Silly Slayers Vignettes IV
In Which Amelia Campaigns for the Fish People's Right to Vote.
Phil realized that he never should've let it get this far. Oh, it had begun harmlessly enough. His daughter Amelia had come back from one of her misadventures with Miss Lina ready, willing and able to dive back into the responsibilities and hard work of her life as princess. The one problem was… things had been rather quiet back then. There was an all too rare and brief lull in the chaos that usually characterized the governing experience in Seyruun. With no trouble around to sort out Amelia was obliged to create trouble on her own.
He'd approved of it when it all began. She was using her spare time to make an effort at brushing up on her philosophy. It was not, Phil had to admit, the most entertaining pastime one could choose, but it was essential for someone in her position in life to learn such things in order to govern with fair-mindedness and wisdom.
She'd also begun to cultivate a relationship with the new but growing population of fish people that had migrated to landlocked Seyruun after being forced from their old homes by naval activity. At first, Amelia had wanted to avoid them. Like most people, she'd been put ill at ease by their large, staring eyes, their slime covered scales and their strangely sexy legs. But Phil had spoken to her and counseled her not to define them by their appearances, but to justly look into their hearts instead. To her credit, Amelia had gotten past her initial revulsion and formed many friendships. Hardly a day had gone by in the last couple of weeks where she hadn't run off to the downtown cafes and hatcheries where the fish people of Seyruun spent their off hours so that she could hear their stories of life at sea and sample their cuisine, renowned the world over for its creative use of seaweed.
And he'd been proud of her. He always knew his daughter was the kind of soul whose justice-filled heart could allow her to look past the superficial differences dividing people and instead focus on the strength of the bonds that tied all creatures together. Surely, that was the hope for a lasting peace in this world.
It was only when he walked out of the palace one fine summer's day greeted by a throng of scaly protestors that he realized this venture might've gone awry somewhere along the line.
An orange and black fish person elbowed its way to the front of the crowd, holding a sign in front of its shiny abdomen which read: "Just because I'm a fish doesn't mean I'm not a person!" The fish standing next to it, one with more lacey, feminine scales held one that simply declared: "Enfranchise now!" A sign hovered between the two figures, held up by a fish person blocked out by the crowd. It read: "Who's cold-blooded now, Seyruun?"
And leading the charge, loud,brash and unapologetic, was his daughter Amelia. She held a megaphone to her mouth and shouted out into the frenzied crowd. "Everybody, let them hear you!" she yelled. "We're here, we float—let us vote!"
Phil stared nonplussed into the lawn of his palace as a mob of bipedal bass chanted back to her: "We're here, we float—let us vote! We're here, we float—let us vote! We're here, we float—let us vote!"
"Amelia…" Phil murmured over the aquatic battle cries. "What's going on here?"
"I'm sorry, Daddy," Amelia replied, with a decidedly unapologetic gleam in her eyes. "But you always taught me to stand up to injustice and it's wrong to deny these people the right to vote just because they're different. We have to do something about this! And I won't stop until we've won them the treatment that they deserve!"
Phil stared from his daughter, whose blood was obviously boiling with righteous purpose, to the mass of expectant marine life and then back to his daughter. His adjusted his crown awkwardly in an attempt to dull the pain suddenly throbbing through his head. "Amelia," he got out in a somewhat pained voice. "Seyruun is a monarchy. No one can vote."
Amelia looked back at him, the bubble of her honorable ambition punctured. "…Oh," she said meekly, looking down at her hands. "…I had forgotten about that," she finished lamely. "Then I guess… I guess…"
She looked back up at him, renewed vigor in her gaze. "We're going to need a lot more signs!"
In Which Xellos Can Actually Cook Quite Well Thank-You-Very-Much, and Your Unfair Shots at His Supposed Lack of Skill are a Poor Reflection on You More so Than on Him.
"No," Filia said firmly, doubling her grip on the handle of the wooden spoon she was holding in case she needed to use it as a weapon.
Xellos frowned, his displeased expression clashing somewhat with the cheery, ducky-emblazoned apron he had donned. "But why not?" he asked. "You always complain that I never contribute anything to the household when I'm here. Well, here I am—offering to contribute." He adopted a pitying look. "And goodness knows you could use the help. Don't you ever wonder why you never seem to be able to get rid of leftovers? Or why Val keeps asking for a dog whenever you give particularly large portions? Or why Jillas 'accidentally' knocks his plate on the floor several times a week?"
Filia pointed the spoon at him. Its value as a demon-beating implement was highly debatable, but at least she could gesture dramatically with it. "You know exactly why not!" she declared. "Don't think you can trick me—Miss Lina warned me about you!"
