...in which breakfast is served, we go once
more into the breach of fear and loathing, a
chimera goes postal and Xelloss tells a secret.
By Stefan Gagne, Spoof Chase Productions.

yth and legend speak of Juu Cenquio, the Ancient City of Springs.  Here, in the dawn of the world when days were young and hours were newborn, a solitary trickle of water arose from the earth -- an oasis in the middle of a volcanic wasteland.  The few animals that had adapted to live in the area, great beasts and monsters, came to the spring out of a natural need for moisture, and drank... upon drinking, they changed into new forms.  For this was the magic water which could turn any beast into a human form -- and any human that drank the water could take on the form of a powerful beast.
    When these man-beasts started to roam the countryside, assaulting normal humans, the local monarch had a large complex erected over the site, filled with deadly traps and hazardous monsters, all with the purpose of keeping such powers out of the hands of those who might abuse them.
    In fact, Zelgadis had escaped certain death no less than fifty six times today.  He was getting used to the 'whoosh' that a swinging scytheblade made when it snapped out of the wall, and had discovered just the right combination of spells to annihilate the minotaurs.  He mapped the maze, a process that took a few hours, and after much hardship had finally found the spring of Juu Cenquio.
    A nearby sign read 'Juu Cenquio Bottled Water -- Onlye Five Goldde Per Bottle!!  All Naturale Mineral Watter!', and had a small collection tray nearby.  The fountain had dried up, but someone had bottled up what was left of the water; discarded empties were nearby, each in the hands of a headless explorer.  Only one bottle remained.
    Zelgadis took his time.  He controlled his excitement, notably; a cure!  A cure for his Chimera body, that could bring him back to normality!  But be cautious.  Be smart.  Don't let emotion overrun your sensibility.
    He followed the nearly invisible tripwire from the collection dish up to the ceiling, where he saw a hidden blade.  So, if you didn't bother leaving enough weight to match five gold on the tray, the trap would act like the ultimate collection agency when you went for the water.  Impatience and greed were the downfall of these explorers.
    Zelgadis opened his change purse, and counted his coins.
    Four gold, two silvers and a copper.
    He recounted.
    Same amount.  Confused, since he could have sworn there were ten gold in there when he last checked, he peered into the bottom of the bag... and through a hole in the pouch, where the coins must have fallen out.
    He bit back a sense of frustration.  Be cool.  This can be worked out.
    First, he patched the bag.  Second, he took some sand from nearby, filling the bag until he was certain the whole package would weigh the same as five coins... he approached the payment dish, examining the mechanism... taking some sand from the bag, adding a bit more in... and placed the bag carefully on the tray.
    He didn't lose his head, which was a good sign.  He picked up the glass flask of crystal-clear water.  And still, he didn't die.
    He had done it!
    The cure!  He had obtained the cure, and beaten all the forces that tried to stop him!  Now, Zelgadis allowed himself a nice, large smile he usually reserved for heavy irony or punishment of an enemy.  He uncorked the flask, took a deep breath--
    And sneezed, when a passing bit of abrasive dust happened to be sucked up a nostril.  It was heavy, quick body shaking sneeze, totally unexpected, and was followed by the sound of shattering glass.
    He had dropped the flask.
    His cure was gone, seeping into the dry dust, as if sucked up by a sponge.  Without hesitation, he shoved some of the mud into his mouth and chewed, but nothing happened.  The last of the waters of Juu Cenquio was gone for good.
    "See?  I TOLD you it was a stupid idea," the Mazoku Lord of Lousy Days said, smug and content, as his Dragon companion sulked.  "Give little miss justice a magic pen and you expect that to win you Lina Inverse?  Dragons!  Always thinkin' with their egos instead of their ids, or somethin'.  Why, if I had a copper for--"
    "So what if I lost my pawn?" Angela said, trying to dismiss the problem, not to appear a failure before this disgusting creature.  "I can obtain a new one.  That is not the worrying part.  Lina was ASSISTED, Mazoku.  Someone using the same white magic as me was there, and managed to deflect my finishing blow."
    "Big deal," Bugger said.  "You're the one who got scared off by a reversed lighting spell."
