Episode Sixty: Painful Grudges
Xellos and Filia made their way out of the town and towards a field of flowers that reminded Xellos of the garden in Celestina's villa. She was no doubt responsible for this, but why? "I have the key," Filia revealed a small key that could remove the magic suppressing collar Xellos had and he was all to glad to be rid of it. "This may sound crazy, but I think we're in the past. The buildings look like ancient structures, the dragons are dressed like in the past and I think I saw my grandmother."
"Then that man who said the War of the Monsters' Fall happened over a hundred years ago wasn't crazy after all," Xellos concluded. He had noticed the style of the environment being similar to the past as well, even if it was hard to believe.
"How could this have happened? I only remember seeing that light that came from that dragon and we were here," Filia recalled. "Who was that white haired dragon?"
"A descendant of one of the few survivors of the war within the barrier, which must still exist in this time. She was supposedly killed by Fibrizo, but reappeared after his death. Her father was quick to climb the ranks after Fibrizo's defeat and holds an important position with the golden dragons now, or I should say in our time." Xellos explained, "that's the official version at least." He knew it was best to tell Filia the whole truth, or at least as much of it as he knew. "She was supposed to be the person Lina, Gourry and I set out to capture to get your golden dragon citizenship back, but the real Celestina really was killed. That woman is someone else, so we retreated."
"She's someone powerful, I assume," Filia's face turned serious as she thought about the situation. "Who's powerful enough to time travel? That's supposed to be impossible even for the strongest dragons and monster lords."
"Yes, I believe the only being in existence who is that powerful is the Lord of Nightmares and that is who she is," Xellos revealed. As expected, Filia only stared at him in disbelief. "I know it's hard to swallow, but that's the truth. You've heard stories about Lina's adventures before, during those campfire nights when she's not in the mood to sleep. After we left Celestina's villa, Lina mentioned her first meeting with the Lord of Nightmares, which happened during the battle against Fibrizo, as if she could remember it, but she had claimed to hold no memories of it before. I didn't inquire too much about it, I didn't need to. I somehow caught a glance of the Lord of Nightmares, or I was allowed to see her for a split second. A bright golden light shining upon an endless sea of chaos. A golden light, that's her true form, or perhaps her form is something beyond our comprehension and we simply see her that way. She's been partially awake since Lina's fight with Fibrizo, but she doesn't seem to be planning to return the world into chaos just yet. Of course, she could have changed her mind and in the end, even if she doesn't destroy the world, she can do as she pleases with it."
Slowly allowing the truth to sink in, Filia managed to find her voice, "why would she send us here?"
"I don't know," Xellos admitted, "maybe for amusement. This is the Lord of Nightmares we're talking about. A being of infinite power who just woke up from a very long nap might be in the mood for some amusement."
"But we're not her toys!" Filia argued.
"To her, we might be," as much as Xellos hated to admit it, he knew it to be true. "There's really not much we can do except to play along and make the best of it."
Filia let out an anxious breath. "First things first, let me heal you." She began the process to heal Xellos with her magic, spending some time on the task.
"Don't look, but there's someone coming this way," Xellos quietly whispered, just as Filia was finishing up with her healing.
"Who is it?" Filia pretended not to notice.
"A dragon lady that was at the station earlier. She took away Sakel, that big stupid guy that got us mixed up in this," Xellos explained.
Filia's eyes widened. "I saw her," she whispered urgently and discreetly glanced at the approaching dragon woman, who was walking nearer to them in elf form. "Don't say anything, but that's my grandmother."
Xellos managed to contain his surprise and remained silent as Faili approached them, examining him with critical eyes. "Excuse me, travelers; do you have a place to rest? It might be best to wait until morning before you are on your way. I hope it is not to forward of me, but you are welcomed to stay at my place."
Filia thought it was a bad idea to get involved, but she couldn't resist, this was her dear grandmother whom she missed. "If it's not too much trouble, but we really must be on our way early."
"I understand, please come this way," Faili invited. "Perhaps you already know," because everyone who visited that town seemed to have heard of her and the rumors that she was freeing humans, albeit there was nothing illegal about it, it was her money to spend as she wanted. "I am Faili Ul Copt, may I inquired your names?"
"F-" Filia froze, she couldn't tell her grandmother her name, that might make a mess of things.
"What's wrong? Have you forgotten your name, Fluffy?" Xellos smirked.
Filia felt her eye twitch, but she needed an F name to go with so that it matched the sound she started to produce. Then again, perhaps the fact that she didn't want to reveal her identity had become too obvious already. "Fluffy? That's a cute nickname. If you prefer not to say your names, that is alright with me. What should I call you then?" Faili asked Xellos.
"Ice-cream," Filia replied for him. It was the first thing that popped into her mind.
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Faili led Xellos and Filia to an estate that served as the foundation for Arcius' estate centuries later. The structure had been enforced and practically rebuilt time and again over the years. The interior decorating was in much better taste than anything Arcius would choose, giving the building a calming atmosphere. Faili showed her guests to their rooms. "Please make yourselves at home, friends."
