a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 30: Clash of the Titans
Lina and Zelgaddis debated over the troupe's best course of action as they finished off the biscuits Mayaki had made for breakfast ahead of time. It was a good thing she'd had the foresight to do so-she'd overslept after her exhaustion, even after three Recovery spells from Lina and Amelia. Despite their hurry to get to a city with a decent library, the others had let her sleep in. It had irritated her, but the group had decided unanimously (while she was asleep) that catching up on rest and regaining strength was better for the wyvern-girl than forcing an early start on her.
Besides which, they weren't sure where they were heading next. Lina was more than vocal about the matter. At the moment, she was shouting about Zelgaddis's logical but seemingly random route from township to township. Amelia stood by, validating points for both sides. Gourry, meanwhile, had headed back to the seashore to see if he could wrangle up some fish for lunch. Mayaki sighed, all but aching for something to do while the sorceress and chimaera duked it out.
She stopped paying attention to them when Xellos sat beside her, leaning his back on the same tree. "Feeling better now?" he asked genuinely. Most of his expressions had come to bear more sincerity since his re-transformation. Mayaki wondered if it should have concerned her.
Nonetheless, she smiled wanly and nodded. "Much. How about you? How's the memory?"
It was the one thing Xellos had been thinking about since the previous day. Not only thinking: worrying. He hadn't been able to sleep he was so focussed on his lack of memories. Without looking at her, he answered. "It feels like working a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the picture is of. All the pieces are there, but some of them are wrong-side-up, one doesn't fit with the rest, and when they do seem to fit, they don't make much sense."
"Is there anything you do remember?"
The priest closed his eyes and, after a moment of thought, shook his head. "Except for the last hundred years or so, just little flashes. A face with no name, a strawberry daiquiri on the beach, a woman running past a well..." He paused. The silence began to bear down on both of them. "Carnage," he added finally. "Lots and lots of carnage that I was probably the cause of. That's all I really remember."
"But it's coming back in bits, isn't it? Like last night?"
"That was almost more of an instinct than a memory," he snorted. "We're all just lucky that particular spell popped up at that moment."
The wyvern sighed sympathetically, setting her hand lightly on his. "It'll come back to you eventually."
He surprised her by yanking his hand away violently. "You think I want to remember?" He stood, turning away from the sunlight that filtered through the sparse trees.
Mayaki remained where she was, arms held up tentatively, not certain if she wanted to comfort him or let him go. "Xellos," she breathed softly. She couldn't see his eyes from where she sat, but she could see the dark shadow his hair cast on his face.
"I have done many evil things in my life, little bird, for which I can never atone." His voice conveyed his depression and anger, echoing the darkness that shielded his face from her. "The humans are right to call us the Monster Race."
Mayaki, not being able to think of anything comforting to say, remained silent, standing up behind him. "You're not one of them anymore," she said, at length.
By way of changing the subject, he looked across the clearing to the rest of the group as Zel rolled up his map and Gourry rejoined them with a definite lack of fish. Lina teased him good-naturedly about not being as good of an angler as her. "Looks like Lina's decided which way to go," he muttered, stalking away from her. "We'd best get ready to go."
She watched him as he left, feeling a helplessness at her lack of a way to console him. Perhaps he needed time to himself just now.
* * * * *
"No. I absolutely refuse. I am not taking another step in that direction." The journey had come to a standstill as soon as he learned of their destination.
"Come on, Xellos, please?" Lina goaded.
"Absolutely not!" he resisted fervently, crossing his arms.
"We need the information from her!" the sorceress insisted.
Amelia tried leading the priest along by the wrists. "Besides, maybe Miss Filia will be glad to see you. Maybe she'll like you better as a human."
"Are you kidding me?" he yelped as he was dragged along on his heels. "Look, I'll tell you exactly what will happen when she sees me: First, she'll go totally pale, then she'll glare at me and growl, 'Xellos! You namagomi!' Then out comes the mace, and she bashes me into the next country with it."
Mayaki merely watched this spectacle, then turned to the never-reacting Zelgaddis. "Old enemy of his?"
"Worse," he told her. "Old girlfriend."
"She's not my girlfriend!" Xellos protested as Lina and Amelia fought him down the road. "She never was! We don't even like each other!"
"Yeah, right, Xellos," Lina teased. "The way you two fought, we thought you'd end up in bed together!"
The former-Mazoku blushed. "Lina... you're not helping the situation any..."
He eventually stopped struggling and let the girls drag him to his fate.
* * * * *
An hour later, the group reached the building that doubled as the golden dragon's home and pottery shop.
Lina examined a large glazed jar, tapped it a couple of times, then sighed and shrugged. "I don't get it. How could something so simple make Filia so happy?"
