Hello, hello~! Yeah, I had to take a break last week after what happened. For those who bothered to read my rant on the last chapter, thanks for enduring it. I know its probably more appropriate to put that sort of thing on a forum or blog, but I already have enough to keep up with (and even those I don't keep up very well). I'm still waiting on a job offer. Its scary. Only got enough to last me until August, then I'll be in REAL trouble! But this is the most promising yet. These people know me pretty well. Anyways, at least I have other things I can do to fill up my time. Not all of them pleasant, but necessary.

Okay, time for a little action! Enjoy!

Chapter 63: Mission Topsy-Turvy Part II

Alyssa did not bother seeing them off. She felt a heavy sense of dread about the situation unfolding in town, and despite legitimate concerns for the safety of Christine and everyone in the house, Alyssa honestly believed this was not where she should be.

Slowly her legs carried her towards the stairs of the guest wing, but when she got there, her feet refused to lift themselves. She looked up the mountainous steps. Vorfeed…?

Yes, Canal? Vorfeed's voice still retained that sad sweetness from their conversation earlier.

What should I do? Alyssa asked.

There was some hesitance …The right thing…

But… What is right? she rephrased. What good can I do here? How could she determine such a thing when her human emotions refused to allow her to think logically?

Who needs your help the most?

Alyssa had been running from that question for a long time. If there was any way she could just step out there and end the fighting that was taking place right now, she would, but Dark Star was still lurking about. If he truly was nearby like the monster at the Miasma Forest claimed, she could be easily pin-pointed and put everyone else in danger.

But they were already in danger.

Lina and the others were the types that purposely marched toward a threat, never minding the odds, and somehow make it through. They had defeated two demon lords and Ruby Eye Shabrinigdu several times. Alyssa had witness the many incredible things all of them have done, short of Lina's legendary Dragon Slave. If mere humans could stand up to beings wielding the power of gods, then even with the strength Alyssa currently had, she still had a fighting chance. And if she could work with them… the sooner people like Mrs. Darrem and her children would not have to suffer under the threat monsters trying to tear their world apart anymore. No need to reveal who she was.

With a strange calm that had suddenly fell on her, Alyssa felt her legs turn away from the staircase and then run.

When Filia could no longer see them, she sighed nervously and began directing Jean back into the house. She glanced over at Amelia, who was still watching the sky above the town and fiddling with something on her finger. "Amelia, you coming in?"

"Huh? Oh…" The princess turned to her absentmindedly, then seemed to snap out of it and quit playing with her fingers which she immediately hid behind her as she blushed. "Yes… L-Let's go check on Miss Christine."

Thinking it was because of what happened in the courtyard earlier, Filia attempted to comfort her as they went back inside. "Don't worry, Zelgadis will come around. I'm sure he doesn't mind blowing off some steam on some monsters."

"Sure wish I could blow off steam on some monsters…" Jean grumbled, still miffed at being told to stay behind.

"No you don't!" Filia reprimanded as she gently shoved him towards the stairs. "Why don't you go make sure Alyssa's okay. She seemed a little upset."

Jean gave out an exaggerated sigh, but complied and took off towards the guest bedrooms as quickly as his legs could carry him.

"I better make sure Val's okay too. All that banging will probably eventually wake him up," Filia said to Amelia.

She nodded. "I'll go talk to Miss Christine-"

There was another large explosion that sounded closer than the first one that started the whole commotion, and the two of them held onto each other as the house shook more violently than before.

They could hear Krista's and Marian's shrieks coming from the parlor and immediately ran over to make sure they were okay. Christine had them huddled with her on one of the couches with a couple of the younger maids clinging to each other in fear.

"Everyone okay?" Amelia redundantly asked more to settle her own nerves.

"A-are they getting closer?" Krista asked in turn.

"Not that we could see," Filia answered. She instinctively turned towards the guest wing stairs thinking that Val must surely be awake now and saw Jean running back down them.

"Miss Filia! Miss Alyssa's not in her room!" he exclaimed as he nearly tripped over his own feet to keep himself from running into her as he stopped.

"What? But where on earth would she go at a time like this? I could've sworn that was where she was headed." Filia looked down the other side of the main hall. Maybe she went towards the library…

"Pardon me, but if you're looking for Miss Alyssa, you might want to try the stables," said a butler who was still in his nightclothes.

Her head whipped around. "Did you see her go into them?"

"No, but she asked me where we kept the horses, and I pointed her the way thinking that she was going to join young Lord Darrem," he explained.

