Episode Sixty-Four: Garden of Evil
Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos, followed James down the dark stone stairs into a deep basement below Arcius' estate. The bottom was pitch black, but not for long. The large underground dome was lit up by many fluorescent flowers growing out of the walls of the cave. The cave floor was covered in an endless rainbow of flowers of many colors and styles, "it's beautiful!" Amelia exclaimed.
"Indeed!" Several feet away from the group there was a large tree that somehow flourished underground. Both the top and the bottom had roots with branches filled with green leaves sticking out of the middle of the trunk. The tree's roots reached the cavern's walls, heading in every direction through the soil underground. "These flowers are almost as beautiful as me, the great Narcissus! You thought you could take me by surprise, did you? Here you are, pretending you have no idea who I am when in reality you know it all!"
Lina and company looked at each other in confusion, with Gourry inquiring, "we do?"
"Yes, you do!" Arcius, who was now calling himself Narcissus, laughed in a very villainous fashion. "You know all about me being a servant of the Green Alchemist, you know that I'm the one who drained the nutrients of this land to increase the power of the amazing Green Alchemist. You know that I was plotting to kill Xellos. That is why Filia became enraged last night and destroyed the Golden Dragon Cafe. As a golden dragon, she could no longer bear the lies that I subjected this town to, even though my family is supposed to be tasked with keeping the peace and symbolizing the bond of friendship between dragons and humans. You almost had me fooled, but Filia's loss of control made me realized your ignorance was just an act. So here I am, willing to strike before you have more time to plot. It is obvious you were planning to attack me, so let us not waste anymore time and prepare to fight!"
Filia stared at Narcissus in disbelief, "you were the bad guy all along, you tricked us!"
"As if you didn't know!" Narcissus retorted.
"Of course we knew, we knew all along," Xellos' sarcastic tone was clear to Lina's group, but it flew right over Narcissus head. who assumed it was all part of his smug mockery.
Lina put down the hair she was still carrying and stretched her arms over her head casually. "The villain has revealed himself and uncovered the case of the famine, so we might as well take action." She stepped forward, taking on a challenging stance and pointing at Narcissus. "You horrible fiend, how dare you threaten the very sustenance of the world? Disabling the means for people to produce food is a terrible crime! Your acts of injustice will be punished!"
Amelia was all too happy to jump in and join Lina. Usually, she was the one giving the justice speeches, but with food as a casualty, this was too personal to Lina. "Prepare yourself, evil doer, we will deliver swift justice for your despicable deeds!"
Lina and Amelia posed together pointing at Narcissus as they shouted heroically in unison, "in the name of all that is delicious, we'll punish you!"
"If you're quite done, I'd like to get this done and over with," Narcissus impatiently complained. "Jaws, attack!"
"Right away, sir," the seemingly harmless butler morphed into his true form. His skin turned green as his limbs changed into vines. The vines covered in thorns tore apart the uniform he was wearing to reveal that he was a big piranha plant without any human aspects left in him. His body was in the shape of an X where his arms and legs used to be. Another vine protruded from the torso, holding up a large red head with white spots. The round head opened up to reveal a multitude of sharp teeth in its large mouth. In the middle of the torso vine, there was a glowing seed, covered by a large leaf that protected its front like a shield. Around the neck area of the vine, there was a sort of amulet with a small glowing gem that previous served to hide the true identity of the creature, making his energy feel as that of a normal human.
"You will fall in battle to my mighty beast!" Narcissus laughed evilly, while posing, extending his cape left and right with his hands. The new outfit was overall ridiculous, he was better off wearing the classic black cloaks that most villains preferred to use. But no, this one just had to be original and wear a lime green shirt, a pink cape, impossibly tight glittery red pants and cyan high heel boots. He definitely had to be color blind, it was the only explanation.
"Roar!" James, who was now being referred to as Jaws, let out a war cry as he dashed towards his opponents. The grouped jumped away, running in opposite directions to surround the monster. Lina tried to save the braids of hair and got tangled up in them, bumping into Amelia, who got caught as well. The two tried to get untangled and ended up in a worse mess with Jaws quickly approaching. Zelgadis and Gourry rushed in, left an right, synchronizing their sword swings perfectly to cut off the head of the monster plant like a giant pair of scissors.
