neaking back into Sailoon's city core was no easy task.
    Already, wanted posters for Lina and Gourry were put up.  Lina was mildly relieved to see 'Wanted Alive' on it, rather than another word which started with the letter D, but the efficiency of Sailoon's justice patrol was still unnerving.
    "I think that's a good sign," Gourry said.  "It means she's probably very worried about us and wants to help us out."
    "Right, Gourry.  And maybe she'll invite us over for tea while she's at it," Lina grumbled.
    "Uh... Miss Lina?" Myth said, squinting slightly.  "I can't see very good... can I have my glasses back?"
    "They're part of my disguise," Lina said.  "See, people don't look THAT hard at you.  They just check the color of your costume, what sort of hairstyle you have, and maybe any ornaments.  If you change those three things around, you'll easily pass as someone else in a crowd!  You don't have to go so far as buying a cheesy makeup kit and a cloak, you know."
    "But aren't I wearing her southslayer's cloak?" Gourry asked, muffled inside the hood of the cheap garment.
    "Exactly!" Lina said, without missing a beat.  "You've got her old costume to cover all your features.  I've got her bard's outfit and hairdo and glasses.  Myth is wearing my outfit, with her hair down..."
    "Doesn't that just mean I'll get arrested instead of you?" Myth asked nervously.
    "Details, details," Lina said.  "We'll be getting you into a maid's uniform in a little bit, anyway, once we find a costume shop.  Then you sneak into the palace, go raid out rooms to get our swords, gear, and my book..s.  Meanwhile, Gourry and I will buy provisions for the trip, using the money you brought to fund our party--"
    "--but that's my money--"
    "It's BRILLIANT!" Lina proclaimed, ignoring any protest.  "We'll be out of Sailoon in under an hour... what are you doing?"
    Myth didn't look up from the small book she was writing in.  "Notes.  Even if I have to participate, I have GOT to get this story down.  It's so exciting!  And dangerous!  And I'm a little scared!  But it's exciting.  It'll make a great myth."
    Curious, Lina peeked into the book and read aloud. "'And so the noble sorceress came up with a brilliant stratagem of deceit and cunning...'  Kinda flowery, isn't it?"
    "What's a stratasphere?" Gourry asked.
    "It has to have a little.. embellishment," Myth explained.  "That's what makes it even MORE exciting."
    "I had some embellishment once," Gourry said, grinning.  "It was really great with some strawberry jam and plum pudding!"
    "Um," Myth said, "That's not what it--"
    "Let it slide," Lina suggested, spotting a costume shop across the street.  "Trust me.  It's a lot easier that way."
    Twenty minutes later, Myth was busy doing something she had never done before in her life.  She was sneaking into the palace of Sailoon through the servant's entrance while wearing a skimpy maid costume designed for Fruit Lantern's Eve.  Admittedly, she hadn't done it before because it was a very specific thing to be doing, but that didn't make it any easier.
    This was crazy.  This was crazy.  First of all, she was directly involved in the story.  She NEVER was that before.  Even when she did tag along with a hero, she'd write herself out by staying out of the action, by keeping to the sidelines when the hero wrestled the ogre or tangled wits with the troll or whatever.  But Lina... Lina was like a great big steamroller of a story.  If you didn't run ahead of her fast enough, you'd get flattened.
    So now, here she was, in a very unflattering outfit (but she still had her book, since she'd sooner part with a leg than let it out of her sight) and doing something quite illegal and possibly attention getting.  And what's worse, she'd have to write herself as a CHARACTER now!  What would she write?  She didn't want to seem too egotistical and make herself the center of the story, that was Lina's role, but... it was all so perplexing.
    'Maybe this would be it,' she figured.  'Lina just wants me to go fetch their stuff.  It's a simple job, and once done, I can squat comfortably in the margins for the rest of the trip.  Maybe I could write in a sidekick for this particular role and kill him off dramatically afterwards.  No, wait, that's not comedic...'
