ighttime settled over New Piper's Cove.  The hyperextended family partied on regardless, but clearly was showing some signs of slowing; a few cousins had to go home since it was past their bedtimes, uncles had the evening paper to read, and so on.  Leaving was no easy task, involving at least fifteen minutes of wandering around to find all the people you wanted to say goodbye to, and the inevitable smalltalk that gets squeezed in before reaching the exit.
    Lina was having no truck with that.  She started sipping some of the ale keg that had been brought in in order to get her mind off her frustration over everybody and their dog thinking she was Gourry's red hot lover, but didn't read the label on the cask she was drinking from.  As a result, she went from sober to wasted in about five minutes, from Great Aunt Melba's Shortcut Chaser, famous in the area for those who wanted to be smashed in a hurry, without all that messy drinking or paying money for tankard after tankard.  Lina's low body weight didn't help matters, keeping her nicely sloshed for the rest of the evening, with Gourry nervously trying to keep her under control.
    "An' when I WENT to show him the grade, he wennan shaid, 'That'sh nishe.'  NISHE??  I gotta aye plus on the painting an all he hadda say wash NISHE?!" Lina gurgled, squatting in a little dejected corner of the yard, with Gourry attempting to keep her company.
    Currently, she was busy ranting about her own family, after telling Gourry that "his family wash a bunch of loonies who oughtta be locked inna padded cell" and "he wash damn lucky to have nishe people who gave a damn, dammit".  Maybe it was ironic justice that Gourry be on the receiving end of horrific blood relation tales, instead of the other way around.
    "Uh... what was it a picture of?" Gourry asked.
    "Wash me shtompin' a bunch of evil bad nasty mean bandits!!  An' it was a great picture even if I ran outta red for the blood and hadda switch to purple," Lina said.  "An all DAD hadda say was that it wash 'nishe'.  He never even lookedatit!  Just sorta tossed that off while readin' the bushinesh papersh!  One of the few timesh he wash home, even!  You know how borin' it ish when yer sister's a waitressh and Mom's a corrupt pollytechan and Dad sellsh spare partsh!?"
    "Pretty boring?" Gourry guessed.
    "Boring!  Nuttin' ever happened.  Oh, 'cept that ONE time," Lina spat.  Literally.  Gourry ducked.  "Here I yam, mindin' my own bishnesh, playin' princess with dollsh -- I wash really young, yanno, didn't know much 'bout life an'... 'an... okay, here I yam, mindin' my own bishness when BOOK!  BOOM.  Boom.  The house getsh robbed by bandits!"
    "But you beat them up, right?"
    "What?  No!  I washha kid, Gourry!  I wash freaked out and stuff.  Wennan hid in the biiig wooden chesht in my shister's room, where she keepser magic shtuff," Lina said, getting a bit more quiet.  "So these banditsh come and they TAKE THE CHEST.  Shtupid me, I got locked in.  So here I am, thinkin' oh boy, I'm gonna die and schtuff, and when the bandits get back to their hideout and open the thing, they're all like Whoa, we diddin' know we wash kidnapping shome kid too..."
    Gourry skidded from nervous amusement to horror.  "Uh... is this one of those funny stories, or--"
    "Then they getsh the idea, hey, ransom her!" Lina interrupted.  "Her parents'r rich!  So there I am, sittin' in some stinky cave with stinky men waitin' for mom and dad to buy me back, bored 'n tired 'n scared... you know how long I wash there?"
    "FOUR DAYSH!" Lina said.  "Four!  They didn' pay the ransom!  'ventually, big sister came 'n reshcued me, then shaid they hadn't checked th' mail and never saw th' note, an' when Mom shaw it she said they didn't have the money and would hafta wait, an... well, it wash awful, I can tell that fershure.  Wait, wash that it?  Somethin' bout the mail and money... FOUR DAYSH!  I remember that!  Yah.  I remember that bit."
    "Boy, that's... scary," Gourry said.  "Um.  You're okay now, right?"
