ome, at the moment, was a guest room in the Royal Palace of Sailoon.  And there is indeed a book back at that room which Lina is very serious about.  It's just not the one she's reading.
     While 'The Adventures of Jean the Clever' is a very good book, heralded by many feminist literary critics as the first mythical tale of heroism to feature a true and realistic heroine, and technically Lina is only fifty pages away from the bit where Jean outwits the king of dreams and wins the sacred talisman, it wasn't a dangerous magic book.  The Giga Lores, on the other hand, are highly magical and highly dangerous.
     In her last journey, Lina managed to obtain what many believe to be the most powerful (and the most lost) book of magic ever written.  She never was sure how she got it, it just turned up in her pack one day; sort of like discovering five tons of pure gold completely by accident.  At the time, she was busy looking for some book about mirrors, which was very important at the time... but time passes, and this book was very important at this moment.
     Inside was a prophecy, simple yet vague.  It stated that the two main spells Giga created, Giga Slave (an incredibly destructive variation of the Dragon Slave, the highest black magic spell) and the Giga Restoration (an incredibly powerful variation of the Ultra Restoration, the highest white magic spell) were meant to be cast as a pair.  That is, if one human casts both spells -- presumably in the same lifetime, rather than one right after the other -- it would start them down an irreversible path, towards Giga's Gate, and towards some undescribed salvation.  Hark and beware.
     At the time, Lina was way too busy working on her mirror problem to get involved in that sort of thing.  She simply decided she'd sneak around some messy prophecy by never casting Giga Restoration for the rest of her life.  Naturally, time came when she HAD to cast it, or doom the world to darkness.
     Although the world technically was saved, everybody prospered and matured and became better people and riches and fortune almost were theirs, now the real worrying was set in.  One dangling problem that didn't go away with the ending of that quest, it sat there, taunting Lina to continue to fulfill the prophecy and get into lord knows what trouble.  So to distract herself, Lina would sit down and enjoy a nice book like 'The Adventures of Jean the Clever'.  It was a good way to pass the time, and the palace of Sailoon was a good place for doing just that as well.
     Her guest room at the palace had a very lived in look.  Clothes were strewn about here and there, to be gathered and washed by palace servants (a feature Lina appreciated in her new home).  Lina had taken to not wearing her armor and full getup, since there wasn't much need, kicking around in casual clothes instead.  Books were scattered on the workdesk near her bed, and the sheets had that rumply, slept-in look regardless of how recently they were changed.  She had a nice window to the world, overlooking the city in case she felt like going out so she could look and see how things were and then go back to reading or studying her magic.  Weather was turning sour today, she noted, from her seat against her headboard, turning the next page.
    The blast of trumpets and bells sent her sprawling off the bed, peace shattered.  Of course, Dayvid HAD to go and invent a new kind of 'internal doorbell' and put them on all the rooms of the castle, and of COURSE there had to be a bug with the volume of the instruments...
    "Come in," Lina called, pulling herself back up to standing with the bedsheets.  Then she noticed a slight orange movement behind her, and quickly ducked back behind the bed--
    The door opened, as a royal servant type walked in, giving announcements.  "Presenting her royal highness, Princess Amelia Wil Tesla Sailoon, calling upon Lina Inverse with message from his royal clerk, Dayvid Devince!"
    "Hi, Amelia," Lina said simply, keeping hidden.
    "Hello!!!" her bouncy, perky, adorably cute l'il princessly friend said, skipping into the room after the pomp and circumstance were out of the way.
    Lina folded down a corner of her book and set it aside.  She fetched her cloak from nearby, pretending to be a bit chilly, and slung it over her shoulders.  "So, what brings you?"
    "I bear a message!" Amelia said, pointing to an official looking scroll.  She quickly unrolled it, holding it at arms length, and began to read aloud.  "From: Royal Astrologer Dayvid.  Amelia, go tell Lina that if she doesn't get out of here and stop freeloading, the kitchen staff and the laundry staff have threatened to go on strike.  But make sure you phrase it in a nice and royal sort of way, I haven't quite gotten the hang of... that...... yet.  Um.  That's all."
    "I see," Lina said, nodding.
    "I guess I should have read it first," Amelia smiled weakly.  "Um.  I'm not used to this 'inter-office memo' system Dayvid came up with..."
    "It's okay, it's okay," Lina said.  "Been a lot of changes around here, it seems.  So, I'm being kicked out?"
