To Live Another Day
Episode Fifty-Seven: Victory is Subjective
Xellos felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Everything was okay now. Well not really, he was still cursed and he still had a way to go before his love could become pure enough to save his life, but he wasn't focusing on that at the moment. He was glad to have Filia back, for now that was enough. "So... does this mean we'll be spending the rest of the day together?" He winked with a seductive grin.
Filia leaned forward, her face close to his as she returned his mischievous grin, "nope," she winked.
Xellos was caught off guard, "huh?" That tricky dragon...
"Amelia and Zelgadis must be done resting by now. Maybe they've even come up with a new plan of action against the famine. If not, then we can always go with the original plan and try to bless the land with white and holy magic," Filia explained with a teasing smile. "Why don't you come along and watch? You might learn a thing or two about white magic."
Xellos rolled his eyes, "that'll be the day. I think I'll just stick with black magic, it's more my style."
"That's just because you don't have enough talent for white magic." Filia crossed her arms, giving Xellos a superior mocking look.
"I could do just fine if I wanted," Xellos returned the challenging gaze. He knew he was walking right into Filia's little trap, but he wasn't about to run away from her challenge.
"I bet you couldn't," Filia insisted. It was as if their big fight never happened, though the lesson that came of it still remained. They were back to teasing each other, back to acting natural, back to being themselves.
"I'll take that bet!" Xellos agreed. With some luck and a lot of effort, he might actually win. "So... what should we bet?"
"That was just a figure of speech," Filia argued, she knew that making a bet with a trickster was a bad idea. Yet maybe if she could arrange things so that a loss wouldn't be a real loss it would be okay. "If I win you have to... take me out on a real date and do everything I ask."
"Be your slave for the evening? I think I know what that involves," he winked.
Filia blushed, "that's not how a real date goes!"
"And if I win?" Xellos reminded that he too needed a prize to go after in their little bet.
"If you win, I'll teach you a useful spell," a spell of Filia's own choosing that she would conveniently keep a secret until the event of Xellos winning the bet occurred, if he actually managed to win.
"What kind of spell?" Xellos inquired suspiciously. What was defined as a useful spell varied from one person to another. Xellos had a feeling that the definition Filia would give it was very different from his own. "Is it something powerful and destructive?"
"You'll have to wait and find out," Filia taunted. "Unless you're making up excuses because you know you don't have the skill to learn a simple recovery spell."
"I'm supposed to be the one taunting you to make you do what I want," Xellos accused in an 'it's not fair' whiny tone.
"I guess you must be rubbing off on me," Filia grinned.
"I'd be happy to continue doing so right now," Xellos offered with a seductive grin.
"Not happening, I'm busy," Filia headed out the door of the inn room, determined to start working on solving the farm problem right away, before she changed her mind. "Are you coming along or not?"
"Just watch, I'll win our bet, even if the prize is probably nothing of use, since a stupid dragon can't possibly know any really good spells. All you know is holy magic, it's not as good as black magic," Xellos teased, though he knew it wasn't really true.
"We'll see about that!" Filia challenged as they both made their way out of the inn.
xoxox xox xoxox
On their way out of the inn, Xellos and Filia met up with Gourry and Lina. Filia informed them of Zelgadis and Amelia's location and the six of them regrouped at Arcius estate. Arcius had since returned home and graciously welcome the new guests, not realizing that Xellos was Xexe. Though he encouraged them to investigate the lands and try anything they could come up with to restore the fertility of the soil, he warned them not to feel bad if it didn't work. Claiming he had a pounding headache, Arcius then apologized for not accompanying them and stayed at the estate while Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos went out to the fields.
"I feel bad taking advantage of Arcius' kindness after Xellos punched him," Filia complained, as the group made their way through the vast barren lands that were once productive farms.
"You mean that black eye was Xellos doing?" Lina frowned. "If he doesn't have us over for dinner because of you..." She didn't even need to finish her threat for everyone to know it was deadly. Messing with Lina's meal, directly or indirectly, was a death wish.
