Disclaimer: No, no one in this fic belongs to me. You satisfied now? Well, you should at least congratulate yourself for having waded this far through my ANGST. ^_~ This is the last chapter!
Feedback: The best darned ANGST in the universe? I love the way that sounds! ~ SailorN1@aol.com or FiriaulCopt81@aol.com
by Crystal Dawn Phoenix
Chapter 3: A Child of Light and Darkness
"Show me Heaven, show me Hell," she asked, "Show me what lies beyond."
"All things for a price," he replied, "Stay with me."
"But I don't love you," she confessed.
"Then I must touch you," he told her.
"Alright," she said, the slightest hint of fear in her voice, "But first tell me your name..."
~ Joseph Michael Linsner, "Dawn: Lucifer's Halo"
Filia could hear the baying of a wolf somewhere out in the dark forest. She'd stopped running and was now walking, trying to figure out which way to go next. After leaving the town, she'd become quickly lost in the pitch black nighttime forest. Every now and then, as she'd walk past a bush she'd hear a rustling, or see a pair of iridescent eyes shining in the darkness. This would make her speed up, but only for a few seconds, as she soon realized once again that she had no clue where she was going. She was truly beginning to regret having left Xellos' home. It suddenly dawned on her that since she had no real clue where he had taken her in the first place, that there was little chance she could find her way back, even if she wanted to.
Filia sighed and found a tree stump to sit down on to rest her feet. She'd forgotten to find any shoes before leaving that house, so now her bare feet were cold and covered with scratches. She brought one up into her lap to examine it. It was dirty and was bleeding in places. As she was sitting, she couldn't help thinking about her situation. It almost brought her to tears, but she beat them back, determined not to cry anymore. 'No, I won't cry,' she thought to herself, 'I won't give Xellos that satisfaction anymore. I won't let him make me cry.' She leaned back, taking her foot off her lap and placing her hands behind her on the tree stump. She looked up at the clear night sky. There was a full moon tonight, casting lots of light about the forest, but also letting lots of shadows play along the forest floor. She sighed again, somewhat saddened by the fact that she now found the darkness of night more comfortable than daylight. The cool night air kissed her feet, taking some of the aches away from them, at least. After a few more minutes, she figured she'd rested enough, wrapped her cape around her, and got up to go. There was a large rusting in some bushes behind her, and it seemed obvious that something large was coming out of them. Filia turned around, trying to see exactly what it was that had emerged from the undergrowth. She could see a large, shining sword reflecting the moonlight, along with a few other swords gathering around her, and more coming out of the bushes every second. The man carrying the sword closest to her, probably the leader, started chuckling softly.
"Well, well," he said, walking around Filia, looking her up and down, "What have we got here? What a precious little girl." He took a piece of her hair and held it for a second, before letting it fall to its normal position against her back. Filia glared at him, watching him circle her like a shark.
"Please, just let me go on my way," she said in a low and warning voice. It was as much for their safety as it was for her own, she knew. There was no telling what she'd do now, especially if they tried to attack her. The much bigger man looked down on her, smiling mockingly.
"And just what'll you do if we don't, sweetheart?", he said, coming to stand right in front of her again, "What a stupid girl. Alone at this time of night in the woods. You'll take whatever we decide is coming to you and like it. Besides, didn't your mother ever tell you not to go out into the woods alone? You know there's wolves out here." This brought a little laughter from the other men surrounding her.
"So you're brigands," she said quietly, more to herself than to them. The leader looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
"You could say that," he said teasingly, "Or you could just consider us toll collectors. We like to think of these woods as belonging to us, y'see. So anyone who passes through here has to give us a small... donation, if they want to come out healthy. Understand?" Filia tried to back away from him.
"But I don't have any money," she said haltingly. The leader kept grinning at her, and she wasn't at all sure she liked the direction his eyes were wandering in.
"Oh, you don't have to give us money," he replied, reaching a hand out to feel the curve of her waist, "There are plenty of other things we could think of, right boys?" The other bandits gave him a raucous cheer, some even bothering to make lewd comments. Filia wrinkled her nose up at them, and smacked the leader's hand away.
"I said, just let me be on my way," she repeated angrily, "I don't want to have to hurt you." The bandits all made mockingly frightened noises, backing up in mock cowardice. One of the men laughed.
"Ohhh, did you guys hear that?", the bandit said teasingly, "Li'l Red Riding Hood's gonna hurt us! I'm so scared!" The other men laughed. The leader grabbed her arm and jerked her toward him roughly.