    "Oh, no no no no no!" Amelia said, shaking her head so fast it almost blurred.  "Sailoon is not known for bad hospitality!  Why, we once had a duke stay here for two years... of course, then the king had him beheaded for flirting with the queen, but... that doesn't have any relevancy to this!  In fact, I don't even know why I brought it up!!  Ha ha ha..."
    "Right," Lina said.  "Don't worry.  We'll.. pack up and take a hike tomorrow.  Once I figure out where we'll go."
    "Uh, you really don't have to..."
    "It's okay.  We have been a bit static here.  Maybe it's time to go out and--"
    "Are you going on a quest?" Amelia asked, excited.  "I hear that the Statue of Arnsland is hidden in the Mountains of Peril outside of the kingdom!  I could arrange a royal escort and we could go get it!"
    "Actually.. I was thinking of maybe getting an apartment, or something," Lina admitted.
    "..oh," Amelia said, a bit disappointed.  (A noted adventurer getting an apartment was similar to a noted racehorse jockey trading in his steed for a family oxcart.)  "Okay, well... good luck!  The Sailoon royal family wishes you good fortune on all journeys and endeavors in the near or distant future!  And, um, if you'll excuse me, Dayvid said he's got some plan for sending messages to other countries with a small catapult he's making, sooo..."
    "Hai, hai," Lina waved, opening her book again.  "Good to see you."
    After a few bows and other regal procedures, Amelia left.
    Lina relaxed, taking off the cloak, letting her wings get some breathing room, stretching them out.
    In the practice yard of the Sailoon Royal Army, swords clashed.  Sparks were struck.  Men grunted and taunted each other.  Tubs of boiling tar were poured from the battlements.
    "HEY!" the field commander yelled below, jumping out of the way just in time to avoid becoming an oil slick.  "Watch it up there, you bastards!"
    "Sorry!" the tower guard called down.  "Just testing the new... whot'd you call it?"
    "The 'Makes-Invaders-Run-Away-Screaming'," a young boy in the tower responded.  "Sorry, we'll be more careful next time."
    "Yah, well... whatever," the commander grunted, turning back to his sparring.  "I say, the boy may have brains, but he doesn't know how to behave properly in an army camp."
    Gourry adjusted the grip on his sword, conserving some energy to chat with while he practiced.  "You mean he tests stuff while you're trying to practice, thus making the area unsafe?"
    "What?  No, a good soldier's ready for any weird thing like that.  I mean he doesn't properly stand up for himself," the commander responded.  "Keeps APOLOGIZING.  He wouldn't last a day in this man's army.  Let's take a break, lad.  These old arms ain't what they used to be, you know."
    "Okay," Gourry agreed, and walked over to the bench, having a seat.  "You know, I really gotta thank you for letting me work out here.  I need to stay sharp for our next trip."
    "Aaahhh, kids today," the commander said, shaking his head.  "Yah don't have to thank me, lad!  I just got done saying that.  You put up a right challenge, and I've got no problems meeting it.  But I have to wonder why a strong lad like you isn't in an army already.  You've got the skills.  I haven't seen a quicker mind in swordplay since old William Bennels from Testabourne was down here."
    "That's my home country, actually," Gourry smiled.  "I guess it's in the water or something."
    "But still, why aren't you off doing something better with yer talents, boy?" the commander asked, appraising Gourry.  "Playing bodyguard for Lina Inverse... if ever there was a girl who didn't need her body guarded, it'd be her.  You hear the stories about that girl?  Most dangerous woman alive, they say!  I'd be afraid for anybody who tried to make a move against her."
    "Aww, Lina gets in trouble too," Gourry said.  "She isn't always able to get out of stuff herself, even if she says she is.  Of course, I wouldn't want to say that to her face, but... let's just say I've been helpful for her from time to time, and that's what counts, right?"
    "I suppose, on an individual, mercenary sort of level... what's she paying you?"
    "Nothing, I guess," Gourry shrugged.  "I get to share whatever treasure we find so I can buy food and stuff..."
    "Probably not much," the soldier grunted.  "You could do better elsewhere.  But you aren't elsewhere, are you?  So what's the reason?  Why her?  You complain to me every now and then that she's gone into a.. what'd you call it?  Slump?"
    "Yeah, sort of... she doesn't really want to go out looking for bandits or treasure or anything... I wish I knew why, but she gets upset whenever I ask..."
    "Now, that's one place where you ought to stand up," the commander said.  "In war, young'ns usually see horrible things.  Stuff that makes 'em not want to go out there again and face any kind of danger again.  It's common, lad.  Lina may be more experienced and capable than a lot of the boys here, but that just means she's seen MORE, you follow?"
