A ‘short walk’ for Elisa simply meant going to the cliff at the edge of the forest that surrounded Zelas-sama’s mansion, where she would perch herself on a limb of the tallest tree overlooking the forest behind, and the sea beyond. She had done this quite often, ever since her mother had finally allowed her to go off on her own around the island. Here was where she was able to collect her thoughts and think more clearly, at least normally. But this time, it was different. Sitting there with one leg dangling in the air, and hugging her other knee to her chest, she stared at the sea. The sea had drawn her to it for as long as she could remember, with its soothing rhythm and the near-hypnotizing motion of the waves.
But it wasn’t just the sea that called…it was what lay beyond the sea that rang just as loudly in her ears. The call of freedom…wide, open land that was hers alone to explore. She wanted to be like the sorceress her mother had told her stories about…Lina Inverse, who traveled all over the countryside, having all sorts of adventures.
‘Where’s my adventure?’ Elisa wondered. ‘Father and Mother tell me that one day I’ll need all of this training that they are teaching me…but when will I ever need it if I live here, among my family, forever?’
She sighed, watching the sunset in the west, where it vanished from sight beyond the horizon. It was so beautiful…the light reflected on the water, where soon the light of the moon would be reflected. She wondered how the sunsets looked in other lands…
Sighing again in frustration, she fought back her tears. Her parents would never let her go. She would be forced to stay until…until…
Until she made up her mind to leave, she reasoned.
“I could never leave them,” she said aloud. “Poor Mother would be heartbroken.”
“Indeed, she would.”
Her heart nearly stopped when she heard the voice of her father next to her. She gasped and turned her head to see him relaxing on the limb beside her, leaning against the tree, his eyes closed as usual and a small smile on his face.
“What are you doing here?” she questioned, her face burning with the realization that he’d heard what she’d said. Now he knew what she’d been thinking about, and she braced herself for a long lecture.
But none came. Instead, he simply replied, “Admiring the view. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve watched the sunset? I’d forgotten how beautiful they could be.”
She stared at him in utter shock. It was so unlike him to say anything like that, for she’d learned that her father wasn’t one to pay much attention to appearances. Why was he acting differently? What did the sunset have anything to do with anything?
But instead of voicing her questions, she asked, “How long has it been since you’ve watched the sunset, Father?”
“Oh, close to eight hundred years, I imagine,” he replied. “I happened to be waiting for someone in a tree somewhat like this; only it overlooked a vast forest instead. In the distance the sun was setting. I remember thinking that it was quite beautiful…and then thinking to myself that that was an odd thought for me to think. But I was rather sorry to see it go. It had set the sky ablaze, much like this one. It was one of those rare moments when I found I appreciated the world.”
She nodded, looking away, and could feel his eyes on her. She refused to turn her head to meet them…they always seemed to see to the very depths of her soul. Her father’s eyes were the main reason she could never get away with anything…he always knew when she was lying.
But as far as discipline, his way was different from Filia’s, who would always go off on a tirade about how dangerous this was, or that was, or how disappointed in Elisa she was, or so on and so forth. He would often turn the situation around to where Filia would be annoyed with him, Elisa’s punishment forgotten, but in the end he always made sure, in a subtle way, that she knew to not do it again.
She didn’t know what he had in mind to tell her at that moment, but she knew that she didn’t want to look at him. She really just wanted him to go away and let her think, but that was futile, she knew. He would not go away until he wanted to.
“Elisa-chan,” he said. “Look at me.”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Yes.” His voice was firm and commanding. She refused again.
His eyes narrowed. It was quite rare for her to disobey him, especially for such a small thing, really.
“You have been acting strangely, Elisa-chan. Why?”
She shrugged. “Nothing’s wrong.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
She finally turned to look at him, her amethyst eyes flashing with anger. “What do you want me to say?” she asked. “That I want to leave? That I’m tired of being cooped up on this island? That I’m sick of the daily routine and I just want to see something new? You’d think that that wouldn’t be too much to ask, but evidently it is!”
