...in which the situation looks bleak, but nothing is
unreasonable with the right thinking, we engage in the
game of you, and Lina goes through the mirrorshades.
By Stefan Gagne, Spoof Chase Productions.

ello, Lina.
    And the first night, she dreamed of hordes of monsters, more than one of every kind she had ever seen.  When she called for her magic, it didn't come; when she fought with her blade, she only barely got away, seeming hours of endless pursuit and flight away from the stampede.
    It was the start of a long series of very bad days for Lina.
    On waking, she dismissed the dream quickly, figuring it to be a mere coincidence, and didn't tell her companions.  She considered telling Zelgadis, who had been helpful with advice in the past and seemed too cool a customer to ever have a bad dream...
    But Zelgadis was missing.  He left a note on his pillow, saying that he thought he left something behind in Pleasantville, and had Myth drop him off there early in the morning.  He'd catch up with them later, supposedly.  Myth had no idea what was going on, just that Zel had woken her up way too early, she sleepily let him into the Ways and then slumped back to bed.  Lina dropped her plans to tell anyone about the silly dream, and pressed on.
    With no solid leads, they packed their things and headed off.  Reviewing over the written notes of Drama's interrogation, Lina picked up on the only thing known of Reason -- that she had sank into the intellectual crowd.  That meant either Justivalero's law library and legal philosophers, which wasn't likely if Reason had an open mind, or the great Royal School of Magic and Sciences in Darata.  The Sub Way ride to Darata was brief, but Lina couldn't shake off creeping horrors of someone watching them as they traveled.
    Then in Darata, they got inn lodgings, scouted around, found out nothing, and went to bed after a large meal.  Myth told some stories in the common room in order to pay for it.  Lina had to admit, they were very good stories; dreamlike, almost, with the listeners enrapt...
    Hello, Lina.
    The second night was worse.  She vaguely remembered hooks when she woke up, hooks and long strings.  There was a long metal pin keeping her down inside a large case, and the hand of Nightmare reached in to tug at her, playfully.  He said the same thing he said the first night she had nightmares; hello, Lina.  And then it would start, repeating in case she didn't get it the first time.
    After that Lina decided sleep was probably not all that necessary in life and vowed to stay awake.
    Applying for a visitor's pass to the University required a reference from a noteworthy local philosopher, to ensure you were of significant mental gymnastic ability.  Weirdly, the one they found chose Myth over Lina, probably because Lina tried to strangle him when he discussed the geometry of her physique.  But the day was getting late, and Myth would visit tomorrow.  Gourry and Myth went to their rooms, Lina went to hers, and she stayed up to re-read her dogeared copy of 'The Adventures of Jean the Clever' and stay awake until dawn.  There wasn't any need to bother the others when she could manage just fine as is...
    She fell asleep at dawn.
    Hello, Lina.
    Jean the Clever, having gained the key into the realm of the dream king from the cleric, approached the dark castle of dreams.  The dream kingdom was desolate, empty; its population gone, driven out by the acts of a king gone mad.  But she wasn't afraid.  After drugging the guards, she confronted the king -- and he laughed at her in Lina's dream, because the guards were only faking, and they swarmed into the throne room to claim Jeanlina, pouring through every door, every window, climbing out of every shadow.  Insurmountable odds.
    "Why are you doing this?!" LinaJean demanded, frustration of nights of nightmares breaking.
    "Why are you doing what you're doing?" Nightmare asked, still smiling.  The guards closed in, hooklike knives and whips at the ready, and Gourry shook her half-awake.
    He was very surprised when Lina grabbed him in fright.
    "Uh.... breakfast time?" Gourry said.
    In a rare moment of weakness, Lina did not immediately spring forth to go consume her daily feed.  Instead, she stayed where she was, hanging onto Gourry, not wanting to let go and fall back in bed.
    The boy wasn't quite sure what to do.  This was a new situation, having Lina this close without her slapping him -- or hauling him a thousand feet above the ground in flight.  She wasn't angry.  She was scared of something, deathly scared.  What did his auntie usually do when he had a bad dream?
    Gourry tried patting her on the back and rocking a bit.  "It's okay..." he comforted.  That would help, he hoped.
