To Live Another Day
Episode Eight: Conspiracies and Traps
In the mirror maze, Xellos sat on the floor with apparent patience, talking to seemingly no one, but knowing full well he was being heard. "I do wonder what in the world could have motivated you to try to kill me. It's a bold move indeed." He had the distinct feeling that he was lacking information. "Have any peculiar events happened concerning the monster race that I am as of yet unaware of?" There was no reply. "I suppose I'll know soon enough. Oh yes, I do apologize if I am disappointing you, but I do plan on leaving alive."
A monster cannot be killed unless it is by a force of greater power. But even when the opponent didn't have that power, if it was backed by it, that would present the possibility of victory. Yet still, Xellos couldn't think of a likely reason as to why that particular monster would want him dead. Well he could think of several, actually, but why take such a risk? Furthermore, why conclude that the odds were favorable enough? There was definitely something going on in the high ranks of the monsters and whenever Xellos escaped this death trap, he was determined to find out what it was... somehow. It didn't make it easy that he wasn't supposed to go any where near monster headquarters until after his dare was done.
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"Faster Filia!" Lina cheered as Filia soared through the sky in her dragon form with Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis on her back.
"Wee!" Amelia got carried away and raised her hands into the air, forgetting the fact that dragons didn't come with built-in seat belts. "Spin Miss Filia!"
As Filia made loops in the air, too fast to give those holding on time to fall off, it was Zelgadis who saved Amelia from falling since she wasn't properly holding on. "Be careful, Amelia!"
"Oh... sorry about that, I got carried away," Amelia blushed, becoming more aware of Zelgadis' arms around her waist. "Thank you, Mr. Zelgadis."
"This is even more fun than a roller coaster!" Gourry loudly proclaimed as Filia gained altitude.
"Now for the big dive, hold on everyone!" Even if at first she was opposed to the idea of serving as a sort of living roller coaster, once she got into it, Filia was having fun. She flew up high then dived towards the ground at amazing speed to the sound of her friends' delight. She pulled up at the last second, inches away from touching the ground and glided as she slowed to a stop, landing gently. Filia stretched out her tail and positioned her body, leaning back so the group could slide of her back into a pile of amused laughter.
"That was fun!" Gourry cheered, "but all this flying is making me hungry." It was about time he made a comment like that.
Lina looked up at the sky where the sun shone brilliantly directly overhead. "It's mid day and the smell of food is getting to me too."
The people lounging around the picnic area above which they had been flying made no motion to panic at the sight of a dragon, so Filia was all too happy to ignore them. That was until several approached and tried to climb on her back. "What are you doing? I'm not part of the resort's attractions!" The people around her didn't seem to be taking her seriously and insisted on trying to climb on her back. "I said no!" For the sake of protecting her personal space, Filia took off once more, disappearing into the skies above. That didn't completely discourage the stubborn couples on the ground, who thought riding on a dragon was oh so romantic. Many followed her on foot waiving at her to come down, without even the smallest chance to actually catch up to her.
"There goes Filia," Lina shielded her eyes from the sun with her hand as she looked in the direction Filia had taken off in. "What do you say we find a place to eat?"
"I think that's a good idea, Miss Lina, I'm sure we all feel like having some lunch by now. I hope Miss Filia is alright on her own." Amelia politely commented with only a hint of pink on her cheeks. She seemed to be pretending she didn't notice Zelgadis' arm around her waist while very much enjoying the close contact. Zelgadis was doing the exact same thing.
Lina grinned upon noticing how close Amelia and Zelgadis were. "Why don't we meet by the fountain after lunch?" There was no real reason for them to further split up after they had decided to spend the day as a group, but Lina wanted to give Amelia some alone time with Zelgadis. Lina didn't think that it also meant that she would be alone with Gourry; because the two traveled together by themselves so often that it was the most natural thing.
"Oh?" Amelia paused, wondering why Lina would suggest splitting up. Zelgadis' arm around her waist became an even more prominent thought in her mind. He stopped her from falling off Filia and kind of forgot to let go. "Okay," she smiled, blushing full force. "We'll see you later, Miss Lina, Mr. Gourry."