"Oh, I think I'll have to pay SPECIAL attention to this one!", he said, grinning as Filia squirmed in his grasp, "She's a lively one, that's for sure." The other brigands began closing in on her as well. She looked around at them, seeing lust and malice in their eyes. One of them reached for her cloak, ripping it off her and snapping the jeweled broach she'd fastened it with off.
Filia could feel something building up in her soul, then. It felt almost like a heartbeat, pushing blackness through her veins, and sending it coursing through her body. Anger rising up within her, she let out a shriek at her cloak being torn away. She could feel it again then, only much stronger this time. She could feel heat building behind her eyes, lighting them with an unreal light. She felt their hands on her body and felt the same blackness building up, even stronger than before, begging to be released onto those who would do her wrong. She knew she couldn't hold it back anymore. She pointed her free hand at the leader, who was still holding her arm. "Get away from me!", she screamed, releasing a crackling pure black bolt of energy into the brigand's chest, sending him flying back, bowling over some of his men, and finally slamming him into a thick oak tree a few yards away. The remaining bandits all looked at Filia in horror, backing away.
"You're... you're a... a witch!", one of them said, pointing in terror. Filia looked at him, dazed from using that much power.
"No, she's not!", another one said, backing up frantically, "She's a lot worse than a witch! She's a monster! A Mazoku!" The rest of the brigands backed up hurriedly at the sound of those words. A few of them gathered up their fallen comrades while the rest made for a quick retreat. Filia watched them go, still dazed and weak from the use of a newly acquired power. She started walking again, in the direction she'd been heading.
After a few minutes of walking, Filia was too dizzy and lightheaded to go on. She found another tree stump and knelt down beside it, laying her head on top of her arms, which rested on the trunk. "So tired..." she said to herself, "Weak..." A few seconds later, she'd slipped into unconsciousness, oblivious to the danger of her surroundings, or what else might be lurking in them.
'You silly thing,' she heard a voice say in her head, 'You should never have left.' It was Xellos again. It was as though he was right there with her.
'I'm beginning to think so, too,' she replied sadly. She could feel his presence all around her again. Only now, it wasn't causing her any displeasure, or unhappiness. She was actually somewhat relieved to have him with her again, only if it was just a dream. The company made her grateful, even if it was him.
'Don't worry, Filia,' he said softly, 'I can feel your loneliness. I'll be with you shortly.' She felt an odd sense of joy at those words, but also a sense of dread.
'Where are you now?', she asked quietly. There was a soft laughter all around her.
'Closer than you might think,' he replied simply.
Filia woke to the sound of something or things coming her way. They sounded rather large, too, and made lots of noise in the bushes and surrounding forest. She looked around groggily, not wanting to have to face more brigands. She wasn't exactly sure she could fend them off this time if more happened upon her. Suddenly, a rather large, rather nasty looking Mazoku emerged from the forest and snarled at Filia. It was a grotesque beast, with three horns on its head and a tail full of spikes. It snarled at her, drool hanging from its open maw. A few other Mazoku came out of the forest after it. Filia scooted away from them, hoping to make a get away. The largest one bent down over her, making an escape next to impossible. It looked her in the eyes, grinning.
"Well, who would've thought a dragon would've been so stupid," it said, "As to come out into this forest, alone, at night." The other Mazoku made noises that resounded agreement with the larger one. The larger one continued to stare directly into Filia's eyes, grinning cruelly. "Don't you worry, little dragon," it said, "I'll see to it that you get good care taken of you. I'll personally make sure to wring every last bit of fear and pain out of you before we kill you. Oh, what fun we'll have, you and I. I can think of many ways to make you suffer..." The other Mazoku laughed mockingly at her as they began to close in. The largest one grabbed Filia and hauled her up in the air to his eye level. She struggled against his grip, but to no avail. It inspected her for a few moments before dropping her in horror.
"What?", another Mazoku asked, "I wanted to kill the little dragon tramp! What's the problem?" The largest one pointed a taloned finger at Filia, who was sitting on the ground, still in a relative state of shock.
"That's not a dragon!", the creature snarled angrily, "It's a Mazoku, just like one of us!" The other Mazoku inspected Filia, scrutinizing her.
"That's a Mazoku?", one of them asked, "Are you sure?"
"It looks awfully powerless to be a Mazoku," another one said, "And so... so... frail!"