    "'courshe," Lina said.  "Got the idea to stomp banditsh fer a living, too.  Ya yah, I know, big 'ol 'Ooooh, look, kid had a bad time 'an got scarred for life 'an stuff, makesh shense', yeah?  I don' shee it that way, caushe that's, like, the obliv... the ooob... the OBVIOUS thingy.  Like Dramatic.  I'd shay it showed me the WAY, brother!  Like, before that I wash just some kid who wanneda be a princessh, silly I knew, but now I hadda meaning in life and stuff and it wash fun to learn all big sister'sh magic, and stuff.  You know.  Right?  Gourry, whaddya lookin' at me like that for?!"
    "Look?" Gourry asked, eyes wide with confusion.  "What look?"
    "I knooooow that look," Lina said, leaning over to get in Gourry's face, bad breath and all.  "That 'ohhh, poor Lina, she'sh in trouble,' look.  Yah, well, I don't need yer help caushe nothing'sh the matter!"
    "Okay," Gourry said.  "I--"
    "So yoo can get that look gone right now, buster!" Lina continued anyway.  "Ahm inna prophecy doin' stuff which apparently been fated since the beginning of the world and I've got thesh winges which I didn't ask for and I don't even know why I gottem and we're eventually gonna hafta deal with that Nightmare guy 'an we have no leads, but I'm FINE!  An I'm not yer lover, either."
    Gourry thought, okay, Lina has gone byebye.  She's babbling things now.  Just smile, and nod your head like she likes.
    "'an quit smilin' and nodding yer head!" Lina said, getting up to standing, uneasily.  "I... am going to go for a walk.  Clear my head."
    "Oh, okay," Gourry said.  "I know a good cafe I could take you to, with good atmosphere.  I used--"
    "I don' wanna date, either!"
    "Err.. no no, I just mean--"
    "Just cheese off, Gourry!" Lina said, trying to push him away.  Gourry stayed perfectly still-- Lina stumbled backwards, before regaining her footing.  "I don' need you, no matter what anybody saysh!  We're jusht huntin' treasure.  Could go get Naga fer that if I wanned.  Leave me alone!"
    Confidently, satisfied with her decision, Lina walked into the backyard gate with a thud.  She reoriented herself, and tried again, opening it first.
    This left Gourry behind.  He didn't make a move.
    He probably should follow her, he thought.
    But she doesn't want him to, he thought.
    There were times when he really wished he was a smarter man, so he'd know what to do at times like this.  As is, unable to decide, he just stayed where he was.
    Lina was discovering something very interesting about herself and drunkenness.  She wasn't able to talk right because there was a bunch of cotton in her mouth and the world seemed to lurch and sway with every step, but she was still thinking perfectly straight.  So she thought.
    She walked along the empty streets of New Piper's Cove, hiccuping occasionally, and thinking about what she said.  If she went up against Drama, she theorized, he'd just say she was in denial and repressing her feelings and so on.  Which of course Lina wasn't, because that was just stupid.  It was the kind of thing other people did, not smart people like her.  This felt logical enough to work for her.
    Briefly she considered going back to Ky and getting Naga to finish the journey with.  It might not be too bad, even with all the jokes at her expense and the spine-wrenching laughter and the huge dinner bills Naga would never help pay.  Nobody except maybe some A-1 perverts would ever bug her about being more than friends with Naga, for instance.  That was a plus.
    For right now, though, Lina wanted to maybe take in some of that fresh ocean air, beat the hell out of some thugs, have a doughnut and go to bed.  It would be a good way to cap off the evening.  Somewhere inside, she also felt that maybe wandering around drunk wasn't good, since the last time she accidentally got sloshed she got sucked into the Lake of Chaos for a quiet chat with God.  But whatever.  Beatings and doughnuts first.
    Picking a suitable dark, foreboding alley, Lina took a left and walked to the dead end, past trash cans with hidden figures crouched behind them.  She turned around, and waited.
    Three Thugs popped up from hiding places, armed with knives.
    "Hi!  We'll be your muggers tonight," the leader said.  He gave Lina a lookover.  "Hey, boys, check this out!  Some completely drunk foreign chick with a sword AND a sorceress's costume.  Let's have some fun, eh?"