“Elisa-chan, you know you can’t – “
“I know! I can’t do anything! Oh, except my training. In case one day I run into a really powerful tree and have to defend myself.”
Xelloss smiled. “I’m sure there are trees on this island that you wouldn’t want to run into,” he said. “But you could handle them.”
“Are you sure? I might need more training…you know, I don’t think I can swing an axe very well.”
“Tsk, tsk, we’ll have to remedy that, won’t we?”
She giggled, and then clasped her hands over her mouth, realizing she was supposed to be angry, not laughing. “I hate it when you do that!” she yelled.
He gave her an innocent look. “Do what?”
“You know what I mean. Oh forget it.”
She huffed and looked away again, back to the sea.
“Elisa-chan,” Xelloss began. “I came out here to tell you something that you need to hear. I cannot tell you the entire details, but I must tell you this. There will come a day when you will have to use your powers. At that time you will come to realize the reasons why we cannot let you leave, and why we have been training you in your powers all these years.”
Elisa stared at him, wide-eyed. She didn’t see him this serious very often…there was a dark edge in his voice, something that he never displayed around her…and there was a dangerous glint in his eyes that sent a shiver down her spine. She felt a twinge of fear in her stomach.
“What is it?” she whispered. “Will I…have to fight?”
He nodded. “You will have to fight hard.”
“Why? Against what?”
He looked away. “I can’t say. But know that your mother and I will be there to help you. Zelas-sama, too.”
“Why are you telling me this now?” she demanded. “Why not before? I always thought that my training was just to defend myself if I ever left the island.”
He nodded. “It is that, too. But it is not the main purpose. And we did not tell you before because you never showed a full desire to leave the island before now, and you can’t leave the island under any circumstances. It’s quite obvious that you’re growing up fast. It was decided that you should be told.”
“Who decided? Zelas-sama?”
“Not particularly. I decided. I have known something was wrong for a good while now.”
She sighed. “You always know.”
He grinned. “Of course.”
“But why can I not leave the island, just for a little while?”
“It’s not a good idea, Elisa-chan. Here, you are safe.”
“But I’d be able to hold my own out there, I know I would! I’m strong! You said it yourself! I even came close to beating you the other day during that battle.”
“That was a false battle, Elisa-chan, you know that. I was not giving it my full power. You could not withstand it.”
She sighed again, looking down at the tree limb beneath her…anywhere to avoid her father’s gaze. “So I must wait for how long?”
“When you are sixteen.”
“That’s three more years!”
“That’s how it is, Elisa,” he replied firmly. “You cannot leave this island. One day you will understand. Until then, you must promise me you will stay here.”
She shrugged, turning away from him.
“Look at me!” His hand grasped her arm and turned her around, then gripped her chin, forcing her to look at him. She stared at him wide-eyed, in shock. He had never been rough with her, and she could not remember his eyes ever looking so angry.
“Promise me, Elisa.”
She nodded, unable to speak.
“I want to hear it!”
“I promise!” she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I promise, okay? Just go away and leave me alone!”
With that, he nodded grimly and disappeared. She buried her head in her hands and cried until she could cry no more.
Later that night, Filia lay awake in bed, unable to sleep, her thoughts continually going to her daughter. She was deeply worried about Elisa, who had appeared at dinnertime and announced that she wasn’t hungry, and went to bed. Filia had noticed the dark, puffy circles underneath Elisa’s eyes, as though she had been crying for hours. She’d glanced at Xelloss, searching for an answer, but he had been staring into space and had said nothing.
Filia had attempted to talk to Elisa later, but her daughter had refused to speak to anyone. Xelloss had appeared behind her then, and promptly told Filia to leave Elisa alone, that if she wanted to talk, she would. He’d said it a bit more curtly than was perhaps necessary, which bothered her somewhat.
