Episode Sixty-Eight: Treasure Hunting Detour
"Xellos..." Filia approached the ghostly Xellos, who was floating a few inches above the surface of the inn's roof where she stood. She reached out to touch him, but her hand went through him. "I see... Your spirit wandered out, but your body is still imprisoned. You'd best be careful," her voice felt shaky, "don't go too far from your body or you might become a lost spirit. Humans need physical forms after all; you can't exist as a purely astral being in your current state."
"Crying again?" Xellos noted, "I thought you'd be happy to see me, stupid dragon."
"I'm crying because I'm happy to see you, raw garbage!" Filia retorted. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. "You look really angelic glowing like that."
Xellos crossed his arms in a huff, "I did not come out here to be insulted!"
Filia laughed for the first time in what felt like forever. The last few days had been terribly straining for her. "How did you manage to get out of the crystal?"
"I don't know," Xellos admitted. "When I came to, I was floating in Zelas's room while she slept. My guess is that I only managed to come out of the crystal because she's sleeping." Although he was unconscious while he was in the crystal, Xellos' last memory of being painfully trapped in it made him think that he would sleep eternally. He didn't know how long it had been when he woke up and was relieved to find Filia, confirming that not too much time passed after all. "Who knows why Zelas decided to get some sleep? It's not like she actually needs it, you do."
Filia couldn't argue with that. "I'm terribly tired, but judging by what you said, you'll go back to the crystal when Zelas wakes up. I'm not going to sleep through your visit just so you can tell me how rude I am."
"Fine, but don't blame me if you look like a zombie in the morning," Xellos teased.
Filia groaned in vexation. "Don't even talk to me about zombies. I had to exorcise your crazy zombie fan girl, Saramina."
"Saramina's gone?" A smile spread across Xellos' features as he jumped into the air, though he was already floating to begin with. "She's finally gone!" He quickly composed himself and in an overly serious tone commented, "it's about time you made yourself useful, stupid dragon."
Filia couldn't help it but to be amused by his reaction. "I take it Beast Master told you not to get rid of her?"
"Exactly," Xellos confirmed. "Saramina was a source of annoyance for all those who ever met her. She was in a sense, a good chef for negative emotions. I'm surprised you're still alive after getting rid of her. Lord Beast Master must have been feeling especially merciful."
"Considering all I went through, I really don't want to know what she's like when she's feeling merciless," Filia yawned.
"Get some sleep, stupid dragon, my guess is that your chances for real rest will be scarce," Xellos insisted.
Now that Filia had gotten to see Xellos again, even if he was only a spirit, she felt reassured enough for her tiredness to catch up to her and defeat her previous insomnia. "You're probably right..." but that still didn't change the fact that she would rather stay awake and talk to Xellos for a while longer. She had a lot to get off her chest.
"I heard spirits can enter dreams rather easily," Xellos hinted.
Filia smiled, that would solve the situation. She could get some sleep and still be with Xellos. "I guess I should get some sleep then. I'll see you in my dreams."
"That sounded terribly cheesy," Xellos teased. His amused expression turned into a serious one as he warned. "If you overload your dream with pink, frill and cute fuzzy creatures I'm calling an emergency retreat and getting out of there immediately."
"Alright, alright, I'll keep it toned down," Filia agreed with a little pout.
Filia returned to her room where she settled into bed and fell asleep almost instantly. Xellos attempted to enter her dreams, but felt as if he was chained in a metaphorical way and the chain didn't extend far enough for him to enter someone's dreams. He could try to break free, but it would probably be bad if he completely detached his spirit from his body in the black cone crystal. "Now Filia's going to complain about being stood up in dream land." Xellos said to no one in particular. He floated next to Filia, unable to do much else at the moment. Well, at least she was getting some rest, she needed it.
xoxox xox xoxox
When the morning came, Filia felt as if she didn't get enough sleep and had to drag herself out of bed to the sound of Amelia rushing her downstairs before Lina ate all the food. Xellos never showed up in her dreams, well he did, but those were just images created by her own memories, not the real Xellos. She was angry at him for a while, actually considering asking Beast Master for permission to insult her necklace, but decided against the silliness of it all. Xellos wouldn't be able to hear her if he was back in the necklace anyway. On the other hand, Filia didn't know when Xellos had been called back, as she correctly assumed he had been. Maybe it happened shortly after she fell asleep. Or maybe, even if he was there for a while, for unknown circumstances, he was unable to enter her dreams after all. If that was the case then it wasn't his fault he technically stood her up.
