Episode 001: Danger! The Deadly Curse
"Bring in the next course!" Lina Inverse, the gluttonous sorceress extraordinaire, was currently passing by the kingdom of Seyruun, which meant of course, stopping by the palace to visit her dear friend Amelia and her lovely royal chefs. Amelia, being the kind hostess she was, found herself in the blissful obligation to provide Lina with enough food to fill her stomach, the same applying to Gourry. She didn't mind though, Zelgadis had run into Lina on the road to Seyruun and decided to tag along, Amelia was all too happy to see him.
The sun was shining, the land was peaceful and everything was all around just fine, unless you're an exhausted overworked chef. That was why, in the midst of this peace and quiet in the city of white magic, no one expected him to show up. Yet there he was, and the peculiarly observant would notice that he was not happy with his current location, but there seemed to be something else that bothered him so much more, something that he would eloquently describe, should anyone inquire about it, as a secret.
"Mr. Xellos?" Amelia blinked looking at the new arrival escorted to the royal dining hall by one of the castle guards.
"So this is one of your friends, princess," the guard confirmed, taking the monarch's recognition of the suspicious purple haired man as proof enough that he could be trusted. "Have a good time with your visit," the guard excused himself, leaving just as suddenly as he came, but without the company of the unexpected guest.
Lina had to actually pause in her eating and turn her head towards Xellos with imaginary interrogation symbols all over her face. "What are you doing here?" She asked with her mouth still half full before turning her attention back to the food on the table and realizing that Gourry had finished eating all the barbecued ribs during her short distraction. "My ribs! Gourry, those were mine!" Their usual antics followed as they disconnected themselves from the rest of the world.
Amelia and Zelgadis however, were still waiting for Xellos' reply, perplexed about his presence and, in the chimera's case, not at all glad for it. "I just thought I should come to visit," Xellos grinned that familiar little grin that seemed to annoy everyone, which was his purpose anyway.
"Like we're going to believe that," Zelgadis accused, clearly suspicious and with good reasons. "What kind of trouble do you have in mind this time?"
"Oh, there is no such thing," Xellos innocently replied, though he was indeed thinking of something very troublesome, but this time it was troublesome for himself. He couldn't help it though, it was the tradition of every hundred years and he would look like a coward if he didn't attend. It was the monster's version of truth or dare. All the high level monsters, Xellos included of course, would get together and play their version of the classic game.
Most of the time, the players would choose truth, being placed under an instant curse that would destroy them if they lied. The peculiarity was that the asker could throw out up to a hundred questions concerning a single subject matter, so ambiguous yet truthful answers wouldn't be enough to get past the curse, only enough to delay it until the cursed was pushed to a verbal corner and had no choice but to reveal the coveted truth or lie and die. The death in itself would provide a hint at the truth, thus making it pointless to sacrifice themselves for those who valued a secret more than their life. It was a grand way to obtain information, every one hundred years during their little reunion.
Xellos was well informed about a number of things and served as a great source of information every century. The monsters would draw lots at random with each name being available once and cheating being punishable by a deadly curse whether they got caught or not. It was every monster's wish to draw Xellos' name and interrogate him about some important strategic matter, inquiring about every little thing concerning some topic of significant power. This time though, Xellos couldn't risk it. He had been order to keep his mouth shut or be killed by his superior, which meant that he had to choose dare, otherwise he would be killed by the curse if he remained silent. It was a matter of survival since being absent and coming off as the biggest coward in monster history was simply not an option, Beast Master would probably kill him for that too.
After expecting a valuable source of information to be handed to him in a silver platter by the good fortune of having drawn Xellos' name, the monster whose name is of no importance was sorely disappointed. Xellos chose to undergo a dare, which shocked all those present and filled them with interest. Angered, the monster in question took a hasty and humiliating revenge, "I dare you to... have a golden dragon willingly kiss you, standard time limit." Oh yes, the dares did have a time limit to be accomplished and Xellos could already feel the seconds ticking in his mind as his eye twitched.