"Dragging that hair around is too dangerous," Zelgadis scolded as he cut the girls free from the ropes of hair.
"You ruined it!" Lina cried out in horror, that was perfectly good money that Zelgadis just destroyed.
"It could have been your head that was ruined if that thing bit it off," Zelgadis argued in his defense.
"He's right, Miss Lina," Amelia agreed.
"Fine, forget the hair!" Lina jumped to her feet, enraged. "This whole thing is Arcius', or Narcissus' fault, or whatever that freak calls himself. I'm going to make him pay!"
Filia and Xellos had already gone on the attack against Narcissus, throwing lasers and fire at him, which he swiftly avoided. For a freak, he was sure fast. "You'll never hit me. My speed knows no equal!"
"Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..." Lina began her chant.
Hearing it, Xellos decided it was the right idea, "I guess that means we'll have to blow up this whole place." Though he didn't have his monster powers and he had to relearn magic as a human until he could properly channel his human energy, Xellos had gone through all that and he was ready for some massive destruction, exhaustion aside. There would be time to rest later. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..."
The two halves of Jaws that had been cut by Gourry and Zelgadis each came to life, sprouting a new head and body respectively, though only the original body had the glowing seed with the leaf shield on it. "They're back for another round," Gourry readied his sword.
"Buried in the stream of time is where your power flows..." Lina and Xellos matched the progress of their spells for one massive double hit.
"Amelia, go help Filia keep Narcissus busy, Gourry and I will take care of these weeds." Zelgadis joined the fight, casting an Astral Vine spell on his sword and Gourry's.
"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand..." Xellos and Lina continued, in perfect sync.
"Right!" Amelia levitated over to Filia's side, once again adding fire to her laser attacks to keep Narcissus busy dodging, preventing him from attacking.
"Before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands." Lina and Xellos were temporarily out of combat for the purpose of powering up their spells, thus leaving the battle and their safety in the hands of the others.
Gourry and Zelgadis slashed away at their respective opponents. The two Jaws attacked by stretching their thorny vine limbs into whips. Gourry and Zelgadis backed away; exchanging quick glances as they tried to speed up their sword slashes enough to cut the speedy vine whips. They were back to back just as the pair of ferocious monster piranha plants threw their whips forward harshly, thinking that the two warriors were cornered. "Levitation!" Zelgadis speedily floated up, taking Gourry along with him.
"Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed..." The Dragon Slaves were almost ready to release their power.
The whips of the two monster plants hit each other, becoming tangled together. Zelgadis and Gourry didn't waste time in attacking, but unexpectedly, the main Jaws, which had the seed on its torso, broke off the limbs of the other plant and threw the screeching creature at Lina. "Lina!" Gourry knew he wouldn't get to her fast enough, so he threw his sword with great force, sending it to collide with the plant's head in mid air. The momentum of the throw pushed the monster off its intended course and pinned its head to the ground a few feet away from Lina. Gourry rushed over and pulled his sword out, finishing the job of hacking and slashing at the monster plant until it was in tiny pieces.
"By the power you and I possess..." Lina and Xellos continued.
Zelgadis was making progress as well, slashing away pieces off the main Jaws. However, the cut off limps soon morphed into new monsters, sprouting the missing parts to outnumber Zelgadis. "I see through you, it's that seed that needs to be destroyed, Ra Tilt!" Unfortunately, the force of Zelgadis' spell, despite being astral, was thrown back at him as the leaf that covered the seed glowed. Assaulted by his own power, Zelgadis was thrown to the ground in pain.
"Zel!" Amelia cried out with concern.
Xellos exchanged glanced across the battle field with Lina, then nodded at Filia. "Let's go Amelia, we have to get Zelgadis and take cover!" Filia and Amelia rushed to get out of the way, get Zelgadis away from the numerous monsters that Gourry was trying to keep busy and find shelter. They were soon joined by a retreating Gourry, because even he knew better than to stand around when Lina was about to unleash the Dragon Slave.
