ight descended on the Bigtop Bigtop in a big way
over its top. The lights still winked and blinked in cheerful colors,
some gamblers were still making fortunes and losing nest eggs, but it was
considerably more sedate than the earlier bustle.
In the adjoining hotel, small by many standards
but very luxurious, Lina was cuddled up in a nice, soft soft soft SOOOOFT
bed and enjoying the best sleep she had experienced in weeks. Comfortable
lenin and fresh pillows after a warm bath will do that to you. Occasionally
her stomach growls, since all she had for dinner was a glimpse at a MRTE
before quietly dumping it in the trash, but it was a small concern next
to a twin-sized rectangle of liquid comfort.
Elsewhere in the hotel...
Elsewhere the beds are just as soft, but to one
who was familiar with comfort and luxury, perhaps it wasn't as soft as
a puffy white cloud or as clean as a pure ivory tower. To Angela,
the beds were simply adequate, and when Lina turned in for the night, so
Dragons aren't supposed to dream. At the very
least, they do not dream as humans do; they know their dreams mean something,
visions brought on by their highly magical natures. It's reported
that Mazoku are similar, although the dirty things probably have dirty
dreams, Angela theorized. Why should she have a dream like that?
Why should she be dreaming, that night, of what
she was dreaming of? It didn't make sense...
She saw her world in flames. The outposts
of the Dragons, their towers and perches, collapsing like so many sandcastles,
kicked over by small children just to be mean. She saw her people
fleeing in terror. Absurd! Dragons are noble, Dragons are good,
Dragons do not run from a fight...
She felt herself flying, her white feathered wings,
so treasured for their beauty already clipped by numerous arrows, singed
by spells. A final shot, a dark flare of power strong enough to burn
a hole through her left wing, sank her; plummeting, she landed in pain...
The humans loomed over her, the destroyers.
She was there, she was feeling the event.
Yes, the humans rose, as Angela long suspected they would, being creatures
of chaos... they rose and destroyed the Mazoku that terrorized them, that
ruined their lives and killed them during the wars. And the Dragons
approved of this, and aided them in crushing the Mazoku, having finally
found allies enough to win the great wars...
Task done, the humans would turn on them!
Did turn on them. Past? Future?
Now they stood over her broken wings, gloating.
See how easily the Dragons fall. See how weak the Dragons really
are. We won't be pushed around by Dragon or Mazoku any longer.
Our leader has shown us the way.
The wingless surrounded their leader, a figure of
great power and chaos. A leader who now stood before Angela, sword
in hand, as two great butterfly wings unfurled from behind their back,
dark as ebony in the midnight shadows... and all was still. Dead.
The vision over, Angela awoke, sweating. She
willed herself not to sweat, she fixed her hair with power, she preened
herself, panic reactions to the nightmare... she restored her calm.
All was well. All was not well.
It was the same dream she had nearly a month ago,
when the Island of Ultimate Despair burned without burning. She didn't
understand it before, she researched who was involved in the incident,
she got herself onto the Council that was dealing with Lina Inverse, to
find out what it could mean. Now she knew.
Lina Inverse MUST be stopped, or she would be the
death of her kind.
She was the right Dragon for the task. With
her powers, she could... no, she would not destroy Lina Inverse.
That had as much risk as letting her go on; in addition, she was a Dragon,
concerned with the preservation of life. (Mind you, she tended to
give the notion lip service more than strong devotion.) But regardless,
Lina Inverse must be STOPPED. She would need a specialist in such
things to aid her, perhaps, to make the task more assured. Someone
who likely also would share these goals...
Ignoring her nightgown (since Angela looked ravishing
no matter what she wore) she manifested her Dragon's wings, opened her
window and took flight, following her nose.
Lina dreamed as well.
Her dream, as she had the best night's sleep in
the softest bed imaginable, was to be having the best night's sleep in
the softest bed imaginable. Sleep within sleep. Probably impossible,
but her mind was more than willing to ignore that fact, and just enjoy
The quest was going well. She was hungry,
but the quest was exceeding all expectations. Things were coming
up roses. And all of it ending, at the moment, in this nice, soft
bed she could sleep in. If only people would stop bugging her.
"I'm so happy to be going with you!!" Luck said,
perching on her bedrest, watching Lina sleep. "It's going to be such
fun!!! Isn't it great how all the wingless want to follow you?
The world is a cold dark place that hates me! WAAAAAAH!!"
"I don't think they'll be happy to see you," Myth
said, hanging, for some reason, on Lina's bookshelf. "We didn't part
on the best of terms..."
"Go away. Sleeping," Lina reminded them, pulling
the covers over her head.
"Anoooo, Lina?" Gourry's voice said. "You
can't just hide away like this. We can't just hole up when something
bad comes along... what happened to the good 'ol Lina Inverse?"
And then, a new voice.
"I guess there's nothing innately wrong with living
carefree," a familiar voice mused.
Lina peeked out from her covers. Zelgadis
was squatting by the nightstand, looking concerned.
"I'm simply worried there'll come a time when the
other shoe is gonna drop, and you won't be ready for it," he continued.