Filia's eyes met Amelia's in astonishment.

"She wouldn't…" Amelia said in a disbelievingly soft tone. "She promised Mr. Aldrich she'd stay!"

Another even more powerful explosion rocked the house.

All three of them clung together until the shaking stopped. Krista and Marian were in tears now, and the two young maids were on the verge of hysterics.

Then Amelia headed off towards the front door. "I've got to stop her!"

Filia ran after her. "But you can't leave everyone here! My powers are too drained to hold off an attack here!"

Amelia halted at her words. "But I can't let her go either!" she said determinately. "She's still too scared to use her magic and wouldn't last long if they corner her!"

The dragoness understood her concern. There were a lot of things that could go wrong if Alyssa was still hesitant to do what it took to defend herself when she was cut off from everyone else. Filia could only pray that she found the others before any monster did, and goodness only knew where everyone else was right now.

Filia shook her head at the foolish decision she was about to make. "Wait right here. I'll be right back."

She ran up the stairs to her room where Val was now awake and pouting over nobody being there to comfort him. Filia scooped him up in his blue blanket while giving him apologetic hugs and kisses and hurried back down. She went into the parlor where Christine and her daughters were still huddled and handed Val over despite his protests.

"You might want to go someplace where the room won't suddenly collapse on you if it gets worse," Filia suggested.

Christine's brown eyes widened. "But we have no way to defend ourselves!"

Filia took her pendant off and put it on Christine. "This will ward off any monster that gets too close. If you keep everyone close to you, they will be protected too."

Christine put a hand on her arm, understanding what the pendant meant to the dragoness and her hatchling. "What will you do then?"

Filia bravely smiled. "I have to help Amelia find a friend."

"What about me?" Jean asked.

She turned to him. "Do you still have your Flarelord medallion?"

"Y-yes…" Jean wondered why she wanted him to take out something that made his spells unpredictable.

"Then put it on and stay close to Mrs. Darrem, okay?" Filia said as she hurried out of the parlor to join Amelia.

Amelia stared at her worriedly. "Are you sure you want to come? Mr. Torrin will be upset if he found out."

"I can deal with Torrin later," Filia assured her. "Besides, two pairs of eyes are better than one, and it'll benefit both of us if we can watch each other's back. It'll be easier on me if I only have to worry about one person instead of a couple dozen anyway."

Still unsure, Amelia simply nodded. "Let's go then."

Jean watched them go out the door then turned to the girls on the couch. There was a low rumbling like thunder, then nothing, except the distant voices of neighbors out in the street wondering what was going on.

So he straightened himself up, dug out his medallion, put it around his neck, and took charge. He pointed to the butler. "Can you gather everyone in the front yard?"

The butler was a little startled, but nodded. "Y-yes, sir, I can do that."

"Good." Then Jean walked over to Christine. "Make sure you have something to keep you warm, Miss Christine. The front of the house is the only place with a wide enough space to make sure nothing falls on anyone if they move the fight here."

Christine motioned the two frightened maids to hurry and go, then got up and tried to guide her girls out of the room. Little Marian was rooted and would not move, so Christine had to pick her up.

Krista let go of her mother and clung to Jean instead, and he fought the urge to push her away since she was clearly scared out of her wits.

As they filed out of the house with the staff who made sure their mistresses had blankets to cover themselves, the clear night sky lit up with what looked like lightning coming from the middle of town, and there was another low rumble.

The grip Krista had on Jean's arm began to worry him. She was not just scared, she was nearly paralyzed. There was no indication of her earlier flirtatiousness. If it had been Miranda, Jean would have his arms around her doing everything he could to comfort and assure her that she was safe.

"I bet you miss your father, don't you?" he said, attempting to draw Krista out of her mute terror.

She looked at him curiously. "W-why would I miss my father?"

Jean was not sure if he had hit on a nerve or was simply wondering why he would bring up someone he had not had a chance to meet yet. "W-well, when I used to get scared of a storm during one my trips with my father, he always knew how to calm me down and help me get back to sleep."

He hoped he had helped by giving her something comforting to think about. Even though his father was now dead, Jean was always comforted by the memory of him.

Instead, Krista's eyes fell to her feet. "He's never here," she said sadly. "He never stays long enough to see us or even talk to us."

"Oh…" Jean deflated a bit at his failed attempt. Apparently, Krista did not quite fit the sheltered rich girl stereotype like he thought. There was a lot of underlying dejection beneath the sunny exterior she often projected.