Debating if she should complain about it or not the next time she saw Xellos, Filia tried to have some breakfast and finish waking up. Deep down she knew she would just forget about him being a no show in her dreams and just be happy to see him again whenever that happened. Breakfast went by as any breakfast with Lina Inverse's traveling group would go.
When they were finally done, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Zelas, left the inn and were on the road again. The first four had an air of purpose around them, as if they knew exactly where they were going. Or rather Lina, Amelia and Zelgadis knew of their intended destination and Gourry simply knew where he was going because the answer was as simple as 'wherever Lina's going.' Zelas followed along with her usual annoying little comments and critiques that no one dared to voice a well deserved snide reply to.
"Where are we going?" Filia finally inquired, not content with following along without a clue.
"We're going treasure hunting!" Lina happily announced. She stopped in the middle of the path and looked back at the town. "This is far enough, no one from town will see us here." She pointed at a collection of bushes that was on the road side. "We came all this way so you wouldn't have any modesty related excuses and look, there's some cover over there."
Filia already dreaded where this was going. She narrowed her eyes, stomped her feet and pouted, producing a firm, "no!"
"C'mon Filia, we need you to do this. Zelas is going to get impatient if we don't get to our destination soon and it's a far walk!" Lina argued; she was the one who was getting impatient. If Zelas made one more comment about her bodily proportions, Lina would surely snap and Dragon Slave the monster lord, never mind the consequences. The only reason she lasted that long was because Gourry kept telling her to calm down, giving her a hug each time he did, thus sufficiently distracting her from her rage.
"Why can't Zelas teleport us?" Filia didn't want to carry the group, but most of all she didn't want to carry Zelas. She would much rather get the worse case of teleportation sickness she ever got.
"We can do this on our own power," Lina insisted with a meaningful look that told Filia she wasn't exactly contributing to the fulfillment of her plan.
"C'mon, Filia, make yourself useful," Zelas teased. "Just go hide your hideous self behind those bushes and transform into an even uglier creature. Relax, no one is going to look at your chest while you're changing, us girls will make sure the boys don't peek. Of course, if it were Lina she wouldn't have that problem, since she's so flat-chested."
Lina's anger reached its limit, Zelas was purposely saying what Lina considered to be terribly cruel things to get on her nerves and she was accomplishing it. So what if she was a powerful monster lord? So what if Lina knew she couldn't count on using the power of the Lord of Nightmares in this fight? So what if using black magic on a monster lord wasn't the most effective way to go? Forget logic, forget reason, forget sanity! "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond-!"
Lina's words were silenced by Gourry's lips on hers. Her face was practically glowing red and it took her a second, but she wrapped his arms around him and returned the kiss, momentarily forgetting where they were and who was watching. When they finally parted, it didn't look like Lina had any intentions of picking a suicidal fight anymore. "Are you going to be okay, Lina?" Gourry asked gently.
Lina smiled with a loving expression. "Yeah, I'm fine now..." Then she realized she had an audience and her face turned scarlet again. "Stop looking at me! Gourry, don't do stuff like that in front of people!"
"Why not?" Gourry innocently asked. "I thought we've been engaged for long enough for it to be okay to kiss you."
Lina's head was almost producing steam out of the ears as she blushed brighter than anyone would guess is possible. "That's not the point, it's just that people are looking and... and... and..."
"I understand, you're shy," Gourry smiled, apparently too dense to know how to be embarrassed. "It's okay; from now on I'll remember to only kiss you in private."