"Dragon Slave!" The ground shook harshly as Xellos and Lina released the combined power of their spells. The entire cavern was invaded by bright light.
When the light finally cleared they were no longer underground. The estate that once stood in the ground above them had been completely disintegrated along with the flower garden. The large tree was left in ruins, its bark severely damaged. The land around them looked worse than before as soil was reduced to sand. The strange tree with roots above and below had lost all its branches in the middle, but it drained away more nutrients from the land to prevent itself from being destroyed.
Amelia was casting a healing spell on Zelgadis, while Lina and Xellos tried to recover. Lina had been well rested, thus her hair was still red, but Xellos had recently come out of a battle and had basically no rest in-between. His hair was once again white, his energy completely drained. Filia was at his side in seconds, healing him. Though injuries were not really his problem as much as exhaustion, she hoped that receiving some extra energy would at least help.
Suddenly, the main Jaws, the only one of the monster piranha plants that survived, jumped from beneath the sand that the soil of the crater had become. The leaf shield was completely gone; the glowing seed that powered it was now exposed. Amelia screamed in a startle as the being came out close to her and Zelgadis. She threw a massive fireball at the creature as Zelgadis simultaneously swung his sword at it. The hits of fire and metal were together effective against the weakened seed and the creature was finally defeated for good. The seed shattered, the rest of the piranha's body becoming brown, dry and brittle.
Amelia observed that the two thorny vine limbs of the creature that served as legs were buried in the ground. "That tree must have given Jaws enough energy to survive the blast," she correctly concluded.
"Yes, but it was still not enough." Now healed, Zelgadis glared at the defeated Jaws, before turning his gaze towards the tree, which was the magical device used to drain the nutrients out of the soil.
"The land was left weakened, but if we finish destroying that tree, it shouldn't be in danger of getting worse," Lina stated.
"I can't allow that!" A voice very much like that of Narcissus suddenly echoed. A yellow mist as if it was made of pollen carried by a strange wind appeared before forming a see through silhouette. The ghost like being, albeit lacking its previous assortment of bright colors, was distinctly in the shape of Narcissus. "This tree will continue to provide nutrients for the wonderful Green Alchemist! I am invincible, I will defeat you all and gain favor in my master's eyes. When the Green Alchemist becomes Lord Beast Master's general, all his followers will also receive power. I will rule over this portion of land in the name of the Green Alchemist and Lord Beast Master with my beautiful Xexe by my side!"
"Xexe?" Filia questioned in disbelief.
"Yes, Xexe!" The pollen Narcissus laughed in his creepy echoing voice. "Even if she is an acquaintance of yours, I'm sure that once she sees how amazing the followers of the Green Alchemist are, she'll join us too. A woman such as her, who possesses both beauty and strength, is the only one worthy of standing by my side in my magnificent garden!"
Lina looked thoughtful, then glanced at Xellos with a mischievous smirk. "Maybe we can use this to our favor."
Before Xellos could protest, Filia did so for him. "We are not sending Xellos to seduce Narcissus!"
Of course, Xellos couldn't let an opportunity to tease Filia escape regardless of the dangerous situation they were in. "Are you jealous?"
"I'm not jealous; it's just a ridiculous plan!" Filia growled, taking a deep exasperated breath, which tickled her nose.
"Enough of your senseless rambles!" Narcissus was growing impatient.
"Achoo!" Filia sneezed loudly, a beam of laser flying from her mouth and heading straight towards Narcissus. The pollen dissipated on impact, though the particles were still faintly visible in the air around them.
"Is it over?" Gourry asked in confusion.
"Die!" Narcissus' voice echoed from all around, answering the question.
"If he's some kind of ghost, then maybe I can exorcise him." Amelia attempted to use her white magic, but it was ineffective. Furthermore, after the pollen dissipated, she wasn't sure what to aim at.
