellos grumbled as he quickened his pace to town. Jarde chirped in his laughter way and flew off, disappearing among the clouds above, since his job was done.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos was swiftly on his way to the inn, to change into some clothes that did not include a dress, before going off to search for Filia. He didn't want to think too much about it, but he was worried. Lina brought up a valid point, he had not really given Filia much appreciation and despite how far she had gone to ignore him, Xellos kept thinking she would come around. He even went on to take care of the other preparations for his cure, leaving amending his break-up with Filia for later. He felt guilty; it was an odd and unpleasant sensation.
Lina and Gourry entered the inn, with Gourry running like a mad man because he couldn't spend another second in a dress. Lina rolled her eyes and walked after him at a more civilized pace, making a point to give Xellos a guilt tripping glare before she left. Xellos would have followed Lina and Gourry into the inn building, if not for the fact that a familiar voice caught his attention. There was Filia, it didn't look like Lina and Gourry had noticed her, and Filia had not noticed any of them.
Filia was sitting at an out door table across the street in a structure that looked like someone's personal residence, if not for the tables identifying it as a cafe of sorts. It was made to look homey rather than commercial, as part of the message of peace between the humans and dragons it carried. Albeit that made the Golden Dragon Cafe very easy to miss, as it had no signs with its name anywhere. Never mind the cafe, who was that man in the fuchsia shirt standing up along with Filia and offering her his arm? The nerve of him!
Ignoring the fact that he was still in disguise, Xellos made his way to Filia and Arcius. Filia saw the approaching angry woman and after a double take realized that wasn't actually a woman. Her eyes grew wide in shock, her expression causing Arcius to follow her gaze, curious to see what had surprised her so much. "Xe... Xe..." Filia couldn't get her voice to produce any complete words.
"Xexe," Arcius repeated, adding a barely audible 'rawr' at the end. With an, according to him, seductive grin, he eyed 'Xexe' up and down. "Miss Xexe, I take it you are a friend of Miss Filia. It's a pleasure to meet you. I am Arcius Evergreen, yes, that Evergreen, the one with the big fortune," he laughed as if being a millionaire was no big deal. "I would be more than happy to show you around the town and maybe we can get to know each other better while we-" Arcius was silenced by a solid right hook to the face which carried such a furious force that it threw him to the ground in a daze. "What a woman!" He exclaimed dreamily before passing out.
Filia was still staring in shock, unable to speak or move. Thus Xellos took it as his cue to say something. "Can I talk to you... at the inn?"
Filia nodded her head somewhat unsure and pushed her voice to produce a doubtful, "be right there." She didn't know what was going on, but ignoring Xellos wasn't going to solve anything. Besides, she simply had to know what explanation he had for parading around in a dress.
xoxox xox xoxox
A few minutes later, Filia found herself standing in front of the door to Xellos' room at the inn. She knocked gently, almost unsure if she wanted her presence to be known or not. Xellos opened the door right away, letting her in. Thankfully, he was wearing his normal clothing again and the pretty makeup was gone. "First I would like an explanation," Filia began.
"Our painful break-up was too much for me and I can never look at a woman the same way again. I thought that if I became one, no one would be able to hurt me anymore," Xellos dramatized.
Filia let out an exasperated breath, "and the truth would be?"
Cutting the drama, Xellos grinned in his usual fashion. "I wanted to pressure an influential figure among the golden dragons into restoring your citizenship by kidnapping his daughter. In order to do that, I had to sneak into her villa where only women are allowed to study magic."
Filia was glaring in fierce disapproval. "Not only do you cause trouble for me, but you get some poor innocent girl involved too?"
Xellos tried to look innocent, "there's no need to get jealous. I assure you that my interest in her was purely for business purposes. It's a thing of survival and nothing more."
"Just like your interest in me," Filia reproached, though a part of her kept saying that it wasn't as simple as that.
Xellos paused. He was a trickster, but he couldn't brush this off with a few sarcastic remarks. "It started that way," he admitted. "But it's... or if not, it will be, different."
"Because if you don't return my feelings you'll die? That's a hostage situation if I ever saw one, except the hostage is yourself. It's deadly blackmail, it's not willing," Filia insisted. "What about the dragon girl? What happened? Are you holding her hostage somewhere?"