    She was so busy thinking about coherent plot and pacing of Drama that she bumped head on into the seamstress.
    Since the seamstress had more of what would scientifically be defined as 'mass', Myth bounced off her like a rubber ball, landing on her tush.
    "Watch it there, missy," the ample woman said, lending Myth a hand to get back up.  "Need to keep track of where you're going in this place.  You're new here, aren't you?"
    "Yes," Myth said truthfully.
    "It's the costume," the seamstress smiled.  "I can tell."
    Myth didn't know how Sailoon's inner palace worked.  Maybe the headsman was always a simple five second jaunt away from every hall.  Times like these she wished the wingless were immune from death, rather than just being immune from aging...
    "Honestly, gel, you need some respect for yourself," the seamstress said.  "I know the young ladies like to dress all... that, to try and impress their bosses, but what sort of a promotion is that?  Not a proper one, I can say."
    "I.. oh!  Oh.  Yeah, you're right!" Myth said, having a moment of crystal realization : Acting wasn't just saying dramatic lines, like her failed attempt at fortune telling.  It was a lot like writing as you go.  "I don't honestly know why I listened to the others and tried this... isn't this the most hideous frock you've ever seen?"
    "Eh, I've seen worse," the seamstress said, believing Myth's false sincerity.  (Although sincerely, she DID hate the dress, so it worked in double favor.)
    "Do you know where I could get a more... reasonable outfit?" Myth asked.  "I'm really low on money, this was pretty expensive... foolish me for trying it..."
    "Now now, no need to get yer knickers in an uproar," the seamstress said.  "I've got a few from my early days.  Would probably suit you just fine.  Come on, then."
    Myth nodded, tagging along with the more experienced house helper.  But she walked behind her, so she could quietly write down exactly what was said.  This was great stuff!
    Meanwhile, in another part of scenic Sailoon City, Lina in her new bard's costume was approaching the gates of hell.
    Today was the last day of the Annual Sailoon Magician's Market, and EVERYTHING MUST GO!  Wands, staves, scrolls, amulets, capes, swords, cursed dolls, enchantments and services galore are yours to be had for a LOW LOW PRICE!  OUR PRICES ARE SO LOW, IT'S INSAAAAANEE!!!!!
    And so was the crowd.  Because the third day of the market was the busiest, those last minute purchases involving a lot of haggling and elbow-fighting to get at the choice items before they ran out.  Still, it was the best option they had for getting some equipment.
    "Gourry, here's half... ah... a third... here's one eighth of the money," Lina said, counting out a few coins and passing them over to the becloaked swordsman.  "Only get things that you think we'll need for a road trip.  Got it?"
    "I got it.  You can count on me, Lina!" Gourry said.  Then he was distracted by a bright shiny object.  "Oooh, armor polish!"  Off into the fray he went.
    Lina gave a sigh of despair, and also tried to work her way into the crowd.  It wasn't easy; she was small, female, and couldn't see over everybody's heads.  Her usual method of crowd control, a well placed Dill Brand, would get her kicked out of here.  So instead, she resorted to dirty tactics.  Tickling.
    Leaving a trail of confused, giggling sorcerers in her wake, she scooted from table to table, checking out the goods available.  The situation as she saw it was this; she had a group of semi-deity like people she had no known location for who probably wouldn't want to go with her, and had unusual power to lob around.
    At the first stand, she bought a general-purpose enchanted divining rod.  A simple split-Y staff, the instructions claimed it could find anything you might desire.  Simply issue it the verbal command from this simple set of functions, and fame, money and power could be yours!
    Lina doubted that, but it was cheap, so into the shopping bag it went.
    That would take care of finding them.  Hopefully.  Next would be containing them for travel and transport, and she knew just the thing.