Amelia, as well as the entire group, had noticed that the atmosphere between Filia and Xellos had significantly improved. Her eyes shone upon the revelation of Xellos having punched Arcius. She felt sorry for Arcius, but his bruised face was only a small sacrifice in the grander scheme of things. "Mr. Xellos punched Mr. Arcius? Well done Mr. Xellos! That's what I call fighting for your love! I'm glad you made up with Miss Filia and didn't let Mr. Arcius steal her away."
"There was nothing between Arcius and me!" Filia immediately defended. "Besides, it was more like fighting against love, isn't that right, Miss Xexe?" Filia eyed Xellos mockingly.
"You're really starting to copy me too much Filia, but that's okay, I know you're just jealous because I'm prettier than you," Xellos teased in return.
"Miss Xexe? I thought Xellos was supposed to be Lulu," Gourry pointed out in confusion. "Or was it Lala? No, wait, I was Lala, and Lina was Lili, right?"
"Mr. Gourry as Miss Lala... That can only mean there were disguises in our absence," Amelia realized. "I get it; Mr. Arcius doesn't recognize Mr. Xellos without his disguise." Amelia sounded disappointed that she missed out. Those sneaky missions were always fun. Besides, she would never admit it, but she had fun putting makeup on Zelgadis, even if he didn't enjoy it at all.
"I'm glad I wasn't there," Zelgadis breathed in relief.
"I was there for the disguises, but I missed the part about Arcius falling in love with Xexe." Lina teased as she elbowed Xellos playfully. "Nice going Xellos, you snagged yourself a rich one. It's a pity his taste in clothing and interior decorating is so bad, but I'm sure that's nothing that a woman's touch can't fix. Make sure to invite us over for dinner at your loving boyfriend's estate every now and then!"
Being an experienced trickster, Xellos knew that trying to fight off the teasing was counter-productive, thus he played along. "Shh, keep your voice down, Lina. Filia isn't supposed to know about my little affair with Arcius."
"You're having an affair with Arcius?" Gourry frowned in disapproval. "You shouldn't cheat on Filia."
Filia rolled her eyes while Lina let out a hopeless breath at Gourry being so gullible. "It's okay, I don't mind," Filia assured.
Gourry gave Filia a look of surprise, then finally shrugged, "I find it unusual but... people need to respect each others differences. If you want to be in a trio, I'll accept and support you as a friend," he smiled sincerely.
Lina ran her hand from her forehead down her face. "That would be a threesome and we're just kidding anyway." Back to business, Lina observed the barren land around them. "Okay, let's get with the blessing. Amelia, Filia, you're the most skilled in white and holy magic, so you'll be casting the big spells. The rest of us will support you with recovery. Gourry, you're on a special mission, the land will need water, run to the estate and bring back buckets of water to get some moist in this dry soil. Xellos, unless you quit being stubborn about your black magic only policy and learn recovery well enough to help us, I'm putting you on watering duty too."
"Actually, it was my plan from the start to learn recovery," Xellos revealed. He looked towards Filia with his usual teasing grin. "Unless Filia changes her mind about teaching me the spell, you know how you can't rely on a dragon's word for anything."
"I'm not changing my mind!" Filia argued, "but don't expect this to be easy," there was a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. "Amelia, you should keep an eye on the lessons too. That way if Xellos is too much of a bad student for me, you can come up with some alternate examples to give him."
"I would be happy to help!" Amelia cheerfully declared, thus the lesson began. "Healing magic is all about positive thinking! Don't forget, Mr. Xellos, life is wonderful!"
Xellos twitched and glared at Filia. He would have to learn fast if he was going to keep Amelia's speech at bay. Human or not, her speeches still kind of unnerved him, even if they were supposed to lack the power to weaken him, but apparently that wasn't always entirely true. Never underestimate the power of annoyance, that fact was one that Xellos knew very well.
While the group worked on their fruitless efforts to heal the land and Xellos kept assuring Amelia over and over that he felt he was making progress on his own and didn't need any extra motivation, Lina became a little bored. She stretched from her previous position crouching on the ground giving the land a recovery spell. She watched as Gourry ran around watering the place with the precious liquid he obtained from Arcius estate. The swordsman actually looked like he was having fun. At least there wasn't a drought, though water and healing magic seemed to be doing little for the land. Lina knew not to expect much, since this had been tried before, but it's easier to discard an option without second thoughts after one has personally attempted it. "I had a funny dream a few nights ago," Lina voiced, to interrupt the relative silence that bored her. "It was raining candy and I had this really big basket that I was using to catch it, because the candy would disappear if it hit the ground and I couldn't very well catch it in my mouth with the wrappers and all."