Amelia coughed, the action being mimicked by Zelgadis. Gourry and Lina followed suit along with Xellos and Filia. "He's trying to suffocate us!" Zelgadis attempted to defend against the attack with a Windy Shield, but it wasn't working. The pollen was so small it went right through.
"He's... not a ghost," Xellos finally concluded, speaking with difficulty, breathing was a very straining task when the atmosphere was cluttered with evil magical pollen. Xellos felt anger, pride and vanity coming from the tree, it was the same feeling he got from Narcissus. His emotions came from the tree rather than the pollen, he had been so close to the tree when they arrived underground that it was hard to notice at first. Arcius had been human before, but Xellos had a feeling that his new name of Narcissus was due to more than just vanity. He had changed, he wasn't a human anymore. The human body that was destroyed and released the pollen inside it was nothing but a puppet to Narcissus's new form. "I can sense him, he's in the tree!" Xellos made his way near the tree with Filia close by.
"Get away from there!" Narcissus' pollen focused on Xellos.
Taking the opportunity, Lina began to chant a spell, now that there was less pollen to assault her and the others, as the yellow cloud was over Xellos. "Darkness beyond twilight..."
"No!" Narcissus attacked Lina, trying to choke her.
"Crimson beyond..." Lina couldn't continue the spell, but the distraction had worked. Filia attacked the tree with her mace, making a hole in the already weakened bark. Inside the tree there was a section of astral space, temporarily opened by Filia's hit, which she and Xellos jumped into.
xoxox xox xoxox
The astral space was a spherical cavity surrounded by many colors melting into each other like rainbow paint spilled on water. The hole that Xellos and Filia used to enter the space sealed itself shut in colorful swirls. In the middle of the sphere there was a narcissus flower with pure ivory petals and a yellow center from which a stream of pollen reached into the sphere's astral walls and phased through it. A semi-translucent shield was around the floating flower, which Filia took note of. She shot a laser breath at the flower, but it was not fully charged, a caution that she was thankful for seconds later. The laser bounced off the shield, barely missing Filia, who half-expected this and was quick to dodge.
"That's him," Xellos affirmed, "he's worried, still hopeful for success, but he knows he's in trouble."
"And he's about to find out in how much trouble!" Filia wielded her mace against the flower, poking the shield gently at first as a test. She felt electricity coursing through her body, but the shield opposed no solid resistance beyond the retaliation. "This shield only deflects magic, I can smash that flower; I just have to endure the shock!" The angry golden dragon raised her weapon over her head and brought it down on the evil flower with all her strength. The shock of electricity was terribly painful, but Filia forced herself to keep hitting that vicious plant until it was dead. The last electric retaliation was strong enough to send Filia crashing against the colorful astral wall of the spherical cavity, the electrocution affecting her significantly.
"Filia!" Xellos lifted her motionless form into his arms. That last shock was too strong; a human would have surely died. Golden Dragons had more endurance, but even for Filia, it was still too damaging.
Filia felt her senses fade, she couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't breathe. Her life was fading and in that split second between life and death everything moved at light speed and a thousand thoughts ran through her thoughts. She had thoughts of her traveling companions, who were her friends, who were her family... and thoughts of Xellos. Then she felt her energy being restored, her life no longer fading. She opened her eyes once more, waiting for her vision to clear up and for her breaths to become even. "Xellos... you can use healing magic?" She finally voiced. His power was dangerously drained, but he forced the restore spell to function with the last of his energy. "Is it over?"
"Yes," Xellos could no longer sense any emotion coming from the flower, it was dead. The evil Narcissus had finally been defeated. Yet the danger wasn't over yet. Without Narcissus to keep the astral space stable, it was shrinking around them and they had no way out. The walls of swirling colors were giving off sparks of energy, though they weren't strong enough to be fatal, it was a sure indicative of a painful death should they be crushed by the astral walls.
"We need to escape from here..." Filia stated the obvious, looking for ideas about how to do so. If they didn't get out of there, they would only have seconds left to live.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers or the Piranha plants from Super Mario. Lina and Amelia made Sailor Moon poses. XD Yay, another cliffhanger. ^_^