Episode Seventy: When In Doubt, Go On A Journey
Once again like many other times, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia and Xellos, found themselves on the road to Seyruun, simply because they were not sure of where to go next. Seyruun seemed like the obvious choice since it always had food waiting for Lina, or so she hoped, in spite of the kingdom's generous efforts against the famine. It would take time, but the land was set to recover, so maybe Phil would still be willing to generously feed them.
Unlike in other past occasions, this time around, the group had an additional companion, a golden dragon by the name of Phythan who was ironically Beast Master's intern. There was also a lot more uncertainty in the air, due to the unanswered questions in regards to Zelas' plans, which even Xellos himself was unaware of and even more uncertainty related to the Lord of Nightmares.
Uncertainty or not, however, Lina was still Lina and she still had a monstrous appetite to feed, metaphorically speaking, since an actual monster would be easier to feed than Lina Inverse. Given that circumstance, the travelers found themselves stopping at another restaurant where their discussions went in circles to the background sound of Lina and Gourry's loud and fast chewing noises.
"What I can't understand is why, if Zelas knows the answer to the curse, she can't just say it." Filia was feeling frustrated. "She wants to have her general priest back, but she's making things awfully difficult and throwing threats around. She said herself that she already got what she wanted, whatever that is, so why all of this?"
"A test I would assume," Xellos theorized, though Beast Master had never tested him in such a way before. He had always done well on his assigned missions, so she had no need to provide him with a test. He glanced around the restaurant as if looking for something, though it was something invisible. He then stared at Filia, who was still muttering under her breath in frustration, possibly fearing for his life. She appeared to be debating how truly valid Lina's point was about Xellos still being useful in the long wrong as seen from Zelas' perspective. "Filia..."
"What is it? Can't you see I'm trying to vent my frustrations?" Filia growled threateningly.
"You're as moody as ever, stupid dragon," Xellos observed. This was a big difference from waking up to be hugged, cuddled, kissed and overloaded with affection before he even got the beginning of an explanation about how and why he was back. Yet there was something different, "I thought I was just tired, but if it's not back by now, it might not come back at all. It was annoying, but insightful. It's like losing a sense I was accustomed to having, albeit in a different form than what I originally had."
Filia gave him a curious look, "what are you talking about?"
"Empathy," Xellos simply voiced. "I can't tell how anyone is feeling right now. At least not beyond visual conclusions, but that can be misleading."
Filia huffed, "it's not like you were considerate to other's emotions anyway, raw garbage!"
"I was very considerate... in properly manipulating people, stupid dragon!" Xellos argued smugly.
"Quite an interesting conversation to be sure," the sudden voice at the sudden arrival of Beast Master made the occupants of the table jump in their seats. "Yet I must interrupt." No one seemed to be screaming among the other clients of the establishment; hence they concluded that she teleported out of sight and quietly, very quietly and sneakily, walked over to their table. She raised her perfectly manicured right index finger, slightly pointing towards the front entrance of the restaurant. "Xellos, a word."
"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos got up from the table among the curious stares of his companions and followed Zelas outside.
The minutes ticked away as Filia drummed her fingers against the table in an increasingly faster rhythm. The action was getting on everyone's nerves, but they dared not complain to an upset Filia. "What's taking him so long?"
"Relax," Lina tried to diffuse Filia's growing anger, though she was far less effective as she paused to stuff her mouth with more food after each word. "He's just having a word with his mommy, he'll be back."
"Zelas said not to call her that!" Filia reminded.
"She told you not to call her that," Lina clarified and ended the argument in favor of focusing on her eating.
Filia pouted and sunk into her chair. If Xellos was a monster she wouldn't worry as much. Surely Zelas could see his usefulness more clearly if he recovered his powers. Then the danger of not being able to constantly keep an eye on him would be less. Not that Filia could do anything to defend him against Zelas anyway. The golden dragon sighed hopelessly. She actually liked Xellos as a human and a part of her was afraid that all the... development, he had accomplished would be lost when he became a monster; after all, he would be a full monster, not a chimera like Celo. Yet, she knew it was necessary for him to go back to the way he was and that was what he wanted.