    The stand was off to the side, uninteresting to most because it only sold a few specific kinds of items.  The proprietor, a gnarly looking old guy, eyed Lina with his only ocular organ that wasn't made of glass, and puffed on a long pipe.
    "The ancient mystic powers greet you, little one," he said.  "How may I help you unlock the secrets of the universe today for twenty gold or less?"
    "You had a rack of.. little jelly jars out here yesterday," Lina said, making a sphere shape with her hands.  "Do you have any left?"
    "Ah, you seek the mystic Man-Trap of Fa Chu," the proprietor said, lifting a glass jar from a nearby box.  "Very ancient and powerful magic.  Unscrew the lid and press the open mouth of the jar to any person for five seconds, and it will contain and freeze them for easy transportation and/or imprisonment.  Unscrew the lid after sealing someone in to release them.  A steal at only five gold per.  The gods truly smile on such bargains--"
    "Yeah, but what can they contain?"
    "Could you get... hmm," Lina said.  "Let's say; could you make a Mazoku fit in there?"
    "It stores any lifeform," the man said.  "Very mystical ancient powers.  The wise ones of dynasties past were men of energy and light.  They formed their tools well.  In the Shao Lynn reign--"
    "I'll take eight.... no, seven of them," Lina said.
    Money was exchanged.  A small bag of little jars was now in Lina's possession.  She thanked him and turned to go, when she noticed something on the shelf.
    "Hey, how much for that monkey's paw?" she asked.
    "You do not want that.  It has a terrrible curse on it.  It grants wishes of human desire, yet--"
    "Oh, curse.  Forget it, then," Lina said, avoiding a pitfall that had snagged people many, many times before who hadn't heard that particular folklore.
    Lina checked the money she had left, and it was certainly enough for another large item.  The question is, what would it be?
    Not only did the head seamstress give Myth a more suitable set of clothes (these could come in handy later, she figured) but she also got a master key to the guest wing.  Myth lied and said that she had orders to go dust the rooms there.
    After putting up this act for awhile now, a pang of guilt was starting to hit Myth.  She was lying.  True, all fiction is a lie of some degree, and truth is subjective, but... SHE was lying.  The difference between a brilliant stratagem of deceit and cunning and fibbing like a dog is that the hero does one and an average person does the other.
    She wasn't the hero, right?  She was WITH the hero, but she WASN'T the hero.  The way she had theorized, long long ago, villains had goons who had minions and sometimes employed thugs.  Heroes had companions and sometimes sidekicks who had honorable friends.  Was she a companion or a sidekick?  It was the difference between a dramatic and a comedic role, and a very important distinction.
    Of course, if she screwed up this mission, she definitely was just a sidekick.  Determined to be a companion, she turned the master key in the lock on Lina's room, and looted the place.
    Mental checklist.  She ran down it, item by item, bagging anything she knew about into a sheet taken off Lina's bed.  The sword with a butterfly handle was hard to fit in, but it worked.
    She had to use every muscle she had, which wasn't saying much, to pry the loose brick away and grab the Giga Lores.  Curious, she leafed through them, like she would any good book; all blank pages.  Strange.
    Gourry's room was easier.  Grab the Sword of Light, get his clothes, that's it.
    Confident and pleased with herself, Myth swung the bag over one shoulder, and walked out the door only to have the gigantic sack get stuck in the doorframe.
    Maybe she should have planned how to get all this junk out of the castle without being noticed.
    Lina held her new possession with delicate hands, as one might handle the true Clair Bible.
    Never before had she encountered such genius.  The very idea of this thing was pleasing to the core.  How useful!  How powerful!  How innovative!  Minds like that deserved to have ivory busts carved of them and placed in a hall of.. of... very important people, that's for sure.
    Confidence and satisfaction in a small, thin, rectangular wafer.
    Gourry spotted Lina across a rare patch of empty space in the market, and hauled a medium sized package with him.  "Lina, look what I got!"
    "Oh?" Lina asked.  "What's that?"