Gritting her teeth and hiding her face with her hands in mortification, Lina muttered, "thanks a lot Gourry."
"You're welcome," Gourry cheerfully replied.
Lina cleared her throat and directed disapproving looks at Zelgadis and Amelia "stop snickering you two!" When they didn't stop, Lina resorted to what she thought would be a vengeful reaction. "Don't think I didn't see you Zel. You were kissing Amelia goodnight yesterday in the hallway at the inn!"
Zelgadis blushed in a similar way to Lina, though Lina's blush was still brighter by comparison. "I.... have no intentions of denying that." He pushed the words out with some difficulty.
Amelia gave Zelgadis an adoring look and happily declared, "Life is wonderful and love is wonderful!"
With an innocent smile, Zelas voiced, "you know what else is wonderful?" Her expression changed drastically, her fangs once again visible, narrowed eyes glowing. "Bloody murder is wonderful, like the one I'll give you if you don't tone down your positive speeches."
Amelia gulped and backed away, "yes, Lord Beast Master."
Filia sighed, "will the insanity ever end?" She went behind the bushes and transformed, lowering her body so that the others could climb aboard. She wasn't happy with the fact that Zelas insisted on riding first and kept tugging at her hair like a horse's reins.
xoxox xox xoxox
Following Lina's instructions, Filia landed at the foot of a mountain which had a cave on its side, its entrance adorned with once elegant ivory pillars, which were now showing the punishment of time and lack of maintenance. The group got off Filia, who took cover behind a rock formation beside the mountain and changed back to her elf form, emerging to join the group. They were about to enter the cave temple when a sudden appearance by Fang caught their attention.
The monster fox materialized out of the astral side with Phythan being dragged along as Fang ran. The young golden dragon was clinging to one of Fang's tails pleading, "don't leave me alone with her!"
Fang shook him off at last, causing Phythan to land by Zelas' feet. The monster fox dusted off his tails indignantly, threw his head back and strolled away, fading into the astral side as he did. Sure, he was generally well behaved, but there had to be a situation that got on his nerves. Zelas knew something was going on, Fang was used to be poked due to his frequent participation in pet shows, he wouldn't react like this unless he was really annoyed. She looked at the golden dragon on the ground. "I hope you're not trying to look up my skirt. Get it right, the easy one who has a thing for golden dragons is Xellos, not me."
Phythan scrambled to his feet, immediately excusing himself, "I wasn't doing anything wrong!" He got up with as much dignity as he could muster after his peculiar arrival and dusted off his dragon robes.
"Xellos is not easy," Filia felt the need to point out. "He's very, very, very, very difficult." She had to silently admit to herself that Xellos' sarcasm had indeed rubbed off on her.
Phythan puckered his lower lip, his violet eyes seemingly growing to twice their size. Beast Master had Phythan as her intern long enough to know this meant he was going into whining mode. "Lord Beast Master, Miss Galathia is trying to kill me! I know you told me to follow her orders and I figured you would be mad if I disintegrated her with my laser breath, but I can't just stand around and get killed! What should I do?" He paused in his complaining to flash the rest of the group a charming smile, "hi everyone!"
Filia slapped her own forehead in disbelief. At least no one could say she was the biggest disgrace to the golden dragon race. Oh no, she was sure Phythan had her beat in that category. With no warning, Galathia Gorgon faded into existence from the astral side. "There you are! Why have you come to bother Lord Beast Master during her special mission? Don't forget I was left in charge of your internship duties while she was gone."
"He says you want to kill him, golden dragons are so dramatic," Zelas mocked. "They're the living representation of a cheesy soap opera."
"I never said I would kill you," Galathia argued.
"You did too!" Phythan insisted. "You said you'd do the naughtiest thing I could imagine and the worse thing one can do to a person is murder."
Filia, who actually caught the hidden meaning of the threat, blushed in embarrassment and anger. "You indecent monster, you're not laying a finger on him!" She threatened Galathia fiercely, then patted Phythan on the head like one would pet a kitten. "It's okay, your big sister Filia will make sure these perverted monsters don't corrupt you."
