Slayers Alive (To Live Another Day)
Episode Fifty-Eight: The Value Of A Coin
Xellos and Filia had a nice meal at the Golden Dragon Cafe. Even if Filia had taken advantage of Xellos invitation by purchasing a large amount of food to feed the townspeople, things were progressing relatively well; the key word being 'were'. Just as they were starting on Xellos' favorite part of any meal: dessert, the young waiter who had been serving their food the whole evening approached nervously. "Excuse me, Mr. Metallium; it seems there's a... situation."
"What situation?" Xellos asked calmly. He couldn't imagine anything happening that could really affect him. Plus the waiter looked like he was easy to upset, he was probably overreacting.
"Well... you see... The local inn and the Golden Dragon Cafe belong to the same person, thus their respective managers are familiar with each other. A letter arrived recently, but the inn keeper had been unable to locate you for information, though he did mention it to the manager of this cafe. I was told about it, but I kind of forgot... You see, Mr. Metallium..." The waiter shifted nervously some more, staring at his feet. "It seems your account's funds are... insufficient."
Xellos raised an eyebrow in disbelief while Filia began to worry. "Insufficient?" Xellos questioned. "I'm sure there must be a mistake. Do you even understand how this works?"
"Yes, sir, I do," the waiter assured. "The establishments you visit accept your signature as a form of payment and bill the central bank where your account is. They later take care of sending someone to deliver the payment." It was something similar to how royals did it, passing the bill to their kingdom's treasury instead of carrying a huge load of money in their travels. The practice was later adopted by rich families even if they were not of royal blood. "However, instead of the payment arriving, a courier came with a letter claiming that your account was... empty." Given the considerable expenses Xellos had underwent, generous tip aside, there was no way he had enough money concealed in his person to pay for everything.
"There's no need to worry," Xellos still kept his cool, certain that there had to be a mistake and it shouldn't be too hard to fix. "I'm sure it was all a mistake, in fact, a letter correcting this misunderstanding will probably arrive before we're done with dessert."
"If you say so..." The waiter didn't look like he believed it, but didn't want to continue insisting. "I will leave you to enjoy your dessert then." After excusing himself, the waiter left.
"I knew that fake account of yours had to blow up in your face eventually," Filia scolded after the waiter was gone. She was frowning in that disapproving way of hers in which her eyes screamed, 'I told you so' even if she had not exactly done so.
"My account is not fake," Xellos defended. "Lord Beast Master runs a lot of businesses and has more followers than anyone would admit. A lot of merchants make their fortune with the help of monsters. Human businesses like that and businesses that are directly operated by monsters for various purposes such as research, as is the case with Celo, all pay income taxes to Beast Master. The merchants think that Zelas Metallium is a business woman who worships Lord Beast Master and thus has adopted such a name. They see her as a rich lady to be cautious about, but they believe she's human, or mostly so. The rumors still go around that she made a pact with Lord Beast Master, but making pacts with monsters is more common among merchants than most would ever admit. They're too stupid to realize she is Beast Master, or maybe they know, but they're too afraid of the consequences of openly admitting it. Zelas has funds automatically transferred to my account at the start of each month, so that I'll have a good budget to work with while spying."
"But you're not working right now," Filia reminded. "You haven't been doing a whole lot of work since the entire curse thing started and Zelas wasn't exactly pleased with you when we last saw her. What if she stopped paying you?"
"Even if my budget was suspended, I would still have enough money to last a while in my savings," Xellos insisted. "I'll take care of this; I'll just send a letter to Zelas' accountant. If I summon a monster courier bird, the letter will be delivered through the astral side in no time."
"I have a bad feeling about this," Filia warned.
Xellos ignored her, instead signaling the waiter to approach the table. He requested pen and paper to be brought over, which the waiter swiftly fetched, once again leaving Xellos and Filia to have some privacy at their table. Xellos quickly wrote a letter, short and to the point, addressed to the monster that took care of organizing Zelas' financial undertakings. Such ventures were lucrative in both money and all kinds of gourmet negative emotions to feast on. "Swiftly deliver the letters, by the trail of astral feathers!" The monster courier bird, Jarde, answered to the summoning and started pecking at Xellos' pie. "I didn't call you here to eat!" Xellos pulled the bird away from the pie. "Deliver this letter to Erosnum right away."
