11

Xellos walked through the city slowly. He knew Lina would be arriving soon, as he could track her presence from the talismans she had acquired from him. He planned to just run into her in the crowd. Until she arrived, he just wandered around, observing the nearby people and businesses. He couldn't sense the presence of any other mazoku at all, and Valgaav himself was getting difficult not to notice these days. This place would be good for meeting Lina without being observed.

Walking along, Xellos noticed someone familiar sitting in an outdoor café. Upon further inspection, he realized that no one was there at all. "Oh, it's you, Witch-san. I'd been thinking I wouldn't ever see you again."

The young-looking girl took a sip of her tea. "You'll see me when I want you to. How does it feel to be the one without the control, hm?" she calmly taunted him.

"I find it interesting," Xellos responded. "If I didn't get surprised at times, I might get bored. An fabrication like yourself that appears to be functioning independently is entertaining."

"So you're still thinking like that," the girl said, and put her cup down, staring ahead blankly.

"What brings you here, then? Is it to take responsibility for the 'miracle' that occurred with Filia-san?"

"Hm? What miracle would that be?" the girl asked casually.

"If you don't already know, I'd have to say that's a secret," Xellos said jovially.

"Aren't you in a good mood for a mazoku," the girl said. "Well, you must mean the newest development. It's no 'miracle'. Given how isolated and lonely your lady friend is, it's hardly surprising at all that she latched onto the first person who reached out to her, especially considering she'd already had feelings for that person. In fact, it's to be expected. There may have been a few variables that could have fouled this development, but I'd still say the probability was 98.5%. And had you failed, another try after she'd cooled down would have had an similarly high probability."

"Oh," Xellos said. He nodded, impressed. "You've given it a lot of thought, haven't you?"

"As boring as it is, there's nothing else for me to do here. From that, you can tell that turn of events is not a miracle. Bring me something with a probability of 1 in several thousand for a challenge."

"That would be impressive, wouldn't it?"

"You'd be surprised at the difficulty levels I've managed in the past. But I'm not really here to brag, Xellos."

"Then why have you graced me with your presence, Witch-san?" Xellos said.

"I just wanted to discuss Valgaav. Seal him, don't bother with destroying him."

Xellos looked over at the witch curiously. His delusion hadn't ever giving him such a direct and specific instruction before. "Why would you say to do that?"

"I want to use that piece later on. It would be difficult for me to replace him. I'm sure I could, but just having him lying around would be easier. You might find him to be useful to you personally. Eventually, I mean." The girl spoke casually as she poured herself a new cup of tea.

"I don't suppose you'd be any more specific than that?" Xellos said.

"No," she said firmly. "I don't want to spoil anything, for now at least. Now I know you're not a flawless piece. You'll go and do what you want, what you can, but I just thought I'd give you the thought to favor sealing him over eliminating him. Hasn't your superior said your goal is now either?"

Xellos nodded. Zelas had said to him that either would be good at the moment. Xellos doubted that Valgaav would be ever be of any use to the mazoku race, but was curious as to why the being of his subconscious might think so. It seemed the easier approach at the moment, anyway. Just getting him out of everyone's hair as quickly as possible was an appealing idea.

"Hey, Xellos!"

Xellos turned around suddenly. Lina had been the one to catch him by surprise this time. She stood by herself in the middle of the path. "I thought it was you," Lina said. "Should I try to kill you, or should I assume that Valgaav isn't around?"

"He's nowhere that I can detect, Lina-san."

"Good, I'm getting sick of that guy," Lina said, sighing.

"Well, shall we discuss things in a more discreet location?"

"Fine, Gourry and Amelia are waiting for me over there," Lina pointed.

Xellos nodded, and walked with her through the streets. "So, Lina-san, what has Valgaav-san asked you to do?"

"All sorts of crap. I can barely think up excuses why I won't before he's asking me to do something else. I think he attacked those golden dragons on his own, though."

"Yes, I witnessed that," Xellos said.

"And of course you didn't do anything about it," Lina muttered.

"Lina-san, even if I'd been ordered to do so, I would have failed," Xellos said.

"Right, he's just that almighty now. I can't believe he's gotten so powerful. Why is that?" Lina asked irritably.

"When Chaos Dragon-san was destroyed, Valgaav-san gained a great deal of his power somehow. And now, he continues to grow more powerful as he's able to feed off his own endless miasma. What an annoying hybrid he is, hm?"

"I see," Lina said. She scratched her head and frowned. "How am I going to beat a guy like that? I guess I could go use something dangerous like the Giga Slave, but I'd prefer not to. Though you would prefer I did, huh Xellos?"

"Well Lina-san, you must know that calling upon that power would likely take care of the issue."

"Yeah Xellos, I'm not going to play into Valgaav's hands, but I'm also not going to just go along with mazoku goals."

"I'm just saying it's an option," Xellos said innocently. "There are other options. If you can't destroy him, you could just seal him, for example."

"Oh? That would be convenient. I don't suppose you have a way to do that then, Xellos?" Lina asked.

"I wonder if there's anyone who does," Xellos said. He kept talking to Lina, slowly feeding her exactly the information that Zelas had wanted him to.