It only led her to think that he had had words with Elisa, and it had not gone over well. That worried Filia, as well, because Xelloss and Elisa were as thick as thieves, and he had never been outright angry with her. As a small child, Elisa had followed him everywhere when he was around, and cried for him when he was gone. Filia never understood it, but she didn’t question it, either. In the house of a dark lord, she didn’t question much, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t allowed to complain.
And Filia had not had much to question up until now. Why was Xelloss acting the way he was? He had been very cold and distant that evening, meaning he had not bothered once to aggravate the living daylights out of her. He had barely even glanced her way, and he had suddenly made an excuse to leave and disappeared for the rest of the evening. That in itself wasn’t strange, but the way he’d said it sent emergency red flags going off in Filia’s head, telling her that something was definitely wrong and she’d best get to the bottom of it.
Rolling over to face Xelloss, she found him lying on his back, wide-awake with his eyes open. He didn’t really need sleep, anyway, but he normally took the nighttime when she was asleep to lay next to her and relax.
She noticed for what was not the first time that his eyes had lost that bizarre intensity that she used to find so chilling. Now, they were about half-open, and looked deep in thought and strangely sad. She frowned, and reached up to brush a few strands of violet hair from his face, a gentle gesture that brought him out of his thoughts. He looked at her and a ghost of a smile formed on his lips.
“Out with it, Filia, I know you’re dying to ask me what my problem was earlier,” he said, not wasting a second. He, of course, had known she was awake and worrying.
“I already know what your problem is, Namagomi,” she bit back lovingly as she stroked his cheek. “I want you to tell me what you and Elisa talked about that made her so upset.”
“And what makes you think that I said something to her to make her upset?” Xelloss asked.
Filia shrugged. “Because of the way you acted when she came back. You never even spoke to her. And then you told me to leave her alone. Something just doesn’t add up. What did you say to her?”
Xelloss sighed. “What does it matter? She’ll be fine tomorrow.”
“That’s not the point!” Filia retorted. “You’re hiding something from me and I want to know what it is!”
“Nosy dragon. What if I had orders not to tell you what I’ve been hiding from you? Would you argue then?”
“Filia, you know I can’t go against orders.”
She sighed, frustrated. “Well then, do you have orders not to tell me?”
He thought a moment, and then grinned. “Yes.”
“LIAR!!!!” She grabbed her pillow and swung it at him, just missing him when he disappeared. “XELLOSS!!! Namagomi! Where did you go?!”
“Tsk, tsk, Filia. You really need to work on that temper,” he taunted from his new spot in the chair across the room.
“Stop changing the subject!” Filia yelled.
“Now, now, calm down,” he soothed. “Not so loud, Filia, you’ll wake the whole house.”
Filia glared at him, seething. “Why won’t you just tell me, Namagomi? You don’t have orders not to tell me, I know it. Just tell me!”
“You won’t want to hear it, Filia,” he replied, suddenly serious. “And I can’t let you interfere. It’s best that you don’t know.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, suddenly fearful. “Interfere with what? Tell me!”
“No, Filia, I’m not going to tell you.”
But Filia was not listening. “Have you been keeping something from me all along? Ever since we came here? It has to do with Elisa, doesn’t it? What are you going to do to her?!” With each question, her voice grew louder until she was practically screaming at him. She lunged at him again, so furious she could barely see straight, and landed hard on the chair, knocking her head against the hardwood seat. Tears of pain and frustration came to her eyes and she began to sob.
Xelloss stood at the window, refusing to look at her and trying not to listen to her cry. He couldn’t tell her, he just couldn’t. But then…what would it hurt if she knew? He could always stop her from interfering if she tried. True, she would hate him more than she did now, but she’d understand in the end, wouldn’t she?
He couldn’t really believe that anymore. He didn’t know what to believe.
Finally he turned around and looked at her, sitting there sniffling and puffy-eyed. She didn’t look at him.