Jarde chirped in response and pecked at the pie some more as soon as Xellos let him go. He dodged when Xellos tried to grab him away and flew straight towards the ceiling, disappearing into the astral side before he crashed into it. Seconds evolved into minutes, until Jarde finally returned with a reply letter.
Xellos took the letter and started reading it while Jarde took the opportunity to continue pecking at Xellos' pie. Erosnum's letter was simple and to the point, being more so a note than a letter. It was written in plain white paper with black ink. "General Xellos Metallium: Due to your recent expenses at Amor Resort and other establishments, your account has suffered a considerable deficit. The maximum grace period to amend the red numbers has already expired. Enclosed is Lord Beast Master's judgment in the matter. Detailed account statements and transaction logs may be requested if needed. -Erosnum, Lead Accountant." There was another white paper behind that one, adorned with golden lining that framed the short message written in red ink. "You spend too much. I'm cutting your allowance. -Zelas" Xellos stared at the paper as he read over it again and again. What about his spying budget? Was Amor Resort really that expensive? Lina and the others had been billing things to his name, but Xellos didn't think they would burn through his savings this quickly.
"You're in trouble," Filia pointed out. She had just finished eating her dessert and Jarde had finished Xellos'. It didn't look like there would be another letter to be delivered, so the bird faded away into the astral side once more.
"You mean to say we're in trouble," Xellos corrected. "Your food hasn't been paid for and it was your idea to buy food for the townspeople."
"You're taking me out to dinner, it's your treat," Filia argued.
"You inconsiderate dragon," Xellos made an exaggerated dramatic expression. "Does this mean that you were after my money all along? Here I thought it was my amazing good looks that had you head over heels."
Filia rolled her eyes at the drama, determined not to let Xellos' mockery annoy her too much. "Be serious, we need to come up with a plan to get out of this! I don't have nearly enough money on me to cover all the expenses and I don't think you do either. Even if we pool our resources we'll still fall short."
"By a lot," Xellos confirmed. "This means that our only choice is to eat and run."
"We can't do that!" Filia argued firmly. She wanted to hold on to at least a shred of decency and basic principals.
"It's not like you haven't done that before," Xellos reminded. "When in Lina's company, situations such as this one happen often."
"That's no excuse!" Filia argued. She realized she was raising her voice too much and tried to keep it down, so as to not attract the unwanted attention of the nervous waiter while they were still plotting an escape. "Alright, let's go, it looks like we have no choice but to sneak out. But just so you know, I'm displeased with our date. We could have just raided Arcius kitchen, made a picnic basket and dined under the stars in a flower covered little hill."
"Why didn't you suggest that from the start? I'm not a mind reader," Xellos argued.
"I don't expect you to be, the truth is that I just thought of it," Filia admitted. "Maybe next time."
"Except for the part about flowers since this whole land is barren and dead." There was a lot of cheer put into the words 'barren and dead', but that was nothing unusual for Xellos.
The pair was about to sneak away towards the nearest exit, when three tall muscular men surrounded them. They were wearing martial arts uniforms that looked like the sleeves had been torn off. Their uniforms were red, blue and green respectively and they were all wearing black belts. They looked identical to each other with dark brown eyes and messy short black hair, as if they were triplets. "You're not going anywhere," the man in red warned.
"Yeah, the boss said you might try to escape without paying!" The man wearing blue added.
"These rich guys think they can get away with anything," the man in green criticized. "That is until their fortune runs out and they're left with nothing."
"Don't worry, honey, we're not blaming you for this, it's just your boyfriend that's in trouble," the man in red tried to assure Filia.
"Or maybe we should say he's your ex-boyfriend. Make the smart choice next time, sweetheart, strength over money," the man in the blue uniform laughed.
"That's right, cutie!" The man wearing green flexed his muscles, "this is a fortune that won't run out."