    It took a few moments, on the upwards of a few minutes, for Lina to recover.  And when she did, she acted like nothing was wrong, pulling away slowly, getting her hairbrush and starting up her morning rituals in front of the room's mirror.  Nothing strange had happened, nothing she would acknowledge.
    "Lina?" Gourry asked, carefully.  He was expecting some sort of slap--
    "Yes?" Lina asked back at him, quietly.
    "What's going on?" Gourry continued.
    "Nothing special.  Getting ready for the day's questing."
    He pressed on, deciding to make an observation.  "You were pretty quiet yesterday, and this doesn't seem like nothing special.  What's going on?"
    "It's nothing I can't--"
    "Tell me what's going on," Gourry said flatly.
    Taken aback by his unusually commanding tone, Lina's will faltered.  "It's just... nightmares.  Nightmare of the wingless.  He's been taunting me a bit when I sleep, you know, because he wants to stop us.  But that's all it is."
    Gourry nodded, quietly.  He turned around, and walked sharply out of the room, without any comment.
    Confused, Lina hurried up in her preparations, getting on her clothes and cape and following after Gourry.  She found him in the largely empty dining room of the inn, talking to Myth -- who was white as a sheet from whatever he was saying.  Lina approached.
    "...be able to do that, but..." Myth said.  "I don't know what I can do.  It's not like I have power over him or anyth-- Lina!"
    Gourry spoke first.  "I figured maybe Myth would know a way to stop him from doing that, Lina.  Since he's a wingless and all, and how Aunt Koirry was saying..."
    Lina sighed.  "Guys, please.  Don't make such a big deal out of it!  So what?  We're going after him soon, and then he won't be able to do anything.  Besides, it's just bad dreams.  Of all the things I have to worry about, finding Reason comes above a few bad nights."
    "Can Nightmare hurt Lina from wherever he is?" Gourry asked, ignoring Lina, to address Myth.
    "Uh... he.. I'm not sure exactly," Myth said.  "He can affect dreams, but he doesn't have the power to do anything other than that.  After all, it's not like he's king in some dream world; he's just a wingless in the waking world with Talent."
    "What if he's not..." Gourry trailed off.  His brain was operating on overdrive to keep on top of this stuff, but it was for an important reason.  "It sounds stupid, but is there any way he could really REALLY be in a dream?"
    "It's impossible," Myth said.  "There aren't any spells that let you enter dreams physically.  I mean, I don't know how to cast magic, but... I know enough about it, I think, to--"
    Lina realized something.  Things clicked together.
    "He's there," Lina said.  "There's a spell Xelloss knows which lets him enter dreams.  He's used it plenty of times... and he told me a few nights ago that Paradox has taken him prisoner!  What if Nightmare ordered Paradox to do that, so he could learn the spell?"
    Myth inhaled sharply.
    "I thought Xelloss doesn't tell secrets," Gourry said.
    "They could have gotten it out of him, somehow.  He's human now -- VERY long story which even he hasn't explained -- and I can think of a few black magic mind reading spells that might do it," Lina said.  "Oh, L-sama... I know what's going on!  NOW this makes more sense!"
    "What is it?" Gourry asked.
    "One way or another, chances are Nightmare is IN that dream kingdom, and is running wild with his Talents where they're easiest to use and most powerful," Lina explained.  She turned to Myth.  "You met Nightmare inside the Sub Ways outside Ky... Merlin Giga made the Sub Ways.  What if he made them by transferring people, just very momentarily, through that world?  We know there are supposed to be four Giga Lore based spells, and I know three of them.  And if the fourth one is a dream gateway... it all makes sense!"
    Veins stuck out in Gourry's forehead.  It was so much to understand... "Okay, soo... this Nightmare guy got a spell that puts him really in your dreams, and... and he might've gotten it from Xelloss.  I mean... ugh.  I'm wrong, aren't I?"
    "No, that's it," Lina said.
    "Really?" Gourry said, surprised.  "Okay!  Now we're cooking!  So... we don't know where Reason is, Paradox has Xelloss and we don't know where they are, and we don't know the spell to get at Nightmare, and Nightmare is hurting Lina and... and actually, that doesn't help us at all.  Uh.  Damn."
