Chapter 8: Saillune Soft-Serve for the Mazoku Soul
The streets of Saillune were teeming with life, crowds passing in all directions as noon continued to slip away. The sun shone brightly overhead and the chirping of birds was almost drowned out by the loud chatter droning all around.
In the midst of the inner-city bustle, Xellos walked briskly in silent and rather angry contemplation. A dark cloud seemed to have formed over his head, and anyone he passed would quickly fall silent and back away as if sensing an ominous and threatening aura.
The Lady of Fate herself was conspiring against him – of that Zelas's General-Priest was certain. Centuries of karma had at long last caught up with him and the evanescent Controller of Destinies was reaping sweet retribution for all the trouble he'd given her. What other rationale could there possibly be for his first ever day off to turn out like this? Just when he thought he'd get to enjoy himself, he was instead unraveling the mystery surrounding a small child!
Said small child was struggling to keep up with her beloved "uncle" as he continued to storm off in a huff. Xellos chose to ignore the shrill cries of "Uncle Xellos! Wait for me!" Why should he wait for her? All she'd done was cause him trouble that he didn't want or need. Little children weren't meant to be so bothersome – at least that was the way he saw it.
But trouble she caused, and frankly Xellos had had enough of it. That little fiasco in the Saillune Royal Prison only cinched his decision to deposit her off somewhere and leave it at that.
'But aren't you curious?' a sneaky, niggling voice in the back of his mind inquired. 'Don't you want to know what makes that child such a nuisance?'
No. No, he did not, Xellos decided. It was enough of a conundrum to figure out her appearance with those bandits without having to wrap his head around the incident with Sylphiel's white magic spell. Tacking on the curiously rapid course of recovery the child had taken – waking up not even half an hour after Xellos had exited the Saillune Royal Palace – only made matters even more complicated.
This was his day off – complications weren't supposed to happen!
"Uncle Xellos!" the complication of the day cried out for the umpteenth time, finally managing to grasp onto the monster's cloak. "You walk too fast!"
"Then you should try keeping up better," he growled, snatching his cloak back. She was really trying his patience, and that was saying something; Xellos had a rather long fuse and thus far there were only two people (both of them female, ironically) in the entire realm of Shabranigdo capable of irritating him. Mimsy was rapidly earning herself the prized third position today.
"But I can't!" the girl protested, reaching out to yank at his cloak again. Mimsy stumbled a little and halted. "What did I do wrong?"
What did she do wrong? Oh, of all the questions that child could ask at the moment…
Xellos stopped abruptly.
"You told me that your mother said you were good at following instructions," he said through his teeth. He looked back over his shoulder, amethyst eyes all but glaring at the child behind him. "You also said that you would stay put. So why did you disobey me?"
Mimsy gulped. "Are you mad?"
Was he 'mad'? Mad, she asked! Mad was an understatement!
"Mimsy…" he turned fully, allowing his cold gaze down upon the child. "When an adult tells you to do something, there is a good reason for it. Is that something beyond your comprehension?"
"N-no, but –"
"No 'buts'," he snapped. "What in the name of Shabranigdo were you thinking back there? I told you to stay put and what do you do? Bounce in toting the Prince of Taforashia!"
"I thought he was a plushie…" Mimsy whimpered. Mismatched eyes quavered as she began to notice people staring in their direction.
"And that was reason enough to randomly pick up strange object?" Xellos demanded, arms folded and staff clutched in one hand as he looked down at her disapprovingly. "When I tell you to do something, you're supposed to listen, not go against orders!"
What he said seemed to have hit a nerve. Mimsy's eyes widened in stunned horror; her face paled dramatically. To Xellos' intense discomfort, her eyes began to overflow with tears.
"Y-you…" She hiccupped and clenched her fists together before squeezing her eyes shut and screaming, "You're just as bad as Mr. Frigid!"
And with that Mimsy took off, shoving aside the adults bustling around her and ignoring the indignant shouts that followed.
Xellos was… stunned. All of a sudden, the bubbling anger seemed to cool and dissipate, leaving only behind the stark confusion that had been plaguing him the entire morning.
What was going on with him? He seldom ever lost his temper, and even on the rare occasions he did, he managed to keep himself in check. Control, poise, dignity – as a monster, it was in his nature to remain calm and superior in all situations. Outright losing his temper simply wasn't in his repertoire. Even when Filia and Jiima pushed him to his limits, he always managed to maintain his composure.