Xellos glared, not only were these men challenging him, but they were also flirting with Filia. He had a few things that he wanted to say to them that went as follows: "darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond-"
"Stop!" Filia interrupted Xellos' chant. "I don't want you to use magic on them. These... guards," or whatever they were, "are only doing their job."
"What do you want me to do then? Go wash dishes in the kitchen?" Xellos sarcastically inquired.
xoxox xox xoxox
Ten minutes later, Xellos and Filia were washing dishes in the kitchen, with Xellos grumbling under his breath every ten seconds or so. "This isn't so bad," Filia tried to encourage him.
"Oh no, it's wonderful," Xellos replied with heavy sarcasm. "A night of washing dishes in a stuffy old kitchen is my idea of a perfect date."
Filia rolled her eyes at Xellos' little hissy fit and gave him a quick kiss, which caught him off guard. "Thanks for doing what I asked and not using magic on those guys. I'm happy you kept your end of the bet."
Filia was pleased, genuinely pleased, as Xellos could sense it via empathy, she wasn't only trying to cheer the mood. It made no sense to him. "The strangest things make you happy," he shook his head in confusion. "If I couldn't sense it, I would seriously doubt that you're okay with how this so called date turned out."
"You listened to me, that counts for a lot," Filia explained. "In fact, I think I'll reward you."
"You will?" Xellos grinned; maybe the night could still be saved after all.
"Yes, I'm going to teach you that useful spell I promised, even if you lost the bet," Filia cheerfully offered.
Xellos frowned, "that's the best reward you can come up with?"
"Just wait until you see this spell, it's super useful," Filia insisted. "Plus it can help us get out of here sooner and it will help prevent situations like this from happening in the future."
That did sound useful, though Xellos couldn't imagine what the spell could be about, if Filia was clearly against blowing up the guards and making an escape. "By all means, I'm listening."
"It's a cleaning spell!" Filia cheerfully revealed. "We can use it to do the dishes. Then you can learn to do your own laundry instead of spending unnecessary money on the inns' laundry service whenever we reach a new town. You don't have money to burn anymore, so you need to learn to manage a tight budget and take care of your chores instead of hiring a service."
Xellos' disappointment resurfaced in his expression. "I don't want to learn a cleaning spell," he complained.
"Don't you want to get out of here? I don't want to cause any more trouble and getting the dishes done will be faster if we both help with the spell," Filia argued. "It's actually a combination of different spells," she began to explain.
Xellos considered covering his ears and singing some silly random 'I'm not listening' song, but he knew that wouldn't get him anywhere. Plus that cleaning spell could really be useful for his survival until he managed to get his power, and his salary, back. Though it wasn't an actual salary as much as a resource to use in Zelas favor, that Xellos sometimes used for himself. He wasn't expecting to get any direct rewards for doing his duty of serving Lord Beast Master, as it was what she created him for after all.
xoxox xox xoxox
A few minutes later, Xellos and Filia had divided the different parts of the cleaning spell among themselves, making for a faster process. Filia kept the soapy water spinning in mid air and Xellos used magic to levitate the dishes through the miniature cyclone. At the speed they were going, it looked like they would be done with the dishes pretty quickly. Unfortunately, they were interrupted by the three muscular guards from before, suddenly entering the kitchen and tackling Xellos without a warning.
"I have him!" The man in the blue uniform exclaimed.
"I have him too!" The man wearing green added.
"I'll do it!" The man in red announced.
"Let him go!" Filia yelled angrily. She had been keeping an eye on Xellos the whole time. He was helping with the dishes, he wasn't causing any trouble. This wasn't fair!
"I got it!" The man in red announced triumphantly and the other two released Xellos.
Xellos saw that the man in the red uniform was holding a pair of scissors on one hand. He looked at what he held up in his other hand and found it to be a lock of hair, shiny black hair, his hair. "You cut my hair," Xellos growled with growing rage.
"Yes, and with this as proof that you're our hostage, your mom's going to have to pay a big ransom to get you back!" The man wearing red announced with an evil laugh that was echoed by his two identical brothers.