"Your father must be wonderful if he knew how to calm someone like you down." There was only a slight shiver in her voice now as she wiped her eyes.

Taking it as a good sign, he continued. "He was the best, but he died about a year ago. He fought off pirates, so that my uncles, cousins, and brothers could escape when they tried to overrun his ship."

"I'm so sorry to hear that." Her eyes slowly lifted up as they reached the center of the front lawn. "Did he give you that dragon medallion you're wearing?"

Jean suddenly flushed at the question, knowing how much Krista liked him. "U-u-uh, a-actually, a v-very good friend back home gave it to me-"

Yet another large explosion cut him off.

His physical body had made a great hole in a taller building two streets away.

Xellos laid there in the rubble for a few moments to regain his bearings before digging himself out, and when he finally did, he saw Edina coming closer to survey the damage she had done. Her back injury had already healed itself, but she appeared to be in a daze, like she could not believe what just happened. The light that took over her body was now dulled but still gently radiated from every part of her projection.

His injuries were not debilitating but were considerable enough to warrant immediate attention in case Edina attempted to do whatever she just did again. There was so much force behind it that Xellos could not see how on earth such a weak monster like her could have been given that much power without being destroyed, and even if it did not destroy her, Dynast would not have allowed it.

When she saw him appear amongst the rubble, Edina was surprised at first, thinking he still should have had enough strength to phase out of the physical plane, but then she took a closer look at him and noticed an odd color on his face. She gave out a slow melodious laugh.

Xellos stared at her wondering what the joke was. Then he tasted something coppery in his mouth, and it was dripping out.

"I can't believe it!" She laughed a little louder as she pointed at him. "I made the general priest bleed involuntarily!"

He carefully wiped a thumb against his lip and looked at the red stain on his glove. It was certainly no act from him. He only used blood to fool humans into believing he was one of them (something he had to use a great deal when confronting Lina in public places), but to have another monster make him bleed meant somehow his projection had been scrambled during the attack. For someone like Xellos who took pride in perfectly mimicking the human form, to lose control and have it act like an actual human body in distress without his knowing was rare and very disturbing.

Edina was laughing manically to the night sky now, her hands balled into joyful fists on either side of her. She had no idea such power resided within her. It far surpassed anything that had been given to her by Dynast.

She looked back down at the still struggling Xellos when she was finally done. "If I were you, Xellos, I would start running to your beast pup lord."

Xellos saw her fists glowing as they gathered energy and quickly ran through his options in his head. He was not supposed to let Edina out of his sight until he knew for sure the ambush was completely botched and hopefully gain some information on Dark Star's whereabouts in the process. The only thing he could do at this point while tending his wounds was throw a few lower level offensive spells at Edina's astral body to distract her.

He rose his staff and hand to prepare for a counter-strike.

Then Grau suddenly appeared between them, facing Edina. The energy in her hands dissipated, as did the glow coming from her body, and she shot a nasty glare at him. "What the hell are you doing here?!"

"So, you're finally learning how to tap into that power. It took you long enough." Grau managed to sound annoyed yet bored at the same time. "But I'm afraid I must ask you to cut your… discussion… here a little short."

That only made Edina angry. She motioned with one of her arms for him to move. "What are you talking about, Grau?! Get out of my-"

"-Lord Dynast insists that you desist, now!" He emphasized his point by striking his metal rod against what looked like invisible ground upon which he stood. The effect was a low rumbling one would hear from a weak earthquake.

Xellos was far too curious to leave now and quietly concentrated on his injuries as he looked on.

Edina was not intimidated and defiantly folded her arms. "And why should I listen to a grouch of a priest, when I have the upper hand!" She pointed at herself.

"This is not the time nor the place to discuss this right now," said Grau, getting frustrated. "You've done enough damage already blowing our cover!"

"Then get out of my way and let me finish him off!" she yelled as her body began to glow again.

"He's not the one Lord Dynast is concerned about! Now, report back, or I will take you myself!" he threatened.

Edina looked back and forth between Grau and Xellos who was standing absolutely still waiting to see what she will decide to do.

During the standstill, the now deserted street beneath them began to echo with the sound of hoof beats. Hunter and Dark Star appeared around a corner along with Lina and her friends landing beside them when they halted and jumped off their horses. At the site of Dark Star, Edina unwillingly stood down.

Torrin immediately recognized Edina from the bell tower in the city that was infested with demons. "She's the monster who's been following Filia!"