    The trio sat in silence, trying to think of the next move.
    "Can Reason help us get to Paradox?" Lina asked.
    Myth didn't respond, busy staring off into space, as she had been for awhile now.  Lina knocked on the table to get her attention.  "Wha?"
    "Can we get to Paradox if Reason helps us?" Lina asked again.  "If she's an intellectual, she might know complex stuff like that..."
    "Ah.. maybe.  I don't know."
    "You okay, Myth?"
    "Y.. no," Myth said.  "I'm not.  Listen... you're SURE it's Nightmare?  Nightmare of the wingless?"
    "It's him," Lina said, with assuredness rivaling gravity.
    "I don't understand, though..." Myth said.  "He wants to kill me, not you."
    Of course, Love had already told Lina this; but she didn't want to betray Love's confidence, and acted like this was a surprise.  "Why would he want to kill you?  You're a wingless too, right?"
    "Yes, but... it's a long story," Myth said.
    "I thought you liked telling long stories," Gourry said.  "I mean, those ones you told last night for our dinner were long and kinda boring, and--"
    "It's not a long story I like telling," Myth said.  She spoke quickly; frightened.  Lina could see it on her face, the tight look to her jaw, nervous eyes..
    Lina pushed on.  "Would the story help us figure out what to do about this?"
    "I.. I don't know.  Maybe," Myth admitted.
    "Can you please tell us?" Lina asked.  "Look, we're up the creek with no paddle here, and--"
    "I'll summarize," Myth compromised.  "It's not an entertaining story.  I don't like telling stories with nothing good or uplifting in them.  That's the sort of story HE likes to tell... okay.  I told you how one of us caused the fall by trying to kill another?  Nightmare caused it, when he tried to kill me.  Nightmare wasn't Nightmare then.  None of us really had names, in the way you guys have names.  He wasn't that bad of a person, even if he was risk-taking.  Handsome, too...
    "Nightmare made life and death, like I said, at least he thought up the ideas of it.  And although Love decided to nurture life, he wanted to do some initial experiments in it first..."
    Lina pieced a few things together.  "Okay.  That's enough.  In that case--"
    "No," Myth said.  "I want to tell the rest.  I haven't even told the other wingless this."
    "You sure, Myth?"
    "I'm sure," Myth said.  "It's not all that sad, at least, it didn't feel that way at the time.  We weren't fully developed humans yet, with the same emotional responses.  So when he came to me and said he desired to try out life with me, because we both worked on 'stories' and he felt it was the next step, I guess you could say I was.. curious.  But after, I wasn't sure how I felt about it.  I didn't know if I liked it.  But he wanted to do it again, and I did, and he wanted to do it again and I didn't want to and I told him that, and he didn't take it well.  Nightmare tended to obsess about his projects, always wanting to practice with them, expand them...
    "I don't understand why he didn't go to one of the others.  They might have been interested in helping him.  But he just wanted it with me, and since I didn't want it, he got really angry.  Loathing invented angry but Nightmare adopted and refined it beyond Loathing's simple applications... and Nightmare decided if I wouldn't practice life, I could practice death instead, and that's when the Lord of Nightmares stopped him and cast us out.
    "I think that's when Nightmare changed, at the casting out.  He swore that he would finish what he had started one day, and upon learning of the Paradox's theories of time and calendars becoming law in this new world, he swore that on that day of the casting out, one year, he would return to his home to claim as his own, complete his work, and find vengeance against the Lord of Nightmares.  Do you guys know about the holiday called the Forenight of Chaos?"
    Lina paused, thinking about it.  "I think it's a Sailoon holiday.  The moon turns golden yellow once every year.  Dayvid once told me it was an atmospheric condition."
    "It might be, but it's also the day Nightmare made his vow," Myth said.  "And it's coming up in a week.  Nothing strange has happened that day any other year, so even most wingless ignore it, but if Nightmare really has taken the dream world... but he hasn't completed his work.  He hasn't reclaimed his home, the world we fell from.  And if he means to kill me, then why isn't he?  He's got the power to do something to any of us, as he's proven with Lina.  So what is going on?  How does this all fit together?"
    "I don't like this," Gourry said.  And he left it at that.
