Chapter 8. A Bad Influence.
Thursday, March 21st.
Sinister Ted's Family Style Eatery. 11:30 am.
It should come as no surprise that I'm once again in a restaurant watching the supposed saviors of the world gorging themselves on as much food as they can possibly cram into their mouths at one time. I suppose I shouldn't complain. I mean, I know I'm glad to be out of the desert and in a more comfortable environment. As Miss Lina herself said when we first arrived: "Good-bye desert; hello dessert!"
Still… Miss Lina and the others seem to like this place a little too much. I mean, honestly the food's okay but… well, the cook looks a little shady, and I've never been a huge fan of seafood… it's not really the taste so much as I don't like food that still has a face. There's this… disturbing looking salmon on a tray in front of me and it's… it's just like it's looking at me with these strange bugged out eyes! And it's sticking its tongue out at me! …Miss Lina will probably bite its head off any minute now.
And I just really don't want this turning into another "the food's so good here—let's stay forever" kind of thing. If we have to do this in every town then it's going to take forever to get to the temple of the Fire Dragon King. If they pull the same kind of behavior they did back in Ocea… well, I think I'm going to have to offer them an ultimatum. But they already agreed to the job right? And they can't drag their feet too much with Valgaav and the others on their heels. I'm sure if I remind them of that they'll get going a lot quicker. …Alright, I'm not sure. I'd like to think that, but I'm not sure.
The one silver lining here is that Xellos isn't around—he's probably just mad that Miss Lina made the obviously right choice to follow my advice instead of the advice of a loathsome monster who's probably trying to lure us into some nefarious trap. Imagine that!
But oooh I'm so glad he's gone and you really have no idea from what I've written before how much I mean that. I mean, clearly I wasn't thrilled with him before—not by a long shot! He shrugged off every perfectly true accusation about what a horrible creature he is, spoke to me in a way that no monster should and generally stood around providing no help at all. But I guess when I was writing before… well… stuff was going on. There was that whole sandworm thing and Valgaav and that Almayce giant who I still don't know what to make of. The point is, he was focusing his noxious self on other things. Now without those distractions… he's just been being mean—to me!
Now, I haven't forgotten that he is a foul and evil beast—goodness knows I wouldn't forget that, so I'd be out of my mind to expect good behavior. But he's just so obstinate and nasty and rude that I just can't take him!
You have no idea. You have absolutely no idea what I'm dealing with.
We were trudging through the desert again this morning and I think all of us were absolutely disenchanted with it by then and getting impatient. So Miss Lina turns to me and is all like, "Filia are you sure you know where we're going?"
"Of course," I said, though at that point while I knew where we were going, I was a little sketchy on where we were right then. I guess it showed in my voice because they weren't exactly buying it. I told them that I had everything in hand but… perhaps getting the lay of the land might help me a little bit? I mean, I could hardly be blamed; the landscape of the desert looks so similar after all. I figured that if I could get up high and get a good look at the pathways that I could figure out where we were and which way to take. I spied a large rock formation and thought it would be the perfect place to go and get my bearings, so I teleported up to the top of it.
…And who do you suppose was there waiting for me at the top? Xellos. As if anyone had asked him what he thought about our travel plans! He should have no say because he's not even technically part of our party—no one invited him!
"Get out of the way," I said, sweeping in front of him so that I could get a better view of the landscape in front of us. "I know where I'm going."
"Is that so?" he said, taking a deliberate step so that he was next to me. "It doesn't seem that way."
I refrained from stepping out in front of him again because I didn't want to fall off the rock-face. "Well it is."
"Hmm," he hummed as though unconvinced. He held up his hand to his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun (they weren't even open for goodness sakes!) and peered off into the distance. "I believe we should be going…"
"…that way," we both said at the same time.
We both turned to look at each other with me pointing to the right and him pointing with his staff to the left.
I glared at him. "No," I said pointing more feverishly then ever toward the right path, "we simply must take the path to the right."
"Oh really?" he said doubtingly. "I think we should take the one to the left." What about 'simply must' didn't he understand?
I gritted my teeth at him and tried to keep my cool. Honestly, what did he think he was trying to pull? Why should anyone listen to a monster's direction to a temple for dragons over an actual dragon? And, alright, I may have been a little on the lost side and not entirely sure where I was going, but still! I'm sure my priestess senses were correct! And the fact that he wanted to go to the left made me all the more sure that the right had to be correct—after all, that monster was probably just trying to lead us astray. Doing the opposite of what he said had to be right.