    "Ah, good," Lina said out loud, cracking her knuckles.  "Typical sexisht bashtards.  Thish'll hit the spot."
    "Hey, watch your mouth!" the thug said, while Lina revved up a nice, big fireball to waste them all with--
    A figure stepped into the mouth of the alley, a breeze blowing her hair and skirt, as she pointed dramatically at the robbers.
    "HOLD, evildoers!" the girl announced.
    Lina's fireball charged down, its owner distracted.  The robbers turned to face their new assailant, someone in a school girl's uniform, very normal for the area.
    "Beat it, kid.  We're engaging in freelance business," the head robber said.
    "Stealing and hurting people is bad!" the girl announced.  "Not only does it make people afraid to use the streets at night, but it's morally wrong and hurts the economy.  And above all, it's against the LAW!"
    "Your point?" the head robber said.
    Gesturing, the girl held up... a perfectly dull, ordinary pen.  But then, power swirled around the pen, down her arm....  "SAILOON POWAH!  MAKE UP!"
    THUD.  Lina's jaw hit the floor.
    After the fifteen second swirly pink magical transformation, complete with little hearts and bubbles and cheesy music playing from nowhere, Amelia wil Tesla Sailoon stood, wearing a funny white sailor costume, with long gloves and an excessively short skirt.  She posed once more, for effect.
    "In the name of the law, I punish you!" Amelia declared.  "I am Sailor Justice!  Throw down your weapons and prepare to be judged!!"
    This didn't have the effect she wanted.
    The robbers rolled around on the ground, laughing their heads off.  Rolling waves of amusement, combined with a little drool and some lung-busting guffaws, as Sailor Justice kept her pose, not sure if this is how it was supposed to go.
    All Lina could offer was a quote, three dots, and an end quote.
    "HAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!" one robber laughed.  "That's the stupidest thing I've ever seen!  Hey, do you bake cookies, Miss Justice!?"
    "You're... MOCKING Sailor Justice!" Amelia realized.  She assumed a fighting stance.  "Now, witness the true power of love and beauty!  HYAH!"
    Then, as if Lina hadn't received enough horrifying shocks, Amelia opened a Bulk Foods sized can of whoopass.  A flurry of kicks, punches, knees to the gut, flying tackles and bone-wrenchingly nasty impacts, all compacted with a crowbar into the span of about twenty seconds.
    Sailor Justice set the trash out by the curbside to be picked up.  One of the robbers was groaning and asking for his mommy.
    "Victory!" Amelia declared, holding up a V sign.  She turned to Lina.  "Are you hurt, miss?... AAA!  Lina-san!  What incredible luck!"
    Lina's brain had stopped working moments ago.
    "I'm here to save you!" Amelia said, taking Lina's hand forcibly.  Lina winced at the handshake; when did Amelia start pumping iron?
    "Shave me?  Whaaaa??" Lina asked.  She let out a loud belch for emphasis.
    "Oh no, it's worse than I thought!" Amelia gasped.  "You're a drunk AND a drug user AND you're being influenced by bad magic and worse!!  Angela was right!  How could I have doubted her?"
    "Angela?  DRUGSH?  Hey!!  An' I am notta drunk!"
    "Don't worry, Lina!  I'm here to help!  Come on!" Amelia smiled, and dragged Lina down the street.  Lina's feet almost worked right, stumbling along behind the soldier of love and justice...
    From the rooftops, Angela let out a sigh of relief.  It seemed her stimulation of Amelia's sense of glory was working like a charm.  In moments, Lina would be in the hands of the Dragons.
    The Gabriev household, being firm believers in early to bed and early to rise, (which according to Mr. Gabriev, 'drives off those government spies') was quiet as a mouse that night.
    Gourry made sure not to be very loud as he went to fix himself a cup of cocoa, his usual method of dealing with a bad day.  He even stirred the drink without banging the spoon on the sides of the cup too much, seated at the kitchen table, between a fern and a small apple tree.