He raised an eyebrow at her. "About…?"
"About the fact that a kitchen is a weapon on mass destruction under your control; about how the fumes alone from anything you cook can sicken people for miles around; about how you make stuff that cannot even be identified!" Filia piled on.
Xellos grimaced. "Come now, Filia," he said. "Do you honestly think I was trying to make something edible when that happened? Even a master chef can make poison if he chooses to do so." He reached out and grabbed the wooden spoon from her defiantly. "I'll have you know that I am perfectly capable of cooking a good meal if I actually intend to. It's not particularly difficult."
She glowered, letting a hand rest on her hip. "Maybe," she said in a low voice, "but I smell sabotage."
Xellos snatched up a mixing bowl from the counter and turned his nose up in the air. "The only thing you'll smell in an hour's time is a meal you only wish you knew how to make."
In an hour's time the only thing Filia could smell was smoke. It had a crispy, charred sort of smell that her lungs instantly rejected. She coughed to the side so that she was turned away from Val, who was hoisted in her arms and waving merrily at the volunteer fire department lobbing bucketfuls of water at the blackened remains of Filia's kitchen.
Xellos stood beside her on the lawn, staring out into the flaming wreckage. A streak of soot powdered his forehead. He let out a thoughtful breath.
"…I think I know what I did wrong," he finally said.
She turned to him, fury wound up in her face, teeth parted as though to either scream or bite. She jabbed him in the chest with her finger. "YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SO MUCH AS BOIL WATER IN THIS HOUSE EVER, EVER AGAIN!"
In Which Zelgadis Makes an Excellent Whetstone.
"Would you try to hold still, Zel?" Lina asked irritably, examining her short sword with disappointment. "Geez, it just seems like it's getting dull so fast these days." She ran the sword along the stony surface of the chimera's skin where it made an uncomfortable shnnk! shnnk! noise. "Must be all the fights we've been getting into."
"Don't you think we should just buy a real whetstone, Lina?" Gourry asked, looking from the sharpening blade to Zelgadis's incredibly distant expression.
"Why waste the money when we have Zel?" Lina asked, apparently seeing nothing wrong with using a companion's skin to refine the edges of her blade.
"Well… I suppose it's nice that we can all use our individual talents to help each other," Amelia said uncertainly, not entirely comfortable with the process going on but trying to make it work. "I mean… that's what friends are for, right?"
When Zelgadis spoke it was as though he was engraving every word on their souls: "This is not how friends treat each other."
In Which Marco and Sera's Budding Romance is Brought to an Abrupt End.
Sure he'd said that she was a stupid-head and they'd both vowed never to play with each other ever again, but… that was last week. This week playing house on the little island between their kingdoms seemed like just about the only fun thing to do. And to be honest, when he was in his better moods, Marco didn't really mind Sera's incessant ramblings about true love and fulfilling their dreams. The fact that she had been still going on about this while his mom and her dad were sending their warships out against each other was a bridge too far, sure, and he'd told her to shut up about it. But now even the memory of her crying at his rejection made him squirm with guilt. So they'd patched it up.
After all, what else were they supposed to do? It's hard for princelings and princesslings to make real friends when their respective playmates feared that one wrong word from them, said in a moment of childish pique, would land them in either Alto or Baritone's not-at-all lavish dungeons. He and Sera were all each other had.
And now Sera was talking about them running away together and building a new life. Kind of a stupid, starry-eyed suggestion, but she seemed set on it. And he had to admit that getting out of Baritone seemed like a good option. His mom's hatred of Sera's dad was getting to be too much to handle. The fact that she was massaging her bad moods with Baritone's famous wine wasn't helping.
"That Alto dope…" Queen Baritone muttered as she took another pull of wine. Her hair, usually drawn up above her head, was starting to give against the tension it was usually under and frizz out at the sides.
"Mommy?" Marco began. There was timidity in his voice, but he tried to push it out with determination. She wouldn't like what he was about to say, but he was going to say it anyway.
She barely seemed to notice him from her throne in the empty great hall. "But maybe I'm the real dope for ever thinking he could be anything less than a dope," she mused.
"Mommy, I'm running away," Marco informed her—it wasn't the first time he'd said it, but this time he meant it.
She looked at him, as though trying to focus on which of the images in her doubling vision was her real son. "…You're just like your father," she said bitterly.