    "I told you, I didn't know it was one at the time!  Have you ever seen a Giga Slave?" Angela asked.  "Me either.  I take no stupid chances.  Only when I was a hundred miles away did I realize what I was sensing."
    "Either way, it's a bloody poor performance, it was," Bugger said.  He pulled a chewed cigarette from the black hole behind his ear, and lit it with his thumb.  "Now, if you'll turn yer attention to the mystic ruins on my right, you'll see a master in action."
    Angela glanced at the crumbling city.  "Yes, what?"
    "Okay.  See that blue sod moping his way out of the main gate?" Bugger said, gesturing.
    "It's a chimera.  So?"
    "A chimera?  That would be Zelgadis Greyweirs, close personal friend of Lina Inverse," Bugger said.  "Self proclaimed man of logic and reason.  Nothing gets to him except, of course, the stuff that gets to him.  And you knows I'm the expert of what gets to folks.  Just this morning I planted the dirt of failure in that city, so that he would lose the thing he most wants.  The poor bastard's feeling like his only chance went out the window."
    "The water and the myth are just the fabrications of a mad dictator, hundreds of years gone," Angela said.  "He simply wanted a massive public works project he could embezzle money in."
    "Zelgadis don't know that," Bugger said.  "This is just the starting point.  That angsthead's gonna be MY pawn.  You see, Mazoku gots a few tools for corrupting and twisting humans you Dragon wimps don't got the guts to use.  We employ the Slow Poison, which I happen to be an expert at mixin' up.  Acid of the spirit, funhouse mirror for the soul.  Paranoia and anger and all those lovely yummy emotions."
    "Filthy methods," Angela frowned.
    "Oh, and your fancy stars and bubbles and glory are all that and a bag of chips?" Bugger mocked.  "We'll see how much you complain when we've got Lina bagged 'n tagged.  And what's more, I gots a man inside on this venture.  You'll see.  This is all gonna work out great.  If we're lucky, nobody'll survive, either.  NOBODY."
    "I think I'll depart, then," Angela said.  "I don't care for your zeal for destruction.  I'll return after you fail."
    The Dragon opened her wings and flew off, gracefully.
    Bugger hated those wings.  They were nothing but showing off, plain and simple.  Angela just had to be glamorous, even when making an exit.  Maybe when this whole affair was done, he'd see to it that the Dragon had a lousy century.  It would be a bloody marvelous way to pass the time until the next great war.
    Despite having two of the most powerful human-like beings that are as old as time in residence, in addition to a psychotic girl in a sailor suit chained up in the living room, the Gabriev homestead was chugging along as if nothing was unusual.
    "More coffee?" Mrs. Gabriev prompted.
    Lina took the coffee with a nod of thanks, and turned back to the problem at hand.
    "Mpmhphm!  Mphmphpmhmph!!" Amelia ranted, through the gag.
    "I don't get it," Lina said.  "Ultra Restoration isn't working.  How could an enchantment like this be pure white magic?"
    Gourry looked up from the sports section in the newspaper.  "Huh?"
    "Ultra Restoration destroys all darkness," Lina explained.  "But whatever's turned Amelia into the rampaging spirit of justice is pure white.  I can't remove it.
    Trying hard to understand, Gourry made an attempt at helping.  "Okay, so... if white won't work because it's white, what about black?  Would that work?"
    "I don't know any black magic healing spells," Lina said.  "I don't think there are any.  That'd be like, 'Okay, we'll heal your wounds if you don't mind us pouring lemon juice directly into your eyes' or something."
    "Lemon juice can remove stains from carpets," Gourry helpfully noted.
    "Aside from frothing at the mouth, she isn't making a mess," Lina said.
    Someone from the stairwell cleared her throat.
    "I think I might be able to help," Aunt Koirry said, heading downstairs in her pink bathrobe.  Despite being a wingless in disguise and the personification of Love, she looked just as bad as anybody would shortly after waking up; no glamour at all.
    When the group had returned home, to find Myth and Aunt Koirry talking, Koirry casually mentioned that she was also Love of the wingless.  After Gourry helped Lina off the floor, Love went on to explain how she had been enjoying her time with the Gabriev clan, apparently the first family she really felt comfortable around.  But now that she was needed, Aunt Koirry would have to take a vacation so Love could come out of hiding.