The minutes dragged on until Xellos finally returned, followed by an unknown yet somehow familiar girl. "I'm back and I have another traveling companion for our little group. Tell them who you are and why you're hear."
The girl had black hair and eyes with a distinctly blank look upon an expressionless face. Her bangs and hair length were similar to Xellos', although the hair that reached to her shoulders was noticeably wavy. "I am Onyx, a monster human chimera created by Lord Beast Master. I am here to train so that I may learn to properly serve Lord Beast Master."
The group stared at the girl, blinking in confusion at the unexpected twist. "She kind of looks like..." Amelia left her observation hanging, though it became apparent that the others understood her message.
"Huddle!" Lina declared loudly and urgently like some kind of football captain trying to come up with a strategy to win a decisive game. The group moved from the table to the corner as Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis, Filia, Xellos and Phythan formed a tight circle. "That girl is the same one that had the run in with the Lord of Nightmares, isn't she?"
"What did Zelas do to her?" Amelia asked with worry. "She seems almost brainwashed."
"Believe it or not, that wasn't Zelas' doing. When she woke up she had amnesia," Xellos explained. "Zelas only had Tiffany take care of her wounds and give her a little makeover. It seems that whatever magic the Lord of Nightmares placed in her, it was sealed in her memories."
"Kind of like how a piece of Shabranigdu was sealed in Rezo's eyes," Lina recalled. It was a foreboding theory.
"It's a similar concept, but I don't think Shabranigdu has anything to do with this." Xellos smiled cheerfully, "it might be something much, much worse. My mission is to keep an eye on her and figure out what that something is. In other words, I'm back on the job curse and all, at least I have my spying budget back."
Lina's face became a predatory grin, "does that mean you're treating your amazing bodyguard to a meal?"
"That means I'm not going to let you dry up my account ever again," Xellos assured with his usual squinty eyes grin.
"I don't think it's right for us to lie to that girl," Filia frowned in disapproval. "She's a human, even the part about her being partially a monster is a lie. What if she tries to use her monster powers and finds out too late she has none?"
"She thinks she was just created and that the process of uniting her with a human part left her weak. She's not expecting to have any monster power now; she's hoping that it'll awaken soon. Besides, Zelas provided her with an amulet that can simulate magic without being harmful to her so she'll have a means of defense, but I'm sure that won't be necessary." Xellos pulled an envelope out of his cloak and handed it to Lina.
"A letter for me?" Lina opened it and read. "Dear pawn:
Since it looks like the moody dragon is doing a good enough job of guarding Xellos' body, probably in more ways than we want to know, I'm assigning you to be the bodyguard of this girl for the time being. Good luck, Zelas Metallium - Lord Beast Master. PS: I'm sure the two of you will be great friends, since you're both just as flat-chested." Lina let out a loud ferocious growl and tore the letter apart into tiny confetti pieces, throwing them on the floor and stomping on them in rage.
"I guess that's the whole story, Onyx, as Zelas has called her, will be traveling with us for a while. Let's be on our guard for random strange occurrences, though there's no guarantee that anything will actually happen," Xellos cheerfully concluded.
Filia pouted as she gave Xellos a sharp look. "You're actually happy; you're not just acting cheerful, you're really glad."
Xellos' replied with a cheerful yet confused look. "Happy to play big brother to an amnesiac girl who could be a time bomb waiting to explode for all we know? I suppose that could be entertaining."
"Not that," Filia clarified, "it's not about the mission, it's about the fact that you have a mission. You're glad to be working for Beast Master again." Deep down, Filia was glad about it too. She wasn't fond of Beast Master, but Xellos working for her carried a sense of comforting familiarity. It was as if things were slowly going back to normal and Xellos' life was in less danger.