"I won't interfere with her," the largest one said, "She may be powerless, but she's got the essence of the Beast Priest, Xellos around her. She could be our deaths!" The other Mazoku came closer, scrutinizing Filia again, only closer this time, and found what the larger one said to be true. One by one, the Mazoku backed away.
"I won't challenge him," one of them said. The rest made noises similar to agreement and the entire group vanished before Filia's very eyes.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Filia traveled the rest of the night, after a short rest, until she had made it clear of the dark forest. On the other side she found a desert, a deep contrast from the vegetation she'd just made it through. There were large rocks and small rocks, and some rocks were even large enough to sit on. She found one to rest on. Being as it was the desert, and only very early in the morning, the sun not even haven fully risen yet, it was still quite cool. Filia shivered as she lay down on the large rock. Her cloak had been torn off during her fight with the brigands, so she had nothing to wrap around her body as she lay down. She sighed, trying to rest, and hoping she could soon find a secluded, shady spot to spend the day. She put her arms behind her head, crossing them to make a sort of pillow as she looked up at the softening morning sky. It was turning all sorts of beautiful colors, from soft blue to hot pink.
Filia was interrupted by the sound of footsteps crunching in the sand. Her mind was snapped back from the lovely morning sky into who was coming to her now, hoping it wasn't someone else who had decided to kill her. She sat up, halfway afraid to look behind her, sure that it was something dangerous, and that she really didn't want to deal with. Slowly, she turned to face her visitor, fearing what she'd see.
Even though it was still dim outside, Filia could make out most of the man's features. He was wearing a dark jacket with white pants. There was a single horn atop his head, surrounded by an unruly shock of hair. His eyes were sharp and deadly, his way of walking suggested confidence, perhaps even arrogance.
"Valgaav," Filia said quietly, fighting the urge to flee. The green-haired man smirked at her, coming closer.
"Hello, again, Golden Dragon," he said, an amount of contempt in his voice. He looked closer at the creature in the red gown sitting on the large rock. "No...", he corrected himself, "Not a dragon. You're a Mazoku now, aren't you?" He looked as if he might laugh at her at any second, a cruel smirk turning his lips up. "Now you know how it feels, don't you?", he said mockingly, "To be an outcast. Not worthy to be accepted in any race." Filia felt the tears welling up in her eyes again.
"What do you want from me?", she said quietly, "Why did you come here?" Valgaav smugly place a hand on his hip.
"I sensed someone out here," he said simply, "I figured I'd come see who was fool enough to travel this desert." Filia turned away. "So who was it, little dragon?", he asked, sitting down behind her on her rock, his back to her, "Did that goddamned Xellos turn you?" Filia was taken a little bit by surprise by the question.
"Yes, it was him," she said weakly. Valgaav snorted.
"I figured as much," he said, voice full of disgust, "And then your own damned race simply abandoned you to him, didn't they?" Filia hung her head sadly.
"Yes," she said quietly. Valgaav sneered.
"We're a lot alike, you and I," he said, "A lot alike." He slid off the rock, making a soft "thud" noise in the sand as he landed. Almost silently, he walked around until he was face to face with Filia. She looked at him forlornly, hands in her lap. "Why don't you join me?", he asked, smirking. Filia looked at him in shock.
"What?", she said in disbelief. Valgaav kept smirking.
"Join me," he said again, "It'd be just the thing to piss off that damned idiot who turned you... Don't you think?" Filia looked at him, uncertainty playing in her eyes. She certainly wasn't happy she had been made into a Mazoku, but did she really want vengeance on Xellos for it? Valgaav extended a hand to her. "Well?", he asked, "Will you... or won't you?" Filia thought for a few more seconds before lifting a hand out of her lap and sending it toward Valgaav's.
A second before their hands met, a black bolt of energy streaked between their hands, sending them apart and sending Valgaav flying backward. Filia left the rock, getting to her feet. What she saw then almost shocked her. A good couple of yards away from her was a man in a long black cloak, holding a crooked staff, with one arm extended. Xellos, needless to say, did not look happy.
"That girl is under my care," he said, opening his eyes at Valgaav, who was just now getting back to his feet, "If you leave now, I'll overlook this little transgression... at least until the next time we meet." Valgaav sneered back at him, brushing some sand from his jacket.
"That's very noble of you, Xellos," he said with more than a little venom in his voice, "But why don't you just let Filia decide where she wants to go? Or are you afraid of losing her to some half-breed?" He smiled at the priest before him, mockingly and full of arrogance. Xellos smirked back at him.