"I will accomplish this dare as it is demanded of me," Xellos growled and promptly killed the monster who threw such misery upon him and that was why his name was of no importance, he was dead anyway. Of course the curse itself was another story, a product of the united power of all the attending monsters, even Xellos himself. There was no escape even if the one who dared him was dead. Worse yet, there was no cheating either. He couldn't just pop out of thin air, plant a kiss on a golden dragon and call it done; the dragon had to kiss him.
Thus that brings us back to the current scenario. Xellos had chosen his target to be Filia with some obscure plan involving emotional manipulation forming in the back of his mind, yet not fully matured yet. His strategizing was sluggish and Xellos hated it, he blamed it on the terrible dread that was in fact so terrible that not even a monster who enjoyed negative emotions could enjoy it. He decided that a simple process of information gathering was in order, least he made a mess that caused the prospect of being kissed by Filia to become even less likely, so as to not say impossible, than it already was. It was time well invested in the end, all for the sake of doing things properly and not wasting his chance, it wasn't stalling at all.
Thus Xellos felt the need to involve Lina and her friends by embarking in an odd quest to make them kiss each other. Xellos was no romance expert; he knew nothing about love except for the fact that it was unhealthy, him being a monster and all. Even if this put his health in even more danger, none the less he needed to observe. Under Zelgadis' impatient glare, Xellos continued, "I simply came to invite you all to go on vacation." He produced a group of tickets from his cloak holding them up with a grin. "This resort is renowned for several reasons, one of them being the grand buffet, they say the cuisine knows no rival and it's all you can eat. I've already taken care of all the arrangements, so it's completely free."
The mention of free food caught Lina and Gourry's interest instantly. "How do we know you're not lying?" Lina raised a suspicious eyebrow, when something sounded too good to be true, it probably was, especially if Xellos was involved.
"Why don't you go and see for yourself?" Xellos suggested, knowing that there were few believable excuses he could give, plus he wasn't going to waste his time on them. Lina wasn't convinced, but that changed when Xellos tossed a bag of golden coins in her direction. Lina caught the plain brown pouch and looked inside, her eyes lighting up in pleasure. "That's a security deposit; if I'm lying you can keep it."
"Tell you what, Xellos," Lina grinned greedily. "If you give me this as spending money I'll go on that vacation. After all, what's a vacation without being able to buy souvenirs?"
"Very well, I should have expected as much," and he did. With Lina and therefore Gourry ready to go, Xellos turned to his next victims of trickery. "This particular resort also has quite a collection of magical books, I'm sure they're quite interesting."
"Not buying it," Zelgadis grunted. "You may be able to trick Lina and Gourry into this but not me."
"I understand..." Xellos feigned resignation. "Lina, Gourry and I will go on ahead and you can stay here... it's clear you want some time alone with Miss Amelia."
Zelgadis and Amelia promptly blushed with Zelgadis letting out a stream of incoherent excuses as he mentally cursed Xellos, not knowing that the monster was already cursed. The stream of gibberish ended up with an embarrassed, "fine I'll go," with Amelia adding a similar barely audible acceptance. Thus the group set off towards Filia's residence, because Xellos insisted that he wanted to invite her too.
xoxox xox xoxox
The trip to Filia's shop in a city a considerable distance away, went strangely without any problems. Lina and Gourry scared a few innkeepers with their voracious appetites that drained a hole in Xellos' wallet as Lina insisted that he paid since he invited them on the excursion. There was also the occasional unfortunate highwayman who, not knowing who Lina was, demanded that the 'flat-chested girl' gave up all her money and valuables before being ignited by the wrath of a fireball. All in all, it was an okay journey.
The bells attached to the door of Filia's shop chimed as the cheerful shop keeper gave her usual greetings with a smile. "Welcome to-" then she stopped, her smile turning into a scowl, "why are you here?" She pointed an accusing finger at Xellos.