"I think I said it before that I actually like my job most of the time," Xellos reminded. It was reassuring to have been assigned a mission. It confirmed that Zelas did see his usefulness, which made the test theory seem further off. If she was testing him, why would she entrust him with a mission before the test was completed? If this mission was really that important, why not end the test and return his powers? What kind of strategic gamble was Zelas getting herself into? Furthermore, what was that secret that exposed him to choose dare and be cursed in the first place? The willing kiss of a golden dragon... What did it all mean? What was the hidden secret?
"Let's be positive, if there's something going on with that girl, isn't it better to keep her near by, so we can help her if needed?" Phythan tried to brighten the situation by looking at the good side.
"I suppose so," Amelia agreed, "she does have amnesia, so I guess it might be okay to treat her as Mr. Xellos sister for the time being. This way she can feel the security and comfort of having a family, even if it is a rather unusual adoptive family." Not that Amelia should be talking about unusual families.
"That girl is Xellos' sister?" Gourry caught up a little too late, sort of.
"Something like that," Lina decided it was best to keep things simple and not try to explain the whole situation to Gourry. He wouldn't understand it anyway.
"So that's why she's dressed like that," Gourry concluded.
"Dressed like what?" Xellos inquired. "Zelas said something about her probably tripping one too many times as a kid and her scratched knees not looking good with her dresses. So she gave her that sorceress outfit."
"It's like your clothes," Gourry observed, displaying a power of perception far beyond his usual attention span. "Does that mean you're identical twins?" Then again, maybe he had not surpassed his limitations after all. "Don't mothers dress their kids alike when they're twins?"
Xellos' eye twitched and Lina rolled her eyes while Filia attempted to explain, "she's a she, he's a he, they can't be identical twins. Besides, twins don't just dress alike, they look alike. The only thing Xellos and Onyx have in common is the hair color, they don't even look similar."
"If they're not twins, how come they dress like twins?" Gourry curelessly inquired. "It's confusing."
"We're not dressing like twins," Xellos argued. "Our clothes are completely different."
"Yeah, real different," Lina laughed, "her shoes are black, her shirt is light blue and her cloak has sapphires instead of rubies with an added hood. Other than the colors and the hood, you two are dressed exactly the same. Oh yeah, and there's that wolf head amulet with the wings that looks like that seal you have. I take it that's her power amulet?"
"Yes, you are correct about the amulet, but wrong about everything else. How can we be dressed the same if you just listed all the differences?" Xellos argued in his 'I'm smarter than you' voice.
"They're only small differences!" Lina insisted.
"She even has the same purse as Mr. Xellos," Amelia pointed out, soon realizing her mistake and trying to repair it, "I mean the same bag in a different color."
"It's not a purse," Xellos emphasized, despite Amelia's correction.
"Ii sure looks like one," Zelgadis pointed out with a... mocking grin?
"You were much less unpleasant when you were gloomy," Xellos glared.
"Forget about Xellos' purse," Filia tried to get the derailed conversation back on track, causing Xellos' to twitch at the mention of his 'purse'. "We're getting weird looks from everyone because we're huddled up in this corner. Let's go back to the table."
Said and done, the group moved back to the table. Onyx had stood motionless the entire time with the same blank expression, seemingly not caring about the oddities of the group she would be traveling with. After joining the table, she ate with them, thinking that it was for the sake of feeding her human part, not realizing that she was completely human. The meal finally came to an end with the group debating on what to do next.
"Rather than rushing to Seyruun, I think we should gather information as we go along. Who knows when and where the Green Alchemist will strike again," Lina stated. "Let's spread out through town and have a look around," she yawned. "I'll join you right after I'm done with my nap; they say people shouldn't be running around right after a big meal."
"Really? Then I should take a nap too," Gourry concluded.
"I don't mind getting started on the investigation," Amelia kindly offered.
"I'll go too, someone has to get things done." It was obvious Zelgadis' comment was directed at Lina, who was clearly throwing the work at everyone else.
"Onyx, you can hang around with Phythan, he'll show you around the town," Xellos suggested, giving Phythan a meaningful look that warned him to notify him of any peculiar happenings immediately.