"Alright, then," he replied, "Why don't we ask her?" He turned his attention to the trembling creature with the long blonde hair before them. "Filia?", he asked, the sound of her own name sending chills down her spine, "Will you come back home with me, or will you stay here?" Filia looked at Xellos, their identical eyes meeting, and got the same feeling as the night before. It was mesmerizing and compelling, a feeling that she couldn't disobey him, no matter whether she wanted to or not. She took a step toward Xellos, hearing him call out her name inside her head, over and over again, beckoning her to come to him. She took another step, and another, drawing closer to him.
"I'll... I'm going to... Go back with you," she said quietly and haltingly. She wasn't quite sure what had made her say that, but for some reason, at that moment it had just felt right. Xellos smirked triumphantly at Valgaav, who simply sneered in return.
"Foolish girl," Valgaav said, glaring, "From now on, you and I are enemies as well. And to think, I was willing to help you. Foolish child." He gave the priest and his creation a parting snarl before vanishing. Xellos turned his attention away from where Valgaav had just been standing and looked back at Filia. He closed the distance between them and looked down at her.
"Now, back to you," he said, smiling, "Why don't you explain to me why you ran away like that?" Filia felt like a little girl being scolded by her father. She looked down at the ground, not wanting to look him in the eye.
"I wanted to find a cure for this," she said, voice almost shaking in anger and hurt, "For what you've done to me." He simply kept smiling at her.
"I told you there's no reversing this, didn't I?", he said, "Did you think I had lied to you?" Filia looked back up at him, anger and tears welling up in her eyes.
"Of course I did!", she said angrily, "Why should you tell the truth!? You only did this out of spite, didn't you? Didn't you!? Damn you!" The tears began slipping down her face again, and she hated herself for crying in front of him again.
"That was one reason," he replied, the smile replaced by a sadder expression, "There were others as well." Filia glared up at him, her wet face shining in the early morning light.
"But they don't matter, do they?", she said, still full of hurt and anger, "You aren't going to tell me the other reasons! They're just more of your secrets!" She began crying harder, sobbing violently.
"I would've told you," he said sadly, "Eventually." Instead of abating Filia's sobbing, this only made it worse. She was near the point of hysterics, and knowing it only made her cry harder.
"Damn you!", she screamed in between sobs, "Stop playing games with me! If you hate me so much, then just kill me! Please!! Just kill me! Make it all stop!!" She'd begun pounding on his chest with her fists, and eventually, her crying overcame anything that she tried to say. Within a minute or two, she'd tired herself out and was only feebly sobbing into his chest and making limp motions with her fists, as though she didn't want to stop trying to hit him.
Filia felt something light and cold settle on her back. After a few seconds, she realized that Xellos was trying to smooth out her tangled hair. His hand gently untangled the knots that her long hair had made, comforting her in some capacity. She stopped crying after a few more minutes, then looked up at him, clutching his shirt. He smiled at her, almost as if he were amused by her.
"Would you believe," he asked quietly, "That I was lonely? Or that I didn't want you to die? Or would you think that I was lying about that, too?" There was a slight hint of distaste in his voice at the last statement, but Filia looked up at him, puzzled.
"What are you saying?", Filia asked quietly, still hoarse from sobbing. He looked down at her, smiling, if a little mockingly. He brought one hand up to her cheek and caressed it, wiping away some tears with his thumb. Filia started from the chill of his touch, but continued to look up at him, confused. All the while, Xellos continued smirking at her.
"Pretty fool," he said, more to himself than to her, "All I'm trying to tell you is this." Filia watched in shock as he bent down and covered her mouth with his own. Her eyes went wide for a moment before she finally fully realized what was happening. She could feel his cold lips pressed against hers and his cold breath on her face. She closed her eyes and started to kiss him back.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
From then on, the days were easier. Filia had her own room, with her own bed, inside the large castle. The wolves that seemed to populate the island, she found, were in fact quite lucid, and would watch her as she softly walked down the castle halls. There was never anything for her to do, except to roam about the island as she pleased and entertain herself. She'd see Xellos often, but he was apt to abruptly vanish for a day, two, sometimes even three or four at a time. Once there was a whole week that she didn't see him at all. Then, even though she would never have wanted to admit it, she began to worry for him, and hope he'd return safely. She finally awoke one morning to see him sitting beside her bed, smiling.