“Filia…” he began. “I don’t want to tell you this, but before I do, you have to promise me that you won’t interfere.”
She nodded, staring down at the floor.
“I want to hear you say it.”
“Alright, I promise,” she said miserably.
He sighed. “The truth is…and L-sama knows I don’t tell the truth very often…Elisa is in danger. There are many reasons she hasn’t been allowed to leave this island, but there is one reason, the main reason, that she cannot leave this island. Ever.”
“And what is that?”
He sat down on the floor in front of Filia, looking up into her tearstained face. “Do you remember when Elisa was born, how we came here because practically the entire Mazoku race wanted to either kill her or kidnap her?”
“Dynast Grausherra came to Zelas-sama and demanded she give him the baby, shortly after we came here. She refused, of course, but he threatened to kill both you and Elisa if you were to leave the island. Here, he cannot do anything to us. But anywhere else, he can. He would kill her, or take her for his own, and she would be his servant forever.”
Filia began to speak, but he stopped her.
“There is one other thing. Grausherra and Zelas-sama made a pact. Because Dynast would try to take over the island, which he would probably succeed, Zelas-sama decided that winning this deal would be the only way to get rid of the threat that he poses towards her, the island, and Elisa. Elisa is very important, and if she were to go anywhere, she would be hunted for the rest of her days.
“Dynast demanded that Elisa be given to him, and Zelas made the deal to give him Elisa when she is sixteen.”
“Sixteen!!!????” Filia screamed. “Give her to that monster?! NO!!!! No, I can’t…you can’t…she’s my baby…”
Xelloss gripped Filia’s face with his hands. “Listen to me. Zelas has plans of her own, Filia. She’s not going to give up Elisa that easily. What do you think Elisa’s training has been for? Elisa will fight Grausherra! If she wins, Grausherra will be dead, of course, and the threat will be gone.”
Filia stared at him. “Fight? But she can’t fight someone as powerful as he is! She’ll be killed!”
“Not necessarily. She’s got our powers combined. That’s why we train her hard, Filia, to make sure we tap into her powers and teach her how to use them. She’ll be strong enough, you’ll see.”
“But Xelloss…she’s just a child. How can we be sure that her powers will be developed by the time she is sixteen?”
“My dear Filia, you forget that Lina Inverse was thirteen when her powers reached their max. Elisa is far stronger than a human.”
“But Lina is no ordinary human,” Filia replied. “You know that. She was able to defeat your supreme Dark Lord, not to mention Phibrizo, Garv, and the dark lord from another planet! That’s a record that no one could beat, I’m afraid. Why haven’t we asked her for her help?”
“Come now, Filia, do you really think that Lina would want us to bother her again? It’s been several years now. I’m sure she wouldn’t want to be involved in yet another crisis, and even more that it’s simply for our own selfish reasons and not for a noble cause.”
“But this IS a noble cause!” Filia said. “Lina would help us, I know she would!”
“We’re not asking for her help, and that’s the end of it,” Xelloss replied rather sharply. “There’s nothing that she can do that we can’t do to help Elisa.”
Elisa hid in the shadows, near her parents’ bedroom, her eyes glistening with tears. So that was it…that was what they’d been planning all this time. Her training was for nothing more than some pre-destined fight. They were all gambling with her life! Elisa wanted to scream. Her freedom had been taken away, and now she was faced with the possibility of being killed or being made a servant for the rest of her life.
Promise or no promise, she wasn’t going to let her parents or Zelas-sama toy with her fate. If she was to be forced to fight this Grausherra in order to win her freedom, she was going to make sure that she won. And she knew just who was going to help her.
Sneaking back to her room, Elisa grabbed a few of her things and stuffed them in a bag. She looked around the room, her heart filled with sadness and regret at leaving her parents. She knew that her mother would be terrified to find her gone, and her father would most likely be angrier than ever, but she was willing to risk it.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “But I can’t stay here anymore.”
And then she was gone.