...in which old enemies taunt each other, fortunes
are won and lost, strange bedfellows are made, and
plenty of clowns are set on fire.
By Stefan Gagne, Spoof Chase Productions.
oad travel is a hard life, wandering from town
to town, living on a small income and having to put up with mediocre food.
But not for holders of the exclusive Diner's Club Card, a miracle of modern
economics that permits you to live a life of luxury. Providing discounts
and ease of payment with prepaid credit, as well as exclusive tables and
services, your mealtimes will no longer consist of expensive tabs and splitting
up the bill among the various heroes in your party! Instead, they
will resemble this one.
"A table, my good man!" Lina said. "I believe
you have a table set aside for us?"
"Eh?" the waiter asked.
Lina held up her shiny new Diner's Club Card.
"It's a Diner's Club Card."
"Oh," the waiter said. "I understand."
Lina turned to her companions, Myth and Gourry,
with a knowing smile.
"The company went under a day or two ago in a state
of bankruptcy," the waiter said. "We got word of it today.... didn't
"What? No, no, this.. this is valid!
This is my MEALTICKET!! It's--"
"We only do cash from now on. Makes life more
convenient," the waiter said. "So, can I seat your party?"
Lina pulled a handful or non-rare coins out of her
pouch, and counted out enough money to maybe buy half a glass of milk.
"It's okay, Lina!" Gourry said, taking advantage
of the opportunity. "We've still got my Meals-Ready-To-Eat!"
"AAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" Lina said calmly.
After the small group left the restaurant, the waiter
returned to the table he was serving. He had to hold his nose; whoever
this guy was, he smelled like three week old cheese.
"Will fere fe anyfing elf, fir?" the waiter asked.
Bugger leaned back in his chair, smirking evilly.
"Naaah, I think I've 'ad enough," he said. "Seems she has, too.
The same scene, compressed down, projected into a sphere.
A sphere at the center of a room of clocks, the space having no set dimensions.
All clocks ticking in time, precise and unyielding, each second a small
rumble through what passes for the floor.
A man stood in front of the sphere, watching Gourry
and Myth hauling an unbelieving and extremely angry Lina Inverse out of
the restaurant. It amused him greatly.
"See?" he said, turning to address a larger glassy
sphere, off to the side of the room. Flowing robes, weaved from the
stars and galaxies, turned with him. His smile was menacing, mischievous;
a cat playing with a mouse in a trap. "Already her quest is turning
sour. Even with the just Mazoku and the Dragons hounding her, odds
are she'll turn away from this fool's errand. How little your plans
have come to! To think you were once one of the most feared and enigmatic
of the Mazoku, and have fallen this far -- not only into a lowly human
state, but into the clutches of the one who has sworn to destroy you!!
How do you... like those.... HEY! I'm talking here!!"
Inside the prison sphere, Xelloss was busy reading
a comic book with kitties and bunnies on the cover. "Hmm? I'm
sorry, were you saying something?"
"And where'd you get that?!" Paradox demanded.
"Magic and substance can't get out of my reality bubble!"
"Oh, this?" Xelloss asked. "Well, come a little
closer, and I'll tell you....."
The wingless master of time and space walked up
to the sphere. Xelloss leaned over, to whisper conspiratorially...
"THAT IS A SECRET!!!!!" he screamed at the top of
his lungs, bowling the time wizard over. Then he smiled.
Normally, Paradox would be an imposing individual
to a mortal. He was a master of Talents that modified space and time,
and took it onto himself to guard them from modification; by people other
than himself, at least. He could really ruin your day, if not your
life, if not the destiny of you and every descendant you MIGHT ever produce
if you crossed him.
But Xelloss knew some important things most wizards
who stumbled into Paradox's path did not, as he had annoyed Paradox many
times previous, when his spellwork had wobbled the shaky foundations of
reality. It annoyed Paradox greatly if you did things to his sphere
of influence that he reserved for himself. If you bent history in
funny directions, he got angry. If you popped a bubble of reality
to make a new fragment of space, he got angry. And most enjoyable
of all; if you absolutely refused to react to him the way he wanted you
to, he got so angry that he turned into the pimply faced high strung geek
you used to laugh at in school. A very nasty and potentially dangerous
geek, but what a show you would see in the process! Assuming you
survived long enough to enjoy it!
Chuckling, Xelloss let the simple illusion spell
that gave him reading material fade away, dusting off his hands.
"You know, you really should lay off the coffee, Paradox-kun. It
makes you so tense! That's bad for your health."
"You're the one who should be worrying about his
health, stupid human!!" Paradox roared, which would have been dramatic
if his voice hadn't cracked partway through. "I don't believe your
audacity. One of the most powerful beings alive, now powerless under
MY lock and key, and you're making jokes! Aren't you the least bit
worried about how I'm ruining all your plans and hold your now-mortal life
in my grasp?!"
"No, not really," Xelloss yawned, big and exaggerated.
"May I ask why, then?" Paradox asked, in the same
tone one would say 'What would you like on your tombstone?' without meaning
"Why I'm not worried?"
"Well, I'll tell you..."
"...that is a secret."