"Miss Lina!" Amelia scolded, waving a finger in the older girl's face. "Don't discredit someone else's pleasure! Miss Filia loves her work!"
"Yeah, yeah, all right..." the sorceress brushed her off with a slight grin. "Hellooo, is anyone here?" she called, walking through the rows of pots.
Startled, skittish footfalls sounded from a back room, followed by the appearance of a small fox face peeking around the doorframe. "AAACK!" it said. "Lina Inverse!"
Lina blinked a couple of times, then smirked broadly. "My reputation precedes me! How are you, Jillas?"
The fox-man stepped out cautiously. "Ohh, life's been good to me, Boss. Here, what with the Boss and Boss Gravos and the baby. And," he added decisively, "it's a lot safer here than out roamin' all the time. A manbeast can get hurt out there!" he clutched one of his hand-muskets delicately with both paws, like a favorite toy. "Boss and Boss Gravos are out. They're taking the babby out for a walk."
"Oh, that's too bad... I was hoping to catch Filia here. Were they going to be gone long?"
"No, Boss. Not long, Boss. Back any minute, I'd think." He trotted into the part of the building that served as a house. "Boss'll insist you stay for a cappatae, so I'll just go put the kettle on."
"Thanks, Jillas. We'll just wait outside. Where we can't break anything."
Jillas poke his head out again with a beaming smile. "Right, Boss!"
The travelers filed back out of the shop. The six of them unconsciously broke into three couples: Lina and Gourry, Amelia and Zelgaddis, Xellos and Mayaki. Xellos noted this to himself, smiling partly out of amusement, partly out of habit. Lina and Gourry, well, they seemed destined to be together. It was only a matter of time before they admitted it. Amelia and Zelgaddis, ever the tragic love story, but if and when Zel got his cure, their relationship was a sure thing as well. Since the battle at Wolfpack Island, Zelgaddis had seemed to open up more to the princess, his smile showing up more and more often due to his renewed hope. Amelia delighted in seeing him in such high spirits, and the petite justice warrior was so overflowing with positive emotion that, Xellos thought, had he still been a Mazoku, she probably would have killed him.
That left one couple he hadn't thought about. The one that made him smile the most, a sincere smile he shared with Mayaki as she entwined her arm with his and linked fingers. She was a good distraction from his earlier pensiveness. He managed to hold it at the back of his mind for the time being.
She was glad to see him being more or less his normal self again. "I think Lina and the others have all the bases covered here... d'you want to take a little walk?"
His grin widened further. "I would, at that. But," he winked, the tricksterish side of his personality coming to the forefront, "you have to catch me first!" With a deftness belying his human form, he spun away from the wyvern girl, managed to give her a graceful, if flirtatious, bow, then danced around the corner.
"Why you...!" she yelped, giving in to his game. "Xellos!" she shrieked after him.
He stalled as he reached the back of the building, having got a head start on her, waiting for her to spot him before dashing around the corner ...
...where he nearly slammed into an oncoming baby carriage. The priest flailed his arms wildly, trying to regain his lost balance. The woman pushing the pram was not impressed. In fact, the look on her face was downright irate. The ogre next to her blinked in semi-recognition of him. Xellos looked away from him to meet the woman's face and flinched. "F...filia! ...er..."
The blonde dragon priestess before him glared threateningly, one eyebrow twitching beyond her control. "Namagomi!" she growled, pulling her mace out from beneath her petticoats.
Xellos held his hand up in front of him, attempting to calm the golden dragon enough to be civil, meanwhile backing away from her. "Eh... how nice to see you again, Filia. You're looking well... how is Val doing?"
* * * * *
Mayaki had almost caught up when she caught sight of Xellos backing away from something. He looked as if he was ready to break into a run at any second. Mayaki wondered if they were under another attack, and that's when she saw the woman with the mace.
"Oh no... Xellos!"
Filia didn't seem to be in the mood for small talk. "Gravos, take Val into the house. What are you doing here, namagomi?!" she snarled.
* * * * *
"Now, now, Filia... that's not very ladylike..." The priest clapped his hands over his mouth, swallowing hard as if he was trying to pull the words back inside himself. The taunt had just slipped out... he had been so used to teasing her when he'd been Mazoku (and virtually indestructible), that for a second he had forgotten his new, human status.
So he was fully expecting to die when the woman shrieked and raised the spiked ball over her head to smite him. He flinched again and ducked, eyes snapping closed and remaining so out of pure instinct. He heard the heavy mace as it sang through the air in a powerful downward arc. He heard Mayaki's panicked yelp of "No!" There was a dull smack, then, nothing.