    Confident that this would heal his worries, he sipped the cocoa.
    That's when he remembered that the reason why cocoa chased his worries away is because he always forgot to let it cool, and would end up burning his tongue very badly and trying not to howl in pain.
    Gourry quickly ran to the sink, running his mouth under the cold water tap for a moment, before surfacing for air.  And despite all this, he was still worried.
    Shuffling footsteps along the carpet alerted him to a visitor.  He looked over.
    "Cocoa again, huh?" Aunt Koirry said, noting the mug and Gourry's red face.  She talked quiet, very appropriate to the time of evening.
    "Uh-huh," Gourry said.
    "What is it this time?"
    "Lina again," Gourry said.  "She said she didn't need me and ran off."
    "Oh, that's normal," Auntie said, having a seat at the kitchen table.  Gourry returned to his as well.  "She was drunk, right?  Very exaggerated.  So, where is she now?"
    "I don't know.  Out in the city."
    "What, and you didn't go after her?  Aren't you her bodyguard?"
    "I guess, but... Lina said she didn't need me," Gourry said again.  "She didn't want me to come."
    Aunt Koirry giggled a little.  "Still so much to learn, Gourry... say, Lina's new here and might not know the way back home, right?"
    "So what do you think would be the right thing to do?" Aunt Koirry asked.  "Remember, I always said you should try to do what you think is right..."
    "It'd be right to go make sure she's okay, and get her back home," Gourry said.  "She'll be mad at me and might hit me or something, but it's right to do.  Right?"
    "It's just a suggestion, really.  It's your decision," Aunt Koirry said.  "Humans are funny that way.  They get to make up their minds on things, and you'd better believe they can make just about ANY decision... but I think you know what you're going to do, at least.  Say, Gourry?"
    Gourry paused in rising from his chair.  "Yeah, Auntie?"
    "How would you like me to come with you folks for a little while?" Aunt Koirry asked, with a little wink.
    "Come with us?... but Auntie, it's a dangerous quest.  And you have to feed your cat."
    "Oh, your mother can watch after the cat.  And I've got my reasons for wanting to come.  But that's for later; for now, you've got a plucky little sorceress to find, yes?"
    "Yeah," Gourry said, smiling.  He gave his aunt a big hug.  "Thanks for not being dead, Aunt Koirry."
    "Any time, dearie," Auntie said, patting him on the back, letting go.
    Gourry fetched his sword, which he had placed in the umbrella rack by the door, and headed out.
    Aunt Koirry blew some steam off his unfinished cocoa, had a sip, confirmed that the poor boy still didn't know how to make the stuff, then walked upstairs to the guest room.  Knocked softly.
    Inside, Myth groaned, still in the aftermath of the 'medicine' she took.  "Who is it...?" she said.
    Aunt Koirry opened the door, and stepped in.  "Hello again, Myth-chan.  Miss me?"
    Myth sat bolt upright in bed.  "Love?!"
    "The same," Love said.  "I added a few lines of age to fit in, but it's me.  Listen.  We've got some business to take care of, if Lina's going to fulfill her duty.  I need your help finding my brother Loathing.  I think I know where he is, but I need your Talents."
    In the back room of a nearby tavern, Lina was drowning repeatedly.
    Amelia had read once that one of the best ways to sober up an alcoholic was to dunk their head in a large tub of cold water, then dunk it in a tub of hot water, then cycle between the two.  She also heard that coffee was a good way to wake up someone who was drunk.
    Choosing to be efficient, Sailor Justice was happily using her newfound strength to pick Lina up and baste her first in a barrel of ice water, and second in a barrel of rich, steaming java.
    "AAA!  Cold--  AAA!!! HOT!!!  OW!  HEY!" Lina exclaimed, in between burbling underweater/undercoffee.
    "Don't worry, Lina!  I'll help you get clean!" Amelia smiled.  "And Dayvid's come up with some 'deprogramming' methods of getting you off the nasty drugs!"
    "I (glug) am NOT (gurgle) on DRUGS!"
    "Boy, there's that denial again," Amelia said, dropping Lina into the coffee in surprise.  "This really has gone far, hasn't it?"