Xellos remained silent for a moment and considered his options. Outright inviting Filia to tag along in a little vacation was both ridiculous and suspicious... but he wasn't in the mood to try too hard. After all, even a monster can feel drained when facing a task so excruciatingly difficult and unpleasant that even getting started feels like a dying effort... maybe literally this time. "You owe the honor of my visit to Amelia over there." He tilted his head in direction to the princess.
"Me?" Amelia looked left and right as if something in the atmosphere could provide her with a clue that could help her make sense of Xellos' false claim.
"By the way, here are the tickets you asked me to hold for you," Xellos handed the tickets to Amelia, knowing that in her distraction she wouldn't examine them too closely, at least not until it was too late. "You said some terribly unpleasant things about friendship and what not, but since I'm bored, I'll tag along anyway."
"Oh... yes," Amelia thought she understood. It might have been wishful thinking, but maybe justice had finally found its way into Xellos heart and he was beginning to see the value of friendship. He wanted to express his feelings of companionship to the entire group, Filia included. If that was the case, then Amelia felt the need to assist him by coaxing Filia into joining them by pretending that she was the one who came up with the invitation. Surely then it would be far less suspicious and once they were blissfully vacationing, things would flow on their own. "I wanted to invite all my dear friends to the," she looked at the tickets, "Amor Resort?" Wait a minute, didn't amor translate to love? It sounded like someplace people would visit on their honeymoon, but love was not limited to couples, so there was probably plenty of room for friendship too. "To have fun and celebrate our friendship," Amelia finished.
"Oh..." Filia blinked, recognizing the translation of the word. Though Lina's breathing rhythm went hectic for a split second, she calmed down before anyone could notice her gasp any more then Zelgadis' blush and sideways glance at Amelia. Gourry remained blissfully ignorant. What's in a name anyway? This was about food and magical research and at the very most friendship, not romance. She looked at Xellos suspiciously. "Why would that," she pointed rudely, "even consider acknowledging the existence of friendship?"
Xellos had a good excuse for this, which consisted of guilt tripping Filia, but fate seemed to be in his favor in the face of adversity, as Amelia did it for him. It was about time he caught a break... then again, the hardest path lay ahead. "Miss Filia, I'm sure that a kind person such as yourself can find it in her good heart to overlook the past without holding a grudge and have a fun time with an open mind."
"Well, I..." Filia wasn't sure what to say, but she was giving in. "I suppose that I shouldn't let the presence of such a foul creature stop me from having fun vacationing with the rest of you." It wasn't exactly the type of response Amelia was hoping for, but it was progress. Filia had been working hard, she needed a break. She could leave Gravos and Jillas to take care of Val's egg and the shop for a little while. It would be okay... "Alright, count me in, I'll just have to pretend it's just us good people in the group," she agreed.
Okay, so Filia was not very likely to kiss him any time soon, but she was at least tagging along. Why did Xellos even choose her as the target anyway? Well, she was the easiest to find and manipulate... Yeah, that was it; that had to be it... Right, it was time to start the process of observation and gather data to put into action.
xoxox xox xoxox
The journey the rest of the way to Amor Resort, located on a small island some distance away, was somewhat similar from the journey to Filia's shop. Lina and Gourry stuffed their faces on Xellos' account, Zelgadis and Amelia made polite small talk with each other and Filia conversed with each member of the group equally except Xellos of course, to whom she had only the most varied repertoire of insults. He didn't reply to any of them, holding his tongue as best he could with a fake smile plastered on his face. It was creepy. After a while, Filia was in fact so disturbed that she stopped insulting Xellos in favor of ignoring him, save for the scattered occasions when she shot him a suspicious glare.