Losing his temper at a child – what was he thinking?
Quickly tracing Mimsy on the Astral Plane, Xellos teleported after her with a heavy sigh, and ignored the startled gasps of those around him as he disappeared.
He popped back up in yet another crowded section, this time right in front of the very child he was after. Mimsy was too upset to notice, and consequently ran smack into him.
"What the –?" she looked up and let out a loud gasp. "Uncle Xellos?"
"Let's try this again," he said exasperatedly, kneeling down to her level. "Now then, why was bringing the Pokota-plushie so important that you disobeyed my order to stay put?"
Mimsy stared at him in disbelief. "Promise you won't get mad at me?"
"I promise. Priest's honor." He raised one gloved hand in oath, giving her a prize-winning grin for effect.
Mimsy looked off to the side, wringing her tiny hands.
"I-it's just that I've never had anyone to share things with before," she sniffled. "Mommy was the only one I could ever share with, but she was busy all the time and got sick a lot. And none of the other kids ever wanted to play with me because their mommies and daddies said I was a… a…" she hiccupped. "A bad in-flu-ence. And then Daddy and his friends never let me have any fun because Mr. Frigid said I had to learn things. Any time I found something fun, Daddy got rid of it. I had a kitty and he didn't let me keep her. Or my bunny. Or the wolf puppy I found in the snow."
"Ah… Maybe he just didn't like pets," Xellos suggested pleasantly. Though his eyes were now closed again, he noticed the stares he and his little charge were currently receiving. He was beginning to get a little uncomfortable. Perhaps teleportation hadn't been such a good idea after all. "Animals in general can be a lot of work."
"But that's all Daddy does – work!" Mimsy wailed, causing the monster to cringe. Even more people stopped to stare. "And whenever I got stuck with Mr. Frigid, he would throw me in a cell and it was cold and there weren't any windows! He left me in there for over a week one time and nobody came to visit! I didn't get to eat or anything!"
Xellos frowned even further as the child continued to bawl. "And the strawberry?"
"I-I didn't know!" she insisted. "Mommy never told me why I couldn't have them. We never had any in the house, and I've always wanted to try one because I used to see other people eat them and they looked good." She looked up and sniffled loudly. "I'm really sorry, Uncle Xellos!"
Looking back on the incident years later, Xellos realized that he had either finally gone soft or had officially lost his mind. No sooner had Mimsy sobbed out her apology he scooped her up and gave her a hug, allowing her to sob into his shoulder. While passerby may have awed at the sight or commented how sweet it was, inwardly Xellos was withering. The sheer thoughtlessness of the act, the kindness – utterly out of character and yet somehow right in an awkward kind of way.
Whatever it was that had possessed him to do this seemed unrelenting, for the next thing he said surprised him completely:
"I have an idea: how would you like to try some of Saillune's world-famous soft serve?"
Mimsy raised her tear-streaked face up, eyes looking at him curiously. "What's that?"
"A secret~!" he said cheerfully, tapping her on the nose. Mimsy giggled.
Yes, Xellos, General-Priest to Lord Beastmaster Zelas Metallium, and the infamous Trickster Priest, had indeed lost his mind.
It didn't take the two long to find Xellos' preferred soft-serve stand, and soon monster and girl were sitting off to the side of main road, backs against a warm stone wall and eating the refreshingly cool treat.
Xellos found it rather amusing that Mimsy hadn't the slightest idea how to eat ice cream; her first attempt ended up with more vanilla and fudge swirl on her lips and nose than what had landed in her mouth. She giggled up a storm when he wiped her face clean with one of the napkins he'd wisely taken from the vendor's cart.
As he sat there calmly consuming the tasty dessert, Xellos allowed his mind to wander further in the scope of his situation. This little truce here only further proved the necessity of seeking aid, and it was now painfully obvious that Lina Inverse hadn't been the proper person to seek out. What he needed wasn't so much an expert on magical mayhem and the raiding of ancient artifacts; the first thing he had to do was find someone who knew how to deal with the one thing he knew absolutely nothing about.
Then it hit him: while he himself may have lacked sufficient skills at handling children, he knew someone who did; specifically, a golden dragoness raising her own (adopted) son.
The proverbial light bulb clicked on.
