or dinner, Lina decided to have a juicy steak, a roast chicken, three large salads, a basket of garlic cheesebread, one scoop of ice cream, a bowl of vegetarian soup and a bowl of beef stew and two bottles of the house's special 'Knock You Down' sake.
    "I didn't know you liked to drink," Gourry said.
    "I've been meaning to start," Lina said.
    Gourry wasn't familiar with this bar and grill, but had seen it the few times he went out in town.  It was a quiet place, visited mostly by folks who came for a nice quiet meal or a hushed conversation between two people.  Given how Lina came straight here, chances were she had been here before, Gourry thought, putting his limited logic resources to the test.  But this was the first time she had brought him with her.
    He himself had ordered the 'Hungry Man Sailoon Mega Special', which turned out to be a heaping pile of steaks smothered in a fatty sauce with a hearty side order of salad, for the obligatory healthy element.
    "So, what's going on?" he asked, cutting away a bit of his steak, having mastered the fine art of talking while devouring from years on the road with Lina.
    Lina chugged back a full third of her sake, then came up gasping and wheezing.  "Gleh!!  How does Naga drink this stuff?"
    "I think you're supposed to pour it in that little cup, not just drink from the bottle..."
    "This?  Oh.  I thought it was a thimble, or something..."
    "What's going on?" Gourry repeated.  "Why are we hanging around here?  I mean, it's a nice city and all and Amelia's been a very good host, but... it's boring, Lina."
    "Okay.." Lina said, pouring herself a thimble of sake, and downing it.  "Gahh.  Okay... where to start.  Okay.  You remember that book I got?  The one I told you not to tell anybody about?"
    "Mmhmm," Gourry mumbled, mouth full.  Swallow.  "What aboutit?"
    "Weeeell... there'sh a prophecy in there," Lina said.  "It said that if I cast two particular spells, I'd be locked in some prophecy leading me to a third spell.  And I don't WANT to be a prophecy.  You know what happens to those people?"
    Gourry thought hard about this.  "Well, my auntie Koirry said that if my cousin Walter kept making faces at that girl down the block, he'd be forced to spend an eternity with her.  I guess it worked, because they got married later, but it didn't seem like a bad thing.  I think my auntie was joking.  She does that a lot."
    Yet another bizarre tale of Gourry's upbringing sank into Lina's mind like a concrete block in peat moss.  Unable to deal with it sober, she decided to polish off the bottle, and like all inexperienced drinkers, she started to get very hot and wobbly.  "Ummm... this ishn't like that, Gourry.  This ish a BAD prophecy.  I think.  I mean, we're talking 'bout the most losht and wanted book of magic in the history of, of... man.   Sho."
    "I don't get it," Gourry said.
    "I don't wanna casht that third spell, obvioushly!!" Lina said, her reactions getting a wee bit wilder.  "But that shtupid fake omen person.. sooth... shoothshayer at the market hit it on the nail on the forehead.  I'm gonna haveto eventually.  Can't jusht shit around here in Shailoon."
    "Ne, Lina, watch your language," Gourry said, vaguely horrified.  "We're in public!"
    "So," Lina continued, "Ahm jusht gonna sh.. not do anything.  That'sh all.  If I gotta shettle down, thatsh fine, no more adventures... won't missum.  Won't.  Maybe start a business.  Like thoshe marketerpeople.  You seee?"
    Scratching his head, Gourry tried to figure it out.  "Soooo... to avoid casting some prophecy you'll go to the bathroom in the castle like a salesman?  I don't get it."
    "No, no, no!" Lina said, banging the table.  She took another hit off the bottle, found it was empty, moved to the other.  "It's the SHPELL!  I don' wanna casht the Giga'sh Gate spell!  Then I'd REALLY be shcrewed.  Couldn't avoid it after that..."
    "What spell?  You didn't show me the book."
    "It'sh called Gigash' Gate," Lina said, slowly, so Gourry could understand.
    "Doesn't sound that scary.  How's it go?"
    Sighing, Lina kept trying to make him understand.  "Okay.  It goesh : Power beyond the known powersh, deeper than the deeeepest mind--"
    "You're not waving your hands or chanting," Gourry pointed out helpfully.  "I thought you always did that when reciting a spell."
    "Fine!  Fine!  Here'sh me waving my hands and chanting!" Lina said, waving her arms, drawing on magical power to demonstrate exactly why she didn't want to cast this spell.  She concentrated.  "'Power beyond the known powers, deeper than the deepest mind, King of Darkness, Queen of Light, shining like gold on the Sea of Chaos, I call upon thee, swear myself to thee, let the knowledge we posses be one... GIGA'S GATE!'"