He gave me this irritated sort of look. It's hard to tell with him because he still had that stupid smile, but I'm starting to see more subtle cues from him. His whole face had this strained look and one of his eyebrows was twitching like a wounded snake. His lips, still forming a smile, joined in the twitchy little dance with his eyes. He was probably just angry that I wasn't going to fall for his deflection. He laughed as though to put me off the scent.
I returned his laugh with a confident one of my own. "No monster," I said in a self-assured tone, "is going to trick me that easily."
"Trick you?" he repeated, as though the idea was utterly ridiculous. "What makes you think I'm trying to trick you?"
How about everything?
I basically told him that—and that if he said it was left that the obvious answer was to go right. He didn't really care for that and asked if I was really just going to dismiss him so easily. The answer is—yes. Yes I was going to dismiss him! I was going to dismiss him at every turn! And I told him why too!
"Raw garbage has no sense of direction."
That seemed to throw him. He wanted to know where I was getting 'raw garbage' from (raised his voice at me too!)—I would've told him that I was getting it from his face if Miss Lina hadn't interrupted us. Immature? Yes. Justified? That's a big yes.
"Is Xellos's way the quickest to the Temple of the Fire Dragon King or what?" she called out impatiently from the ground.
Miss Lina completely missed the point. As if this was about expedient directions!
"I don't know," I admitted, barely dragging myself away from the direct glare I was giving to Xellos—who I'm pretty sure was mocking my posture of all things!
"Huh?" she said.
"Let me explain something," I said as calmly and levelly as I could to her. "I'm a priestess of the Fire Dragon King. As such, I simply can't lower myself to agreeing with some monster who follows the orders of some decrepit old dark lord who's covered in ice in the mountains of the north."
Xellos's eye twitched as though each of my words was stabbing into him—which was my intent! Stab! Stab! Stab!
He turned outward toward Miss Lina and the rest and gave a theatrical shrug. "Oh my," he said, "you're really a selfish person aren't you, Filia?"
Selfish?! Can you believe that—coming from a monster?! Who is he to lecture me about morality?! No one, that's who!
I was too incoherent at this nonsense to respond before I realized he wasn't even done! Oh no, he had to top himself! He turned to me and gave me this nasty one-eye-opened look (I certainly hope that's not a wink because… shudder) and added triumphantly: "Oooh! I meant dragon not person. I guess you can't help being what you are!" And then he just laughed—at his own miserable joke!
As though dragons were inherently selfish creatures or something! Dragons teach selflessness, charity, and compassion—monsters on the other hand, are low and treacherous creatures who will do anything in their power to get what they want including, but not limited to, taking advantage of the weak. Which race sounds selfish to you?
And, alright, I admit that nearly pushed me over the edge. My tail popped out and I was probably about an inch away from strangling him—which wouldn't have been productive, but would've been satisfying. "Who are you calling selfish?!" I demanded, a little thickly because I was growing fangs.
I managed to get a hold of myself before I completely lost control though. I realized that wasting time with all this nonsense was probably what Xellos was after in the first place and as a priestess of the Fire Dragon King I couldn't let myself get caught up in his tricks—not with the world on the line!
I tried to use a relaxation technique to calm myself down and keep from transforming. I closed my eyes and imagined myself surrounded by a comforting pink light. I imagined myself breathing in the comforting aroma of a hot cup of tea—spearmint. I imagined myself taking a drink and feeling the warmth and calm of it flow through me.
Having achieved the inner peace I thought I needed to move on, I opened my eyes. The first thing I see? That monster making nasty faces at me! I don't think even the Supreme Elder would believe me if I told him—but that's what he was doing! How crude and immature can you get?
Do you see what I'm dealing with now? Do you?!
I barely held onto all that inner-peace and determination stuff in the face of… that face. I turned around and tried to ignore him, calling out to the others, "Come, Miss Lina! Let's go! We have a duty to save the world!"
I felt the need to remind myself of that fact again because oooh that monster nearly made me forget with his vile behavior!
And Mister Gourry actually clapped and said, "Bravo!" as though we were putting on some kind of show for him! My annoyance is not for show! It is real annoyance caused by a really annoying monster!
Miss Lina on the other hand just fell on the ground and said, "Oh enough already!" Because we all know that my having to deal with Xellos is really hard for her.
I turned around before we headed down the road. I shouldn't have, but I did. And he was still making faces at me! That jerk! I resolved not to look at him for the rest of the trip.
I'm just reading back and… do you know it's only been three days? Three days since this filthy monster forced himself into my presence. And already I don't think I can stand a second more of it!
Well, he's not here now. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure when he slipped away on account of me not wanting to see he mocking me. Well, let's just hope he's realized that I'm not going to let him manipulate me or the others into doing his evil bidding and decided not to come back.
Yes, I think I will need to cling to this hope. Desperately.