    "Rations!" Gourry said proudly.  "They're so compact.  They're called Meals-Ready-To-Eat!  It's an entire meal in a small package, utensils and all, with side dishes... look, they've got Could Be Chicken, Possibly Potatoes and even Sort of Steaks!  We'll never have to worry about going hungry now."
    Lina blinked a few times.  Then giggles.  Then flat out laughed.
    "Ah, Gourry, I've already taken care of that... BEHOLD!!" she said, holding the card up in front of Gourry's eyes.  "A DINER'S CLUB CARD!  Prepaid with the rest of my money.  With this, you can purchase food at thousands of convenient locations, and never have to haggle about price, or about tips.  One who possesses the card has the power to obtain many fine gourmet meals from cities far and wide!  We're set for the entire trip, Gourry!"
    "Wow," Gourry said.  "It's a pity you got that, what with my Meals Ready To Eat.  But that's okay, maybe we can use it when we run out of these."
    "A compromise.  You eat.. whatever that stuff is, and I'll feast on succulent meats and soups in warm, insulated restaurants," Lina said.  "Deal?"
    "Uh, okay.  How much money do we have left?"
    "None," Lina said.
    "And.. how much money did you have in the room?"
    "Almost none."
    "So we're broke now?"
    "We're not broke.  We have the POWER OF CONVENIENT EATING!" Lina reminded Gourry helpfully.
    "Oh.  So where's Myth?" he asked.  "Aren't we going to meet her here at the market gates?"
    "I'm sure she'll be back soon," Lina said.  "It wasn't that hard of a job, after all."
    Clunk.  Clunk.  Clunk.
    Myth waddled.  That was the best she could manage, given the circumstances.  Whenever someone would pass by, she'd stop, in case they heard the sound--
    A passing page boy spotted her.  "Hello!  When are you expecting?"
    "Huh?" Myth asked.  She looked down at her enlarged belly.  "Oh!  The happy day could be any day now!  How do you like the name.. um... Loot?"
    "Odd name," the boy said.  "But congratulations anyway."
    He excused himself, and dashed off.
    Carrying a bundle of stuff including two swords under your dress wasn't easy.  And you couldn't move real fast.  And it made a lot of noise.  But it WAS working, besides those factors.  Myth clunked along carefully, only a few hallways and a staircase away from the servant's entrance...
    Voices drifted over from a nearby meeting room.  The temptation to be a fly on the wall was irresistible for her.  After all, that was her usual role, the way she obtained the stories that were part of her Name... besides, she wasn't THAT late.  She cupped an ear to the door.
    "...just saying that maybe they're feeling a bit pressured," a boy said.  "Amelia, you put up wanted posters all over."
    "Yeah, but Daaaayvid!  That was so if anybody finds them, they can tell us," Amelia said.  "Lina needs help!  She's talking nonsense and looked so feral in there, I thought she would eat Gourry!  I don't want her to run away scared."
    "She's going to, if you scare her.  Posters are scary.  Um.  I mean, look -- if I found a poster of me saying WANTED, I'd feel scared.  Right?  That makes sense."
    "But what else can I do?"
    "I'm just an engineer, not a problem solv... oh, wait.  I am.  Hmm.  Okay... she might still be in the city.  Her stuff's here.  Have it collected and taken to a good place, then..."
    "Somehow, get a message to her that she won't be hurt and stuff.  Then maybe she'll come in.  Otherwise, we'll have to go after her, if she's really that bad off..."
    "Gourry said she thought she was on a mission from the Lord of Nightmares... I mean, that doesn't sound reasonable, right?"
    "The what?  I thought the Ell Oh Enn was just a myth?"
    One particular Myth was hightailing it as fast as she could clunk to the stairs.  That was more than enough scary forewarning for her; it was time to get out of town before anybody noticed all this stuff was missing.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.
Yep, that's what Myth generally looks like.. fanart, anyone?