    Lina popped out of the brown liquid like a really enraged, very sober sorceress.  "Amelia!!  Jeez!  Did you ever stop to think that maybe someone is saying they aren't on drugs because they actually aren't on drugs?  Honestly and truthfully?!"
    "But you said all that weird stuff about the Lord of Nightmares, too," Sailor Justice noted.
    "That was true too!  Look, check with Gourry.  Or better yet, with Myth!" Lina said, climbing out of the barrel, dripping on the floor dejectedly.  "Myth can tell you the whole story.  If--"
    A silver light span in the room, turning horizontally to become a woman in a flowing white gown, with feathered white wings.  Lina stared openly.
    "Lina, as I have said, is under bad influences," Angela told Amelia.  "She believes this strange quest of hers is mandated by the Lord of Nightmares, which is ridiculous.  Likely, it is a Mazoku plot."
    "Oh, Lina, this is Angela-sama.  She's been helping me!" Amelia introduced.  "Angela, this is Lina-san, she's sick.  I think..."
    "Mazoku plot?  What a load of--"
    "Foul language is bad!" Sailor Justice warned.
    "--poopy," Lina lamely corrected.  "And who exactly are you, huh?  Funny wings.  Jealous of mine?"
    "I am Angela, of the Dragons," Angela decided to proclaim.  "And we are concerned over your goals.  Your mission could unsettle the balance of the world.  Have you even considered that this could be some sort of trick?  Or that your actions may lead to one of the many disasters you are famous for, without you being able to save the day as you luckily have so far?"
    Lina folded her arms.  "It's not my place to say.  I'm working under a higher power."
    "Ne, are you REALLY working for the Lord of Nightmares?" Amelia asked.
    "How many times do I have to say it?!" Lina said, stamping her foot.  "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!  I am!"
    "Gosh, that's a lot of yesses," Amelia said, doubts rising.  "Ne, Angela-san, what if Lina's right?  I've been thinking, and--"
    "It doesn't matter," Angela interrupted, returning control of the discussion to herself.  "The Dragons must determine if this act could lead to destruction.  I have decided it must be stopped.  Who are you to defy the will of the Dragons, who only seek to preserve your race, Lina Inverse?  Will you turn back on this fool's errand now?"
    Lina got an idea.
    "No," Lina said, then quickly turned to Amelia.  "Hey, Amelia!  How would you like to come with us on the quest?  Your father would be very proud of you for helping the Lord of Nightmares, ne?  It's such an important thing to be doing and Dayvid probably would be very happy too!  We could really use your white magic, too!  I'd love to have you along."
    "Really?" Amelia asked.  "Actually, I have brought a lot of honor to the family by helping you against the Mazoku and stuff... so you're not actually a drug abusing lying criminal?"
    "I give you my word, in the name of my poor dead grandmother maysherestinpeace," Lina said, crossing her heart.
    That was enough to sway the scales of Justice.
    "Okay!" Amelia smiled, hopping over to Lina's side.  "Ne, Angela-san, thanks for the neat costume but I think maybe it'd be better if I help Lina out.  I promise the Dragons I'll be very careful to not hurt anything and this quest will be great for everybody!"
    Angela looked dumbfounded, throwing her perfect grace and control askew.  "You'd turn your back on me that quickly?"
    "Lina's a lot of fun to travel with, and I could help her make sure justice prevails!" Amelia said, clenching a mighty fist.
    Lina put an arm around Amelia's shoulders.  "Comrade!"
    But the Dragon was furious.
    "Humans!" she raged.  "Useless allies!  They keep changing their minds, they refuse to obey orders... unpredictable, chaotic beasts, no better than animals.  You are MY pawn, Amelia, and I will not give up so easily!"
    Silver light arced from Angela's fingertips, striking Amelia in the forehead.  Lina looked at the younger girl; her eyes now were silver.
    Sailor Justice pushed herself away from Lina.  "You are a dangerous person!  Danger is bad!  In the name of the Dragons, I punish you!"