"So that's Dynast's head lieutenant…" Lina thought allowed, taking a good look at Edina. Filia's physical description of her was not exaggerated, particularly the part about the chest area, much to the sorceress' disappointment.

"She's definitely a class A example of looks being deceiving," Zelgadis echoed her thoughts.

Grau was not pleased to see them. "Great, now look what you did!" he accused Edina as he smacked his head.

"Me?! I would've been done and gone already if you hadn't stopped me!" Edina shot back.

"Why, hello there, Lina!" Xellos called out and waved grinningly. "Long time, no see!"

"X-Xellos?! What's going on here?!" Lina demanded. She had not seen him since he woke up Filia from one of Dark Star's nightmare attacks back in Seyruun. "And who's the Sherra look-alike?!"

"I thought Sherra was supposed to be dead," Gourry said as he put a hand to his chin. "I didn't know there was two of them."

Grau mumbled something unintelligible about being mistaken for Sherra while Edina giggled at his irritation.

"That's exactly what I was trying to figure out," Xellos responded to Lina's first question, as he looked to Grau. "I only came here to stop an ambush, but it seems I've stumbled upon something I shouldn't have."

"Ambush?!" Pokota exclaimed on Lina's shoulder as everyone gasped.

"Figures he wouldn't tell us about it," Zelgadis grumbled.

"Or maybe he was in on it and did not want us to know," Samira added.

"I could believe that," Torrin said vehemently.

Grau now turned to Xellos, putting on a tired expression like he knew this was going to happen all along. "You have no idea how much I would love to kill you right now." He raised his metal staff in front of him, and it began to spark. "But I guess I'll just have to settle for doing some major damage to keep you out of the way."

Xellos just kept grinning despite his predicament while keeping his own staff crossed in front of him in an attempt to provide some meager defense. "Nice to see I still am of some value to Lord Dynast, Grau."

"Grau?" Lina said to herself curiously. "Where did I hear that name before?"

"Grau…" Torrin repeated, then it dawned on him. "Lina! That's Dynast's priest!"

"What?! I thought he never leaves Dynast's side!" Pokota said as everyone gasped again.

"Then that means Dynast himself is here somewhere." Lina reflexively looked around and down the cross streets, half expecting Dynast to show up.

"Hey!" Edina grabbed Grau's staff, causing the energy gathered inside it to shoot up into the sky like a bolt of lightning instead of hitting its intended target. "I said I wanted to finish him off, you stupid priest!"

"N-no… way… in-hell!" Grau wrestled his staff out of her hands. "You're too unstable right now, you might kill him!"

"Unstable?! I am not unstable!" Edina's voice went into shrill mode as she went for his staff again. "You're just jealous because Lord Dynast doesn't let you do anything!"

"I have my orders!" Grau yelled. "Quit acting like a spoiled little brat before I-"

"-Before you what?! You shock me with your stupid lightning rod?!"

"If this is what Lord Dynast has to put up with everyday, then I feel sorry for him," Hunter muttered to Dark Star as everyone looked on, watching the two monsters let their argument degenerate into name-calling.

Dark Star said nothing, but he was quickly formulating another plan that hopefully he would be able to pull off while Xellos was still in a weak position. All he needed was for Edina to look his way.

The fight was getting on Lina's nerves, so she threw an Elmekia Lance right at the rod. Both Edina and Grau let go like they had just been burnt with Grau juggling it in his hands for a couple of seconds before he managed to get a good grip.

Wasting no time, Lina prepared herself another with Zelgadis and Pokota taking a cue from her while the others readied their weapons. "All right, tell me more about this ambush, or one of you gets a triple-shocker!" the sorceress warned.

Edina looked like she had just been insulted while Grau appeared only mildly startled.

"I have an idea," Dark Star whispered to Hunter with a slight nudge.

"What?" Hunter asked in a hushed voice.

"You'll see," he answered.

As Grau recovered himself to answer Lina, Edina noticed Dark Star nodding and pointing towards Hunter where no one could see.

Xellos quietly watched the whole scene unfold before him, but right before Grau spoke he sensed a change in Edina's mood as she happened to glance down at the only two with horses.

"I don't care about you or your reputation, Lina Inverse!" Grau said slowly in a low threatening tone as he held his staff horizontally in front of him. "It'll take more than a cheap shot to-"

"-Well, I guess the jig is up," Edina said in a sudden sweet tone as she shrugged.