"Huh? Me? Um... okay," Phythan looked at Onyx, who said nothing to him.
Instead she voiced a monotonous, "yes, brother," at Xellos.
With the group taking their separate ways, that only left Filia and Xellos at the table with a grim apprehension. "Lina dumped the bill on us, didn't she?" Xellos realized.
Filia shook her head in disapproval, "we should have seen it coming."
"I'm so used to getting a warning in the form of sensing the sneaky plotting feeling Lina gives off when she's about to do something like this that I missed it." Xellos never thought he'd see the day when he actually missed his empathy this much.
"I guess you're stuck interpreting the world with as little information as the rest of us," Filia concluded. "I think I'll go take a nap too. It's a pity that you're putting a dent on your allowance so soon." Her one was far from pitying and suspiciously close to amused. She got up from the table, glancing towards the door.
"Mission funds! It's not an allowance, they're mission funds," Xellos corrected before signing the bill and leaving the restaurant with Filia.
xoxox xox xoxox
Back at the inn, Xellos followed Filia to her room, an action that she did not try to prevent. "Filia... be honest," there was that serious look with his eyes open. Filia could clearly imagine what was to come. Xellos would switch his expression to his squinty eyes, smug grin as he completed his sentence with a confident 'you want me'. It would make her pout, glare and call him raw garbage, but she had no intentions of refusing him this time. Then he took her by surprise by holding out his bag for her to have a clear look at it. "Does this really look like a purse?"
Filia opened her mouth but no sound came out, as her planned response did not fit the occasion. She closed her mouth again and tilted her head, observing the bag from different angles. "It looks like a normal unisex bag to me. It could be a pretty purse if I tied a few pink bows on it."
"Not happening," Xellos immediately warned. He gave her his smug, mocking squinty eyes grin. "I appreciate your honest opinion, have a nice nap." Then he turned around and walked out the door, closing it behind him.
Filia stood in her inn room blinking in confusion. That was random. Maybe Xellos decided to stop being so annoying and give her some time to rest and relax. Maybe his lack of empathy prevented him from realizing he just missed his opportunity to... enjoy her company. She shrugged, it was alright, she could use a nice relaxing nap anyway. She laid down on her bed and stared at the ceiling for several minutes. Her expression turned into a pout, that stupid piece of raw garbage, being so randomly unpredictable. She got up, knowing that she would not be able to fall asleep. She was going to give Xellos a piece of her mind. She marched towards the door determinately, planning all the insults she would throw at him in her head.
As soon as Filia opened the door to her room, she saw Xellos leaning against the wall in front of it in the hallway. He had a very familiar smug look on his face. "It took you long enough, stupid dragon." He couldn't read her emotions as he did before, but if he was observant enough, he found that he could still predict her behavior.
Filia's face turned red in anger and she clenched her teeth and fists, "you piece of raw garbage!" She punched the wall next to his head, leaving a hole in the shape of her fist. Of course, for those who didn't know she was a dragon, they would never guess that the pretty blond in the pink dress was the one to damage the wall in such a brutal way.
Xellos didn't move an inch, his expression frozen in his usual smug grin. He knew that she would miss on purpose and was entertained by her temper tantrum. After amusing himself with Filia's absolutely murderous expression for a few more seconds, he kissed her, just as she appeared to be preparing to throw out her next argument.
The next thing Filia knew, she was walking backwards. She was retreating back into her inn room. She was unable to say anything because Xellos had her mouth occupied in activities that did not include the formation of words. Then there was the sound of a door being closed. It was followed by the click of a lock being secured. After that, Filia stopped paying attention to the world around her, instead focusing only on Xellos.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Filia's explanation of "she's a she, he's a he" is a reference to when Yusei meets Leo and Luna in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds. I was going to write a separate story for my original characters, but I decided to unite the plot concepts to the final saga of this story and modify it to give the main cast the spotlight. This means that the OCs will be hanging around the background for a while (as they had done before), but Xellos and Filia will still be the main focus. I also have some scenes planned for ZelgadisxAmelia and GourryxLina.