    "Amelia, geez.  Snap out of--"
    A kick flew from Sailor Justice's left leg, impacting Lina's stomach and hurling her across the room.  Lina smacked into a wall, and collapsed, the wind knocked out of her.
    "Wheeerr.." Lina said, catching her breath.  "What are you--"
    "You are dangerous!" Sailor Justice repeated, posing heroically.  "You must be stopped!"
    Angela smiled on.
    Lina assessed.  She was not nearly as strong as Super Duper Amelia from Hell, so grappling with her wouldn't work.  But she couldn't use magical attacks; this was AMELIA!  Against her sister, Lina wouldn't have cared.  But something just didn't sit right with blasting Amelia to the horizon--
    Her world spun upside down, as Sailor Justice picked Lina up, and threw her into the cold water barrel.
    Then again, maybe blasting her wasn't such a bad idea, Lina thought.  She broke the surface, regretted this, and got a fireball--
    Gourry smashed through the door, sword drawn.  "Lina!  What's going on in... whoa, Amelia, what happened to your clothes?"
    "You are also a threat to your kind!" Sailor Justice declared, turning to face Gourry.  "You must be stopped!"
    "She's gone nuts, Gourry!  And some idiot gave her steroids!" Lina warned, floating out of the barrell; her wings were out, no time to worry about that now, as she hovered.  "Careful!"
    Gourry nodded, right before Sailor Justice rammed him head on; he twisted around, getting her into a headlock, as the two started some real strength vs. strength battling.
    Lina turned to face the other target in the room, who was busy smiling and looking oh so smug.
    "As for YOU," Lina said, flapping her wings, "Follow me if you're so interested in stopping me!  Amelia can't help you in the skies, can she?"
    She opened a nearby window, and flew straight out, into the night air.
    The night air was cold and crisp as Lina took to the skies.
    This was a different feeling.  It was the first time she voluntarily started to fly with these wings, rather than having them save her from a short, sharp splat.  Without the Raywing's bubble, she could feel every aspect of the wind, of the slight moisture in the air, of the moonlight...
    She didn't have time to really enjoy it, seeing the Dragon fly out after her, on fluffier wings.  Angela looked very angry.
    "I am not here to fight you," Angela said.
    "You want to stop my little road show, don't you?" Lina said, rolling up a sleeve, facing off against the Dragon.  "Bring it on.  We'll get this over with on a personal level, instead of through my friends."
    "Dragons do not destroy.  We dissuade," Angela said.  "Why can't you see that?  We are not your enemies!  We would work with you, if--"
    "If we're doing things you approve of?" Lina said.  "And what's all this we stuff?"
    "Humans," Angela said, as if naming a disease.  "You have no idea the consequences your actions could have for your fellow humans.  Why does your kind insist on destroying itself, like the Mazoku?  You don't even know what this quest is about, do you?  You have no idea what's going to happen!"
    "Do you?" Lina asked, directly.
    Angela stayed quiet.
    "I don't think anybody does, except maybe Merlin Giga.  And he's history.  Mythology, even," Lina said.  "The Lord of Nightmares knows, but you think she's gonna tell you?  How often have you spoken to God, anyway?"
    "Why on earth do you insist to walk into the unknown like this?" Angela said.
    "Because," Lina replied.
    Angela waited for the rest.  "Because what?"
    "Just because," Lina said.  "You're right, I've got no clue why we have to do this.  But I'm going to do it.  I've gotten this far, despite my kicking and screaming and fighting against prophecy.  I've got to see it through to the end.  Feel free to disagree and gnash your teeth, but if you want to do something about it, DO something yourself.  What's it going to be?"
    Angela hesitated.  "I suppose some destruction is required in the preservation of all," she said, holding up one hand; a glowing ball of white light swirled into existence.  "Even with those strange wings, you are still human, and humans are not a match for a full fledged Dragon.  I ask one last time.  Will you submit?"
    "No match?" Lina asked, surprised.
    "We ARE your superiors," Angela reminded.  "We always have been, and we always will be."