"Thank you," Filia nervously replied, she was happy to see her grandmother, but afraid of having an emotional outburst that would mess up history somehow. Xellos played his part by remaining silent, though he wasn't happy about it.
"If it is alright, Miss Fluffy," Faili couldn't help it but to giggle at the nickname, though she tried to contain her reaction. "I would like to have a word with you."
"Of course," Filia agreed, though it was clear she was still jumpy. Maybe she shouldn't have come. "You should go ahead and get some rest, Ice-cream."
"Don't stay up too late yourself, we have an early start tomorrow, Fluffy," Xellos replied, before going into his assigned room.
Filia twitched at the name but disregarded it quickly enough and followed Faili.
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Faili and Filia sat at a tea room where Faili insisted on making some tea. "This tea is good for relaxing, you seem rather troubled."
Filia wasn't sure how to reply to that. She kept switching between staring at Faili and trying to hide her face behind her hair. "I'm not exactly comfortable with what's happening in town."
"I understand and I'm glad you would say that. I wasn't sure about you, given the state of your human companion, so I set out to find you. Please pardon my intrusion; I knew my doubts were baseless after I saw you healing him. He really seems to trust you." Faili spoke with a kind tone as she served the tea. "The law will be passed soon to end the activities in town, I'm sure of it. Yet I wish something would happen that could show the golden dragons who have doubts or who quietly accept the happenings of this town that dragons and humans should live in peace as equals."
"Something will happen!" Filia encouraged before she could stop herself. "A dragon and a human will prove that the two races can live in peace and the dragons will acknowledge humans. Maybe if you work as a team with Mr. Sakel..." Filia stopped, she was saying too much.
Faili laughed, "that fool doesn't know what's good for him. I've freed him countless times and he keeps coming back saying that he wants to prove that a human can also be the one to free the ones held captive here. He's far too stubborn and doesn't know how to accept help. It will take quite a cunning and convincing dragon to make things change around here."
Filia's face fell. Though Faili did have mercy for humans she didn't really acknowledge them as strong. She sheltered them and pitied them without realizing it. It was all done with good intentions, but Filia still thought it didn't quite fit in with the ideals of equality she claimed to defend. "I think..." How could Filia properly phrase this? "I think that in order to achieve equality, humans will have to stand up for themselves. It will take more than just an eloquent dragon, it will take teamwork. It will make forgiveness easier if the humans see that a member of their own kind is trusted and acknowledged."
"Forgiveness is never easy," Faili bitterly voiced with a grave expression. "These people have lost loved ones. Only after losing someone myself did I understand that kind of pain."
Realization hit Filia harshly, "your husband..." She knew about this, she had heard about the fact when she inquired about her grandfather as a child.
"Yes," Faili sighed sadly. "My beloved husband fell in battle fighting against that fiend, the monster known as Xellos, shortly before the barrier was completed. It's been over a hundred years, but it is a pain that my son and I will forever remember."
Filia felt her eyes water. Xellos was Beast Master's loyal minion, he killed countless golden dragons in the past, he caused a lot of pain and suffering. He was an enemy to her race. She might not be an official citizen of the golden dragon race anymore, but she was still a golden dragon, she still carried the same blood as her family. "I'm sorry," looking at Faili's hurt expression, seeing the pain in her eyes, it made Filia feel like a traitor.
"Don't cry, dear, we all regret the terrible losses that out comrades suffered and that horrible barrier is still there. Who knows if it will ever be lifted? I can only pray that I will live to see that day." Faili's face went from sad to defiant. "If I could, I would tare that barrier down myself and hunt down that monster. I would avenge my people."
"If you had the chance..." Filia's voice was barely audible. "If you were given the opportunity, you would kill Xellos?"
"Painfully so!" Faili assured with a temper similar to an angry Filia, though with a little more control. "Ah, my apologies for the outburst. Realistically, there's no way a single dragon can slay the horrible monster who destroyed so many of our kind."
Filia was trembling, unable to contain her tears from flowing abundantly from her pain filled eyes. "Revenge never accomplishes anything. It only brings more pain. If I had that chance, I would... I would..."
"Spare him?" Faili huffed. "I was innocent like you once. I thought that all creatures had good in them, even monsters. I know it's a shock for a golden dragon to say such a thing, it's even blasphemous, but I believed. He proved me wrong, Xellos changed my mind about monsters and made me see them for the horrible creatures that they truly are. What sets us dragons, humans, elves and even beastmen apart from monsters is that we have feelings. We feel love and pain, but monsters feed on hate and hold no feelings of their own. They cannot learn from their atrocious actions, they know no guilt, no regret. The only thing left to do to preserve ourselves is to destroy them."
"So it would be different if they had feelings?" Filia insisted in a barely audible voice.
With the bitterness of broken hope, Faili voiced a soft, "if only that were possible." She let out a breath that seemed to carry all her tensions as she tried to get her turmoil of emotion under control. "Back to the subject at hand, I think I see your point. If the humans see that we dragons can understand their pain and stand side by side with them, then maybe they'll forgive." Filia nodded her head, though she kept her eyes low. She tried to dry her tears as best she could, an effort that did not go unnoticed by Faili. "I apologize for upsetting you. I'm sure you must have lost someone in the war too, there doesn't seem to be a golden dragon in existence who has not. Please, get some rest. I'm sure you'll feel better after a good night's sleep."