"That sounds like a fun dream," Gourry smiled, imagining how wonderful it would be if it really did rain candy. "I hardly ever remember my dreams."
"I had a dream about food recently too," Filia commented.
"Really?" Xellos innocently asked with fake surprise, "I thought you only had R rated dreams about me, or maybe I should say X rated."
"My dream was perfectly sweet and innocent!" Filia argued. "I had this really big ice-cream cone; it was as tall as a person. It had chocolate ice-cream on top, but it was melting so I had to hurry and lick it quickly. The cone was black; I guess it must have been a dark chocolate flavored."
"What mischievous dreams you have, Filia," Xellos was quick to tease her, privately amused by the irony of the dream. "There's nothing innocent about it."
"What's mischievous about my dream?" Filia pouted not really wanting to know what kind of random mocking answer Xellos came up with. "It's a dream about ice-cream, how can it not be innocent?"
"I'll tell you later," Xellos offered with a mischievous wink, grinning in anticipation. "Or better yet, show you."
Filia gave Xellos a suspicious look; she did that quite often and with good reasons. "You better not be plotting anything troublesome!" She warned with little hope for her caution to be heeded.
xoxox xox xoxox
After Lina decided that she had enough of wasting energy on the ground, she called for a retreat to Arcius' estate. Once there, the group discussed their lack of ideas on what to do to help the farm land recover, making for a very short conversation. Thus the leader and star of the show, Lina Inverse, decided to call it a day and get some rest as it was already evening. Plus she was anxious to see what kind of food Arcius had in storage that he would generously share with his guests.
Filia decided to take some time to test Xellos abilities, but instead of trying to show her his progress in casting recovery, he grinned and gave up, "you win."
"What? That's it? You won't even try again? I thought you were actually making progress. Is white magic really that difficult for you?" Filia gave Xellos another suspicious look, but decided not to be too insistent. She won their bet, so she might as well enjoy it. "I guess you have a natural talent for black magic and difficulty with white magic; that happens to some people. They have a certain type of magic that feels more natural to them. It shouldn't come as a surprise which type of magic it is for you. This means you owe me a date." Just as Xellos was about to open his mouth to suggest something, Filia interrupted. "No, that doesn't mean we'll hang around your room doing... activities the whole time. It would be... inappropriate."
"Once," Xellos reminded, "that only happened once and it was a long time ago."
"You're taking me out to dinner," Filia insisted, "I'll let you pick the place as long as it's a nice restaurant." They began to make their way towards the front entrance of Arcius estate on their way to find a restaurant at the nearby town that wasn't closed due to lack of ingredients to work with.
"Anywhere that has chocolate ice-cream pie is very nice." All that work in the fields really did build up an appetite.
"For goodness' sake, Xellos, eat something with vitamins now and then!" Filia scolded, frowning and placing her hands on her hips.
"That big barbecue steak I had back in Seyruun had plenty of nutrients," Xellos argued in his defense. "Besides, I burned a lot of calories practicing that stupid recovery spell today."
"Which you never fully mastered," Filia threw at him.
Xellos wanted to argue back, but thought it was not in his best interest to reveal that he did get the hang of casting recovery towards the end of the lesson. "Just out of curiosity, if I had won our bet, what spell would you have taught me?"
"A useful one," Filia repeated herself. "But since you lost, I guess you'll have to live with the doubts for the rest of your life."
Xellos frowned; he was a very curious being. He would have to remember to get the information out of Filia later. "You're such a cruel dragon."
xoxox xox xoxox
A short while later, Xellos and Filia had found a restaurant that was still working, sort of. Most of the items on the menu had been crossed out as unavailable. "What kind of a restaurant is this?" Xellos complained displeased. He was already dissatisfied with the fact that it was the only restaurant still in business that they could find.
"Our apologies, sir," a depressed waiter with a golden dragon shaped hat excused the establishment, or at least tried to. "Because of the famine, we have few ingredients to work with. It's so sad! This land used to subsist on the produce from the farms. Many businesses have closed since the famine started and our precious Golden Dragon Cafe might be next."