    "Uhh... no."
    The commander backed up slightly.  "She might've seen something that's got her spooked.  Afraid to go out into the fray again."
    "Ohh," Gourry nodded.  "Okay.  Yeah, that's happened before, but.. never THIS bad."
    Rising to his feet, back popping as he stretched out, the commander made a suggestion.  "You've got to confront her about this, lad.  Find out what's got her in a hidey-hole.  Then maybe you can REALLY be of some help to her.  Besides, from the stories I've been hearing at the servant's quarters weekly poker game, she's gonna be lynched if you don't get her out of here.  No offense intended."
    "Whoa," Gourry said.  "Thanks for the warning, sir."
    "Ahh, think nothing of it," the man shrugged.  He fetched his sword, and wandered across the yard to shout menacing things at the new recruits.
    Lina resolved her mind, and decided to think about exactly what they were going to do directly and immediately after she finished her book.
    The fifty pages whizzed by in an hour, Lina satisfied with the ending of the book; Jean of course triumphed over the dream king, and was knighted by the queen, becoming the first female knight of her land.  And there was much rejoicing.
    The old stories had a sort of aura about them, of heroes and dragons, swords and sorcery.  Things were very dramatic, but they were very real, too; you could feel these people, know them.  A good book of old could be a fireside pal for weeks (or months, if like most peasants, you could barely read).  In contrast, most new books were either informative or repetitive, two things nobody was particularly interested in, but the classics never died.
    Lina never had much time for reading, being on the road all the time... now she finally had a chance to finish 'Jean the Clever', a book she started as a kid.  Eventually, she got too busy practicing magic to have any reading time, and lost her copy of the book on her first quest.  There was a nice feeling of closure about having completed it today.
    But still, Lina felt restless, a kind of boredom that even a life's reading couldn't solve.  A deep, dyed in the wool boredom.
    Sighing, she fluttered her wings a bit--
    Oh, great.  They were back.
    This, along with the Giga Lore prophecy, was especially worrying in her life.  She fetched a mirror, to examine the wings; golden orange, like oversized butterfly wings.  But they weren't REAL wings; she'd never get a night's sleep if they were, unless she decided to cling to a tree branch to snooze.  They were more like.. the IDEA of having a pair of wings.  Even when she had a light shirt on, like now, they could be there, she could feel them despite the illogical fabric being in the way.  Fortunately they fit nicely under her cloak, so on the few days when she couldn't wish them away, she could cover them.
    She had gotten a bit better at controlling the wings.  Not just flapping them, which she practiced a little out of curiosity, without actually trying to fly anywhere -- but making them appear and disappear by concentrating her will.  Still, sometimes they'd sneak onto her back when she was feeling down, or casually thinking about them, or worse: when she was surprised.  And that stupid doorbell of Dayvid's surprised her just enough to have them show up, and almost have Amelia see them...
    She had to do something about this.  Ignoring it wasn't working.
    Well, there was ONE thing she could do...
    Nervously eyeing the false brick in her wall, behind which she knew the Giga Lores had been hidden, Lina chewed on her lip.
    "No," she said.  "No way.  I'm not falling any farther into a prophetic trap..."
    The visitor at her door was thoughtful enough to simply knock, rather than use the bell.  Lina grabbed her cloak again, putting it on to cover the wings, and called out for them to enter.
    Gourry peeked in.  He always peeked into Lina's room, after one incident when she happened to be undressing for bed; the mark on his cheek from her slipper faded after a few days, though.
    "Lina?" he said, carefully.
    "It's fine, Gourry, come on in," Lina said.
    "Oh, good," Gourry said, walking in.  And because tact wasn't one of his many virtues, he asked, "So, what're you afraid of?"
    "See, I was talking with my friend Dave -- actually, he prefers Commander Rickenpot -- and he said that maybe the reason why you weren't interested in doing anything except sitting around was because you were afraid of someone, and he said I should probably talk to you about it before you get lynched.  Well, he used more words, but I think that was the important bit..."
    Lina sat in confusion for a moment.
    "Oh," she said, after parsing Gourry's speech.  "I'm not... Gourry, come on now.  If something was REALLY bothering me, I'd tell you, right?"
    "Yes, you would," Gourry said honestly.
    A bit of silence.
    She had to do something about this.  Ignoring it wasn't working.
    "Ah, what the hell," Lina muttered.  "Come on, let's go get some dinner and I'll explain."
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.