    Gourry nodded, getting it.  "That does sound ominous.  You're right, you probably shouldn't cast it."
    Lina nodded.
    Gourry nodded.
    "...wait a minute..." Lina said, clueing into something.  "Did I jusht--"
    A golden explosion of light enveloped the table, and it vanished from the restaurant, occupants and all.  A silent thunder clap echoed across the land--
    Here lies a rolling lake of golden energy.  Liquid light, fluid chaos, a thing that should not exist under the laws of the universe in a place that does not exist under the laws of the universe.  It has no dimensions as humans know them.  It simply exists, an entity, a place, a unit, a sphere, an existence.  This is what lies outside what is and what will be.  Beyond that, it defies the words that dare to describe it.
    Overlooking that lake, in a little bubble of authentic reality, is a dinner table and two very surprised diners.
    There are few sights that can really knock the sobriety into someone, and this one gave Lina a hammer blow to the face.  Sheet white and panicked, realization sunk in.  "Oh, god... I didn't..  GOURRY!!! You made me chant the spell!!"
    Gourry raised his knife to block Lina's fork attack.  "I didn't mean to!  I thought you were just demonstrating!"
    "Think I demonstrated enough for you to GET A CLUE?!  Now who knows where we are?!" Lina asked, gesturing to the wholly unreal landscape.  "This is exactly the sort of thing I was trying to avoid, getting caught up in some strange-powers-from-beyond-space-and-time sort of affair--"
    'Lina Inverse,' a voice toned, ringing through Lina's head with an earth shatteringly quiet volume, a crystal sound that made itself clear to her.
    Lina turned away from Gourry to look at the lake below them, where for some reason she was positive the voice came from.  An aspect of the water, set up to address them...  "I think there's been some kind of misunderstanding," she said.  "You see, I didn't mean to--"
    'Again, The Gate Has Been Used For Its Creator's True Purpose,' the voice said, sounding relieved, or at least Lina thought the worlds seemed relieved, even though they didn't sound relieved.  'You Are One Who Has Cast The Light And The Dark And The Door, As Merlin Giga Had Bargained With Me.  I Greet You, Lina Inverse, As You Have Grown To Know Me, For I Am The Lord Of Nightmares.'
    Lina couldn't think of anything to say whatsoever in reply.
    'I Have A Task For The One Who Cast The Powers And Gained The Gift,' the Lord of Nightmares continued.  'You May Choose Not To Undertake It, And If You Are Human, You Will Remain Aimless, Restless, Forever Adrift, As You Are Now.'
    "I'm confused," Gourry said helplessly.
    "I.. think I'm not," Lina said, her sinking feeling starting to send up warning flares and get first class passengers to the lifeboats.  "What's this task you want?  ...o most powerful Lord of Nightmares?  I mean."
    The Lord of Nightmares paused.  Maybe it was collecting its thoughts, trying to find the best phrasing in a language it wasn't used to using.  Maybe it was trying to spook Lina into a certain reaction.  Maybe Lina would never know why.
    'First, You Will Draw The Wingless,' the Lord spoke.  'You Will Be Aided.  At The Next Step, I Will Return To Guide You.  That Is All.  Now, You Will Return Home.'
    "..the what?  Whoa, whoa, time out," Lina said, making a T with her hands, addressing the lake.  "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.  How am I supposed to go on whatever quest you've got for me if--"
    'You Will Be Aided,' the lake replied.
    "You're not going to explain yourself beyond that, are you?"
    "As long as we're on the same level," Lina said.  "Is there any way to back out of this?"
    'I Have Described The Way.'
    "It's not a very attractive option."
    'I Have Described The Way.'
    "Okay, okay..." Lina said.  All concerns about not being pious before her Lord, a being of pure power that exists outside human understand had gone out the window a few moments ago.  "I'd like to at least lodge a protest vote, even if you don't care.  It's very rude to trap someone like this, you know, blackmail them into doing your bidding.  And I bet this counts as kidnapping, too."
    'I Have Not Trapped You.  The Winds Of Chaos Simply Sweep In Unusual Ways.'
    "Yeah, yeah, fine.  Gourry, let's book."
    "Hang on a second," Gourry said.  Then he turned to address the ultimate creator of his world.  "Excuse me, miss, umm..."
    'Lord Of Nightmares.'
    "Right, Lord of Nightmares.  You're, like, the person who created everything and stuff, right?" Gourry asked.
    'I Am The Maker Of All.  I Am The Seer Of All.  Over Shaburanigdo And Ceipheed I Rule.  Over Mankind's Existence I Rule, Looking On High, Silent As Time.  Over All Things Seeking Destruction And Preservation I Am Lord.'