Lina grinned mischievously, "have a good time you two!" She was looking right at Zelgadis as if hinting at something.
Zelgadis couldn't help it but to blush, chimera skin or not, he had no control over it. "The same goes to you." He managed to reply somewhat steadily, then wasted no more time before leaving with Amelia.
xoxox xox xoxox
After losing her stubborn pursuers, Filia landed between two buildings and after making sure no one was watching her, she swiftly transformed. She walked out of the alley and into the long main street of the resort. Taking a breath of relief she examined her surroundings. It was midday and knowing Lina and Gourry, they were probably hungry. It stood to reason, regardless of the normalcy of their appetite, that Amelia and Zelgadis would be hungry too, so was Filia.
She was about to search for her friends to join them in having lunch, but stopped as she sensed something. The aura of a monster that had been previously hidden by a power grater than even Xellos' was no longer being concealed. She stared at the mirror maze before her. The energy of darkness was clearly coming from there, though it felt as if the source was the entire building, yet the aura was a singular one so it couldn't be a horde of monsters. Feeling as if it was somehow her duty to investigate, Filia braced herself for the worse and rushed in to save any unfortunate human victims that might have stumbled into a monster trap.
As she made her way through the mirror maze, she realized it was deserted and found it odd. She thought she saw some people going inside as she walked down the street a few seconds ago. The aura of the unknown monster was all around, but there was also a familiar aura which Filia picked up as she approached it. She turned a reflective corner and at the conclusion of a dead-end hallway she saw a certain someone sitting cross-legged on the floor as if waiting for something, or someone.
"Hello, Filia," he sounded mocking, which came as no surprise.
"Xellos!" Filia spat out the name like venom, to her, 'Xellos' was becoming the single most insulting sound anyone could speak. "I'm on to your plans, you and your monster friend," the word friend was coated in heavy sarcasm, "are trying to harm the people in this resort!"
Xellos chuckled despite the unfavorable situation he was in. "Really Filia, I didn't expect any more from you, a failed conclusion, a failed attempt to stop a non-existent plot, getting caught in a trap. I can't really say I'm disappointed because I didn't expect you to know any better, who would?"
Filia let out a sound that could only be described as a menacing growl worthy of the fearsome fame that dragons had in certain parts of the world. "I'm not going to make it easy." She was ready to fight back tooth and nail, or rather fang and claw.
"I'm not the one you should be worried about," Xellos grinned with the mocking look of one who is all too aware of a secret that affects others, but they don't know it. "As it stands, you're already in the belly of the beast." He was too, but he wasn't about to point it out.
"What are you plotting?" Filia's golden scaly tail appeared from beneath her dress, the usual pink bow replaced with a light blue one that better matched her vacation attire.
"I thought you claimed to know exactly what I was plotting," Xellos grinned.
"Speak, monster!" Filia did her best to sound as confident as possible, never mind that Xellos could easily kill her. If he wanted to, he would just do it, so what was the point of pretending to want peace?
"Shut up!" A booming voice that came from everywhere and nowhere echoed through the mirror maze. "I've had enough of your loud mouth, dragon." The atmosphere around Filia began to distort as the mirrors melted into a sort of transparent goop that tried to grab her and pull her in. Filia screamed and struggled to fight back, gathering energy in her mouth.
"That's a bad idea," Xellos pointed out nonchalant. He had not moved an inch the entire time.
Filia let out a powerful laser breath that bounced off the reflective surface and nearly took off her head on the rebound. Fortunately, she managed to dodge it despite her very limited movement. The laser bounced off a mirror behind her with less potency as last time. The odd angle carried it towards Xellos, who had no choice but to finally move. The laser bounced again repeatedly, losing power each time until it harmlessly faded away in the air. Filia was not inclined to try that again and there wasn't much else she could do. She didn't have her mace with her, neither did Xellos carry his staff, not that it mattered much anyway. The transparent goop absorbed her into the wall unpleasantly. For a few eternal seconds, Filia thought she was suffocating before being tossed out through the ceiling of the hallway, landing in Xellos' arms.