Every once in a while, she'd see another woman roaming the halls of the great estate. The other woman had short blonde hair and a perfect tan. She wore high heels and jangly bangle bracelets and a short skirt. She would look at Filia with keen eyes and smile sharply, without saying a word. Then she would always turn a corner and disappear. Filia wondered about it for a while, and finally figured that it must have been that same woman she'd heard Xellos talking to the first night she had been here.
She woke one morning to find Xellos sitting beside her bed, smiling secretively. She brushed the hair out of her face and looked at him. He grabbed her hand and drug her out of the warm bed and over to the vanity, where he sat her down.
"What are you doing, Xellos?", she asked, half asleep. He took a brush off the vanity and began brushing her long hair, smiling to himself all the while.
"You have to get ready," he said, "I've got a surprise for you. We're going to do something very special today." Filia sat on the stool and thought about this. A thought occurred to her as to what the surprise might be, and she began to blush a bright red. Did Mazoku even do that sort of thing? However, she was interrupted before her thoughts could stray any further. "We're going to go somewhere special," Xellos went on, as though to himself. Filia tried to look up at him as he fixed her hair.
"Where are we going?", she asked, enjoying the attention. He smirked at her from over her shoulder.
"Now, that, my little dragon," he said, winking, "Is a secret." He finished brushing out her hair and disappeared from behind her, reappearing directly in front of her closet and throwing the doors open. He stuck his arms and head in the closet and began rummaging around. Every so often, he'd throw something out, mumbling about it. Eventually, he came out with a long, red dress and a white cloak. He handed them to Filia, putting them in her lap. "Here, put these on," he said firmly, "Since you've not learned to change your clothes the way other Mazoku do, you'll have to wear these human clothes. Now hurry up, we've got to go." With that, he left the room in a stir of black energy, leaving Filia to put on the clothes he'd picked out for her.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
It had been almost two months to the day since the last time Lina had seen Filia alive, or Xellos either, for that matter. Her and her companions had mourned for Filia for a good week before the shock and pain had worn off and been replaced by numbness. It was still hard to believe that someone they'd traveled with could have died, or worse. They'd just been with her the night before, aggravating her over her collection of teapots or some other trivial thing, and then the next day, she was gone. Lina knew that some of the stuff they did was dangerous, but it'd never seemed so real to her before.
She looked across the table at her traveling companions. Gourry was shoveling food into his face faster than the human eye could see. Amelia was eating heartily. 'Poor kid,' Lina thought, looking at her, 'It was toughest on her. She wouldn't eat for nearly a whole week.' Zelgadis was merely drinking coffee from behind a bowl of half-eaten soup. Lina knew it'd been hard on Zel, too, even if he'd tried not to let anyone see it. He was determined to keep going, not letting a weakness show, and to be the strong one, so that the others could afford a time to be weak. Lina admired him for that, even if she couldn't tell him for fear of embarrassing him. She decided to let the depressing thoughts slide for at least a little while so she'd have time to eat. Deciding that, she dug right in, not missing a beat.
Lina was so busy eating that she didn't notice the two strangers that came into the tavern. They were seated at a table in a darkened corner of the room. They were given menus and left to study over them.
"Why did you bring me here, of all places?", the female asked, looking at the menu, "I know I no longer need to eat human food." The male took her hand, kissing it, and placing it back onto the table.
"Because I have something very special to show you here," he said, getting up, "Come follow me."
Lina took a big drink out of the huge mug that had been sat in front of her at the start of the meal. She sighed with contentment and leaned back, ready to let the meal digest. That had really hit the spot. As soon as she placed the mug back onto the table, she noticed the sound of footsteps coming over to their table, as did Zelgadis. They both looked up to see who had come to their table while Amelia and Gourry continued to eat.
"Oh... my...", Lina said, looking the newcomer up and down. Zelgadis glared at him.
"What do you want, Xellos?", he asked angrily. He was answered with a smile.
"Well, it's been awhile since I've seen you all," Xellos replied, smiling, "I just figured I'd drop in to say hi." Lina crossed her arms and surveyed him harshly.
"Sure you did," she said sarcastically, "But what are you really here for?" His smile didn't waver.
"Actually, I wanted you all to meet someone," he said, "She's come a long way to see all of you." Before they could protest, Xellos stepped out of the way to reveal that Filia had been in the shadows behind him all along.
"Hello, again, Miss Lina," Filia said, smiling sadly at her, "It's been a while, hasn't it?" Lina smiled back at her, knowingly.
"Too long, if ya ask me," Lina responded.