"Yes," feeling quite shaken, Filia returned to her assigned guest room. Filia knew that she had picked after her grandmother in many ways. Their resemblance had been pointed out by family members in the past, but it wasn't until now that Filia saw how similar they were in more than just looks.
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Although she was tired, Filia couldn't get to sleep. After her family passed away in the Darkstar incident and her citizenship as a golden dragon was annulled, she eventually moved on and it no longer mattered to her that she was a golden dragon. She was no longer a part of the group and she would carry on minding her own business, leaving the official golden dragons to mind theirs. However, she was still a golden dragon of birth. Her family was gone in her time, but their existence was still important to Filia and she felt that she wasn't honoring them. What would they think if they saw her now? What would they say if they knew how close she was to Xellos? She could disregard the opinion of the dragon race in general, but not that of her closest relatives whom she grew up with.
The movement of the sheets in the dim room, got Filia out of her thoughts. The light of the full moon that seeped in through the glass windows revealed the identity of the familiar shadow getting comfortable next to Filia. "Go away Xellos, I'm not in the mood to... keep you company."
"You're certainly in the mood to give me insomnia," Xellos retorted without much of an edge. He caught the hint of a puzzled look appearing in Filia's obscured features. "The walls aren't thick enough here, I can sense how upset you are from the next room. What's your problem this time? You weren't this scared when we first realized we're in the past."
"It's odd, you're such an annoying trickster that it's easy to forget that you've been around for such a long time. Zelgadis has a lot more maturity than you, even if he's a whole lot younger," Filia began ambiguously. "You're sarcastic, you make mocking jokes and you... you get chocolate all over your face when you eat chocolate ice-cream pie. You can make yourself appear to be as harmless as a child if you want, but you really do have the cunning of all your years, even if some experiences might still be new to you as things stand now."
Xellos really didn't know where Filia was going with all of this. She wasn't exactly criticizing him as much as stating facts, though he could argue that he only got chocolate on his face when he had to rush to eat his pie because it was in danger of being stolen by Lina and that he was a perfectly neat eater when no one was trying to steal his precious pie. It felt all too natural to reply with a sarcastic comment. "Yes, I get it, I'm charming, you adore me, thanks for the reminder." Filia burst into all out crying, which was certainly not the reaction Xellos was expecting her to have to such a light remark. "What's wrong with you, stupid dragon? I sense that you're angry at yourself, but I don't understand why."
"Idiot! Filia got out of bed, pacing around angrily. "You're the one that killed grandpa, that's why I never got the chance to meet him. As for my other grandparents on my mother's side, they got caught inside the barrier, separated from their daughter and you probably killed them too."
Xellos followed Filia and held her by the shoulders to stop her frantic pacing around the room. "Are you realizing this just now? You've known about my past all along and you never made the connection? I don't have my full power now. You could rip my head off before I'm half way done casting a Dragon Slave. You can kill me and be a hero to the golden dragons; they'll welcome you back with open arms. If you want revenge that badly, why don't you take it? What are you waiting for, an apology? I'm sorry for killing a bunch of dragons long before I even met you and I'm especially sorry if any of them were your acquaintances. Oh wait, that's right, you didn't exist back then, well it's too bad you never got to meet any of my war victims." The slap that Filia gave him made it clear for Xellos that sarcasm was a very bad idea.
"You monster!" Filia growled. Monsters were cruel because they felt no pain; there was no guilt to hold them back. "Even if you were following Zelas' orders, you had no problems with what you were doing. Of course you didn't, you were created as her slave, that's who you are! More so that's what you are, not a real person, just a tool, a thing to be used for the convenience of someone stronger. You're nothing but a weapon and not even your master has any regard for you, she'll kill you soon because you're not beneficial to have around anymore. You're a useless broken weapon that was tossed away, a real piece of garbage!"
Xellos was shaking with anger, fists and teeth clenched, glare enraged. He wanted to say something that would make Filia shut up, something that would take away that fierce cold look from her eyes, but the only thing he could come up with was an unsure sounding, "I am... my own person... Stupid dragon, you wouldn't understand!" He was done arguing. He didn't want to look at her any more, so he left, he ran out of the room and out of the estate as fast as he could.
Filia stood frozen. Monsters don't have emotions, monsters don't feel pain. Monsters don't laugh, or get annoyed, or have a sense of humor, it's all just acting. Monsters feel no sorrow, monsters can't be hurt. But even long before he was turned into a human, Xellos could make stupid jokes, get annoyed and even be surprised. Humans were not all the same, dragons were not all the same, monsters were not all the same. Filia got her vengeance, she fought back. She knew she managed to hurt Xellos; she got back at him for all the pain she blamed on him. Yet it only made her feel worse, so much worse.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. As promised, here's some drama.
There's a reference to Hey Arnold! In that ice-cream is Helga's codeword for Arnold and it also fits with the ice-cream cone dream.