    Surprisingly, Gourry had very little shock over this.  Since Aunt Koirry was adopted, it was just a matter of a nice warm hug and a promise to always be his auntie, and Gourry was sold on the concept of a wingless in the family -- as was Mr. and Mrs. Gabriev, although they had to explain it to Mr. Gabriev very slowly and with small words and he had been mumbling all morning.
    Personally, if someone in Lina's family -- not that she ever saw more than two of them in any place at any time -- had turned out to be a mystical being from beyond history, she would have freaked out.  How Gourry's family accepted this casually enough, much less how unconcerned they were with having a mental patient on their couch, confused the hell out of Lina.
    Lina examined Amelia, looking at her glowing silvery eyes.
    "You know of a way to bust through a white magic curse?" Lina said.
    Love stepped over to the couch, bending over to study Amelia... pausing, possibly doing something Talentable, but Lina couldn't tell.
    "She's not cursed," Love explained.  "She simply... is not seeing things the way they are.  It's a common trick, more often employed -- and more successfully achieved -- by Mazoku.  Humans are just a tool to be controlled to them, not creatures of free will and chaos, which is less useful and less predictable...  I think Love can break through the gauze around her perception.  It worked once before when I encountered this problem."
    "Oh, I get it," Lina said.  "A Talent.  Okay!  Let's get cracking!"
    Love pulled over an overstuffed footrest, and sat on it, facing Amelia.  "It's not that easy.  I haven't used my Talents in... I really can't recall, but it's been a long time."
    "Why not?" Lina asked.  "You'd think that the spirit of Love would be shooting off cupid's arrow's left and right--"
    "No," Love said.  "Some of the wingless throw around Talents like they're going out of style... Luck, notably.  She's pretty wild about it, but using Love using Talents on people... Love has to be natural or it's not real.  I learned that the hard way... I haven't used any of my Talents on the Gabrievs.  I just talk to people, and that gets the job done, if it was meant to be done.  But I can't talk Amelia down from this.  It's going to take awhile to get the Talent going again... why don't you two have a nice breakfast and relax?  Oh, and if you could do me a favor... check on Myth.  She's looking for your next quarry, but is having some trouble with it.  I'll need to concentrate here..."
    "Next quarry?  Who?" Lina asked.
    But Love was already busy looking through Amelia's eyes, both of them growing very still.  Lina waited for some kind of result, sitting there for several minutes.  No sparks were shooting back and forth or other obvious signs of power unleashed; it was about as exciting as watching paint dry.
    "Boy, Aunt Koirry knows a bunch of stuff," Gourry understated, to break the silence.
    "She's not just your auntie, you know," Lina reminded.
    "I know, but she's still Aunt Koirry," Gourry proved reflexively.  "Does this mean we're back to questing?"
    "Depends on what Myth's up to, I guess," Lina said.  She glanced over at Amelia.  "Call me if anything happens, okay?  I'll be upstairs."
    If the bastard would just GIVE the weedpuller back, there would be no need for this, Lawrence thought, sharpening up his razor--
    Myth looked at that last word she had written down in distaste.  This wasn't the sort of story she liked to write.  Fortunately, she didn't have to finish the tale; she simply moved on, probing around Lawrence's narrative, looking for a similar plot thread...
    A knock at the door disrupted her conversation.
    "Come in," she said, setting her spare book aside for now.
    Lina walked in.  "Hi.  Er... Love wanted me to check on you.  Any luck?"
    "Yes.  No," Myth said.  "Yes.  I'm not sure.  This isn't what I usually do when fishing around for a good story, you know..."
    "Actually, I don't.  What in blazes are you doing?" Lina asked.  "Love's been calling the shots all morning, without bothering to inform me of what's going on..."
    "I'm looking for her brother," Myth said.  "They're twins, but you wouldn't know it by looking at them.  Love and Loathing.  She thinks we could find him if I can find a bunch of stories of anger and violence, all clumped together in one region.  That could be him using his Talents.  He likes to use them as often as he can.  I remember that much about him, from the early days."