    "Right.  Maybe you can answer something for me... for the longest time, I was wondering--"
    'No, There Wasn't A Monster In Your Closet When You Were Eight. It Was Just Your Brother Trying To Scare You.'
    "Okay, thanks," Gourry said.  "Let's go, Lina."
    "..." Lina commented, as the dinner table phased back into normal space.
    --rolling over mountains, hills and cities...
    Lina heard the last echoes of the thunder caused by Giga's Gate when the table landed, shifting perfectly back into the diner's existence like nothing had happened.
    Gourry sat in silence for a moment, reorienting himself.  In wake of such amazing revelations brought on by the god of all, he thought about the situation, and resumed eating his dinner.
    "Gourry!" Lina protested.
    "What?" he asked.  "It'll get cold if we don't finish it.  Besides, I'm hungry."
    "We just met the LORD OF NIGHTMARES!" Lina said.  "How can you just eat like that?!"
    "I'm hungry."
    Lina couldn't argue with that logic.  Grudgingly, she took a forkful of her steak and chewed.
    "So, does this mean we're going out on a quest?" Gourry asked hopefully.
    "I don't want to," Lina said.  "No choice, though..."
    "Awww, come on!" Gourry said.  "Don't look at it like some big chore.  Don't you feel energized?  Happy to be back in the saddle again?  That's what my uncle Tim said anyway, see, he rode cows for a living even though they didn't go very fast--"
    "No good'll come of this, I just know it," Lina mumbled.  "Just my luck to get stuck with it."
    That's when Gourry stood up, leaning over the table to address Lina directly.
    "Forgive me for saying, but..." Gourry started, to get an apology placed in advance.  "But you've been moping around doing nothing for a month, when we should be out having adventures and living on the road!  You know you're only happiest when you're beating bad guys up and looting them, or finding some lost magic, and so on, with your friends around you and all sorts of interesting things happening!"
    Lina leaned back in her chair, wholly unused to Gourry being.. well, aggressive towards her.  "But.. Gourry, this isn't some normal jaunt, it could be very, very dangerous--"
    "Didn't we kill part of Shabubabingo?  If--"
    "--It's Shaburanigdo, Gourry--
    "--if that didn't kill us, I don't know what will," Gourry said.  "And we can't just hole up when something bad comes along.  Come on, Lina!  What happened to that good old Lina Inverse who was a real go-gett'um kinda person?  Did this whole thing with the mirror lores and that thing with whatsername, that big god, really spook you that bad?  What happened to the Lina that I... I... well, you know.  Enjoyed hitting the road with and stuff, yeah!"
    Lina's head soaked words.  Gourry hit every nail right on the head.  She was hiding, wasn't she?  And why?  Because it was mean and nasty and spooky?  Would Lina the bandit-killing heroine of tales old and new really get an APARTMENT somewhere?  Would Jean the Clever settle down and become a couch potato?
    Lina wouldn't turn down a challenge.  Maybe she had seen things better left unseen and done things better left undone over the last few months, and generally gone up against situations that went outside the norm.  But would that beat her down?  Would she become a depressive slacker?  Will this stop her from being a legend in her own time?  Would she keep asking herself hypothetical questions?
    "Hell no!" Lina said.
    "No?" Gourry asked, confused once more.
    "No way!  Lina wouldn't do that!" Lina said, talking about herself in the third person.  "She'd roll up her sleeve, strap on a sword and just start blowing things up!-- scratch that.  She'd get out there and TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS!!"
    "Right!  Exactly!" Gourry said, feeling the energy of his little pep talk.  "Let's go, Lina!"
    "Right behind you, Gourry!" Lina said.
    The two bolted from the restaurant without paying the bill and ran for ten blocks on the sheer invigorating power of purpose before collapsing to a panting heap of exhaustion.
    "...where are we going, anyway?" Gourry asked, somewhat after the fact, leaning against a nearby wall to catch his breath.
    "I have no idea," Lina said.  "Maybe we should be... *wheeze* figuring that out first."
    Gourry looked around the city, hoping to spot whatever it was they were questing for.  Instead he saw a large number of armed men approaching them.  "Uh, Lina...?"
    "Yeah?" Lina asked.
    "I think we're in trouble."
    The city guard of Sailoon had them surrounded in moments, swords out.  The captain of the watch stepped forward, leading a nervous bar and grill owner with him.
    "These the two who ran out without paying?" he asked.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.
(Do you have any idea how hard it is to spellcheck a page where a character is drunk? @_@)