    With a dull WHUMP, a dozen puzzle pieces slammed together in Lina's mind, forming more of the big picture than she expected to know when she woke up this morning.
    A superior pair of races.
    A book of power.
    A group of original humans gathered.
    A quest...
    Lina had to fight to keep from losing altitude as she busted out in laughter.  "No match?!  HAA HAHAHA!  I get it!  NOW I get it!"
    Angela decided the time for talking was done, and hurled her ball of holy energy, amplifying the size of it, to utterly obliterate Lina Inverse--
    A similar ball launched from the rooftops below deflected the first, both blasts absorbing each other into nothingness.  Angela's eyebrows went UP.  Who was interfering?!
    Lina ignored the pyrotechnics, smiling as she started to flare up with power.  "You see... I hold Giga's lores.  Like the prophecy says, I've held the ultimate light in one hand, and the ultimate darkness in the other -- both designed to beat the Dragon's strongest magic, and the Mazoku's darkest powers.  CUSTOM designed to make us weak, pathetic little humans a match for both races, instead of being stepped on whenever you desire... in fact, would you like to see a Giga Slave, up close and personal?  Just to prove the point."
    Angela went white.  "You--!  You couldn't possibly-- we're over a CITY!  And if you lost control, you could destroy--"
    "I know," Lina said, gathering a ball of darkness in her hands.  "But you can't talk me out of this quest.  As for power, if I wanted to, I could END you, here and now, with this.  Sure, I could end the world by accident, but it still means I have an upper hand.  What cards do you have to play?"
    "You wouldn't dare," Angela said, although even she had an edge of doubt in her voice.
    "Try me," Lina said, coldly.  She gathered together a large sphere of darkness...
    Angela snapped a Raywing over herself, on full shielding, and was off like a bullet for the horizon.  This was not a standoff she cared to provoke, she thought.  There would be other battles.
    Lina waved politely as she left, and ended her simple reversed Lighting spell.  "It's frightening, how often that trick works," she commented to herself, and fluttered her way back down to the inn.
    A lone figure, watching from the rooftops, smiled from inside her cloak.  The stranger quietly started a flight spell, and went off in the same direction as Angela.
    Squeezing through the window, Lina touched down on the inn's floor, and folded her wings down.
    "What kept you?" Gourry asked, casually leaning against a doorframe, grinning.
    "Eh?  Where'd Amelia go?" Lina asked.
    The swordsman gestured to a nearby barrel, with a hundred pounds of iron chains holding the thing closed.  Loud thumping was heard inside.
    "I challenged her to a game of Bonkers," Gourry said.  "More or less.  I won.  But I figured when she woke up, she'd be unhappy, so.... ne, Lina, what made her really strong and really weird?"
    "Some Dragon with a bad attitude," Lina said.  "Although the enchantment isn't going away... that's not a good sign..."
    "What can we do?"
    Lina thought.  "Would your family mind another house guest until we figure out a cure?"
    "Uh.  I.. guess she's no worse than Dad, if we keep her under control, but..."
    "Great.  And I've got good news, Gourry," Lina said, pleased with herself.  "I think... now, this is just a theory, but I think I know a bit more about what the hell we've been up to."
    "Huh?" Gourry asked, puzzled.
    "Merlin Giga made a deal with the Lord of Nightmares," Lina said.  "Drama said he was very concerned about where humanity's place was.  The end result of his findings : A prophecy, that would set up someone who can cast the spells that balance out the three races.  That person gets wings that only the original.. the original HUMANS had.  And then, they're sent around collecting the first eight humans...  I think Giga might be setting us up."
    "Err, us?"
    "Humanity," Lina said.  "Myth said that humans always had to hide and hope they didn't die in the Mazoku wars, right?  What if we're about to get some elbow room in that conflict, instead of being bystanders?  Room between both the Mazoku AND the Dragons?"
    "Umm...." Gourry said... "Does that mean we're about to have another Mazoku war?"
    Lina paused.
    "I hadn't thought of that," Lina said.  "Let's hope not.  It's a scary idea.  But damned if we're going to stop this quest now."
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.