"You mean the golden dragons are not sending supplies?" Xellos feigned indignation. "How cruel! Isn't this town supposed to be under their protection? Those horrible dragons," he pretended to be saddened by the situation. "How could they abandon the innocent people that they swore to protect? Is this very cafe not supposed to symbolize the bond of peace and friendship between the golden dragons and us humans?"
"I'm sure the golden dragons are looking into the situation as we speak!" Filia felt the need to defend her birth race. She wasn't a golden dragon citizen anymore and her race had made mistakes in the past, but they weren't all that bad. They were a race with good and bad people, just like the human race.
The waiter was desperate for some consolation, thus he chose to filter out Xellos' words and focus on Filia's hope. "Do you really think so, miss? I certainly hope you're right! I'll continue to believe in the kindness of our faithful protectors the golden dragons, who have watched over this town for generations!"
Xellos would be all too pleased to burst the young waiter's bubble with some not so pleasant facts. "A few centuries ago this town-"
"Overcame harsh times," Filia immediately interrupted, not wanting to bring up the human slavery related dark past of the settlement. "And I'm sure that it will overcome this trial as well. Now for the order..." Filia wanted to send the waiter away with his task as quickly as possible, before Xellos worsened the poor boy's depression with a blunt historical lesson. "Goodness, aren't the prices a little steep?" Arcius had snatched away the bill when Filia was last there for a snack before she could even look at it. They had eaten his recommendation and she had not even had a chance to actually look at the menu until now.
"Supply and demand," the waiter simply explained.
"Don't you have any secret stash of ingredients for a more varied menu?" Xellos insisted, while handing the waiter a rather generous tip.
"As a matter of fact, we do, allow me to get you the alternate menus," the waiter quickly left to fetch the promised menus.
"What was that about?" Filia inquired in confusion.
"There's a famine," Xellos pointed out the obvious. "As soon as people noticed it, some must have decided to store food just in case. When the famine got worse, the smart one must have sold the food at a high price and left this land to start a new business at a more profitable place with a big budget to establish a new beginning. In other words, there has to be some food left in storage around here. Because of supply and demand that food must be expensive, thus the staff won't bother revealing its existence to people unless they see that the potential customers are able to afford it. As for those who can't afford it anyway, for security reasons, it's best if they don't know that the supplies exist."
"I see where you're going with your logic," Filia admitted, "you can be pretty smart every once in a while, but-"
"Every once in a while?" Xellos interrupted with a prideful tone.
"I suppose knowledge comes with age and you have been working as a spy for Beast Master for many, many, many, many, many-"
"There's no need to over do it," Xellos protested.
"Many, many, years," Filia finished. "But as I was saying, it's kind of mean to take advantage of a famine for business. If only all merchants were as kind as Arcius, the world would be a better place."
"And if all merchants had Arcius fashion sense, the world would be blind," Xellos added. Filia rolled her eyes, but withheld her comeback, as the waiter had returned with the menus. Her eyes grew to nearly three times their normal size when she examined the prices on this new list of dishes. She was about to point out what an abuse this was, but Xellos interrupted her with a flirty look, "order whatever you want, dear Filia."
She pouted and thought of a lot of things to say that criticized the Golden Dragon Cafe, which was actually managed by a wealthy human family and was all but forgotten by the golden dragons, and of course to criticize Xellos indifference towards this injustice. However, she made herself stop and instead devised a plan to take advantage of the situation. She pointed out what she wanted to eat, then added, "I would also like to order as many portions as you can make of all the other dishes available. Please have them delivered to the townspeople as a gift." Seeing the waiter's eyes increase in size even more than hers had, Filia added, "I'm sure my dear Xellos can easily afford it." Filia wasn't sure where Xellos got all his money from, but illegal or not, she was going to put it to good use doing a good deed by feeding the hungry.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Credits to Rinoaebastel from DeviantArt, for the ice-cream cone joke. I said I would include that joke in a later chapter back when 13 was the latest and I finally did it! This chapter was, I confess, kind of a set up for an interesting little side-quest Xellos and Filia will have to face, which will bring them closer or tear them apart... you'll have to wait and see.