"Ugh," that same booming voice from before complained while making gagging noises. "I can't take it, golden dragons taste terrible!"
"Excuses, you are simply incapable of digesting a power greater than your own. When that power is a golden dragon that's the first sign that you're a weakling!" Xellos teased, golden dragons were powerful creatures, but not in comparison to him. "If not for the help of a certain someone, you wouldn't have been able to hide your aura from me either."
Any further comments on Xellos' part were interrupted by Filia's hand colliding harshly with his face. "Put me down!" She demanded, already bracing herself to be dropped, thus easily landing on her feet when Xellos let her go.
"Hmp!" The booming voice that came from nowhere and everywhere sounded smug. "Regardless of what you say, you're both my prisoners. I might not be able to digest you, but I'm completely invulnerable on the inside. You'll just have to sit there and die of starvation. The dragon will no doubt go first, then you Xellos, there's no energy for you to absorb here."
"What in the world is going on?" Filia yelled beyond the end of her patience. "Xellos, what is this? It almost sounds as if this monster is your enemy too."
"Give the girl a price for getting her single lonely brain cell to work," was Xellos' sarcastic reply.
"Stop dancing around the issue you piece of raw garbage!" Filia demanded.
Xellos chuckled, "I suppose that if I don't tell you directly, explaining things step by step with small words, then you'll never understand."
"Will you two shut up?" The booming voice yelled, making their ears ring. While Filia cringed at the noise, Xellos managed to maintain an indifferent expression.
"No," Xellos smiled. "As I was saying, Filia, this here is a monster and by this I mean the mirror maze. It's one of those monsters that normally is quite weak and can be slayed by any semi-decent human sorcerer or swordsman. This isn't how this type of monster looks normally. The appearance it usually has can be compared to a giant worm. This type of monster often pretends to be a cave so it can eat unsuspecting travelers. There is another monster involved in this. It is made of transparent goop. It has no offensive power what so ever. It can try to suffocate its victims, but even a normal human can literally brush it off and escape, although destroying the creature is extremely difficult. Those two monsters were fused together like chimeras and a new one was created. The worm gained the defense of the goop on the inside and a new monster was created. The new product was then caused to shape shift via magic and transformed into the mirror maze."
Filia had heard about both types of monsters, but she had never heard about them being fused. Monster alchemy was a very scary thought. "Then we've already been eaten? But if the defense is all on the inside, then wouldn't that mean that this thing can be defeated from the outside?"
"Remind me to stick a gold star on your forehead later," Xellos was evidently still in the mood to provide sarcastic replies, he usually was. "There's only one problem, who would think to attack an innocent looking mirror maze? The monster's aura is hidden; I know you couldn't have been able to feel it on your way in. Or were you stupid enough to come in anyway?"
"Shut up!" Filia growled, "you're in this too. Or do you have an explanation as to why you got eaten too? Are you stupid or just masochistic?"
"I am neither, sorry to disappoint you on that second one, but you'll have to take your mace wielding inappropriate fantasies elsewhere." Even if he was in a lot of trouble, Xellos still had the motivation to throw out his annoying witty replies.
"Ew!" The echoing voice of the chimera mirror maze monster loudly exclaimed. It made Filia jump, couldn't that thing give a bit of a warning when it was about to speak? "I really don't want to hear about the strange things you two do. It's disgusting, what are you? Humans?"
Xellos gave the walls a dirty look, "I will kill you for that offense."
"Go ahead and try," the mirror maze monster taunted. "Watching you struggled helplessly," because the being was indeed able to see all that happened inside it. "Is still better than watching you two make out. A monster and a dragon? Unthinkable! It makes me want to puke!"
There was a long awkward silence between Xellos and Filia. Neither of them looked at each other as they processed what the echoing voice had just said. Then Xellos ever so slowly turned his head towards Filia with a mischievous grin. Filia felt Xellos purple eyes burning into the side of her face, not literally thankfully, and quickly looked at him with an expression of horror. "No," she firmly declared, stomping her foot for emphasis.