Xellos grinned smugly to himself as he leaned back against the sun warmed building behind him and relaxed. It looked like he was going to get a chance to stick to his proposed agenda after all.
As he continued to lick at his ice cream, Xellos looked down to find Mimsy having again succeeded in wearing a good bit of hers on her mouth and nose. It wasn't at all surprising to find that he knew absolutely nothing about children – his job called for death, destruction, espionage, and psychological warfare on the best of occasions. When it came to assignments involving children, he was batting zero.
"Hey, Uncle Xellos?" he was pulled from his revelation by the sound of a suddenly sleepy Mimsy. "Tell me: how you do that?"
A purple eyebrow rose. "How do I do what?"
"Take all the bad things and make them go away," she answered with a yawn. Her ice cream was dangerously close to slipping onto Xellos' cloak.
Torn between sticky fudge and vanilla swirl getting onto an extension of his Astral body and confusion by the statement, Xellos plucked the ice cream cone from her hand before asking, "What do you mean by that?"
She yawned again and scooted into his lap. He held still as she snuggled up against his chest.
"Because every time I get upset you make it go away like water down a drain," she replied sleepily. Tiny hands latched onto one end of the sash about his waist. He heard her mumble, "You're comfy," before she finally fell asleep.
Xellos took one withering look at Mimsy's leftover ice cream before downing the rest himself. Why put good dessert to waste? Even so, though, he was left with a little girl curled up in his lap and still without a single notion of how to deal with her. With any luck, the latter issue would soon be dealt with.
Funnily enough, though, Xellos was beginning to get used to Mimsy's clingy nature. He didn't even notice how it wasn't affecting him in the slightest…
Lunch came late in the Ul Copt household that day. With the town founding festival only a few short days away, visitors from surrounding towns and villages had relentlessly flooded into the tiny shop with the overhanging depiction of a vase and a mace in the front that overlooked the now busy street.
Filia let out a content sigh as she hung up the "Out to Lunch – Be Back Soon" sign in the front window. Sales were skyrocketing and her new shipments of antique jars from a small town in the outer territories had arrived early against all odds. Today was shaping up to be a fine one. Absolutely nothing, she told herself, could possibly go wrong.
The counter to her pleasant thoughts came in the form of the doorbell ringing.
"I wonder who that could be?" she wondered aloud, setting aside one of her custom-made pottery pieces next to the register. Her brow furrowed upon hearing a sharp rapping on her back door. She didn't recall anyone telling her they'd be stopping for a visit during her lunch break…
Much to her irritation, rapping and doorbell-ringing continued in succession – evidently someone was thinking they could have some fun with her. In Filia's mind this was a major mistake; simply no one in their right mind intruded upon a hungry dragon. Particularly a hungry female dragon who needed to feed her hungry son before she could sit down to eat. The nerve of some people!
Fully intent on giving the unwanted visitor a piece of her mind, Filia stormed in the direction of the backdoor. She just barely missed the small, teal-haired child poking his head out from the kitchen.
"Mommy, there's somebody at the door!" he informed her, looking up at her expectantly.
"I know sweetie," she replied, sparing the child a small smile. "Why don't you go ahead and pull the sandwiches out and start eating? I'll be in soon."
"Okay!" Val gave her a toothy grin and ducked back into the kitchen.
Sighing to herself, Filia continued her march to the door. Upon reaching it (and discovering that the knocking and doorbell-ringing were still going on!), she wrenched the door opened and let out a screech.
"Oh, no, not you again!"
"Now, now, Filia," Xellos teased, waggling his finger teasingly. "We mustn't lose our temper again~."
The hand holding onto the door handle clenched involuntarily. "Get. Away. From. My –"
"Is this the Miss Filia you were telling me about?"
Filia deflated considerably at the small and curious voice that interrupted her. Blinking several times, she looked up to find a wide set of teal and honey gold eyes staring back at her from under dark teal bangs.
The little girl perched on Xellos' shoulders lean forward, plastering the Trickster Priest's bangs firmly over his eyes.
"Wow! You're pretty!" she chirped, and let loose a giggle.
Filia was too stunned for words.
A/N: Please forgive me if Xellos came across as being out-of-character. I wanted to put in some bonding between the two, and came up with this as a result. Writing a fluffy chapter for Xellos and Mimsy was hard, but so cute! XD Until the next chapter! ^_^