Marco didn't know what to say to that. He felt he should try vehemently denying it, because it clearly wasn't meant positively, but he didn't have the information to make a real attempt. He decided it was a distracting tactic and he wasn't going to bite. This was too important. He and Sera had finally decided to really do it—to run away together and start a life somewhere else. Somewhere where the squabbling between their nations would finally stop and they could be free. They'd leave their royalty behind—they wouldn't have much, but they'd have each other. Sera's dreams for the two of them were elaborate, fairy-tale-like and… not as stupid as they'd seemed just a short time ago. Maybe they could really give this "romance" thing she went on and on about a try. They were a bit young to get married, but Romeo and Juliet had been young too, right? This was their way out of this.
"Maybe I should've picked Sera instead," Queen Baritone said thoughtfully, swilling the wine in her glass around. "I thought a boy would be easier to handle than a girl, but it seems I was wrong."
Marco's eyebrows drew together. "What are you talking about, mom?"
The Queen let out a sigh. "It's too late now—she's been corrupted by the dolt of a father of hers," she concluded. "He's probably taught her to hate me—me! Her own mother!"
Marco took a step back. "M-mother? You're—"
"Of course, I taught you absolutely no respect for your father, so I suppose we're even," she decided grudgingly. She looked at Marco again as though just remembering he was still there. "…You were saying something about running away, Marco?" she asked, trying to regain her place in the conversation in her alcoholic haze.
"Umm… no," Marco answered, his mind reeling. "I'm just… gonna go upstairs and throw up, okay?" he said, turning on his heel toward the door. "I probably won't be back for a while."
In Which Filia Contemplates the Fact that Xellos is Old. Good GOD is He Ever Old!
"Why?" Filia asked, raking her fingers through her hair as Xellos looked on at her discomfort from his perch on her kitchen counter with only mild interest. "Why of all the places in this world and beyond that you could possibly be do you always insist on being here?!"
He flipped a gilded-edged page of the book he was reading. "There's no need to make a fuss, Filia," he said. "I'm only reading. It's not as though I'm bothering you."
Filia found his last sentence highly debatable, but instead of arguing it, she simply stated: "My house is not a library! Why would you choose to read here?"
"Well, that's very simple," Xellos said as though it didn't even need to be explained. He raised up his index finger to make his point. "The lighting is just so good here!"
Filia was a big believer in the idea that actions speak louder than words; so instead of listing places with better lighting or asking him if that even mattered since she was pretty sure that he could read in the dark, she just walked over to the window by the back door, pulled at a cord, and sent the blinds clacking down, plunging the room into shade.
He looked at her. Tiny pinpricks of light dotted his face at even intervals, like a seam, where the shutters connected. "Don't get cute with me, Filia," he warned, closing his book. "I invented cute."
She dusted out a "Pshaw!" for that one, though a "Pfft!" might have done the job just as well.
"And how would you know if I didn't?" he asked archly. "You weren't even alive over a thousand years ago when the world was sadly lacking these dimples," he said, tapping his cheek proudly. "Luckily I came on the scene to engineer the concept, and since then the world has been significantly more charming."
Filia let out a disgusted sound. It wasn't just that his dimples were more punchable then charming—it was more than that statement had suddenly made something that should've been obvious come into sharp focus for her. "Good Gods…" she said, eyes wide as her epiphany hit her. "You're… so old!"
He twitched. Apparently this hadn't exactly been the response he was looking for.
"Ancient, more like it!" Filia went on, exploring the horror of this idea to its fullest extent. "Maybe you really did invent cute—along with fire and the wheel!"
"There's no need to go that far," he muttered, jumping down from the counter and smoothing out his cape.
"I most certainly think there is!" Filia disagree. "You could've gone to my hatching and still had, like, a millennium under your belt at the time. Do you have any idea how creepy that is?"
"It's not that creepy," he tried.
"It's very creepy!" she insisted. It was especially creepy given the… well, the courting by annoyance Xellos seemed so keen on taking up with her. And that time at the Christmas party… and that brief but memorable moment in the storeroom… and that one time after he'd read Val a bedtime story when she'd felt so full of… well, feelings that she'd very nearly asked him to stay.
Him. Old man Xellos. Old man Xellos and his dimples from the dawn of time.
"But… I'm still cute, right?" he asked, gesturing hopefully at his face.
"Nothing about this scenario is cute!" she snapped.
His forehead crinkled and he looked at the floor. His lip jutted out just very slightly—a measured distance if there ever was one. Not enough to be overdone—just enough to make his point.
Filia knew she was being manipulated and resented how much it was working. "Fine!" she said, giving up. "I suppose you're cute—for a geezer, at least."
He sauntered over and gave her a little kiss on the nose. "Like I told you, Filia," he said. "I invented it and perfected it."