"It might be the only way out of here," Xellos pointed out, pretending that he didn't at all feel kind of odd about the so called escape plan.
"No, no! Absolutely not! I would rather stay here until I die!" Filia dramatized, though she soon took it back. "Actually, who says I'm going to die? Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis are out there. We had a great time together, without you," she gave Xellos a pointed look. "They'll wonder where I went and come looking for me. It's only a matter of time before they find me, then Lina will Dragon Slave this gluttonous monster to oblivion!"
"I hate to burst your bubble, but it's not likely that they'll find us. Even if they do, they'll probably get themselves caught before they even know what's going on." Xellos explained with superficial calm.
"What about you?" Filia glared, all too happy to point out what she pointed out next. "Are you helpless against this thing? Why haven't you killed the monster who dared to eat you and compare you to a human? You looked rather offended, are you just going to take that?"
"I'll get my revenge," Xellos assured with sinister certainty. "I'll get my revenge on this monster and on the monster lord trying to kill me."
Filia's face paled. "The monster lord trying to kill you?" She stuttered.
"Yes," Xellos confirmed. "Due to reasons that are not your concern, I've been a little out of communication with the monster race. It seems another of the monster lords decided it was a fine opportunity to lower Beast Master's ranks by getting rid of me." It was only a theory, a suspicion, but a guess was all that Xellos could currently come up with. "It is that monster who granted this one additional power and used the circumstances to its favor. Weak monsters with special abilities, normally they're nothing, but with some power-ups and some strategizing, additionally in this case a combination, they can be... vexing." Xellos returned his face to his usual carefree expression. "Oh, but don't worry, I won't let a little thing like an assassination attempt ruin my vacation."
Filia's brain was on overdrive analyzing each new fact she had learned. If the monster race was on the move, that could spell trouble for the whole world. Then again, from what she could gather, this sounded like an internal conflict, which at least meant that the different factions of the monster race could ultimately weaken each other. Although they were monsters, so they would probably drag innocent people into their quarrels and ultimately cause a considerable number of catastrophes. Xellos sounded oddly truthful about his revelations. If even he didn't fully understand what was going on despite usually being a step ahead of everything, then whatever was going on was a closely guarded conspiracy.
Filia went over the possible culprits in her mind. She could just ask Xellos what he suspected, but she had a feeling that he wouldn't tell her anyway. It couldn't be Shabranigdu himself, if he was back and wanted to take out Xellos, then he would have already done it. That meant that it couldn't be someone in the same level as Shabranigdu either. That left the monsters below Ruby Eyes, of which Garv and Fibrizo could be eliminated. If Xellos worked for Zelas Metallium, whose forces would be affected by the loss of Xellos to her ranks, that left the main suspects as "Dynast Grausherra or Deep Sea Dolphin?"
"Unlikely," Xellos replied thoughtfully, "but not impossible." Deep Sea had not been particularly hostile towards Zelas in the past, one might even say it was the opposite, but who could say for certain, really? Dynast had been overall rather quiet in the recent years, but Xellos had a feeling that the monsters, Zelas included, would have noticed if he was plotting something. It was all too strange, almost as strange as Zelas' insistence in Xellos keeping his mouth shut during the entire truth or dare thing. He had a lot of information, but when it came down to it, even if it was known and used to strategize against Zelas, she could just as easily mount a counter attack. Yet his risky silence made it look as if he knew something particularly vital that Zelas wanted to keep under wraps. The feeling of unknowing confusion was new and irritating to Xellos.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Slayers. Something is going on, but it's still too early to draw any conclusions about what it might be... for the time being I'm the only one who knows. (Take that Xellos, being out of the loop is no fun, is it?) Congratulations if you caught the references to Star Wars and Yu-Gi-Oh! They are in the pieces of the fused monster which were partially based on the giant asteroid worm from Empire Strikes Back and on the Revival Jam from Battle City.