When the group of six arrived at the Amor Resort via ferry, they presented their tickets and were given three keys, pertaining to the rooms each couple would share as the clerk assumed. The group thought nothing of the three rooms since no one said anything about sleeping arrangements, and they roomed as they usually did, the girls in one room and the guys in the other, leaving one room vacant.
From there on out, everything went rather well for most of the integrants of the group. The resort was huge and they each had things they wanted to do, so they went their separate ways with Lina and Gourry heading off to the open buffet. Zelgadis went off to check out the library and Amelia tagged along to help in his research. Xellos decided it was time to begin his experiments. Instead of going through the trial and error himself, he would make the others do it for him and copy the winning strategy. Normally he would come up with his own tactics, but he was a monster and winning a kiss was not something his nature allowed him to properly strategize for. Besides, he wanted to get it done as fast and painlessly as possible, let the others suffer the awkwardness in his place. It wasn't stalling, not at all, and it certainly wasn't fear of failure, absolutely not.
xoxox xox xoxox
At an outdoor table in a fancy restaurant with couples all around, Lina and Gourry ate to their heart's content. If they had noticed Xellos sitting a few feet away hidden behind a large potted plant with odd plastic pink leaves, they didn't show it or didn't care. Xellos pondered his next move until his train of thought was interrupted by Filia taking a seat across from him at the table. "I've been thinking," she stated in response to his questioning look. "You've been acting strange lately, which means you're plotting something evil. I don't know what you intend to do, but I won't let you ruin the vacation Amelia so kindly arranged for all of us. Besides..." she admitted with a discreet glance around the fake pink plant, "even if this amusement park has room for friendship, it's obvious that they have room for more. Since I don't want to play the third wheel, it looks like I'll have plenty of time to keep an eye on you."
"Is that so?" Xellos' mind felt awake again. He hated to admit it, even only to himself, but in the privacy of his own mind he knew that he was at a loss of what to do. Essentially, he was playing matchmaker, for observational purposes only, fueled by entirely selfish reasons, but he was playing matchmaker nonetheless. "This means that you won't let me interfere in their developing romance?"
"Aha!" Filia exclaimed, her accusing finger readily pointing at Xellos. "So that's your plan. Naturally, since monsters hate love, you must hate it when people are in love. Well I won't let you ruin this for them. What was planned to be a vacation of friendship might turn into a romantic getaway for Lina and Gourry, and perhaps even more so for Amelia and Zelgadis and you won't get in the way!"
"What if they mess things up on their own?" Xellos inquired purposefully. This part of the plan at least was easy, maybe too easy. Manipulation was one of the many talents that Xellos prided himself in possessing.
"I won't allow it!" Filia firmly declared with unbreakable determination.
"So you're going to play matchmaker for them?" Which would entail unknowingly helping Xellos in his research. Furthermore, the tactics that she considered to be the most effective would probably be the most effective on her. Once the script was complete, Xellos would just have to put up a little act and after a terribly disturbing and most likely absolutely disgusting experience, he would be curse free. Then he could say something mean and break Filia's heart; that would certainly make him feel better after the humiliation of being kissed by a dragon.
"As a matter of fact, I am," Filia all too easily accepted the idea that had been put into her head, believing that it was her idea all along and that Xellos simply guessed it because it was oh so clear that it was her initial intention anyway.
"All of this while keeping an eye on me?" Which in essence meant that she wouldn't mind if he tagged along and observed the entire process unfold. A real grin full of cunning adorned Xellos' face.
Filia didn't like the look on his face, but challenged him with her response, "yes," her eyes adding a silent ' what are you going to do about it?'
"Interesting," Xellos continued to grin in a way that unnerved Filia, but she decided to stay strong and alert. No monster was going to stop the matchmaker extraordinaire... even if she had virtually no experience in romance what so ever. Either way it didn't matter, she had read plenty of love novels and that was more than enough knowledge right there.
To be Continued
I don't own Slayers and this disclaimer applies to all the chapters of the story.
xoxox xox xoxox
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