"AARGH!" Paradox snarled. "You're mocking
"No, mocking you would be if I asked if those were
your mystic wizard's robes, or if the second hand clothes store was having
a sale on women's bathrobes from the third century," Xelloss said, pointing
to Paradox's garb. "Mocking you would also be wondering if you meant
to get that haircut, or if you accidentally shoved your head into a pool
of piranhas. Which would explain the--"
"Shut up, shut up, shut UP!!!" Paradox demanded,
letting fly a bolt of time from his hands, tossing Xelloss's mind into
confusion with the temporal disorientation. "You're my prisoner!
You should damn well be acting like it!"
"Gghh.......'kay," Xelloss said, righting his neurons.
"Oh, eeek eek, help me, I'm in such danger, whatever will I do, I'm afraid,
lord Paradox of the Wingless, Overseer of Space and Time!"
"That's better," Paradox said, not catching on.
Lina looked inside the little pouch. One compartment
held a souplike substance that was supposed to be chicken. The other
held a rough, chunky goo that was supposed to be soup. She prodded
each with her cheap tin spork, noting how the dents only refilled themselves
after a few seconds, the 'food' giving off a small cloud of pungent green
Gourry was already gleefully spooning.. whatever
it was into his mouth. "S'not bad," he said, "Once you get by the
layer of jelly."
Myth turned purple. She hadn't moved a muscle
for a few minutes, spork hanging an inch away from her food.
"That's it," Lina proclaimed, tossing her Meal Ready
To Eat aside. "I quit! Someone else can draw the wingless.
I am NOT moving another step until I get some decent food."
"Huh?" Myth asked, snapping out of it. "Wait,
but... it's just food! Oh... you're joking. Okay, I get it."
"I'm not joking," Lina said. "C'mon, Gourry,
let's beat it."
"But.. but the Lord of Nightmares--"
"SHOULD be sending bread from the sky or at least
a juicy steak!" Lina said. "What does she think us heroines run on,
anyway? Gruel? We need protein, carbohydrates, lipids, minerals,
vitamins and sugar! You can't go out and defeat evil and save the
day on an empty stomach-- STOP writing that down!"
"But.. but it's a good speech," Myth said, pausing
in her notetaking.
Lina composed herself. "Look. You're
a wingless, right?"
"Uh, yes. We established that..."
"You've been around for thousands and thousands
of years," Lina said. "You're one of the first eight beings ever
created in the history of time before time was an applicable notion.
You have powers over stories, Talents beyond human understanding.
...so can you whip us up a dinner or what?"
"Uhh..." Myth mumbled, thinking. "I just..
I really just write stories, you know. Feel them, hear them, write
them, spread them. Mythology. I don't know how to cook."
"What about your Talents, then?"
Myth thought a moment. "Well, I don't LIKE
to use them outside passive storylistening, because that sometimes causes
a lot of problems, and it'd make Paradox angry if I write something like
'And then the city explodes', not that I would actually ever do that because
I'm not that sort of girl, but--"
"You can CHANGE stories?" Lina asked.
"It's very hard," Myth said. "But I can guide
them. Nudge things around a bit. A little bit is safe, usually."
"Can you write that bread falls out of the sky?
Or perhaps a full course banquet?"
"Food can't fall from the sky just because I say
so, it's not Reasonable," Myth said.
"Something small, then. Anything that results
in food. Anything. Don't make me beg."
Myth chewed the end of her stylus a moment, listened
to unheard voices, then took out a fresh page from the back of her book.
"There's some food not far from here. I'll
steer events in our direction. Ahem... 'The Tale of Robin the Butcher,'"
she recited, writing. "'As Robin's coach trotted down the road, a
fresh load of fish from the recent port town of Nesmith in the back, he
felt confident in the day's profits. So confident, in fact, that
he.... took a turn left when usually he went right, to take the.. scenic
route back home. On the way there, he passed by a small group of
adventurers, and having pity on the small underdeveloped one who seemed
so hungry, he gave them a few fish to have for dinner--'"
The butcher hauled a small roll of fish, wrapped
in paper, out of his cart, and passed them to an unbelieving Lina.
"Here ya go," he said. "Take care."
"'--and as he rolled down the road, out of sight
of the adventuring party,'" Myth continued, writing quickly as the cart
turned a corner, into the forest, "'He felt pleased at a job well done,
a merciful act. And upon returning home.... he... kissed his his
wife as he came in the door, as he had been frosty to her lately and now
realized he should be a more caring husband and their marriage stopped
being on the rocks and he got a really big profit and stuff. The
Lina looked at the fish in her arms.
"Um... good story," she said.
"I don't do that too often," Myth said, rolling
up the page and storing it in her pack. "But when I do, I like to
put in a happy ending. Sort of a nice payment for helping me out."
"A happy ending indeed... indeed!" Lina said, coming
to the delightful realization that she was holding a full meal. "Gourry,
whip up a cooking fire, it's feast time for Lina!"
"Right-o!" Gourry smiled.
An hour or two later, stomach filled, Lina remembered
"WHO'RE you calling underdeveloped?!"
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka
/ R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.
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