"I don't think Zelas is going to- eek!" Filia didn't even have time to finish stating her opinion when Xellos lifted her skirt and retrieved the mace she kept strapped to her leg. He then went on the attack like a berserk creature pounding the three men with the mace. Filia had told him not to use magic and Xellos was determined to make the best of this opportunity before she requested that he refrain from physical attacks as well. As the fight broke lose, the Golden Dragon Cafe's staff ran for cover so as to not be caught by a stray hit.
Xellos swung Filia's heavy mace at the man in red, being dragged along with the momentum which caused him to spin, miss the target and instead hit the green clad opponent, who was rushing in for a surprise attack from behind. The man in green stumbled back and stepped on the blue uniformed man's foot, who pushed him angrily. Xellos ducked, causing the man in green to trip over him into the one in red. Again Xellos lifted the mace with every ounce of non-magical strength he could muster and swung it at the man in blue, who caught it with a confident smirk. Xellos pulled the mace back, but his opponent didn't let it go, pulling it towards himself. Finding an opportunity in this, Xellos pushed the mace forward, aided by the blue clad enemy's stubborn resolve to take the weapon. The mace collided harshly with the blue guard's abdomen, leaving him out of breath.
By then, the men wearing red and green had recovered from their stumble and attacked Xellos from the left and right. Xellos ducked out of the way and retreated backwards; leaving the red and green uniformed guards to crash into each other and stumble in a dizzy daze in different directions. The man in blue managed to catch his breath, though he was wounded. He launched forward while at the same time the recovering man in red tried to grab Xellos from behind. Xellos tried to ready the mace to defend himself once more, but as he managed to lift it over his shoulders for a good strike, the weight was too much and the weapon ended up pulling him back. As a result, Xellos fell backwards with the man in blue jumping over him. Simultaneously, the mace crashed landed on the foot of the red clad fighter, who hollered in pain and instinctively bent over lightly, enough for his head to be in the unfortunate path of his blue dressed brother's attack.
Xellos rolled away just in time to avoid being crushed by the combined weight of the red and blue warriors. The fighter in green dashed after him, with Xellos running in circles around the beat up red and blue warriors who were trying to get up from their pitiful pile on the floor. Unexpectedly, Xellos stopped running and swung the mace low like a golf club, hitting the green fighter's leg as he dashed to catch Xellos. The green uniformed guard crashed into his red and blue dressed brothers, just as the two had managed to get back on their feet and back in a pile on the floor the triplet warriors went. Again they hurried to their new limping feet and charged towards Xellos. He was not as physically strong as the trio in human form, but had a clear advantage in speed. Xellos jumped out of the way as the trio of warriors crashed into the wall behind him, demolishing the division between the kitchen and storage room.
The sacks of flour, salt, sugar and dust-like spices that were piled against that very wall in the storage room, were torn apart making a thick cloud invade the atmosphere around Xellos. Shocked by the fierce battle, Filia could only react by blowing the cloud away, or at least trying to. She wanted to finally find an opportunity to jump in, though it didn't look like Xellos needed any rescuing from the three big guys. However, since the windows were closed, the cloud had no where to go and though it was kept away from Filia, it focused in the area opposite to her, where Xellos was still fighting the three men. It was like a scene from a comic book with a thick cloud of dust, or in this case dust-like ingredients, covering a big fight scene. Filia had enough of it.
Upset at the whole situation, the golden dragon concluded that those trapped in the thick cloud couldn't see her any more than she could see them. Thus she used the moment of privacy to transform into a dragon, tearing apart the building's roof as she did. Filia blew away the cloud that covered the action to reveal her true form to all those who had been hidden inside it. The three men stared in disbelief, not knowing where the dragon had come from so suddenly. With an angry growl, Filia picked up Xellos and stomped away, while the three beat up men screamed in a panic, scared out of their minds at seeing a ferocious dragon so close. Sure, the golden dragons were supposed to be the town's protectors, but that one looked very angry.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Jarde is from Valkyria Chronicles II. Erosnum is an anagram for numeros, which means numbers. I had fun writing that fight scene. XD The unexpected adventure Xellos and Filia will face is coming in the next chapter. The title change is due to me wanting to give this a more Slayers-ish title, but it's still the same story.