Filia had been helping out the town recovering from the fire for a while now. They appeared to be doing alright. Though their landscape was marred in some areas, the fire had been completely extinguished on the second day, and not too much had been lost in their fields due to their efforts. Feeling happy at the result, Filia decided to move on, looking for another town that might be in need of her assistance.

Right then, she was hiking through the forest. The sun was setting and she knew she'd have to either teleport somewhere or set up a camp soon. Her feet crunched through twigs as she tried to hurry along, hoping there were no unsavory parties nearby. She didn't really feel like dealing with them. Filia closed her eyes, and as she opened them, Xellos was right there.

"Ah, Xellos, you finally have a moment to visit me, then?" Filia turned away from him, exasperated.

"Yes. I see you've been keeping busy. It took me a while to find you, Filia-san."

Just hearing that he'd gone through the effort of trying to find her had Filia forget her annoyance at his several day absence. She'd been wanting to see him, so now that he was there, she took the opportunity to grab his arm and rest her head on his shoulder. It was just good to have him there. "How have you been?" she asked.

"Well enough, and yourself?" Xellos asked.

"It's been tiring, but I think I've managed to help those people to a small extent."

"How kind of you, Filia-san," Xellos complimented. He looked around at the now dimly lit path. "Shall we go some place more civilized?"

"Yes," Filia said. She knew it took him little effort to teleport, so she may as well accept his offer.

Xellos brought her to a small town, where they entered an inn. Filia ordered some food. She was too hungry to think about budgeting. Maybe she should have eaten something that the villagers had offered her that afternoon, but she refused more often than not. She didn't want to take any more from those people than she had already, indirectly. As she ate, Xellos just sat in silence.

Filia knew he didn't need to eat, but wished he would pretend to at least. That way she wouldn't be reminded that the person she loved was a evil entity that survived on the suffering of others. He 'duties' likely related to that, she supposed. "What have you been up to, Xellos?" she asked.

"It's a secret," Xellos said. He saw that Filia becoming annoyed, and spoke again. "Didn't you say you wished to become removed from the current conflict, Filia-san?"

Filia nodded. That was right. Xellos was simply doing the same thing as her people were, trying to stop Valgaav. She shouldn't really judge him based on that. Hadn't she decided to forget about Xellos's nature, anyway? She took a deep breath and peered over at him. Yes, she'd just decided to enjoy her time with him. It was the one pleasure that she'd continue to allow herself.

Filia put her hand on Xellos's. "Will you stay tonight?" she asked.

"Ah... Well, if that's what you'd like, Filia-san," he said.

"I would," Filia admitted, blushing. But Xellos wasn't embarrassed at all, so why should she be, she thought to herself. When they stepped in the small inn's room, she led him to the bed. She pushed him down and began to kiss him passionately.

Xellos noticed that Filia seemed far less reserved in her affections than usual. "Filia-san," he said, interrupting her as she moved to kiss him again.

"What is it, Xellos?" Filia said.

"You seem rather forward today," Xellos observed.

Filia was again embarrassed despite how she'd told herself she wouldn't be. "Yes, I am!" she said angrily. "Didn't you say you would... I mean..." Filia stopped.

"I see. So you wanted to do 'that' with me after all?" Xellos grinned widely, very amused.

"You have no problem with it, do you Xellos?" Filia asked. She was starting to change her mind. Though she wanted to do this, it would be awkward with someone who didn't share her sexuality.

"No, not at all, Filia-san," Xellos assured. "But do you? This isn't your true form, after all."

"It's the same thing for you, isn't it?!" Filia said.

"Hm. That's true," Xellos said.

"So you don't want to after all?" Filia said.

Xellos paused. He knew he'd be lying to say he 'wanted' it in the context that she was asking. He'd satisfied those curiosities long ago, and become quickly bored with the very idea. But in a way, he did want to with Filia. Xellos liked that Filia had let down her reservations with him, and he wanted to do the same for her, to an extent. He'd decided that this didn't cross the line for him. "Well, I'd normally refuse this kind of thing," he admitted. "But I've decided I wouldn't mind it now, with you. If it's what you want, of course."

"I see," Filia said.

"So is it, Filia-san?" Xellos teased now. He moved closer to her as he spoke.

Feeling Xellos's warm body close to her, Filia still wanted more. She knew it was wrong, based on both principles and possible consequences. Giving into her desires in the past with a fellow golden dragon had been shameful enough. But she was tired of sticking to the principles which only seemed to apply to her, and dealing with consequences that only she needed to consider. Though it did go against her principles, and would be seen as a disgrace by anyone in her clan, sleeping with Xellos harmed no one. Besides, no one needed to know what went on between the two of them in a closed room, and serious consequences were not applicable in this case.

So Filia embraced Xellos. "Yes," she said to him. As they began, any remaining doubts she'd had disappeared. Despite any drawbacks to the situation, Xellos was exactly what she needed. Filia knew he didn't love her. He didn't even lie and say as much. But for Filia, it was becoming increasingly easy for her to pretend he did. As long as Xellos was willing to play along with this farce, she'd continue to use him to ease her own loneliness.