    "I don't either," Lina agreed.
    Myth chewed on her lower lip a moment.  "We could... give up the quest.  Nothing's going right.  If you stop, maybe Nightmare would let you go, since you're not a threat to him anymore.  Someone else could fill Giga's prophecy, I mean, we've heard that others tried before so presumably it'll happen anyway, one day... right?  We could just go home.  Things will work out without us."
    Lina studied the table, and her uneaten breakfast.
    She could do that.  She didn't want to be terrorized, and she didn't want to die.  She didn't want to end up like she had in some other world, living in a mode of constant fear...
    "I don't like to give up, either," Gourry said.  "But if Lina could die, and all this weird stuff is going on that I wish I understood.. I mean, what should we do?  Auntie always said to decide for myself what the right thing to do is, but what's the right thing to do?  I don't know.  I really hate being stupid sometimes."
    "You're not stupid," Lina said, looking up at him.  "Gourry... gut instinct, quick reaction, don't think about it just SAY it -- do you want to give up the quest we started?"
    "No," Gourry quickly said.
    "Well, I do," Lina said.  "This goes beyond my tolerances.  I've got a nightmare of my very own picking on me each night... but I'm not going to give up.  Because what I want and what needs to be done aren't the same thing.  I fold now, I'm going to be wandering around aimless, unless I go join the Mazoku and stop being a human or something.  I'll have failed to stand up to this, fleeing when it turns ugly... and what's more, we've come this far!  Right now, I've got four of the wingless in my bag and one willing to come along.  Go back now just because one of them is threatening me?  Myth.  You told me you wrote 'The Adventures of Jean the Clever,' right?"
    "Uh, yes, I did," Myth said.
    "Obviously, it's largely a fictional story, but you said it was based on someone," Lina reminded her.  "Did the real Jean give up in her quest?  She came up against a lot of problems, but did she stop?"
    "No... she thought about it, but she kept going," Myth said.  "I almost wished she would stop, when I was following her.  It was really dangerous.  But she kept on and got her family's amulet back from the king who stole it from her family, like she promised.  That's what I based the dream king's story on."
    "You know how many times I read that book when I was a kid?" Lina asked.
    "Uh... six?"
    "Less than once.  I just finished it a little while ago," Lina said.  "But it was enough to really give me some motivation in life, and take up questing.  Another incident gave me the idea of being a bandit hunter.  I haven't stopped since, and damned if I'm going to stop now.  That's just not how Lina Inverse does things, and I'm going to be Lina Inverse.  Gourry, get your gear.  Myth, we're going down to the university to ransack Reason's room for any clue to where she's gone.  After that, we track down Paradox, get Xelloss back, go to the world of dreams and settle the score with this Nightmare bastard.  We clear?"
    "Got it," Gourry said, getting up.
    Myth hesitated.  "But it's--"
    "And I'd like to avoid any panicking or worrying about something we can't do yet, like stop Nightmare's nightmares," Lina suggested.  "We'll deal with things as we come to them and celebrate what we do finish with large amounts of food and merriment.  I'll have Gourry wake me up each hour to prevent anything bad happening in my dreams; it won't be fun and won't solve anything, but it'll work.  We are going to do this, do it right and do it smiling.  Agreed?"
    "Sounds good," Gourry agreed.
    "Uh... but Lina--"
    "If you've got a problem with this, you can ride in a jelly jar, Myth," Lina said.  "I know you're afraid of Nightmare, and now I know why, but I'm afraid of him too and I say we've got to hurry this up.  We're going to bag him within a week, so there's no chance of this Forenight of Chaos event, and finish the quest.  Which way do you want to come along?  It's your choice, whatever makes you most comfortable, since you're coming along regardless."
    Myth's protests crumbled.  "I'll go on my feet.  You might need my help, I mean... especially if you want to eat.  You know."
    For the first time all morning, Lina grinned.
    "Good," she said, smiling big.  "In fact, start thinking about what stories you're going to tell for lunch.  I got my appetite back.  Speaking of which..."
    Lina grabbed a forkful of her eggs, and stuffed them in her mouth.  Chew chew, swallow.
    "Mmmh," she said.  "NOW we can go."
Click to continue...
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.