"Not in the slightest."
"Didn't we already have this conversation?" Lina
groaned. "Like, months ago? I'm trying to SLEEEEP!!"
"You can't just hide away," Gourry reminded, from
his position on the other side of Lina's bed.
"Things get messy, but you manage to get serious
just in time, and eventually everything's fine despite it all," Zelgadis
noted. "Like you were born under a lucky star. A lucky star.
There'll come a time when the other shoe is gonna drop..."
"You said that already!" Lina protested. "Shut
up! I get the point! It doesn't matter now. This is an
easy quest. It's been a breeze and a half, maybe even a little fun.
I've got wings, I filled a prophecy but it's not looking as bad as I thought.
Nothing is going wrong!"
"Things CAN go wrong," her own voice said.
Lina whirled around, to find herself with white
hair lying next to her.
"Sometimes you think things are okay when things
have already gone wrong and you're just the aftermath," Lina Inversed said,
a quiet voice. "Sometimes bad things happen and you think it's all
gone when really it's not. Sometimes bad things happen and you don't
know until you see what happened after the bad things. Sometimes
bad things happen and you can't do anything to stop them. Sometimes
bad things are happening right now and you'll never know until it's too
late. Sometimes you're smiling when you don't know about the bad
things that are happening right now and you'll--"
"Shut UP!" Lina demanded, covering her ears, closing
her eyes. "Everything is fine! I'm good 'ol Lina and everything
"You can't just hide away like this," Gourry reminded
her, again and again.
In frustration, Lina yanked her sheets aside, and
got up to march out of the room. She stomped along, in her pajamas,
her wings manifesting again in her sheer annoyance behind her, as she opened
the front door -- to the closet.
Xelloss was inside, blinking a few times, as if
confused. "You're dreaming about a hotel room? Strange.
Nice wings, by the way, good to see you have them at last--"
"Just say your vague, meaningful speech and get
out of my way," Lina requested coldly.
"What, you think... ohh, okay," the priest said,
smiling. "Hark and beware and such. There are nasty things
"That's what the others said, too."
"Really? My, you must have some natural feel
for things," Xelloss laughed. Then his face snapped serious.
Eyes open. "Lina, there are people plotting against you. Several
of them. You need to know this, because they're all going to take
"And I suppose when I ask who, you'll go 'That is
a secret?'" Lina said, rolling her eyes.
"This is too important to joke around about, actually.
If..." Xelloss said.. before his eyes turned distant, gazing at something
far away. "I have to go, he's about to find the gate. Sorry.
Trust no one except Gourry. And myself, naturally."
The trickster priest vanished without a trace, leaving
an empty closet behind where the door should have been.
Lina turned, to face the other visions. They
weren't saying anything; watching her, just watching her.
"Anyone else with commentary?" she asked.
The visions vanished into vapor.
Satisfied, Lina went back to her dream bed, to sleep
in it while she slept in her bed, and maybe add another layer of dream-embedding
to make up for lost rest. But before she could get there, a thunderclap
rocked her room once, twice, th--
Lina's mind jerked back to the original bed, wide
awake, as someone knocked on her door. Taking seriously the idea
of ripping the head off whoever interrupted her, Lina flew (literally)
to the door, wings flapping, and yanked it open--
Damn, they got away.
She glanced around, up, left, right, down-- ah,
a note. She opened it and read.
'I hear you're having
a cash flow problem,
not to mention
a food supply problem!
Maybe we can
work something out. Meet
me in the storage
room behind the bar in
There was no helping it; she was awake now.
But she wasn't angry enough to blindly march down into what could be a
trap. Forcing her wings to unmanifest, she pulled on some loose clothing,
put on her cape, and went to go wake Gourry up.
Outside, in the forest, a man with bad back posture
was hunched over a campfire, trying to light damp wood with non-flinty
"Soditall, soditall.." he cursed. "Damn wood
won't light. 'course I'd 'ave to be lighting the most pathetic wood
in fifty miles, 'course it's the only spare wood I could find... bugger
it all if this ain't a lousy day and a half..."
A woman cleared her throat.
Bugger spun, readying a handful of topsoil as a
weapon, to face the newcomer. "Whaddyawant?.. oh, damn. It's
"Mazoku," Angela recognized, her flowing nightgown
and blonde hair perfect in the moonlight. Many men would have died
for beauty like that.
The ugly one didn't care. "I'm 'ere on fishal
business," Bugger said. "I ain't here to mess with no stinkin' Dragons.
Push off, or we're gonna do the bloody mambo, girly girl."
"And I am here on official business as well," Angela
smiled, a calming smile. "In fact, I wouldn't doubt that we're both
here on the same business..."
"You gonna fight or just talk in Dragon riddles?"
"Fight? Heavens, no. I am a gentle soul
who only seeks the preservation of life. Although..."
"Get on with it, gel!"
"The one called Lina Inverse," Angela said.
"Your orders are likely to destroy her, yes?"
"Inconvenience," Bugger said, relaxing somewhat.
Somewhat. "I don't kill. I can kill, t'aint my specialty.