The priest's eyes sprang open of their own volition. Death and oblivion had obviously not come for him, but the scene that greeted him left him stunned. Before him stood Filia, in a silent state of shock and amazement, her mace stopped mid-swing...by Mayaki. The wyvern-girl had stepped in front of him at the last second and caught the full impact of Filia's blow in one hand. The dust around her feet was just starting to settle from where the little wyvern had been forced back three inches.
Xellos stared at Mayaki. She turned her head and met his eyes with a look of concern. The priest blacked out, hitting the ground with a muffled thump.
"Xellos?!" Mayaki squeaked, dropping the mace and crouching to attend her boyfriend.
Filia maintained her shocked stillness. "He fainted..." She shook herself out of it, resuming her fury. "Okay, who are you? How did you do that? And how do you know Xellos?"
Mayaki all but snarled at her. "Can't you just wait until I wake him up?" She continued fanning the former Mazoku's face with her hand. "My name is Mayaki."
"Mayaki! Xellos! What's going-oh, hey Filia!" Lina greeted as she and the rest of the group jogged up. "What happened here? We heard the yelling and came running. What happened to Xellos?"
Amelia panicked. "Oh, no! Miss Filia, you didn't hit him with the mace, did you?!"
Filia reverted to her previous stunned expression. "No...almost. He fainted just after your friend..." She paused as rage fought confusion for dominance within her mind. "...wait a second, how did you do that anyway?" she snapped at Mayaki accusationally.
Lina distracted the wyvern with a series of choking, hacking sounds. "Mayakiiii..." she sang warningly, following this up with a number of cutting hand gestures mixed with a couple indicating strangulation.
Mayaki mouthed back, *Wha...?*
Xellos picked that opportune moment to resume consciousness. He groaned, sitting up and shielding his eyes from the cornea-searing daylight.
They wyvern girl couldn't have sounded more thrilled. "Xellos!"
"Nnnngghh... what just happened?"
"I just saved you-"
Filia tapped a foot impatiently. "Still waiting for an answer here..."
Mayaki made a face at her and continued, "...from this crazy-woman..."
"Crazy woman!? Look, who are you to be calling me crazy, you who hangs around with this Mazoku garbage?!"
The chef's eyes began to take on a fiery glow. "Mazoku...garbage?" she repeated slowly.
Zelgaddis began herding the rest of the bystanders away. "We might want to get a reasonable distance away. Very soon."
"Mayaki, temper..." Lina tried. The wyvern wasn't paying attention, though.
"Mazoku garbage..." she mused, stewing. "Let me tell you about Mazoku garbage, Miss."
"Ohh.. here she goes..." Xellos murmured.
They wyvern continued, unabashed. "I have been considered Mazoku garbage for most of my life just as Xellos had for his. I have been persecuted and all but hunted down and killed for being what I am, something I had no say in. Persecuted by people like YOU, who lash out at what they don't fully understand."
"Are you calling me prejudiced?" Filia gasped at her.
Mayaki snorted. "...says the woman who tried to clobber an unarmed man with a mace... You're damned right, I am!"
"But this is Xellos!"
"Yes, it is!"
"That low-down, slimy namagomi took every chance he got to double-cross us, use us, or just downright irritate me personally!"
"You could have killed him!"
"Mazoku don't die... their physical bodies are inconsequential."
The wyvern twitched. "Well, Miss Know-It-All, I can tell you're a little out of the loop as far as current events go.," she chuckled mockingly. "Let me fill you in. I met Xellos a few months ago. Generally, I figured him for the annoying little jerk he was-and obviously I'm not alone in that opinion. But then something happened between us... some odd sort of understanding that bonded us together. The others here though he was being a bad influence on me, irritating little runt that he is, but at the same time maybe-just maybe-I was being a good influence on him, too. Because, you see, Xellos stood up against his Master when she ordered him to kill me."
"He saved my life. There was just enough good in him -just enough love-to make him do it. And, for that little blip of humanity, Zelas stripped him of his power... leaving him human."
Mayaki turned her eyes on him lovingly. "It was the single greatest sacrifice I've ever seen anyone make in my lifetime. I doubt I'll live to see its equal." She clenched her eyes and fists. Her voice became tinged with bitterness. "But at the same time, I am so jealous of him, I could die. I know Zelgaddis feels the same way... us half-monsters, longing to be fully human, we who deserve it so much more... we have to watch as he gets his humanity restored to him in seconds-no matter how painful during or afterwards, we're still jealous-while we continue to search for the way, as outcasts." She softened. "But I love him, too. I mean, he's still an annoying little jerk some of the time, but you kind of get attached to it after a while." She glanced over her shoulder at her other friends. "Right, guys?"