"That's funny, I thought Xellos already corrupted you," Zelas innocently observed with a detached tone.
"How... do... you..." Filia stuttered mortified.
"How do I know?" Zelas offered. She grinned with smug superiority, "because you told me just now." Filia bit her lip and held her tongue, to avoid inserting her foot in her mouth again.
"Excuse me," Lina interfered. "I think it's time for us to be on our way with our treasure hunting business. Plus I don't like the way this conversation is going."
"I'm getting bored," Zelas yawned in an exaggerated way.
"Don't worry, the renegotiation stage is at hand," Lina confidently assured. "Although, I think you might already have a pretty good idea of what my main argument will be. Nonetheless, I might as well finish my presentation. Shall we go?"
"Very well," Zelas agreed. She glanced at the gorgon, whose face was still covered, before approaching the entrance of the temple cave. "Galathia, try not to traumatize the intern, if he gets all horrified and depressed he won't be amusing anymore."
Galathia frowned behind her thick veil. Zelas' order, which was mockingly intoned as a friendly suggestion, basically meant that Phythan was off limits, at least until he got on Zelas' bad side. Given how dutiful he was as an intern, it didn't look like that would happen any time soon. "Yes, Lord Beast Master," the snake-like woman sighed in disappointment. She faded to the astral side to continue her duties in the monster spa.
"Alright everyone, onward!" Lina led the way through the entrance of the temple cave. Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Zelas and Phythan followed her in.
Ivory tiles with bits of grass growing between them were abundant at first. The tiles became scarce the deeper they went into the cave, which had a slight downward slope. Ragged fragments of a red carpet could be seen on the soil ground, with more bits of grass that became less abundant the further they went. The walls of the cave were nicely polished at first, becoming rougher as they went deeper in. Finally, the cave temple ended up looking like any other cave with plain rocky grounds and rough walls. Stalagmites and stalactites were all around with drops of water occasionally falling on their heads.
The explorers finally reached a large set of double doors, which had already been forced open as the bottom of half of one of the giant stone doors had a hole on it. "It looks like this place had already been raided," Zelas commented in boredom.
"Yes, I raided it," Zelgadis admitted. Noting Zelas' questioning look, he elaborated, "there's only one thing that was left behind, something that's too large to be moved." The group made their way into the room behind the broken stone doors as Zelgadis announced, "that is the mountain itself."
"What would I want with a mountain?" Zelas inquired.
"It's a holy mountain, or that's what people say, at least," Lina specified.
"I can figure that for myself," Zelas voiced impatiently.
"Then you must also know the information isn't entirely true," Amelia pointed out. "Zelgadis came here looking for a cure for his chimera condition. I had also researched this place from texts that were delivered to Seyruun and gathered information. There is supposed to be a powerful artifact here, but it's not."
"Yet the mountain still holds a considerable amount of energy in it. A normal monster would not be able to enter here," Zelgadis continued.
"Indeed," Zelas agreed, "yet a monster lord would be strong enough to fight here," she warned.
"True," Lina acknowledged, "but we're not here for a fight, we're here for the artifact, for the golden pyramid! If it was truly gone, then the mountain would hold no power, the only explanation is that it's buried and we're going to dig it out. Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows, buried in the stream of time is where your power grows!"
"You didn't say you would dig it out with the Dragon Slave!" Zelgadis reproached.
"I suppose it is faster than shovels, besides, we don't have shovels anyway," Amelia reasoned. "Maybe we should wait outside." Amelia went on the retreat with Zelgadis, Gourry, Filia and Phythan following.
"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand, before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hands!" Lina continued her signature spell, while Zelas observed. "Let the fools... er mountain, that stands before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess!" Zelas faded into the astral side and swiftly moved away from the vicinity of the attack. "Dragon Slave!" Lina released her energy, reducing the mountain to dust.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Lina's plan is about to be completed. What will Zelas' reaction to it be?