"W-what?!" Grau exclaimed. "What are you-?"

She ignored him and winked at Hunter. "-Too bad, Sweetie, but it was fun while it lasted."

Hunter flushed and appeared startled as everyone turned to him in shock, including Aldrich. "E-Edina! Why you little-! How could just rat me out like that?!"

"So sorry, but you're not much use to us now." Edina looked down on him condescendingly folding her arms. "Just be glad we're going to let you live, for now."

While she was talking, Zelgadis marched over to Hunter. Lina reached out for his shoulder, but he shook her off. The chimera grabbed the front of Hunter's shirt. "You bastard!" he growled as he yanked the supposed traitor close to his face.

"Zel!" Lina pleadingly called out. She felt Hunter was not the one they should be concentrating on right now.

Pokota hopped off her shoulder to try and stop him.

"It was just all an act, wasn't it?!" Zelgadis shook Hunter as he tried to break free. "You only care about yourself don't you, you damn weasel! What about your family?! What about Amelia, HUH?!"

Pokota tried to get his attention. "I understand how you feel, but you need to stop-"

Zelgadis did not hear the prince. He shook Hunter harder, and his voice startled the horses as it rose up, forcing Pokota out of the way. "-YOU DON'T LOVE HER AT ALL! YOU WERE JUST USING HER TO GET WHAT YOU WANT, NO MATTER WHAT DEALS YOU HAD TO MAKE!"

By the end of Zelgadis' rant, Lina had come over to try and pry him off Hunter. "ZEL, STOP IT!" she yelled.

But Hunter managed to do it himself. "OF COURSE I LOVE AMELIA!" he shouted.

Lina got in front of Zelgadis before he tried to have another go at Hunter. "Then why?" she asked seriously. "Why did you put Amelia and her friends in danger?"

"You wouldn't understand," he answered with an honest face. "Hurting my family or Amelia was the last thing on my mind when I made a deal with them."

During all of this, Edina noticed Dark Star slowly mouthing something to her while everyone was distracted. The smile she already had on her face grew a little wider and subtly glanced over at Grau who had been watching the fight and happen to catch what was said. She also spotted Xellos eying her suspiciously, but she could tell that he had no clue of what was really going on.

Zelgadis slipped out from behind Lina before she could catch him and decked Hunter. He stumbled over onto the cobblestone street and caught himself with one hand while holding his jaw in the other.

"You expect me to believe that bullshit, you fucking liar!" Zelgadis spat.

At this point, Edina began laughing, catching everyone's attention again. "Oh, how wonderful! If this is all it takes to make one of you lose it, then this is going to be a ton of fun!"

She promptly phased out, leaving a now oddly calm, smiling Grau in their company. He raised his staff again. "Now, where was I?"

Sparks began to fly as he carefully considered each of his potential targets. Lina called for everyone to take cover while she pulled Zelgadis along with her, leaving Hunter to stumble away on his own. Aldrich mounted his own horse and took off.

"Oh yes, that's right." Grau finally looked at Xellos and pounded him with a direct hit.

Poor Xellos, I'm just torturing him in this one, am I? You'll just have to read the next one to see if he's okay. Not going to say much about Hunter, he's a given.

Oh, if you're one of the readers who put an alert on me or this story, if you see older chapter titles popping up in your email, two things have happened: ONE) It is a REVISED chapter, with all the spelling and grammar errors fixed, as well as certain scenes improved and in some cases added, so it'll be worth your while to go back and read. TWO) I have a job. I told myself not to post revisions until I'm employed. I'm not doing any INTENSE revisions at the moment, but If I find an error while going back and reminding myself what I wrote before, I have been fixing them so there's less work later. I only have five chapters that are OFFICIALLY revised and posted on DeviantART and the Beloved Enemy forum, but I'm starting to see things that I missed even in those. YIKES!

As for future stories (yes, I'm thinking THAT far ahead even though I still have a long ways to go here), I do have plans for a compilation of scenes from parts of this story that were either necessarily skimmed over, or I was unable to work in properly after the fact, along with probably some scenes from when Filia first started out before Fallen Stars. There might be a couple in there about Lina and the others too. Also, I do have a tangent story planned. Its no where near as complicated as this one, but I thought it would be fun and interesting and might explain a couple things about Xellos and a certain OC. I won't say anymore on that one heheh. There is a sequel in the works, but not much has been hammered out yet. It might be a while anyway, but if you're a dedicated Slayers fan, it'll be worth the wait. ~NB~