The motionless group suddenly came to life. Amelia scuffed a boot in the dust. Zelgaddis pondered a certain interesting cloud. Gourry found a bird to follow across the sky, while Lina found a spot on her leggings that needed sudden scrubbing. Their choir of mutters generally amounted to, "Yeah, well... I guess... maybe.. I suppose... he isn't too bad..."
Mayaki rolled her eyes and turned her gaze back to the bewildered Xellos. "It's one of my more endearing qualities," he grinned, winking.
Filia was silent, her eyes filled with tears, looking like she could break down bawling at any second. "That's... so beautiful!" she sniffled.
"Okay, Filia, that's enough..." Lina proclaimed, shoving the dragon priestess toward the rear door. "Come on, now... Jillas has some nice tea made for us inside..."
* * * * *
Always a paragon of good manners, Filia invited the motley group to stay overnight as her guests (though it was against her better judgement). Nevertheless, she remained wary of Xellos and his half-Mazoku girlfriend. The strange girl unnerved her, but after Mayaki's grand lecture, she didn't dare make comment about it.
"So," she began, sipping her tea delicately, "what brings you all here?"
Lina, being the boldest, was first to broach the uncomfortable subject. "Actually, we're looking for some information... namely, directions to the Darisalito mountains. Ever heard of them?"
The golden dragon thought, raising a curled finger to her chin. Her expression showed confusion and disapproval. "I've heard of them," she said at last. "But their location has been a mystery to the Dragon Race for a millenium or more." She paused. "Why would you want to go to such a dreadful place anyway? It's supposed to be inhabited by wyverns." She spat the word with such acid that Mayaki nearly jumped at her, but Xellos pulled her down at the last second.
"Three's one wyvern in particular that we need to talk with," Zelgaddis explained. "With their shapeshifting abilities, I'm hoping they can undo all the damage Rezo did when he changed me into a chimaera."
"But... wyverns are so terrible! They're nasty and atrocious and have bad manners, and I've heard that they smell bad too! They would probably eat you as soon as look at you!" the dragon priestess gaped. "What could you possibly do to make them listen?"
Mayaki made her presence known by clearing her throat. "The man... the wyvern we're looking for, goes by the name of Elric DeBarro. He's my father."
The dragon-priestess went pale. "Your FATHER??!" she exploded. "You mean to tell me you're a wyvern?!" The scene seemed to freeze for that instant. Jillas stopped his delivery of a plate of cookies mid-step, eyes glued on Filia-Boss. Gravos, the ogre, who had been entertaining Val by bouncing him on his knee, paused as well, waiting for the whole of Filia's wrath to come down. Even the baby watched the intent, enraged look on his adoptive-mother's face.
"Half," Mayaki replied, as calmly as she could manage. The strain in her voice showed, and for good reason-she was firstly trying not to aggravate the situation by starting another verbal battle with the golden dragon, and secondly, she was striving to keep her Mazoku side from soaking up the negative emotions Filia offered in mass. The dark power called to her with such deadly appeal-the increase in strength and speed-but the little wyvern knew she had to resist or lose her humanity. One bit, and she'd be a power addict once again, and who knew how far she would go this time?
Filia tensed visibly at the answer. Her hands curled into fists. She stomped a foot against the floorboards. Her long gold tail with its decorative pink bow popped out from beneath her skirts. She ground her teeth as she tried to decide who to yell at first-they wyvern, for being there; Lina, for bringing such a hideous thing into her presence; or Xellos for... well, for being namagomi-when the events of the war with Dark Star flitted through her memory. Her unleashed rant died. *I should know from experience not to judge people for what they are. My people lost their lives because they could not understand that.* Her hands remained clenched, the anger having faded, but not dispersed.
"Forgive me," she said, biting back the remaining rage. "I should know better than to treat you badly for being what you are, even if you are Wyverzoku. It's just a little too much for me to take in all at once like this."
Mayaki looked away with a sigh. "Do you have a kitchen here?"
Filia lifted her chin toward a doorway leading from her sitting room. "On the right."
The wyvern girl nodded as she rose. "I should get started on dinner."
All present watched in silence as she exited the room morosely, hardly sparing a glance to the fox-man as he continued in to serve the guests.
Filia nodded a thanks to him absently, taking a cookie, but then started to her feet. "No, wait! You all are my guests! I should be the one fixing supper! Ohh, I-"
Lina tugged her back by her skirt. "Mn-nn," she advised, shaking her head. "It's better for her if you just let her go."
The dragon halted, but continued to stare after the wyvern. No frustration now, but curiosity and a note of pity and one of shame in her voice. "Oh..."
Disclaimer in short: Slayers and related characters aren't mine. Mayaki and various other incidental characters are.
Thanks for reading! Please leave me some feedback; I live and thrive on criticism! (not to mention, I'm a perfectionist. ;)