    "Loathing, huh," Lina said, pulling up a chair to chat with Myth.  "Doesn't sound like a happy camper.  Is this guy going to give us as many headaches as Drama did?"
    "More, probably," Myth sighed.  "Loathing is... okay.  Let's put it this way : he's himself.  He doesn't really have any friends because he hates everybody, and he doesn't live anywhere because he hates everything, and he is not going to want to come quietly because he hates the Lord of Nightmares above all, if that was possible.  You can guarantee he'll do anything he can to stop you -- and he may be generally blunt, but he can be pretty devious when he's determined.  I don't know much more about what he's become than that."
    "I still don't get how you guys work, or how you do what you do," Lina said.  "What do you mean, 'what he's become'?"
    "We don't know very much either," Myth admitted.  "The wingless aren't a very organized group and we don't know all the secrets of the universe.  We're only human.  After all this time... we've adapted, as human ideas about our names shifted and we tried to blend in.  A good example... ummm... okay.  Paradox.  He used to primarily be the spirit of when space and time go wrong.  But then he realized that meant he had some control over it, and he liked control, so now he actually works to keep paradoxes from happening...  so there's a chance that Loathing has changed from his original form too.  And I can safely say that Nightmare has changed.  I didn't recognize him that time.. we met him.  You know."
    Lina chewed on that for awhile, before swallowing.
    "You know?" she mused.  "I think I like that you guys are pretty out there.  Humanity came from you people, and we're not exactly the most efficient species created either.  It makes sense if the wingless don't make sense.  If that makes sense."
    "I don't like it," Myth said.  "At least in the world we inhabited before the Fall, we were safe.  From each other and from everything else.  Now, though... um.  Miss Lina?"
    Strange way of putting her name, Lina thought.  She looked seriously at Myth.  "Yeah?"
    "If you could... I'd like to... would you think it cowardly of me not to want to accompany you when you go get Loathing?" Myth asked, blurting the last part out in a rush.  "I just--"
    "No, it's okay," Lina said.  "You want to ride in a jar or stay with the Gabrievs?"
    Myth paused.  "It's okay?"
    "Sure.  Why don't you want to go?" Lina asked.
    Myth seemed reluctant to say why, in the same way small rabbits are reluctant to taunt ravenous wolves.
    "What, you don't trust us to succeed?" Lina guessed, curious.
    "No no, I'm sure you will... just..."
    "You're afraid you'll get in our way?"
    "Yes that's it exactly," Myth said.
    "Must not be it, if you agreed that quickly," Lina said.  She put two and two together quietly, and nodded in recognition.  "Okay.  You probably should stay with the Gabrievs.  Less chance of the jar breaking in my pack that way."
    "Good point," Myth agreed.
    That confirmed it for Lina.  Myth was afraid of being killed.
    "Let us know when you've found Loathing," Lina said, smiling with reassurance.  "And don't worry.  We'll be back before you can finish reciting all of 'The Adventures of Jean the Clever' backwards."
    "It's four hundred pages in the standard edition," Myth noted, confused.  "Doesn't that mean it'll take you a long time?"
    "What, you were expecting me to say something really short in some attempt to belittle the task?  Get real, we're going after some psychotic bastard from the origins of man, not hopping down the street for a doughnut," Lina said.  "Give it a week or so, then we'll have him."
    Lina started to leave, after flashing Myth a warm smile.
    "That was my best work, you know," Myth said quietly.
    Pause.  "Eh?" Lina asked.
    "Jean the Clever," Myth said.  "It had been in a rut writing about these stocky men who slayed beasts for a hundred years, then I met a young girl with crazy aspirations... and I followed her around.  Quietly.  Now people say it was the first story that encouraged women to be just as heroic and brave as men, and it's really important to society.  Although I did have to make up a lot of what happened, I mean... it was a good story, right?  I did a good job making it realistic without being boring?  And it wasn't too long, right?"
    "Best story I ever read," Lina said, a bit shocked at this confession.
    "Oh, good," Myth said, smiling a little.  "I know I haven't done anything like it in awhile, but... hey, you think this story will do just as good as Jean's?"
    "Uh, maybe," Lina said.  She shuffled out of the room quickly.
Click to continue...
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.