Town Square. 1:22 pm.
Please excuse the drops of water that fall on this paper as I write. It's started to rain, but I've taken refuge next to a statue with a tarp over it that is thankfully shielding some of the downpour. Unfortunately, that will do nothing to protect the page from my tears.
That's right. Xellos came back.
And… I just couldn't stay and let him see me crying. Alright so he already saw me crying… but I couldn't let him see me crying more! It's absolutely intolerable for that monster to know he…
He said that 'the Dragon race loves to resort to violence.' He actually went and said that when everyone knows that it's the monsters who are violent! Dragons are always in pursuit of peace and work tirelessly to find nonaggressive solutions to problems. Far from loving violence! For the Dragon race, violence is always a last resort.
Which I would've been able to say if… if it weren't for the fact that I was resorting to violence. And that's why it cut deep. That's why it stopped me right in the midst of my transformation and that's why I couldn't help but cry.
Part of it, no, most of it, wasn't my fault. He drove me to it! But still… that doesn't change the fact that I should've resisted—shouldn't have given in to my baser instincts. I should've acted like a priestess of the Fire Dragon King.
And dragon priestesses shouldn't love to resort to violence—even when obnoxious monsters make violence seem like an unbelievably attractive option.
He said I wasn't 'well trained'; as though I was an animal or something. But yet I was acting… I was really about to lose it and transform—let go of rationality and self-awareness like a…
I need to do better. When I'm out here I'm a representative of all the golden dragons back at the temple… and right now I'm acting like an embarrassment. If the Supreme Elder knew how I behaved back there…
But… but it's unfair! That monster gets to goad me into a rage and then once he actually succeeds in making me furious he gets to wave his finger at me like I'm some kind of misbehaving schoolgirl he's giving a lecture to. He shouldn't get to shame me for things that are his doing!
But that's his intention. He's trying to make me act out and distract me from my real mission. It's my job to stay on point and behave in the best traditions of the dragon race. I must resist him with all my might.
Even if I manage that, there's a bigger problem and, again, it's Xellos-related. Like I said before, I'd hoped everything was sorted out with Miss Lina and the others after they'd agreed to follow the prophecy and we'd started out journey. The fight against Valgaav and the mysterious Almayce pretty much cemented it for me. I thought, we're all in at this point.
But still they lounge around, stuffing their faces in restaurants and going after some local specialties with more energy than they've expounded on their roles as chosen heroes! I hardly think Dradora Surprise, whatever that is, is more important than saving the world!
Miss Lina seems to have this completely reversed. She said that since Valgaav is after the Sword of Light that he'll have to find them eventually, but that the restaurant we were at was the best place to get Dradora Surprise (so the cook claims—surely an unbiased source!). And who should come in to applaud this extreme twisting of the facts? None other than Xellos.
He said that her logic was 'impeccable' and that her point was 'well argued.' Hmmph! He seems to make quite a big deal out of that kind of thing and he acts like it's some kind of intellectual achievement that I'm incapable of. All he's really doing, though, is manipulating things to make it look like the wrong thing is right and the right thing is wrong. If that's what gets praise out of him then I can assure you that I have absolutely no interest at all in getting any compliments out of him! I happen to have scruples and priorities, thank you very much!
But Miss Lina… oh, Miss Lina… she was doing just that! Arguing her way out of her responsibilities so that she could justify sitting around and eating all day. How could someone with the destiny to become a great hero behave in this way?
The answer? Xellos.
Think about it. He's driving me out of my mind and I've only known him a few days. Miss Lina has traveled with him before and known him for much longer. Clearly she's been corrupted by his monstrous influence and fallen to the ways of deception and sloth—not to mention gluttony! And Xellos is banking on this and actively using it to derail her from the path of right that I've been trying to set her on. Is it any wonder that I nearly transformed in the middle of that restaurant and blasted him into smithereens? He's taken the world's best and last hope for salvation and twisted her around his little finger!
I've gone through all this… and I don't even know if Miss Lina will really save the world. It could be that she has every intention of doing so and was only swayed away from her duty momentarily by that monster's machinations. Heaven knows I can't fault her for that after the scene I made on his provocation. But what if… what if this has all been a game for her from the start? What if her association with monsters has already stripped away her morality to the point where… to the point where the only reason she's stringing me along is for a free lunch?
If that's true then that's… even more depressing than being called violent by a war criminal.
Oh, I badly need something to cheer me up.
Is that a puppy over there?
It is! It's an adorable puppy out all by itself in the rain!
Oh, it's so cute… I'm sure petting it would make me feel at least a little better. After all, I could use a real friend right now.
Here boy… here doggy…
Jail Cell. 2:48 pm.
WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS?!