I screw people over, I ruin their lives, I make 'em sorry they was ever
born. That style of thing."
"How ideal!" Angela said, clapping once in appreciation.
"Ideal for what, lizard lips?"
"Ideal for our task, of course," Angela said.
"Lina Inverse must be stopped. I suppose I alone could do it, but
it would be risky. I suppose you along could do it, but it would
"I'll stop 'er."
"Really? You alone?"
"I gots plans," Bugger grinned.
"How about if we... share plans?" Angela suggested.
This knocked the Mazoku of Bad Days for a loop.
"What're you implying, scaly?"
Angela smoothly waltzed over to Bugger, turning
the charm up higher. "I want her stopped. You to as well.
We're far into the field, away from our superiors... who's to know if a
Dragon and a Mazoku ensure that their single cause is carried out?"
"Why do I need you?" Bugger asked.
"I see things happening one of two ways," Angela
counted, on two fingers. "One, we could try individually, and if
we both fail -- it's possible, even if doubtful -- it could mean the end
of everything for us. This Lina is capable of leading her pathetic
little species to toppling your thrones, you know."
"HAH! That'll be the day. What--"
"Two," Angela continued, "We could work together,
crush her spirit with your skills and empower her enemies with mine, and
end this silly business once and for all. Then, upon returning to
our superiors, you can claim full credit. AND I can claim full credit.
Neither will believe the other side had a hand in accomplishing the task,
and our places in line are assured. Can you think of the promotions
possible for saving your race from this new threat of the wingless?"
Bugger swallowed that one, regurgitated it, played
with it and swallowed again. "S'got a certain appeal..." he admitted.
"Although I still think you Dragons are an uptight bunch of self righteous
bastards, of course. But we could work a bit together, a bit..."
"And likewise, the Mazoku are filthy, depraved beasts
with no manners or common sense," Angela smiled. "But I am a woman
of compromise and diplomacy. And politics, definitely politics."
"So what've you got in mind to do away with the
little human once'n'fer'all?" the Mazoku asked, curious.
"The wheels are already turning," the Dragon said.
"We'll just give them a bit of a nudge in the right direction..."
Gourry was happy to be woken up, it seems.
"I can't stand those beds," he complained.
"They're just too soft. You don't feel like you're lying down on
anything. You know what was a great bed? The one in my room
as a kid. My dad made it himself with straw, hay and canvas!
I guess we had to get rid of it when the bugs got too aggressive, though."
"Who's CTC?" Lina wondered aloud, reading the note
as the two walked across the relatively quiet casino floor. The only
people gambling this late at night were the truly desperate. "Any
deal that sounds too good to be true probably is, but..."
"Don't worry, I'll protect you if it's a trap,"
"I can protect myself, Gourry."
"If you can, then why am I tagging along with you
like this for so long?"
Lina stopped in her tracks.
"What?" she asked.
"Well, the thought just occurred to me..." Gourry
mumbled, almost apologetically for interrupting. "If you really don't
NEED me around, why do you have me come along on quests and stuff?
I mean... thought just occurred to me, and..."
Lina thought about that for all of two seconds before
deciding not to think about it anymore.
"Enough nonsense," she said. "Stay sharp.
Who knows what we're walking into here?"
"Good point," Gourry said, getting his sword out.
He got on one side of the door, Lina on the other. "Ready?"
Lina nodded, and twisted the doorknob, opening--
"Yaaaa!!" Gourry shrieked in surprise, neatly bisecting..
the clown's hair.
"Whooaaa, easy on the trigger, mister!" Chuckles
the Clown laughed. "This hair isn't cheap, you know. Don't
worry, I'll take it out of tonight's stakes."
Lina looked around in surprise. In the back
room of the Bigtop Bigtop was a single gaming table, and a lantern to supply
just enough light to see the game in progress. A rack of chips, several
game coins, a clown, chairs, and that was the extent of the furnishings.
"What's this all about, clown?" Lina said, not in
an insulting way.
"A good samaritan deed!" Chuckles said. "You're
out of money. You can't buy food. In the interest of being
a Good Neighbor, I'll allow you to put something of yours up for bid, so
that you might perhaps get some money back. A simple game of Coins
will suffice. Does this interest you?"
Gourry was confused. "But we already have
"Sounds good here!" Lina said, hopping into a player's
"Ne, but Lina, you're bad at this game," Gourry
"Once. It was a fluke," Lina said. "But
I used to kick a lot of ass at this back home. I'm ready!"
"Aaaaah, first an exchange," Chuckles said, gesturing.
"Say... your sword, for some starting money?"
Lina fingered the hilt of her butterfly-design sword.
"Ah.. this is sort of mine--"
"Exchange it, or I will help you not," Chuckles
declared. "You'll win it back anyway, besides, mmmm?"
Gourry eyed the funny happy silly clown with suspicion.
"Lina, I don't think this is a good idea..."
"Eh, it can't hurt, can it?" Lina said, removing
her sword. "It's just some sword I bought, anyway. I can get
another. And I won't have to. I'm going to WIN!"
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka
/ R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.