"The dragon was... not who we thought she was. We realized she was the wrong target and retreated without incident. The kidnapping plan was canceled," Xellos explained while withholding his response to Filia's other remark.
"Furthermore, even if your crazy plan to get me a golden dragon citizenship did work, it won't do a thing if you end up hurting me so much I start to hate you," she accused bitterly. "You assumed I would help, didn't you? You self centered egotistical piece of raw garbage!"
"I did," Xellos admitted, "I did assume, but I shouldn't have." He could sense her pain, her anger, her frustration. "You've been helpful from the start and I've been... a selfish monster."
Filia continued frowning, her eyes analytical and focused. "Concentrate," she wrapped her arms around him without warning, allowing her full frustration and hurt to show.
"Filia..." It was at times like this when Xellos really hated his emphatic abilities. If he focused on himself hard enough, he should be able to distract himself from sensing someone else's emotions. But he couldn't, Filia's emotions were so intense they just flowed into him. It was over, he lost her. She was giving her a bitter farewell, showing him why he couldn't be forgiven.
Filia released Xellos and took a deep breath. "This town, it has a dark past in relations to the humans and dragons. In an effort to make amends, the Golden Dragon Cafe was established. It was built to look like someone's home in symbolic peace. They have cards there made of magically enhanced paper often used for legal contracts to ensure their authenticity. They are membership cards that each person can use once. The cards expire twenty-four hours after being signed and the magic in them makes them disintegrate into dust. For one day, the one who signs one of those cards is an honorary golden dragon, recognized as a legal citizen by the constitution of the dragon race." Filia took a small white card with golden lining from her pocket. She gave Xellos a serious look. "If you ever break my heart again, it's over for good, I mean it!"
Filia placed the card on Xellos' hand. In golden ink, the card read, 'honorary golden dragon' on top, with the silhouette of a dragon below the words and a blank space for a signature under it. "You mean I get another chance?" He wasn't expecting that.
"Only one," Filia warned. She allowed her positive feelings to shine through, no longer suppressing them with hurt bitterness. It was clear that Xellos was still able to sense it; it still shocked him that she cared so much.
"How do you do that? How do you change your mind like that, so suddenly? Which is real?" As a monster it was easy to perceive the predominating taste of emotions when all the tastes mixed together. But this was different, he sensed every feeling individually and sometimes it didn't make sense for certain emotions to coexist simultaneously. "And why... why did you...?"
"It's all real," Filia assured. "People don't feel good and bad exclusively, they can feel wonderful and terrible at the exact same time, sometimes even for the same reason. It doesn't make sense, but feelings don't always follow logic. As for why I'm giving you another chance..." Filia remembered the moment when she accepted her own feelings. "I went through ignorance, confusion, denial and a stubborn resolution to change before I finally accepted how I felt. Nonetheless, even when I was trying to change, it was all still real. I'm not going to hold it against you if you go through the same process a little slower. You were from the beginning very stubborn, selfish, self-centered, prideful, egotistical, overconfident, cold-hearted, malicious, obstinate-"
"I get the message," Xellos interrupted before Filia continued reciting the whole dictionary of negative adjectives.
"Arrogant, cruel, uncaring and all around annoying," Filia finished, ignoring the interruption. "So even if you do have feelings for me, you have a whole lot more to overcome before they can truly shine through, because real love is supposed to be pure. There's nothing wrong with wanting to live. Pure love is a dangerous weapon against a monster. It's your natural instinct to guard yourself from it, perhaps without even realizing it. Nevertheless, it's still real and I know for certain that it's there."
"So my love is poisoned?" Xellos found a creative way to describe it. "But it exists nonetheless?"
"Am I wrong?" Filia asked, her eyes gently demanding the truth.
Xellos gave it some thought and after a long moment of silence he voiced, "I think you're right, but is that enough?"
"It's something to hold on to, something that can grow," Filia replied with a smile. It was a real smile, different from the smile she made herself show for the sake of being polite and not worrying her friends. "Keep the card; I'll sign it when you're ready. Until then, let's just relax and not think about the technicalities."
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Jarde is from Valkyria Chronicles II. Xellos and Filia and finally back on track. That doesn't mean the surprises are over. The title of this chapter is based on the Slayers opening song. This was the promised jealous scene we discussed at Deviant Art. I said it would be unexpected and not one guessed it involved Xellos in disguise. XD